Things haven’t exactly been hunky-dory in Thrasherville during the month of January.
A 3-4-3 record and winners of just one regular season game since New Years had the team clinging desperately to their eighth place position in the Eastern Conference. Key players have been bitten by the injury bug to the point that a M.A.S.H. unit could have been stationed outside of the practice facility at the Duluth Ice Forum.
Not Slater, No Kane, No Mason and most recently, No Toby. All tending to various ailments.
Players like Dustin Byfuglien and Alex Burmistrov have been mired in scoring slumps…Big Buff being held goalless since his overtime game winner in Montreal on the second of January while the rookie hasn’t dented the score sheet since assisting on Byfuglien’s goal during a 3-1 loss in New Jersey on New Years Eve.
And then there’s Ondrej Pavelec…who at times could have sued his teammates for non-support…finally fell to “human” status in the past few weeks, going 3-4-3 with a .898 SV% going into Wednesday’s game against the Washington Capitals.
There were multiple third period leads lost as well a couple blowout defeats that had many fans faces displaying that all-too familiar “Gloom, despair and agony on me…deep dark depression, excessive misery” look.
Adding to the dark clouds hovering around Philips Arena was this whole mess surrounding the owner’s admission of having lied to us for six years about looking to sell the team. This last little revelation coming via “A.S., LLC Lawsuit 2011”…the latest in a string of seemingly endless legal battles The Great Octocluster has sought to venture into.
Nope…it was not a good month at all.
So, with all this swirling about, the All Star break staring us in the face and the Carolina Hurricanes ridding up our butts, if there was ever a time that the Thrashers really, really…I mean REALLY needed a regulation win, this was it my friends.
Thankfully, they got just that.
Atlanta limps into All Star weekend still sitting in a playoff position thanks to 36 save shutout by Pavelec and one, single, solitary goal by Nik Antropov. For Opie, it was the third goose egg he’s laid upon the scoreboard and the fifth of his NHL career. Antropov’s goal, which came just in the …ahem…”Nik” of time, was scored halfway through the second period and was set up by Fredrik Modin. The secondary assist went to defenseman Ron Hainsey.
That’s right, Antropov, Modin and Hainsey…three of the fastest skaters on the roster teaming up for the only score of the game.
The win gives Atlanta a record of 24-19-9 heading into the break and the 57 points keeps them one point ahead of the Canes, who were in the process of knocking off the New York Islanders 4-2. Seventh place Montreal is two ahead of the Thrashers with 59 points.
Both the Hurricanes and the Habs have played two fewer games, however.
Atlanta also concluded their six game series with division foes Washington with the 1-0 win. They’ll finish with a 4-1-1 record against the three-time Southeast Division champs, including a 3-0-0 record at Philips Arena. The last two home games were shutouts victories by the Thrashers.
One last bit of good news coming from this win…Atlanta’s penalty kill unit continued to shows some signs of improvement. In killing off three Caps’ power plays, Atlanta has successfully worked their way though 12 of the last 14 PK situation over the course of the last five games since allowing 4 power play goals to the Dallas Stars.
There is a lot of work this team has facing it after they return to action next week…and there’s a lot of work the front office needs to do to help them as they continue to battle for a playoffs birth this spring. But these two points earned tonight not only go long way towards that goal, it also ends a very rough month of January on a winning note.
The team needed that…and so did we.
By: Bill Tiller – AJC.com Thrashers Fan Blog