Thursday, March 12, 2009

Wait........What Got Into Atlanta?

The Atlanta Thrashers have certainly had an eventful week. They have won three games over that time, including shutouts against the Canadiens and the Avalanche.

There were also several articles of note about the Thrashers that fans should be made aware of.

With that goal in mind, here we go with this week in Thrashers.

Friday 3/6

In front of nearly 15,000 people at Phillips Arena, Atlanta shut out the Montreal Canadiens 2-0. Bryan Little scored early in the first period, and that was enough for goalie Kari Lehtonen.

Kari saved all 25 shots Montreal fired at him in earning the shutout. He looked very calm and comfortable in goal.

Ilya Kovalchuk assisted on the first goal of the game, and also assisted on the empty net tally by Rich Peverley that iced the game for the Thrashers.

The three stars of the game were Ron Hainsey (1 A), Ilya Kovalchuk (2 A), and Kari Lehtonen (25 saves).

It was a game loaded with penalties, with the Thrashers taking a total of 56 PIM, and the Canadiens took 42 PIM.

Sunday 3/8

The Thrashers continued their winning ways at Phillips Arena, beating the Calgary Flames 5-2 and playing well once again.

Ilya Kovalchuk scored a goal and added an assist, and Bryan Little scored two goals in the victory. Kari Lehtonen also made 27 saves in the game.

New Flames acquisition Olli Jokinen managed a pitiful minus-three in the game, and Jordan Leopold, another trade deadline acquisition, also managed a minus-three and had one shot in 23 minutes of ice time.

Calgary captain Jarome Iginla had some complimentary words for the Thrashers after the contest.

"Determination has to be from the start," Iginla said. "The Thrashers were hungry tonight, and we were not competitive enough to create enough chances."

It was a splendid game all around for Atlanta, and the team continued its hot play of late in a big way, in a victory Bryan Little said was "for the fans."

The three stars of the game were Bryan Little (2 G), Tobias Enstrom (1 G), and Ilya Kovalchuk (1 G, 1 A).

Tuesday 3/10

In a game that was eerily similar to the game they played on Friday against the Canadiens, the Thrashers came out, played stiff defense, and shut out the Colorado Avalanche 3-0 at the Pepsi Center in Denver.

The game was 0-0 for the first 38 minutes of the contest, until Zach Bogosian scored off of great passing from Kovalchuk and Bryan Little to make it 1-0. Then, less than two minutes later, Todd White struck gold on the power play and the Thrashers went into the break with a 2-0 lead and a tidal wave of momentum that overcame any resistance the Avalanche could put up.

With Colorado coming off a huge win against the Blackhawks on Sunday, there was a definite letdown in the way they played the game, and Atlanta took advantage by continuing their solid play up the middle and their ability to generate offense quickly.

Rich Peverley further cemented the similarities between this game and the Montreal game by adding an empty net goal to complete the festivities and send the Avs faithful home cursing existence once again.

Kari Lehtonen stopped all 35 shots he faced in getting his second shutout in three games.

The three stars of the game were Ilya Kovalchuk (2 A), Zach Bogosian (1 G), and Kari Lehtonen (35 Saves).

Articles to Check Out

-The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published an article talking about what has caused this new-found skill and zeal for playing. It is an interesting piece and worth your attention.

-Here is a Q and A with Bruce Levinson, a co-owner of the Thrashers who represents the team to the NHL Board of Governors, in which he praises coach John Anderson and provides some insight into how the team is run. You can check it out here.

-The Thrashers' next game is tonight against the Edmonton Oilers at 9:30pm EDT. The game can be seen on Sports South, and the recap can be found here afterwards. Good night (or I guess I should say good morning) Blueland!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Thrashers Beat Hurricanes 5-3 in Comeback Triumph

The Atlanta Thrashers overcame a two goal deficit to beat the Carolina Hurricanes 5-3 in front of nearly 18,000 raucous fans at Phillips Arena.

Ilya Kovalchuk had five points (2 G, 3 A) in the game, and Rich Peverley added two goals (including his team leading fourth game-winning goal of the season) to get the team the win.

