It’s here, gang…Groundhog Day, that is. No, not the annual celebration that comes on February 2 when the meteorology world turns it’s eyes toward rodents to prognosticate the weather. I’m talking about the Bill Murray movie in which a Pittsburgh weatherman experiences the torment of repeating the same day over…and over…and over…and over…and over again.
For three straight times, the Thrashers and their opponents have required the individual skills competition known as a shootout to determine the winner of an otherwise tied game. The past two, versus Tampa Bay and the New York Rangers, have seen them fail to protect a 2-1 lead at the second intermission and watch the visiting team skate away with the much-coveted second point in the standings.
Last Monday, it was they who snatched away two points down in Florida after trailing 2-0 late in the third.
I can just imagine radio voice of the Thrashers Dan Kamal as he brings the game to Thrasherville bemoaning yet again, “…and there’s the horn ending the overtime period. We’ll go to the shootout tied 2-2”
Then again, “…and there’s the horn ending the overtime period. We’ll go to the shootout once more tied 2-2”.
Once more last night, “…and there’s that BLASTED horn again ending the game before SOMEBODY can win it the old fashioned way…with an actual, honest to goodness goal. Instead, we’ll now go to YET ANOTHER stinkin’ shootout”!
Five times this month the Thrashers and their opponents have required extra time to determine a winner and seven of the last thirteen games have done so as well. They are 3-4 in those games dating back to the overtime loss to the Lightning one day after Christmas.
This morning, the Thrashers woke up in Tampa, Florida for a game later this afternoon with the Lightning. There’s no word yet if the song that greeted them as the alarm clocks went off was Sonny and Cher’s “I’ve Got You Babe”… but the way things have been going, I wouldn’t really be surprised.
What should also come as little surprise is that the previous three times these teams have met, it took longer than 60 playing minutes to find a winner. Twice it’s needed a shootout, once just took a little bit of overtime. In each case, however, the Groundhog Day effect took over and the Atlanta squad watched the Bolts skate away with the win.
Multiplying the Groundhog Day torment of repeating the same day…or game…over and over again, the Thrashers have lived the nightmare of watching the Lightning come out on top for ten straight times. As you all know by now, they haven’t beaten their division foes since opening night 2009, and today marks the last time they’ll get a chance to do so before next fall.
That’s assuming we don’t draw them in the playoffs, which is not only a distinct possibility…but the way things have gone lately, just might be fitting in the eyes of irony.
Now if I may take a stab at trying to find some sort of good in this Groundhog Day scenario that has befallen Thrasherville, it might just turn out that this stretch of games turns out to be a bit of a blessing for us.
No, really…stick with me on this.
If I may return to Murray’s character in the movie…remember, he was doomed to repeat the same day over and over again until he finally “got it” as far as just who he was and what the people around him really meant to him. He was forced into time’s revolving door until he was able to work things out that needed to be.
The Thrashers are struggling somewhat as they work their collective ways through a rough part of the schedule in which multiple key players are healing. They’ve been forced to plug in just replacements as Nigel Dawes, Freddy Meyer, Tim Stapleton and Spencer Machacek until players like Jim Slater and Evander Kane can mend properly…and Zach Bogosian can get figured out whatever it he needs to get figured out.
But through it, they’ve managed to procure 4 points in the three games that followed a four-game losing streak in which the Thrashers were outscored 24-9. That’s nothing to get all goose-pimply about, mind you, but it’s better than hanging another goose egg in the regulation loss column.
OK, maybe some of you might think that’s going a long way towards trying to find the silver lining in the dark cloud that hovers over Thrasherville after a second straight shootout loss. But if Atlanta does find there way into the postseason dance by just a point or two…or the difference between two of the playoff positions is won by the same slim margin…then we can look at this string of games in a better light.
Every team struggles somewhat and has to work through some issues during the course of the season. If you can get through those tough times while collection at least some points at the same time…well then, that helps.
But one thing is for sure. The Thrashers have to find a way, and soon, to hold these third period leads and skate away with the second point. This is especially true when facing division opponents and conference teams battling with them for playoff positioning. Otherwise, when spring finally makes its way here, another annual nightmare may repeat itself in Thrasherville…no playoffs.
And we don’t need any smelly groundhog to scurry back into his hole after seeing his shadow to tell us that.
By: Bill Tiller – AJC.com Thrashers Fan Blog