PHILADELPHIA – If the Thrashers fail to make the postseason, which is likely with just six games remaining, it won’t be for a single reason. There are several things that have gone wrong this season.
However, one major issue has been the propensity to allow back-to-back goals less than two minutes apart. It has happened at an alarming rate – 24 times in 19 games. The stat reared its ugly head again in Tuesday’s 3-1 loss to Montreal. The Canadiens scored 11 seconds apart in the first period, the eighth time the consecutive goals have come in 39 seconds or less.
The Thrashers are 4-13-2 in those 19 games, nearly one-quarter of the season. Ten of the games came during the 30-game stretch when the Thrashers went 7-17-6 from Dec. 21 to March 3.
A case could be made that the back-to-back goal issue cost the Thrashers a playoff spot. They enter Thursday’s game against Philadelphia with 76 points, nine points behind Buffalo for the eighth and final playoff spot. Buffalo played the New York Rangers Wednesday with a chance to increase the margin.
In five of the 19 games, the Thrashers lost by one goal or two goals which included an empty-netter. Had they not allowed the quick-strike goals, a minimum of five points could have been obtained by going to overtime. That would put the Thrashers at 81 points, four points out of the playoffs. Manage just a win or two in extra time and the margin could have been less or gone.
“What an incredible opportunity we’ve had but we just have to focus on Philadelphia at this moment,” coach Craig Ramsay said.
If the Sabres defeat the Rangers in regulation Wednesday, the Thrashers would go into the matchup with the Flyers 11 points out with a possibility of 12 points remaining. A loss or a Sabres win or overtime loss the rest of the season would officially end the race for the Thrashers.
“It’s about pride and being a professional,” forward Chris Thorburn said. “That’s our job. We are in hockey because we love it. We are not mathematically eliminated yet. There is still some chance that we can make the playoffs. They way we do that is winning hockey games.”
Ramsay said that the responsibility for back-to-back goals allowed lies with the next line to play. It’s another lesson his team must learn going forward.
“You need to get to that point, you need to understand as a team, that if you are the line that goes out next after a goal against, or a goal for, your job is to get the puck and hold onto it for awhile to change the momentum,” he said. “You don’t want a team to jump all over you right after you score or they score. You don’t. You have to have the strength of character to go out and want the puck.
“We have to understand the significance of the shift right after a goal.”
The Thrashers have allowed opponents consecutive goals less than two minutes apart 24 times this season. In eight of those instances (in bold), the goals were separated by 39 seconds or less.
Canadiens/March 29/:11/Hamrlik and Darche/Lost 3-1 (EN)
Sabres/March 19/:28/Niedermayer and Connolly/Lost 8-2
Sabres/March 19/1:50/Gerbe and Ennis/Mason/
Sabres/Feb.23/:30/Gaustad and Pominville/Lost 4-1
Oilers/Feb. 19/:39/Hall and Hall/Lost 5-3 (EN)
Islanders/Feb. 1/1:00/Okposo and Parenteau/Lost 4-1
Lightning/Jan. 23/1:42/Thompson and Tyrell/Lost 7-1
Stars/Jan. 15/1:58/Neal and Woywitka/Lost 6-1
Flyers/Jan. 14/:21/Shelley and Timonen/Lost 5-2 (EN)
Hurricanes/Jan. 9/1:36/Dalpe and Skinner/Lost 4-3 OT
Maple Leafs/Jan. 7/1:19/Armstrong and Kulemin/Lost 9-3
Maple Leafs/Jan. 7/1:50/Kulemin and Grabovski/
Maple Leafs/Jan. 7/1:14/Kulemin and MacArthur/
Maple Leafs/Jan. 7/:35/MacArthur and MacArthur/
Maple Leafs/Jan. 7/1:43/MacArthur and Kessel/
Bruins/Dec. 30/1:46/Bergeron and Wheeler/Won 4-2 SO
Bruins/Dec. 23/1:04/Ryder and Thornton/Lost 4-1
Maple Leafs/Dec. 20/:15/Grabovski and Kulemin/Won 6-3
Senators/Dec. 13/1:35/Neil and Spezza/Won 4-3 OT
Penguins/Nov. 13/1:59/Crosby and Malkin/Lost 4-2 (EN)
Blues/Oct. 30/1:46/McClement and McClement/Lost 4-3 SO
Lightning/Oct. 22/1:45/Lecavalier and Stamkos/Lost 5-2 (EN)
Sabres/Oct. 20/1:04/Myers and McCormick/Lost 4-1
Sharks/Oct. 16/:21/Heatley and Clowe/Won 4-2