OT win in Montreal helps to highlight online MVP debate

Saturday morning I asked you to tell us who you thought the Thrashers MVP was for the first part of the season. After offering up Dustin Byfuglien as my choice, the debate was on. Some agreed with me…however, most opined that it was goalie Ondrej Pavelec who was the team’s top performer over the first 41 games.

The discussion so far has been lively, to say the least…both in the blogosphere and in the twitterverse. Shortly after posting the piece, Thrasher TV contributor and 680 The Fan’s John Kincade tweeted to me his feelings on the matter.

“Is that REALLY a question? Buff is great but OP is the MVP, without him they are not in a playoff position!”

Evander Kane manages to get the puck past Montreal goaltender Carey Price despite being knocked to the ice by Candiens defensemen (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson)

Evander Kane manages to get the puck past Montreal goaltender Carey Price despite being knocked to the ice by Candiens defensemen (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson)

As I stated earlier, there were many like Kincade who cast their vote for Opie. And those who posted comments in support of the netminder did so with very, very compelling arguments. And while I still stand by my choice of Byfuglien for MVP over the initial 41 games, no one can dispute the fact that Opie’s play between the pipes has been nothing but MVP-esque.

And like I stated in the previous blog, “…if he performs at the same level from here on out, don’t be stunned if he winds up as this team’s Most Valuable Player.”

There were also some who pointed out that Toby Enstrom should get some MVP love from Thrasherville as well. “He is the guy that allows Buff to push up”, frequent blog contributor Tom pointed out. “He is the guy who makes the best breakout passes on the team. He is the foundation of the power play”.

Cornbread even offered up a “none of the above” vote for a hard working forward who may not get the headlines but works his butt off night after night when he wrote, “Though the MVP candidates are all great choices. I’m going to vote ‘Other’ and go with a blue-collar type. The non-skilled player who epitomizes the way Coach Ramsay would like for all his players to play – listening Bergfors? – is Chris Thorburn”.

“I really liked what I saw last season and this year he has continued to grow and step up his game”, Cornbread continued. “Chris Thorburn is becoming one Hell of a Hockey Player.”

Our good buddy World be Free agreed and added, “[Thorburn] kills penalties, block shots, challenges forwards and pointmen in the defensive zone instead of standing there and letting them make plays.”

Captain Andrew Ladd got some MPV consideration, as did Bryan Little. But most votes when to Opie, Buff and Toby…in that order.

Now, the reason for this review of the hypothetical first half MVP from the previous blog is because of how Sunday afternoon’s game in Montreal played out. During the 4-3 overtime win over the Habs, it seemed like all the players we considered for the honors were doing their part to justify why they deserved to be a part of the debate.

Evander Kane celebrates with his two teammates that set up his second period goal, Chris Thorburn and Patrice Cormier. For Cormier, it was his first NHL point (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson)

Evander Kane celebrates with his two teammates that set up his second period goal, Chris Thorburn and Patrice Cormier. For Cormier, it was his first NHL point (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson)

First, there is The Buffinator scoring yet another game winning goal in overtime. That’s the third time he’s done so in the extra period and the sixth time he’s played the hero by notching a game-winner. It was also his sixth power play goal of the season.

If he continues on this pace, he is going to wind up with about 30 goals and 82 points. That, plus he’s a +8 after 42 games.

Then there’s Toby Enstrom who dished out, not one…not two…but three assists in the win. The first one came on a nice give-n-go play with Rich Peverley on his first period goal. Toby paid the price for the pass as he simply got rocked at the blueline just after dishing it back to Pevs. The last one, of course, was on Byfuglien’s game-winning blast in overtime. And as Tom would remind us, it came while on the power play.

Enstrom is currently on pace for 50+ assists on the year.

Not to be overlooked here is Captain Ladd’s goal with just second remaining in the second period gave the Thrashers a 3-2 lead heading into the second intermission. Late period goals are among the timeliest and, as things turned out, it was the goal that allowed them to get to overtime one period later.

Prior to Ladd’s goal, Thorburn’ work behind the net drew the attention of an extra defenseman which led to Evander Kane’s…scored as butt was in contact with the ice. Thorburn’s effort proved to be just enough for Patrice Cormier and Kane in front of the goal to get the job done.

