The Thrashers prepare for a good old-fashioned cat fight tonight as the Florida Panthers make their first of three scheduled appearances in Philips Arena. Florida comes in with a record of 10-11-4 for 24 points and fresh off Saturday’s 4-1 loss in Nashville. Atlanta is 13-7-3 with 29 points and will hopefully be riding a rush from Saturday’s thrilling 1-0 victory of the Flyers. We trail division-leading Washington by seven points with three games in hand.
Atlanta also claims the seventh overall spot in the Eastern Conference…one point behind Ottawa and Buffalo. The Senators have played one more game than the Thrashers and Sabres.
And speaking of cat fights…we here at the AJC Thrashers Cyber-Office had to break up a…well…er, ah…a very heated discussion between Trixie and Vivlamore’s cyber-secretary Scarlett just this morning. I mean, not even a couple hours into the workweek following a long Thanksgiving weekend and already those two were into it!
Seems the subject of their debate circled around this whole issue regarding how many shots the Thrashers defense allows each game versus how few they average taking. Trixie seems to think it doesn’t really matter much given the Thrashers record. Scarlett believes it is indeed a serious cause for concern.
They expressed their thoughts on the matter while sipping their morning coffee…opinions differed…word were exchanged…insults were hurled…feeling were hurt…lipstick was smeared…all in all a very ugly scene.
Here is the situation…after 23 games played the Thrashers are averaging 28.5 shots per game and allowing a league-worst 35.6 shots per game. Now, if prior to the season someone would have told me this was going to be the case, I would have thought this team would be off to a start of something like 7-13-3…not the direct opposite.
The reason that they find themselves in such a favorable position at this time, despite the shots gap deficit, is thanks to their outstanding goalkeeping and offense thus far. Because of it the Thrashers’ are giving up only 2.74 goals per game. At the same time, the offense is pumping in goals at the rate of 3.44 per game. That’s putting the biscuit in the basket once every eight shots or so.
Between the pipes, Ondrej Pavelec has worked his way to a record of 8-5-3 with a 2.84 GAA, .920 SV% and his first two career shutouts. In doing so, he’s also worked his way into the team’s top goalkeeper spot…Kari or no Kari.
Johan Hedberg has been outstanding as well going 5-2-0 with an outstanding 2.33 GAA and .930 SV%. His most recent start…a 34 save shutout last Saturday night… put a halt to the 14-game losing streak to the Philadelphia Flyers.
Combined, the two sport a 2.68 GAA, .924 SV% and three shutouts…which is very nice, indeed.
Also, they have gotten excellent play from their special teams…the power play is successful 23.1% of the time, which is the seventh best in the NHL. And their penalty kill unit has denied opponents the ability to score an amazing 85.0% of the time…only San Jose shuts the door more often when a man down.
Regardless…the one big concern most have about this team is the “Shot Gap Deficit”. How can a team that allows 7.1 more shots to be taken than they fire off themselves continue to win at the rate the Thrashers have over the course of an entire season?
Does the current "shot gap deficit" concern you?
Total Voters: 70
Well, there are two simple responses to such an inquiry.
1. They don’t. They either close that gap significantly or any post-season dreams they have are toast…as Scarlett argues.
2. If it hasn’t made much of a difference to date…why should it matter over the course of the remaining 59 games? This is Trixie’s take on the matter.
Now in the past, any time such a stat was this far out of whack it would just bug the snot outa me. Last season the shot gap was -4.6 as they averaged 28.1 shots taken per game and 32.7 shots allowed. The season prior, the shot for/against deficit was -8.1 as they took an average of 25.8 shots per game and surrendered 33.9.
As we recall, both campaigns ended in Lottery City for the Thrashers.
But this year…well, it’s different. First, we have a starting goalie that seems to be very comfortable facing so many shots. Second, the offense is good enough and consistent enough to cover if Opie or Moose do have an off night…or the opposition scores three or four times simply because of the law of averages.
Oh, this isn’t to say that I think Anderson and Company wouldn’t do themselves a world of good to cut down on the SA/G and fire more on opponent’s nets to close the gap…but I figure the more they win, the less of an issue it becomes.
So…the Thrashers’ great shots deficit…who’s do you side with, Trixie or Scarlett?