Many fans had dubbed it the biggest game of the year. If the Thrashers won, they would leapfrog Boston take take sole possession of 8th place with 10 games to go. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way. The Boston Bruins shut down the Thrashers in every aspect of the game, and it turned out to be a pretty boring contest for the Thrashers faithful that did show up.
The biggest aspect that came to mind as I watched this game? Coaching. The Thrashers and coach John Anderson were totally outcoached by Claude Julien of the Bruins.
If you pay any attention to the Thrashers, you might notice they like to score off the rush. In fact, thats about the only way Anderson’s team can consistently score. That’s a glaring issue when you’ve got to play crucial late-March hockey against old-school teams with old-school coaches. When Julien brought out the Neutral Zone Trap, it was game-over not even 10 minutes in. Anderson had nary an answer to Julien’s strategy, and it shows in the big fat ZERO you see next to the Thrashers logo in the post-game report. The Thrashers were somehow given credit for 28 shots, but having seen the game, that number seemed more like 10. And I won’t even try to figure out how many shots totally missed the net.
Radio host Dan Kamal on Bruins goalie Tuuka Rask: “He was probably just doing has taxes down there.”
Okay, so that’s why they didn’t score. But why did they get scored on 4 times?
The plain and simple answer is face-offs. All four of the Boston goals came off of failed face-offs by the Thrashers. On the first, second, and third goals, it was all a result of the Thrashers winning the face off, and then immediately coughing up the puck. After that, it was tic-tac-goal for the Bruins, who made it look rather effortless even without Marc Savard. For the fourth goal, the Thrashers botched a faceoff at center ice and allowed Steve Begin to take what should have been harmless 60 foot shot. Hebderg fumbled it with the glove, and without a Blue Jersey in sight, Begin strolled on in, examined the rebound, realized he could score, and tapped it in.
Now the Bruins are three points ahead of the Thrashers, AND they have a game in hand.
Alas, the Thrashers can still make it to the playoffs despite this crucial loss. Unfortunately, the schedule from here is not any easier. In the final 5 games of the schedule, the Thrashers will face the Penguins and Capitals twice each, and one “mark-this-on-your-calendar” game against Kovalchuk and the Devils. All three of those teams are penciled in for a playoff spot and have been playing quality hockey.
The next four games are two home-and-home’s against the Hurricanes and Maple Leafs. If this was a quality team with a quality coach, the Thrashers would likely emerge 4-0 in that stretch. However, the Thrashers have proven this year that they do not make the most of games against sub-.500 teams.
I can’t say for sure, but it did appear that Thrashers part-owner Rutherford Seydel was in the house. Hopefully he was taking notes during this coaching debacle and considering the changes that might be necessary.
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Written by Kevin Thurston