Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Thrashers Eliminated By Bruins. Again.

Time to break this out again. See? Break? Ha!

EDIT: I goofed - I could have sworn that we were taken out by Boston last season too, but it was the Devils, two games later in the season. That 4-0 curbstomping by the Bruins just *felt* like the end.

Hey, let's admit something to ourselves as Thrashers fans. Boston didn't eliminate us last year. Boston didn't eliminate us this year. The Thrashers eliminated themselves in January of both seasons single handedly - slipshod goaltending, bad defense (Zach Bogosian is a -26 on the season. A MINUS TWENTY SIX), too many shots allowed from high percentage areas, too many shots taken from low percentage areas, bad puck tracking, questionable snap judgement - that's not just a summary of today's game, that's a summary of this franchise.

This year it's more frustrating than before. The team started the season off so very well, even leading the division at one point. And then Jim Slater got hurt, the team's face-off percentage dropped, and puck posession dropped. Compounding that (though I like the return) was the trade of Rich Peverley without getting anyone to make up for that face-off ability. When you add the fact that the coach puts people inappropriate to the situation out on the ice (Thorburn, Stapleton, and Schremp out during the dying minutes of today's game, and Stewart, Thorburn, Stapleton, Dvorak, et al are all often put out on the powerplay) and can't seem to figure out how to best manage his goaltending effectively, you have a serious problem.

You can point to the bad schedule in December. You can point at the defense. Or the coaching. Or the "give a crap factor" again. Whatever - it's a compound fracture and, like the eggs in the picture above, no one's going to put it together again. At least not until next season.

Luckily for them, the Bruins live to fight another day. Their chances of going to the Cup Finals are very high - so high I would recommend taking a trip to NHL Odds.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Movin' on Up

To celebrate the Thrashers' AWESOME game last night - I've moved.

Ok, not really with the celebration part, but for sure with the moving part. Check me out over on the Bloguin network at Thrashing the Blues.

Update bookmarks (all 4 of you) and links accordingly, por favor!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Back up within 1.

Pavs had 44 saves tonight as the Thrashers swept the season series against the Flyers with a 3-1 lead. In the previous 9 years, the Thrashers had beaten the Flyers four times. If you want proof positive that this year we might just be able to make a run, sweeping a team that has been a thorn in our side for every season we've been around might be a great place to start.

Goals from Hainsey, White (!), and Peverley (20th on the season, giving the Thrashers four 20 goal scorers) sealed the deal against the Flyers, who started Boucher for the second night in a row. I know that they didn't have much of a choice as to what to do in goal, but good lord. If they expect to win a playoff series, um... well, if they expected to win one they should have picked up a goalie at the trade deadline. Oh well.

The Thrashers are riding a four game win streak and in the past five games have gotten 9 out of 10 possible points. Instead of wondering if we can squeak into 8th (which a win Tuesday will get us, at least for that night), let's look at all of the teams around us in general. How high can we go?

The 10th place Rangers are 3-5-2 over their past 10 and are on a 3 game losing streak. The Bruins, who sit in 8th by a point, won today at home for the first time since the Winter Classic. In the last 10 games they are 5-4-1, but most of those losses have happened really recently - and if you watched today's game, you could see how flat and listless both teams are. No energy and no intensity. It's like Matt Cooke took out the whole team, not just Savard.

In 7th we have the Habs, who are 7-2-1, are probably the only other team in the bottom 4 of the playoff teams who actually playing serviceable hockey, and have a very strong chance of overtaking the next two teams for 5th.

The 6th place Flyers, well, they've just lost two in a row to us, so there's that. They have no starting goaltending at all, and the team takes stupid penalties and manages to play both cheap and listless all at once when behind the 8 Ball. They're 4-4-2 in their last 10.

The Sens? How in God's name are they still in 5th place? They're 2-7-1 in their last 10 games and are on a 5 game losing streak. If any team is poised for a free fall, well - poised can be halfway in one, right?

Look, I'm not delusional. It's going to be hard work for the Thrashers to maintain a playoff spot. We can, though, take advantage of the slipping of the teams ahead of us. We can ride this momentum from the season sweep of the Flyers. There will be a few games that we won't win in the next 10, and that's fine. But as long as we don't go on any kind of extended losing streak, those next games should be enough to push us over the hump.