For Cormier, earning the primary assist on the goal was his first-ever NHL point.

However…

None of this would have mattered one hill of beans if not for the continued amazing play of Pavelec, who was called upon 50 times he was called upon to turn aside a Canadiens’ shot…and 47 times he did so. He was assaulted with 16 SOG in the first and third periods, 17 in the second. Time and time again he denied Montreal the chance to take the lead and gave his skaters the chance to ultimately steal two points from a game they very easily could have lost.

Opie tied his career season win mark at 14 with the victory and he now has a .936 SV% and 2.14 GAA.

Ondrej Pavelec knocks aside one of the 50 Montreal shots he faced. The 47 saves made helped the Thrashers to their 21st win of the season and equaled his personal career mark in wins of 14 (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson)

Ondrej Pavelec knocks aside one of the 50 Montreal shots he faced. The 47 saves made helped the Thrashers to their 21st win of the season and equaled his personal career mark in wins of 14 (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Paul Chiasson)

“[Pavelec’s] great every night”, Byfuglien said of his teammate. “He’s been stopping pucks for us all year long and that’s what we need. He gets the first one and we get the second one for him”.

“Our team’s all about having fun, working hard and playing together”, Buff added. “We’ve been doing all right this year”.

So, while we may continue to debate just who might or might not be the Thrashers first half of the season MVP, the same cast of characters have already begun to make their case for the second half and overall season MVP.

But one thing that cannot be debated is this: If Pavelec continues to kick out pucks to the degree he’s been doing… and Byfuglien continues to score big goals…. and Enstrom, Ladd, Thorburn, Little and [fill in any Thrashers player’s name here] continues to contribute their parts as well…we’ll be able to not only continue this debate for another three months and into April, but we’ll be able to argue which one was “most valuable” in getting this team into the playoffs.

Not a bad debate to have amongst friends, is it?

120 comments Add your comment

Zoomo

January 3rd, 2011
9:41 am

At this point of the season, Pavelec is the MVP. Stellar performance yesterday.

I sure hope the team starts to play better once they get some rest. Right now they look tired and unable to sustain any offensive pressure. Offensive zone puck position has been poor of late. Happy to win 2 of 3, but both wins were pretty ugly.

T

January 3rd, 2011
9:49 am

iamtheratio

January 3rd, 2011
9:59 am

I thought the Thrash hustled pretty well yesterday considering how fatigued everyone must be. However, the D must tighten up a bit and start only allowing 30 or less shots each game. This 50 shot crap needs to be corrected ASAP. It was still a BIG win but Pavs wont be able to stop that much rubber every night for the rest of the 40 or so games this season. AND we all know Mason can’t.

I was kinda of bummed yesterday when Corms didn’t get that goal and it was Kane. Even though it was a ridiculous play by Kane to score on his stomach. I really wanted Corms to get that first NHL goal.

Here’s hoping these few days off in Miami will be good for them. This Panthers team has been kinda decent lately (Last 10 games: 5-3-2) and Vokoun just shutout the Rangers 3-0.

World Be Free

January 3rd, 2011
10:02 am

Flash back to January 2010-all we were talking about was Kovy, “would he or wouldn’t he?”. Now the conversations are focused on the team, key players and coaches. So many different MVP candidates and contributors. And the fans are starting to show up again, less conversdation about the guy most fans want to run out of town. January 2011 is so much better, but we also have alotta work to do. Chris Versteeg maybe? Another Chicago boy with a heavy hand (Stanley Cup ring) would not hurt us.

Matt

January 3rd, 2011
10:03 am

OP is a GOD. Not THE God, but A god. That is exactly the kind of game this tired and struggling team needed. Can I switch my vote to Opie at this point for MVP?

Joe McGrath

January 3rd, 2011
10:22 am

Cornbread and WBF are on to something with Thor which leads me to wish Thor and Bogo could swap positions for the rest of the season–I’d feel much more comfortable.

Red Light

January 3rd, 2011
10:25 am

Enstrom about Pavelec…

“He has been playing really good for us every night. We haven’t been really helping him out much lately, but tonight (vs. Boston) he gave us a chance to win and we took it. It feels good to be back in the win column.

“The strong part about Pavelec, is that (even after allowing six goals in Pittsburgh) he comes back and plays hard. He wants to show everybody that he is among the the top goalies in the league.”

