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A Reason To Celebrate!

A Reason to Celebrate (written 3/24)

In 1999 the NHL arrived in Atlanta, but on most nights the opposition skated away happy. The hockey team was often inept, and it seemed that the team discovered more heart breaking ways to lose each season. There was little to celebrate at that time, other than high draft picks.

Atlanta Thrashers NHL Rank
1999-2000 30th out of 30 teams
2000-2001 27th
2001-2002 30th
2002-2003 23rd
2003-2004 21st
2005-2006 18th (as of 3/23/2006)

The 2005-06 season began with much higher expectations for most Thrashers fans as the team fielded what appeared to be a very competitive roster. The addition of veteran defensemen (Havelid, Modry and De Vries) and subtraction of the Terrible Ts (Tremblay, Tamer and Tjarnqvist) plus the arrival of uber prospect G Kari Lehtonen led us to hope the defense might finally become respectable after 5 porous NHL seasons.

Atlanta Thrashers NHL Team Defense Rank
1999-2000 3.82 GAA 30th out of 30 teams
2000-2001 3.52 GAA 29th
2001-2002 3.51 GAA 30th
2002-2003 3.51 GAA 30th
2003-2004 3.46 GAA 25th
2005-2006 3.30 GAA 23rd (as of 3/23/2006)

Up front, free agent additions Bobby Holik and Peter Bondra supplemented two super star wingers (Hossa, Kovalchuk) and gave the team offensive depth that had never existed in any season previous. Considering that the Thrashers had put up decent offensive numbers the two previous seasons, it appeared that 2005-06 squad might be a real offensive powerhouse. (It is!)

Atlanta Thrashers Team Offense NHL Rank
1999-2000 2.07 GFA 30th out of 30 teams
2000-2001 2.57 GFA 27th
2001-2002 2.28 GFA 26th
2002-2003 2.76 GFA 10th
2003-2004 2.61 GFA 13th
2005-2006 3.30 GFA 6th (as of 3/23/2006)

However the first months were a tremendous disappointment as the injuries seem to strike all the organization's goalies at once and the skaters played inconsistently. The team dug a huge hole in October as it fell behind the other competitors for the Eastern Conference playoff spots. In November they pulled their season back from the brink of the abyss as they regained some ground. December and January they basically played .500 hockey (which meant that they were losing ground in the New NHL that awards a point for OT and SO losses). Finally in February the team got on a roll prior to the Olympic break. Fortunately, they resumed their strong play when the NHL season resumed and have played at torrid pace so far in March.

Oct. 6 points 10 Games 0.60 PPG (points per game)
Nov. 17 points 14 Games 1.21 PPG
Dec. 15 points 14 Games 1.07 PPG
Jan. 14 points 14 Games 1.00 PPG
Feb. 6 points 5 Games 1.20 PPG
Mar. 18 points 12 Games 1.50 PPG

The team has been the Cardiac Kids much of the last month winning many points in overtime or the shootout.

March Last Second Heroics
vs WAS 3-2 OT win
vs FLA 4-3 SO win
vs NYR 3-2 SO win
at NYR 3-2 OT win
at BOS 5-4 SO win
vs NJ 6-5 OT win

Even when the team played very poorly in the first half of games versus Boston and New Jersey they have found a way to come back and get points. Poor starts and furious comebacks have become a team trademark this season.

Last night was perhaps a turning point for NHL fans in this city. The Thrashers were all but dead, trailing 4-1 to the Devils and Martin Brodeur. Sparked by a slapshot goal by Bobby Holik that made it 4-2 the team began to turn on the offense. As the team scored to make it 4-3, then 4-4 and 5-4 the crowd was electrified by the miracle comeback. A late NJ PP goal forced OT where of course a Thrasher (Bondra) scored to give the team a crucial point to keep them ahead of Montreal in the 8th spot in the standings.

After years of waiting hockey fans in this city have a reason to celebrate as their own local NHL arena is home to "meaningful games in March" as an exciting team gives us thrills and chills in this wild roller coaster hunt for the 2006 Stanley Cup playoffs.