In lieu of writing a more standard write-up about the game that is being played tonight between the Thrashers and Coyotes in Phoenix, I decided to keep a running diary of the game, complete with my thoughts on the game and the Thrashers in general afterward.
This is the danger that you are walking into when you are watching a game between two teams with either no playoff hopes (Atlanta) or playoff hopes that have been decimated by crappy play at home (Phoenix).
-The seats at Jobing.com Arena are alarmingly empty. I am a supporter of the efforts of the Coyotes to generate a fan base, and am also in favor of efforts on the part of the NHL to keep the team in Glendale.
However, seeing the team failing to draw fans, even with absurdly good ticket offers (like family packs for $79, all you can eat tickets for only $20, and buy one get one free offers), the team is still not getting anyone to come out to the area.
Even formerly legitimate complaints about there being nothing to do around the arena are quickly becoming moot, as the WestGate shopping center has grown by leaps and bounds, and the hotel industry has taken over the area as well. I’m going to thank Super Bowl XLII for all of this growth.
With all of the amenities that a new arena affords, as well as ample free parking and ticket incentives that make NHL fans of all stripes look twice, the team still isn’t drawing, and if they can’t build a winner and get some serious fan support, I’m not going to keep tooting their horn forever.
Sorry for that rant about Phoenix hockey. I’ll try to stick to the Thrashers for the rest of the game.
-These must be two franchises that don’t inspire a lot of passion outside of their home areas. How do I know this? The chat feature on NHL GameCenter has been utilized during the first period only to sell jerseys on eBay and for some yahoo to exclaim “Go Wolves Jr.!” I saw more enthusiasm for a Panthers/Lightning game earlier in the year.
-At the 6:28 mark of the 1st period, Erik Christensen scored a power play goal, his fifth goal of the season to give the Thrashers the early lead. Ron Hainsey and Rich Peverley had the assists. The camera actually cut to a guy wearing a Thrashers jersey. I’m betting from my personal experiences in the Phoenix area that there are probably a lot of Atlanta fans around, given the transient nature of the Phoenix area.
-Shane Doan ties the game with a goal that went through a cluster of defenders and offenders alike, and the fans in attendance make themselves heard. Sort of. No wonder they play the music at such a deafening volume when the team scores. They want to drown out the lack of noise with enthusiastic chords.
-Wanted to take the time to give a shout-out to my friends at ‘I’ve Become One’. It is a Thrashers fan community, and from my experiences, the fans at that site are really passionate about the team, and the easy to use features also make it worth checking out. I’m registered under the name “thrasherblogger85”, so if you ever check the site out, feel free to add me.
-I was tooling around the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s website earlier today, and when I went to the Thrashers page on the site, there to greet me was a litany of articles detailing the sordid dealings of the Atlanta Spirit, the ownership group that bought the Thrashers and Hawks.
From what I gleaned from the articles, the Spirit group is trying to buy out a 30% stakeholder in the organization by the name of Steve Belkin. Apparently he is trying to influence Citigroup as to how much his stake in the group is worth, and from what I understand about the law that isn’t exactly above board.
Belkin also hasn’t contributed any money to the franchise to help off-set losses ever since
-Daniel Carcillo and Garnet Exelby just had quite a duel after a shot on Kari Lehtonen. There were a lot of punches thrown, and eventually the two combatants pretty much tackled each other in a fit of passionate rage. Sometimes the hockey fights that end abruptly are the most fun.
Speaking of physical hockey, the Thrashers outhit the Kings 40-22 the other night in Los Angeles. Not bad for a team that has ranked near the bottom of this category all season. Perhaps we are really beginning to see some life out of this team.
-The period is lasting for what seems like an eternity (hence why I am writing so much). And now, we are waiting for ice repair. Wake me up when this is over. There are still three minutes left in the first period.
-Finally, the period has ended, and the Thrashers and Coyotes are tied at one apiece. It was a period full of checking, near fights, and one fight that amused the viewers to no end.
-Just a quick intermission note: Darren Pang, one of the Coyotes commentators, is currently doing a spot with the Thrashers’ third man Darren Eliot about Wayne Gretzky. I’d give you a play-by-play, but I’ve got this on mute and am listening to an awesome song by My Morning Jacket.
The Thrashers were out-shot by the Coyotes 9-3 in the first period. The Thrashers also won 17 face-offs to the Coyotes’ four. Remarkable stat right there. Garnet Exelby also racked up nine penalty minutes.
-Was pondering whether “Be Coyotes Cool” is the lamest marketing phrase in sports when Todd Fedoruk scored a goal two minutes into the second period to give the Coyotes the lead 2-1.
-Steven Goertzen scored his second goal of the season on a beautiful feed from Daniel Carcillo to make it a 3-1 game. This development has me seriously considering just phoning in the rest of the “diary” and catching up on some reading or something.
-The Thrashers don’t seem to be flowing offensively as well as they were against the Kings and Ducks the previous two games.
