Thrashers vs. Devils – A tale of two teams

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

I take you back to December 18, 2010, the last time the New Jersey Devils played in Atlanta. They slumped out of town after being drubbed 7-1 behind an Eric Boulton hat trick and their overall record fell to 9-21-2. The Thrashers, however, saw their position in the NHL standings elevate to 18-11-5 and the 41 points earned after just 31 games were enough to place them atop the Southeast Division.

The lone goal scored by the visiting team that night was former Thrashers Ilya Kovalchuk. It was only his 8th of the season thus far.

We in Thrasherville were dancing in the streets with joy as we experience a type of success not often seen in these parts. Two days after crushing the Devils, they traveled to Toronto and blew away the Leafs 6-3 and whispers of “Jack Adams” floated around Craig Ramsay. Truly, it was the best of times.

Devils fans, on the other hand, were left dealing with the exact same kind of misery we usually are accustomed to…losing and lingering around the bottom of the standings. Surely it was among the worst of times for them.

Oh how times have changed.

The following week, following a 5-1 loss to Washington, the Devils relieved head coach John MacLean. 9 wins in 33 games, it would seem, is unacceptable for the New Jersey organization. That, plus it would appear there is no rule up there which states that a long-time assistant and AHL coach must be given a year or two into his first NHL head coaching job before determining whether or not things are working out.

Stepping back behind the bench for the Devils was their former coach Jacques Lemaire and the rest, as they say, is history.

After losing 5-1 to the Islanders, 4-1 to Toronto and 3-1 to the Rangers, the Devils welcomed in the Atlanta Thrashers for a New Years Eve matchup. The result was a 3-1 win for the Devils. They used that victory to then catapult themselves to a 30-7-2 record so far in calendar year 2011…including a ridiculous 20-2-2 run.

As for that Kovalchuk fellow…he’s netted 10 goals and 9 assists in the last 17 games, six of which were game-winners. Oh yeah…and he’s a +11 in those games as well.

In their most recent game they fell 2-1 to the last place in the east Ottawa Senators, but the Devils still remain as hot as the flames of Hell. So much so that Lemaire is now being given serious consideration for the Jack Adams Award… even if they do fail to make the playoffs.

Conversely… even though the Thrashers have found a way to win two straight games in overtime this past week, they’ve sunk like a rock in the standings in the past several weeks. Since we watched the Devils slip out of town with their forked tails tucked between their legs last December, they have gone 10-17-6…8-13-5 since the defeat in New Jersey to end 2010…4-9-2 since the All Star break.

Only three times since the Thrashers high-water mark last December have they denied an opponent two points for a win or even one consolation point for at least getting the game into overtime. They’ve procured 24 points in the standings since then, but have given away 42.

Too many times we’ve seen a minor setback in a game turn into a major crisis. One goal scored against us turned into a second one seconds later…three or four more before all was said and done. Skaters have quit before the second period was complete, pucks wind up in our goal after a failure to clear the defensive zone, the offense went AWOL for a period of time and adjustments made by the opposition went unanswered.

Now, as the two teams again prepare to face off at Philips Arena just three months later…they both find themselves clinging to their slim postseason chances, each with little to no margin of error remaining to play with.

As for the Thrashers, I would think that unless they can extend their current two-game winning streak to four, five or even six games with wins over the Devils and Philadelphia Flyers their hopes for the playoffs are all but gone. If they are unable to do so, then the remaining games will serve only to determine where they’ll end up in this summer’s draft.

But as we’ve seen with New Jersey, until a team is mathematically eliminated anything can happen. That’s why they play the games after all.

Regardless, when you watch these two teams take the ice tonight you’ll be watching a tale of two different teams…two different organizations…play out the final chapters of a season that has taken two separate paths since they last met here.

128 comments Add your comment

Red Light

March 11th, 2011
11:09 am

Ilya Kovalchuk averaged 300 shots-on-goal per season for his last seven seasons in Atlanta, and took 12.7% of all Thrashers shots from the start of the 2005-06 season to Feb. 2, 2010 (and that stat includes 10 games he missed due to injury). In NJ, he has taken 11.1% of all Devils shots (including one missed game), but is averaging a half-shot less per game for the Devils.

