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Gameday: Thrashers vs. Islanders - Going For Five

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Atlanta Thrashers New York Islanders
Philips Arena
TV: SportSouth Radio: 680 the FAN
SBNation: Game page, Lighthouse Hockey
TSN Coverage
Ondrej Pavelec
Dwayne Roloson
(8-5-3, .921 2.84) (8-2-5, .916 2.80)

Tim and Aaron Happy Fun Time Yay Game Preview!

Notes after the jump.

Islanders Game Notes

Last Game: On Saturday, Nov. 28th (loooove that wacky NHL schedule!), the Islanders were dropped 6-1 by a rolling New Jersey Devils squad. The Isles managed to keep it close through two, but a 4 goal third period by NJ sealed the deal.

Last Five:

Special Teams:
PP - 17.2% (23rd), PK - 81.0% (13th)

Notes for Tonight:
Last time the Thrashers faced the Isles, it was at Veterans Memorial Mausoleum Colosseum, and without captain Ilya Kovalchuk after losing him to a foot injury. That was then, this is now. Since that evening on the island, Atlanta has gone 8-1-2(!!!), while the Isles have posted a 4-4-2 record. It's not like the Islanders have been playing awful - in that 10 games, they've been scoring an average of 2.8 goals per game, while their opponents have scored 3.4. That's a whole bunch of one goal losses, especially when you factor in that 6-1 drubbing by the Devils. One major reason is the loss of center Doug Weight to injury - Douggie's only played 11 games while suffering a list of injuries including a groin injury and swine flu. He's currently out with an upper body injury. That, and their PP has been abysmal - one goal in 28 tries over seven games. However, given the fact they play in the toughest division in the East, that GF/GA margin does remind us that the Islanders are not a team the Thrashers can afford to take lightly.

Who To Watch Out For: John Tavares and Kyle Okposo are both capable of serious offensive fireworks, but Tavares linemate (and actual childhood buddy) Matt Moulson has quietly racked up a career-high 11 goals & 8 assists. Mark Streit is another one who cannot be ignored. The Swedish Swiss D-man is their offense from the blueline with 15 points in 27 games.

Thrashers Game Notes

Tonight is the Thrashers' 25th game of the season. I thought it might be interesting to see how the Thrashers stack up to the rest of the league in a few categories.

Record: 14-7-3, 0.646 points percentage (8th)
Offense: 3.46 goals/game (1st), 22.8% PP (6th)
Defense: 2.75 goals allowed/game (T-13th), 84.4% PK (4th)
Other Metrics: 52.1% in faceoffs (4th), 1.20 5v5 GF/GA (7th)

Those numbers look pretty good to me. Perhaps even more important is how the Thrashers have trended better over more recently. While I wouldn't say that the Thrashers got off to a bad start (remember they began the season 4-1-1), they've been better lately than they began.

1st 12 Games: 6-5-1
Last 12 Games: 8-2-2

So what's the big difference between those first 12 games and the second?

1-12 13-24
Goals 42 41
Goals Allowed 36 26
PP Goals 13 8
PP Goals Allowed 8 7

The Thrashers have kept up the high scoring pace, but they've managed to significantly cut down on the number of opposition goals with the vast majority of the difference at even-strength. This is a very good thing: for all the worrying that folks do about special teams, scoring at 5-on-5 is more indicative of a team's final position at the end of the season. That's also why I'm not concerned with the sagging power play goals: they've kept the total number of goals pretty stable across the two halves of the season so far.

Now, none of this has much to do with the Islanders, but hopefully it gives a bit of insight into how the game has changed.

Tim's Questions of the Game for Tonight:

With that in mind, what will I be watching for in tonight's game?

  1. Revenge is a Dish Best Served on Ice: Or, in the form of a question, will the Thrashers be particularly motivated tonight against the team that's given them their only 3+ goal loss of the season? The New York Islanders, while much improved, are not a particuarly strong team. On paper, the Thrashers should have this one in the bag.
  2. Can the Thrashers Stop Shooting Themselves in the Foot? Keith Ballard wasn't the only skater to make a horrible mistake in the Thrashers-Panthers game. The duo of Cristoph Schubert and Mark Popovic played very poorly. (I've been somewhat outspoken in my criticism of Schubert, though I do believe he's played much better in the past couple weeks than when he first joined the team.) Two of Florida's three goals were scored off of Thrashers mistakes, leading to a game that was much closer than it should have been.
  3. Can the Thrashers Break the "Thrashers Thursday" Curse? The Thrashers are 0-3-1 on Thrashers Thursday. Perhaps the budget tickets are leading to a budget performance? Admittedly, two of those games were against the Washington Capitals...