Since the Ilya Kovalchuk trade, the Atlanta Thrashers are 2-1-2. All things considered, that's a decent record. With the post-Olympic schedule giving the Thrashers plenty of time at home, the team has an opportunity to make a big statement.
2-1-2. That's about as much as any Thrasher fan could have realistically hoped for since the departure of #17. The only regulation loss came against the Capitals on the night immediately following the Ilya Kovalchuk trade. At the time, the Capitals were in the midst of what would be a 14 game winning streak. Since that game, the Thrashers earned points in all of their contests, including two regulation wins against Florida and Minnesota, and two OT losses to Colorado and Chicago.
You must have noticed I bolded the phrase “earned points.” When this Thrashers squad could have (and would have in the past) folded like a cheap suit, they have continued to work hard and earn meaningful points that keep them in the playoff hunt.
This was exemplified in their exciting battle against the Chicago Blackhawks Saturday night. Let's face it, every one expected Chicago to not only defeat the Thrashers, but to destroy the Thrashers. One of the deepest, fastest, and most skilled teams in the league, Chicago is practically an All-Star team when put next to the unheralded Thrashers roster. Even after going down in a 3-1 hole, the Thrashers battled back to take a 4-3 lead in the 3rd period. Unfortunately, Chicago was able to tie it up midway through the 3rd to go on to a shootout victory. Despite the loss, the Thrashers earned a very important point in the standings, and also proved to the league that they can still swing with the big boys.
A big reason the Thrashers are still alive is the play of newcomer Niclas Bergfors. Since coming to Atlanta in the Kovalchuk trade, Bergfors has 2 goals and 2 assists in 5 games. Both of his goals were game winners. If they weren't already, Thrashers fans are now very excited to see what Bergfors can do for the team in the long-run.
Nikolai Antropov has also stepped up, as he has 8 points in his past 4 games, with 2 goals and a 6 assists. Antropov is the team's leading scorer with 50 points in 56 games. He has a very impressive +18 rating so far this season.
As we enter the Olympic break, the Thrashers sit in 11th place in the east and only two points away from the 8th playoff spot. They have games in hand on all three teams that lie between them and that playoff spot. It won't be easy, but with a home-heavy schedule, the Thrashers have the opportunity to make the playoffs.
The Thrashers are sending 5 players on the Olympic games in Vancouver, Canada. Defensemen Johnny Oduya and Tobias Enstrom will suit up for Team Sweden. Forward Maxim Afinogenov will be playing for Team Russia. Defenseman Pavel Kubina and goaltender Ondrej Pavelec will play for the Czech Team.
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Written by Kevin Thurston