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Detroit Clearly More Crisp Than Atlanta

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So this was my first time to ever see a Thrashers game in HD. I was invited over to watch the game at a friend-of-the-blogger and we all revealed in the joy of their new DirecTV HD setup. I have to say it was amazing that the viewer can actually see whether the puck is lying flat on the ice or if it is on its edge during the course of play. It really feels like you're sitting at the rink except that the annoying fan who sits in your section isn't there. One person joked that the NHL on HD is better than watching the game "with your own eyes" in person. I'm not sure I would go that far--there's no pasta bar or hot pretzels available at home.

As for the game the Thrashers performed better than I expected. The Red Wings are the runaway favorites this year after winning the championship and then adding Marian Hossa and retaining Brad Stuart on their blue line (they only added Stuart at last spring's trading deadline). Hossa essentially replaces Dallas Drake--no offense to Drake but that's a serious upgrade. On the other hand, nobody is picking your Atlanta Thrashers to win much of anything so on paper it was a mismatch of titanic proportions.

The Wings displayed their formidable talent by working the puck on the power play until they got a 2 on 1 right in front of the net where Zetterberg made a highly accurate shot to beat Lehtonen. Hossa showed the power forward moves we witnessed in Atlanta for another amazing goal. And before you knew it this game was 3-1 with the Thrashers picking up a once-in-a-Blue-Moon tally from Jim Slater (perhaps playing back at Joe Louis revived his MSU scoring touch?).

Just when it seemed to be over two late goals by Ron Hainsey (working hard to keep that #1 D rating I see) and Brett Sterling made it 4-3 and suddenly the Thrashers were close to stealing a point or more. But the Red Wings kept Atlanta off the board and picked up the empty netter to salt it away. There are no moral victories in the NHL, but this yet another game where the Thrashers exceeded my expectations. So far the Thrashers have taken on 5 likely playoff teams in their first 7 games and they have been competitive in each of those 5 contests.

Marty Reasoner was injured early in the 2nd and this led to increased ice time for Brett Sterling among others. Personally, I was glad to see him get that goal for multiple reasons. The Thrashers could really benefit from someone who will park themselves right in the crease and go for rebounds and screens. If Sterling has a role in the NHL he needs to become another Holmstrom in my opinion. Sterling isn't very fast--and neither is Holmstrom--but he has good hands and good scoring instincts. Much like Holmstrom Sterling is unlikely to amass big even strength point totals because he lacks that extra gear, but he could become a very valuable power play guy.

One more thing I wanted to toss out there for your consideration is this. The Thrashers continue to get out shot this season. Last night the allowed 43 to Detroit. I went back and tracked the shots on goal by situation through the first seven games and here is the break down.

Season Totals Through Seven Games
Even Strength Shots: ATL 162, Opposition 179= -17
Power Play Shots: ATL 54, Opposition 64= -10
Penalty Kill Shots: ATL 2, Opposition 14 = -12

It is that last one that really jumps out at me. The Thrashers are allowing 2 shorthanded shots on goal per game and yet creating a short handed shot once every three games. Not only has the Thrashers Power Play struggled to convert but they have given up a surprising number of SH chances. Last night in Detroit they allowed THREE short handed shots on goal.

On the flip side the Atlanta PK unit is not getting much pressure on the opposition net. Last year's squad had Hossa, Dupuis and Perrin who would all try to score short handed. Of those three only Perrin is on the current roster. I'm not sure what else to say about this, but I did find it a little surprising so I thought I'd pass it along.

Finally a word about match ups in the Detroit game. The Red Wings feature two great offensive lines centered by Zetterberg and Datsyuk. Their 3rd and 4th lines are not bad either with Filppula and Draper. Since this game was in Detroit they had the last change and the advantage of matching lines. So I made some comments below about who played against whom.

Corsi Box Score (ES Thrashers Shots minus Opposition Shots Attempted)
Lehtonen -8

The defense pairings all received ice time against Detroit's Zetterberg and Datsyuk lines. 17:47 Schneider +1
14:06 Bogosian +1

21:24 Havelid -6
20:50 Enstrom +0

25:14 Hainsey -7
15:36 Exelby -7

23:47 Kovalchuk -8
20:11 White -10
20:09 Little -7
The 1st line played mostly against Detroit's Datsyuk line. The Datsyuk line out chanced the Kovalchuk line by a rather wide margin. Kovalchuk has great speed and a great shot but so far he has not been very impressive at even strength season--last year he was very impressive in terms of creating ES scoring chances.

18:59 Kozlov -4
16:41 Christensen +4
18:12 Armstrong +5
The 2nd line played most of their minutes versus the Detroit's Zetterberg line.

11:25 Perrin 0
06:51 Reasoner +2
12:29 Williams +4
The 3rd line was matched against Detroit's Filppula line

09:15 Thorburn -2
1036: Slater -2
10:59 Sterling -4
The 4th was out shot mostly by Detroit's checking line centered by Draper.

Real Eastern Standings (Points - Games Played)

This controls for differences in games played by teams
+6 BUF
+5 MON
+5 NYR
+3 NJD
+3 PIT
+1 CAR
+1 FLA
+0 WAS
---------- Playoffs
+0 TOR
+0 BOS
-1 ATL
-1 TBL
-2 OTT
-2 NYI
-2 PHI

Real Western Standings (Points - Games Played)
+4 SJS
+4 DET
+4 MIN
+2 EDM
+1 STL
+1 COL
+1 CHI
+0 CGY
+0 PHX
+0 LAK
-1 DAL
-1 CBJ
-1 VAN
-1 NAS
-2 ANA