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Atlanta’s Addition by Subtraction

March 23, 2010 by Big Tony · 1 Comment 

nik antropov thrashers 211x300 Atlantas Addition by Subtraction
Addition by subtraction; a phrase that in and of itself makes little sense when it stands alone, but it certainly has an comprehensible application when describing the Atlanta Thrashers this season.  For most of the season their leading scorer was Ilya Kovalchuk—as has been the case for the better part of the last decade. The team as average at best flirting with a playoff spot but essentially backing off every time it seemed like they could make a move to solidify themselves as a contender so they decided finally this was the time to deal Kovalchuk elsewhere and cut their losses. Well now they had absolutely no chance of making the playoffs right? They had just traded their long time best player so certainly the wheels were going to fall off and back into the basement of the Eastern Conference is where they Thrashers would land right? (not to mention the pick-up of 48 year old Defenseman Chris Chelios, if that isn’t the sign of a desperate team I don’t know what is) Well at first it certainly seemed that way, they were average at first but then the team lost six in a row, clearly the beginning of the free fall to the bottom we all anticipated. NOT SO FAST!

Since stealing a point from Phoenix in an overtime loss on the 14th, Atlanta has reeled off four in a row giving them a point in each of their last five games putting them just one point out of the playoffs with ten games to play. Nik Antropov has taken his new role as team leader by the horns and essentially saying “look we’re so much better without Ilya!” The play of others like Maxim Afinogenov and Tobias Enstrom has also improved and Johan Hedberg has been fantastic in goal. I don’t know if Kovalchuk leaving was a rallying cry for this club or if they had this in them all along but the character they are showing right now is rather impressive. A lesser club would have taken the loss of their leading scorer as a sign of the beginning of the end, but instead Atlanta has banded together as a team and about everyone on the club is playing well and continuing to get better. Whether Atlanta makes the playoffs of course remains to be seen. And even if they do qualify it is unlikely that they have enough experience and depth to push past the first round. But there’s one thing we already know about the Thrashers, it’s that they all take pride in themselves and each other and show it night in and night out; proving for once that addition by subtraction actually does make sense.

Penguins Fly, Oilers Flop

November 30, 2009 by Big Tony · Leave a Comment 

 Penguins Fly, Oilers Flop

Greetings puckheads, hope everyone in the U.S. had a great Thanksgiving (and to you as well Canadian friends, although I’m about a month late eh?). I am back from my break and have a lot to cover so let’s get started.

Saturday night Sidney Crosby and the Penguins opened up a can on the New York Rangers with an 8-3 win vaulting Pittsburgh back into first place in the Atlantic Division (at least for the moment). Crosby netted his third career hat trick on free hat night in Pittsburgh (the ice was covered) while Sean Avery put up big numbers of his own jumping Ruslan Fedetanko midway through the third period yielding a 7 minute power play for Pittsburgh as Avery got two for instigating, five for fighting  and a ten minute game misconduct penalty. Quite a turn of events for Pittsburgh who just a short time ago had most of their starters sidelined with injury, and now they can focus on defending their title as most everyone returns to the lineup.

There is also a certain level of delight in three Eastern Conference cities who have not seen (or had much success) in the playoffs the last few years. As I write this the Ottawa Senators, Atlanta Thrashers, and Tampa Bay lightning occupy the final three playoff spots which few expected. Most new Ottawa could be good but not be able to put things together so well so quickly as they have. We all knew Atlanta could score with Ilya Kovalchuk, but now he has a supporting cast in Rich Peverley, Maxim Afinigenov, and Nik Antropov. We also knew that there was a ton of talent in Tampa but it never produced anything last year so there was little reason to think otherwise this year but so far so good. It is my contention that NONE of these teams (that’s right zero) will make the playoffs, simply because there is too much talent in the East; but all of these teams can hang their hats on the amount of success they’ve had to date and possibly parlay that success into a playoff run proving me wrong.

The news is not so good in Edmonton as the team continues to struggle they have officially lost their second leading scorer Ales Hemsky for the year with a shoulder injury that will require him to have surgery to repair. It has really been tough going for Edmonton since making it to game 7 of the finals in the first year after the lockout.  Mediocrity has plagued this hockey crazed city and this year was finally supposed to be different. There was a new coach, a seemingly a brand new Dustin Penner , and they went out to get a big time netminder in Nikolai Khabibulin, all of which coming together nicely for the Oilers. Despite their great start to the season the month of November has been a disaster where Edmonton has only been able to muster three wins in 13 attempts dropping them not only out of a playoff spot but into 14th in the conference ahead of only the Minnesota Wild.  With Ales Hemsky the Edmonton Oilers had a chance to rebound from this rough stretch, but with him out they will need more than just Penner to push this team into playoff contention and I simply do not believe they have the fire power on their roster to do that as it stands today. As a result the mediocrity will probably continue in hockey crazed Edmonton.

There is so much more to talk about but so little time. But I will say that the season has been incredibly entertaining so far and it’s only going to get better with the Winter Classic and Olympics right around the corner!