Will L

January 3rd, 2011
10:26 am

I initially was going to vote for Buff as first half mvp but when I thought about it for a second I had to go with Pavs. Buff has played Norris caliber so far but even more than that Pavs has been a ROCK, steady and consistent all season since he returned from the concussion. How many times have we been able to say that about a Thrashers goalie??

:)

January 3rd, 2011
10:43 am

Yeah, Buff’s been good but Pavelec’s been really amazing. If Tim Thomas wasn’t having such a crazy season, Pavelec would be the best goalie in the league. That’s just incredible.

Thrashers27

January 3rd, 2011
10:47 am

As I stated before, I cast my vote for OP. I also think OP should be a candidate for the All Star Game, but it’s not looking like he’ll get there. Which is ridiculous, considering that the only other goalie who has numbers even close to his is Tim Thomas….hopefully, he’ll be a “captain’s choice” under the new format.

ZAvalanche

January 3rd, 2011
10:54 am

The most important player on any team has to be the goalie and OP has been stellar. OP has been the #1 P.K. player and deserves the MVP. Buffy is fantastic and I can see why he is getting nods and as I have stated before, he is a brilliant acquisition.

However there is a problem with this latest win; there is NO reason that the 5 skating out of the net should ever allow 50 shots on goal. If that is a trend that continues, OP, as any other keeper in the league, is going to struggle. The D needs to tighten up and block more shots. Montreal is a good team but not great and there is no reason OP has to get that much rubber. He was lights-out AWESOME in that game! Definitely the MVP to this point.

Tom

January 3rd, 2011
10:54 am

I wonder if Dud’s is having trouble getting a dance partner for a trade. After he fleeced Chicago and New Jersey other GM’s must be wary of looking stupid on the other end of a Dudley/Thrasher trade.

That being said, I agree with World Be Free and am enjoying this January so much more than last January.

Here is hoping the boys are sitting on a nice warm beach in Florida nursing their hangovers and enjoying their days off. They definitely deserve it after the November and December they have gone through.

Zim

January 3rd, 2011
11:05 am

MVP is just fun fan fodder in my book. There have been some articulate and compelling arguments, but truth of the matter is that hockey (especially the hockey the Thrashers are playing) is a team game.

Without Pavelec’s goal-saving heroics, Byfuglien doesn’t get a chance to make a game-winning play. Without Byfuglien and company’s offensive success and help clearing the crease, then Ondrej cannot be giant in net.

The current focus of sports media in our age (looking at you ESPN) is to individualize the game; any game, really. As sports fans, we are funneled into a narrow scope of endless individualistic promotion.

Hockey is one of the few sports that held tradition to the representation of a team longer into electronic age than any other mainstream sport. Now, with sadness, I fear the individualistic branding of Sid vs. Ovi is replacing the more traditional draw of… say… Detroit vs. Colorado or Boston vs. Montreal.

The Thrashers have a had a different MVP each and every night. Many times it has been Pavelec, on other nights Dustin Byfuglien… Or how about Eric Boulton vs. New Jersey? Mason during the first stretch of games this season? Sopel and Hainsey as the best third pairing in the league? Anthony Stewart’s explosion offensively? Kane’s young leadership and grit? Peverley, Slater, Bogosian, Oduya, even Bergfors… I can think of games in which every Thrashers has stepped up and been a shifts most valuable player.

A fair argument can be made for Pavs and for Buff and for Toby, but my MVP is the Thrasher that steps up on Wednesday and creates an opportunity for two points in the standings.

Tom Lysiak

January 3rd, 2011
11:21 am

Let’s hope we hear something REALLY SOON on the long-term deals for Ladd and Buff. Jan 1st has come and gone, now let’s get this done.

On the fence about MVP. I voted for Buff and it seems the team goes as he goes. I love his attitude about playing in ATL also. But, I couldn’t argue that OP has been our rock either. Great argument to have….

Adam

January 3rd, 2011
11:28 am

While I do agree that OP & Buff have been playing at an MVP caliber level I cast my vote to Ladd. The reason being that I believe that his leadership since being name captain has been the catalyst for the results the team is seeing.

