In case you’ve been stuck in a cave somewhere, you no doubt have noticed that the holiday season is once again upon us. The Thanksgiving turkey has long since been devoured…including the leftover turkey casseroles, turkey sandwiches, turkey tetrazzini, turkey pot pie, etc. We’ve made it through Black Friday, Cyber Monday, the weather has turned a tad chilly of late and the traditional animated Christmas shows have made their way to our television sets…now in the crystal clear images that Hi-Def offers.
Local traffic around malls are a nightmare to navigate, shoppers are pushing and shoving one another in line at Macy’s, fruitcakes that will never be consumed are being mailed to distant nephews and nieces and fist fights are breaking out in the toy aisles of Walmart.
Ah, yes folks…it’s the most wonderful time of the year!
While our tax exemptions count down the days until they can rumble down the steps and begin shredding away the pretty wrapping paper to expose their much sought after presents, the good people of Thrasherville have already begun to receive their gifts. They are gifts coming in the form of some great overall play by their on-ice combatants, the Atlanta Thrashers.
Now, it isn’t as though the Thrashers have been exactly Scrooge-like in years past. In fact, they have been all-too generous and giving in their ways in recent seasons… especially on defense. The only problem was that it was normally the opposing team that benefited from their charity.
Too many times they played the role of Santa Claus by gift-wrapping games and handing them over to the other team. Pucks would be given away in the Thrashers defensive zone…goals were handed out like holiday candy…and leads were returned quicker than the aftershave in a bottle shaped like a race car that came from the mother-in-law…and all Thrashers fans were left with was a lump of coal. Indeed there were three words that described the Thrashers of those seasons.
But these Thrashers seemed to have been transformed anew this season…a transformation almost the equal to the one experienced by the famous miser in Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’. They are now in the midst of a seven wins in eight games stretch that began the Friday prior to Thanksgiving, taking what was a 7-9-3 record to 14-10-3. They have scored 27 goals during that period while allowing only 9. And they have surprised us all with the best hockey we’ve seen around here in a very long time… a gift none of us were expecting from this team, not at this point in the season at least.
And these are presents no one in Thrasherville will be looking to re-gift. Nope…these are keepers.
Saturday night the Thrasher continued their winning ways as they wrapped up a three game road trip with a very solid 3-1 win over the Washington Capitals. Atlanta is now 3-1-1 against the Southeast leading Caps, have scored 19 goals in those five games and have accounted for 3 of the their 8 regulation losses on the season.
Ya know…it almost seems like a shame that we’ll only get to face the Capitals one more time this season.
“It’s a huge win for us” head coach Craig Ramsay said after the 3-1 win of the Capitals Saturday night. “This is just another big step, but it’s a step against one of the best teams in hockey”.
“You have to like that. You have to enjoy it. You have to savor the moment.”
Yes, savor it. Much like that cup of hot chocolate served up on a cold night while you sit in front of a warm fireplace where the stocking are hung with care. Especially if said cup of cocoa has been topped off with a little bit of some sort of adult beverage.
If there has been one player on this squad who has been somewhat Grinch-like in his ways, however, it’s Ondrej Pavelec. But it isn’t Christmas being stolen from the good people of Whoville here…it’s been would-be goals off the sticks of opposing skaters.
Pavelec has been a major factor in the Thrashers recent success. In stopping 45 of 46 shots Saturday in the nation’s capital he has upped is overall numbers to 8-5-2 with a 1.70 GAA, .948 SV% and a pair of shutouts. Opie has done a great job in fine-tuning his game, is controlling his rebounds better, has improved his pipe-to-pipe movement and is staying vertical more… instead of falling down like Charley Brown’s Christmas tree when an ornament is place on it.
But the Thrashers goalie is also quick to credit the players in front of him. “Our guys did a great job”, Pavelec insists. “I always saw the first shot and they cleared the rebound, so it was a great team effort”.
Atlanta has three players already with 20 or more points…Dustin Byfuglien with 10 goals and 18 assists, Andrew Ladd with 9 goals and 18 assists as well as Toby Enstrom who has 3 goals and 18 assists.
Right behind them is Rich Peverley with 7 goals and 11 assists for 18 points…Nic Bergfors with 6 goals and 11 assists for 17 points…Evander Kane with 9 goals and 7 assists for 16 points…Anthony Stewart with 7 goals and 8 assists for 15 points and Nik Antropov with 7 goals and 7 assists for 14 points.
That is what we were looking for when it comes to the balanced scoring concept offensive play.
Combine that type of offense with adequate…sometimes even very good…defensive play and solid, dependable goaltending and what you have is the recipe for winning hockey. And that’s just what we’ve been seeing from this Thrashers team during this holiday season so far.
If they can continue this on a consistent basis… and there’s no reason to believe they can’t… then the Thrashers just may be able to give their fans the gift they’ve been wanting for so many years now.
And that Christmas wish is to be able to watch this great play and winning hockey beyond game number 82 next spring.