Ding-dong, the streak is dead.
Before Sunday night, Atlanta had not beaten these Bruins since December 29, 2007 when Kari Lehtonen shut them out 5-0. Since then, they have lost ten straight to the Big Bad Bruins.
But behind another stellar performance by goalie Ondrej Pavelec as well as goals by Evander Kane, Dustin Byfuglien, Jimmy Slater and Nic Bergfors, Boston became just the latest victim to fall to the Atlanta Thrashers.
Byfuglien also contributed with 3 assists on the night.
But there are other factors contributing to the Thrashers success besides quality goaltending and highlight reel goals…things that head coach Craig Ramsay wants to make sure do not go unnoticed.
Just as the post-game press conference was wrapping up Sunday night, Ramsay wouldn’t let the reporters assembled leave without making one final point. Obviously the focus of most of the questions circled around the continued great play of Pavelec and Byfuglien…but the coach wanted to make sure that other important contributions got their fair share of attention too.
Plays like Chris Thorburns blocked shot early on in the game as well as the one by Rich Peverley late when the Bruins were on the power play…as shot that came from defenseman Zdeno Chara. Ramsay’s always been one to point out these are the small things that are necessary to win individual games. Doing them consistently, as the Thrashers have, and individual wins turn into five game win streaks.
Ramsay’s players have certainly taken note as well. As Rich Peverley told me before the game, “We’re doing the little things right and that’s going to be the most important thing [as we continue throughout the season]”.
“We’re playing a full 60 minutes…we’re really playing together as a team, as a unit. We are playing with a lot of confidence right now and you can see it in our game. No matter who we’re playing against we seem to have some offense”.
Offense indeed. During this current five game run, the Thrashers have outscored their opponents to the tune of 19-3. Three of the teams kicked to the curb by this up-and-coming Thrashers juggernaut have been division leaders and a Boston team that came into the game with a 12-7-2 record.
The Thrashers attack has found not only potency, but balance as well. Tonight it was Evander Kane, Dustin Byfuglien, Jimmy Slater and Nic Bergfors twisting the twine. Friday night it was Peverley twice and Toby Enstrom and the game before that it was Thorburn, Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little, Anthony Stewart and Byfuglien.
You get the picture.
And these Thrashers players understand that it’s the little things coming from their teammates that are contributing to the recent success. The gritty play along the boards, the ability to keep pucks in the zone, the battles in mid-ice and the blueline that disrupt the opposition’s breaks…these are the small items that teams do throughout the course of a game that make them winners.
And like their coach, they are quick to point out the smart plays by their linemates that lead to their successes.
Such was the case when Jim Slater discussed his goal after the game, making sure credit was given to Byfuglien for making the right choice on how to play the puck. “It was a good play by Buff”, he told me. “Instead of just dumping it into the corner he found me streaking through the middle.
“I think they were on the line change and that’s how I got open”, Slater continued. “Once I saw the open ice I just tried to turn on the speed, pulled it to my forehand and beat him up high”.
Right now, this is a team playing as if they have totally sold themselves out to the kind of play their coaching staff has been teaching and preaching. And just as Ramsay likes to highlight his players achievements and work ethic, they too seem to have a great deal of respect for the men behind the bench.
Of course, it helps when those men come to the team with a track record of success themselves.
As Peverley put it when discussing the influence Ramsay and John Torchetti have had on the team, “Well, obviously the pedigree they have…they’ve both won Stanley Cups…they’ve been around the league for a while and know what it takes to get the job done”.
“They are two smart individuals and we’re luck to have them”.