Blueline Is Bigger – But Will It Be Better?

Somewhere over the course of the last year or so, Thrashers general manager Don Waddell seems to have bought into the theory that bigger is better when it comes to an NHL team’s defensive corps. Since opening night last fall, the D-line has indeed seen considerable growth in its physical size and weight. When the Thrashers handed the Capitals a 7-4 defeat to open last year’s campaign, the six defenders wearing blue that night were Nic Havelid, Ron Hainsey, Zach Bogosian, Garnet Exelby, Tobias Enstrom and Mathieu Schneider. Two of those players were under six-feet tall…Enstrom, (5′-10″) and Schneider, (5′-11″)… and that unit averaged 6′-0 1/2″ and 199.17 pounds. The man in the press box that night, Nathan Oystrick, goes at 6′-0″ and 210 pounds.

Even though we celebrated John Anderson’s first ever NHL victory that evening, the defense surrendered 4 goals and 43 shots. That’s right…forty-frickin’-three.

By the time early January rolled around, Atlanta’s defense was allowing teams an average of 32.6 shots on goal and 3.65 goals per game. One of the main problems was that the lack of size on the blueline was allowing opposing team’s players to camp out in front of the net and many close-range shots were being taken.

It also didn’t help matters that the 6′-2″, 200 pound Zach Bogosian was out for most of that time with a leg injury. However, when Zach went down, the 6′-7″, 240 pound Boris Valabik was called upon to fill the void and, depending on whether he or Oystrick was playing, the average size of the blueline grew about an inch…to about six-one.

As the trade deadline came and went, gone where the 5′-11″, 195 pound Schneider and the 6′-0″, 200 Nic Havelid. The defensive corps got younger…and it got bigger as well. When the Thrashers walloped the Lightning 6-2 in the season finale last April, the starting defenders in that game…Hainsey, Bogosian, Exelby, Enstrom, Oystrick and Valabik…averaged 6′-1.83″ and 208.33 pounds.

Those primary players, sprinkled in with nine games by the 6′-1″ Anssi Salmela, helped the Thrashers defense play much more respectably in the closing months of the year. The team that was allowing 3.65 goals per game was now only surrendering about 3.15…and finish the year with an overall total GA/G of 3.40. Also, the team penalty kill went from a putrid 73.9% effective at the mid-point of the season to 76.0%…still not great, but better.

Although the average shots-per-game stat really did not shrink, (32.7 SA/G season overall), to me it appeared that less of the time Kari and Moose were facing shots from point-blank range.

While its true, “team” defense includes the input from the forwards, I have always contended that good defense begins with good defenders. And as the defense got bigger, it seemed to get better.

Now, after the Exelby for Kubina deal this summer, the Thrashers blueline…much like what Johnny said of Leon…. is getting lar-r-r-r-ger!

As such, if you consider an opening day lineup that could include Hainsey, Bogosian, Enstrom, Kubina, Valabik and Salmela, you would see a defensive lineup that had only one player, Enstrom, under 6-feet tall and averages 6′-2 1/2″ and 211.67 pounds.

That’s an overall average gain of two inches and almost twelve pounds since last season’s opener.

Hopefully, the “bigger defenders = better defense” trend will continue.

231 comments Add your comment

Archie

July 26th, 2009
10:06 pm

Good “hockey” starts with good players, not just defense. IMO, the key to good defense and low shots against is puck possession. The Thrashers have never been a possession style team, we score the majority of our goals on the rush off counter attacks, we’re not much of a possession team that sets up the offense in the zone and cycles the puck around. We never have the puck for more than 10 or 15 seconds at a time while the opponents may hold onto in our defensive zone for 45 seconds at a time. Until we can flip those numbers we’re never going to see our shots against numbers go down.

Getting bigger defenders definitely helps with clearing zone and clearing out rebounds and preventing long range shots from getting to the goalie, but the shots will never be prevented in the first place until our possession game improves, and that falls on the team offense.

Brendan

July 26th, 2009
10:13 pm

Are the NHL referees still enforcing the “new NHL” rules? I saw an Anaheim Duck team rough house its way to a Cup in 2007. And they clutched and grabbed. And got away with it. By the 2009 Cup Finals, it was “what rules?” 82 regular season games and three rounds of playoffs’ worth of officiating went straight out the window. And nobody grumbled about it. It was just … “suddenly okay” to play pre-lockout style.

