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.

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    Report: Ehrhoff headed to Bruins on a PTO

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    The Boston Bruins were under some serious pressure this summer to improve their group of defensemen.

    That didn’t happen.

    With training camp and the preseason now in full swing, it appears the Bruins are bringing in a veteran blue liner — at least on a professional tryout.

    On Friday, TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported that unrestricted free agent blue liner Christian Ehrhoff is about to join Boston on a PTO following his showing at the World Cup of Hockey.

    In six games with Team Europe, Ehrhoff had three assists — all at even strength — and nine shots on goal.

    Ehrhoff is now 34 years old, and the Bruins already have a pair of seasoned defenders in Zdeno Chara (39 years old) and John-Michael Liles (35 years old) on their roster. Adam McQuaid turns 30 years old in October.

    Ehrhoff played last season on a one-year, $1.5 million contract, and was placed on waivers in February while with the L.A. Kings, before he was traded to Chicago. Age and injuries have caught up to him, and he never did fit with the Kings’ style under Darryl Sutter.

    He was most productive during two seasons in Vancouver, a puck-moving defenseman that could effectively skate the puck out of trouble and move the attack that way if need be. But that was from 2009 to 2011. His production has dipped, especially over the last three years.

    He was also pivotal to Vancouver’s power play, especially in 2011 when the Canucks won the Presidents’ Trophy and made it to the Stanley Cup Final — against Boston.

    Again, that was five years ago.

    Lehner (forearm contusion) to miss preseason game versus Maple Leafs

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    The Buffalo Sabres will not have goalie Robin Lehner in their lineup Friday versus the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    As per the Sabres, Lehner is dealing with a forearm contusion and will not dress for this preseason game. Jason Kasdorf will start in net for Buffalo.

    Members of the media in Buffalo have noted that if this were a regular season game, Lehner would be able to play.

    Lehner had ankle surgery in March, ending his 2015-16 season. His ankle issues dated even further back, to the beginning of last season when he suffered a high-ankle sprain.

    The Sabres have some exciting young players on their roster, especially up front, but they need Lehner to be healthy if they are to take a run at a playoff spot this season.

    Behind him sit Linus Ullmark, Anders Nilsson and Kasdorf, who have a combined 73 games of NHL experience between them all.

    Matthews to sit out preseason tilt versus Sabres, as Maple Leafs give him ‘a little break’

    BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Auston Matthews poses for a portrait after being selected first overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in round one during the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes/Getty Images)
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    The Toronto Maple Leafs play the Buffalo Sabres on Friday. But No. 1 overall pick Auston Matthews won’t be in the lineup, according to multiple reports.

    “Sooner or later, he’s going to get in, but not tonight,” said assistant coach Jim Hiller, as per the Toronto Sun.

    “The lineups are day by day. They (World Cup players such as Matthews, Milan Michalek, Leo Komarov and James van Riemsdyk) went through a solid three weeks. It’s a little break, a little down time. There are tons of games coming. They’ll get a lot of ice time. They’ll get in shortly.”

    (The report also notes that Matthews is not dealing with a health issue, which is obviously good news for the Leafs.)

    On a night when the No. 2 overall selection Patrik Laine is slated to make his preseason debut for the Winnipeg Jets, fans wishing to see Matthews don a Maple Leafs jersey in his anticipated debut will have to wait.

    Matthews played for Team North America at the World Cup held in Toronto. He had two goals and three points in three round robin games, but the young North American team was unable to advance to the semifinal round.

    The Maple Leafs play the Montreal Canadiens at home on Sunday.

    McLellan: Maroon’s lower-body injury not considered serious

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    It appears Patrick Maroon‘s injury from Wednesday’s preseason game against the Vancouver Canucks looked worse than it is.

    The Edmonton Oilers forward was in obvious pain immediately after he went hard into the boards from an awkward hit delivered by James Sheppard just past the midway point of the third period. Maroon needed help to the bench and was unable to put much, if any, pressure on his left leg.

    He left the game and didn’t return.

    Good news, however, from the Oilers: Head coach Todd McLellan told reporters on Friday that the injury — lower body — is not serious, as per the team’s Twitter account.

    According to Mark Spector of Sportsnet, the 28-year-old Maroon is expected to be ready for Edmonton’s season opener against the rival Calgary Flames on Oct. 12.

    The Oilers acquired Maroon at last season’s trade deadline, a move that certainly added size and an element of grit to their group of forwards.

    In 16 games with Edmonton, he scored eight goals and 14 points. In 56 games with Anaheim that same season, he registered only 13 points before the trade.