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

Smoothie

March 11th, 2011
2:29 pm

Wow, truly a sad day for Thrasherville. Prayers to the Benning family and especially to Mrs. Benning for your loss. It may be a bit too soon to honor the family with a ceremony, but a moment of silence should definitely be in order. RIP.

World Be Free

March 11th, 2011
2:31 pm

h-even better!

Red Light-I hope there is not one boo for Kovy tonight. Time for everyone to move on. He is earning his big contract in NJ, that’s for sure.

Mr. Heat Miser

March 11th, 2011
2:38 pm

A sad day indeed. I feel for the entire Benning family.

POMPOM

KLS1

March 11th, 2011
2:56 pm

Condolences to the Benning family…we’ll miss seeing him at the games.

hip czech

March 11th, 2011
3:01 pm

quote from Moose:

“With the sale of the Thrashers uncertain and the team’s struggles at the box office, there is talk again of the team leaving Atlanta. Hedberg believes the Thrashers can succeed here, though, if given the chance.

“I’ve seen this market work,” he said. “I was here my first year (2006-07) and we had a really, really good team. We made the playoffs and we had high expectations to make a good run at it and the building in the playoffs was electric. This is a market where when other sports like football stop, you get more fans coming back leading up towards the spring. There is no doubt in my mind that this market could work, but it takes time to build up a fan base and it takes time to build the grass roots of hockey where people have to play hockey for a while. You just have to keep with it and grow. That’s why I think it’s going to be in years to come a very strong market.” ”

Way to go Moose!!!

C’mon Thrashers win one for the Benning family!

Red Light

March 11th, 2011
3:20 pm

To your point World Be Free…

In the past 6-plus seasons, Kovalchuk has 70 goals, 68 assists and is a +30, yes I said a +30 in 135 games in March and April from 2002-03 to present.

World Be Free

March 11th, 2011
3:21 pm

hip and Red Light-thanks for the interesting quotes from the ex-Thrashers, how they feel about this team if it were done “right”.

sisu

March 11th, 2011
3:31 pm

Sad day indeed, RIP mr. Benning and hope for the best for all the Japanese people in distress today :(

World Be Free

March 11th, 2011
3:49 pm

Red Light-all the more reason to put away the boos on Kovalchuk. It’s not like he was wrong about what has been happening here, you just wish it would have been handled better.

sisu

March 11th, 2011
4:03 pm

Mixed feelings about Kovy’s comments, just shows the fans were right all along and he did not want to leave….

Red Light

March 11th, 2011
4:19 pm

In my opinion, and I know that I was born in the Stone Age, but there is nothing more annoying than watching a hockey game and listening to fans boo a former player, or a player they dislike, every time he touches the puck. It takes away the spontaneous excitement and the experience, AND, half of the people booing don’t even know why they are booing. The guy played almost 8 years here, and walked because of ownership, not the fans.

Smoothie

March 11th, 2011
4:19 pm

http://hockeyindependent.com/blog/?p=32476

Hey there “Slim”! I’d like for you to meet my buddy “Chance”.

World Be Free

March 11th, 2011
4:31 pm

R/L-
Like you, I am originally from Bedrock and agree that it seems a bit juvenile to boo players for extended epriods. Chara has been going through this for some time, Bobby Hull used to get booed in Tronna all the time-you know that great bastion of hockey, Toronto!

I can see booing a thug or a player that detracts from a game/sport. Kovy and Chara do not, neither did Hull. I didn’t boo Kovy late last season and I won’t tonight either.

Smoothie

March 11th, 2011
4:44 pm

What a couple of old fuddy-duddies!! ;)

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

Nah, just kidding. I’ve had my boo, now it’s time to move on.

But Kovy must go down, and he must go down hard tonite!!! La Parka!

Zoomo

March 11th, 2011
4:58 pm

Nice blog Smoothie.

More condolences to the Bennings from here. Sad news. So glad Bill pushed for their recognition last year.

ZAvalanche

March 11th, 2011
5:00 pm

I have no problem with booing players if they are sucking, had ill-will toward the team or had a bad penalty. Kovy got scared of moving and got no reassurance from the owners = hard to blame him. Good luck tonight Thrashy, show him what he is missing.