Looks like the playoff deposit that I put down might actually go to good use.

TUMS sponsors free food night/blown Blues lead.

Another 3rd period lead blown, although this one might have hurt more than the others - the Blues allowed 2 Nashville goals in a matter of minutes at the end of the 3rd period to let a 2-1 lead slip away, and to fall further out of the playoff race. It's disappointing, but expected.

This season isn't last year. Sorry. You can't just "turn it on" and get into the playoffs whenever you feel like it, guys - with this loss your playoff hopes fall to under 3%, which isn't as bad as it could be, because the Flames lost. The Blues still sit in 10th place with their 77 points, four behind Calgary. A win could have put us two behind the Flames and four behind 8th place Detroit. There aren't enough games left in this season to expect the Blues to win enough and the Flames and Red Wings both to lose enough for us to squeak in. Those two teams are older, bigger, and stronger than the Blues are. The Wings have more playoff experience in 3 players than the Blues do in their whole team.

There's drive with the Blues - there are moments of solid hockey, and there have been all season. But, as has been mentioned before, they think that they can coast. You can't. Coasting is what cost them last season in the first round. Coasting's costing them the playoffs in general this season. You have to have a constant pressure if you want to make the playoffs, regardless of the age of your group. Inconsistency is what has kept the Flames out on the doorstep of the top 8 - the reason that they're still in it is because of that experience and pressure to rebound from sloppy play.

If you can't rebound, if you can't press, you can't make the playoffs, plain and simple. As the end of this writing, the Thrashers defeated the Flyers 3-1 to climb back within 1 of the 8th spot in the East. They've rebounded from a 6 game losing streak (and a 9 game from earlier in the season) to remain in the mix. Granted the teams in front of the Thrashers are in a state of implosion (and behind, too - the Rangers aren't doing too well) and this benefits the Thrashers, as does the fact that the East in general is a weaker conference than the West.

That doesn't take the determination out of the play of the Thrashers, and the lackadaisical play of the Blues probably would make them fall out of play on the doorstep of the playoffs in the East, too. I hope this has been a learning experience for the Blues, more so than last season's playoff loss was. It's harder to make the playoffs, and takes more pressure, than it is to move forward. 4 games versus 82. If you don't show up for the first 82, you're not going to see the next one, let alone four.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Heckuva night for the Blues and Thrashers again.

St. Louis swept their metro New York tour this season, beating the Rangers, Isles, and Devils each time they met this season, for the first time in team history. On the back of Ty Conklin, who had shut out number four of the season and Alexander Steen, who netted goal number 21 in his career year.

The highlight of the evening, though, was this three minute or so tilt between Cam Janssen and Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond.

I absolutely am thrilled senseless that Janssen's back. I know he's just an enforcer, or a spark plug, or whatever you want to call him, but he really gives the team that energy and push to get up whatever mountain's stuck in front of them. You can tell a difference (and no, it's not scientifically provable, but take my word for it, dammit) when he is out there on the ice.

Also outstanding was Brad Boyes' quick thinking in denying Kovalchuk a goal when Conklin was scrambling back to position. Kovalchuk was limited to 5 SOG, and was a -1 for the evening, as Lou's big draft deadline deal is looking more and more like his mortgaging the future of the Devils. Niclas Bergfors had a goal and an assist tonight and was a +1 with 4 SOG. Kovy has 1 goal since March 13th. Bergfors has 1 goal as well, but also has 4 assists. I don't keep comparing the two of them to rub stuff in Devils' fans faces. The reason that I keep comparing them is because I am still shocked and confused that Waddell traded our "franchise player" for someone just as, if not more so, productive.

I'm also still shocked that the Thrashers are putting up this much fight going into the playoffs. That six game losing streak cost us big time, and I (along with many others) assumed that it was our death knell. Apparently not. With a 5-2 win over the Flyers tonight, we're one point out of 8th place. This isn't too shabby, especially since we're getting production out of players who have been mediocre all season long (Armstrong had another 2 goal night), and a solid stretch from Hedberg. A caller into the post-game show asked if we should ride the Moose into the playoffs. Hm. Let's ask around.

