The Buffalo Sabres defeated the New York Rangers last night 1-0, basically ending the Thrashers' playoff hopes. Atlanta can complete the process tonight with a loss to the Flyers. Atlanta has had some success against the Flyers this season, going 2-1-0 against them. The most notable match-up came on March 12th, when the Thrashers took advantage of a Flyers third-period collapse to come back from a three goal deficit. The last time they met on March 17th, however, the Thrashers were unable to maintain a lead and had to win the game in overtime.
Holding onto a lead has been just one of the Thrashers' problems. Their 3-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens was an example of another one - the propensity to allow back to back goals almost immediately. Chris Vivlamore broke every instance of this down in the AJC, and it's a very long list of goof-ups. Keep this from happening, and it's a whole new Eastern Conference. Heck, keep games from going to OT - or actually winning in OT or a shootout - and the Thrashers are still in a playoff spot. Of course, all of that's irrelevant now.
The last six games of the season will basically be fodder for the coaching staff's end of the year player evaluations - who continues to try and who tunes out - how players react to a team situation that is less than good - will be a huge factor to who's considered after pre-season and camp next year.
Tonight will be more than likely a matchup between Chris Mason and Sergei Bobrovsky, according to dailyfaceoff.com. Mason has been reliable in his last three starts for the Thrashers, especially in the shootout against the Ottawa Senators. In his last three starts, he is 2-1-0, though that loss was a solid goaltending effort against the best team in the league, the Vancouver Canucks. Pavelec played generally well against the Habs on Tuesday night, but his back to back goals (the eleventh time that it's happened to him this season) left the team rattled. He had 25 saves on 27 shots faced (not including the EN goal and the shot that caused it), but his early-season form is a thing of the past. Mason, however, is used to being ridden down the stretch of a season, and plays better when relied upon consistently.
The main thing that the team could build on would be its powerplay. It has scored once in the last seven games, and what was once one of the top powerplays in the league is following the Thrashers' penalty kill into the abyss. Some consistency in execution, either from the players or the coaches, would be nice.