Kovy.jpgNow before I get into the meat of this post, I want to make it clear
that I don’t necessarily think that trading Ilya Kovalchuk made the
Atlanta Thrashers automatically better. But I guess that’s what this
article is saying, so….take it was you will. The numbers are
interesting and speak for themselves.

The Atlanta Thrashers did
not make the Ilya Kovalchuk trade out of a will to improve their team
for this season; they needed to get some value for a player they would
lose to free agency this summer no matter what. The Thrashers have been
up and down all season long, actually looking like they might be a
top-five team in the East earlier this season. The season went south,
and the Thrashers traded, yet again, a superstar player who is one of
the best players in the NHL.

Since then, the Thrashers have
overcome a near disastrous six-game losing streak and stand on the
precipice of knocking the Boston Bruins out of the playoffs.

They
also have a better record than the New Jersey Devils since the trade.

Since
February 5, the day after the trade was made, Atlanta is 8-6-3 (19
points) and New Jersey is 7-7-2 (16 points). Not exactly a cavernous
difference in the records of the two teams, but considering the
expectations of the two teams — and the talent levels involved — it is
a bit alarming.

I also looked at the level of competition between
the two during this time, and found that both the Devils and Thrashers
faced ten teams total that are playoff-caliber teams (top nine in the
conference). The Thrashers currently have a four-game winning streak
against four playoff teams in the East.

So what’s the reason for
the Thrashers appearing to be playing at the same level or better than
the Devils? No specific reason, and it’s most likely a bit of a
coincidence. The Thrashers also have a six-game losing streak in that
time, so it’s not as if they’ve been playing at a very high level
overall since the trade. And they’ve been able to climb back into the
playoff race due to some timely losses by the Bruins and Rangers.

Meanwhile
the Devils are fighting for the division lead with the Pittsburgh
Penguins, and the number two seed in the conference. In the short term,
it may appear as if the Thrashers have been freed up and are playing
better after the trade. Yet I’m willing to be that the Devils have the
better long-term success in the playoffs.

Especially if Atlanta
sneaks into the playoffs just to come up against the monster that is the
Washington Capitals.

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    Backes scores OT goal on his birthday, Blues even up series with Stars

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    The St. Louis Blues won’t be thrilled with the way they played in the third period, but in the end, they did just enough to come away with a 4-3 overtime win over the Dallas Stars in Game 2. The Blues’ win means that the series will head to St. Louis tied 1-1.

    The Stars opened the scoring in the first period, but the Blues responded by scoring three unanswered goals (Patrik Berglund, Joel Edmundson, Troy Brouwer) on five shots. Stars coach Lindy Ruff had seen enough from starter Kari Lehtonen at that point. He yanked Lehtonen in favor of Antti Niemi at the start of the second period.

    Neither team was able to find the back of the net in the second period, but things got crazy in the third.

    With his team still trailing 3-1, Mattias Janmark split Alex Pietrangelo and Colton Parayko before scoring a great goal.

    Moments after Janmark’s goal, Brian Elliott took a Jason Spezza blast off the mask. Elliott was shaken up on the play (he even lost one of his contact lenses), but he did stay in the game.

    Stars captain Jamie Benn (surprise, surprise) leveled the score by burying a goal by Brian Elliott with under three minutes in regulation.

    Like they did during their first round series against Chicago, the Blues took some time to regroup before finding a way to get the job done.

    The Blues’ power play went back to work after Antoine Roussel took his third penalty of the game. That’s when the birthday boy, David Backes, came through.

    That’s a nice way to celebrate your 32nd birthday.

    Game 3 goes Tuesday night in St. Louis.

     

    Jamie Benn’s late goal sends Game 2 to overtime

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    This definitely wasn’t the way the St. Louis Blues drew it up.

    The Blues entered the third period of Game 2 with a 3-1 lead. Unfortunately for them, they weren’t able to shut the game down on the road.

    St. Louis jumped ahead 3-1 after 20 minutes before Dallas decided to pull Kari Lehtonen in favor of Antti Niemi. The move didn’t provide any results in the middle frame, but something certainly sparked the Stars in the third period.

    Mattias Janmark cut the deficit to 3-2 with this beauty (notice how he split Colton Parayko and Alex Pietrangelo).

    With less than three minutes remaining in regulation, Stars captain Jamie Benn tied it up (top).

    It’s safe to say this wasn’t a memorable third period for the Blues.

    Video: Brian Elliott takes a blast off the mask, stays in the game

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    A bit of a scary moment in the third period of Game 2 between the Stars and Blues.

    Less than five minutes into the third period, Jason Spezza took a shot that caught Blues goalie Brian Elliott square in the mask. Play was halted as Elliott remained down. It appears as though the shot to the mask also made Elliott lose one of his contacts.

    Thankfully, Elliott wasn’t seriously injured on the play. After being examined by the team doctor, he was allowed to stay into the game. He did need a new mask though (he got his original one back a few minutes later).

    You can watch the play by clicking the video at the top of the page.

    The Blues currently lead 3-2 late in the third period.

    Here’s some Twitter reaction:

     

    Lehtonen only lasts one period in Game 2

    Lehtonen
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    Kari Lehtonen might have been more hit than miss in the playoffs going into today’s action, but Game 2 against St. Louis was certainly a start he’d like to forget.

    Dallas outshot St. Louis 10-5 in the first frame, but the Blues still managed to take a 3-1 lead. Antti Niemi replaced Lehtonen for the second period which means, barring another goalie change, Lehtonen will actually end up with a sub-.500 save percentage this afternoon.

    The numbers obviously look bad and it’s hard not to blame Lehtonen in the face of that, but the Blues deserve a lot of the credit for those goals. Patrik Berglund had a great shot on goal for the first marker, Joel Edmundson‘s first career playoff goal came after a nice setup by Troy Brouwer, and when Brouwer collected his own goal it was off of a rebound during a power play.

    So to an extent, you could say Lehtonen looked bad due to circumstances that were very unfavorable to him. Nevertheless, the Stars needed to shake things up after what was unquestionably a bad period for them.