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Another Loss, Different Reason

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The Thrashers lost again last night, 4-0 to Toronto. The effort level was much improved and the checking lines in particular played well hitting and generating turnovers which led to scoring chances. Holik and Boulton in particular had some great opportunities to score. When your checking line creates scoring chances that is good news. When your checking line generates your BEST scoring chances of the game that is a bad sign.

Why have the top two lines been shut down?

Inability to beat the trap. Boston and Toronto both trapped hard in the neutral zone and didn't allow the Thrashers room to skate end-to-end with the puck or make pretty passes. Other teams are going to watch that game tape and know that if you want to beat this team just keep playing the neutral zone trap against them. The Thrashers MUST make adjustments because smart teams are going to keep playing them this way until they prove they can adjust.

The loss last night wasn't because of a lack of effort, it was because the scoring lines failed to make adjustments to the opposition's defensive system. If you're getting trapped you have to dump it to a spot and forecheck with speed going to that spot. If the Toronto defensemen are trying to stand you up at the blueline they are going to have to sprint back to retrieve the puck.

That's why the checking line had chances and the scoring lines had few. Slava Kozlov in particular is loath to dump the puck (and I prefer to watch puck possession hockey myself) but there are games where you must adjust to what the other team is doing. The Kozlov-Perrin-Recchi line was VERY quiet because they keep trying to skate it in or make perfect passes in the neutral zone which were picked off by the Leafs.

I know a lot fans will be talking about Lehtonen's screw up on the first goal. Yes it was a terrible goal to give up in a tie game. But Holik had a great quote in the Carroll Rogers game story: "Things like that [first goal] shouldn't matter," Holik said. "It happens to everybody. You overcome it by playing consistently. ... I think we played one of our best periods in the first period in a long time, but then we get frustrated in a sense. We have no right to get frustrated. If we continue to play the same way we did in the first period, we'd be fine. But then suddenly we start to cut corners, and it comes back to haunt us."

That first goal wouldn't have mattered if the offense could get things going and score. More than the bad empty net goal I think what hurt this team the most was the lack of sustained pressure on Toskala. The whole team has to adjust to the trap--not just the checking lines.

Alex I'd like "Defensemen Who Can Pass for $500,000" please

Finally, I think Exelby played one of the worst games I've ever seen him play. He just made unforced error after unforced error. Maybe X was thinking about his unfinished Christmas shopping because he sure didn't look like he was all there last night. Zhitnik showed little improvement too.

A major problem for the Thrashers last night in their own end is that Klee keep dishing it over to Exelby who made bad outlet passes. Same thing with McCarthy and Zhitnik. Up in the stands I commented that our inability to make a decent outlet pass was also playing right into Toronto's trap strategy. It is a real problem when 2 or your 3 defensive pairing can't make a good pass. We can't clone Enstrom and put him on each pairing so the other guys are just going to have to play better.

Post Game All Star Game

Thanks to everyone who stuck around and watched the amateurs take their turn on the NHL ice. I'll have put a game recap with pictures on the blog soon. Our game certainly had more drama than the Thrasher as it went into sudden death overtime. Thanks to the Thrashers for making this possible and a special thanks to event coordinator Carrie Neville.