The game started agonizingly enough, with the Hurricanes taking a 2-0 lead into the first intermission. Tuomo Ruutu and Sergei Samsonov provided the goals in the frame for the 'Canes.

In the second period, the play definitely started to turn in the favor of Atlanta, and with 36 seconds left in the frame, Ilya Kovalchuk, on the dead sprint, fired a shot over the shoulder of the crouching Cam Ward that barely snuck in under the bar to send the game to intermission at 2-1. It was a thing of beauty, and it for the first time brought to attention the number of vocal supporters that the Thrashers had assembled for the game.

The third period begun much like the first one ended, with the Hurricanes scoring a goal and probably dealing a death blow to Atlanta's chances for the evening. The Thrashers, however, had other ideas.

Rich Peverley brought the team to within a goal at 3-2 with a tap-in goal for a puck that Cam Ward thought he had covered up. Then, in a flurry of activity in front of the Carolina net, several Thrashers players peppered Cam Ward with shots before Kovie pinged a shot off the post. Ward flailed around on the ice hoping to God he had covered the puck up, but Todd White flipped the unattended rubber biscuit into the net to knot the game up at three apiece.

After an "Ax Men"-worthy chop sent the Thrashers on the power play, Rich Peverley made the most of the opportunity and snuck the puck past Ward to put Atlanta up by one with less than two minutes to go in the game. Peverley has proven with his 21 points in 20 games that he is the best waiver wire addition thus far in the NHL season, and possibly has upped his prominence on the team's attacking units.

The Hurricanes mounted one final assault, and they finally relinquished the puck in the waning seconds, and Kovalchuk emphatically slapped the puck into the empty Carolina net for a 5-3 win and a roar from the crowd that has been woefully lacking at Phillips Arena this season.

The story of the game could easily have been Kovie's five points, or Peverley's team leading fourth game winning goal, but instead, the story of this game turned out to be none other than the Atlanta fans. Nearly 18,000 people showed up at the game tonight, and their voices were heard loud and clear throughout. With that in mind, the first star of tonight's game should be the hockey fans of Atlanta. They showed spirit and enthusiasm, and here's hoping that this is the start of more good things to come. Good night Blueland.

PS: Here's a totally self-serving link to my article on The Hockey Writers (which will be my last article as a full-time writer for the team. Click here

Friday, February 27, 2009

Recap? You're Talkin About a Recap?

Considering that I have been up for 28 straight hours, I was going to sit down and write a recap of the game, but I decided not to. I apologize profusely for not writing one, but I promise that I will have a good Thrashers article in the very near future. Thanks for your understanding, and in the meantime, go ahead and check out the recap from the Thrashers' website by clicking here.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

As Deadline Draws Near, the Thrashers May Move Significant Pieces

With less than a week to go before the NHL trade deadline, the Atlanta Thrashers are continuing to look for ways to improve their team.

Having already moved Mathieu Schneider, the Thrashers are still interested in moving Ron Hainsey and his contract, which will pay him $4.25 million for the next five seasons, and Niclas Havelid, who will be an unrestricted free agent at season's end.

Rumors are also swirling today that the team is having difficulty in its negotiations with the agent for netminder Kari Lehtonen, and are seriously considering moving him before Wednesday's deadline.

"In my opinion, I'd like to re-sign him," Thrashers coach John Anderson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I've seen what he can do. That's more of (Lehtonen's) decision than ours. I can't speak for (GM Don Waddell). I haven't sat down particularly to talk to him about Kari. I'm sure Don would love to re-sign Kari."

Teams rumored to be interested, according to the report on, include the Senators, the Flyers (but probably only if they can move Martin Biron), and the Red Wings (the most likely destination according to a couple of sources).

The reason for the trade rumors is based on Lehtonen's contract status, which makes him a restricted free agent at season's end. He also would be arbitration eligible, and negotiations have not been going well up til this point.

The natural pick to replace Kari in goal should he be traded is youngster Ondrej Pavelec, who at the age of 20 just won AHL Player of the Week, going 3-1 with a 1.25 GAA and .963 save percentage for the Wolves.

