Do you know what I liked about John Anderson’s post-game press conference last night? He didn’t make any excuses for his team. They played poorly and he said so. When someone gave him an out and asked if three games in four nights tired the team out he pointed out that Tampa had done the same thing, and all three of their games were on the road, including one on the other side of the country in Anaheim.
The Thrashers simply didn’t play well last night and it’s on the players to step up and take control early in games instead of waiting until the third period to play like the game matters. If they keep up this habit of coasting through 20 or even 40 minutes and falling behind Ondrej Pavelec is probably going to snap. He was pretty blunt in his comments after the game last night, and it’s hard to fault him for it.
“It’s the same story, same song,” he said. “Again we come back in the third and start to play in the third. I don’t know. every game again it’s the same thing every game. In the NHL if you play only 20 minutes, or say 10 minutes, it’s not enough. We just lose the point like that. Our division is pretty tight and it’s going to be a fight. I think they deserved two points. They wanted two points more than us.”
Phil Foley from The Examiner does a good job breaking down the game and what it really comes down to is this- the Thrashers are dominant when they have a lead and not playoff worthy when they trail.
If you didn’t make it to the game you can see the highlights via the TSN web site.
The good news is that the Thrashers are still within a point of a playoff position with 62 games left on the schedule. By no means is it time to panic, but it is time to right the ship and get the team on track. They have to play more aggressively in the first 20 minutes and impose their will on the opposition. Very few teams in this league can match the firepower of this roster, and when they score early and play with confidence they’re a very intimidating opponent. It’s time to take advantage of that.
On a side note, there were scouts from seven NHL teams listed on the press box seating chart last night, which is fairly unusual. One or two is normal, and three or four don’t raise eyebrows. Seven make you take notice and start to wonder.
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Not a lot to say about last night’s loss to the Sharks. The game was earily similar to the loss to Washington, with both goals including a three goal deficit, a two-goal rally following a goaltening change, a poor start, and a strong third period.
The obvious big difference is that the captain left one game healthy and left the other injured, and were all waiting to see how serious his injury is. According to John Anderson he’ll be checked out by doctors tomorrow morning. The good news is that of the injury is minor he has some time to heal before the team plays again on Thursday.
My recap from the game, including links to the press conference, photo gallery, and the in-arena Halloween video, is right here. If you haven’t read it it’s worth your time if for nothing more than the Ron Hainsey quotes at the end.
I’m not too concerned with the three losses since the team looked like it could hve won both games. This next stretch will be a test though, as just nine games into the season the Thrashers face three teams they’ve already played (and lost to) in Washington, Ottawa, and Montreal. How they respond in those rematched (possibly without Ilya Kovalchuk) will be a real measuing stick where they’re at.
Feel free to stop by tonight’s liveblog on CoverItLive.
Johan Hedberg gets the start in goal tonight as the Thrashers take on the San Jose Sharks at Philips Arena. Hedberg has been a rock when called up on this season, as his perfect record and .964 save percentage show. He says that the key for him this season is to act as if every day is a game day and to have the same attitude whether he’s playing or not.
Said Colby Armstrong about what Hedberg has brought to the table, “So far he’s been great. When he’s been called upon he’s been standing on his head. Every time he’s in there he’s competing hard. He’s a veteran guy and he’s real intense. He’s always talking on the ice. That makes it really easy for us.”
Asked about the decision to go with Hedberg rather than put Pavelec back in after his rough outing against Washington on Thursday in which he let in a shot from about 150 feet, Anderson was clear.
“Moose played a great game the other night in Buffalo,” he said. “Pavs had, I’m not going to say a bad game, but, that was a devastating goal. We don’t blame him for the loss or anything like that, but we want to make sure he gets his legs back under him before we throw him back into the fire.”
While some fans might be concerned about Pavelec’s mental state and whether he needs to get right back into action to get over the tough loss, Anderson isn’t worried. He had Pavelec in Chicago and won a championship with him. Anderson knows Pavelec as well as anyone and can certainly be trusted to do what’s best for his young netminder and his team.
