Just a week ago the Atlanta Thrashers were sitting atop the Southeast Division and held the second spot in the Eastern Conference. They were riding a 12-2-2 hot streak and had just come off impressive victories over the New Jersey Devils and Toronto Maple Leafs by a combined score of 13-4.
Oh what a difference a week can make.
Since that time, they’ve have gone 0-3-1, been outscored 17-8…two of those losses coming against Tampa Bay and Boston, teams Atlanta has been jockeying for position in the standings with. Their play of late has been, in a word…un-good.
Tuesday night, Pittsburgh was the scene of their latest unsuccessful venture. After coming out strong against the Pens, taking 1-0 and 2-1 leads, the game slowly spiraled out of control…slowly at first, then at a dizzying pace. Once Sidney Crosby leveled the score twice in the first period, he along with his black and gold Penguin pals commenced to out-skate, out-hustle, out-grind and out-work the visiting Thrashers.
There was short-handed goal that resulted from winning the puck away from Atlanta defenders behind Ondrej Pavelec’s net to send Pittsburgh into the second intermission up 3-2. It was the third shorty the Thrashers power play unit has allowed during this four game slide.
“That’s just being lazy”, captain Andrew Ladd said of Pittsburgh’s go-ahead short-handed tally. “There is no way they should get a chance like that on a power play.”
Then there was the ‘ol “Win the face-off to start the third period, scoot it up the right wing, have Crosby flop it in front of the net for an easy tip-in score” play that was executed to perfection is just nine seconds. Just the way it was drawn up on the chalkboard, eh?
And then there was that…that…that “thing” that happened to Alex Burmistrov. First he misplayed…OK, whiffed…the puck in the defensive zone, then he was knocked backwards by Mark Letestu, who then put the Pens up 5-2.
So in summary, Sid’s second score coming in the closing moments of the first, a brain-cramp shorty in the second, Thrashers skaters becoming spectators for the opening nine seconds of the third period, Burmistrov’swhatever that was you want to call it and…bippity-boppity-boo…just like that, a closely fought, tight game turns into a 6-3 cluster-fail and a fourth consecutive loss.
So, if you ask me if I’m concerned with the current state of these Atlanta Thrashers, my answer is…well…yeah. Yeah I am. But only just a little.
Four game losing streaks are not normally the kind of thing that can just be laughed or shrugged off, of course. Especially when in those quartet of games your team has fallen from first place in the division and second overall in the conference all the way down to third and seventh respectively. So there is reason for a certain amount of angst in Thrasherville.
But there’s no need for full-fledged panic either.
One of the reasons the Divine Mrs. R won’t have to pull my head out of the oven anytime soon is this; In the half year or so that Craig Ramsay, John Torchetti, etc. have manned the bench in a coaching capacity with this organization, I’ve grown to trust not only what it is they’re in the process of teaching and preaching…I’ve also grown to trust their ability to nip problems in the bud.
Another is because the oven is electric.
And no, there won’t be any needto pull me back off a high-rise ledge this morning either. Just as I wasn’t quite ready to start penciling-in dates in June that could work for a Stanley Cup victory parade down Peachtree Street last week following the wins against the Devils and Leafs…I’m not ready to start flipping through the possible draft prospects to see who could be had with the number two or three picks this summer after four losses either.
82 games bring with it a lot of ebbs and flows in a season. And as the Thrashers go through some tough spells…and they will…one shouldn’t lose perspective of that.
One thing I am seriously concerned about, however, is the status of one Mr. Evander Kane. As he was being helped off the ice after taking a hit to the knee up against the boards, I began to think of this team trying to snap a four game losing skid against the Big Bad Bruins without the assistance of such a key component to this lineup.