I don't often opine here at BWA. When you have guys like the Falconer and Tim running around, sometimes it's just best to keep your mouth shut and let folks think you're smart by association. Last nights' game, though, made me just twitchy enough to have to say something. I gotta be honest with you, I liked most of the effort I saw last night - from about half of the team. At the risk of sounding like
a GM an apologist, a hockey team doesn't put 34 shots on goal by accident. Carolina did a pretty good job jamming up the slot, blocking shots and not letting anyone in. It seems like they were aware that a four point divisional gain was at stake. It's really unfortunate that in the first period the Hurricanes were getting the bounces, and I think that's where the Thrashers lost the game. Right up to the "Hainsey Save", Atlanta was in the game. As soon as the goal call came down, it was like the air was let out of the tires. From that point on, it was pretty easy to see who was interested in still showing up, and who had checked out.
This is where the Thrashers have failed this year, both literally and metaphorically. The Thrashers have allowed themselves to be outscored 51-35 in the first period. This is fine, as long as you can shrug off those goals and roar back to score your own. That's what winning teams do--they realize it's hard enough to beat their opponent, so there's no point in dwelling on mistakes and defeating themselves. However, the Thrashers have a .290 win pct. when their opponents score first--that's a record of 9-17-5, including a loss to a Carolina team they should've beaten. A choice has to be made, either they learn to quickly ignore those opening goals against, or they need to stop extending the warm-up skate into the first period. It's become a disturbingly common refrain, this starting from behind. What's even more frustrating is the fact that these Thrashers have the offensive weaponry to overcome this; there just seems to be some insurmountable mental block that keeps them from showing up. Look, if you're only going to try for forty minutes a night, let's see what happens when it's the front forty instead of the back forty.
I feel compelled to call out captain Ilya Kovalchuk--that was some pretty uninspired play last night. He lost the puck on numerous occasions, lost his edge and fell more than once--he's just not playing very good hockey. Just how much is this contract situation "not bothering" him? Why is he floating on the perimeter? Ilya is not a small guy, he needs to spend some time down low once in a while. You want to be a leader? A leader--get this--leads the charge up the hill. A leader shows his troops that no battle is lost. But it's not just Kovalchuk. The entire top PP unit is looking absolutely listless. No offensive pressure. More time was spent collecting the puck behind Ondej Pavelec than in the offensive zone. This is not a question of talent as this is quite possibly the highest quality roster the Thrashers have ever iced. The question marks no longer reside on the third and fourth lines. In other words, there are really no excuses for any of this.
Who was on it? Rich Peverley was on it. Jim Slater, Eric Boulton, Chris Thorburn, Evander Kane and Marty Reasoner all put in good effort. For instance, Rich Peverley made Cam Ward look downright human.
And take a look at the Colby Armstrong goal in the third:
Those guys are having fun playing hockey. It looks like we've got a solid half of the team really working & moving their legs. Unfortunately, it's not the half of the team that gets paid to put pucks in the net.