Things could not be going any worse for the Thrashers this weekend.
First there was Friday night as the Carolina Hurricanes beat the Islander in overtime and the Rangers spanked Montreal. Each moved two points further ahead in their efforts to try and procure a playoff spot. Then Saturday night…in a game called next in a series of “biggest games of the season” for Atlanta… we witnessed the Buffalo Sabres building a snowman on the Thrashers, winning 8-2.
Something tells me it may very well just be the last billed as such.
While we were having a brutally bad time watching events unfold in western New York, the Toronto Maple Leafs were busy whacking the Boston Bruins 5-1. And just for good measure, the Florida Panthers were in the process of picking up an overtime loser point by at least dragging the Islanders to a shootout.
What that all means is that instead of possible pulling to within two points of the eighth-place Sabres, the Thrashers remain at 72 points and are six points behind Buffalo with only ten games left on the schedule. The Canes are four ahead of the Thrashers while the Leafs moved two ahead, leaving Atlanta in sole possession of eleventh place in the Eastern Conference.
But in the words of the late, great Billy Mays…but wait, there’s more.
The New Jersey Devils will play in Columbus tomorrow and with a win will once again pull even with Atlanta. But given their advantage in the wins column it would actually drop us down to 12th place, just four ahead of the Panthers who are in the 13th position…and they’ll play two games before the Thrashers hit the ice again Thursday night on Long Island.
Go ahead and do the simple math there, folks.
As for the beat-down in Buffalo…well, it didn’t take the Sabres too terribly long getting to work on their snowman. Just 24 seconds after the puck dropped, Jason Pominville knocked it past Ondrej Pavelec for an early lead. Then, after Chris Thorburn’s sharp-angle shot got through Ryan Miller, the Sabres tacked on two more to take a 3-1 advantage into the first intermission.
To their credit, the Thrashers came out of the break playing very inspired hockey, leading to an Alex Burmistrov goal to get the score to within one. They continued to press the Buffalo defense for the first half of that middle frame…but that’s when the bottom fell out.
Nathan Gerbe’s jam-in from the right doorstep…the goal Thrashers TV analyst Darrin Eliot referred to as the “whack-a-mole” goal…lead very quickly to Tyler Ennis’ breakaway goal, despite Zach Bogosian’s stick being tossed at him.
It was Bogosian’s fumble at the offensive blueline that sprung Ennis to begin with.
In the third, Brad Boyes was added to the Thrashers woes. His power play goal made it 6-2 as Bogosian played the part of spectator.
After that, all that was left was simply to manufacture a couple of late-game tallies to complete the snowman. Rob Niedermayer second of the night at 16:52 and Tim Connolly’s on the power play 28 seconds later provided the corncob pipe and button nose.
If I’m not mistake, it was the seventh time this season an opponent has score twice in fewer than 39 seconds.
This loss looked a lot like so many we’ve seen since New Years…a close game halfway though the second turns into a blowout after an unfortunate goal or set of events. It happened during the 9-3 loss to Toronto on January 7, the 5-2 loss to Philly on January 14 and the 6-1 loss in Dallas two days after that.
Defensive zone breakdowns…one goal given up leads to another shortly thereafter…untimely giveaways…defensemen standing around…gift-wrapped turnovers at the blueline…
But unlike those collapses, this one could not have happened at a worse time with so much on the line. For under all that snow that Buffalo built a snowman with was quite possibly buried the last realistic chance the Thrashers might have had towards making a serious run at the playoffs this season.
Fortunately they’ll be plenty of warm weather in Thrasherville between now and the beginning of next season to melt all that snow away. Then we can begin anew our “playoff this season” hopes.