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Game 4: Elimination

Game 4 was very much like Games 1 and 2. It was there for the taking but the Thrashers didn't make the key plays while the Rangers did. It was a game where a Thrashers goaltenders made some great saves, but again allowed a goal that a NHL playoff goalie can't let in. Once again the power play failed at crucial moments when one more goal might have made a critical difference in the outcome of the contest. Once again the top regular season line with Hossa and Kovlov was not relevant to the outcome of the game.

I've seen some people comment on the boards about how great the Rangers played. I strongly disagree. I've watched a lot of playoff hockey over the last 17 years and this Rangers squad did not dominate the Thrashers. The series was there for the taking. The Rangers played well, but not great. That fact makes the loss hurt that much more.

Lundqvist in particular looks very vulnerable to me. He gave up juicy rebounds on roughly half of the shots on goal during this series. If the next team watches the tape and has a smart coach they will throw every puck on net and crash for rebound chances--and likely beat the Rangers. Were I a betting man I would put no money on New York in their next series.

All in all it was a tremendous missed opportunity for the players, fans and the franchise. Right now this organization should be thinking about scheduling for 2nd round playoff dates instead of their off season moves. The Thrashers badly needed to create some buzz and excitement among causal sports fans in Atlanta to generate more season tickets or single game tickets next year. The team expended a fair amount of draft picks and prospects in pursuit of this goal. But the players and coaches fell flat on their face against a beatable opponent.

While the Thrashers have finally shaken free of the "never-made-the-playoffs" label, all that they have done is replace it with "never-won-a-playoff-game" moniker. The team has done little to dispel the casual perception that they are not winners. And in this market people want winners not losers. Now I'm not saying that they needed to win the Stanley Cup, but advancing to the 2nd round and winning several home games would have been a major step toward altering their image in the metro area. People would leave thinking that the Thrashers are just a step away from being contenders--I need to watch this team next season.

Now a team that was at the bottom in ticket revenue faces another year of low revenues and large monetary losses. Will the owner of the team continue to spend up to the cap when they know the franchise will lose large sums of money if they do that? The salary cap goes up to $44-45 million next year will the owners be willing to donate millions to their hockey franchise business? There has already been talk that if Belkin wins control of the team he's not interested in the NHL and will sell the team. If Belkin tells the GM to break even next year, I can almost guarantee this team will be playing a lot of kids and will miss the playoffs. (Personally, I think the team has to see what some their prospects can do--put they have the wrong coach if they want to find that out. You can't win the salary cap era without some productive (read: cheap) young players on your roster.)

I hate to be such a downer but this is the way I look at the situation. I'm pretty depressed at the moment. I'll probably post a season wrap up in the next couple of days with some comments about who should go and who should stay and some thoughts about what needs to be done with the roster.

Later this summer when I recover my enthusiasm for the Thrashers I hope to do something where I try and predict how much money the free agents will get this summer. I also plan a mega-review thing on NHL drafts leading up the 2007 NHL Draft this summer. But for right now the rest of my life needs back the time and energy I've been focusing on this team.