Now, I’m not suggesting the 1975 Broadstreet Bullies hockey is back, and is now the way to go. But I saw Enstrom as a “new NHL” kind of defensemen.

Bygones???

Red Light

July 26th, 2009
10:43 pm

Hits are rare, nobody is allowed to clear the crease as they used to be able, defending in this day in age is about positioning, getting sticks in the lane, and relying upon forwards to sag whenever, wherever it’s necessary. The traditional means of defense has changed in my opinion, and size isn’t and hasn’t been as important as being strong on your skates, being able to skate, being able to make smart passes out of your zone and being intelligent enough to know when to play the puck or the man. All that being said, I believe you need to have a combination of defenders these days.

You can’t have too many of the same types. I believe you need balance. If you have a guy Exelby who used to run around taking himself out of position to lay hits, then you have to have somebody paired with him that has the ability to cover up those mistakes. Personally, I was past tired of Exelby’s act, because he was a different player before the hit to the noggin. My problem with this rear-guard is: is their an identity that you can actually say what kind of defenders particularly players are. We know Enstrom can skate and is good positionally, but is he strong enough? We know Bogo can skate and we know he’s a strong kid, and he will improve positionally. For the life of me, I can’t figure out what Hainsey is? He can skate but he’s certainly not a top-pair defenseman. Valabik is big, probably strong but I’m not impressed with anything else he has done. Kubina has been a 22-minute man for the Leafs, second up there to Kaberle when he was healthy, so we know he can log minutes, can pass and score, but those numbers were logged for another poor defensive team. Enstrom with Kubina would be an interesting combination, but I’m not sure you can pair those two given the current roster. Look, bigger isn’t necessarily better, but this unit can’t be worse than last year. Bogo and Boris got some experience, and Kubina is better than Ex. So, the key is what Hainsey and Salmela can provide.

World Be Free

July 26th, 2009
10:45 pm

Brendan, do you get tipped off when these posts are going to hit? You are always no. 1 or no. 2.

World Be Free

July 26th, 2009
10:53 pm

In gneral, I believe the D-line will be better than last year. The young guys (Bogo, Toby, Salmonella) be 1 year older. Not sure what Hainsey is either, but I liiked his overall play last season. Valabik has to kick some but to be effective and he has yet to do that.

My concern with the defense is having NHL-quality backups to cover for injuries. Welch is a goods signing, I guess Kiwi was going to be signed for the same purpose. We may want to look for one more piece of depth insurance for the long season. Just like looking for another experienced forward, insurance for the long run.

JAmes_kovyboy from MTL

July 26th, 2009
11:22 pm

WBF, Oystrick is Nhl ready– not nhl great but Nhl ready
so Welch and Oyster
and in case 3 go down, you got some young guys who need to grow, so i dont think we need more D

i loved Archie’s comment, cause logically, if you dont have the puck, you cant shoot
so Thrash must be more puck possessive

i hope we can get someone out of the bruins cause they’re really screwes cap-wise

GO DW

Wayne stuck in AL

July 27th, 2009
12:03 am

If Lehtonen can cut down those big rebounds, maybe we can cut down the shots/game by 3 or 4, and maybe give up 1 goal less per game.

Brendan

July 27th, 2009
12:08 am

World Be Free, I’ve just been “lucky” lately.

Welcome back, Red Light. Don’t be such a stranger. I didn’t get your points prediction for the upcoming season. Then again, the roster isn’t set. There are teams with cap issues … who might be forced to downgrade skill for salary relief in a swap of players. As always, I’m leery of trades. I feel BETTER about them when a player who has a no trade clause says, “Okay, I’ll waive mine to come play in Atlanta.” While the player never SIGNED to play in this market, he was ultimately WELCOME to the idea, by waiving his NTC. That’s a good trade situation. I don’t know that such a situation exists for Atlanta. But if it does, I’d welcome it in the right situation.

