Thrashers still cannot get Niitty-Monkey off their back

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.

Jeff Halpern scores the oly goal in the five-round shootout to beat Atlanta 2-1 (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Jeff Halpern scores the oly goal in the five-round shootout to beat Atlanta 2-1 (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

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”.

Martin St. Louis, seen here standing between teammates and Ilya Kovalchuk, drew an interference call on Pavel Kubina that lead to a 4 on 3 goal (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Martin St. Louis, seen here standing between teammates and Ilya Kovalchuk, drew an interference call on Pavel Kubina that lead to a 4 on 3 goal (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

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.

sigh…

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.

And Finally…

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”!

119 comments Add your comment

Hotrod

January 24th, 2010
6:29 pm

At least the game was interesting to watch.

Mr. Heat Miser

January 24th, 2010
6:48 pm

Or how about a shot every time McConnell says a player is “locked up” with another player.
Dorkish.
I miss JP.

Bennett

January 24th, 2010
7:09 pm

If you really want to get messed up you can take a drink everytime Matt McConnell shouts “TO THE FRONT.”

Get The Puck Out

January 24th, 2010
7:10 pm

I hate to say it,well maybe not, but i think a coaching change is going to have to happen…again. But it includes the GM position also. It seems no matter how hard they try, their defense is just not good enough. And i think it’s not one of JA’s strength’s sooo Dud’s takes over and we start looking. Let Cunney take over and try to salvage anything the rest of the way. If Kovy wants the max per year he doesn’t fit in here. I just wish we could score and play a little defense. MAN- the more i talk about this, the more depressing it gets.

Brett

January 24th, 2010
7:42 pm

last nights game wasn’t so bad. I thought the team played well. The Nitti monkey just has our number! As far as Kovy is concerned he’s gone! Were just waiting to find out where he is going.

Tom

January 24th, 2010
7:56 pm

I love the Whiskey Tango Foxtrot game. Do you get extra credit for what Matt or Darren say in the place of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

Tom

January 24th, 2010
8:45 pm

So Kari Lehtonen heads up to Chicago and is already a healthy scratch, http://www.chicagobreakingsports.com/2010/01/wolves-beat-griffins-5-1.html , John must have played his drinking game when he heard that one…

Dwayne

January 24th, 2010
9:06 pm

Kari stopped 32 of 37 shots the night before, I do believe, he must of felt like he never left Atlanta.

Larry the Cable Guy

January 24th, 2010
9:11 pm

>>Martin St. Louis, seen here “standing” between teammates and Ilya Kovalchuk, drew an interference call<<

Now that's funny…..I don't care who you are.

Brendan

January 24th, 2010
10:12 pm

Wolves fans must wonder, “Are we ever going to have a season without an appearance by Lehtonen?” He’s like a boomerang for them.

Okay, moving right along. I could not determine if Niittymaki’s streak of 15 games is the longest any goaltender has ever dominated another team. Does anyone know?

Brendan

January 24th, 2010
10:16 pm

One nice thing I’ve noticed about this year’s Thrashers telecasts is … without J.P. Dellacamera, Darren Eliot no longer refers to a stick as a “hockey stick” anymore. And that’s nice. For really, what ELSE could a stick be … other than a hockey stick, at an ice rink? I’m just asking a question.

Brendan

January 24th, 2010
10:23 pm

Trixie, I think I’m in the SPAM filters again.

By the way, if you’re the Minnesota Vikings, you don’t want the NFC title game to go to overtime. I’d say, “and you don’t want to play it inside a dome,” but their home field is inside a dome. Congrats to the Saints, 31-28, in overtime.

R. Stroz

January 24th, 2010
11:13 pm

13th, I have to try something different.

Nikita (in PA)

January 25th, 2010
12:01 am

I have to object to the whole Niitymonkey thing. Yep, he’s beaten us a number of times…but it’s no accident that 14 of the last 15 times he was playing for team that beat us on so many levels that goaltending was just a part of that. My point being that there’s no reason we can’t break that streak ow that he’s with the the Bolts.

