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Terrific Game

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I've criticized the Thrashers for both inconsistency and poor efforts this season and so I was pleased but cautious after a solid efforts in the Ranger game before the break and the Pittsburgh game after the break. In the past, the Thrashers have followed up a couple of strong games by relaxing, but last night against Buffalo that did not happen. The guys came out and put forth a good effort.

After 55 minutes it looked like that strong effort would not be rewarded as they were trailing 4-3. That's the way it is in professional sports--you can play well and some nights you don't get the win. Instead of walking away empty handed they tied the game as result of two penalties and a 6>3 power play goal by Tobias Enstrom. For all those fans who complain about the Thrashers giving up goals late in the period or the Thrashers getting hurt by the delay of game penalty--well last night the shoe was on the other foot as Atlanta was able to exploit those same circumstances against Buffalo.

Now the giant question is can they sustain this level of effort and determination? Last night I watched Marian Hossa play perhaps the most physical game ever as a Thrasher--will we see that again? Last night we saw Slava Kozlov drop his shoulder and drive the net "for the first time all season" (according to Darren Eliot)--will we see that again? Last night we saw both the 3rd and 4th line contribute big goals--will we see that again? This was a great win last night, but for this game to really mean something they must keep rolling and battling hard every night. If the team flies up to Washington and lays and egg--the Buffalo win was just one nice game.

Some observations:
  • What is with Johan Hedberg and weird puck bounces? He had one on the road against Buffalo and terrible one during a tight playoff game and again last night he was burned by a strange puck bounce.
  • Enstrom scored a huge goal--and he showed us a shot we should see more of. Note to the Thrashers: if the rest of you will shoot when there is a lane you will find that Ilya Kovalchuk will be open more often. Call it the All-Star game syndrome--too often our power play has a "give it to Iyla" mentality and the defending team knows that.
  • How about that birthday boy Mark Recchi? He skates down the wing and when the defense doesn't pressure him he picks a the top corner and scores a goal. Father Time will not let Recchi play forever, but the man still has NHL quality hands.
  • Tip of the hat to Slater for a bona fide goal scoring streak. And another tip of the hat to Eric Boulton for great forechecking and a sweet pass.
  • Todd White had a chance to score into a nearly empty net and missed. Someone on one of the boards quipped "White is buying on this road trip." He had to be the happiest guy on the bench that the team got the win eventually.
  • Eric Perrin with the huge shoulder fake that brought the house down and won the extra point for the Thrashers. I thought that Coach Waddell might put Brett Sterling in the #4 slot since he does the shootout frequently in the AHL but he went with Perrin who has been playing well of late and Perrin showed us the skills he used to put up big numbers in college hockey.
  • One last thing. I never root for anyone to get hurt (OK maybe Darcy Tucker) but there was a certain about of hockey karma last night after the Sabres player hit Hedberg from behind and made no real effort to avoid him. Later in the game Thorburn fell on R. Miller and put his out of the game. I think that Thorburn did not really try to avoid Miller, but if you live by the sword you die by the sword.
Updated Real Standings
Eastern Conference
1. +16 OTT (Division Leader)
2. +12 MON
3. +11 PHI (Division Leader)
4. +9 PIT
5. +8 NJD
6. +8 BOS
7. +2 NYI
8. +2 NYR
9. +2 BUF
10 +2 CAR (Division Leader)
11 +1 WAS
12 +0 ATL
13 -2 FLA
14 -4 TOR
15 -5 TBL