This comes on the heels of a stretch where Lehtonen has played some of his best hockey of the season, beating the Ducks in Anaheim and holding teams like the Blackhawks and Sharks in check in the process.

Random Notes:

-Read an interesting article about Tobias Enstrom replacing Ron Hainsey on the Thrashers' first power play line. My initial thought is that this was a subtle signal that Atlanta is close to moving Ron. Judge for yourself by clicking here.

-Another interesting profile from the folks at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about youngster Colin Stuart, who is racking up short-handed goals for Atlanta as of late. Here's the link: "Stuart, Thrashers Thriving Short-Handed"

-In about 20 minutes, the Thrashers are taking the ice against the Washington Capitals in the nation's capital. Stay tuned to the blog for the game recap when the final horn sounds.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Thrashers Top Avalanche 4-3 In Riotous Return to Phillips Arena

The Atlanta Thrashers beat the Colorado Avalanche 4-3 at Phillips Arena on Tuesday night. The Thrashers finally returned home after an eventful West Coast road trip saw them go 2-1-1 and score gobs of goals.

Ilya Kovalchuk scored his 10th goal in his last eight games, and Marty Reasoner also scored. Tobias Enstrom and Rich Peverley also scored short-handed goals for the Thrashers, continuing what has been an extremely promising trend of aggressiveness when the team is down a man.

Peter Budaj took the loss for the Avs, and he looked shaky from the start. He gave up goals on two of the first three shots that he faced, and he repeatedly played the puck too aggressively and nearly allowed the Thrashers to make it a blowout before fans had even settled in their seats.

Reasoner's goal with eight minutes left in the first period made it a 3-0 hockey game, and many thought that the rout was on (at least those of us watching the game on NHL GameCenter and using the chat room thought).

It started with Milan Hejduk. Putting on his offense-badge, Milan hammered a puck past Kari Lehtonen with a minute and a half remaining in the first to send the game to intermission 3-1 in favor of Atlanta.

Coming out of the break, the Avs looked lost at times to begin the period. The Thrashers were unable to make them pay for their loose play, however, and the Avalanche made them pay. Milan Hejduk scored with nine minutes left in the second period, and the Avs were threatening again on a power play just four minutes later.

After some pretty poor passing, Peverley made his move, snagged a wayward pass, and broke down the ice and scored to make it 4-2 and once again ensure that the Thrashers would not be defeated in the game. Atlanta continued to play solid defense and the second intermission came with the score 4-2 and the fans feeling pretty content with the effort.

In the third period, it was once again a struggle. Both sides were playing with a measured tone, not wanting to risk giving up the all important edge. The Avalanche tried and tried to put the puck in the net throughout the period, and they couldn't take advantage of some opportunities that Atlanta gave them.

Finally, with a minute and a half left in the game, Chris Stewart scored a goal while Colorado had six men on the ice to cut the lead to one. After the clock wound down and hearts around the arena stopped pounding underneath the sky blue jerseys, the Thrashers emerged from the smoke with a 4-3 win. Aided by a late penalty to Colorado, the Thrashers had proven that yes, they can win at home too.

The three stars of the game were:

3rd Star: I. Kovalchuk (1 G)

2nd Star: E. Perrin (1 A)

1st Star: T. Enstrom (1 G, 1 A)

My take on the games' stars: Putting Perrin among the three stars is a feat that could only be accomplished by a doofus. Not putting Rich Peverley, who only had a goal and an assist (and that goal was the game winning goal, by the way) in the game, as a star was dumb enough, but the guy who assisted on the first goal of the game was a star. Does that make sense? No. It doesn't.

Random Notes: This win was only the fifth for Atlanta at home in their last 21 games. Ilya Kovalchuk's goal was his 20th in the team's last 24 games.

Atlanta's next game will be Thursday at 6pm against the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center. The game can be seen on Sports South, and features two of the game's best left wings in Ilya Kovalchuk and some guy named Ovechkin. Never heard of him. Anyway, check that out, and good night from Blueland.