I'm sure Thrashers fans remember the brutal start to the 2007-08 season. The team went 0-6 and head coach Bob Hartley was fired.
Saturday night's game against Buffalo was the team's fifth of the season. And since I love crunching the numbers, I thought I'd share with you a five game comparison of some team stats, from this season and last.
One of the biggest improvements has been penalty killing. Last season, the Thrashers allowed 11 powerplay goals against in the first five games on 32 chances (65.6%) compared to just five goals scored on 26 opportunities (80.8%) for an improvement of 15.1%.
The other major improvement is the amount of offense generated by the defensemen. Through the first five games last season, the blueliners had tallied a cumulative five points (1-4=5). This season, they have contributed 10 points over the first five games (1-9=10). The numbers from this season are skewed a bit considering Ron Hainsey and Niclas Havelid had a combined five points against Washington on opening night.
In terms of shots, the team this season is averaging 30.4 a game compared to last season's 22 shots a game over the first five contests. However, the shots against is identical with the opposition averaging 34.6 a game over both starts.
And while the before-mentioned penalty kill has been much improved from this season over last, the powerplay has struggled mightily. Since opening night when the team scored three with the man advantage against Washington, they have gone a collective 0-20 in the last four games. In fact, the powerplay is just 3-29(10.3%) through five games which is slightly better than the 2-21(9.5%) start a season ago.
As for the offense, it's not so much about the number of goals the team has scored during the first five games, it's more about the fewer number of goals they have allowed. This season the team has scored 14 and allowed 14 (Even) compared to tallying nine goals in the first five games last season and allowing a whopping 23 goals against (-14)!
Finally, what about the start of games for the Thrashers? Last season, they gave up plenty of goals in the first five minutes of periods. During the first five games a season ago, they gave up six goals to the opposition in the first five minutes. That happened in four of the first five games. This season, they've given up just three in the first five games.
Numbers are numbers and can be interpreted in many ways. But through the first five games, it appears the penalty killing units are more effective, the defensemen are contributing more to the scoresheet, and that the team is generating more scoring chances. With that said, the powerplay needs work. and for a team that will like be an offensive work in progress over the first half of the season, getting goals with the man advantage remains critical to their success.