Saturday morning brought us heavy rain on the last day of February…I was in short sleaves later that afternoon. Snow showers Sunday afternoon…sunny and windy today. I hear 70 degrees will come our way this weekend. Ahhhh…March in Atlanta. If you don’t like the weather, just wait a day.
And with that…a little information overload for your Monday reading pleasure.
Catfight In Blueland
The Florida Panthers will come prowling around Blueland Tuesday night looking for a couple of very important points. The Cats are in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff hunt, sitting at 32-23-8 for 72 points. That’s good enough for second place in the Southeast Division but, seeing as they are 13 behind first place Washington, their sights are really on positioning themselves to be one of the five non-conference winners that will compete in this spring’s quest for Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Currently, Florida sits in the #6 position, three behind Montreal, four behind Philly and tied with the New York Rangers, (who have played a game more than the Panthers). Pittsburgh seems to have gotten back on track of late and hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the east with 70 points. Buffalo and Carolina sit just on the outside looking in with 69 points…the Sabres having played 63 games, the Canes 64.
So, as you can see, with only a seven-point gap between fourth place and tenth…and only three between sixth and tenth…points are a precious commodity to the seven teams slugging it out for those five spots.
Florida will enter into the game 6-4-0 over the past ten games.
The Panthers have allowed only 175 goals all season…the fewest of in the Southeast Division. Only Boston, (142), and New Jersey, (153), have surrendered fewer in the Eastern Conference. The Rangers and Buffalo have also given up 175.
So, the Thrashers and their fans can look forward to a good ‘ol catfight tomorrow evening.
The Threat Is Real
If Florida is looking beyond Tuesday’s game in Atlanta…they have another thing coming. The Thrashers have seemed to embrace their role as spoilers lately. Last Saturday’s thriller against the Hurricanes denied them any points as they continue their playoff struggle. During the west coast swing two weeks ago, they hindered Anaheim’s post-season aspirations with an 8-4 win and allowed L.A. only a point in a 7-6 shootout win. A month ago, the Rangers dropped a 2-1 shootout decision to the Thrashers.
So, when it comes to making life uneasy on playoff hopefuls…the threat posed by these Thrashers is not something to be taken lightly.
Trade Deadline-A-Palooza Upon Us
Tomorrow is the 2009 trade deadline and, as per-usual, there are trade rumors flying around like bugs at a summer BBQ. I’m sure you’ve read of many…but just remember, this time last year the word was that Marion Hossa was heading to the Montreal Canadiens…the team the Thrashers were playing that night.
The players most likely to be shipped elsewhere from the Thrashers’ roster are Eric Perrin, Marty Reasoner and Nic Havelid…all UFAs this summer. Mike Hoffman is also slated to be a UFA.
There are a number of RFA’s that currently play for Atlanta that could also be moved, depending on the return. These players are Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen, Jimmy Slater, Chris Thorburn, Nathan Oystrick and Kari Lehtonen.
The biggist name in that group obviously is Kari. Last season Don Waddelland the Thrashers chose to go the route of a 1-year $3 million contract for the 2002 second overall draft pick. If indeed this was his year to prove worthy enough to continue to carry the title, “Thrashers’ Top Goalie”…is a record of 13-19-3 with a .908 SV% and 3.17 GAA…combined with 21 games missed due to injury… enough to accomplish that?
For the Month of February, Lehtonen went 5-4-1 with a 3.46 GAA and .911 SV%.
Of course, if Don Waddell is of the frame of mind to move a goalie, there is the option of dealing away Johan Hedberg and going with the tandum of Kari and Opie for the remainder of the season and next.
I Call That A Bargain
If I had to pick just one of the Thrashers’ UFAs that I’d most like to
see re-signed and return next season, it would be Reasoner. He was picked up last summer, signing a 1-year, $1 million contract and was brought in primarily to fill the hole left by Bobby Holik as the third line center.
He’s been just about the best bargain one can get for a cool mil…scoring 10 goals and helping out on 13 others in 60 games played. His 23 points are good enough for seventh place on the Thrashers’ roster and his +9 leads the team. He plays solid defense and is a tremendous help on the PK. Also, his 26 PIM puts him on a pace for only 34 for the season. Compare that to Holik’s numbers with 90 minutes spent in the sin-bin last season and you can see he’s been a great asset.
Can’t help your team when you’re in the box.
Sunday night in Calgary, Jarome Iginla became the Flames all-time franchise points leader…surpassing Theo Fleury. Iginla finished the night’s work with 2 goals and 3 assists for the night in Tampa Bay’s 8-6 win.
At first, it looked as though he surpassed Fleury’s record at the 13:02 mark of the second period when he assisted on Michael Cammalleri’s power play goal…but the scorekeeper later credited him with a helper on Craig Conroy’s goal that came 4 minutes and 55 seconds prior.
Jarome’s big night wasn’t over with that milestone reached as he notch career goal number 400 with a tally 14 seconds into the third that tied the score at five apiece.
Marty Brodeur and the Newy Jersey Devils blanked the Flyers 3-0 Sunday. It was Brodeur’s 100th career shutout. Since returning from his four-month absence due to injury, Marty is 3-0 with a pair of shutout, allowing only two goals on 68 shots….that’s a .971 SV%.
Brodeur now needs only 3 shutouts to tie, and 4 to break, Terry Sawchuk’s NHL record.
The win moved the Devils into the second spot in the Eastern Conference standings. Watch out for this team in the playoffs.
Wanna Get Away?
Tim Thomas is having himself a career season. He’s been a huge part of Boston’s conference-leading success. Thomas is 27-8-6 for the Bruins with a .933 SV% and a miniscule 2.06 GAA with 4 shutouts.
Bottom line…he’s been flat-out awesome in the Beantown net.
But Tim could also star in a Southwest Airlines “Wanna Get Away?” commercial with this blooper that allowed the Washington Capitals to defeat the Bruins in overtime Saturday night.
Embarrassing? Oh…sure. But if and when he and the Bruins lift the cups this June, I just don’t think it’ll matter much.
Monday Night Stinker
Versus just has to be thrilled that they have the privilege of airing tonight’s game between the two teams that occupy the basement of the East and West Conferences. The Colorado Avalanche, (28-34-1, 57 points) travel to Lonnnn-Gisland to take on the New York Islanders, (19-36-7, 45 points).
Normally, the interest of such a thrilling matchup would be to see who can gain the inside track in the Tavares Sweepstakes. But the Avs’ 57 points is good enough for only 5th worst in the NHL…ahead of the Islanders, Lightning, Thrashers and Senators.
Besides, with the Islanders still yet to record win number 20 and currently on pace for only about 59 points, they and they alone are speeding down the John Tavares Freeway with their foot fully on the throttle.
Fortunately for Versus… but unfortunately for the rest of us… it’s the only game on the schedule…so NHL’s Center Ice cannot be relied upon to provide relief for hockey viewers.