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Special Teams Killing Thrashers Season

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Prior to looking at the numbers I just assumed that the Thrashers were losing the war at both Even Strength (ES) and on Special Teams (ST) situations. But then I went and looked up the numbers and I was VERY surprised to see this pattern emerge.

Even Strength Situations
47 Thrashers Goals
49 Opposition Goals
-2 net difference

In other words at ES the Thrashers are very close to running even with the opposition. Now I'm sure Coach Anderson would respond to this by saying "we have to do better than just run even" and he would be correct, but being even with the opposition means that the Thrashers are going to OT or the SO on a regular basis and they are earning points. The source of the Thrashers problems is next:

Special Teams Situations
18 Thrasher Goals
30 Opposition Goals
-12 net difference

And there it is ladies and gentlemen--the smoking gun, the giant rip in the side of H.M.S. Titanic. You want to know why we're so low in the standing? Look no further than the special teams units. Now the more clever readers might say "But wait maybe the opposition is getting more Power Plays than Atlanta is!" So far the numbers are 93 Thrashers PP chances to 99 for the opposition (that gap of 6 more PP attempts should only results in about 1 extra goal for the oppositions given the NHL average PP% is around 16%).

The Thrashers Power Play has scored 18 PPG which is about average among NHL teams, but the PP unit has also allowed 3 Short Handed Goals which is among the NHL worst (but not as bad as Boston and Rangers 7 SH Goals Allowed!). So net the Atlanta PP unit has produced just +15 goals.

But it is the PK unit that is the bigger problem. I knew that that the PK had a source of grief all season, but I didn't realize it was quite this bad. The Thrashers have allowed 27 PP Goals Against and scored zero short handed Goals For. If the Thrashers had just an average PK unit they would be up close to the line for the playoffs right now.

What's to be done about it? First you have to identify who is struggling. Let's look at the Expected PPGA for each player given their ice time. At forward Slater and Kozlov (limited minutes) have both struggled compared to their team mates. White has done OK in limited PK minutes. Last year Slater struggled mightily on the PK as well--eventually he and Larsen were dropped for other forwards. It might be time to give Todd White more of a role. I suspect Bryan Little could be a good PKer but the coaching staff is probably trying to avoid piling too much on him at this point in his career. (If only we could clone the Kozlov-White-Little combo--they seem to excel on both sides of the puck.)

(Positive numbers indicate goals prevented on the PK above team average)
+1.92 Perrin
+1.21 Armstrong
+.063 Reasoner
+0.31 White
-1.41 Slater
-1.82 Kozlov

On Defense Hainsey has been outstanding on the PK while Havelid has been out there for a ton of goals. It is obvious the coaching staff trusts Havelid-Enstrom duo the most of the big defensive situations but perhaps they need to ease upon Havelid's PK minutes a bit. The most surprising thing about this chart are the HUGE splits between D partners. Hainsey has BIG positive numbers and Exelby is basically even--Hainsey appears to be much better when not paired with Exelby. Same with Enstrom and Havelid who usually skate together--Havelid appears to be much worse when he is not out with Enstrom. Havelid plays more PK minutes than any other D man but he's been out there for 16 of the 27 PKGA so far this season!

(Positive numbers indicate goals prevented on the PK above team average)
+3.57 Hainsey
+0.44 Oystrick
+0.03 Exelby
-0.69 Schneider
-1.42 Enstrom (on for one 5>3 against)
-3.77 Havelid (on for one 5>3 against)