That being said I think the D needs a shake up. Either through line changes, call ups or a trade/signing. The D line of Johnny O & Bogo needs to be split ASAP. I’d like to see Hainsey moved up to the second pairing and move Bogo down to the 3rd.

Every team in the conference has games in hand on us and 6 of the next 10 are division games. They really need points in all 6 of those.

Red Light

January 3rd, 2011
11:34 am

BRAVO ZIM! You have articulated what I have felt along, that the NHL is trying to sell individuals!

“The current focus of sports media in our age (looking at you ESPN) is to individualize the game; any game, really. As sports fans, we are funneled into a narrow scope of endless individualistic promotion.

Hockey is one of the few sports that held tradition to the representation of a team longer into electronic age than any other mainstream sport. Now, with sadness, I fear the individualistic branding of Sid vs. Ovi is replacing the more traditional draw of… say… Detroit vs. Colorado or Boston vs. Montreal.”

In fact, that’s my biggest problem with the whole idea of bastardizing the Winter Classic as the “showcase” game for the NHL. It does nothing more than create a circus for one regular season game. That much focus on one game is ridiculous, as is not mentioning one of the best young players in the game — Nicklas Backstrom — during the entire telecast.

To a person, the players and coaches, all spouted the company line about the game. The telecast and camera angles were brutal, and if I hear Emrick scream about a 60-foot shot that has no chance of going in one more time this season, I am going to throw up.

One of my favorite discussions came last year with Nashville’s Jerred Smithson, who said the following…

““You watch the sport, and it’s always Ovechkin vs. Crosby this Sunday [on the TV promos]. With us, it’s the Nashville Predators take on Sidney Crosby. We don’t have those star guys. We’ve got some good players and some great young players that probably will be stars and maybe one day might get those huge pay days, but right now it’s just 20 guys that work hard. In our locker room it doesn’t matter who’s making what, or who gets the credit, and I think that’s a huge thing.

“I’ve played on teams before where some guys were selfish and wanted the goals, the money and all of the attention. Our team is the exact opposite. We’ve got 20 great guys in the room and it makes life a lot easier. There are no cliques and we have a tight-knit group here and I think it’s definitely paying off,” the Vernon, B.C., native said.

“Nashville’s a blue-collar city and I guess you could say we are a blue-collar team. We do make a lot of money and are very fortunate to have that opportunity, but in the big picture compared to other teams we’re fairly low on the totem pole when it comes to salaries,” Smithson related. “I know the fans appreciate our work ethic and we appreciate their support. They are always behind us 100 percent whether we’re losing 5-0 or up 5-0.”

Red Light

January 3rd, 2011
11:36 am

Got a floater Trixie, with a big pat on the back for Zim’s fabulous post!

Zoomo

January 3rd, 2011
11:41 am

I don’t disagree that Bogo / Oduya need a switch. That pairing has a high combined +/. But at this point I’d rather see us give Kulda or Postma a shot with Johnny O. Bogo is playing very tentatively. Maybe sit him for a bit. Meyer hasn’t looked like a good fill in to date.

Whatever we do, don’t break up Hainsey/Sopel. Sopel has been the perfect partner for Hainsey.

Trixie (Rawhide's Secretary)

January 3rd, 2011
11:43 am

Mr. Red Light – Your lengthy yet quite articulate 11:34 am post has been freed from Blog Pergatory.

And please be careful when using the term “floater”. I had no idea whether you needed a comment freed up or a plunger sent to the men’s room.

Zoomo

January 3rd, 2011
11:43 am

>>The telecast and camera angles were brutal
Total agreement. I could hardly follow the puck. The cameras were too far away.

Dwayne

January 3rd, 2011
11:44 am

As I posted last year(2010) the games in hand are a concern, but still a lot of hockey to play and it depends on what the other teams do with the games in hand.
Dont blame Bogo for Giontas goal, Gionta MUSCLED him out of the way….haha.
you cant spell mVP with out PaV!!!!

World Be Free

January 3rd, 2011
11:47 am

Tom-I forgot to mention that we do not have Todd White in our conversations this year as well. I will never forget the hairy eyeball Todd threw at Rawhide last year after White was the blog subject of his own futility.

Back to Chris Versteeg-he is on play now, Tronna needs younger, cheaper players. Versteeg is 24 years old and makes some good money. What would this team be with another guy who can open space? My issue-he will cost alot, probably a number 1 pick and I am loathe to give up number ones, unless we are clearly in the hunt for the Cup.

