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Minnesota Game Analysis

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Work kept me rather busy the last 24 hours, but here are my delayed thoughts on the loss to Minnesota. Last season when the Minnesota Wild came to Philips Arena the Thrashers were outshot by a wide margin (39-26) but the team managed to get a tie in regulation and win the extra point in the SO. Even though the Thrashers received zero standings points, the team probably had a stronger performance this season but lost because a handful of defensive gaffes in the 3rd period.

On Tuesday night the Thrashers had a pretty good game in terms of shots and scoring chances. I've read some fairly negative comments on this game, and I guess I just have to disagree. When you lose everyone emphasizes the mistakes and when you win they tend to ignore them. Early in this game the Thrashers were had an opportunity to grab a lead--they just didn't do so.

Year after year the Thrashers have struggled terribly against teams that trap, but they did a fairly good job of putting pressure on Minnesota. Atlanta continually gained the offensive zone and put shots on net, only to see Backstrom make saves and the Wild players clear rebounds and prevent 2nd chance shots. If Atlanta does that every night this season they will win a fair number of games.

Why did the Thrashers end up losing a game that was fairly evenly played?

1) They failed to convert some great chances in the 1st period. Kovalchuk had the puck on a 2 on 1 break and inexplicably attempted a pass that failed to reach the intended target. Colby Armstrong cleanly beat Backstrom but hit the crossbar.

2) The power play struggled to do much other than get shots from the point. Coach Anderson mentioned that the PP is a big problem right now in his post-game news conference and Mike Knobler reports on his blog that the team focused on that PP unit in practice today.

3) In the 3rd period there two bad pinches at the offensive blue line that left Kari Lehtonen and Mathieu Schneider in a bad position defending odd man breaks--Minnesota converted on both opportunities. Oystrick attempted to leap in the air and catch the puck and when he missed the Wild had a 2-on-0 break. Mathieu Schneider skated like crazy to get back into the play. (When you're the last defenseman back you can't take that kind of a chance.) Enstrom tried to hold a puck in and it hit his body and squirted out. I haven't watched the game tape but seeing it live it looked to me that one of the forwards was curling to come back but then failed to catch up to the Wild forwards. Schneider was again left defending a 2 on 1 play.

Honestly the Wild are a better team than Atlanta right now. The Thrashers played hard and they created some scoring chances they just failed to convert on offense. Losing is never good but the effort and intensity was pretty solid and the PK looked better. If you're going to lose, better to lose this way, unlike last season where they were badly outshot and struggled to get out of their own defensive zone many nights.

Your Corsi Boxscore (ES Shots Attempted For-ES Shots Attempted Against)
TOI/Player/Corsi Plus-Minus Score

Team
Lehtonen +6
The Thrashers actually won the Even Strength Shots Attempted battle.

Defense

26:10 Schneider +1
22:15 Havelid +5
21:57 Enstrom -4
21:28 Hainsey +2
16:04 Exelby +6
12:29 Oystrick +3

Enstrom struggled in the FLA game and he was the only defenseman out shot at ES in the MIN contest.

Forwards

19:34 Kovalchuk -4
18:53 White -6
19:35 Little -4

The Thrashers must get better offensive pressure out of their top line. Moving Little to Kovalchuk's line did not have a positive impact initially. Last season Kovlachuk and White were pretty much destroyed at ES by the opposition in terms of Shots For versus Shots Against. So far that trend has not reversed itself this season.

18:02 Kozlov 0
17:35 Williams +1
18:37 Christensen +1

12:44 Perrin +4
12:29 Reasoner +4
10:14 Armstrong +2

7:47 Thorburn +6
10:01 Slater +7
7:14 Boulton +6

An outstanding night by the 4th line who outplayed the opposition in limited ES ice time.