-Scratch the previous statement. A beautiful feed from Ilya Kovalchuk to Bryan Little has brought the Thrashers back to within a goal with about eight minutes left in the second period. Kovie was skating to the left side of the net, and was looking for a centering pass when the Phoenix defender got in the way. Kovie held the puck just long enough to evade both defender and goalie across the crease right to a wide open Bryan Little for an easy goal. Beautiful execution on both sides.
The second period has ended with the score 3-2 in favor of the Coyotes.
-There are two things I’ve observed in the third period. The Coyotes are getting a large amount of good shot opportunities than the Thrashers are (evidenced by the 33-17 shots on goal disparity) and I also realized that sometimes I hate watching the games on TV. The reason for this hatred is that I get bombarded with ads for Checkers and Jack in the Box, two restaurants that I love but aren’t available in my neck of the woods up here in Illinois. Lucky southerners.
-Bryan Little just got leveled by an elbow to the face right in front of the net, and no stupid penalty was called. Most of the time I think officiating in games is good, but that was blatantly something that should have been called. He laid on the ice for a few seconds, and finally struggled up. Grrrrr.
-Relentless pressure and an inability on Phoenix’s part to clear the puck out of the zone leads to Bryan Little shooting a puck off Tellqvist’s blocker and Kovalchuk tapping in the rebound into an empty net to tie the game at three apiece with 52 seconds left in the game. Phoenix fans are PISSED.
-Speaking of pissed, Ed Jovanovski just cross checked a Thrasher (Thorburn) into the boards unprotected, and the stupid refs once again didn’t call a penalty. Thorburn then got into fisticuffs with Jovo, and I have never rooted harder for one player to annihilate another player in a fight than I did for Thor.Definitely a draw in the vigilante justice department.
-This was a good point to get for the Thrashers, and hopefully they can get another one. Doing so would hand Phoenix its seventh straight home loss, which would be a franchise record. It would also give Atlanta its fifth straight road win, which would also be a team record.
It’s also great because the Thrashers were down two goals and had no momentum going for them in the second period, and to score like that toward the end of a game is a huge boost psychologically. They’ll need all the good mojo they can get going into San Jose on Saturday.
-Overtime has been really physical, and the Coyotes are once again making a ton of shots. They have reached the magical 40 shot plateau, and if you remember correctly, Lehtonen has gone 3-2 when facing 40+ shots in games. He has won his last two in that situation. Stay tuned to see if that improves again.
-Bryan Little leads off the shootout for the Thrashers, in their second shootout in their last two games. Little gets stoned by Tellqvist on a short-side attempt.
-Joakim Lindstrom goes for thh Yotes, and he gets stoned by Lehtonen. He barely stretched out his right pad to stop the shot.
-Slava Kozlov is next for Atlanta, and he goes wide and goes top shelf and scores. 1-0 Thrashers in the shootout.
-Peter Mueller is next for Pheonix, and flips the puck right into the glove of Lehtonen. Kari is really locked in right now.
-Ilya Kovalchuk is third for the Thrashers with a chance to win the game. He makes very few moves and Tellqvist just flips the left pad out and stops him.
-Shane Doan with the chance to tie flips it right over Kari on a beautfiul shot. Well executed by the Phoenix captain, who just happens to be the elimination shootout champion from the All-Star Game.
-Erik Christensen gets stopped on a beautiful pad to the post save by Tellqvist. Well done by Mikkel.
-Steven Reinprecht is next for Phoenix, and Kari makes a terrific glove save. This is a great shootout going into round five.
-Todd White is next for the Thrashers. He ends up shooting the puck over the bar to give Phoenix another shot to win.
-Viktor Tikhonov shoots the puck right off Kari on his fifth attempt to keep the shootout going.
-Rich Peverley, the waiver wire acquistion from Columbus, misses the net on Atlanta’s sixth attempt. This is getting redundant.
-Olli Jokinen is the next Phoenix shooter, and he is stoned AGAIN by Kari. That was Olli’s second shootout attempt of the season, and he has failed on both.
-Round seven sees Eric Perrin and he gets squared up beautifully by Tellqvist who effortlessly poke checks the puck away.
-Mikkel Boedker is next for Phoenix, and Kari makes a beautiful blocker save. We are going to an eighth round.
-Colby Armstrong shoots the puck right into Tellqvist to start off round eight. These goalies are playing excellent when it matters most.
-Daniel Carcillo is up for Phoenix, and the crowd goes nuts. He has never made a shootout attempt in his career, until right now. He scores and the Coyotes finally win a game at home 4-3 in the shootout.
-That was a fantastic ending to a game that saw plenty of physical play, and plenty of effort and enthusiasm from the Atlanta side. I was really proud of the way the team played tonight, and hopefully you all enjoyed my running diary of the festivities tonight.
The Thrashers next skate in San Jose against the Sharks on Saturday on Sports South. Until then, have a great night Atlanta.
James started out for The Hockey Writers covering the Atlanta Thrashers in 2009, and has also covered the Chicago Blackhawks, served as NHL Correspondent, and is now a Managing Editor and the site’s NHL Central Blogger. He also writes for The Golf Writers.