Wednesday, March 22, 2006

If the NHL Regular Season Ended Today...

Then the Canadiens would be wondering why it is that the Thrashers got to play one more game than they did. Thus, although I'm excited that the Thrashers have moved into 8th place, it's an incomplete victory since the Canadiens still have a game in hand. The better news is that the Thrashers are playing some of their best hockey of the season, certainly better than the other seven teams fighting for the final three spots in the Eastern Conference.

If the team does indeed make the playoffs, then last night's come-from-behind win over Boston might stick in our memories the same way as David Justice's epic game-winning blast off of Rob Dibble in game 158 of the 1991 season to help the Braves rally from a 6-0 deficit against the defending World Champions stay in first place. It's not quite the same as a critical win in the process of going worst-to-first and winning the divisional title against your hated rival and their obnoxious, SlimFast-hawking manager and coke-swilling leftfielder, but still, coming back from two goals down with seven minutes to play is a big deal.

The only negative from the game is that the Thrashers bled another two power play goals. Only six teams in the NHL have an inferior penalty kill percentage. Even if the Thrashers make the playoffs, they won't be going anywhere if they don't shore up the penalty kill. We can't blame the goaltending for the penalty kill, as Kari Lehtonen has been consistently good since the Olympic break. The defensemen aren't great, but that isn't going to change for the rest of the season. Getting Patrik Stefan back would be very important. If he's healthy, he can be the defensive center that Bobby Holik is supposed to be and he could make the penalty kill better.

Although every game is big, the next three are all enormous: home against the Devils, followed by trips to the Island and Tampa. Each game is going to be a four-pointer in the playoff race, so a good stretch in these next three outings could go a long way to making the last few weeks of the season more about playoff seeding and less about biting our fingernails for that first playoff berth.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

At least one of those goals by the Bruins waw on the 5-3, so you can almost forgiver them that. They also scored another shorty last night. On the bright side, they killed all penalties against the Sabres, including three in the first 9 minutes of the game.