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A Tale of Two Games

The Thrashers played two games against quality teams this week the Senators and the Rangers. Both made the playoffs last year and each figured to provide an exciting matchup. Unfortunately, this blogger couldn't attend the Ottawa game in person since I was working and then had my own hockey to play so I watched it on tape delay.

What can you say other than Slava Kozlov remains probably one of the most underrated players in the NHL. Unless he plays for your team I'd wager most NHL fans have no idea how good of a players he is. Kozlov showed his range against Ottawa scoring a goal on a redirect right in the crease, a quick wrister on a pass from behind the net and a Kovalchuk-esque slapper from the top of the circles for the game winner.

Both Hossa and Kovalchuk also registered points putting them both in the top three in the league in scoring. The win in overtime also put the Thrashers into first place in the NHL standing (but then again they have played more games than most teams).

OK that completes the good news side of this post. The bad news part consists of Bob Hartley's continuing to screw up the goalie rotation by playing Hedberg until he has a bad game--which he did against Ottawa and then throwing Lehtonen into the net in relief. What is so difficult about setting up a rotation where Kari plays 2 games and Hedberg plays 1 out of every three? Is it so hard for Hartley to figure out that goaltenders produce at their maximum level with regular rest? Doesn't it make sense that you will need to use your backup and you might want to make sure he gets SOME work on a regular basis?

Next up we have the Thrasher players who continue to come out flat in the first far too often this season. This a Thrashers tradition extending back to last year and it really needs to end. You are not going to go far in the playoffs if you fall behind in the first period. A slow start was really fatal in the game versus the Rangers where they gave up a goal just 15 seconds into the game.

I was frustrated after the Rangers loss so I went and added up all the shots on goal and goals by period for all Thrasher games so far this season. The numbers were about what I expected but here they are for your viewing pleasure.

The chart below shows the Thrashers shots on goal by period and the number they have given up each game. As you can the Thrashers have been out shot in the first period and then have turned it on in the 2nd and 3rd periods.

1ST 167 180 -13
2ND 208 183 +25
3RD 181 159 +22
OT/SO 13 16 -3

As you might expect the shots-on-goal are related to scoring patterns. The chart below shows that the Thrashers who are outshot in the 1st periods and they are also outscored by two goals so far this season. Their first period differential would have been worse but for the Islanders giving them two goals early last weekend. The team is much stronger in the 2nd and 3rd outscoring their opponents by a combined 15 goals those two periods.

1ST 22 22 -2
2ND 27 17 +10
3RD 19 14 +5
OT/SO 3 3 0

So how often do they Thrasher come out of the 1st period with a lead? Not as many times as they come out of the first behind. So far this season they have trailed after the 1st eight times and had the lead only seven times--which is really rather surprising when you consider they are currently up at the top of the standings. This is a team that often lets the opposition get the jump on them. As they move along in the game they get it going and they are leading more often than not after the 2nd and 3rd periods.

AFTER 1 7 8 4
AFTER 2 9 6 4
AFTER 3 9 4 6
AFTER OT/SO 12 7 0

As a fan I have to say that comeback wins are a lot of fun to watch, but as a analyst I know that they take a toll on your team. You have to expend more energy and you have to take more chances. If you get a lead you put the pressure on the other team and it is easier to play with a lead over the long haul. I would say this is the thing about the Thrashers that concerns me the most about the Thrashers at this point in the season.