Thrashers succeeding minus Ilya Kovalchuk

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.

Scroll Down For:

    Lonnie Cameron, hockey-tough linesman, shakes off puck to head (Video)

    2 Comments

    Talking about hockey toughness is pretty much a trope at this point, yet there are still moments that impress even the cynical among us.

    Linesman Lonnie Cameron accomplished that for many on Tuesday, as he returned to the Nashville Predators – Vancouver Canucks game despite taking a puck to the head in a scary moment.

    Judging by the Twitter feed of Brooks Bratten from the Predators’ website, Cameron missed mere minutes of time.

    So, yeah, it seems like Cameron qualifies as “hockey tough.”

    As far as the game itself went, the Canucks beat the Predators 1-0 thanks to Henrik Sedin‘s goal (his 999th point) and Ryan Miller‘s 30-save shutout.

    Is this more than just a slump for Henrik Lundqvist?

    2 Comments

    People have been wondering for years if Henrik Lundqvist would finally fall off track and, you know, look human. After the New York Rangers’ zany 7-6 loss to the Dallas Stars, those rumblings are probably getting a little louder.

    Don’t expect the Rangers to throw their star goalie under the bus, though, especially after a wide-open game like Tuesday’s goal-filled game at Madison Square Garden.

    In fact, Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault is already penciling Lundqvist in for Thursday’s game against the rising Toronto Maple Leafs.

    “He’s going to play, he’s going to try real hard, and we’re going to try to play better in front of him,” Vigneault said, according to the New York Post’s Brett Cyrgalis. “This is a team.”

    Lundqvist, meanwhile, said about what you’d expect:

    Naturally, Lundqvist and plenty of other Rangers threw the word embarrassing around quite a bit to describe this game, or at least the first 40 minutes. It’s just that no one’s really raking Lundqvist over the coals.

    Is this time different?

    Again, Lundqvist is no stranger to struggles, even if he struggles less often than just about any franchise goalie in recent memory.

    Still, the sample size is getting large enough for this stretch to be a concern for the 34-year-old netminder.

    While goal support and stretches of good play open the door for a respectable 18-12-1 record, Lundqvist’s allowing almost three goals per game (2.89 GAA) and has a backup-level .902 save percentage this season. And that’s over 32 games.

    Things get even uglier if you focus on more recent events.

    He’s allowed 20 goals in his past four starts, including allowing 12 tallies over four periods during the past two games. Lundqvist has a putrid .841 save percentage in January after producing great work in November (.925 save percenate in 11 games) and nice numbers in December (.915 in eight games).

    Lundqvist has given up four goals or more on nine different occasions since Nov. 23.

    In other words, there are a lot of different ways in which he’s struggling:

    Is this a matter of Lundqvist regaining his focus or is “The King” finally abdicating his throne?

    The Rangers are going to let him try to work through this. Otherwise, they might just need to hope that this is an off-year and *gulp* at least consider how far (an eventually healthy?) Antti Raanta could take them.

    Supporting cast rallies Blackhawks in win against Avalanche

    Leave a comment

    For much of the season, the Colorado Avalanche’s biggest names have let them down while many believe that the Chicago Blackhawks are getting it done despite a mediocre supporting cast.

    On Tuesday, the script was essentially flipped. The Avs’ stars were productive, yet so were lesser-known Chicago forwards like Tanner Kero and Vinne Hinostroza.

    The most important narrative stayed the same, however, as the Blackhawks found a way to get by the Avalanche in a 6-4 decision.

    The Blackhawks took a 2-1 lead into the second period, but the Avs put together one of their best stretches of this lousy season. Blake Comeau tied it up, Matt Nieto scored his first goal with Colorado and then Matt Duchene answered Chicago’s only goal of the second period (by Kero) to give the Avalanche a 4-3 edge.

    The Avalanche doubled Chicago’s shots on goal in the second period, generating an 8-4 edge. It felt like a rare moment where Colorado’s talent actually flexed its collective muscles.

    Then the Blackhawks turned it on in the third, generating a 12-5 shot edge of their own and finding a way to win.

    Hinostroza ended up making the biggest difference, scoring the tying and game-winning goals before Kero iced it with an empty-netter thanks to an unselfish pass by Jonathan Toews.

    (It’s not to say that Chicago’s big names outright slept through this game, either. Toews got that assist and Marian Hossa made a bunch of plays to help make life easier for Hinostroza and Kero.)

    This wasn’t always pretty, but the Blackhawks are doing enough to get points night after night. On some nights, that’s the real difference between a contender like Chicago and a languishing squad like Colorado.

    Blue Jackets move back to first in Metro, NHL after beating Hurricanes

    COLUMBUS, OH - JANUARY 7:  Sergei Bobrovsky #72 of the Columbus Blue Jackets warms up prior to the start of the game against the New York Rangers on January 7, 2017 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
    Getty
    Leave a comment

    After stumbling for a bit, Tuesday was a reassuring night for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

    With a 4-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus moved back to the top of the Metropolitan Division (and thus, the NHL) because they now match the Washington Capitals’ 64 points but have more wins (30 to 29) and hold a game in hand.

    Also comforting for Columbus: Sergei Bobrovsky returned to the Blue Jackets net, allowing one goal on 25 shots.

    They were probably also happy to see Brandon Dubinsky enjoy a strong night (two goals) and Boone Jenner collect an assist and this absolute beauty of a goal:

    The Hurricanes actually did hold a 1-0 lead in this game, but it lasted all of 11 seconds, as that Jenner goal erased that advantage.

    The Blue Jackets face the Senators in Columbus on Thursday and then host the Hurricanes once again on Saturday. They follow that up with five straight road games and six of seven away from home beginning on Jan. 22. Columbus will pass another big test if they can stick with the Capitals and the rest of the NHL’s best through that stretch.