What' that old saying? “If I'm going down, I'm taking you with me,” is it?
The Atlanta Thrashers appear to be improving every day and I'm starting to get excited already for next season to see if this team is actually making strides in the right direction or not.
Last night's 3-2 overtime win over the Buffalo Sabres might just seal the deal on Buffalo's season. Currently four points back of ninth place Florida and five points back of eighth place Montreal, the Sabres have a tall order ahead of them.
The schedule doesn't help them either, which makes last night's loss that much more devastating. Here's the Sabres remaining schedule. If you ask me, if they run the gauntlet and somehow win four or five of these games, let them into the playoffs.
Final six games: at Washington, home for New Jersey, home for Detroit, at Toronto, at Carolina, home for Boston.
I'm not going to say I'm not excited about seeing the Thrashers embrace the spoiler role. It's a mentality of, “if we can't make it in, let's just try to impact the playoff picture as much as possible.”
Works for me. If the Thrashers can continue this hot streak for another 10 days or so, they will have a lot to draw on when the puck drops on the 2009-2010 season.
As for the game last night, Ilya Kovalchuk just might have the best wrist shot of anyone in the league. He is playing like a man possessed right now.
His breakaway goal on an awful giveaway by Thomas Vanek was his 41st of the season. Any time you break the 40-goal mark, it's a good season, but here's the insane part about his season. He has 30 goals in his last 37 games. Are you kidding me? That might rival some of the numbers I put up in NHL 09. The guy is a goal scoring machine.
Vanek opened the scoring just 7:01 into the opening frame on the powerplay. Yes, another powerplay goal against, I know. Think big picture here. You know how the game turned out already so calm down.
Jason Pomminville fired a slap shot from the point through traffic that Moose was able to stop, but he left a rebound in the paint and Vanek slammed it home.
Have no fear, Zach Bogosian is here. Just 1:35 after the Vanek goal, Bogosian tied it up on a pretty wrist shot against the grain over Ryan Miller's shoulder. You don't expect to see a defenseman pick a corner like that, but such was the case. I'm not complaining at all as I think Bogosian is going to be a very good player in this league for many years.
At the end of the first period, the game remained tied at 1-1.
One of the guys who has lifted my fantasy team to the championship round is Slava Kozlov. Everyone in the league started calling me asking if I had fallen down a flight of stairs and suffered brain damage when I picked him up off the free agent list in early December.
Shortly after that I snatched up Todd White and have been cruising ever since. Why am I telling you this?
Guess who broke the tie in the second period?
Yup, Kozlov with his 25th of the season.
This is one of those goals that as a fan you're halfway out of your chair thinking it's a goal, only to slump back into your chair and then pull every muscle in your lower back while leaping out of the chair with your arms raised all in a 0.5 second span. Needless to say I need to go see a chiropractor now.
Here's what happened:
Rob Hainsey received a pass from Colby Armstrong near the top of the right faceoff circle. Hainsey then proceeds to thread the needle to the near side to Kozlov, who has a gaping net staring at him. Kozlov attempts to send the puck to its home, but Miller comes out of nowhere and throws the stick up and makes an absolutely incredible save only to be let down by his defense and have the rebound bounce in.
Full marks to Miller for making the best save of the year that still ends up in the net. Someone should make a trophy and have an awards ceremony for all the weird things that happen in games. Maybe have a little golden hockey player with a jester hat instead of a helmet. I don't know, this is just some of the things I think about from time to time when my cable goes out.
Anyway, back to the game.
Vanek struck again exactly 2:30 after Kozlov's goal to tie it at 2-2 on a 5-on-3 powerplay. Yep, that means both goals the Sabres got last night were on the powerplay. It really boggles my mind how the Thrashers have won 11 of the last 15 games and have given up about two goals a game while shorthanded. It doesn't make sense to me at all.
Every time I see a player with the jaw protector, I crack up. I respect the fact that they're out there taking hits and playing the game with a broken jaw. That's a world of pain I hope I never experience, but the jaw protector makes a vivid reference to one of the greatest movie characters of all time. Take into consideration the visor that Vanek wears and you have yourself a less insane Hannibal Lector.
I rather enjoy seeing the Thrashers winning games now, but I can't help but wonder where this has been all season. Maybe it just took this long for the group to come together or maybe it took this long for the team to fully buy into John Anderson's system. I don't know, but I refuse to blame anything on injuries. That's just an easy way out.
This team wasn't expected to be in the playoffs this season, but you can't tell me that teams fighting for the playoffs are looking at the schedule and seeing the Thrashers and aren't worried. This team is hot right now and I don't blame them at all for finishing out the season strong.
When the playoff picture becomes solidified we can all take solace in the fact that a new season is on the horizon and that the playoffs picture was altered ever so slightly by the boys in blue.
Up next for the Thrashers are the division rival Panthers who are just one point back of Montreal for the eighth and final playoff spot. I wonder who the Habs will be rooting for on Friday….
About the Author
Written by Casey Shea