Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Talk about your bounce back games!

Without a doubt, Tuesday's game in Toronto was the finest of the season for the Atlanta Thrashers. They stopped the three game slide. They all showed up. They played with passion, and they won one for their head coach who had a great run as a player wearing the blue and white.

In all, 11 players hit the score sheet. Todd White and Slava Kozlov had two points each. In fact, that line which includes Bryan Little had a five point night and finished plus-2 with six shots. After combining for one shot on goal against Columbus last Saturday, Kozlov and Ilya Kovalchuk rebounded with six shots between them.

From a team perspective, the Thrashers put 30 shots on Leafs goaltender Curtis Joseph, seven players had at least 2 hits and the team finished with 27 in all to go along with 14 blocked shots.

And most impressive of all, they played inspired, full of grit and urgency.

The outspoken-of-late Garnet Exelby backed up his words about showing up with effort by fighting tough guy Jamal Mayers in the second period. Eight minutes later, Kovalchuk went after Ian White after the Leafs defenseman semi-blindsided the Thrashers superstar. Defenseman Nathan Oystrick was ready to go midway through the game and Kozlov played with an edge most of the night. Lest we forget Colby Armstrong, who took ownership of the neutral zone a few times.

They didn't just show up, they dominated in the self-proclaimed epicenter of hockey, also known as Toronto.

They successfully banked two points on Tuesday in T.O. and they need to pay it off with a win tonight in Washington. Look for goaltender Ondrej Pavelec to get the start, although you can never count out the always ready Johan Hedberg. A regulation win on Wednesday would put the Thrashers just five points out of first place with a game in hand on the Capitals. Washington is one of two teams (San Jose) without a regulation loss on home ice (7-0-1).

BOGOSIAN UPDATE: He began a light skating regimen last Friday which consists of about 10-15 minutes on his own prior to the team's morning practice. I caught up with him last Saturday morning before the Columbus game and he said the leg is feeling better by the day. He's taking it easy and trying to slowly build on his skating time each day. He's not yet at the point where he can do starts and stops. It's hard to believe it's been less than a month since his injury.

Now, go stuff the turkey!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

XM Update

Hi Everyone,

I'm going on XM 204 at 6pm tonight to talk Thrashers. I hope all of you have a great Thanksgiving. Be safe.



As the Atlanta Thrashers embark on a two game road trip which begins tonight in Toronto, it should be interesting to witness their response coming off a lack-luster 2-0 defeat at home last Saturday to Columbus.

To put it mildly, the Thrashers had more passengers Saturday night than one of those big Delta jets flying an international route. They were lulled to sleep by a Blue Jackets team that makes wallpaper look exciting. Ken Hitchcock, their head coach, would be an effective spokesperson for Sominex. But the bottom line is that the Jackets play their system to a T. They lock down teams defensively, pounce on turnovers, frustrate the heck out of them and win a lot of low scoring games. Plus, they now have the horses to provide the necessary offense in players like Rick Nash, Derrick Brassard and Kristian Huselius.

During "Thrashers Live" that followed our broadcast on Sportsouth, analyst Darren Eliot branded a succinct phrase that spelled out the home team's effort that night:

"You can have an off night, but you can't take the night off."

I challenge anyone to come up with a more succinct phrase describing the plight of the Thrashers on Saturday night and what has happened with this team periodically throughout the season.

Defenseman Garnet Exelby was once again front and center during the post-game media scrums, calling out the team like he did after the 6-1 loss at New Jersey earlier this month.

"We didn't come ready to play," he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I could sit here and give you excuses, but we've got to play with a lot more passion. We've got a lot of passengers right now and not everybody is pulling our weight, and it's becoming a lot more evident here, every passing game."

Passengers? Exelby is dead on. And the bus is filling up quickly.

Unfortunately, one of those passengers on Saturday night was LW Ilya Kovalchuk, the same player I praised on this blog just days before. At one point, he fanned on a shot from above the left circle, then slowly sulked to the bench on a change as the play went up the ice and into the Thrashers defensive zone.

Kovalchuk is the Thrashers best player. He is the face of the franchise that brings fans out of their seats regularly. He needs to lead. On Saturday night, he failed.

The margin of error for this team is razor thin. If hockey is the consummate team game, as Eliot has preached to me since 1999, then this team can ill-afford to have a single player take the night off.

Sometimes, road trips are the best tonic for a team struggling to string together wins. Trips to Toronto can often bring out the best in struggling teams since the spotlight of the hockey world will shine down on them tonight in the (self proclaimed) center of the hockey universe, not to mention family and friends who are often in attendance at such tilts. Wednesday's trip to Washington represents one of those four point swing games within the division against a Capitals team the Thrashers dominated on opening night. And if the team has shown a dominance in one statistical category this season, it's been their record against Southeast Division rivals, which stands at 4-0-2.

This team is fragile once again, but oh so close to ripping off another modest four or five game win streak. How else can you explain a team that's lost three in a row, yet won five of their last eight?

So how will the Thrashers react this week? Only they know the answer to that question.