LAC

July 27th, 2009
4:13 am

Tough call Mr.Bill… We have to cut down 40-50 GA to even dream of the playoffs… I see Ken Klee is available… I doubt we will seethe big decrease, but a 10-15 GA decrease and that is simply not enough to get in…

five_hole

July 27th, 2009
7:22 am

I like the fact that we’re bigger, but I think our top-4 are more mobile, and if they can keep position on the other teams forwards, that should help cut down on the shots allowed. Mathieu Schneider’s wheels were worn out by the time he got here and Exelby was never known for his skating ability.

World Be Free

July 27th, 2009
7:57 am

James-I hope you are correct. Depth has been a problem here for a long time. It’s when we have had to dip into out depth is when we have been screwed.

The season is very long, especially with the number of games that will be scrunched into a short period of time becuase of the Olympic break.

I totally agree with LAC’s point on goals against, cutting down is the real key to making playoffs. The Thrashers have just allowed too many goals over the past few years. We have to tighten up, on defense and down the middle. Chirping again for Dom Moore, to play “D” from the center position in the 3rd period of close games.

GaVaHokie

July 27th, 2009
8:29 am

Now, after the Exelby for Kubina deal this summer, the Thrashers blueline…much like what Johnny said of Leon…. is getting lar-r-r-r-ger!

Excellent reference, Rawhide! :)

Bigger is better when you have skating and puck-handling to back it up… check… and check.

I just hope they don’t screw with the Power Play too much… keep Kovy and Toby on the point on PP1.

PP2… I say Bogosian and Kubina on the point.

That being said… I’ll bet Stroz another dollar that the first game, first Power Play… Kubina and Kovy are the point players.

GaVaHokie

July 27th, 2009
8:54 am

Just found this on Youtube… here’s some Antropov and Kubina action on the Power Play.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vH-A5QojV6Y

kracker

July 27th, 2009
9:16 am

This shots for vs shots against topic came up in the last blog. I made a post similar to Archie’s puck possession observation but there was an internet screw up and the post was lost.

I feel we should be a bit better at getting and hanging on to the puck because the team got a better top 6 and top 4 players, the maturing of the younger guys and the returning players being familiar w/ Anderson’s schemes. Better puck possession = more shots for us and less for them. A big plus should be a less-tired Kari which keeps him fresher and less likely to be injured.

Hopefully this one makes it there.

Tony C.

July 27th, 2009
9:24 am

Hokie- I’d like that play even better if #80 crashed the net instead of floating to the slot… that being said, beauty goal! I’m excited to see Kubina’s shot going for Le Thrash instead of against!

World Be Free

July 27th, 2009
9:44 am

Kracker-the Anderson schemes worked better as the season went on. I don’t know the actual numbers, but the team in general was better defensively in the latter part of the season, part of which was reducing shots. I still think more tweaking of the roster needs to be done, with the emphasis on defense in general.

We are going in the right direction. It would be nice to make playoffs and make some type of impact in the post season.

Glovesave29

July 27th, 2009
9:47 am

With the additions in size, I am hoping that teams will have to pay the price to crash our crease. Too many shots last year were second and third rebounds from inside 10 feet, asking our goalies to do far too much. Hopefully, this should cut down the number of shots Kari and Moose face, but the defense must also be mobile, and able to turn a turnover and/or defensive stop over to a counterattack almost immediately. We have never had such ability, and with the speed game Anderson employs, this ability is critical. I can live with 30+ shots against per game if they are not all coming from the deep slot… shots against will decrese for two reasons – the opponent will get knocked on his @&$%^# for parking in front of Kari / Moose, and that the forward is remembering the Thrash can transition into their offense immediately, and this must remember his defensive responsibilities and get ready to try to stop Kovy & Co.

I don’t want to see a puck possesion game from this team. It is not their strength. This team is built on speed. I want to see the opponents sucking wind on the bench after a shift. As they say, speed doesn’t slump, so we need to keep flying around at all times.

The Earl of Bud

July 27th, 2009
10:15 am

Rawhide, any mention that it’s not just Kubina’s size but also that he had 40 points in each of the last 2 seasons and will play well for Anderson’s style? We are going to be a much better control team, as Glovesave says not by being “puck possession” but by taking the puck and running up and down the ice with it. All of our top 4 guys + Salmella can do that well.

WBF & James, Oystrick was doing much better as the year went on. You would see him jump down in the middle slot much more often as he got used to the plays here. Salmella will also be very good this year as his wheels will be moving. That leaves Valabik in the pressbox for #7 and you can even rotate him in if he decides to use his muscle against some of the bigger teams. Then you have Kulda and Postma waiting in Chicago so I am actually quite pleased with that set up.