Tom

March 11th, 2011
5:02 pm

I said this elsewhere, but it is so true.

To the rest of Atlanta, Mr. Benning was a war hero and a successful businessman. To the Thrasher’s fan, he was the standard of what we all should be.

R.I.P. Mr. Benning.

(PS During the first few seasons the Bennings sat a couple of rows above us in 111. I had the pleasure of talking to them every couple of weeks. Wonderful people.)

Joe Friday

March 11th, 2011
5:12 pm

“Mr. Benning earned a Purple Heart storming the beaches of Normandy.”

The greatest generation. Our countrymen has lost touch with what it takes to be a man like that.

Red Light, are we allowed to still boo Heatley? Just want to make sure that I know what’s acceptable, and what’s not . . .

Geddy Lee

March 11th, 2011
5:36 pm

I was going to leave a quote from the song “Marathon”, but then scrolled down and discovered that Mr. Benning died. Sad news!

Suddenly -
You were gone
From all the lives
You left your mark upon….

RIP Mr. Benning

You will be missed.

ben

March 11th, 2011
5:40 pm

I don’t boo Heatley, he’s a child, and no one’s prefered role model, but I don’t boo. Baseball, I boo players, not hockey. I’ve no idea why.

AtlFlamesFan

March 11th, 2011
6:03 pm

Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup Celebration at the White House. Ex-Thrasher Brett Sopel joins his old teammates at the event. Big Buff and Ladd could not attend due to tonight’s game at Philips.

http://www.wsbtv.com/video/27165429/index.html

Brendan

March 11th, 2011
6:47 pm

RIP Mr. Benning. Blueland’s flag is at halfmast today. I hope the Thrashers name his seat after him. Or name his section, the T.R. Benning Memorial Section. Or give the family his seat.

It’s tough to demand a win for the Bennnings, but it sure would be nice!

Tom Lysiak

March 11th, 2011
7:05 pm

As a bit of a diversion from all the bad news of the day….it is hilarious reading the Canadian fan’s comments on the TSN story about Bettman signing a new 5-year deal in November.

Alan R.

March 11th, 2011
7:24 pm

I can only hope to be half the man that Mr. Benning was.

ZAvalanche

March 11th, 2011
9:04 pm

Common Thrashy! Play it close to the vest, keep it up!

ZAvalanche

March 11th, 2011
10:05 pm

Tom

March 11th, 2011
10:07 pm

If you DVR’ed the game they did a nice tribute to Mr. Benning and showed Mrs. Benning at the game between periods.

Tough loss to the Devils in OT. We gave up leads throughout and could not capitalize on the 4 on 3 in the OT and the Devils could.

Can we hire LeMaire next season?

Curly

March 11th, 2011
10:10 pm

Thrashers find a way to give another one away. 3 PP goals for the Devils. Every time the Thrashers score a goal they immediately take a penalty (or two). Apparently there is a lack of discipline on this team. This time of year you have to tighten up. (Stewart again is invisible). Pavs played a great game but he can’t do it all.

Joe Friday

March 11th, 2011
10:12 pm

Anybody have any questions left that Ramsay is the problem?

Didn’t think so ,,,

Brendan

March 11th, 2011
10:26 pm

Question for Red Light, or anyone else willing to do the research. How many times have the Thrashers taken a second penalty, to put the opposition on a 5-on-3 powerplay? Follow up question, of those times, how many times did Chris Thorburn take the 2nd penalty. Yet another follow up question, how many times was that second penalty the reason the Thrashers were scored upon?

On the Devils 1st PPG, up 5-on-3, Johnny Oduya has full possession of the puck, standing half way between the faceoff circles and the blueline, and instead of clearing the zone between the two point defenders, he opts to go up along the wall. The result? The puck never clears the zone, and NJ eventually scores a tap-in goal, inside the blue paint. Sigh. Execution of basic plays is so vital.

I can’t blame Pavelec for any of the goals tonight. In the pre-game show, John Kincade touted how well the trade deadline moves had improved the team’s PK, killing 23 of 25, I think he said, since the moves. Well, the luck ran out. On a night where we honor the dead, our playoff berth took a fistful of pills. They tried. Clearly, the Thrashers did try. They still do gain a point over Carolina, which lost in regulation time to Washington.

