Matt McConnell finds ‘plenty to be excited about’ with Thrashers

For the first four seasons of their history, Matt McConnell brought Atlanta Thrashers hockey to us from the TV broadcast booth. Now after his third year of his second tour of duty here he says he’s as optimistic about the team’s future and that brighter days are just ahead for Atlanta hockey fans.

“I think if you talk to most hockey people around the league, they’d agree that the Thrashers are one of the up and coming teams with a bright future”, he told me recently.

McConnell explains that the reason for this positive outlook rests in what he observed from the defensive corps of the team.

“First, I thought the blueline did an excellent job and became the strength of the team. Dustin Byfuglien, Toby Enstrom and Zach Bogosian gave the team three legitimate power play point men. The addition of Mark Stuart was a late season coup by general manager Rick Dudley and Ron Hainsey played some of his best hockey as a Thrasher.”

“The blueline has also become a position of depth when you …

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Tampa Bay Lightning sweep Capitals to playoff curb

Once upon a time…not too, too long ago…there was an NHL team trailing three games to one in an opening round playoffs series. Facing a game-five on the road, this team was on the verge of being unceremoniously kicked to the postseason curb.

But they trampled all over their foes to avoid elimination, beating them 8-2. They followed that up with a 4-2 win at home in game-six then denied their opponents even one single goal in the deciding seventh game. They then rode that wave straight into the next playoff round and swept there next opponent…the best team in the conference after regular season play… right to that same postseason curb they almost found themselves days earlier.

The Tampa Lightning have advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals after sweeping the Washington Capitals out of the playoffs (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

The Tampa Lightning have advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals after sweeping the Washington Capitals out of the playoffs (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Again… after finding themselves down three games to one they rattled off seven in a row, four of them on the road.

This is not a tail of a team’s playoff …

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2011 NHL playoffs update: Bolts one win away from Eastern Conference Finals

Last night in Nashville, the 19th overtime was played in this spring’s NHL Stanley Cup playoffs. That’s roughly one-third of the 59 games played so far. This time it was the Predators and Canucks who required extra time to determine a winner with visiting Vancouver ultimately winning 3-2 on Ryan Kesler’s power play goal.

It was the second straight time those two teams needed more than 60 minutes to settle matters.

Kesler’s game-winner came after Preds defenseman Shea Weber was called for hooking him along the boards. It was a call Nashville coach Barry Trotz strongly disagreed with.

“He chicken-winged the stick and kept moving, and really if you look at it, Webs is pushing on him, trying to pull his stick out of there,” Trotz stated after the game. “I’ve seen it before. One of the earlier games, he drew a couple penalties like that by chicken-winging the stick and just holding it there and keep moving and see if he can sell it.”

So far in that series the finals scores after …

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NHL playoffs round two update: Bolts and Sharks take 2-0 series leads

Detroit vs. San Jose (Sharks lead 2-0)

The Tampa Bay Lightning and San Jose Sharks find themselves only two wins away from advancing to the Conference Championships after last weekend’s Action. The Bolts are heading home after stealing a pair of games in D.C. while the Sharks held serve at home against the Detroit Red Wings.

San Jose took both games by the score of 2-1. Friday night required overtime to hang the first loss of the playoffs to Detroit while yesterday afternoon they built a 2-0 lead and hung on down the stretch for the victory.

Antti Niemi stopped 33 of the 34 shots he faced in the game-two win and has now tuned aside 57 of the 59 Wings attempts on his goal.

“He’s spectacular”, Joe Thornton said of his netminder. ““He’s the reason why we’re in this postseason and it feels like every time he’s in the net. He gives us a chance to win.”

Last spring the Sharks held a 2-0 second round series lead against the Wings and won in five games. But head coach Todd McLellan …

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Being radio voice of the Thrashers is an ‘honor’ for Dan Kamal

From the fall of 1999 to the final match of this past 2010-11 campaign, Dan Kamal has been in the radio broadcast booth helping to give voice to  Atlanta Thrashers hockey. I recently had the pleasure of chatting with The Grand Kamlian about the team, coach Ramsay, what he remembers most from this past season as well as a few other things.

Not surprisingly, he tends to accentuate the positives.

“From the broadcast booth, I had one of my most enjoyable seasons ever, primarily because of the style of play the Thrashers employed under coach Ramsay and the effort with which they played”, he said. “The pace was up-tempo and often end-to-end, and even when they couldn’t find ways to win close games in the second half of the season, the effort and intensity were almost always beyond reproach.”

“It was a very fun team to watch on a game-by-game basis.”

