Tonight we play the Atlanta Thrashers, yet another team who didn’t make the play-offs last year that is off to a surprisingly good start. Honestly, this has to be one of the most improved teams in the league year over year. This team actually scares me, they didn’t even used to do that when Maryanne Hossa or Dany “70 goals this season” Heatley was on the team.
When you have a cornerstone like Ilya Kovalchuck and you add players like Rich Peverly, Nik Antropov, and Maxim Afinogenov, you’ve strengthened your offense tremendously. Atlanta’s offense is soaring thus far. The Thrashers currently rank #1 in the league as far as G/G average with a beefy 3.50. Detroit’s inconsistent scoring has been hurting their G/G average game by game. They were 4th in the NHL less than a week ago, they have slid into the 12th spot with 3.00 G/G average. Advantage: Atlanta
Well if Atlanta’s defense was as potent as its offense, this team would be unstoppable. Fortunately for the rest of the league, this is not the case. Atlanta has pretty much always struggled defensively, and that trend continues. The Thrashers currently rank 21st in the league with a 2.95 G/A average. Despite their losing ways as of late, Detroit has actually improved its G/A average over the past few days. Howard played great against Montreal and you can hardly blame Ozzie for the losses against Florida and Nashville, considering the Wings only scored one goal in each of those games. The Wings have risen to 14th in the league with a 2.82 G/A average. Advantage: Detroit
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Kovalchuck is arguably the most dominating offensive player in the league. The guy can just take over a play all by himself, carrying the puck from end to end and firing that laser of a shot, which he uses on the power-play quite often. The Thrashers are currently converting 23.5% of their PP chances, which is good enough for 5th overall in the NHL…oh joy. Detroit's power play has struggled recently. What was once our saving grace, has become yet another cause of frustration. Despite recent struggles, Detroit’s PP is currently 6th best with a 23.4% conversion rate. Advantage: Atlanta... by one tenth of a stinking percent.
I wish I could just skip the Penalty Killing section of this analysis, maybe change it out for shots-for or something, but I’ll take it on the chin and stick to the program. Atlanta has actually excelled at killing off their penalties this season, which is curious when you look at their putrid G/A average. The Thrashers are currently ranked 7th in the NHL, with a 82.7% effectiveness rating…oh to be on the right side of 80%. Detroit has been giving out power-play goals to the opposition like Costco sells…well, everything: in bulk. It is absolutely astounding how far the PK has fallen in just a couple years, from a perennial powerhouse, to worst in the West. They are currently tied for 27h in the league with a 74.4% kill rate. Advantage: Atlanta
So, if we pull ranks and take the average for GA/G and G/G...
If you combine PK and PP percentages to get an overall effectiveness rating:
The key for a Red Wing's victory tonight will be again be execution at both ends of the ice. The Wings need to find a way to score goals. When Drew Miller is the only one scoring, that is inexcusable. Zetterberg and Datsyuk are going to have make love out of nothing at all if they have to, but just find a way to put the puck in the net. Shutting down the high-powered Atlanta offense is going to be a formidable challenge with our depleted defensive lineup. I hope that The Perfect Human is up to the task of shutting down Kovy when he’s out on the ice. I don’t know even I’m even going to be able to watch if Detroit takes a penalty. Jimmy’s probably going to get some work in tonight.
Last season, Detroit took the only meeting between these two clubs by a score of 5-3 at the Joe.