Ilya Kovalchuk, Thrashers Make St. Louis Sing the Home Opener Blues

Peter BojarinovAnalyst IOctober 8, 2009

ST. LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 8: Ilya Kovalchuk #17 of the Atlanta Thrashers celebrates his goal against the St. Louis Blues at the Scottrade Center on October 8, 2009 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

The visiting Atlanta Thrashers came into the Scottrade Center to face the hot St. Louis Blues, who were coming off two strong wins against the Detroit Red Wings in Sweden.

The home opener would be a great night for the visitors, as they would win by a score of 4-2, led by Ilya Kovalchuk’s two goals, which included his 300th career goal, and Evander Kane’s first career NHL goal.

To start the game, the Blues came out strong with a few powerful shifts, and then Keith Tkachuk would get a opening after Tobias Enstrom pinched slightly into the offensive zone, which gave the Blues a two on one.

With the speed of Maxim Afinogenov, he came back in time to make the chance an even one, but Walt (Tkachuk’s nickname) would snap the shot along the ice inside the far post by Ondrej Pavelec.

About a minute later Atlanta’s bruiser line came on and set a different tone. After they dumped the puck into the offensive zone, Chris Thorburn came up with the puck and centered it to Eric Boulton. Boulton would then quickly finish it into the net behind Chris Mason.

This changed the tempo for rest of the first period. Later on in the period on the power play, Atlanta moved the puck around till the puck came to the dazzling Kovalchuk. He deked himself just inside the right circle and rifled the puck by a screened Mason.

St. Louis would come out with a more complete second period but could not get enough strong opportunities to put the puck by Pavelec, who made 14 saves in the period. The only goal in the period would come when the Thrashers' third line gave themselves a three on two. Rich Peverley would center the puck to a speeding Kane, who potted it into the gapping side of the net.

The third period was more of a back and forth period, but not many strong chances from either side. The score would tighten late when Tkachuk carried the puck towards the center of the offensive zone, being chased by both Bryan Little and Kovalchuk, and passed the puck back to the point. There Roman Polak would have an open lane to the net, and he wristed a top corner shot past Pavelec.

Late in the game, with the score only a difference of one, the Blues would pull Mason for an extra man, but it would result in only an easy opportunity for Kovalchuk, who would score his fourth goal in only two games on the season.

Tonight showed a strong effort from Atlanta on the road and again how deep their offense is, though I can already see some bad habits, which I’ve seen before.

Things that some players need to work on are:

Kovalchuk: Defensive zone coverage, stay closer to your man, and have a smarter breakout pass, not a hard fast one, which only he himself could accept.

Nik Antropov: Stop looking for Ilya to pass the puck to; back to really old habits from two years ago, where he would rarely shoot.

Enstrom: Weak defense, take your man out from the goalie, and don’t pinch as much.

Pavelec: Despite a great overall game, the first goal was still weak; those need to be saves.


BRIGHT STARS: Peverley, Kane, Kovalchuk

Enstrom (too weak in his own end)

BLUE COLLAR: Pavelec (great overall road game), Anssi Salmela (another solid defensive game), Pavel Kubina (great job on the PK)