Now that's more like it!
Sunday's Thrashers win over Florida ended a six game skid and, hopefully, will give the team some confidence heading into a stretch in which they play seven straight games against Eastern Conference opponents.
How I saw it:
Ilya Kovalchuk got rolling offensively with a pair of goals. Based on the current roster, the Thrashers need Kovalchuk's offense each and every game if they are to be successful. On the road trip to New York and New Jersey, he seemed disengaged. He was late in coverage on the left wing boards when Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi scored the game winner. When Kovalchuk hits the score sheet, the Thrashers typically have success. But even beyond that, his offensive leadership seems to elevate the team's entire game and focus. It's critical for him to get hot right now.
The win was a team effort. No passengers as had been the case in previous games. The defensemen engaged in the offense once again. Erik Christensen played much better after being benched Saturday in New Jersey. The power play chipped in. Ondrej Pavelec was solid between the pipes. The Thrashers transition game was crisp, catching Florida flat-footed several times resulting in several odd-man chances.
Finally, kudos to defenseman Garnet Exelby. After the game Saturday in New Jersey, he called out his team's effort (or lack thereof) and used some of the sharpest words of criticism in franchise history.
"What has to happen at this point is everybody has to go home and dust off their shiny little mirror and take a look at themselves, because I don't think everyone in this room is toeing the line," he told Mike Knobler of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
He went on to defend goaltender Johan Hedberg and how the Thrashers offered him no support in the 6-1 loss.
"It's up to the rest of us to hold everybody on this team accountable, because when you have a guy like Johan Hedberg in net, who arguably is the best man that I've ever met in professional sports, and you come out and play like that in front of him, when he only gets to play one game every ten games, I think it's embarrassing. It makes me sick to my stomach to think our team came out that way for this guy," Exelby added.
Bottom line: It needed to be said. And I'm sure it allowed everyone in the Atlanta locker room to re-focus for Sunday's game. Exelby is an honest player who's having a renaissance season playing with Ron Hainsey. I found his comments brutally honest......and long overdue.
Looking ahead: The Thrashers host the New York Islanders on Thursday, play at Buffalo Friday, then engage Carolina for a pair of games next week.
Looks to me like a great way to get back into the Eastern Conference playoff race.