The Atlanta Thrashers have now failed fifteen times to procure two points in the standings when going up against Finnish goaltender Antero Niittymaki. It doesn’t matter if he’s wearing a big Flying P on his jersey or a lightning bolt…when he’s between the pipes it spells Loss with a capital L for Thrasherville. This was again the case Saturday night when the Thrashers fell to the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 in a shootout.
Niittymaki’s take on this phenomenon…”I can’t explain it”.
Yeah well…I have a theory.
Somewhere in the icy, frozen outskirts of northern Canada, in a sealed vault deep in the basement hockey god’s ice rink…I’m sure there is a contract that was inked several years ago between the gods and Niittymaki. That pact, no doubt, assures the 29-year old Finn that, no matter what the circumstances, he will never, ever, never…ever… never….everrrrrrrrrr be beaten by the Atlanta Thrashers.
The only thing I haven’t quite figured out is… what is it exactly the hockey gods are getting in return.
The Thrashers took a total of 38 shots on Niittymaki…out-shooting the Lightning by 12 during regulation and overtime. But after Antropov’s goal in the first period, the Thrashers couldn’t figure him out the rest of the way…including all five shootout attempts by Maxim Afinogenov, Ilya Kovalchuk, Bryan Little, Rich Peverley and Todd White. All but Max’s shot were on net.
Johan Hedberg, the latest Thrashers goalie to fall victim to the team’s Niittymaki curse, had yet another outstanding performance. He turned aside 25 of Tampa Bay’s 26 shots and the first four Lightning penalty shots. But his efforts fell just short as Jeff Halpern’s successful shootout attempt in the fifth round was enough to procure the win for the Bolts.
Hedberg is now 10-8-4 with a .915 SV% and 2.52 GAA.
The two regulation goals where both scored in the first seven and a half minutes of the game. Nik Antropov put Atlanta up 1-0 5:23 into the game…but Steven Stamkos’ power play goal just over two minutes later tied things up.
The Stamkos goal came via a 4 on 3 man advantage.
With Colby Armstrong and Steve Downie already serving time for roughing, Pavel Kubina then drew an interference call after colliding with Martin St. Louis….and coach John Anderson was none-too-happy with the ref’s decision.
“We had control of the game pretty much the whole way”, coach Anderson said. “The goal they scored was a 4-on-3. That was a phantom call. He ran into our guy and we got a penalty”.
Speaking of “phantom”…I heard a rumor that Todd White was slated to ply in Saturday night’s game, but I really didn’t notice him…did you? I looked in the box score and…yup… there he was, just to the left of the stat line that read zero goals, zero assists on zero shots on goal during 15:17 TOI.
White was re-inserted into the lineup so that Slava Kozlov could have a seat in the press box. Of course, given the Thrashers luck of late, that just meant that the Slava-matic was unavailable for the shootout…one of the aspects of the game he still has been very consistent with.
Ya know…maybe we need to send Slava and White north to pay a visit with the hockey gods with a few cases of Labatt and Molson beer in tow…maybe even some Moosehead, eh?
Or whatever it is that worked for Niittymaki.
More S/F and Less S/A Not Equating To More Ws
For those of you who have express concern over the shot for/shots against deficit that normally shows up in the box score for the Atlanta Thrashers, check this out. In their last five losses they have actually out-shot their opponents. This includes the 8-1 Capital punishment administered on January 9.
Uh-huh…in fact, in their past seventeen games, they have won the SF/SA battle by an average of 32.0 to 30.2 and have taken more shots than they’ve allowed during a game nine times.
Their record in that span of games…4-8-5.
Thrashers Not-So-Special Teams Play
In the past five games, the Thrashers have gone 1 for 25 on the power play, which is a 4.0% production rate. Dating back to January 5, they have converted 3 of 43 man advantages…6.9%
In the past two games, they have given up 4 power play goals on 8 penalty kill situations…that is a 50% efficiency.
For the season, the Thrashers power play is 17th in the NHL at 17.7% and their penalty kill is 22nd at 79.5%. Both had been ranked at or near the top of the league in the first two months of the season.
Last night at TJ’s, I…along with the others sitting nearby…came up with a new drinking game. We call it, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. Basically, whenever watching a Thrashers game on TV and John Anderson drops the “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” bomb while the camera is zoomed in on him…you take a shot.
For the designated drivers that might be in the crowd, we have the drinking game in which Matt McConnell calls out “Todd White scores”!