Defense Ice Time
- 22:46 Zach Bogosian
- 22:05 Pavel Kubina
- 20:41 Tobias Enstrom
- 17:25 Nathan Oystrick
- 17:03 Boris Valabik
- 15:28 Mark Popovic
Forward Ice Time
- 20:39 Ilya Kovalchuk
- 17:04 Bryan Little
- 16:45 Evander Kane
- 16:04 Nik Antropov
- 15:03 Rich Peverley
- 13:38 Chris Thorburn
- 13:24 Jim Slater
- 12:05 Joey Crabb
- 12:00 Dan Fritsche
- 11:40 Maxim Afinogenov
- 11:27 Tim Stapleton
- 08:37 Josh Gratton
The Predators brought their 2nd line, but left their 1st line back home. They brought pretty good defensemen as well. Probably the closest thing to a game featuring a balanced lineup so far in the pre-season.
Team discipline was a problem as the Predators ended up with 12:40 minutes of Power Play ice to the Thrashers 4:10 with the man advantage. The total shots are rather misleading in this context because of the special teams disparity. The Thrashers were certainly even of better in the scoring chances department at even strength.
One reason the Thrashers ended up short is that guys took penalties standing up for teammates after some borderline hits (Tootoo was involved--shockingly!). Kovalchuk and Enstrom both got tagged and Kubina and Throburn went to the box while trying to send a message. Valabik took a minor after leveling a guy who came into Pavelec's crease. Discipline is going to be important in the regular season, but it is a good sign that players care about their teammates--that hasn't always been the case in Atlanta. I've seen some bad hits where nobody did anything to send a message. It is yet another sign that this locker room is good and has fewer cliques than in the past.
Kovalchuk-Antropov-Little Line: Looks ready to go to me. Ilya is just flying around in the pre-season and looks extremely excited about this year. I saw more sustained offensive zone shifts from this line again, which is another positive sign. Heading into this year, I was worried Bryan Little might have trouble matching his numbers of last year--but Ilya and Nik seem to get all of the attention of opposing defensemen leaving him wide open to shoot.
Enstrom-Bogosian: They looked like they were both in mid-season form (they were both +3 in the game). They played extremely well and read off each other like they have played together for years. The biggest danger might be that the coaching staff overplays them early and wears them out, but they are both young and have lots of energy.
Nathan Oystrick: Made a really bad decision to pinch up late in the 3rd period and missed. This left his D partner Pavel Kubina alone defending a 2>1 and the open man scored on Pavelec to cut the lead down to 5-3 and it gave Predators new life. I know Anderson likes offense from his D, but with just under 4 minutes left and a 2 goal lead you don't need to make low probability plays.
Mark Popovic: I noticed him much less last night, but looking at the ice time he also played a lot less. He made a mistake at one point but I can't remember now what it was.
Boris Valabik: His skating looks so much better this fall it is very noticeable. However, he got blown around a couple of times in this game. And he can't go to the penalty box alone so often. He led all Thrashers with 6:42 on the PK.
Jim Slater: I've been hard on him in the past, but he's looked pretty good in both pre-season games. With his hustle he got a loose puck to Josh Gratton who scored from way over on the wall for the 1st goal of the game.
Tim Stapleton: I suspect he will start the year in Chicago, but he could be called up if the Thrashers have an injury on a scoring line. He made a terrific pass to set up Josh Gratton's 2nd goal. It was a 2>1 rush and the opposing defenseman went down to block off the passing lane. Stapleton kept going and the moment he was clear of the sprawled out D-man's skate he made a hard pass right to the slot which Gratton put past the goalie. For my money Stapleon looks like he has the puck skills to jump in and not hold back a scoring line. His lack of size makes it unlikely he would end up on a checking line.
Maxim Afinogenov: He looked a little raw early. He lost the puck twice on his 1st or 2nd shift of the game. Once he got his feet under him the NHL speed was apparent. He had one of his typical rushes where he flies up the ice, makes some stickhandling moves, shot, glove save.