The other change in the lineup will be Anssi Salmela coming in for Mark Popovic who is a scratch along with Jim Slater. Otherwise the lines are the same as on Thursday.
I spoke t a few players about the team approaches preparing for a Western Conference team that they don’t face very often. Both Todd White and Zach Bogosian said there’s more emphasis on video sessions breaking down the opposition’s tendencies. The players face a team like Washington often enough to know what’s in store, but without video they wouldn’t know what to expect from the Sharks. there’s a fine line to walk between countering what the visitors are doing and playing your own game, and Todd White said the plan will definitely be to keep doing what they’ve been doing when they’ve been successful while also being aware of what the Sharks like to do.
John Anderson pointed out that both teams are in the same situation since the Sharks obviously don’t play the East any more than the East plays the Sharks. He did point out that the Sharks might have a bit of a leg up since one of their assistant coaches, Matt Shaw, was his assistant coach for two seasons in Quad City and Chicago. That was back in the mid 90s though, so the strategies Anderson uses from those years might not be fresh in his memory.
Like Thursday night against the Capitals, the team sees tonight’s game as a test to see how they stack up against an elite squad and the emphasis in practice has been on playing a full 60 minutes.
“We’ve just got to play three solid periods of hockey to win hockey games,” said Zach Bogosian. “We can’t show up in the third period every game. Tonight’s obviously going to be a good test for us. They have a lot of good players. It’s been said by the coaching staff and by players in the room that we all have to play for three solid periods.”
Tonight’s game will be Dany Heatley’s first as a Shark in Atlanta. Heatley has 16 points in 16 games versus the Thrashers since being traded in the summer of 2005 but in eight games at Philips Arena he has just five points and is -4. He and Joe Thornton have been on a tear though, so keep an eye on him tonight.
Here are the expected lines for the Sharks:
Heatley- Thornton- Vesce
Clowe- Marelau- Setoguchi
Ortemeyer- Malholtra- Ferriero
Shelley- Nichol- Staubitz
There’s a chance we’ll see Greiss in goal instead of Nabokov.
Today is Thrashers blogger day at Philips Arena, so make sure you check out your favorite Thrashers blogs later tonight for bonus coverage.
Let’s take a look at some early season Thrashers rankings, shall we? Some of them are surprisingly different from past seasons, some are flat out impressive, and some ore kind of strange:
- PK- 1st in the NHL (90.6%)
- PP- tied for 1st in the NHL (28.6%)
- Goals Against Per Game: 7th (2.71)
- Goals Scored Per Game- 5th (3.57)
- Shots Per Game- 29th (24.7)
- Shots Against Per Game- 28th (34.1)
- Faceoff Percentage- 7th (51.5%)
It’s actually pretty incredible that the Thrashers are scoring as much as they are based on the number of shots they’re taking per game. You have to wonder if they’re lucky or just very particular about when they shoot. Ilya Kovalchuk has told media that he doesn’t shoot unless he thinks it’s a good chance. The Thrashers rank third in the NHL in team shooting percentage at 14.5%. They were also third last year, but at 10.8% when the top team in the league (Boston) was at 10.9%. If the Thrashers are going to keep up their scoring rate they’re probably going to have shoot significantly more, because that shooting percentage is likely to come down.
Have any other stats jumped out at you so far this season?
A game in which the Thrashers easily could have folded after 40 minutes turned into an exciting finish tonight at Philips as Zach Bogosian and Ilya Kovalchuk turned a 5-2 third-period deficit into an exciting 5-4 finish. In the locker room the positives from that finish seemed to outweigh any negatives from earlier in the game (like bad bounces and shaky netminding for a very brief span) as the players and head coach seemed okay with the overall effort. Nobody (Except perhaps Pavelec) was beating themselves up for the loss, which was refreshing to see.
Good teams get over mistakes and losses and move on. Teams that struggle dwell on them, and that’s what some Thrashers teams of the past have done.
I like the odds of this team bouncing back on Saturday versus the road-weary Sharks.