Thrashers' keys to success while their top sniper is out for a month:
1. Above and beyond Everything Is Strong Goaltending
If you’ve seen even a game or two of the Thrashers early on, each game has been won or lost by their goaltending. Early on, they went on a nice streak where Ondrej Pavelec was solid, they had more shots against during each of those games, and Pavelec was the better goaltender each night.
Even the one game in Buffalo where Johan Hedberg started, it was the same old game, and the same result. Three games before Ilya Kovalchuk was hurt, they played each of those games at home, and goaltending from both was awful and they had put up more shots themselves. Even their offence couldn’t bail them out.
So, continuing with Pavelec’s 51-save performance on the weekend has to continue.
2. Continued Strong Play and Maturation for Their Two Strong Kids
Both Zack Bogosian and Evander Kane have been great so far, and they’ve been looking more and more comfortable as of late.
Kane’s speed, penalty killing, and finishing touch has been terrific. More so to Bogosian’s growth on the blue line, he’s been getting smoother out there with each game. He started off the season with a few errors here and there and lazy penalties, and since then his game has tightened and his offense has picked up.
3. Veterans Need To Pick Up Their Game
So far in this early season, Slava Kozlov, Todd White, and Bryan Little have come out flat. All three have the skill set to put up points and be strong two-way players. None have yet to show it, and this is when they’ll need to.
4. More Offense Finish from Their Other Top Two Russians
Both Maxim Afinogenov and Nik Antropov have shown they can play well offensive, they just need more pucks in the back of the net.
Antropov’s game so far has looked, like the Antropov of four years ago. Looking for the other guy who can put the puck in the back of the net, and just setting up all the plays. Yes, his two-way game is great, but right now he needs to score. Look for Nik to be in front on the net on the power play and hopefully shooting first on open chances.
Afinogenov’s game has gotten better as of late, thanks to an amazing goal in Buffalo. (If you haven’t seen it, check it out on YouTube.) He needs to play with his teammates a bit more, and watch out for losing the puck on a last man in rush. I know I’m asking for too much from Max, but that’s what he needs to fix for the better of the team.
5. Last but Not Least, Keeping the Rest of the Team Clicking
So far the defensive lines have been working well together; the main tandem of Pavel Kubina and Ron Hainsey have been gelling well. Colby Armstrong, with Evander Kane, has been putting out a strong effort every night out, and so far no matter where you put Rich Peverley, he’s been terrific.