Ottawa beat TB, 2-1, in regulation time. Wow, the Senators don’t want that 1st overall pick. Edmonton picked up a ‘pity point’ vs. Detroit tonight. Can you believe it?, the NY Islanders won again! The Isles knocked off Boston, 4-2. Poor Columbus. They lose, in regulation time, 4-2, to Los Angeles. I’m not sure if that seals it for the CBJ’s, but if not, it sure hurts them. Anaheim is up on Colorado, 4-2, in the 2nd. Dallas is whooping it up on Minnesota, 4-0, in the 3rd period. That’s a rough loss, and a 4-point swing, for the Wild to the Stars. Not sure if Kari’s in net, or what.

Congrats to Kovalchuk for a 2-points night, that included a goal and an assist on the OT winner. Wait, did Kovy get in on the 1st Devil goal, too?

AtlFlamesFan

March 11th, 2011
11:01 pm

What happened to our All-Star Enstom? He was horrible tonight. 2nd game in a row that late in the game he lets someone get behind him leading to the tying goal. Mis-handles the puck and has to hook a player to prevent a breakaway. Did it again (late in the 3rd), where he should have gotten called for another hook, but they still got off a great shot on a 2-on-one. Whew!

Joe Friday

March 11th, 2011
11:05 pm

“Johnny Oduya has full possession of the puck, standing half way between the faceoff circles and the blueline, and instead of clearing the zone between the two point defenders, he opts to go up along the wall. ”

It’s that time of year that the goats are letting their horns clearly shine. Hockey is a team game and you win as a team and you lose as a team, but tonight clearly showed that there’s some guys getting the job done, and some guys who’s horns are clearly showing . . .

Studs: Pavs, Buf, Ladd, Little, Wheeler,

Goats: Ramsay with the #1 dark star (he’s called some bad games, but tonite took the cake), Enstrom, Thorburn, Oduya, Stapelton (not his fault as much as coach putting him in bad situations that he’s not capable of), Stewart, Dvorak (with quite possibly the worst attempted clear on a PK I’ve seen from our club this year)
Really sucks to watch some guys play so damn well and be hamstrung to a loss by a lame coach . . .

Joe Friday

March 11th, 2011
11:07 pm

“What happened to our All-Star Enstom?”

Not an All Star, rode Buf’s coat tails when Coach’s system of having the d jump up was working, but he’s a #3 dman, no more, no less. When he’s asked to do more in prime time, his defensive weakness is exposed

EA

March 11th, 2011
11:32 pm

NJ paper called Kovalchuk’s reaction to his goal an “in your face” celebration which was met with loud boos.

Badger Bob

March 11th, 2011
11:42 pm

WBF and Former Isles Fan – great meeting you guys! Some of the best fans in the world there at the Bulb. R/L, Smoothie and Blogmaster, it was a true priviledge chatting with you again.

JF: Absolutely right on the studs. The truth is most every other team (certainly the Devils) has 8 or 10 consistent studs. We have a worthy top line, and a bunch of marginal third-fourth liners at forward. The only positive thing Antro did all night was upset Brodeur on the Buff goal. This says it all – Anthony Stewart is our fourth leading scorer at forward. We are that thin up front. And the Buff goal masks the fact that our powerplay was utterly impotent all night. Playing dump and chase with the man advantage, against Brodeur who took to clearing the pucks himself, was pretty pathetic.

Still, an entertaining one against superior talent and coaching system. I vowed not to boo Kovy, but when he starts out by diving over Buff’s stick in the first I just couldn’t help myself…

Charlie Sheen

March 12th, 2011
12:07 am

Ilya Kovalchuk is a complete troll. Dustin Byfuglien and Blake Wheeler are true warlocks filled with tiger blood and adonis DNA. That is all.

Badger Bob

March 12th, 2011
12:17 am

Some late night stats, mostly depressing, about some trends that were reinforced tonight:

Thrashers are the only team in the NHL that’s sub-.500 when scoring first
With one more 3 PPG against game, we’ll suplant the Avs as the worst penalty kill in the league
Thrashers go to OT more often than anyone else – 35% of the time. League average is 24%.
And one final nugget to sleep on – Thrashers have the fewest regulation wins in the NHL at 16. Consider that Edmonton has 19 and Ottawa has 24. Yikes!