I’m afraid the king of all shot-hogs, however, is Ovechkin, who has taken 16.7% of all Capitals shots since the start of the 2005-06 season, averaging 5.33 shots per game.

Since Lemaire left after last season, he has coached 10 new players (since coming back to NJ in late December) that weren’t on the roster last April.

Another must-win game, the third this week!

Red Light

March 11th, 2011
11:12 am

Stats of former Thrashers playing against their former team…
Gm. G A P +/-
Heatley 18 10 9 19 -1
Hossa 4 4 2 6 +6
Kovalchuk 3 2 0 2 -3
Savard 16 2 13 15 +8
Dupuis 12 0 2 2 +2
Belanger 6 1 1 2 +4
Brunette 9 6 6 12 -1

Alan R.

March 11th, 2011
11:12 am

Another must-win game, the third this week!

If we lose this one, though, we might as well start planning for the lotto.

Red Light

March 11th, 2011
11:15 am

Blake Wheeler talked about Craig Ramsay and how he hasn’t changed his approach from his days as a Bruins assistant to being the Thrashers head coach.

“He’s identical. He hasn’t changed a bit. I am really excited about the opportunity to play for Rammer because, myself included, everyone in Boston just loved him as an assistant coach. He was just a really popular assistant on our team, someone who guys always looked to for honest advice. He never sugarcoats anything. When I came here, I was probably expecting him to be a bit more serious or a little bit different, but he’s the same exact guy. He is just so positive back there. He’ll let you know when you screw up and that’s what you want as a player, to hear how it is, and that’s what you get with Rammer.”

SomaAtl95

March 11th, 2011
11:21 am

Hoping for another unexpected Thrashers hattie tonight! Hopefully the October – November – December Thrashers are playing tonight because the Jan – Feb – March Thrashers have not been impressive.
Besides, I’m getting tired of some blogs referring to #17 as the “Leader” of the “Miracle Devils” Hopefully Kovy plays with as much care as he played here when writing was on the wall.
Will he be Booed every time he touches the puck?

JB

March 11th, 2011
11:24 am

he was last time. he was my favorite player when he was here and pretty much the reason I became a thrashers fanatic and I even caught myself booing him every time he had the puck.

…beer might have had something to do with it :-)

ZAvalanche

March 11th, 2011
11:46 am

Before I get on with the Devils, just want to share an interesting article regarding the Chara hit, Air Canada threatening to remove their NHL sponsorship, and Bettman firing back. Written by Adrian Dater from the Denver Post (certainly no C-Viv or Rawhide), but good writing and info at any rate. Check it: http://blogs.denverpost.com/avs/2011/03/10/air-canada-threatens-to-pull-nhl-sponsorship-over-player-safety-concerns-seven-years-after-sponsoring-games-in-which-todd-bertuzzi-has-played/6641/ .

Rawhide

March 11th, 2011
11:46 am

Another reminder for you all of the Thrashers viewing party at TJ tomorrow night. It’s located on Holcomb Bridge Road in Alpharetta.

If you’re attending, please be sure to bring food items for the drive to help stock Atlanta area food banks. You’ll receive a raffle ticket to win Thrashers items just for showing up plus additional ones for every 5 food item brought.

Hope to see yaou all there.

moriler

March 11th, 2011
11:51 am

At least one thing is good: if we make the playoffs this year, we’ll have been playing hot to do it. And history has shown across many sports that hot teams coming into the playoffs tend to outperform teams who’ve just coasted in.

Smoothie

March 11th, 2011
11:58 am

Kovy’s 22 goals, while a seemingly paltry sum for him as a Devil, would look mighty good right now in the Thrashers goals for column, eh? We’ve lost probably close to two dozen games by one goal and we’re 12-11 in OT/SO or something along those lines. Just think if we had Kovy’s 9 GWG in addition to Byfuglien’s 6 GWG. Oh wait, we’d have to have owner’s who gave a crap to pull that off. I daresay we’d be looking at a 4 or a 5 seed right about now despite our near 3.00 adjusted GA average.