WBF, sidenote – I actually got up and saw some Porter Cup action this weekend. Mickelson’s little brother was there and choked liked big bro’.

Pam on Weck

July 27th, 2009
10:43 am

On the subject of defense…

A fond farewell to XLB. I’ll miss the good hits. I won’t miss the bad ones which were just as common.

Enstrom was unique in 07-08, a surprise in an otherwise dismal year. In 08-09, he became Havelid Jr. I like Havelid as a player, and his obvious mentoring of Enstrom was a good thing. Toby learned a lot. But now, Master Yoda would tell him to “unlearn what you have learned”. Those skills are still going to be there, but he needs to access them differently now. Continue to combine the players he’s been in each of the last two seasons and it’s “Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner” (yes, I stole that from you, J)! His pairing with Bogo seems to be accomplishing this.

Bogosian is hurtling in the right direction. Don’t change the method, but don’t stop improving.

Hainsey and Kubina are the wily veterans. Or so I hope. I expect control out of them. They oughtta know when to speed things up and when to slow them down.

James…MTL & WBF – I agree on Oystrick and Valabik. They belong in the NHL, but who are they? What are their niches? Much will depend on the work they’ve done in the off-season. Oystrick, Valabik and Salmela are all NHL quality players, but the level of that quality is unknown. They are all competent to sit in the press box, but I want to see more. I haven’t been a Welch-watcher, so I can’t comment there. I’d like to see these guys all get lots of pre-season minutes.

Rawhide

July 27th, 2009
10:57 am

Archie – Nicely stated.

Red Light – I’ll echo Brendan’s comments…don’t be a stranger.

Hokie – Nice link!

LAC – As for reducing the GA/G stat by 40-50, consider this…at the mid-point of the season the Thrashers had a GA/G average of 3.65, which put them on a pace to give up close to 300 goals. In the second half of the season they were allowing about 3.15 per game…which if played out over 82 games amounts to about 258 goals against, (The 2006-07 team that went to the playoffs allowed 245, just 13 fewer). 258 G/A is still too high, but that is a difference of 42 goals per year if the two stats are played out over 82 games.

Speaking of the playoff team of 2007… that squad could only muster 246 goals on the season, which is just at 3 per game. Last season the Thrashers offense generated 257 and had the 9th highest G/G average. However, in the 2nd half of the season, it was scoring at a 3.44 clip.

My point being that if one considers the performance of the last 41 games of last season, the Thrashers played at a pace that would net about 282 goals during a full season and allowed goals at a pace that would amount to about 258.

True, past results is not necessarily a guarantee of future performance…but if the Thrashers simply continued that level of play, I’d bet you dollars-to-donuts they would be in the thick of a playoff push come next spring.

EoB – I agree…I think Kubina is going to fit in nicely with Anderson’s system as well as the fact that we should be a better puck handling team.

ben

July 27th, 2009
11:16 am

I’M LOOKING FOR IMPROVEMENT! I JUST HOPE THEIR NOT PYLONS OUT THERE!

Alan

July 27th, 2009
11:41 am

In 08-09, he became Havelid Jr.

In what way? Havelid was more stay-at-home than someone on house arrest. Enström was working his butt off trying to create chances while being able to get back in time to defend. He did an exceptional job after Havelid left, and it was shown that Havelid was holding Enström back.

Adam

July 27th, 2009
11:52 am

Turn overs in our zone is the biggest problem we face right now. To many times last year our D made all the right moves positionally to gain possession and fail to get the puck out of the zone. They’re always looking to try and pass the puck or flip it out only to have it stolen or trapped against the boards leading to more o/z possession for the opposing team resulting in more shots on goal and odd man rushes that actually start in our zone. Skating the puck out of the zone is the best way to counter the forecheck. When you watch better teams play D they skate the puck up ice then look for the pass not the other way around. How many times over the last several years have you seen our players trap a pass along the boards with no one around and sit still looking for the pass instead of just heading up ice, this was Ex’s mo to a tee and I think it wore off on a lot of the younger guys. For that reason alone I glad he’s gone.

