Boston is never an easy opponent for the Atlanta Thrashers. 11-1 against the Thrash in their last twelve match-ups, most Thrasher fans cringe at the Bruins' name on the schedule, and most Bruins fans brace themselves for an easy victory. That might not happen this game. Both teams are pretty well matched, and the Thrashers are on a four game winning streak at home that hasn't happened since 2007. They've never won five at home, and haven't won five in a row since March of 2009.
The Bruins are entering this game with the mindset of playing a tough opponent, which is something that the league is finally realizing the Thrashers are.
"It's going to be a very hard game," said a stern-faced Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara (21 games played, 4 goals, 6 assists, 10 points), before he and his teammates hopped a flight south on Saturday afternoon.
"They are playing extremely well -- they've won four games in a row, and have put up 35-plus shots in each of the wins.
"They are playing an extremely 'hard-working' system," added Chara of Atlanta, 5-4-1 in their last 10. "They play a simple game...[but] we have to be ready to compete and bring our game."
The Thrashers just aren't putting up lots of shots recently (which is still flabbergasting fans in Philips Arena). Their power play is also clicking, and it's worked itself up to being the third best in the league. They have a 24.5% success rate on the man advantage. Taking a penalty against Atlanta is not advisable for the opposition. What could be a good idea for the Bruins is to get onto the power play themselves, since Atlanta's PK is 24th in the league, with only a 78.8% success rate.
Ondrej Pavelec must shake the trend that he has against the Bruins of being pulled after a bad first period. For whatever reason, he has been atrocious against them in his career. He has stellar stats thus far this season, and has allowed two goals in the past four wins, but Boston gets into his head. He's never won against the Bruins.
The Thrashers have outscored the Bruins this season by fourteen goals this season, 72 to 58, and have ten more powerplay goals than the opposition. The area where they would be most evenly matched up is goaltending, if Tim Thomas would start. However, Tuukka Rask is in net this time around. Rask's improving, but he's 1-5-1 overall with a 2.36 GAA and a .935 SV%. To have that good of numbers while only having won one game tells the story of a team that can't score to support their goaltender. The Thrashers need to take advantage of this.
I'll be participating in the Thrashers' bloggers' day today, so I'll be in the press box. Stay tuned for regular updates from before and during the game, as well as a possible Q&A with Rich Peverley and a write up of Coach Craig Ramsay's post-game press conference.