Before the season began, Thrashers general manager Don Waddell said that rookie Evander Kane would get an eight or nine game look-see to start the season before deciding whether or not the 4th overall pick in last June’s draft would be sent back to Vancouver of the WHL.
Well, four games into the season…I think Kane’s passed the audition.
Young Evander scored his second goal of this his initial NHL campaign and has three overall points. In fact, the only game he was held pointless was during last Saturday’s 4-2 loss in Ottawa.
Kane scores…Atlanta wins.
His early third period goal in New Jersey Friday night gave Atlanta their first lead of the night…and their first lead since the St. Louis game eight nights ago. The score came on a similar play as one in the opening period where he drove in from the left side toward Marty Brodeur. In the first, he looked to finish the play by passing to Colby Armstrong on the right…this time Kane said, “I’ll handle this myself, thank you very much” and blasted the puck pasty Marty the Magnificent.
Scoring aside, this kid simply has played like he belongs at the NHL level. He hustles every shift and creates chances for his team as he drives to the net.
So, how you gonna keep Evander Kane down on the farm…or send him back down there…once we’ve seen him play like this?
Simple…you don’t. Kane stays.
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Now, there were more heroes wearing Thrashers jerseys Friday night…and to discuss these players, we’ll begin where the super play began… in the goal as Opie bedeviled New Jersey early to keep Atlanta in the game.
Anytime you are outshot 15-4 and out “chanced 11-3 in the first period but you make it to the locker room tied 0-0, you thank the hockey gods for it. That, and you also thank the guy in between the pipes for coming up big for you. Pavelec stated earlier in the week that he likes facing a lot of shots…well, he must have been down-right giddy in the first period last night.
In stark contrast to last Saturday’s start in Ottawa, though, Ondrej Pavelec played some of his best hockey of the young season in the first twenty minutes, allowing his mates to escape the first period unscathed from the New Jersey onslaught. Opie stopped 28 of the 30 shots he faced on the night and now possesses a 3-1-0 record with a .918 SV% and 2.76 GAA.
Much like my question about Kane above…if Pavs keeps this up, then how is Waddell going to be able to send him back to Chicago once Kari Lehtonen eventually returns to the lineup?
I think you answer that question much in the same fashion…you don’t!
Then there is Rich Peverley who scored not once, but twice on the power play. His first goal of the night tied the score after New Jersey had taken a lead in the second period. He repeated the feat shortly after Kane gave the Thrashers a one-goal advantage in the third. The Peever now has four goals and two assists on the season.
Peverley’s six overall points now ties him with Ilya Kovalchuk for the team.
Then there is the play on special teams… it not just that Atlanta scored on two of their three power play chances, or that they killed off all six of New Jersey’s man advantages…but they closed the door on any Devil’s hopes when Chris Thorburn iced it with a shorty. In the opening 4 games, Atlanta has killed off 14 of their opponent’s 16 power plays.
Hmmm…wasn’t the PK an area of concern going into the season?
Mark Popovic started for the second time and notched his first point. He is also a +2 and has played solidly on defense. Maxim Afinogenov and Nik Antropov both also finished the night with assists, as did Zach Bogosian, Marty Reasoner, Toby Enstrom and Pavel Kubina.
And now…the Thrashers shuffle off to Buffalo to play the 4-0-1 Sabres. We’ll be enjoying that game from the comfy confines of TJ’s on Holcomb Bridge road later tonight. If you are going to be in attendance, remember that Mark and Tim have graciously offered all of you 15% off your food and drinks. I’ve been told that you just need to tell your server that you’re with Rawhide’s Rowdies.
I hope you’re able to show up and make some noise with us!