They have got to get better at getting the puck from our D zone to the red line not just over the blue line. When you start skating you force the other team to start backing up, if you sit still you’re giving them to much time to set up their forecheck or look for the steal.

I’m also not a big fan of cycling the puck back into our zone. I know there are times where it’s needed to set up a play, especially on the PP, but I think once they get started doing it repeatedly they eventually get trapped going the wrong way and an odd man rush is the result.

Trixie

July 27th, 2009
11:54 am

Blue and bigger, that’s why I love Thrashers hockey.

Pam on Weck

July 27th, 2009
12:00 pm

Alan – You’re right (and funny comment). I meant to imply that I thought Enstrom had become a more conservative player, not necessarily parked in front of the net. I may not have thought it through enough. At any rate, the change was good for him and I hope he and Bogo continue to be a great duo.

Archie

July 27th, 2009
12:15 pm

A continuation of my post about puck possession, I’d be curious to see how many of our penalties came at the end of a shift when we’d get pinned down on defense, can’t get the puck cleared and end up getting a fatigue penalty like a trip or holding, or get the ticky tack delay of game for flinging the puck over the glass. How many penalties can we avoid by being the team that has the puck instead of the team trying to get it back? How many of those shots against and goals against can we avoid by never going on the PK in the first place? LAC’s comment about cutting the GA down 40 or 50 is right, and Rawhide is right that number still may not be enough, improving the possession game may get that 40 to 50 number up to 70 or so.

Thankfully, I think we’ve made modest steps in that direction. I think we need more size and physicality at forward, Nik Antropov, and Evander Kane plays that physical style too (or so we’re told). We need puck moving defensemen to get the puck up the ice, Kubina and a still developing Enstrom and Bogosian. We’re not there, I think we need anothe center and RW who can park their keyster in front of goal, deflect some long range shots and and knock in some rebounds. I know that’s a discussion about offense, but doing those things takes pressure off the defense.

World Be Free

July 27th, 2009
12:29 pm

Thanks to everybody today for their constructive input on the future of our “D”. Having Good depth not only covers for injuries, but it creates good competition during training camp.

Earl makes the point about Valibik in the press box. He’ll stay there until he can beat somebody out. Whether it’s Boris in the PB someone else, everyone will have to earn playing time this year. Pam-the guys you mentioned are going to have to carve out their own niche or do their best “Andrew Peters” imitation by spending an entire season in the press box!

Rawhide-thanks for the facts concerning the reduction in goals against as the season progressed. Funny how better all around play translates into wins and a reduction in goals against.

Earl-thanks for the Porter Cup update. Guys like the Mickelsons make us Bills’ fans feel like we are not alone!

World Be Free

July 27th, 2009
12:50 pm

Possible deal, Heatley to San Jose?
Just what the Sharks need-another quitter who folds when the heat is on.

Thrasher_Ed

July 27th, 2009
1:13 pm

Wow, how long until the season starts?? I really like the off-season moves guys. I still think we may see a trade or two to improve even more, but you never can tell with Don. With a glut of goaltending who should we trade? I think that it must be Hedberg! The other 2 are still our future and as much as I love the Moose, he feel off last year.

Midfield

July 27th, 2009
1:13 pm

Glovesave, I think you’re saying that big and fast roster is better than small and slow. Hmmm. I guess, I concur.

Trixie

July 27th, 2009
1:21 pm

It isn’t always good to be fast.

The Earl of Bud

July 27th, 2009
1:26 pm

Pam on Weck, I think Enstrom showed a lot of improvement on the defensive game last year, he’s not just a PP specialist like he started out as.

Archie, I’m hoping Antro can get a lot of rebound goals this year. As well, make space for Kovy.

World Be Free, Mickelson won 3 majors and even the Braves one a World Series, I think we need to get at least one before joining them. Although Mickelson’s little brother was at -7 and the lead starting the final day. He finished the day at -3 and tied for 8th. Winner finished at -6. All he had to do was shoot par the final round or +1 for a playoff. Choke job indeed.

I don’t believe the SJ/Heatley deal happens although both teams have players that need to get out of town so it just might work.

The Earl of Bud

July 27th, 2009
1:28 pm

Thrasher_Ed, with Lethonen’s latest surgery/injury I can’t handle him being our future. I hope Pavelec surprises us all and plays lights out to start the year and makes the most of his opportunity.