Yeah, nope. This season from Moose is just a total shock. /sarc

One other thing that keeps impressing me - and saving my fantasy team - is the season that Nik Antropov is having. Everyone is focusing on the youth of Little, Kane, Bogosian, and Bergfors, but Antropov's just absurd. Twenty two goals (five in his last five games, 2 of which were GWGs) and 41 assists this year averages out to just a little under a point a game, and the best season Antro's had in his career. I'm glad that we have him for the next three seasons. His not so hot face off percentage's an afterthought.

These past 2 weeks have been an absurd roller coaster for the Thrashers and their fans. At least we're going up right now... maybe all the big deep drops are in the past.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Fickle Finger of Fate finally smiles on the Thrashers and (kind of) Blues.

Ok, so the Blues' playoff hopes and dreams didn't exactly shoot up last night with Paul Kariya's game winning 400th goal, but every team we needed to lose lost. This leaves the Blues just five games back, which sounds easy peasy until you realize that the other teams in front of you aren't just going to part like the Red Sea and let you climb up the standings. The Blues seem a little overly positive about their chances at another run, and I'm going with Gallagher on this one - if they pull another miracle run out of their butts, then they'll think they can slack off the first part of every season. That bubble needs to be burst. Of course, at the same time, I want them in the playoffs. Ahh, contradictions.

The Blues' win helped the Thrashers jump the Rangers in the standings last night to 9th place, after the Thrash defeated the Sens 6-3. They're now only 3 back of the Bruins, who aren't exactly tearing it up, and tomorrow get to face a Philly team who apparently now is just setting up one of those goalie practice cut-outs in net. So, we face their backup on Saturday, and then their backup's backup on Sunday. Saturday I betcha Moose is going to be in, so we're solid. If Pavs manages to not allow his usual 4 goals Sunday, we could have lept over Boston in time for our game against them Tuesday. Oooh.

Speaking of last night, I will cease whining about Armstrong (for now). His 2 goals and an assist kind of shut me up. What I will continue to raise hell about (Ben does so much more calmly than I over on the Blueland Blog) is Ruutu's punch to the mask of Hedberg that was blatant goaltender interference, and that pissed Moose off so badly that he misplayed the following goal. During the Nashville game, Thorburn's goal got called off for interference that no one could even tell happened, but when you have a known dirty player with a history of transgressions against the Thrashers actually hit a goalie in the face, and nothing gets called, that's absurd. Hedberg had to be restrained after the play, and honestly the fans in Philips were so upset that it would have been helpful to restrain us, too. Moose apologized after the game for his behavior, but I really don't think that he had any reason to do so. Just because you're under 40 lbs of protective gear doesn't give someone the right to try to run you.

The officials in the league have been a total joke this season when it comes to goal/no goal calls. Actually, they're a joke anyway, so why not really ratchet it up a notch or two when a game is on the line?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Really quickly before I hit the sack.

I'll blog about the two games from tonight tomorrow (congrats to Paul Kariya on goal 400, though - imagine how that would have felt if you would have scored it at home), but has a great interview with Keith Tkachuk up, in which they try to pry out of him his decision for playing next season. He, as well as management, give the usual nebulous answer, but this quote at the end says a lot:

"I have learned a lot from a great organization. I have been through some ups and downs here. When I first got here it was automatic, it was win now, win now, and then we went through some tough years and some changes. The bottom line is I didn't want to play anywhere else."

Walt agreed to be traded to the Thrashers for the good of the Blues' franchise and to aid the rebuild, and then he promptly returned. His family has made it his home, and he has always made it perfectly clear that not only does he want to stay in St. Louis, he'd like to retire a Blue. He's earned that right. He's been a great leader for the team on and off the ice, and while this season hasn't exactly been a career year for him, he's been a constant on this team for 9 years and is a solid part of the St. Louis community. His contributions and dedication to the team are very, very much appreciated by Blues fans.

Even if we are calling him Puddin'.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Finally, a Thrashers Win.

Missed the Blues game (thankfully - Avs swept the season series, and we're now in 11th), but I am very glad that I braved the Buffalo Sabres fans in Philips for tonight's game. Ryan Miller was given a couple of really nice ovations for his work in the Olympics, and one really big one for when we chased him from the net. Yes, 3 goals on 5 shots is not exactly a good night for Miller. I'm ok with it.

