This weekend was rather hectic for me and didn't allow for much time to write, but it's now Monday and I've got all the time in the world to catch up.
Let's start with the recent roster moves shall we?
The big man Boris Valabik returned to the lineup after missing six games with an “upper body injury.”
The Thrashers also sent goaltender Dan Turple back to Chicago and called up Ondrej Pavelec. The revolving door of backup goaltenders continues as Kari Lehtonen is still sidelined with an injury of his own. I don't expect to see him between the pipes again this season as the Thrashers have no reason to rush him back.
Despite his absence, Valabik played rather well in just under 17 minutes of ice-time, registering two hits and four blocked shots. He was guilty of a holding penalty in the third period, but for once the penalty kill didn't kill the Thrashers.
The Thrashers only took four penalties in the game and were able to kill off all of them.
I'll repeat that.
The Thrashers went 4-for-4 on the PK on Friday night against the Panthers. Amazing.
What's even better is that yet again the Thrashers were able to start the hammering of a nail in the coffin of another team's playoff hopes with the 3-1 win. The Panthers' win yesterday over the Penguins pulls them even in points with the 8-seed Rangers, but the Rangers have one more win. Had the Panthers defeated the Thrashers and Penguins, they would be two points clear and tied in wins with three games remaining.
I'm fully convinced that this team is really taking it upon themselves to mess with the playoff picture as much as possible. Has any other non-playoff team crushed the hopes and dreams of more teams in a 3-week span? I wouldn't even know where to look for that kind of info, so the Thrashers win by default.
It also appears as if that they are only getting wins against teams fighting for a playoff spot. Take yesterday for example. The Thrashers went on the road to play the last regular season home game for the Capitals and lost 6-4. The Caps are looking like they will get the 2-seed in the playoffs, thanks in large part to New Jersey's sudden slide.
Is it a coincidence that the team went into tailspin mode after Marty Brodeur broke Patrick Roy's all-time win record? I think not and given some of the interactions and observations I have had with Brodeur, I think he may need a bigger helmet to keep that ego protected. But I digress.
The bright spot in the loss yesterday was the Thrashers going 6-for-7 on the penalty kill, meaning over the weekend against a division winner and playoff spot contender, the Thrashers went 10-for-11. I'll sign up for those numbers any day and I think the other 29 teams in the league would too.
The two-goal margin is misleading as Slava Kozlov scored with 44 seconds left to cut the lead to 5-4. Brooks Laich then filled the empty net with his 20th goal of the season to put the game away.
A couple other season milestones were set by the Thrashers:
Colby Armstrong netted his 20th goal of the season in the first period.Bryan Little recorded his 20th assist of the season on Ilya Kovalchuk's 42nd goal of the season.Todd White also assisted on the Kovalchuk marker, giving him 50 assists on the year.Sunday's game was the final road game for the Thrashers this season. The loss dropped them to 17-20-4 on the road this season.
The final three games of the season will be played at home, starting with the back-end of a home and home with the Capitals on Tuesday. The Thrashers will also welcome the Panthers on Thursday in what will no doubt be a must-win game for the cats.
The Thrashers close out the season against the Lightning, who might be trying to tank to get some better odds in the lottery having lost their last six games. They probably won't catch the Islanders, but this upcoming draft appears to be very top heavy and drop off after John Tavares and Victor Hedman.
After the season is over, I'll take a look at some of the potential names that could be drafted by the Thrashers in June. Until then, let's hope they continue to impress and give us something to look forward to next season.
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Written by Casey Shea