Five games into an 82 game schedule is not a heckuva lot of time to pick up on trends, let alone become overly worried about any negatives. But we’ve got a few days before the 3-2-0 Thrashers play host to the 1-4-1 Buffalo Sabres, so now is as good of a time as any to take pause and reflect back on the opening days of this 2010-11 Thrashers season. Thus, I offer up this entry of “The Good, The Un-Good and the Ugly”.
Or, for those of the P.C. persuasion… “The Good, The Un-Good and the ‘Aesthetically Challenged’”.
The winning Record, (DUH5): Well, let’s begin with winning three out of five games and collecting six of a possible ten in the standings. While some may not tout this as a ferocious start, considering that the last two were on the road, in back-to-back games and won after trailing by two goals in both… a very good showing indeed.
In fact, all three victories have come in games that Atlanta trail. They were down 1-0 in the season opener against the Capitals.
Also, consider that a team that plays 3-2-0, 2-1-2, or any other combination of 6 points in five games consistently through the course of a season, will end up with 96 points after 80 games played with two more left to sure up their playoff positioning.
I’ll take that.
Anthony Stewart the Scoring Machine: What more can one say about Anthony “You Can’t Stop Him, You Can Only Hope To Contain Him” Stewart. By scoring four times in about a 24-hour period this past weekend he not only finds himself as the team’s leading goal-scorer, but he also doubled his career total. Coming into this season he had found the net four times in 105 NHL games.
Moving Stewart to the line with Ladd and Little…very good, considering the results.
Fantastic Fourth Line: By far the most consistent forward line has been the Eager-Thorburn-Burmistrov fourth line. They have accounted for 4 goals, 2 assists and are a combined +8. It’s little surprise that when coach Craig Ramsay tweaked the lines after the loss in Los Angeles this one remained in tact.
Eager has been everything we had expected him to be, Thorburn has excelled above and beyond what many thought he was capable of and Burmistrov has done just about everything he needs to in order to stick around here beyond nine games.
All this is certainly good news for everyone. Everyone, that is, except maybe Eric Boulton. If they continue to play well, the only action we could see Boults in anytime soon is if someone cuts in front of him in the press box buffet line.
Never Say Die Attitude: As stated above, all three of the Thrasher’s wins have come via the come-from-behind nature…the last two after trailing by two goals. In the loss to Tampa Bay, they had even cut a 4-0 deficit to 4-3 before ultimately falling 5-3 to the Bolts. These are the kind of efforts that help the “gelling” process on a team with so many new faces.
It also shows that this coaching staff headed up by Craig Ramsay has a good ability to not only determine what needs adjusting when things go wrong, but also possesses the ability to remedy it in time.
The character of this team, thus far, is being shaped and molded by the men behind the bench as much as those on the ice.
Boris Takes Bad News Like A Big Boy: I will say up front here that I am 100% in favor of the decision made to waive Boris Valabik. The time had come to fish or cut bait with the 6’-7” defenseman, especially given the talent available for this team on the blueline. He wasn’t claimed off the wire and now he’s found his way to the AHL Chicago Wolves.
But I have to give Boris some props for having the right attitude when faced with the situation. He didn’t whine, cry or suggest he was not treated fairly…like so many professional athletes tend to do after being given this type of bad news.
“If no team claims me I will go to Chicago and work on my game”, he told Chris Vivlamore Thursday. “I have some work to do but mostly I have to play…I know when I’m on top of my game I can be very successful”.
Valabik acknowledges he has work to do to improve his game. And by saying, “when I’m on top of my game”, in essence admits he wasn’t.
This is where any self-improvement project must begin; understanding the responsibility for where you find yourself is yours and acknowledging you have to work to improve the issue.
Very good, Boris.
Still Can’t Shake The SA/G Bug: You can give me all the “It doesn’t matter how many shots are taken, it’s where they come from” lines all you want, but 36.4 SA/G is far too many…and it must begin improving soon or un-good things will surely happen. This is a lesson we here in Thrasherville know all too well.
Now, if you do feel the need to sprinkle some sugar on this bitter stat, look at the fact that the Thrashers are finding a way to get off 30.8 S/G themselves.
But even so, that’s a SF/SA gap of –5.6. Un-good.
Scarce Top-Line Scoring: After just five games, it’s not unusual to have a handful of players that have yet to notch their first goal. Normally these are defensemen, lower-line forwards…maybe even the odd top-sixer or two.
But when you see such names like Nik Antropov, Bryan Little, Nic Bergfors and Rich Peverley rolling goose eggs in the goals column…well, it certainly is not good.
Now, in their defense…Antropov is playing reduced minutes, topping 15 minutes TOI only once so far. He’s working his way back to 100% following his hip surgery last summer, and given time will once again be a big presence on offence. Little has shown good hustle and has chipped in with 3 assists. Bergfors seems to have gotten any message that was intended by sitting him out Friday, but he’s still with only 2 assists on the young season. Rich Peverley had yet to gain a point and was a –3 heading into this past weekend’s action, but after being moved to the line with Andrew Ladd he earned assists in both the Ducks and Sharks games and was a +1.
So, I’m not “overly” concerned with the lack of scoring from these top-line players. However, these are guys that need to kick their offensive game in high gear and start introducing frozen vulcanized rubber to twine soon.
Or, of course, we could just continue to rely on Stewart and Thorburn to score for us.
Not-So-Special Teams: The Thrashers converted four of their seven power play chances in Anaheim and San Jose. However, they had failed on 13 of their first 14 of the season. The lone exception being a 5 on 3 job in Tampa. Hopefully the weekend trend will continue.
On the other side of the ice, they’re 71.4% penalty kill efficiency is better than only Dallas, (70,0%), Carolina, (68.4%), and Nashville, (64.3%).
Opening night…only 2:25 into the game…the play had just been blown dead at one end of the ice. But then all eyes turned to other end where Ondrej Pavelec lay motionless, spread-eagle in front of his goal. Though he needs to recover from the concussion suffered from striking his head to the ice, thankfully all indications are that Opie should be fine with all tests on his heart and brain coming back negative.
But the feeling we all got seeing Ondrej Pavelec down on the ice, crest-up, spread-eagle on opening night, not knowing what was wrong, why he went down and if he was going to be OK…simply ugly.