The Thrashers played an offensively solid game tonight, complete with some good hitting by Bogosian and Slater, but their power play more often than not looked like they were on the penalty kill. A 33% FO win percentage is not how you get shots, and they really really didn't get many shots. They did allow a power play goal for the 10th game in a row to Buffalo, so yes, both of the special teams are still less than special.

Antropov, Little, Afinogenov, and Slater were your goal scorers for the evening, and the current #1 line du jour of Bergfors-Antropov-Afinogenov needs to stay put. Splitting Antro and Max was not something that I would consider a good decision seeing the chemistry they had the beginning of the season, so I'm glad to see them back together. Bergfors steps into the Kovalchuk "role" on that line, and outperforms Kovy (as I judge it - Bergie's a rookie and Kovy's a vet, same output). Bergfors had three assists tonight and 2 SOG, and was named the first star of the game.

Since the trade, Bergie's been good for six goals, five assists, and fifty SOG. The Tampa loss from the other week? He had 6 SOG in that game. He's absolutely replaced Kovy by himself. To compare, Kovalchuk has 57 SOG, 5 goals, and 7 assists.

Hey, Devils fans - anyone know Lou's preference on fruit? Cheese? Wine? I need to make him a gift basket and get him a swell "thank you" card for the game on the 6th. I'm starting to think that Waddell kind of fleeced him. Think about it - they got a rental who has basically the same output as a rookie that they traded away, plus they lost a good 2nd pairing defenseman and a top prospect (and a 1st rounder). They traded like for like, but they traded away a lot of excess with their like for our like.

Worst sentence I've ever written, but you catch my drift. Bergie's #2 in rookie scoring with 38 points, and 2nd in rookie goals scored with 19. Kid's a keeper. He's a great addition to the club.

Ahh, jersey fouls.

I don't see a ton of these aside from people having their own last name on their jerseys, the people with random puns, and that one guy with the 69 jersey. This one, though, was my favorite, and it made the Jersey Fouls for today. Go to Puck Daddy to behold UnkaBubba, the proud wearer of number 13.

Also, can someone explain to me the phenomena of people putting a RBK logo on a CCM or KOHO jersey? You own a far superior piece of hockey equipment/attire. Advertise it. That, and it just looks stupid, because I know that original road jersey for the Thrashers is so not a RBK Edge one.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Interesting stuff from Don Waddell.

I'm not on the Fire Waddell bandwagon this season. There have been times in the past that I have flirted with it, not because of his inability to re-sign players like Savard or Hossa, and not really because of his drafting, but because of his signings and free agent acquisitions (and the inclusion of Dupuis on the Hossa deal instead of Perrin - ugh). There have been seasons where he has just iced an awful team, and there are seasons like last year where he iced what looked like a good team on paper, but for various reasons his best efforts fell flat (cranky elderly, people who couldn't play in Anderson's system, Jason Williams).

This season is frustrating because Waddell has put together a really, really strong team that should have maintained a playoff position. The defense is the best as it's been in the franchise history, the signing of Afinogenov was just damn smart, Antropov is solid, Kubina for XLB was swell... I can't think of anything he's done that has frustrated me. I'm still thrilled with the Bergfors and Oduya acquisitions, and glad that he didn't cave to Kovalchuk. I like our squad this year for the most part. The disappointments of White and Kozlov were unforeseeable given how they played last season.

Waddell chats with Chris Vivlamore of the AJC today regarding personnel, his outlook on playoffs, and his job evaluation. If he could keep his job through some of his past teams, Wadddell's safe. Vivlamore does ask about a coaching change, but it's too late for it to be effective this season. Honestly, it would do absolutely no good and serve no purpose this late in the year. Offseason wise, though, Anderson will be looked at just like everyone else on the team.

Vivlamore makes a good point about how we can only put together losing streaks of epic proportions, and not winning streaks. Consistency has been a major problem for this season. As a fan, I appreciate Waddell's forwardness in answering the questions (no "John Anderson is an important part of this organization moving forward" kind of answers). The season's not over yet, but apparently a lot remains to be seen.
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