I understand the weathermen in Atlanta are predicting some snow to come through these parts later this weekend. But even before the residents of north Georgia swarmed the local Publix and Kroger stores to strip the bread and milk shelves bare, the Toronto Maple Leafs came to town and built a snowman in Philips Arena. A snowman, that’s 8 on the scoreboard… in the first two periods alone!
That’s right, by the time the teams retired to their respective locker rooms for the second intermission, the Leafs had dropped an eight-spot on the Thrashers on their way to a 9-3 thrashing of our hometown ice birds.
After Friday night’s craptacular effort, it’s hard to remember that it was a one-goal game halfway though the second period. Yes…it was 2-1 Leafs at the midpoint of the game, but that’s when everything seemed to go to Hell in a hand basket.
In a seven minute and forty-three minute span, Toronto dropped six goals in on Thrashers netminders…two on starting goalie Ondrej Pavelec, three on backup Chris Mason, and then another on Opie who was put back in between the pipes by coach Craig Ramsay with just 46 seconds left in the period.
For a while there late in the middle period, it was almost as if Opie and Mason wee taking regular shifts with the rest of the skaters.
Now at this time, I’m going to play my “It was only one game” card. Sure it was a stink bomb and deserves its rightful place alongside of other debacles of Thrashers past, and maybe a proper amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth is appropriate by fans on the blogosphere…if nothing else to help in the healing process. But this is a different team then those of the past, and I won’t let it deter me from looking forward to what this team can accomplish this season.
Just about everyone on the team deserves some share of the blame for this odiferous effort. They’ll learn from it hopefully and apply the lessons to future endeavors. The zero collected in the standings after a 9-3 loss is just the same as dropping a 3-2 decision and the important thing here is to not allow it to spill over into tomorrow’s game in Carolina.
What cannot be overlooked or swept under the rug here is the fact that five of the Leafs scores came while Atlanta was attempting to kill off the on-ice transgressions of one player…Ben Eager. I don’t know if that’s some kind of NHL record or not, but I can’t recall another time in which one player’s time in the sin-bin led to that many goals.
In the first period he had doubled his penalty pleasure by adding a cross checking penalty after a roughing minor. Then in the third after he ambushed Colby Armstrong in the corner, striking him with the stick in his hand, the Leafs were given a five-minute man advantage in which they could score at will.
Turns out, they had a lot of will.
Obviously, Eager’s actions put his teammates in a rough position all night. He played right into Armstrong’s game when he sucker punched him from behind. As we observed for a couple years here, Colby has no issue with taking the occasional…shall we say… “inexpensive” shot on opposing players. Some might call him “scrappy” or an “agitator”… a player that adds a certain degree of “sandpaper” to the game. Others still may chose to use the term “cheap-shot artist”. However, he’s not really one to man up, drop the gloves and go toe to toe with an opponent he may have taken issue with during the game.
Regardless, I’m sure Mr. Eager will be sitting a few games out for his actions and surrendering a significant portion of his pay to the league office. And that’s as it should be.
Certainly coach Craig Ramsay was none-to-pleased with what went down on the play either saying, “We want our players to play hard. We want them to play physical with body checks and fight for the puck. We can’t condone that”.
A few weeks back, someone close to the organization clued me in that Ben Eager has not made a lot of friends in the Thrashers locker room. After his actions Friday night I don’t think he’s won over many more. As the good coach said, you want hard-nosed, gritty players…players that are even willing to drop the mitts in defense of a teammate who may have been treated unkindly by an opponent. But you don’t need someone who will put you in the kind of spot Eager did by losing governance of his sense and reasoning.
That’s not exactly the “smart” brand of hockey Ramsay has sought to teach this team.
Given his play this season, the amount of penalties he takes, his reported discourse in the locker room, what seems to be a near-permanent place in Craig Ramsay’s doghouse…and then last night … I wouldn’t mind if Friday night was the last time we see Ben Eager in a Thrashers jersey. When he is cleared to play again after serving whatever suspension he surely should receive, it wouldn’t bother me a bit if he becomes a fixture in the press box, the Thrashers dealt him away for a fifth or sixth round draft choice…or just waved him with intent to release from contract.
Is Ben Eager THE sole reason the Thrashers plopped a steaming, heaping pile of FAIL on the ice Friday night? Nope…plenty of blame to go around there, that’s for sure. But he’s not been a lot of help and last night his actions were an embarrassment.
And that’s worse than simply losing a hockey game…even if it was of the 9-3 variety.