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Sleepy Sabres Slip Away with Single Point

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The Sabres played the night before and Buffalo came out slow. The Thrashers took advantage of the sleepy Sabres to pile up a big 1st period shot advantage 19-6. The Thrashers scored two goals on those shots but really should have had more--but Patrick Lalime was outstanding when Buffalo needed him to be so. This may have been the best game I've ever seen Lalime play.

Some key individual plays were Todd White's great pass to a breaking Kovalchuk who then cashed in the opportunity with a hard shot just under the cross bar. Jason Williams had 60% of the net to shot at with Lalime down but just couldn't elevate the puck high enough. Bryan Little who is showing off his offensive skills much more as a winger let loose a NHL level wrister that Lalime couldn't react to in time. White also had a brutal direct pass turnover to the Sabres in the slot area that Lehtonen saved. Lehtonen played like a top 15 starting goalie should play--no softies and several outstanding saves.

In some ways the game was about missed turning points for Atlanta. Yes, they did eventually get two points via the shootout, but if Jason Williams scores on that 1st period opportunity they go up 3-0 and probably win in regulation.

Likewise another big missed chance was at the start of the 3rd period. With the score 2-1 Atlanta the Thrashers begin the 3rd with a power play and fresh ice and fresh players. They really have to connect on that sort of opportunity. A goal in that situation likely gives Atlanta 2 points and Buffalo 0.

Instead the turning point of the 3rd occurred when Eric Boulton failed to clear the defensive zone and Jason Pominville stripws him on the puck went in on Lehtonen and shot the rebound come right to him on the left side for an easy put back goal. (Havelid was down on the ice after attempting to block the initial shot.)

In our "As the Blueline Turns"segment I thought that Enstrom had a nice rebound game after two less-than-great performances. Bogosian also had a couple of good looking shifts as well. It seemed to me that Bogosian didn't see the ice in OT or late in the 3rd as they went with a 5 man rotation. I understand that the coaches are probably trying to protect him and make sure he isn't out there to make a crucial costly error, but if Bogosian stays the whole season the team will need to use him late just to rest the other pairings here and there. I noticed a rare Havelid pinch to the net move at one point in the game.

The power play continues to look great in terms of puck control, puck movement and generating shots--the only problem is there are no PP goals recently. Part of this is that the Thrashers now take more point shots and Lalime simply was terrific in not giving up a lot of rebounds. I'm as frustrated as anyone about now getting any PP goals, but this PP unit certainly looks more dangerous than last season's pass-it-around-the-perimeter-and-hope-Kovy-scores system.

I seldom blog about opposition players, but watching the game on tape later I was very impressed with Thomas Vanek--he and Lalime carried a tired squad to a point they probably would not have earned otherwise.

The Thrashers are far from perfect, but they are entertaining and they are doing what they must to stay in the Eastern Playoff race while they become familiar with each other and Anderson's systems. I'm more encouraged than discouraged after 5 games.

Corsi Box Score (ES Thrashers Shots minus Opposition Shots Attempted)


Lehtonen +18 Not so good for the Thrashers at Even Strength versus the Devils.

26:07 Schneider +8
12:27 Bogosian +13 (A new high in net team shot differential for Bogo)

24:04 Havelid +1
25:49 Enstrom +6

25:31 Hainsey +3
15:17 Exelby +6

22:18 Kovalchuk +2
17:36 White +4
16:57 Little +4

15:46 Kozlov +8
14:11 Williams +9
16:00 Christensen +6

14:27 Perrin +13
15:55 Reasoner +6
18:28 Armstrong +6

6:39 Thorburn -2
13:41 Slater -1
7:34 Boulton -2

Real Eastern Standings (Points - Games Played)
This controls for differences in games played by teams
+5 NYR
+4 MON
+4 BUF
+3 NJD
+2 WAS
+1 CAR
+1 PIT
+1 BOS
---------- Playoffs
+0 OTT
+0 ATL
+0 FLA
-1 NYI
-1 TOR
-2 TBL
-3 PHI