Rawhide

January 3rd, 2011
11:56 am

OK gang…as promised, the Thrashers are once again extending to us great deals on all 5 games in January.

Just like last time, click –>HERE<-- and enter promo code RAWHIDE.

See ya'll Friday night!

ZAvalanche

January 3rd, 2011
12:05 pm

@Zim – Well said and I agree. As an Avs fan (Thrashers too) I LOVED the older Colorado-Detroit matches, even if it were the regular season it felt like game 7 of the finals every time. But you have to remember that even in the 80’s the Gretzky-Dionne rivalry was billed as two players VS each other and not just the teams. But you are right about the individualization of the sport and I hope it is kept to a minimum. On the other hand – any press the NHL can get to have people pay attention to it is good press. Hands down the best game on tv any night.

iamtheratio

January 3rd, 2011
12:05 pm

Rawhide, they might need to work a few kinks out of those offers. I keep getting the message You have reached your ticket limit for this event. each time I try to find tickets.

World Be Free

January 3rd, 2011
12:08 pm

Cormier could very well end up being my favorite Thrasher before too long.

Joe Friday

January 3rd, 2011
12:12 pm

“Hockey is one of the few sports that held tradition to the representation of a team longer into electronic age than any other mainstream sport. Now, with sadness, I fear the individualistic branding of Sid vs. Ovi is replacing the more traditional draw of… say… Detroit vs. Colorado or Boston vs. Montreal.”

“Cormier could very well end up being my favorite Thrasher before too long.”

Buf and Ladd are going to be my favs for a long time (hopefully) but I am with you on Cormier, he is going to be a player and it’s easy to see why Dudley was so high on him. He was the prize in the Kovy deal.
Bingo. Always cheer for the crest on the front, not the name on the back. The players will come and go, we should be more in tune with this right now than most seeing how we have a team now, instead of that one name individual we had in the past.

Rawhide

January 3rd, 2011
12:13 pm

iamtheratio – I will forward that issue to them right away. Thanks.

Zim – Excellent points, my friend. As a whole I 100% agree with your comments about hockey being a team sport and the league focusing too much on certain individuals and individual matchups…cough…Crosby…cough…Ovechkin…
Saturday night I, my wife and a few others were making that comment while watching the Winter Classic held in Pittsburgh. There are really some great young & exciting teams out there that the NHL could very easily be promoting as well. Seems they think the average sports fan can’t get past a select few teams/players.

However, in holding this little online debate between Opie or Buff or Ladd or Toby being a theroectical first half MVP, the discussions themselves highlight that very point…that it has been a team effort involved so far because it tough to pick one clear “winner” to many. Thus, the real reason for the conversation.

Thrashers27

January 3rd, 2011
12:20 pm

Right on, Zim! That’s why I love this game, because it is about “TEAM”. Basketball, football are totally about individuals, even baseball to a degree spends too much time focused on individuals.

Hockey Rules!

bartdunwoody

January 3rd, 2011
12:30 pm

MVPerson would have to be Duds for putting all of this together.From the Kovy trade until now it is quite a remarkable job well done.

World Be Free

January 3rd, 2011
12:54 pm

Cormier was real good on faceoffs in the Bruins’ game. He is the full package as long as he can start scoring.

I normally don’t go for MVPs, but to me, this team won’t be anywhere with Pavs. Hockey goaltending is the hardest position in all of team sports and when you have a great goalie, you have the difference. Look at Buffalo, last season Miller was lights out and the Sabres were in first place. This year, Miller has been good but not lights out and the Sabres have fallen. If Buff played 30 minutes a game like Chara, I would nominate Buff-but he doesn’t. Sat behind the goal for the Broones game; Pavs performance removed any doubt that I may have had that he is our MVP, so far.

If he keeps this up, be will become like other elite goaltenders-he will start to get inside the heads of the opposing players; just like Hasek did.

