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Thrashers v Capitals: Take 2

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Game Time: 7:00 at Philips Arena and on SportsSouth (HD)


Check out Japers' Rink for Washington's view of tonight's game.

Tonight the boys in blue maroon take on the Capitals for the second time in a week. The Thrashers rallied back to make it a decent game and when looking at the score sheet, they let it slip. Alexander Ovechkin, Brooks Laich, Nicklas Backstrom, and Mike Knuble were all held off the score sheet. Not to mention Alexander Semin who was ill and missed the game. Tonight they will probably be facing that entire lineup unless the Swine Flu has anything to say about it. 

The big test is how the team responds without Ilya Kovalchuk in the lineup. Normally, a contest between these two teams makes one envision a high scoring game, a duel of the snipers if you will. With the coaches letting Ilya and Alex run free. However, that game plan has to change tonight. One sniper is down and the other can't be let to roam free. Ovechkin is currently leading the league (big surprise) in goals with 11, but as evidenced last meeting, can be shut down. 

More after the break.

Part 1: The Thrashers need to start off not only strong offensively, but more importantly defensively. The past two Thrashers games have had pulled goaltenders, and bad bounces. Ondrej Pavelec gets a second chance at facing the division leaders and needs to prove to himself that he can stop a powerhouse like Washington. The defense needs to keep the puck along the boards and show the offensive flair they had during the third period of the Sharks game. I don't have the zone time numbers, but San Jose was on their heels almost the entire period.

Part 2: Goals. Anderson said you need to score a goal to win a hockey game, and the team aside from Ilya (and Rich Peverley) hasn't really done that. Kovalchuk and Peverley account for half the Thrashers goals (14 of 28). As Coach Anderson stated, now's the time to score. Little, Kozlov, and Antropov are still blanked. White and Armstrong have one goal each. Nik Antropov is the new guy, and only has 8 games under Anderson, so I can excuse him, and Bryan Little has had his chances, but just hasn't buried them yet. However, Kozlov, Todd White, and Colby Armstrong really need to step it up.

This team is capable of scoring lots of goals, but these past two games have been comeback attempts, and that surely brings the team down heading into the locker room in between periods. With the Captain in the stands, if the Thrashers get themselves in that situation again, the morale may be too low to attempt a comeback. 

Keys to the game:

  • Play defensively--The Thrashers were off to a terrific start the first 6 games, keeping the opposing team down to 2 or less goals all but one game (Tampa Bay had 3 in the 6-3 win). 
  • Score goals--With the lines Anderson has put together, it's difficult to call anything but the 4th line "secondary scoring" after last years totals. All three lines are capable of scoring and with Kovalchuk out, they all need to.
  • Prove to the Captain--Ilya's out of the lineup. It hurts the Thrashers chances, but it's not impossible. Even against Washington. Kovalchuk asked for help this offseason, he got it according to him. It's time for the team to show him that while they prefer to play standing next to him, they can win while he's in the stands. Give the Captain no choice but to sign on the dotted line when he comes back.
Tim's Take

We saw a really, really bad Thrashers tendency from 08-09 come back in these last two games. We'll call it the "One Period Hockey Game." The guys coast through two periods and find themselves two or three goals behind heading into the 3rd period. They come out blazing in the 3rd, closing the gap to one goal, or perhaps even tying the game up. With minutes to go in the game, they either a) fail to score a tying goal or b) let in an empty net goal and lose by one or two.

This was the Thrashers team we saw over and over again at the beginning of last season. It was not the Thrashers team that we saw at the beginning of this season.

Have you ever had a rodent infestation? [Hang with me here for a sec.] You have the exterminator come: it's expensive, it's a nightmare, but finally you feel like your house is empty. But then, every time you hear a scurrying sound, you think, "Oh no, they're back." Even if it's nothing? Even if it's all in your head?

That's how I feel as a Thashers fan right now. I'm seeing the really bad habits of years past coming back.
  • Getting down early
  • Coasting through 40 minutes
  • Leaving the goalie to fend the crease for himself
  • Making poor passes
  • Relying on Ilya Kovalchuk to get the goal-scoring done
The great, wonderful, amazing takeaway from the end of last season was that our Thrashers could actually kick these habits. Whether it was Captain Kovalchuk or the removal of Crusty Old Veterans, our guys stuck together, played 60 (or 65) minutes, and won hockey games.

These last two games remind me of the old Thrashers. It might be all in my head: the rodents might not be back. Gosh I sure hope I'm wrong. So here's what I'm looking for tonight:
  1. Sustained offensive pressure during the 1st and 2nd periods: We know the Thrashers can play hard in the offensive zone. We've seen all four of our lines do this during the season already. If there is a tell-tale sign of the final score, expect it to be this.
  2. Scoring from somebody not named Ilya Kovalchuk or Rich Peverley: In the absense of Kovalchuk, we need somebody to fill the scoring void. Luckily, the Thrashers still have plenty of offensive flair. If we can light a fire under some of our players who have yet to hit twine (Little, Kozlov, Antropov) we'll be able to make up for the loss in production from Kovalchuk.
  3. Protect the crease: Ondrej Pavelec is a talented goalie, no doubt. If there's an easy way to score on Pavelec - other than hitting a dent in the ice from 180' - it's getting guys out front for rebounds. If the Thrashers are going to be effective tonight, they're going to have to do a better job protecting the crease.
I'll be at the game tonight! Hope to see some of you there!