Well folks, I had a very detailed, rather lengthy discussion of the Thrashers drawn up this morning. A post I lost due to some idiocy on my end and the vagueries of this blogging platform. As a result, I’m going to re-do it all in bullet-points to spare my sanity.
– Atlanta’s first half success was a mirage based on out-of-this-world goaltending by Ondrej Pavalec and a sky-high PP. Pavalec still boasts the second best ES SV% in the league (.942!!), but unless he’s the next Dominic Hasek, there’s no way that sustains over time. The Thrashers PP has already begun to deflate after being one of the top three units in the league for a few months. They currently rank 11th in the league, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see them fall a bit further before things are all said and done. After all, their highest scoring forward is Andrew Ladd with 16 goals adn 39 points.
– The reason Pavelec’s SV% is so key is because the Thrashers spend a ton of time in their own zone at ES. They have one of the worst possession rates as a whole in the league and they give up the most shots against (34.4) in the NHL. Only two of their regular skaters are above water in terms of corsi so far: Bergfors and Byfuglien.
– Although I don’t think Bug Buff is a legit Norris contender owing to some soft circumstances, but he is certainly something of a revelation nonetheless. His 221 shots on net lead the league by a wide margin from the back-end and is even well above Jarome Iginla’s 186, which leads the Flames. He plays an odd "rover", hybrid style from the back-end, at times switching between forward and defender duties. His numbers are bit inflated thanks to some percentages, but there’s no question he’s become one of the more dangerous weapons from the back-end.
– Joining Byfuglien in that regard is his partner, the diminutive Tobias Enstrom. A former 8th round pick who was considered a long-shot due to his 180 pound frame, Enstrom has been a capable offensive defensemen since breaking into the league and even managed 50 points on a woeful ATL club last year. He and Byfuglien currently co-lead the Thrashers in points with 41 each. He might be one of the most underrated blueliners in the NHL.
– Another ATL defender of interest is former 3rd overall pick Zach Bogosian. Billed as an offensive weapon coming out of junior, Bogo has nonetheless been deployed mostly as a shut-down option the last couple of seasons. His circumstances this year are brutal: he and Johnny Oduya frequently face the big boys and start out in their own end about 60% of the time. The burying of Bogosian and Oduya has allowed Ramasy to give Enstrom and Buff the high ground, but it’s also sunk the kids stock in the organizations eyes a bit. He’s been a healthy scratch more than once so far, despite the fact he’s 20-years old and doing some really heavy lifting. If I was in Feaster’s chair, I’d be making serious inquiries about the kid from the Flames end. The Thrash will be looking to press for a post-season berth this year and may be willing to dangle Bogosian as piece to shore up their offensive depth. Any defender who made the show as a teen and has been playing the heavies before his 21st birthday is worth a phone call or two.
– Up front, Niclas Bergfors has put up really impressive underlying numbers considering his surroundings. His +3/60 corsi rate leads the team and, unlike Byfuglien, Bergfors doesn’t start out more often in the offensive end (46.9% zone start). His 10 goals and 27 points might not make your eyes pop out, but ending up above water on that club at 23 years old without significant sheltering is an impressive feat. Im guessing the Devils could really use him right now.
– In summary, the Thrashers give up a lot at ES and if the Flames can beat Pavalec, there’s a good chance for victory. Calgary hasn’t won in Atlanta since the Thrashers joined the league (seriously) and they’re heading there tonight on the back of a five game winning streak. One way or the other, something’s gotta give.