Wayne stuck in AL

March 11th, 2011
12:02 pm

Jacques Lemaire > Craig Ramsay

BLUELANDbeliever

March 11th, 2011
12:05 pm

theres a reason we (i) call him kovalsuk and im pretty sure lemaire knows why. I miss his skill, not him.

ZAvalanche

March 11th, 2011
12:08 pm

I don’t know Smoothie, Kovy, while he is a good player, seemed to have a very childish attitude. Yes, if Thrashy could get the “I want to play hard” Kovy then yes, I would love to have him. He just plain gave up here and was collecting his check without regard to how he earns it.

Eileen

March 11th, 2011
12:10 pm

I will take Ladd’s 20 plus goals over Kovalchuk.

Tom Lysiak

March 11th, 2011
12:12 pm

Yep, big changes since that 7-1 blowout. I gleefully wore my #17 jersey that night with “Team Killer” taped over the previous name. It seemed to really be the case back then. Well, it appears Lou realized the coach and his system were the actual problem and voila….here we are. I’m not wishing #17 was still playing here as I believe it was time for a split. But, they have figured things out there and Lou is no longer a laughing stock around the league. I wish we could figure out the problem here (besides idiot ownership).

Tom Lysiak

March 11th, 2011
12:14 pm

Also, I thought Ladd’s signing was imminent???

World Be Free

March 11th, 2011
12:14 pm

I think we have booed Kovalchuk enough-time for the team to show Kovy he made a mistake by wanting to leave town by beating his team while they are not. Not to say he was wrong for wanting to follow the hockey crowd out of town-it’s the way it was done that stinks.

Saying it again-Buff on forward. He’s not the different on defense, so why not move him somewhere where he can truly make an impact? Observe the look on opposing defenses when he heads to the net-their shorts get a little heavy.

Red Light

March 11th, 2011
12:15 pm

Marty Brodeur has seven career shutouts against the Thrashers including five at Philips Arena.

h

March 11th, 2011
12:16 pm

Sorry Smoothie…I’ll take any of the other 28 players who have more goals (and better +/-) than him at a much cheaper price (other than Ovy who is more expensive…but I’d take him first too)…..Guess I’d take him over Kessel….maybe….but in theory, I agree that we could use another 20 goal scorer. Nobody woulkd deny that.

hip czech

March 11th, 2011
12:19 pm

and whispers of “Jack Adams” floated around Craig Ramsay

now there are screams of “Jack Daniels”

World Be Free

March 11th, 2011
12:22 pm

ZAvs-thank for the lnk, always good to get the perspective from other cities. I actually like Bettman’s retort-basically, the door wings both ways.

I like Air Canada, but I liked CP Air better when I flew them in the mid 80’s. The funniest things about Air Canada is when they have a flight delay because the plane is being cleaned-”stand by while the plane is being groomed”. I am flying in a plane or a dog?

hip czech

March 11th, 2011
12:31 pm

I’m still in the camp that Chara should have gotten some punishment…especially when the league turns around and hands Kubina a 3 game suspension the next day.

But, the civil authorities stepping in is idiotic, as is the Air Canada threat. If we go down that path then next time Cindy Crosby punches below the belt the state of Georgia can step in and press charges (though it might result in a hung jury).

LAC

March 11th, 2011
12:34 pm

Red Light, Yes Brodeur has whipped us several times… However on the last visit here we CHASED him as we have done four times in his career. He has handled us several times, but WE have handled him as well at times. I just hope we play a tough game with them and another 7-1 win would be…. refreshing !

World Be Free

March 11th, 2011
12:36 pm

hip-I am totally with you about the “authorities” getting involved in incidents like the Chara hit. Watch the nightly news and you can see the authorities have more important issues to tend to, Montreal included.