And, um, I don’t like Matt McConnell. I suppose my favorite is Darren Elliott, for his tendency to go crazy over Moose and throw out bizarre turns of phrase. I like Dan Kamal, also.

sisu

January 25th, 2010
2:05 am

Brendan, according to the announcers there is only one better streak, 17 wins no losses for Osgood against Tampa.

Having watched the recap of the scoring in the Wolves games Kari looked okay considering he has not played in 9 months or so…

World Be Free

January 25th, 2010
5:33 am

We had our opportunities, we just didn’t bury them. Nitty’s just an average goalie, the fault is our guys for not bearing down especially in the shootout. When you get down to Jeff Halpern as the scoring hero, you know you have blown your chances.

W-T-F game sounds great! I don’t know where we go from here.

World Be Free

January 25th, 2010
6:29 am

I think we all need to figure out how we are going to take the Kovy deal, once it comes down. At this point, it is a foregone conclusion that it will happen. Seems like nothing is going on between Kovy’s camp and the Thrashers at least not that anyone is reporting. Our chances of making the playoffs are sinking deeper each day and since that’s the criteria for him signing long term, I guess we should figure on Kovy being traded in the near future.

Kovy is a very talented player. But I would not pay any player $11M/year, even with his numbers on a 13th place team or wherever they are at this hour. But the haul of players and picks back to Atlanta better be pretty big or this deal will be a bust like the Hossa deal.

Not Blind

January 25th, 2010
8:02 am

Moose totally blew the goal by Halpern. Hedberg committed way too early and got himself locked into a tripod with no way to take away the huge 5 hole his tripod left open. Look at the pic above. Halpern got to look at that target for several seconds before he shot.

Nontheless, the Thrashers don’t appear to have anyone but Kozlov who is handy around the net. It’s just Anderson’s destiny that the one night he decides to make a statement to the players by sitting Kozlov is the one night that Kozlov could have possibly won the game for them although Kozlov hasn’t been a lock this year as he was last year.

Kovalchuk’s attempt was lame just like his play this whole year. He is a medium/long range sniper. He should drift in from the goalies right and shoot at about the top of the faceoff circle.

I’m afraid DW is going to do the equivalent of the Coburn deal when it comes time to send KK down the road. KK will never be effective in a 7 game series against somebody like Pit or Philly but he will be deadly against the Thrashers in the regular season possibly keeping them from the playoffs.

Russian

January 25th, 2010
8:10 am

Kovy will not trade until March 3. I will explain now. We have to play 9 games and Olympic break is coming. If you are GM and you know that Kovy is lazy defense player, but He can score a goal and bring a victory to the club. What are you going to do? Exactly. Keep him until Dead line is coming. Now this two scenarios.
First is positive and not likely. We are in Play Offs spot at March 2. Don will keep Kovy and let him play rest of season. Plus Don has to do some moves. He will be Buyer.
Second is negative and likely that will happened in Atlanta. We are out of Play Offs spot at March 2. Don will trade Kovy and let him go. He will ask some players for next season. I like a deal with Calgary. We can get talented and expensive Defenseman.
I can see a 3-d scenario, but I do not think it will happen. Kovy will be traded and come back to Atlanta after July 1 as Free Agent.

Red Light

January 25th, 2010
8:17 am

Found this on ESPN.com from Elias…

Antero Niittymaki made it 15 wins in 15 career games against the Thrashers with a shootout victory on Saturday. Niittymaki’s 15 consecutive wins versus Atlanta give him the fourth-longest start of career winning streak by a goaltender against one team in NHL history. The three longer streaks are by Ken Dryden versus Washington (19 straight wins), Bob Froese against Pittsburgh (17) and Chris Osgood versus Tampa Bay (17, which is also a current streak).

GaVaHokie

January 25th, 2010
8:39 am

Red Light… good find… iI wonder if any of those Osgood wins date back to his time with St. Louis? I wonder if Nitty is the only one who’s done it with multiple teams.

GaVaHokie

January 25th, 2010
8:42 am

WBF… I’ll have to see the trade first, but I’m fine with the Kovy move… my motto is “Love the Thrashers, not the players”. I want what’s best for the team.