Hollywould

January 3rd, 2011
12:57 pm

Pavelec is the man. Considering he is playing behind Sopel, Bogo, O’duya, and doing what he has done is incredible. Make a move Dudley/going nowhere with these guys on defense.

tommyt4

January 3rd, 2011
1:06 pm

Speaking of Todd White, I received a text from a bud back home in Hartford who has season tix to the Connecticut Whale (Rangers affiliate). Charmin has been sent down by NY and was replaced by Mats Zuccarello, who some of you may remember was quite exciting to watch during the olympics. Turns out being on Bill’s milk carton may not have been the low point for Mr. White…

Brendan

January 3rd, 2011
1:20 pm

Gotta keep on winning, as teams around us start to make up those games-in-hand.

iamtheratio

January 3rd, 2011
1:21 pm

Hollywould, I wouldn’t knock on Sopel or O’duya as much as Bogey. Both Sopes and O’duya have been pretty sound back there, especially with the amount of shots Sopel will get in front of. I even remember him diving down on Kovy’s one-timed PPG during the NJ game at Philips. If that thing would have hit him in the face he probably would have died. Yet, the puck was maybe 1 inch away from his face as he tries to block it.

You definitely need guys in this league that will do everything they can to block shots and make the right play. Have they made mistakes? Oh of course they have, everyone on this team has made a mistake or more, but they usually make the high percentage/safe play.

Bogey however is a bit of a different story, I’ll let you have that one. :)

World Be Free

January 3rd, 2011
1:40 pm

Time to contact the Islanders about what it would take to get Matt Moulson.

Mike W

January 3rd, 2011
1:42 pm

Not sure what hollywould has been watching with that comment about Sopel. He’s one of the hardest working D Men we’ve ever had. Just because he doesn’t put points up doesn’t mean he’s not contributing

KLS1

January 3rd, 2011
1:49 pm

We all better hope that Pavs is the MVP of this team if we get in the playoffs.

We could go pretty far riding a hot goalie!

kreedham

January 3rd, 2011
1:49 pm

How about Atlanta-Calgary in the Winter Classic?

Thrashers27

January 3rd, 2011
1:53 pm

Leighton on waivers according to Eklund. I say grab him and trade Mason.

Zombie Steve

January 3rd, 2011
1:56 pm

Pavs. I’m still rubbing my eyes to make sure that’s the same kid from last year!

cousin Eddie

January 3rd, 2011
2:08 pm

I’m a big fan of the whole Thrashers team being MVPs. No more individuals for this franchise. That is what killed this team in the first place. The Thrasher players and the coaches are my MVPs.

Not a big fan of Versteeg. I like his skill, but I question his impact on the locker room. I already think E.Kane is cocky enough, just imagine adding Versteeg to that. I like Matt Moulson. The kid has earned every good thing said about him.

As far a defense goes, I think it wouldn’t hurt to bring up Kulda to give Bogo some rest and time to learn from high above. I say Kulda because Bogo has more or less turned into a stay-at-home defensemen and Oduya has my trust as an offensive minded dman. So, I think Kulda would be the best fit and not interrupt anything in Ramsay’s system.

SomaAtl95

January 3rd, 2011
2:17 pm

“How about Atlanta-Calgary in the Winter Classic?”
Great idea kreedham, they could combine the Winter Classic and Heritage Classic to the same game, since it would be 2 Atlanta teams playing each other. Calgary can say what they want, they stole our first team and I hope we beat them for years to come.

AtlFlamesFan

January 3rd, 2011
2:19 pm

OP is the current MVP. Hopefully the D will tighten and he will not be called upon so often.

>>The telecast and camera angles were brutal
I too was getting nauseous watching the game. I was trying to figure out who to call at NBC to bitch about it. The NHL is using that game as a showcase, and if serious hockey fans cannot follow the game, how the hell can novices? The live game should only be shown via center ice camera. All those other angles should be reserved for replays only. I noticed they quit using that overhead camera in the 3rd period. Maybe they fired the director after the 2nd period.

7:30 tonight on the NHL Network is USA vs Canada in the semifinals of the World Junior Championships. USA…USA…USA….

Thrashers Fan

January 3rd, 2011
2:21 pm

GO Thrashers, Come oooooooooooooooooooooooooon. Keep up with a good work. This is going to be an exciting year.

litz

January 3rd, 2011
2:26 pm

kreedham – now THAT would be interesting …

Cornbread

January 3rd, 2011
2:36 pm

Good stuff folks and thanks for the plug Rawhide. Very nice Zim. But at the same time, I’ve heard from a lot of non-hockey fans that 24/7 and the Winter Classic have opened their eyes to hockey being the last professional true team sport. I agree about Ovie/Sid and think that’s why so many pull against them. Kinda like Tiger Woods, you don’t have to like him or be a fan of theirs but you gotta respect them if your a fan of the game. The constant individual hype gets old to those of us that follow the game, but, for those who don’t, I think it attracts increased interest.

That is also one reason why I hope the NHL stays on Versus. It is their marquee sports package and they have become very good at it. Put it on ESPN and it gets less dedication or buried or fluffed-up or hyped into the latest soap opera of Kovalchuk. Don’t get me wrong, I’d like to see hockey on ESPN because I think it will help the sport grow, but only a game or two a week and as a secondary outlet.

Thankfully the Winter Classic is only once a year. It attracts great interest from fans and non-fans alike which can only help the sport grow and keep all of those Southern franchises from moving back to Canada. You know it will have succeeded when the Thrashers play the Habs in the GA Dome. Hell will truly have frozen over. But as a true hockey fan I have found the hockey in all four events to be less than NHL caliber. It’s slow and gimmicky but maybe that helps with the non-fan learning this very fast game.

As for the MVP, I think all the Thrashers are worthy candidates. They have all bought into the team concept before Coach Ramsay got a hold of them in training camp – think Big Buff hoisting the Stanley Cup in a Thrashers’ jersey before he even set foot in the ATL. I like Chris Thorburn because he is that ultimate team guy. He is out there every night giving 110% and doing whatever it takes to get the team win and often goes unrecognized for his effort, unlike some flashy individual goal scorers of the past.

The Coach made some great points yesterday in his two-part interview with Darrin Elliot. He commented on where the team is – ahead of where he expected – and what needs to be done to get them to the next level. Of note was broadening individual roles to benefit the team on special teams and working on neutral zone play to keep the puck from getting in the Thashers’ zone as easily and often.

I like this team’s D-zone play and breakout. I truly believe it is the best I have ever seen from the Thrashers despite the high shots and goals against. Pavs is going to stop the first one and – sometimes spectacularly – the second and third, but the D and forwards, the team, have been there “fronting” all year to clear out much of the garbage. They have options on the breakout and it is becoming a thing of beauty to watch. The problem is they have been doing all of it too much. Increase the time and puck possession in the other end and make the other team turn it over in the neutral zone. Do that and you will cut down on the shots against and scoring chances dramatically.

Who wouldn’t like to see that? It’s the difference between good and great teams. Play good defence before the puck gets in your zone. It’s not a trap or a lock but smart and confident team play… quick pressure on the puck carrier from all, third man high, pinching D down the wall, hold the blue lines, gap control, sticks in lanes… Pressure off of a too young but highly skilled Zach Bogosian in his own zone anyone? It all starts with the team’s play away from their end.

This Coach knows that and he knows how to get it done from everyone. What’s more important is this team will listen to him – no more crying about rolling four lines. They now have the time to work on their game and get back to Atlanta Thrashers’ hockey, unlike the ridiculous schedule of the past month that took not only a physical toll but also caused them to get away from all those “little things” and revert back to bad habits. The schedule is now in their favor. They have the least amount of playoff contenders to face in the league at 23, which they have fared very well against going 13-11-6, and still get to play 17 softies – 9 at home.

The Atlanta Thrashers are a very good hockey team. They are going to the playoffs this year. And, if they can put it all together at the right time, they may just find themselves as the South East Division Champions again. They have set themselves up nicely for it in the first half with solid team play. I expect they will only get better and more importantly I believe the players and coaches not only expect it but know it too.

Cornbread

January 3rd, 2011
2:39 pm

NOOO! Why is this happening to me!? Uh, Trixie, Rawhide… a lttle help again please at 2:37…

Hollywould

January 3rd, 2011
3:04 pm

Mike W, Sopel is so slow it drives me nuts. There are plenty of “hard-working” players in the league but that does not equal out to production. What bothers me is he cannot get the puck out of our end
and neither can O’duya.

Thrashers27

January 3rd, 2011
3:14 pm

Bogosian is the worst at getting it out of the defensive zone. I cringe everytime he is trying to clear the puck. Gotta say he looked a tad better in Montreal though.