ZAvalanche

March 11th, 2011
12:37 pm

WBF, ha! I do like Air Canada as well. There is, to me, no comparison between the Bertuzzi incident and the Chara one. Interesting that Air Canada didn’t have much to say about Bertuzzi, perhaps because he was suspended. I still don’t think Chara deserves a suspension. I am trying to think of a way to make that area of the ice more safe but I am not coming up with much. It just is what it is. Any of our stat masters know if there are more injuries in the 16 game NFL season or the 82 game NHL schedule? Based on what I have found, injury rate for the NFL due to direct contact is way higher than in the NHL but one league aggrandizes it and one kind of does – I will let you guess which is which. But you don’t see Budweiser pulling their support when a player gets mowed. I am really wondering why Air Canada is doing this……..perhaps it is because Thrashy isn’t moving there………….

ZAvalanche

March 11th, 2011
1:00 pm

@ Blog Master

Thanks for your shout-out the other day, the AJC needs to pay your mortgage as this is one of the best hockey blogs on the planet, and is made even better by the folks who post here. Those who say hockey isn’t valid in the South are clearly wrong. Wish I could join you all at TJs, perhaps soon….. Go Thrashy! Make Brodeur and Kovalchoke eat crow!

KLS1

March 11th, 2011
1:06 pm

A win tonight will officially put this team on a roll. A loss and it is to the bottom we go. We really need to see a couple players step up and carry us to the playoffs.

Alan R.

March 11th, 2011
1:10 pm

Ben Wright reports that Mr. Benning has passed away. My heart goes out to his family. May he rest in peace.

http://bluelandblog.com/2011/03/11/some-sad-news/

AtlFlamesFan

March 11th, 2011
1:11 pm

Move the center-ice stanchions about 2 feet from the boards. At the blue line side of the benches, taper the last 8 feet of the glass away from the boards so the bench stanchion is also 2 feet from the boards.

ZAvalanche

March 11th, 2011
1:12 pm

KLS, agreed. Yet another defining moment. Anybody know the progress on Ladd signing? I would think that A$$G would want to put our important players on the payroll to attract new owners………as they did with Buffy. Keep it rolling.

AtlFlamesFan

March 11th, 2011
1:12 pm

I will no longer boo Kovy. If the reports are true, he refused to sign because ASG refused to guarentee that the Thrashers would not leave Atlanta. Bottom line: ASG!

ZAvalanche

March 11th, 2011
1:16 pm

AtlFlames – that is a good idea and I thought of a similar idea, but there is still a surface to run into. Only thing I can really think of to help is fully glass the whole boards, which would require the player to change lines through the doors only, or how about a gentle curve to the glass by the benches?

hip czech

March 11th, 2011
1:16 pm

It is sad news about Mr. Benning indeed, will be praying for Mrs. Benning.

Rawhide

March 11th, 2011
1:17 pm

RIP Mr. Benning.

God bless Mrs. Benning and the entire family. Very, very sad news indeed.

Come on Thrashers…let’s go out there and win this one for him and his lovely wife.

Joe Friday

March 11th, 2011
1:18 pm

“it appears Lou realized the coach and his system were the actual problem and voila”

What, you mean the Devils turned it all around just by getting rid of a coach and his system that didn’t work and instilling a coach who’s system does work? And this new coach did it with the same players? Man, I wonder if that would work here?!?

Joe Friday

March 11th, 2011
1:20 pm

Oh man, that is very sad. What a way to live your life now, taking your wife to the hockey game all dressed up, so late in your years. I will remember that fine gentleman and seek to emulate him in my advanced years, may your soul rest in peace and be welcomed by our Lord, Mr. Benning.

Thrashers27

March 11th, 2011
1:22 pm

RIP, Mr. Benning. You will be missed in Thrasherville!

AtlFlamesFan

March 11th, 2011
1:29 pm

Per the article, Mr. Benning earned a Purple Heart storming the beaches of Normandy.

