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Panthers At Thrashers: Atlanta Needs To Take Advantage Of Good Goaltending

The Thrashers just can't score for trying. 

The AJC's Chris Vivlamore has an outstanding run-down of the Thrashers' issues recently. It reads like a bucket list for a team that wants the first overall pick:

 

  • The Thrashers have scored one goal in four of the past five games, despite having more than 40 shots on goal in each.
  • Their shooting percentage in the past five games is 3.2 percent (7-for-214). Their shooting percentage in the past 10 games, all while out-shooting the opposition, is 5.6 percent (22-for-393).
  • The Thrashers are 7-17-6 in past 30 games, having scored 63 goals. They scored 114 in the first 35 games of the season while compiling a 19-11-5 mark.
  • They have been held to one or zero goals four times in first 35 games and 10 times in the past 30 games.
  • The Thrashers, without back-to-back wins since Jan. 2 and 5, have not won a game by two or more goals since Dec. 20, a 6-3 win over Toronto.
That's not going to bring anyone success. Obviously, the team's top scorers aren't getting it done except for Andrew Ladd, who is trying to drag this team to the playoffs single-handedly by scoring seven goals in his last ten games. Coach Craig Ramsay, in Vivlamore's article, points to lack of screening the goalie and lack of being able to pick up rebounds as part of why the team isn't getting quality scoring chances - which is something even opposition goaltender Carey Price called the team out on. They can't adapt to individual goalies' scoring quirks. Could they elevate the puck over Price's pads in Tuesday's game? Not until Nik Antropov finally managed to. Was Price slamming the pads down and preventing any on-ice shots from getting through for three straight periods? Absolutely.

This lack of adapting to a goaltender's quirks and not getting rebounds isn't a new phenomenon for this season. The lack of having any net presence has been an issue with this team for years. You need a gritty style of play with players willing to crash the net to get those chances. Dustin Byfuglien's willing to take himself out of position to do so, as are Thorburn and Boulton, but that's it. The guy that we could rely on to get dirty goals, Jim Slater, has been out since January 2nd with a concussion he sustained on New Year's Eve - not only are we losing his expertise in the face-off circle and the penalty kill, we also have lost his ability to go to the correct position in front of the net.

Speaking of the penalty kill, it has improved slightly since the trade deadline fixes general manager Rick Dudley pulled off. Bringing in Mark Stuart, Radek Dvorak, and to a lesser degree Rob Schremp, have helped the PK allow only one powerplay goal in this homestand. The overall PK percentage has gone up to 77.4%, which is now good for third to last instead of second to last in the league. 

Ondrej Pavelec is expected to dress for tonight's game, as is Alexander BurmistrovPavs suffered a ligament sprain and a bone bruise in last week's loss to the Panthers. Keep in mind, though, that dressing for a game and playing in a game are two very different things. Chris Mason has been excellent since coming in to relieve Pavelec. The three goals he allowed Thursday night to the Senators were the most allowed in this homestand, and one could argue that the first goal shouldn't count considering the fact that it bounced in off of Dustin Byfuglien's shin. He has more than given the team a chance to win, and is playing as well as he did when he led the Blues from 13th in the West to 6th in the conference in 2009. Unfortunately, the Thrashers are unable to take advantage of that, and won't be able to until they figure out how to crash a goaltender and pick up rebounds off the boards and off of the goalie's pads.

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