However, if I have to watch Kovy win a Cup with Marc Savard in Boston, I might just vomit.

Here’s hoping the deal is with LA.

Ronnie Milsap

January 25th, 2010
8:57 am

18-8-5 over the last 31, 93 pts, playoff bound. quick exit. Thats with or without Kovy. Probably have a better chance at that without him. Here’s a toast to my first ever WTF on this or any other blog.

rightshot

January 25th, 2010
9:11 am

The only complaint I have with the game is the choice of Todd White on the shoot out. When I saw him on the ice all I could say was Whiskey-Tango _Foxtrot! (Now, where’s my drink.)
I would have put Kane, Slater, or even Boulton out there before White.
My dog Spanky has a better shot than White, and he’s a pug.

GaVaHokie

January 25th, 2010
9:24 am

rightshot… haha… I thought the same thing. My first reaction was “Rawhide’s gonna have a field day with this one.”

Rawhide

January 25th, 2010
9:28 am

rightshot & GaVaHokie – yes…I muttered a “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot”…takes a drink… of my own when I saw Todd White come out for the shootout…with the game on the line. I mean, wasn’t Jim Slater still available?… Evander Kane?… Toby Enstrom?… N.E. Body?

sigh

frenchy

January 25th, 2010
9:30 am

They all took a shot! What’s wrong with trying something else?

Kovy on a shoot out…what a waste!

Miami Screaming Eagle

January 25th, 2010
9:37 am

GaVa-I imagine that the team will try and move him out West. L.A. may be looking for a drawing card and Kovy could be just that. Like you, I’ll toss my cookies if Kovy goes to Boston and wins a Cup.

Savard-he seems to get injured alot more these days than in the past. You kinda wonder if his body is starting to break down. Something to think about when looking at his new long term contract. Boston’s offense is very weak, with or without Savard.

Alan R.

January 25th, 2010
10:48 am

Bill, I’ve never been on ice skates in my entire life, and even I could have taken a better shot at Niitty. Todd White ought to go the way of the Dodo.

R. Stroz

January 25th, 2010
10:51 am

When Todd White was sent in for the shootout, I’m convinced Anderson had already been playing the Whiskey Tango Foxtrot game and was more inebriated than Bruce Levenson at a Town HAll Meeting.

Red Light

January 25th, 2010
11:08 am

GaVaHokie: My crack research staff showed 1 win for Osgood against the Lightning came with St. Louis and 7 came when he was with the Islanders. By default, that means nine came with the Red Wings.

Interestingly, Jimmy Howard made 30 saves for his first NHL shutout in Detroit’s 3-0 victory over the Lightning, Dec. 17.

Since the Wings and Lightning don’t play again this year, if Niitymaki beats Atlanta Feb. 2, then he can tie Osgood’s mark in Tampa March 6 against the Thrashers.

From Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun on Kovalchuk situation:

But two league executives said they don’t believe his destination will be decided until after the Olympics wrap up Feb. 28 because the teams that want to make a pitch can’t afford to pick up what remains of Kovalchuk’s $6.4-million cap hit during the Games.

“Players are going to be paid during that break and those teams can’t afford to pay him not to play,” said one Western Conference executive speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Interesting!

Red Light

January 25th, 2010
11:12 am

I guess it could be worse. At least under that situation, we’ll have four more opportunities to see him play/loaf at home.

Wonder if the boo birds will be out in force for those four remaining home games.

I’d like to know: Would you boo Kovy before he left or only after he came back in another sweater?

rightshot

January 25th, 2010
11:14 am

Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot
Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot
Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot
Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot
Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot
Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot
Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot
Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot

Sorry, I was thirsty.

TrueBlue

January 25th, 2010
11:20 am

This team sucks…plain and simple.

It’s terrible that this is the most talented lineup every iced by the Thrashers and they are still as bad as they were 6 years ago.

