The difference between tonight’s game and Wednesday’s game for the Thrashers could be described as night and day, but that wouldn’t give it justice. The Thrashers’ gameplan was total domination for sixty minutes, and that’s what happened. No “shifts off” for some players and absolutely no periods off, the Thrashers came out of the gate firing and never let up.
Defensively this was the best game of the year. Yes, the Caps did manage 29 shots on goal, but few of them were amazing scoring chances. The defense had outstanding coverage on all of the Caps’ troublemakers, and forced many bad passes from Ovechkin – who had another off night against Atlanta. Pavelec was outstanding in goal, but the goal scorers tonight made the biggest statement. The two goals in fifteen seconds apparently got under the Caps’ skin, because they played frustrated and rough
Dustin Byfuglien’s sixth goal of the year was in response to a cross checking call on Evander Kane – after an obvious cross check from John Erskine to Bryan Little. That, and an uncalled interference hit on Alex Burmistrov apparently got under Byfuglien’s skin, because he did this (keep in mind that he left Wednesday’s game and did not return – he was questionable for tonight):
His reaction is priceless. It’s good to have players who take anger or irritation and who transform it into something constructive. Instead of taking a retribution penalty Byfuglien scored another highlight reel goal. I do appreciate Erskine standing there doing absolutely nothing as Buff scored. It’s almost like he knew what was coming and didn’t want to try to stop it. Good plan.
Burmistrov’s goal of the night proves why Rick Dudley made the decision to keep the kid around. He’s getting better at staying on the puck and has absolutely great developing hockey sense anyway, but for him to draw the goaltender out of his crease, hold onto puck possession, and then tuck the puck in for a goal… wow. Serious puck handling skills. Just give him a few seasons of experience, and he’ll be an even bigger force to recon with. That being said, this goal got him one of the bigger goal ovations I’ve heard at Philips in quite some time:
All said and done, this was an impressive first game for the Andrew Ladd era of the Thrashers. It was a statement game, and the statement was to never count these guys out. If they can consistently play this kind of hockey, the Thrashers will climb the standings. This is, without a doubt, what I expected when the season started. This team’s built for success – it’ll take time, but fans are already seeing glimpses of the future.