March was a very good month for the Atlanta Thrashers…I’m almost sad to see it go. As you know, the team went a very impressive 9-4-0 in the thirteen games played and have given some hope to us fans for what could be come this fall. Here are some other stats that stand out from this past month.
Of the nine wins, five of them game against teams that currently hold…or held at the time played…playoff positions, (Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton, Washington and the New York Rangers).
The Thrashers scored 49 goals in the thirteen games. While three of those were “gimmick” goals created by shootout wins, still…that’s a goals per game of 3.77 for the month. I’ll take that anytime, anyway it can be had. The O-fensive production from the month has risen Atlanta’s overall G/G stat to 3.03, which is the ninth highest in the league. If maintained, it would be the team’s second best showing ever in that category. In 2005-06, the Thrashers scored goals on the average of 3.37 per game.
Atlanta gave up 41 goals in March. Now, that’s really not good seeing that it equates to a 3.15 GA/G average…however 44% of those goals came in three games when Montreal, Detroit and Pittsburgh each scored 6 in their wins. In the other ten games, the Thrashers gave up only 2.30 goal on the average.
Atlanta’s defense helped Kari Lehtonen notch a pair of shutouts…a 2-0 win on the 6th when Montreal was in town, then four nights later it was a 3-0 victory in Colorado.
The Thrashers went 3-0 in shootouts as well this past month. In those three exhibitions, Atlanta’s goaltending did not allow even as much as a single goal. Kari Lehtonen stopped all four he faced in Buffalo while Johan Hedberg held the Lightning and the Rangers at bay in those two wins. Moose stopped two in Tampa while one sailed wide. He then turned away five against New York while the Rangers missed one. That’s a total of 0-13 in shootout attempts for our opponents with 11 of them needing to be saved.
Atlanta’s defense held the shots against stat to under 30 per game…29.5 in the past 13 games. However, if you remove that 50 shot performance by Washington, the blueline held the opposition to just 27.7 SA/G in the remaining twelve March games. Seven times they held the opposition to fewer shots than their 32.8 SA/G season average.
Ilya Kovalchukmissed the better part of three games with an injury to his back, however he still managed to finish with 6 goals and 10 assists in the ten full games he played in. Two goals and five assists came on the power play.
Kari Lehtonen went 5-3-0 with a 2.74 GAA and .918 SV%. And, of course, he shutout Montreal and the Avs.
Johan Hedberg was 4-1-0, stopping 112 of the 130 shots he faced. Also, as discussed earlier, was won both shootout games he was in by not allowing any goals on nine attempts. Moose is now 11-10-3 for the season.
Todd White had 4 goals 10 assists in the thirteen games. Included was a 9-game points streak.
Slava Kozlov had six goals and sixteen overall points including 4 goals and 7 assists on the power play.
Bryan Little netted six and helped out on another. Half of those goals were while the Thrashers were on the man advantage.
Rookie Zach Bogosian got in on the act with three goals and six points…finishing the month at a plus-2. That may just very well be the last time I use the word “rookie” with the name “Bogosian”.
Garnet Exelby was a plus-3 for the month and helped out on a pair of goals.
And so…as March gives way to April this week, the Thrashers find themselves at 32-38-6 with the six games left to be played in the first couple weeks of April. Those 70 points are good enough for fourth place in the Southeast Division, five ahead of Tampa Bay, and 13th in the Eastern Conference, five behind Toronto. My bet is that those two positions won’t change.
However, in the overall NHL standings, Atlanta is in the 26th spot…one ahead of Phoenix which has seven games remaining including one tonight against Dallas. They are three behind the Kings who have a game in hand…but isn’t outside the realm of possibility that the Thrashers could catch L.A. and lift themselves out of the bottom five and, thus, not be included in the NHL draft lottery.
And for the record…yes, I still would see that as a good thing.
As for the upcoming schedule…well, there are the Sabres on Wednesday who simply has to win-out their remaining games to legitimately have a shot at the post-season. So, a win there just might do them in. Oh, and Atlanta is 3-0-0 vs. Buffalo this season…all overtime or shootout wins.
Then there is a pair of games with Florida and Washington. Currently, the Panthers sit one single game below eighth place Montreal with one fewer game to play. Those potential four points against us are HUGE! The Caps have all but wrapped up the Southeast but are currently in a battle with New Jersey for that second seed in the east. Right now, that is the difference between playing a very hot Pittsburgh team or a wish-washy Rangers squad. Which one would you wanna face?
So, there is much to still play for as the season closes out. Not only for the betterment of the Thrashers themselves…but also to continue screwing things up for others.