I'm still basking in the glow on an all around terrific game by the Thrashers against the New Jersey Devils. For this post I'm going to skip the stats and just reflect on the game.
Both teams scored a fluky goal that went in off their own defensemen. The Devils scored first with a puck that went off of McCarthy early in the 1st. The karmic fates (or whoever is responsible for making the bounces equal out in the long run) balanced things off quickly by giving Holik a goal that deflected off of a Devils defensemen to produce a 2-2 tie late in the first period.
This is one of those games where the boxes core simply is not going to tell you everything you need to know. Besides the two "own goals" Marian Hossa made an absolutely terrific "save" on a dribbler that Kari Lehtonen slowed, but didn't quite stop. If Hossa doesn't reach in there and snag that puck it was clearly going to drift over the goal line.
Another play that will not be in your boxscore is the blown scoring opportunity by New Jersey where they picked up a rebound and had about one foot of open net along the ice and the player shot it just wide. Of course this was balanced out by Jimmy Slater blowing a gimme goal scoring chance himself.
There also some great hits in this game as well as nice cycling of the puck down low. Kovalchuk's line in particular had a long cycle in the corner just prior to McCarthy putting the loose puck past Brodeur.
I'm not sure if New Jersey always struggles this badly against the cycle or if this was more a case of them being tired from playing the night before. They came to play early but once the Thrashers pulled ahead 3-2 the Devils seemed to be thinking about their Christmas vacation a bit. To their credit the Thrashers came out focused and exploited New Jersey's fatigue. With this game so close to the Christmas holiday I wouldn't have been surprised to see them mentally off instead they seemed rearing to go.
A real Tip of The Hat to Shane Hnidy. This guy was scratched for about two weeks to start the season and then only played sparingly. I saw him standing alone on the concourse back in October and wished him well, but it was clear he really wanted to be on the ice. Since Sutton's injury he is getting major minutes after being paired with Havelid and he has not only filled in well on the defensive side of things, but he has also chipped in a couple of goals. This is a guy who hadn't scored in something like 200 NHL games which is 2 and 1/2 seasons. Nice way to pump some life into your NHL career, eh?
It was nice to see a game where the crucial goals came from players other than the big three (Kozlov, Kovalchuk and Hossa) The first three goals were from two defensemen (McCarthy and Hnidy) and a checker (Holik). Kozlov and Kovalchuk added insurance tallies later. It just goes to show how tough the Thrashers are to beat if they can generate some scoring from their non-super stars at even strength.
If any of the Thrashers game production people read this, I just want to say that the "Devil Went Down to Georgia" Penalty Box video clip is an absolute classic. While I grow weary of many of the video entertainment, I hope they never stop showing this little segment. It makes me laugh every time when Peter screws up his face during the "and it made an angry hiss" line. As far as I'm concerned they should still be showing that 25 years from now when the Devils come to visit.
Finally, I want to thank the Devils for providing the Thrashers with so many dramatic victories. It was that insanely wild come back win over New Jersey last spring that finally got me to start this blog about the team, so they deserve a little credit for getting this thing off the ground.