In their last two games against the top teams in the league, the Washington Capitals and the Detroit Red Wings, if you would have asked the average Thrashers fan if the team can outscore those two teams 10-1, you would have gotten a laugh. Amazingly enough, that’s exactly what the Thrashers have done. They took out the Washington Capitals 5-0, and then they turn around and defeat the Western Conference’s best Detroit Red Wings 5-1. On top of that, they also chased the Wings top starting goaltender, Jimmy Howard, after two periods.
A sign that tonight might be something special came at just 2:39 in the first period, when Chris Thorburn beat Jimmy Howard to put the Thrashers up 1-0. Andrew Ladd potted a shorthanded goal after a Ron Hainsey tripping call to put the Thrashers up 2-0, but Todd Bertuzzi scored almost immediately after Ladd did to bring the Red Wings within one. It was the only goal that Detroit could manage. Shortly after Bertuzzi’s goal, Jim Slater got called for tripping, which Bertuzzi rewarded with a stick upside of Slater’s head that the refs didn’t call. It didn’t matter.
The second period saw a powerplay goal from Anthony Stewart at 1:50 in, followed by a Bryan Little goal. Little would finish the evening with a goal and an assist, as would Andrew Ladd. Those four goals agains Jimmy Howard were all that it took. To start the third period, Joey MacDonald was trotted out, and met a similar fate – a Dustin Byfuglien powerplay slapper that blew by him. Byfuglien currently leads NHL defensemen with eight goals for the season and is tied for the league lead in points for defensemen with twenty. That puts Byfuglien second on the Thrashers in points behind Andrew Ladd, who has 23 points. Both are tied for the team lead in goals.
Ondrej Pavelec’s record improved to 4-4-2, with a .942SV% and a 1.84 GAA. Pavelec’s firmly nestled amongst the league leaders in goaltending stats. He’s third in the league in save percentage, behind just Mathieu Garon and Tim Thomas. His GAA is also third in the league, behind again, Thomas and Garon.
There’s something to be said for chasing Wings fans from the building, but there’s more to crow about with the goaltending and the offense clicking on all cylinders. The defense was sharp tonight – the 33 shots on goal allowed were not all from prime scoring slots. That the Thrashers outshot the Red Wings 38-33 by itself proves that the team is trying to rise up over expectations. Underestimate this team at your own risk, opponents. You might have to face a bit of a firing squad.