Last November I asked John Anderson what he thought was the one main issue concerning the Thrashers…the one that most needed to be addressed if the Thrashers were going to make a serious run for the playoffs.
Without hesitation he said that the team needed to find a way to play a full 60 minutes on a regular basis. Sure, sure…it’s great that they usually find a way to fight back late in the game, but until they are able to play hard from the first drop of the puck to the last horn…they are going to have a difficult time of it.
“It’s great that they fight back”, the coach said of his team two months ago. “But it would be nice if we could put the other team behind the eight ball for a change”.
Well, it’s late December…Christmas is gone and New Years is a few days away… and the Atlanta Thrashers are still desperately seeking 60 full minutes of play on a consistent basis. And Saturday night’s 4-3 loss in Tampa Bay was just the latest example of this dilemma.
Tied 2-2 after the second period, the Thrashers stood around as if they were still stuffed with holiday turkey and observed as the Lightning outshot them 7-0 during the first 16:50 of that final frame. The first shot on goal for the Atlanta was when Ilya Kovalchuk scored his 22nd goal of the season…but that was after Tampa Bay had built a 4-2 lead earlier in the period.
The two Lightning goals were scored without a whole heckuva lot of resistance from the Thrashers defense. The first cam after Vinny Lecavalier found Steve Downey all alone on the right side of the goal…who then found Alex Tanguay all alone streaking through the left side. Tanguay buried the shot for just his fifth goal of the season.
A minute and forty-one seconds later, Ryan Malone was left all alone and was able to pound home a nice rebound off of Marty St. Louis shot.
The Thrashers took five more shots against Mike Smith after Kovy’s goal but were not able to get the game tied and to overtime. In the end it was the 15th regulation loss of the season…nine of which have been by a single goal.
And after this loss, Anderson said…“We’ve got to play for 60 minutes…We just can’t play defense whenever we feel like it. Two hugest mistakes ended up in our net”.
There’s that “60 minutes” thing again, eh?
But the coach wasn’t alone in this thought as Ondrej Pavelec also remarked on the inconsistent Thrashers performances. “We played a good game and then we stopped playing for whatever reason”, said Atlanta’s goalie. “I don’t know what’s going on. It’s almost every game like that”.
Opie stopped 30 of the Lightning’s 34 shots on goal and took the loss. His overall record has now dropped to 9-10-3 with a .906 SV% and 3.42 GAA. He’s started six games so far in the month of December and he’s won only once while losing five. He’s faced 217 shots in December and has made 188 saves…a saves percentage of just .866.
Although he started Wednesday’s game in Boston…and surrendered 3 goals on 8 shots in just half a period, he did not take the loss in that game.
One Thrasher who has had a very good December is Nik Antropov. He score Atlanta’s first goal of the night to put the team ahead early. It was Nik’s eighth goal in the last nine games dating back to the loss in Vancouver. In the last four games, Antropov is a +4.
Marty Reasoner scored his third of the season, tying the score at 2-2 with 3:06 remaining in the second period.
Atlanta will play Monday night in New Jersey and Wednesday back in Boston to wind up calendar year 2009. Last I checked…those games, and the ones to be played in 2010, are all slated to be 60 minute games. The Thrashers had better find a way to play every minute of them…or they will find it very, very difficult to see their first minute of playoff action in the spring.