Capit(al) Hill Sessions End Early, Thrashers Leave with Winning Legislation

In a town famous — or is it infamous? — for the perfected art of staunch, hard-lining legislative opposition, Atlanta Thrashers goaltender Ondrej Pavelec doled out his own special brand of stubborn opposition on the goal line with 45 saves, many of which were wondrous in their splendor, against the vaunted Washington Capitals offense. The 23 year-old Czech-born cage protector demonstrated for the Hockey Republic on Saturday nite just why he has earned the nickname “Pavelectric“. In what was his 9th consecutive start, Pavelec earned his 7th win the “hard way”, making many marvelous saves against a Capitals team that passes the puck as well as politicians pass the buck! As always, the Capitals were relentless in their pursuit of victory inside their own barn, but the Thrashers would thwart them at every pass on their way to winning the 3rd of 5 games already played between the two teams, this being the final “session” of hockey hostilities taking place in D.C.

Assisting Pavelec in the winning endeavor were teammates Rich Peverley, Alexander Burmistrov and captain Andrew Ladd, all of whom each tallied a key goal to get the all important road-game advantage on the scoreboard. Twice the Thrashers converted on set-pieces or plays in which they first won a face-off and then connected on a pre-conceived series of passes. First, it was Peverley using some deft stickwork to re-direct a picture-perfect shot-pass from D-man Dustin Byfuglien, who launched a hard, low slapper from the right point. Later in the 3rd, Andrew Ladd purchased some insurance near the net when he put home a pretty cross-crease feed from the “Pevs Dispenser” at the right side of the cage. But it was the industrious Russian teen-phenom Burmistrov, who scored what is becoming a seemingly requisite hi-light goal just 92 seconds after Peverley. After the “Burmise Python” helped squeeze the puck off a Capital stick along the boards, he cycled to the goal line where Nik Antropov slipped him the biscotti for a close-range forehand wrister that not only went right over the top of a semi-hunched, cheating Semyon Varlamov, but also went so high into the “top shelf” that not even “momma” could find the cookies, let alone hide them. (Photo courtesy of A.P. via yahoo.com)

After the game, Caps’ Coach Bruce Boudreau, complained in the press about how his team did not show enough drive and fortitude in “paying the price” to score goals from the high-traffic areas, pointing out that the Caps settled for too many perimeter plays and shots rather than working harder to drive the net and find rebounds after juicy rebounds. While that may be true, such is often the difference between winning and losing on a given nite. On this nite, the Thrashers skated with a lot more energy and “jump” en route to their 7th win in eight games to close out a short road trip that saw the Thrashers take 4 out of 6 points in the tightly contested Eastern Conference standings. In Pittsburgh the other nite, the Penguins did a magnificent job of slowing down an already road-weary Thrashers team, denying them the second-chance scoring opportunities of which Boudreau spoke and so longingly covets apparently.

Yes, there were several times when the Capitals carried the play and had the Thrashers’ defense scrambling in their own end without much effective filibuster to speak of — the lone Washington goal resulted from a puck possession sequence lasting well over a minute before culminating in a patented Ovechkin one-timer from below the left circle. But Boudreau failed, at least in that press conference snippet, to either give any credit to Pavelec for preventing grade-A rebound chances or the Thrashers defense for reacting to loose pucks quickly and clearing them from danger areas at almost every turn. In addition, the Thrashers blocked a whopping 20 would-be Capitals’ shots, which certainly contributed to the success of Pavelec, who also read plays brilliantly all nite. When loose pucks did dangle treacherously close to the goal-mouth, Pavelec’s mates supported him alertly with active sticks to tie up Capitals forwards. And finally, Thrashers D-men received fabulous support from their wingers and centers to aid in the effort to break the puck out of the defensive zone into transition.
 
That last sentence reminds me of the previous game against Washington in the loud, red-ablaze Verizon Center when the Thrashers tripped all over the puck and themselves trying to move the hot potato out of their own end. Atlanta yielded a six-pack of goals that nite, but several were the direct result of mental lapses and puck-handling gaffes by a unit not quite polished in its ability to execute such plays. Moreover, the contrast between the two games illustrates just how far the Thrashers have come since that high-scoring affair nearly three weeks ago. Since that game, the team has improved dramatically in how it handles and cares for the puck in dangerous areas on the ice. Fueling their stretch of 7 wins in 8 games, in addition to Pavelec’s sensational goaltending, has been a wonderfully refreshing commitment to detail and execution of “little”, seemingly innocent hockey plays, which good teams execute effectively and consistently on most every nite. The 6-game win streak may have been vetoed on Thursday nite, but “Speaker” (of hockey wisdom) Craig Ramsay had his boys come back with a strong counter-proposal that would swing the winning vote in their direction against the mighty Capitals.
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About the Author: Accountant / Analyst who has a nagging writing addiction when it comes to hockey. I've been a hockey fan since I was a wee tyke and now my allegiance to the Atlanta Thrashers has me "mentally thrashed". My other long-time passion is the game of golf so I'm a glutton for punishment! As a mid to late 30-something, I'm blessed to have a girlfriend who aids and abets my hockey / blogging obsession. Hockey heroes include: Gilbert Perreault, Adam Oates (Go RPI!), Pat LaFontaine and Marty Reasoner. Follow me on the twitter machine @j_barty_party

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  1. BCrosby says:

    With all the chatter about stats, let’s not lose sight of how remarkable this run has been. (Perhaps I’m talking mostly to myself.) Wins at home and on the road against some of the best teams in the game. Truly astonishing.

    The Caps coach makes an interesting point that too many Cap shots (and there were a ton of them) were taken from the perimeter. That might skew SOG. But to what extent is that a desired outcome for Ramsay? Give them shots from out at the blueline, but cover rebounds, keep them from crashing the net, use the chaos for break-outs. Hmmm.

    Burmie is a real talent. He needs about 15 lbs. of muscle, which will come. He then becomes a force. You can’t teach his moves. The AP picture is wonderful.

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