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Thrashers At Flyers: Atlanta Takes On First Place Philadelphia

The Flyers under Peter Laviolette are a well-oiled machine that has hit a bit of a hiccup. After spending much of this season high atop the Eastern Conference standings, the month of March hasn't agreed with them at all. They're 3-2-0 so far this month. One of the losses was an atrocious 7-0 blowout to the New York Rangers, and another they let a 2-0 and then a 3-1 lead slip away to the Buffalo Sabres who defeated them 5-3.

Wait a second... that sounds oddly familiar. Holding leads during the game, blowing them, and then losing? Odd. Atlanta would never do - oh. The exact same thing happened to the Thrashers last month in Edmonton, where they let a 3-1 lead evaporate into a 5-3 loss. It's nice to know that Atlanta isn't the only team in the league who is allergic to maintaining a lead.

Fortunately for the Thrashers, they won the two of the last three games where they let a lead slip away. Last night, however, they held a 1-0 and 2-1 lead over the New Jersey Devils only to lose in overtime 3-2. Why'd the team lose? Penalties that were absolutely useless to take. Regardless of if Evander Kane disagreed with the slashing call on him in overtime that led to the game winning goal, you don't need to put yourself in the position where the referee thinks that you've slashed someone. Unless you're lifting a stick, if you're by a player's legs, keep your stick on the ice. Kane didn't, he got called, and so goes the game.

Ondrej Pavelec deserves another chance to win after last night's performance. He stopped 27 of 30 shots on goal in the loss to New Jersey and put on a clinic for most of the night. The score could have been significantly worse had he not made quite a few impressive saves, most notably a killer glove save on an Ilya Kovalchuk snap shot. He plays fairly well against the Flyers, going 1-1-0 against them and stopping 75 of 80 shots on goal those two starts. The five goals allowed came back in January, when the Thrashers lost 5-2 to the Flyers at Philips Arena.

Blake Wheeler so far has four goals as a Thrasher, and the top line of he, Bryan LIttle, and Andrew Ladd have been absolutely solid for the team. Wheeler's goal last night was assisted by Ladd and LIttle, and Dustin Byfuglien's slap shot goal was set up by Tobias Enstrom and Little. The team's top line and top defensemen are contributing. It's time for the rest of the team to do so regularly.

If it makes Thrasher fans feel better, the Flyers haven't fared much better in their last ten games than the Thrashers. Atlanta is 3-5-2, and Philadelphia is 4-5-1. The difference is, unless they lose every game for the rest of the season, the Flyers are all but guaranteed a spot in the postseason. The Thrashers are sitting five points out of 8th place with absolutely no margin for error.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.