Rawhide

July 27th, 2009
1:41 pm

Rawhide-thanks for the facts concerning the reduction in goals against as the season progressed. Funny how better all around play translates into wins and a reduction in goals against.

WBF – No problem…all part of the service. When you consider it…given how many people bring such great information, topics and answers around here…it ain’t bad when you consider what ya pay for it, eh?

Michael B. Shapiro

July 27th, 2009
1:49 pm

My top ten wish list for 09-10 season in no particular order except #1:
1. Kovy signed to a 5+ year contract
2. SOGA below 32 per game
3. GAA below 3 per game
4. SOGF above 30 per game
5. Healthy goaltenders
6. Kovy skating in on the PP and not just sniping
7. PP learning to actually cycle the puck, not just dump and shoot
8. PK aggressively holding the blue line, not giving it up plus a stride or three
9. Tobi skating up-ice when he gets the puck, not circling like a bumblebee first (maybe that will improve with Nik’s departure)
10. Oyster showing me he’s our sixth defender

Now to Brendan’s question…last year I predicted 82 (wish it were true) and we didn’t quite make it. This year I’m hopeful for 92 if some of the top 10 above come true.

Go Blue!

GaVaHokie

July 27th, 2009
1:53 pm

This is getting ridiculous… have you seen the latest in the Coyotes fiasco?

http://tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=285900

Pam on Weck

July 27th, 2009
2:00 pm

Thrasher_Ed – While the popular Moose would be the best choice for the Thrash to trade, I don’t think there are any teams clamoring for his services. Also, with Kari’s surgery, he’s not tradeable and Pavs is more important to the club.

Earl of Bud – Yes, surprises from Pavs would be the best option in the net. Even if Kari is ready to play in October, the time off from conditioning invites additional injury. A goalie needs to be flexible like a bendy straw.

World Be Free

July 27th, 2009
2:29 pm

Earl-”Mick” has won three, but he had chances to close the deal several other times and failed to do so. With all that talent, it took him a long time to win number one.

GaVa-Phoenix is a mess for sure. This was a rumor over thwe eekened, not sure if PHX management is trying to appease Canadian hockey fans by playing a game or 2 in grass roots areans-I don’t think it will work.

Tony C.

July 27th, 2009
2:38 pm

Archie- Take a look at this, also do a search for vancouver giants highlights…he’s a gritty scorer from a gritty program…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3X6bB2mwq1c

Russian

July 27th, 2009
2:45 pm

to Tony
It is perfect video. I like his move and shots. Only one thing – IT IS JUNIOR Team. I hope he will be productive in Our Roster also.

GaVaHokie

July 27th, 2009
3:14 pm

Tony… I like the move he does at 2:20 of that video… leading the other player into a direct open ice check from the defenseman… that’s pretty smart.

GaVaHokie

July 27th, 2009
3:14 pm

Actually, more like 2:25

GaVaHokie

July 27th, 2009
3:18 pm

WBF… it’s unreal.

PHX doesn’t need to appease anyone in Canada… it’s their franchise. I’d be pissed if Atlanta made the playoffs and had to play 2 of those games in Hamilton… that’s B.S.

Tony C.

July 27th, 2009
3:20 pm

Russian- Great point. I feel that all this talk of him (Kane) making the team out of camp is kind of silly.

Not that I’m not pulling for him, but I just don’t think he’s ready to go into the corners against the likes of Pronger, White, Chara, Ranger etc. and that’s just some of the guys in our conference. Also, do you think NHL-caliber defenders are going to fooled by a 3-move in-out deke? Maybe the other rookies, but ask #17 how inhumanly fast your hands have to be to get away with that move at this level-and I don’t think Kane’s hands are as good as #17s Unless he suddenly grows a LOT (we’re talking definite juice-age here 15lbs. in like 6 weeks), I’m of the opinion he should spend this upcoming season leading his Juniors team to their CF.

Still, Archie was curious as to what his style was, and I think that video shows what we can expect.

Midfield

July 27th, 2009
3:34 pm

GaVaHokie, this particular move looks borderline interference, and, in NHL, more likely than not, will be called as such, especially against the rookie.