Dan then pointed to the first two games after New Years…a 4-3 overtime win in Montreal followed by a 3-2 win in Florida…as the most …

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2011 NHL playoffs second round predictions

Just one day after the first round was finally wrapped up, round two of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals gets underway tonight. So we’ll not waste any time and get right to our predictions.

As you do so, also take time to look back at how your first round predictions turned out. Personally, I went 7-1 missing only the Flyers/Sabres outcome. What is interesting to note here, however, is that all eight teams that won a majority of the vote in the Fan Polls two weeks ago actually went on to win their round one series. So reach around and give yourselves a nice pat on the back as you all went a collective 8-0.

Now, let’s see if you can duplicate that effort.

Eastern Conference

#1 Washington vs. #5 Tampa Bay: Washington won season series 4-1-1.

These are not the same Washington Capitals as we’ve seen from the previous postseasons. They have a little bit more to them than simply being an offensive powerhouse. They get reliable play on the blueline these days and the goalkeeping has not …

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NHL playoffs first round update: Canucks survive, pair of game sevens remain

The Vancouver Canucks never trailed in the series, building a three games to none lead before the Chicago Blackhawks fought back to force a game seven.

They never trailed in that game seven Tuesday night, grabbing an early 1-0 lead after Alexandre Burrows scored 2:43 in. It was a lead they held for the next 55:21 before Jonathan Toews notch a shorthanded goal to force overtime.

But even so, this year’s Presidents’ Trophy winners came this close to not advancing to the second round and having their season end in a most unfortunate manner, blowing a 3-0 series lead.

However, when Burrows found himself on the receiving end of a Chris Campoli turnover and blasted the puck over Corey Crawford’s right shoulder, the Canucks escaped a summer of second-guessing and “what-ifs”. The ensuing explosion of joy from the team, the coaching staff and the entire Canuck nation was not just a release of pressure built up from the past week, but also from the frustration from the past two years of …

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NHL playoff round one update: Do you know what an orca sounds like when choking on a feather?

Do you know what an orca sounds like when choking on a feather?

An orca, or killer whale, is an apex predator of the oceans and can even maul large sharks. However, it seems it has a tough time when one gets caught in their throat. And if you are very, very quiet, put a hand up to your ear and listen toward the northwest, you just might be able to hear exactly what that sounds like?

It’s not a pretty noise, really…especially if you’re a Vancouver Canucks fan.

The Canucks…winners of the Northwest Divisions and the Presidents’ Trophy, collectors of 117 regular season points and winners of 54 games coming into the postseason…had the defending Stanley Cup champs right where they wanted them, down three games to none and four games in which to finish them off.

Make that only one now.

Ben Smith’s overtime goal last night in Chicago leveled the series at three games apiece and sets up a seventh and deciding game seven in Vancouver Tuesday night. They’ve outscored the Canucks 16-5 in …

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NHL playoffs round one update: Reaper’s busy weekend and Blackhawks stayin’ Alive

Wednesday night in Arizona, hockey’s Grim Reaper made his way into Jobing.com Arena and departed with the souls of the Phoenix Coyotes’ playoff aspirations. He then made his way up to Vancouver Thursday where for the second time this week he looked to harvest the Chicago Blackhawks hopes to repeat as Stanley Cup champions.

However, as was the case Tuesday evening in Chicago, he once again left empty handed as the Hawks thumped the Canucks 5-0 to force a game six Sunday.

Roberto Luongo has given up 10 goals on 40 shots in the two losses to Chicago. Last night he departed after Marian Hossa’s goal 1:26 into the second period gave his team a 4-0 edge. Hossa finished with 2 goals, an assists and a +2 rating during 14:02 TOI.

Duncan Keith has a pair of goals and 4 overall points on the night while Corey Crawford stopped all 36 shots he faced to earn his first NHL playoff shutout.

Outscoring the Presidents’ Cup winners 12-2 in the past two games, the Blackhawks continue to dance to …

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Is NHL about to desert the Arizona desert?

Since their one and only playoff appearance, the Atlanta Thrashers have finished the last four seasons with point totals of 76, 76, 83 and 80. Because of this, we here in Thrasherville have lamented how our team simply seems to wander aimlessly in the Desert of Mediocrity. But there is one fan base out there…out west…that now find themselves hoping that their team continues to remain in the desert.

No, not the fictitious type that we seem trapped in year in and year out…but the actual desert of Arizona.

Wednesday night the Phoenix Coyotes were swept to the curb in the opening round of the NHL playoffs by the Detroit Red Wings. But if would-be owner Matthew Hulsizer is unable to maneuver around certain roadblocks that hamper his efforts to buy the team, then it’s quite possible the Yotes will be jetting their way back to Winnipeg…the city that the franchise called home until 1996.

The Coyotes and their fans have struggled through this situation for a couple years now. The team …

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