Shortly after John Anderson was hired as the new bench boss of the Thrashers, I had the opportunity to chat with him regarding the team he had just inherited to coach. One of the questions I put to him was what he thought the number one challenge was that he faced in order to get the team from where it was…at the time it was in shambles following the 2007-08 debacle of a season…to being a team that could compete and win in this league.
“I know exactly what it is”, he almost jumped out of his chair responding. “It’s getting them to believe in themselves again”.
Saturday morning I was able to revisit that question with coach Anderson. Given the way the team played in the second half of last season and how it has started off this fall, he does indeed think that the team has a sense of confidence in themselves and the way they go about playing the game.
Given that, I posed the same question to him Saturday morning after the team’s morning skate…at this time what is it that he needs to address primarily to get this team from where it is now to one that could compete for a playoff position?
His response…”Playing 60 minutes”
The coach went on to explain how he appreciates the fact that the players have shown a great deal of resiliency on the ice as they are able to overcome falling behind early in some games and fight back, but they have to start playing the entire game with the same intensity they show after the opposition puts them in a hole.
“It’s great that they fight back…but it would be nice if we could put the other team behind the eight ball for a change”.
To the coach’s point…in the eight games played so far this season, Atlanta has scored the first goal of a game but twice. In the 4-2 loss to Ottawa they fell behind 2-0 early but rallied to tie the game before the first intermission. Tuesday they fell behind 1-0 in the first hung in their before Colby Armstrong was able to get an equalizing goal in the third…gaining a point in the 2-1 shootout loss. In St. Louis they fell behind early, but were able to overcome it in route to a 4-2 win. Same song, different verse in the 4-2 New Jersey, watching the Devils go up 1-0 before scoring the next three.
Thursday against Washington they were able overcome 1-0 and 2-1 deficits…and fell just short of coming back from trailing 5-2 after two periods of play. Then there is last night’s 4-3 loss to the Sharks in which the Thrashers put themselves in a position to have to climb out of a 3-0 hole…allowing the first goal 45 seconds into the game and the third one just 55 seconds after the puck dropped to begin the second period.
Todd White began the comeback bid with an unassisted blast from the right side, but the Sharks countered with Patrick Marleau’s ninth goal of the young season just over five minutes later while on the power play. 4-1 became 4-2 before the second intermission thanks to a power play goal of our own off the stick of Rich Peverley and Evander Kane’s third goal at the 40-second mark of the third pulled the Thrashers to with one with almost a full period left to play.
But like Thursday night against the Caps, the mountain was too high to climb. Of course, having to play two and a half periods without Ilya Kovalchuk didn’t help matters. The captain left the game in the first period after taking a puck to the foot and did not return.
Wasted in the effort was the fact that they outshot San Jose 27-24, the first time all year that stat fell in Atlanta’s favor.
John Anderson first primary mission of a year ago…getting the players to believe in themselves again…was achieved and winning hockey has been the result of it. Hopefully his new primary directive of playing a full game at the same intense level shown once falling behind will be just as successful.
The Wheels On The Bus Go ‘Round And ‘Round
Much thanks to all those who joined me on the Party Bus from TJ’s down to the game. I had a blast! Our own Five_Hole, Paminski, GoalieBrian, Kracker and Dandylions joined several others on the trip to Philips Arena and back. A good time, indeed.
I hope you’ll all join me again at TJ’s on Nov. 7 when the Thrashers travel to Lonnnnn-Gisland for a Saturday night game that’s not televised locally.
Thanks To Rob, Lee, Ben and Julie
I’d like to thank Rob Koch, Lee Wilson and Ben Wright for allowing myself and other bloggers to attend Saturday’s morning skate at Philips Arena and to have some time with coach Anderson and Chris Thorburn afterwards. During our time there we were also able to chat with Matt McConnell, Darin Elliot and Dan Kamal…always good to talk Thrashers hockey with those fine folks. We were also treating with a visit by Julie Robenhymer of Hockeybuzz.com who shared much of her experiences with us.
During the game, we were also invited to the press box to enjoy the action.
Guys, we really do appreciate the access to the team and the entire experience was fantastic. Thank you very much, indeed.
I’d like to say hello to Zoe and Allie…two young ladies who were taking in Saturday night’s game in section 117. Eight-year old Zoe…whose dad you might have heard of, Matt McConnell…was entertaining her friend Abbie at her first ever hockey game.
I hope you both had a great time and it was pleasure to have met ya.