Smoothie

January 25th, 2010
11:24 am

What does Joey Crabb have to do? Or who must he pay off to come back to the parent club and get a chance to wreak some havoc? The man has caught fire with 8 goals, 9 assists and about a +10 over his last 15. If nothing else, he would be valuable on the PK and allow Peverley to focus solely on ES and his PP duties. For that matter, why doesn’t Kulda get a look? He’s only +30 or so for the season!

Barry

January 25th, 2010
11:29 am

Ya that shootout was a joke. Looked like everyone was going 5 hole and that was the smallest possible hole there was, so why shoot there? Some of our players need to do a deke, forhand-backhand, something, anything. Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot. I think it’s quite obvious our special teams is what had us in the playoffs early on in the year and it’s our special teams now that’s got us on the outside of the playoffs looking in. 1 for 25 on the powerplay is just…wow…can’t even come up with a good word that describes how sad and pathetic that is. Everyone stands around and nobody moves to even create any open lanes or anything.

GaVaHokie

January 25th, 2010
11:41 am

TrueBlue… I still argue that the 05-06 roster was the best in franchise history, and would have made the playoffs if not for the goalie injury fiasco. (Lehtonen, Garnett, Dunham, Shields, Berkhoel)

We finished with 90 pts, just 2 pts shy of the 8th spot (Tampa Bay)… one more regular season win over Tampa and we were in.

http://hockeydb.com/ihdb/stats/leagues/seasons/nhl19272006.html

Miami Screaming Eagle

January 25th, 2010
12:03 pm

This team will not move forward until the Kovy situation is resolved. Until then, we will continue to tread water with our noses just a hair above the water line.

Had we made the deal in October, we could have had the replacement parts in place, moving in a positive right now instead of hanging from the rafters of Philips Arena by a thread.

Just look at Ottawa; move Heatley and rid yourself of the distraction.

GaVaHokie

January 25th, 2010
12:13 pm

Yeah, who would have thought Ottawa would be in 5th place after trading Dany Heatley for Michalek and an invisible Cheechoo?

There is light at the end of the tunnel… just get this over with.

Miami Screaming Eagle

January 25th, 2010
12:15 pm

I thought Ottawa got jobbed in the trade, but at least they got rid of the distraction. That is what is killing this team right now, the distraction. We see it, but Bozo does not!

ThrasherTim

January 25th, 2010
12:25 pm

Rawhide – great line on Todd White! Right now, the culprit of our latest struggles is the Power(less) Play as per the stats above. No movement…no bodies in front. I mean, “Coach A., the rest of the league has tape too and they MIGHT figure out what we’re doing.” Mix it up!

Here’s another sad observation – we are only ahead of 4 teams in the league right now despite still being alive for the playoffs. Wow.

Red Light

January 25th, 2010
12:27 pm

Smoothie: It may have something to do with options, or the fact they don’t think Crabb is an NHLer. With so many teams scouting the AHL, if he was a “hot NHL prospect”, you’d think some team might have inquired about his availability by now. I think Kulda is just getting more seasoning. He’ll get more playing time in Chicago, but given what you say, once the fire sale begins, maybe they’ll call him up for the last month to see what he can do?

It is frustrating that we haven’t seen many call-ups this season.

Not Blind

January 25th, 2010
1:22 pm

Yeah, they didn’t think Coburn was ready either. Don’t you know they were whooping it up in Philly when they pulled off that deal.

Smoothie

January 25th, 2010
1:34 pm

When Little and White barely have 8 goals for THE YEAR, it can’t hurt to try Crabb for a couple weeks. Pretty sure Boris and Peanut have waiver-free options. Anyone else other than Opie I’m not sure of tho.

R. Stroz

January 25th, 2010
1:54 pm

Here’s an idea.

Lets trade Kubina for Coburn and hope for a reverse Zhitnik trade.

GaVaHokie

January 25th, 2010
1:59 pm

How about Armstrong to Philly for Coburn… then Rawhide’s head explodes trying to figure out who won the Hossa deal on top of the Coburn for Zhitnik trade. :)

ben

January 25th, 2010
2:18 pm

I feel that we got jobbed by D-WAD when the Thrashers didn’t trade Kovy at the season’s start. This team got set back by doing nothing.

