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Valabik, Slater, Perrin and Lehtonen

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I went to just my 2nd game at Philips in a month to check out Valabik last night.

Negatives:
  • He was easily goaded into to taking a very unnecessary penalty early in the game.
  • He could have held the puck in at the blueline better, but he was being cautious.
  • He made a careless clear that was picked off by the Capitals.
  • He also seems to put too much on his passes making them hard to catch.
Positives:
  • His skating seemed better than I expected against some speedy Capital players. On one shift he appeared that he about to be beat wide but recovered nicely and knocked the player to the ice.
  • The other positive thing that really stood out is that when big Boris leans on you it has an effect. Valabik doesn't even need to get in a full blown hit slow you down, if he just "leans" on you in the corner he can pretty much immobilize you. He needs to be careful though because when he "leans" on guys sometimes he gets very close to holding or obstruction.
  • He already makes better outlet passes than Exelby.
Overall:

He looks like he could be a physical third pairing guy. It is only two games and he made some mistakes but his physical play would be a nice addition. I feel better after seeing him play in the NHL than I did after watching him in the AHL. His body works well at this level and the skating is less of an issue than I feared. Valabik made some mental errors but those can be corrected unlike deficiencies in skating or size or heart. This guy has a ton of heart, the question is his head--if he can cut down on the mistakes he can be a NHL player, not a top 4 guy, but a player nonetheless.

Slater

Jim Slater was headed for #1 star of the game with two goals until the team meltdown in the final 10 minutes of the game. Slater is a big puzzle in many ways. He was a consistent scorer in college and then his development just seemed to hit a wall.

Most young players increase their scoring as they physically mature but Slater didn't really improve he just stayed the same. When he made the jump from college hockey to the NHL he just couldn't finish. He went through a terrible goal drought for almost a year but lately he has scored a few more goals.

Right now Slater's lack of scoring touch and his problems with lateral mobility at top speed really limit how useful he is to the club. His problems with going side to side make him an imperfect PK guy because you need to change directions frequently. Lately he has been tried again in that role. Even if Slater never becomes a great PK guy he would be much more valuable if he could chip in a few more goals as a checking line guy.

Eric Perrin

The little guy who just goes out there and makes good things happen game after game. Made a fantastic pass for the Slater shortie and is a regular PK guy. Best UFA signing Don Waddell made last summer hands down. The guy has some great hands and heart.

Lehtonen

Darren Eliot gave Lehtonen a rough ride for his display of anger after the Capitals took the lead following a total screw up where three Thrasher skaters allowed a Capital to just stand in the crease and shovel the goal past him. Then in the post game show he said the team "played like horseshit" in the second half. Eliot--who takes a lot of little digs at Kari--chided him for immaturity.

But you know what? I liked it. At least he cares and he was pissed off. He has a right to be ticked off when his club gets out shot 48-21. The Thrashers locker room is far too comfortable a place where poor efforts are tolerated without anyone making a big stink.

Let me ask this question: Do you think Patrick Roy would throw some chairs around in the locker room after that game? Do you think Rick DiPietro would mouth off a bit after that performance? I do. And that is what makes those goalies team leaders. They admit when they make mistakes but they also hold other people accountable.

When everyone is "nice" nobody gets a needed kick in the pants. If Kari and Kovalchuk show a little more anger in the locker room it could be exactly what this team needs on nights when other roster players are just mailing it in (by the way, did Kozlov dress for this game--I may have missed him out there)?