Glovesave29

July 27th, 2009
3:55 pm

I still think Valabik would be best served spending a season in Chicago to learn how to play wing instead of D. He’s a liability on the back line.

Smoothie

July 27th, 2009
4:07 pm

Munch on these stats if you will:

First 41 games played:

Shot Differential = -214 (-5.22 / gm; 32.56 SA vs 27.34 SF)
Goal Differential = – 35 (GAA of 3.63 vs GFA of 2.86)
Goal Save Percentage = .888

Second 41 games played:

Shot Differential = -163 (-3.98 / gm; 32.88 SA vs 28.90 SF)
Goal Differential = + 6 (GAA of 3.32 vs GFA of 3.17)
Goal Save Percentage = .904

Guess who was worse than the Thrashers in overall save percentage?

Yep, the Detroit Red Wings with a season save % of only 89.4%. HOWEVER, the Red Wings only allowed 2,274 shots (an avg of 27.73 / gm), which was 409 fewer than the Thrashers. So while the shot differential alone would lead one to think that the Thrashers were not very much improved in the 2nd half (although it did come down almost 1.25 s/gm), the save percentage went up and the net goal differential swung an entire goal / gm!!

So, does that mean the Thrashers simply improved by being more aggressive with the puck and becoming more efficient at getting it up ice on the counter-attack? Or did the quality of shots by the other team decline in addition to the improved offensive play by the Thrashers blueliners as a unit?

LAC

July 27th, 2009
4:27 pm

I am just concerned of this… Our Defense has only changed Exelby
for Kubina. The rest remains the same, that is guys we know will be on the team. The Aussie Selamia (I know that’s spelled wrong) and Noah Welch are the only two other “new” defensemen who could make the team.

Now look at Toronto last season… 293 goals allowed, most in the entire NHL, and Kubina was on that team, which leads on to believe he will not been enough to stem the tide of shots & GA for us, just does
not add up. Then Welch played for two teams last season, was hurt and
just did not play much, could be better pickup than Kubina, after was a NUMBER #1 pick of Pittsburgh…

I just don’t see enough change on the blue line to be enough to cut
40-50 Goals off the total or like Rawhide said,the shots against…
So far what waddell has done is swap out a couple parts and let the new engine get away as usual…. Mark my words, watch our Shots against & GA through about 30 games,and I fear it will show, yet again a telling tale about the worst part of this franchise the defense, has been BAD since the start and maybe the master of all this should answer his critics.

GaVaHokie

July 27th, 2009
4:49 pm

Well, one aspect is that we replaced Exelby’s 45 shots with Kubina’s 184 shots… he could possibly break the 200 mark in our “green light” system.

Couple that with whatever shot total Bogosian will have this season, there should be a ton of “bombs” coming from the backend.

Smoothie

July 27th, 2009
4:56 pm

I understand your concern LAC, but keep in mind that the Thrashers were 21-18-1 over their last 41 games (adj winning % of .524) despite giving up an avg of 32.9 shots per game. They were only 13-23-5 over their first 41 games (winning % of .378) when they were giving 32.6 shots per game). So they managed to play better as a team, and get better goaltending, over the second half despite the shot differential.

Now I too would be more comfortable with a shots against avg closer to 30, but Detroit has demonstrated you can overcome mediocre goaltending with a superior PP and just a fairly avg PK (however, that caught up with them in the playoffs a bit). So if the Thrashers can demonstrate the ability to outscore an opponent despite giving up 32-33 shots per game, then a combination of an improved PK unit along with more consistent goaltending can indeed make them a playoff caliber team without having to get below 30 shots per game on avg.

I would think with the following, they can compete for the playoffs:

1) PK% of at least 80%
2) PP% of at least 21%
3) reduced # of times short-handed by about 40
4) Shots against avg below 31 shots per game
5) Save percentage of at least .906
6) Goals allowed of fewer than 240 (GAA under 2.90)
7) Roughly same offensive output as last year (3.00 GFA)

Perhaps the discussion about the 3rd line LW and how the Thrashers will re-vamp their special teams defense is the most pertinent with respect to how this team performs during the 2009-10 campaign?? Just by killing penalties at an 81% clip the Thrashers could have reduced the goals scored by 18!! Considering all of the one goal losses they had, it makes you wonder if the only real deficiency is the PK unit (and goaltending as they go hand in hand).