The Thrashers insist there are lessons to be learned in Saturday’s embarrassing 8-2 loss to Buffalo that likely cost them a playoff berth.
That doesn’t make the bitter loss any easier to swallow.
“It doesn’t make it easy,” captain Andrew Ladd said. “It doesn’t make it right. It doesn’t make it acceptable. That’s what we have to learn in this room. It’s not acceptable to not be ready to play in a game like that. We need better effort. We’ll chalk it up to another learning lesson but we have to move on.”
The Thrashers held their first on-ice workout since the defeat Tuesday. A victory against the Sabres would have pulled the Thrashers to within two points of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Instead, they are now 12th and seven points out heading into Tuesday’s NHL schedule. They could fall further behind with Buffalo, Carolina, Toronto and New Jersey – all ahead in the standings – in action.
“That was definitely a game to set us up and see where we stand if we want to make a playoff run,” alternate captain Dustin Byfuglien said. “We are a young team and a lot of guys don’t have experience in big, tight games like that. It just goes to show. We weren’t playing as a team in all aspects.”
The Thrashers allowed a goal 24 seconds into Saturday’s game. After tying the game, they allowed two more first-period goals to fall behind 3-1. After pulling within a goal early in the second period, the flood gates opened. The Sabres scored five unanswered goals. Two goals came 1:50 apart and another two :28 apart marking the 22nd and 23rd times this season the Thrashers have allowed an opponent back-to-back goals in less than two minutes.
With 10 games remaining in the regular season, the Thrashers (30-30-12, 72 points) will likely need to win nine of those game. That would put them at 90 points. It took 88 points to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference last season. The teams ahead of the Thrashers hold tiebreaker advantages. Even when playing their best hockey earlier this season, the Thrashers longest win streak was six games.
It’s a tall task.
It starts Thursday when the Thrashers travel to New York to play the Islanders. They host Western Conference leader Vancouver on Friday.
“All we can do is play,” Ladd said. “… We have to finish the year [playing with desperation]. That’s all we can focus on. We can’t control anything else the other teams are doing, whether they are winning or losing. We go out and win our games and give ourselves a shot.”
Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay had harsh words for his team following Saturday’s game and again on Monday after an off-ice workout. Ramsay said his team did not compete, adding they “collapsed” and “panicked” against the Sabres.
The coach also said he was disappointed with players taking bad penalties and lacking the courage to block shots.
“It’s a strong message and a strong challenge to everyone in that room to be more desperate and put your body on the line to make things happen,” Ladd said. “Come playoff time, that’s the way you need to play. Rammer understands that. He’s been there. He was one of those guys. You have to take that to heart and use it the right way. You have to get [ticked] off to accept that challenge.”