Adam

January 25th, 2010
2:54 pm

I for one would like to see the C taken off Kovy’s jersey and put on Pev’s or Antro’s. I also don’t think Kovy ever should have gotten it before he signed the paperwork. He’s not playing like he wants it anyway. If he’s going to be traded set the tone right with the rest of the players now by providing them with better leadership.

I also hope he gets traded to a team in the west. I think the overall talent pool is better in the west. And yes I grew up in Chicago but I’ve just about lived here in Atlanta as long as I did up north. I’m a Thrashers fan first, as painful as it is, but I’ve seen some pretty bad days with the Hawks too. I think we can get the most in return from the Blackhawks and I understand them not wanting to pay him for the break but it’s got to happen now not later. Give them a 2nd round pick to go with Kovy to make it happen.
Now I know everyone is going to be like “GIVE UP A PICK TOO?!?!?!” Yes, give up the pick as sweetener. Why? I bet you Dollars to Doughnuts Kovy gets injured in the Olympics and his trade value at the deadline will be less than a bag of pucks. Talk about a Whiskey, Tango Foxtrot moment that’ll be… Get what you can in return now and secure your lineup for the remainder of the season.
In a perfect world Dudley would be the one making this trade. In a parallel universe somewhere maybe all the things we’ve wished for has happened and a chunk of my money would be in the Atlanta Spirits coffers… Ah to dream… but this is the world we’re stuck in and Dwadd is making the calls and a trade will happen most likely with Philly, Montreal or Boston. The only ones that’ll be happy with the deal will be bartenders & liquor stores owner across Thrasherville because we will have endless WTF moments eight times a year until Kovy retires.

Well at least most of my money is “safe” ;)

World Be Free

January 25th, 2010
3:32 pm

I don’t think you can take the C until you trade him. A captain’s role is so crucial to the team, even if we believe he has not been fulfilling the role most of the season. You take the C and appoint someone else with the previous captain still on your team? It’s not like what’s happening on Carolina, where an older player near the end of his career is being replaced by a younger leader.

Taking the C at this point would be like divorcing, remarrying and keeping your ex-wife in the basement. The new leader or in this case, your new wife wouldn’t appreciate it.

Lee

January 25th, 2010
3:40 pm

I think unless Kovy can prove something, and I mean something, not just a goal, I mean a good amount of points, I want the “C” taken off of his jersey and I want it on Slater’s or Antropov’s. Antropov has always been a good leader that is always out there playing with heart. And Slater, one of my favorite players next to Moose. He just doesn’t give up. Ever. Whenever I see him, he’s always out there working his butt off. He is one of the leaders in the team that we can’t afford to let go. Usually in the 3rd period, he really steps up and leads the team. Kovy just doesn’t look like he’s having fun and frankly, he’s playing like an AHL player, and one more thing, Kovy CANNOT play defense, not the whole team can, but him ecspecially.
I want him to be traded to either Chicago or Toronto. I’ve heard a lot of rumors say Toronto might willing to trade Phil Kessel and Chicago might give us Kris Versteeg.I like chicago, their probably my favorite team in the West, not sure why. Maybe it’s because their successful, unlike, cough, the thrashers.

Now, why are the thrashers unsuccessful? For 2 MAIN reasons, there’s A LOT more, but anywayz, their D is AWFUL! Ugh, they cannot clear the puck, they cannot guard the net, they cannot check, they cannot intercept, it’s just flat out wrong. Nex, the thrashers, when they get on offense, which rarely happens, they have to get back on D. They make som of the worst passes I have ever seen, I’m not sure if JA has ever taught them about that. Also they make too many passes. They try to make the most perfect play ever. And guess what? It never works. Why? Because you’re more likely to score on a rebound than just a shot itself. Also, because they pass too much, it gets intercepted way to often and easily. All they need to do is shoot and get a SOG so they can get a rebound. It’s that simple. But NO!! They have to do it the hard way.
Hmm, well speaking of simple, wouldn’t it just be more simple if we didn’t waste are time watching this lazy team?