Red Light

March 11th, 2011
1:30 pm

Excerpts from Star Ledger article from today!

“If they sell (tickets) to people who care about hockey, I’m sure they will survive,” Kovalchuk said. “I don’t know about Winnipeg. I don’t think the guys (players) want to go because this is a great city. When we made the playoffs here a couple of years ago this city was buzzing. We sold out every game. At some point ownership has to do something.”

He would like to see the Thrashers stay.

“I would like to come back here and play against them. Like I said, I have a lot of great memories from this city and I still have strong feelings for the team. I care about them,” he said.

“It would be difficult if they moved. I wouldn’t be hurt, but I want them to do well. I remember the fans. They are really patient fans. They’re very disappointed in the way they’ve been treated by ownership. The problem is not going to go away in one day.”

http://www.nj.com/devils/index.ssf/2011/03/devils_2.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

Hoof Arted

March 11th, 2011
1:31 pm

Oh my, what sad news today about Mr. Benning passing away. My prayers go out to his whole family.

I remember when BlogMaster and those who read it efforted the drive to get he and Mrs. Benning voted as the 7th fan Award winners. It was some of the best stuff to come out of a fan base I’ve ever seen.

For those who may not remember, read some of the comments here in support of this wonderful couple.

http://blogs.ajc.com/iceman-thrashers-blog/2010/03/18/kiss-cam-couple-for-7th-fan-update-and-un-good-math/

RIP Mr. Benning. You shall be missed.

Sage of Bluesland

March 11th, 2011
1:33 pm

All dressed up and no place to go….as long as Don Waddell is your GM….

All such a waste.

Oh well, we’re further ahead of at this point in our progress; the future is bright; we’re building through the draft; et. al.

Tom Lysiak

March 11th, 2011
1:39 pm

Very sad. The Bennings were such an inspiration to the fans. The crowd reaction always made that clear.

Darkhorse

March 11th, 2011
2:05 pm

Just wanted to echo the comments of others and pay my respect to Mr. Benning, his wife, and their family. Very sad news indeed….Always a bright spot seeing them on camera and around the arena.

World Be Free

March 11th, 2011
2:06 pm

I sat 2 seats over from the Bennings last week – the night we had the Jimmy Hendrix redition of the National Anthem. Mr. B stood tall in honor of the national anthem, though I am sure he would have preferred Perry Como’s version of the Star Spangled Banner.

Real sad, as corny as this sounds, we should honor the man and his family before the game with a moment of silence.

World Be Free

March 11th, 2011
2:10 pm

ATL Flames Fan-thanks for the Normandy info, I did not know that.

h

March 11th, 2011
2:13 pm

WBF, I agree…..if not before the game, during the time when we’d normally have the kiss cam…..and they can show their picture instead.

Hockey Biltong

March 11th, 2011
2:15 pm

RIP Mr. Benning and thoughts and prayers to the missus….very sad.
Squeaky Frommage and I loved seeing them on ‘kiss cam’….

Eileen

March 11th, 2011
2:18 pm

It was always a pleasure to see Mr. and Mrs. Benning on the kiss cam. RIP. Kovalchuk’s comments are so classy. It is nice to see someone on the inside stand up for the great fans in Atlanta. .

Rawhide

March 11th, 2011
2:19 pm

Red Light – Nice words from Kovy. Thanks for sharing.

Hoof Arted – Yes, Thrasherville stepped up big time for the Bennings. It was a wonderful sight to see when they were honored after the win over Pittsburgh.

I sat in the section beneth the two during the Montreal game last week. I shook his hand on the way out and told him “good-night”. It said “Good to see you” and Mrs. Benning smiled as she always does. That’s the image I’ll always keep.

My good friend Razor Catch Prey of The Blueland Chronicle has penned a nice tribute to Mr. Benning. You can read them –>HERE<--

Well done, RCP.

POM-POM

Mrs. Zoomo

March 11th, 2011
2:20 pm

RIP Mr. Benning. What sad news. We always saw him and his wife after warmups – he’ll definately be missed.