Even after more than four days, the stench from that big, heaping, steaming pile of FAIL that the Thrashers dropped on the ice Saturday still seems to linger in the air. Given that there has been so many days off after the 8-2 loss in Buffalo, they haven’t been able to try and freshen the air with a win…or even just a well-played game.
Tonight, however, they’ll have an opportunity to do just that if they can somehow muster a win on Long Island. But as was the case with the New Jersey Devils a couple weeks ago, seeing the Thrashers take on the Islanders again provides a comparison of two teams that have taken different paths since the last time they met.
Back on February 1 they faced off in Philips Arena for the first game following the All Star break. The Thrashers were coming off a thrilling 1-0 win over the Washington Capitals and held a record of 24-19-9. They had struggled a bit in January, going 1-4-3 prior to shutting out the Caps, but their 57 points were still good enough to cling on to the eighth and last playoff spot.
The Isles came in with a record of 15-27-7, were lingering at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, had lost three straight, five of their previous six and were coming off a 4-8-1 month of January. Once again it seemed as though their season was circling the drain before the league even entered into the post All Star game portion of the schedule.
By all accounts this seemed like the perfect set up for Atlanta to restart the season…a “softie” on the schedule to get things moving again after a few days off.
Islanders refuse to play the role of ‘softie’
The Islanders came to play that night…the Thrashers, not so much. And the lack-luster effort displayed in the 4-1 defeat had some wondering if we were witnessing the bottom dropping out on the team’s playoff aspirations. The gravity of the situation and the alarmingly tepid play of the team did not escape Ondrej Pavelec.
“We have to realize that few more games like that and we’re done”, the goalie said afterwards, “We didn’t fight like we wanted to get into the playoffs”.
Then there were these words by coach Craig Ramsay. “We lost so many battles in the offensive zone. And that allowed them to keep coming back up the ice. Our work ethic, our commitment, is lacking”.
Both statements were spot on. Unfortunately though, Ramsay has been unable to properly remedy the failings of that night and variations of both sets of quotes have been used far too often to describe the team’s play since that time.
Including that game, the Thrashers have slumped to a record of 6-11-3, winning only once in regulation. Meanwhile the Islanders have gone 14-6-5, including a 6-1-3 mark in the last ten played. If it weren’t for the story that has been the Devils miraculous second half recovery, these Islanders might just be talked about as the bounce-back team of the season.
If you think it stinks bad now…
As foul as things have gotten since early January, a loss on the island tonight is certain to make things just that much worse…to the point where even striking a match in the room won’t help.
With a regulation win tonight, the Islanders would move even with the Thrashers at 72 points…although Atlanta will have two more games left on the schedule…and leave the Thrashers only 4 points ahead of 14th place Florida. The Thrashers, Islanders and Devils would also be tied for the 5th lowest point total in the NHL.
Then tomorrow night the Vancouver Canucks, a.k.a the best team in the west, will be paying Thrasherville a visit. Following the 2-1 win in Detroit last night, they are now 48-17-9, have already locked up the Northwest Division and are on course for the Presidents Trophy. Prior to the 3-1 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes last Friday, they had rattled off seven consecutive victories.
Even with the loss of Manny Malhotra and his 11 goals, 19 assists and +9 rating for the rest of the season, this team looks poised for a serious run at the Stanley Cup this spring.
After that, the last place in the east Ottawa Senators come to call for a Sunday afternoon matinee. But if your thinking that represents another “softie” on the schedule, you might want to think again.
The last three times the Thrashers have faced a conference bottom feeder, they’ve failed to procure even an overtime pity-point. There was that loss to the Islanders last month, the 5-3 third period collapse in Edmonton and then the 3-1 loss to the Sens the last time they were in town three weeks ago.
So let’s just hope that they’ve cleared out of their system whatever it was that caused them to drop that on-ice stink bomb in Buffalo last Saturday and they can find a way to procure two points on the Island tonight. If not, then this epic second-half collapse could land the Thrashers on the outskirts of Lotterypickville before the weekend is over.
While some feel that would be a good thing given how this season has played out, I still think it stinks when my team finishes up that far down in the standings.