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First Step Back from the Brink

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Last night was a good game for the Atlanta Thrashers, however, it was one game and it must be followed up by several more wins if this club is to dig themselves out of the basement. The good news is that three more wins puts them back around the playoff cutoff point in the standings.

Quite a few veteran players who have struggled so far this season turned in good games. Jim Slater had one of the best games that I can recall, delivering a good hit and making himself useful offensively. Holik had a good game against the top line of New York and Larsen was decent on the penalty kill and made perhaps the best pass of his NHL career to set up the first goal. In fact pretty much every player on the roster did something positive last night--it was a true team win.

The team didn't finish off some of their early opportunities as Hossa hit the post and Slava Kozlov just missed scoring a goal as well. The slow developing Perrin short handed tally was a gift from the Rangers that was a real game breaker as it put Atlanta up 3-0 after the Rangers looked like they might cut the lead to 2-1.

The Rookie Line continued their strong play and scored a goal (Bryan Little). Brett Sterling isn't scoring much but he did get involved physically and got the opposition to take a penalty against him last night.

The special teams were good when it really counted. I noticed on the first power play that they were doing a three man rotation up at the top of the zone. I don't know if that was a new strategy or just player improvisation but I liked it. They were moving during the power play opening up new passing lanes and giving the Rangers PK unit problems. Later on the 5>3 the Thrashers fell back into standing around looking for the perfect pass.

Enstrom was on the ice for 3 of the 5 Thrasher goals and came back from what looked like a knee injury much to my relief.

On principle I didn't like Exelby not fighting with Orr when he challenged him, but if memory serves wasn't it Orr who gave Exelby a concussion a while back in a fight? If that is the case I don't fault him for wanting to stay healthy and in the line up. Exelby's hit was clean and he didn't have anything to stand up for in my view. McCarthy acquitted himself well considering he is not really a tough guy (although we would drop the gloves back in juniors).

The team got solid play in the nets from both Lehtonen and Hedberg. It is unknown how long Lehtonen will be out of action. On the bright side the organization has built depth at every position including goal which should help the team weather injuries.

I'm not going to get overly excited about one win. The team looked energized and much happier (in my opinion) and had great jump. They will need to keep that going. I thought the Rangers looked completely out of it until the Exelby hit on Prucha woke them from their slumber. It better test will be the road game at Tampa (where the team often struggles) against a divisional rival in their own building. If we win that game and then again at Toronto then we will be on a roll.