Three weeks ago I was making my way down for The Blueland Chronicle Perch after the 4-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. As I made my across the landing area between escalators, I noticed John Kincade preparing for the post-game show. I stopped by to chat with him about the hard-fought, but still disappointing 4-2 loss to the Pens.
“I’ll tell you something”, John told me. “If I wake up on Christmas morning and this Thrashers team is at or anywhere near .500…they’ll be just fine. Probably make the playoffs”.
Now at the time, the setback had left Atlanta with a record of 7-7-3 after 13 games played and had gone 1-3-1 in their previous five games played. It was still early November and the new players on the roster were still going through the beginning portions of their “getting to know you” phase of the season.
Given such, I didn’t think the statement made by Kincade was off base at all. However, since that time the Thrashers have played to a 6-3-0 mark, including the recent 6 game winning streak in which some of the best team-oriented hockey seen in these parts since…since…since, well, ever.
Unfortunately it came to a stop last night in, of all places, Pittsburgh as Sidney Crosby caused hats to fly. His trio of goals powered the Pens to a 3-2 win over the Thrashers. The third, and eventual game-winner, was a splendid individual effort as Crosby deflected in a knee-high shot from a very sharp angle. Not much Ondrej Pavelec could do about it.
Defenseman Ron Hainsey probably summed it up best in saying, “There are times where you are going to get beat. You can have everybody in position and have everyone there and get beat”.
For the most part Atlanta played well…but not well enough to overcome a powerful Pittsburgh team. The effort was there, but the opposition proved too much on this night.
However, given they way they have played since my discussion with Kincade as well as there current record of 13-10-3… despite the setback in Steeltown, I would be rather disappointed if this team is merely .500 come the time the good little boys and girls of Thrasherville rip open their gifts on Christmas morn.
The important thing after a loss that snaps a consecutive win streak is that the keep it at just that…one loss. Put it behind them and move on, as the cliché goes, and don’t allow it to become anything more than that. Focus must continue to be directed forward and not allow it to become the beginning of a 2 or 3 game slide or a 1-4-1 type of run. That would negate all that was accomplished over the last couple of weeks.
As Ondrej Pavelec put it, “We have to keep our heads up. They’re on a roll; we were on a roll. We just lost one game”.
Looking forward…it isn’t as though they have a bunch of “softies” on the slate either over the next few weeks. The Thrashers play in Washington tomorrow then welcome the likes of Nashville and Colorado next week. In fact, between now and New years, they not only have to take on those quality teams, but they draw Tampa Bay twice, Boston twice, Pittsburgh again as well as a St. Louis team that…despite their recent troubles…still have a winning record.
But given what the Thrashers have just come through and how they have performed, that schedule doesn’t look as daunting as it might have three weeks ago. And that’s to the their credit.