Jason

March 12th, 2011
12:17 am

My best friend – who has been to maybe three hockey games in his life – left there tonight asking me this:

“When the Thrashers had the power play, they just stood around and passed the puck and let people get set up in front of them so they couldn’t shoot it. The Devils just went right at it. The Thrashers played way back when they had the power play, but the Devils all crept in and really forced the issue. Why?”

I just sighed and walked faster….

Smoothie

March 12th, 2011
1:30 am

Gentlemen and of course ladies, ’twas indeed a pleasure to sit amongst such a knowledgeable, passionate and classy group of fans as the ones we had assembled down in Section 107 of Blueland, or should I call it “Blogland”? Hat tip to the following: WBF (thanks again bud, U R da man!), WBF’s lovely daughter, R/L (Hilton Head is calling our names), FormerIslesFan (good to see you again), BadgerBob (always a pleasure), Amy (nice to meet you if you’re checking in here at Billy’s blog), the talented Audra, who deserves much more face time as the b/w period interview host down at the Bulb, and last but not least, our irrepressible Blogmaster extraordinaire, Billy Tiller: you are an inspirational force on the United Thrasherville Blogging Front! I am your humble servant.

And before I forget, a big shout out goes to the one, the only, a myth and a legend, and not just in his own mind, Joe Bob Friday!! About time the two of us met face to face! And I must say, you’re much more of a tarpon than a grouper!!

I’m tired as balls, otherwise I would join in the tear apart Toby parade, but I have the pleasure of waking up early on a Saturday to go into work. Till tomorrow, I will bid you all a good night. And with my parting shot, I must send out some cyberweb prayers to the nation of Japan. Everyone here in the US of A is praying for your health and safety in this terrible time of need. Really puts things in perspective don’t it? That’s why I am so especially humbled to call myself a citizen of Blueland, some of the best fans, and people, anyone will ever find in any city, anywhere. God bless!!

litz

March 12th, 2011
2:18 am

I’ll add that it was great to bump into Rawhide and all the bloggers before the game … I didn’t sit with them (had nice section 115 seats tonight), but was good to put faces to names and chat for a bit.

The tribute to T.R Benning was absolutely A+ class, from the organization.

Moment of silence prior to the anthem — for him AND for the victims of the earthquake.

Class act, and they should be applauded for it. There was a tweet afterwards that the family was deeply moved, which just justifies how right and proper it was.

The last “frame” of the Kiss Cam was a still picture of Mr and Mrs in full “Kiss Cam Mode”, and a note “Thanks for the Memories”.

It got a standing ovation, as did a fan sign stating pretty much the same thing.

Again, Blueland shows its mettle. Was excellent.

Oh yeah, there was a hockey game too … can’t really say anything that hasn’t been said above … just a big ol’ empty feeling walking away. We needed those 2 pts, and simply didn’t do what was needed. Plain ‘n’ simple.

ben

March 12th, 2011
7:15 am

Mr. Benning, bless you.

I said this before, and will say it again. I owe Kovy and Hossa an apology. They got out while they could. To the classless CanaTrolls who say my hometown ain’t a hockey town, what is the attendance of AHL teams? That’s what this team is, an AHL team running around in NHL sweaters. For all but 3 seasons, that’s all it’s been. The best days are ahead, not behind. I say give Ramsay 2 years under the new owners. Outside of Buff and Ladd, he’s clearly going into a gun fight with a squirt gun.

It was good to see my favorite Thrasher, #17, again. We’re not making the playoffs. A curiously timed slump after the settlement saw to that. Cheer up! We reside in the seventh largest city in northern North America. Les Thrash are here to stay! New, committed owners are coming, Then, a town of 6, 000, 000 will prove Gary Bettman right to stick by us.

KLS1

March 12th, 2011
8:09 am

I just hate it that we are relegated to looking toward next season, the draft, and possibly losing the team to Canada. A truly pitiful state of affairs for us die hard hockey fans.