Ondrej Pavelec: Still has problems overplaying the puck once or twice a game--he got lucky both times. One Nashville player mishandled the puck and on the other his D-man got to the rebound first. The 3rd Nashville goal, which gave them renewed life in a blow out at 17:52 of the 3rd, probably should not have gone in. Maybe I'm being too harsh because it was a 2>1 pass right to the slot.
Evander Kane: He looked much better last night than when they played the Predators one week ago. He looked more confident and fluid in his skating. He had a couple of shot attempts. He still has a lot to learn in terms of exploiting NHL defenseman, but you can see that he has the foundation to be a very exciting player down the road.
Josh Gratton: Could he really steal Eric Boulton's job? I'm not an expert on fighters, but he showed some very nice hands last night. On both plays, the passer deserves some credit, but Gratton did his part and finished. The 1st one was a bad goal for the Nashville goalie, but the 2nd goal was a nice bang-bang play at the net.
Joey Crabb Vs Dan Fritsche: These two guys are probably battling for the same job. Both were +1 and got some time on the PK. I don't see a huge difference between them, but I liked Crabb a little better last night.
Pavel Kubina: I'm very impressed by how he can lean on people and not get called for interference. He's big and he is constantly in the way of opposing forwards. He must be annoying as hell to play against. I just hope regular season refs don't start calling him for that stuff.
I figured I'd chime in with a few additional comments. Falconer and I seemed to have different impressions of Boris Valabik, for one.
Boris Valabik: Yes, his skating looks better than last year, but he was barely able to keep up out there. Rather than play D deep in the Thrashers' defensive-zone, he seemed like he was always trying to hang by the face-off circle. This was giving him an advantage in getting up to the neutral zone with the team, but he was leaving his defensive partner all alone near the net. I think Boris has the right tools to play in the NHL, but I'm not sure if he's a good fit for our system this year.
Evander Kane: We all expect rookie mistakes, but what I saw from Evander Kane last night was important: he looks like he can keep up with NHL-sized players. He played strong on the puck, and while he got pushed off a few times, he'd go right back after it. He has a tenacity that will help him adjust to the NHL game faster. We will hopefully get to see him for the whole year, but at the very least, I expect a 9-game tryout.
Maxim Afinogenov: I was at the game with my girlfriend and we were sitting next to a couple people who were at their first hockey game. Every time Max got the puck, they were oooh-ing and aaah-ing. I'm not saying that we should sign Max because he's an exciting player, but for a city that needs to create some excitement around hockey, this guy is a heck of a lot of fun to watch. Sign him for Todd White-money (low-to-middle $2 million range) and I'm satisfied. I'd play him with Kane and White or Peverley and watch them zoom all over the place ... *or* ... play him with Peverley and Armstrong (a guy who can go hard to the net and finish the chances that Maxim generates.)
Josh Gratton: A lot of folks say we have the best 4th line in the NHL. They say that because our 4th line buzzes around and generates a lot of chances. This is true... but generating chances means nothing if you can't finish them. Josh Gratton showed an ability to finish chances last night. Conventional wisdom is that he's challenging for Boulton's spot... it'll be interesting to see where this goes.
Ondrej Pavelec: He looks ready to go. It'll be interesting to see how Legace plays on Friday (or Sunday).
Enstrom-Bogosian: Did you think these guys were just a flash-in-the-pan? Guess what? They aren't.
Kovalchuk-Antropov-Little: Those are three names you'll be hearing from our PA guy in scoring announcements... a lot... I will say, though, that Kovalchuk seemed somewhat tentative to shoot at times. I know he's got some scorers on his line now, but Kovy, please, for the love of God, SHOOT!
That's it from me for now, but I hope to have more to say if/when there are some cuts today. So far everybody is at the morning skate, so it's up in the air as to whether they make cuts.