First, I'd like to send a delegation of children to Florida to thank the Florida Panthers for beating Tampa Bay last night. That game will provide the Thrashers with an opportunity to tie for the division lead should they win against Carolina this afternoon.
Since the big win against Ottawa on Friday night I've been busy with ice and roller hockey, plus I manged to squeeze in seeing Letters From Iwo Jima yesterday (two thumbs up!) at the Tara. I'll post some pre-game thoughts right now and then after the Carolina game write a game review since I know that this one will not be on TV and that readers you can't attend in person. I'll also have to keep track of penalties drawn for my study without the luxury of being able to watch the game later on my handy DVR.
Pre-Game: What do the Thrashers need to do to win? Fix the problems that were evident during the Ottawa game. The power play was lousy again despite using two different units. Here is what our power play did that game. Dump the puck in, gain possession, pass, pass, pass, pass some more, turnover. The really frustrating thing is that I turned to the person sitting next to me and said "you know the sad thing is that they are doing exactly what they practiced on Thursday--just passing it around the perimeter." Seems that practice doesn't always make perfect.
The PK was also pretty bad--allowing two goals that looked nearly identical. Heatley gets the puck half way up the wall--drives uncontested to the faceoff dot and fires past the goalie (Lehtonen was screened by Havelid on the 2nd one). Some posters noted that Vigier did not play after the 2nd so perhaps Coach has assigned blame. It will be interesting to see if Hartley can bring himself to actually scratch his favorite Thrasher--then again the player might have to do something more egregious like kill someone for that to happen.
Speaking of struggling players, Nic Havelid is one of my favorite Thrashers. He came in last season and gave this team the rock steady defenseman it has lacked for years. But right now the man just has zero confidence. Unfortunately the only way he will get his confidence back is by playing and doing some things well. We need the old Havelid back as soon as possible.
The coverage mistakes on the PK were emblematic of a larger problem that evening--a lack of certainty about who was going to defend whom. I called the post-game show and brought this up and Odgers seemed to agree. Whenever the puck was in between the Thrashers forward and defense, there was this bad hesitation as they tried to figure out if the forward was going to come back and attack the puck or if the defensemen should step up and go after it. That is a what happens when you add a bunch of new players all at once. There was a thread over at www.smirkinchicken.com which asked "How many new everyday players can you add at the trade deadline before you destroy team chemistry?" The modal answer was two. Right now this club is thinking too much as they adjust and that fraction of a second delay is giving other teams an advantage.
The good news is that they will become familiar with each soon. You could really see that Eric Belanger now looks very comfortable between Hossa and Kozlov on Friday. In fact, that line single handily kept them in the game.