You can’t say that the Thrashers didn’t try tonight. The box score for tonight’s game looks like a giant tit-for-tat of goals, starting with Nik Antropov’s game opener during the first period, and ending with Viktor Stalberg’s game winner in the shootout. For the first time all season, the Thrashers scored first at home, and Jonathan Toews promptly answered it six minutes later.
In all honesty, the Blackhawks seem to have three people who can score goals: Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Patrick Sharp, and only Toews and Kane scored tonight (both netting two goals each). The Thrashers had much more scoring depth, with Antropov, Evander Kane, Alexander Burmistrov, and Rich Peverley all netting goals for Atlanta. Honestly, a bulk of Chicago’s goals go towards Sharp and Marian Hossa (who is still injured), but with Hossa out Toews and Kane have been picking up the slack. This lack of depth is why the Blackhawks are currently third in the Central Division. Don’t let their seventeen points (two better than Atlanta) fool you – they’ve played two more games than Atlanta, and five more games than the rest of the Central (except Columbus, who they have played two more games than). They might be in third place, but they have the worst winning percentage and the most losses in the Central Division.
For whatever reason, Atlanta could not figure out how to score on Marty Turco when it mattered. As surprising as this might sound, there was a chance for the score to be higher on Atlanta’s end of the number. Turco created huge rebounds, and often left a majority to of the net wide open. Unfortunately, Atlanta did not realize that someone needs to be posted in front of him at all times to capitalize on the rebounds, and missed golden chances to score.
Finally, the fact that Jim Slater, Chris Thorburn, and Ben Eager were out there on a 4-on-4 during OT surprised me. The Thrashers were playing to limit Chicago’s chances, not to capitalize on their own, and that could have hurt them given Pavelec’s shaky record in the shootout. He’s not able to read the opposition’s shooters well (Toews had him drop well before the shot during the first goal), and the Thrashers are much better served if they score in the overtime and end the game then.
The next home game might not be quite so high scoring – Thursday night the Minnesota Wild come to town for a rare visit to Philips Arena. That game might not be as exciting as tonight’s, or the Saturday afterwards when the Penguins are at Philips. The next game for the Thrashers is Tuesday night at the Ottawa Senators. Puck drop is at 7:30.