While it may only serve to ease the fact that the Thrashers once again will be ending their season after only 82 games played, Sunday 1-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins to close out the 2009-10 campaign was a perfect way wrap things up.
Well…as “perfect” as it can be, I suppose, without a trip to the post-season.
First, the win itself gave Atlanta a 35-34-13 record for 83 points…which in the NHL world is considered a “winning” season. It is third-highest point total in franchise history…2005-06 they had 90 and the next season they won the Southeast Division with 97. In the Southeast Division they end up as the second place team, albeit 37 points behind Washington, who still have one game against Boston today.
Two players that may have played their final game in Thrasher blue came up big in this finale. Johan Hedberg kicked out 33 Penguins shots for his third shutout of the season…his career fourteenth. Moose finishes the year with a 21-16-6 record, .915 SV% and 2.62 GAA. And Slava Kozlov helped set up Bryan Little’s game winner in the second period. It was Kozzy’s shot from the left side that was batted around in front of Marc-Andre Fleury’s goal that was eventually but into the net. It was Kozlov’s 18th assist of the year and he finished up with 8 goals and 26 overall points.
“Even though we are disappointed [in not making the playoffs], I think we did a lot of things better this year than last, Hedberg remarked afterwards. “You have to keep building…Rome wasn’t built in a day”.
Not to be overlooked here is Evander Kane’s right cross that put Matt Cooke on the ice in a flash. Cooke had elbowed the rookie early on in the second …possibly taking exception to Kane’s audacity to actually play physical hockey with Sidney Crosby…and offered to take a dance with Kane.
“He challenged me and asked me to fight, and I was not going to back down”, Kane said. “It’s part of the game”.
Coach John Anderson address the fight and what lead up to it may saying, “If they take exception to who gets hit out there, does that mean you are supposed to start a fight?”. Continuing he added, “I don’t get it…Crosby is so great for the game, but when you are always around the puck, you’re going to get hit a little bit. Every time he gets body checked, does that mean somebody is going to get attacked”?
“Cooke came around an 18-year old. What goes around comes around. That’s all I can tell you”.
I guess coach was alluding to Cooke’s blind-side elbow of Marc Savard last month. And while I happy to see Cooke make his way from the ice on his own power…I also hope Savy has gotten a chance to enjoy the replay.
Karma and all that, ya know….
With the loss, combined with New Jersey’s 7-1 pounding of the Islanders, the Penguins will finish behind the Devils in the Atlantic Division, fourth in the Eastern Conference and will face Ottawa in the first round of the playoffs. New Jersey leads Buffalo by one point going into today’s final day of play in the regular season…both they and the Sabres have games to determine the second and third seeds in the east.
But to me…the best part of the festivities that took place on the ice of Philips Arena came shortly after the game when the Benning’s…a.k.a. The Kiss Cam couple…was presented with the 7th Fan Award. This was made even that much better when Mrs. Benning was able to walk out with her husband to receive the award fro Darren Eliot and Nik Antropov, who earlier was named the team’s MVP.
Mrs. Benning asked for the #4 jersey off of Zach Bogosian’s back…but she also quick to let Antropov know she liked him too.
Last month, we discussed the Kiss Cam couple and the possibility of seeing them named as 7th Fan. Immediately I began to hear from so many of you in your comments, e-mails and discussion in person at the games at how you too would like to see this happen. You wrote your letters and sent in your email and saw that it happened.
You should reach around and give yourselves a nice pat on the back because it helped make for a perfect ending to this Thrashers 2009-10 season.