The penalty by Kane was horrible…this kid does more wrong than good…looks like another bust that is not ready for the big show. He thinks he is Kovy jr…but he ain’t Kovy.

Joe Friday

March 12th, 2011
8:26 am

good points, Badger Bob. Red Light pointed you out after you went back to your seats, sorry for not introducing myself, next time.

Smoothie, nice to meet you, finally. Tarpon? I like it!

Red Light

March 12th, 2011
9:05 am

The Thrashers have only allowed (5) 3-on-5 shorthanded goals and (50) 4-on-5 shorthanded goals. I haven’t found number of times they were shorthanded 3-on-5 yet.

Red Light

March 12th, 2011
9:07 am

Sorry, here is the correct breakdown:
3-on-4 3
3-on-5 5
4-on-5 47

Sage of Bluesland

March 12th, 2011
9:16 am

Turned the game, with the Mrs., about one minute prior to the OT winning goal. Thankful I didn’t waste my money and time on yet another loss.

Hilarious on the late-breaking criticism of lil’ Toby….It’s funny, someone here actually was proclaiming him to be of ‘Hall of Fame’ potential. Yes, that’s right–pretty ridiculous, isn’t it!

Nope, blame the symptoms all you want….You can’t make silk purses out of sows’ ears…Until the real causes of the incompetence are addressed, nothing will change.

Just ask Curt Fraser, Bob Hartley, Coach Sunshine, and the Bald-Guy….(I’ve stopped bothering with names anymore with such nonentities)….Oh, and of course, just ask Don Waddell; he’s such a “nice-guy” and all…

Not another one of my dollars for the offensive and insulting incompetence.

R. Stroz

March 12th, 2011
9:45 am

To start, I would like to thank God for giving us the opportunity to meet and cherish the Benning family. In a day and age of shameless self promotion, the Bennings emulate the ideals we should all strive for, duty, honor, respect, and humility.

Their generation has endured hardship without asking for anything in return. If you haven’t seen the movie Saving Private Ryan, take a few hours out of your day to understand the definition of sacrifice and honor. Then ask yourself, would you have the fortitude to storm Utah and Omaha beaches at Normandy: Mr. Benning did.

Watching Mr. Benning continue to “date” his wife in his more distinguished years by taking her to Thrashers games, conveys a charm, elegance and chivalry our society has largely lost, while, at the same time, providing a goal for all of us to attain. His sense of duty to his wife was “on display” nearly every game. Even after Mrs. Benning was unable to walk into the arena on her own, Mr. Benning continued to bring her to the games, displaying a sense of chivalry lost on subsequent generations. So men, to honor Mr. Benning, take your wife out on a “date”, open the car door, open the restaurant door, and generally act like real men, not just today, but for the rest of your lives.

I would like to thank all of the Thrasher fans who took the time to write emails that resulted in the Bennings winning the 7th Man Award. In retrospect, this seems like the least we could have done, yet, in doing so, we performed “our duty” to honor such a magnificent couple.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Benning family, and as Thrasher fans, we know there is an extra angel looking out for everyone.

Red Light

March 12th, 2011
9:55 am

Nicely done Stroz and thanks for the generous donation to St. Baldrick’s!

World Be Free

March 12th, 2011
9:58 am

Nice post Mr. Stroz, very nice. Great to finally meet Badger Bob, litz and FIF.

The scariest thing about last night is that the coaching “staff” actually called time out in OT to plan that power play. That was the worst PP in history. They don’t allow public flogging anymore, if they did some people would be in trouble. Then the Devils got a cheap power play and showed everyone how it is done. End of story, at least for now.

So as Joe Friday noted, anyone else have any questions as to what the real problem is?

alex

March 12th, 2011
9:59 am

kovy wanted guarantee from owners that team not going to relocate before he sign here. he not get this. kovy liked Atlanta very much almost like his original born tver. i knew that from inside sources. you free to not believe but this is a fact. kovy scored here more than 300 goals including 4 with Tampa to cover fifth available goalie, including two back to back hat tricks away in Ottawa and Tampa. nobody able to do that in 20 years, no Crosby, no ovy. kovy still owned home here. boo him for that idiots and praise the smart owners.