The Thrashers haven't been winning very many games lately, but it's hard to pinpoint why.
There are many easy answers, but that doesn't necessarily make them the right answer. (No, Zach Bogosian hasn't been playing well, but he's not single-handedly losing games against us.) As an engineer in college, we once took a look at engineering disasters: collapsed bridges, exploding spaceships, etc. What you'll find there, and I think with the Thrashers as well, is that there is never just a single fault point, but rather a combination of many things going wrong all at the same time.
Take the loss to Toronto, for example. The Thrashers played a strong first period, but Ben Eager was, well, Ben Eager, and his trips to the penalty box proved deadly. It wasn't just that he took stupid penalties, but both of our goalies were playing poor, our penalty kill wasn't getting it done, Toronto's power play was firing on all cylinders, and so on. Those 4 goals on a 5-minute major were a catastrophe made from multiple points of failure.
At this point in the season, it feels the same way for the Thrashers. The team started strong, but they've cooled lately, and I'd like to suggest a few reasons why. Alone, none of these things would cause the team to nosedive, but together, they've proven quite damaging.
- Goaltending. You remember when Ondrej Pavelec was second only to Tim Thomas in save percentage and goals allowed? That's not where we are anymore. Pavelec has had a (roughly) 3.5 GAA since the 7-1 drubbing of New Jersey. His save percentage has fallen precipitously. Chris Mason, steady when he had to spell Pavelec to begin the season, hasn't looked good either. To be honest, Mason's never been all that good. In 18 games for the Thrashers, he's allowed 3 or more goals in 14 games. Three of the four "good" games, as I'd call them, were in his first 5 games of the season. Yes, Mason's allowed 3+ goals in 12 of the last 13 games he's played. (In Pavelec's last 10, he's allowed 3 or more in 8.)
- Injuries. This is an issue for every team, but losing Evander Kane and Freddy Modin hasn't been easy. Modin takes a lot of crap from readers here, but his 7 goals tie him for 9th on the team despite playing in just 28 games and that includes zero power play goals. Per minute of 5-on-5 ice time, no Thrasher scores more goals than Fredrik Modin. (He's 1.27/60, Kane's second with 1.09/60, Slater's third with 0.89/60). Losing those two guys has been a huge blow. While you might say, oh, Kane only missed a few games, remember that the injury he sustained was November 28th, but he played a few games afterward.
- Schedule. Yes, the team's been tired. No, they haven't had time to practice. This is something that should lighten up a bit this month and start to pay dividends in February.
As far as today's game goes, it'll be Mason in net for the Thrashers, Lehtonen for the Stars. Now would be a perfect time to put up one of those only-two-goals-allowed efforts that we haven't seen much of lately. Here's your stats from NHL.com: