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

Matt

January 4th, 2011
4:44 pm

Can someone please explain to me how in the World Pavs is not among the top TWENTY SEVEN vote getters for goalie in the All-Star game? What a joke. And Enstrom got royally hosed as well for the D-Men.

Spud Webb

January 4th, 2011
4:57 pm

Montador is solid, love that guy and Morrison. Low key, bring the wood and would be AWESOME here in the ATL. WBF & Redlight you both know, the sabres will start dealing & soon. It’s not going to turn around up there. With or without pretty boy roy, that ship has sailed. Miller will play his contract out and then go to a contender. Serious issues up there in buffalo. So there are a few players that can be picked from them, do NOT go for stafford, pominville. Hecht is a heck of a two way player.

Tom Lysiak

January 4th, 2011
7:44 pm

After winning the lottery tonight AND purchasing the Thrashers, I will make one promise to everyone here.

Like Waddell, I will not answer emails from the SOB. The rest of you are golden.

World Be Free

January 4th, 2011
7:47 pm

Spud, here’s hoping the new owner will fire Darcy first day, Larry the second day and bring in a hockey man. I agree with you on Miller, 2 years tops unless the new owner has a desire to win. Golisano needs to head to FLA and stay there. Not sure if they are going to deal or not but Montidor will the odd defenseman out, 2nd year of a 2 year deal.

Tampa has made 2 deals, you know others in the division will start doing the same real soon. Bergeron will help TB’s power play, but he is a liability on the back line. Which goalie is the odd man out in Tampa?

R. Stroztradamus

January 4th, 2011
8:05 pm

Dwayne – My prediction will occur around 11:05 tonight.

ThrashHead

January 4th, 2011
8:49 pm

Pierre LeBrun indicating that the Thrashers are kicking tires on Kris Versteeg. Hmmmm, another Hawks addition that RD is familiar with? Perhaps Bergfors may be the trade bait?

razorneck13

January 4th, 2011
9:58 pm

Since the Winter Classic got brought up…

Yeah it’s gimmicky, way too gimmicky. First off it should NOT be hosted in any market that’s nontraditional. No, Pittsburgh is not a traditional market and most NHL markets aren’t.

It should be hosted in Northeast division towns, Calgary, Edmonton, Detroit, Minnesota, you know places where water freezes naturally and people play hockey on it for a few months. I’ll even throw em a bone and say Chicago is acceptable, but it’s silly to romanticize the games outdoor roots in Pittsburgh when it’s raining.

It’s also a much better sport than the NHL’s sales guys might realize…Crosby and Ovechkin don’t necessarily make a game anymore entertaining than one without them. I’m frankly sick to death of watching their respective teams and it’ll be a disgrace to the games history to pull another ill advised Winter Classic like this last one.

Smoothie

January 4th, 2011
10:48 pm

Not sure why TOR would want Bergy over Versteeg but perhaps they like the affordability of NB and the fact he is 3 – 4 yrs younger right. Is Versteeg a UFA at the end of this year or only 1 year left as a RFA.

If there is legit interest on both sides, and ASG is willing to pony up, I’d love to see us get KV and Beauchemin for Kulda (Postma is the future), Aliu and our #1 since it will in theory be a higher 1st in the 15 -26 range. We’re in a great position assuming new deals are close w/ Buff and Laddy. Surely Versteeg wood give us serious L/T consideration as well if things were to work out.

It’s nice to daydream eh? :-)

R. Stroztradamus

January 4th, 2011
11:02 pm

4-8-15-25-47 and 42

Red Light

January 5th, 2011
8:08 am

Don’t forget Rivet. He couldn’t even find a place on the ice for two months in Buffalo. Not sure he brings anything in return though. 6th round pick maybe? Don’t want him here, but he’s another of the odd men out in Buffalo. Waivers?

World Be Free

January 5th, 2011
8:09 am

Smoothie-I think Versteeg has one more RFA year. That would mean we are getting ready to commit alotta $$$ to Versteeg, Ladd, Buff and a few others. I don’t think Bergie is a Brian Burke kinda guy. Burke is looking to win now, which begs the question-why would the Loafs shop Versteeg in the first place?

GaVaHokie

January 5th, 2011
8:16 am

Bad night for Kovalchuk… two turnovers, one leads to a goal on Hedberg… Kovy also scored on his own net on a mid-ice deflection that caught Moose out of the net.

Kovalchuk a league worst -29.

GaVaHokie

January 5th, 2011
8:19 am

In All Star news… EJ Hradek (per twitter) seems to think Pavalec will get selected. Not sure I agree personally… not that he doesn’t deserve it, but with so many Penguins selected and every team needing to be represented, I think only one player makes the team. I would say that player is Buff.

Alan R.

January 5th, 2011
9:06 am

-29 takes hard work and dedication.

Red Light

January 5th, 2011
9:36 am

WBF: I agree that the Versteeg trade talks make no sense after having just signed him to a two-year deal and RFA rights remaining. I guess since the Toronto media hasn’t been able to talk about another deal for Kaberle for the 587,000th time, that they are now focusing on another player. 10 goals, 15 assists and 28 blocked shots isn’t too bad at this juncture of the season and at little more than $3 million per year, what’s the downside of keeping him if you’re Toronto?

I think Beauchemin is a more likely target at $3.8 million. A 30 year-old defenseman and former Cup winner who blocks shots, hits and moves the puck could bring a nice return for Burke. He’s got $11 million being freed up after this season with Giguere, Sjostrom and Kaberle, and subtracting Beauchemin gets him to almost $15 million in Cap space.

If Phaneuf, Komisarek, Schenn and Kessel constitutes the Leafs core — each are signed through 2013-14 — then few of the rest on the current roster will remain during the next few seasons, but I’d be a bit surprised if Versteeg is indeed shopped, unless the return is too good to pass up.

Rawhide

January 5th, 2011
9:36 am

Well, once again…R. Stroztradamus failed to provide the necessary info in time. So here I am at work again today.

…sigh…

Oh well, at least we can still discuss the Thrasher’s catfight in SoFLA tonight.

Red Light

January 5th, 2011
9:37 am

Ranallo’ed again!

Joseph Durocher

January 5th, 2011
12:07 pm

Bill, the Thrashers are fortunate that they have two players – Byfuglien and Pavelec – who are playing so well. In fact – if we’re honest – we’ll admit that their play has been better than was (and could have been) expected. It takes precisely that – overwhelming performances by key players – in order to enjoy team success. Those two guys are the big reason the team remains in the top-8.

Despite the best efforts of the dynamic duo, the Thrashers are allowing far too many goals. While Dusty has been able to pick up points and remain on the right side of the plus/minus score, guys like Oduya (-10), Peverley (-10), Bogosian (-9), Ladd (-7), Antropov (-7), Dawes (-6 in six games) and Meyer (-5 in eight games) are hurting the team. Mason – with his 3.66 GA and .896 SP – may have to spend a lot of time on the bench in the second half. Imagine if he had been in net in Montreal. If they are not significantly stronger in their own end – for the rest of the season – the Thrashers will not last long in the postseason, assuming they make it that far.

R. Stroz

January 5th, 2011
10:23 pm

Rawhide

January 8th, 2011
11:16 am

R. Stroz – Nope.