Monday, November 23, 2009

Reasons for Optimism

So the Thrashers have lost three straight. However, the team did storm back to tie up two of those games and earn one point in each.

The team's record as of this morning is 10-7-3, good for 23 points out of a possible 40. The Thrashers also have one or two games in hand over 5 of the 8 teams above them in the Eastern Conference standings and are only one point behind 8th place Boston.

The Thrashers' 71 goals for is good tied for 2nd in the East (behind the Caps' 82 over 23 games) and third in the NHL. San Jose leads all teams with 85 goals for in 25 games, and the Pens are tied with Atlanta's 71 goals, but they've had 23 games in which to do it.

The team is respectable in terms of goals against, with 61 over the 20 game period. Only 10 teams in the NHL have fewer, but most of those teams have played more games than Atlanta.

Atlanta's +10 goal margin is tied for third in the East and fifth in the NHL. If the team gets back on the winning side of things as they close the gap in number of games played, they'll move up that list steadily.

The defense has made even bigger forward strides than we expected during the offseason. Bogosian has improved more than I could have hoped, Enstrom is getting opportunities to use his offensive skills, Hainsey is steady as she goes, and Kubina is all he was advertised to be. I'm not sold on Schubert yet, and would prefer to have one solid presence in that final pairing with the Popovic/Salmela rotation, but overall our defense has been the most solid corps we've ever witnessed in Blueland.

There's more offense to come. The Little White Russian line hasn't been producing yet, but over the last couple of games they've been flying. It's only a matter of time before they start scoring goals. At this point, they won't catch up to their numbers from last season, but you can bet they will pick up a decent clip. Once that happens, the team will be rotating three potent scoring lines and an energy/checking line that can hit, fight, and will control the puck in the other team's zone.

The rotating goalie situation with Moose and Ondrej the Giant has been working thus far. That is going to be crucial down the stretch with so many games played so close together. We're one of the few teams who can safely play their backup in 40% of the games and expect the team to believe that they have just as good of a chance to win with either masked man at their back.

There are some reasons for concern however:

Kovy looked awful last night. I commented to Morty and Shooter in the third period last night, I was glad to see the Czar LEAVE the ice for the first time ever. He was making bad turnovers, coasting, and just looked like he didn't care except for a few flashes. Something was wrong. Whether it was physical or mental is anyone's guess. Maybe his foot has been hurting.

The team doesn't get more than two days of rest between games again until February. That's a grueling pace that will wear down on the entire team and is going to generate and irritate injuries. This next two months is really going to test the team's endurance and depth.

As I discussed above, that depth is shaky on defense, where we already have a couple of question mark players in the lineup on a regular basis. On the positive side, we're almost certain to get to see Kulda and give Boris another chance in the coming months.

The powerplay is stalling out. Over the past few games, the team appears to be trying too hard to set up the Czar on the powerplay. Other players are passing up shots to try bad passes to Kovy. Other teams have obviously been watching film and have the cross-ice pass figured out, because it's been picked off over and over again this past week.

Hopefully the positives will outweigh the negatives over the coming weeks and the team can climb the standings ladder.


h said...

I totally agree about Kovy last night. It was eerie, but between going after Cooke the other night (I always think he needs to leave that to Thor/Boults as he is too valuable to lose for 10+ minutes)and his play last night, it could be the worst I've seen him in a couple of years. I don't know if he was hurt, but he totally coasted, wouldn't come off the ice and was a real liability. I just hope it was "gas" or something. I too was happy when he went off the ice. Do you think he was mad that he was not playing with Max and Antro after the first period? Whatever it was, I hope it passes real fast. Also, Schubert really doesn't impress me. He is starting to remind me of a bigger Exelby.....big hits, but never timely ones, and bad penalties to boot. I say we only play him when we are playing a larger more physical team, like the Leafs or something. I also thought Salmela was a little lost last night too, maybe all of those scratches created a little rust.

Mortimer Peacock said...

You're right that these next two months will be hellacious for their endurance and depth. We'll see what happens, but I am a bit worried about Kovy's disappearance in these last two games.


I think Salmela did have some understandable rest. I've said this before, but I really don't get why Anderson keeps benching Salmela. I'd like to see more of a Salmela-Popovic pairing.

The Falconer said...

I agree with most of the post, but I will say that I thought Pittsburgh had really scouted the Thrashers well--they were putting four defenders in the middle of the ice and just taking away the side to side passes that they love to throw around. The only option was to carry up the wall and work the perimeter.