Today at 3pm, the Atlanta Thrashers will meet the Atlantic Division Pittsburgh Penguins in what will be their final game of the 2010-11 season. Game #82 will be played at the Phillips Arena in downtown, Atlanta, giving Thrashers fans one last chance to see a disappointed hockey club that fell short of making only their second appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in franchise history. This is the fourth and final meeting with the Thrashers and Penguins and one in which could see Pittsburgh sweep the Thrashers after a 3-0 start to the season series.
A win today for the Thrashers would be their 35th of the 2010-11 campaign, tying their regular season win total from the 2009-10 season. Despite the fact that Atlanta made great strides in parts of this season, the games heading down the stretch which ultimately mattered the most, was the deciding factor in Atlanta’s tail spin to the 12th spot in the Eastern Conference.
Adding insult to injury, the Thrashers are coming off a 6-1 loss to the southeast division rival Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night at home. A team that was already eliminated from post-season contention, it looked as though Atlanta had already begun their off-season.
“I felt like a loser. It’s hard to talk about the loss to Carolina now. To be down 6-0 in front of our home fans is very disappointing,” starting goaltender Ondrej Pavelec said when addressing the media following the game.
Head Coach Craig Ramsey, hardly at a loss for words following the majority of the games this season, couldn’t argue with his starting goaltender.
“We looked like a team that just played five games in a row on the road. Unfortunately, we can’t talk about that or use it as an excuse, but we looked tired. We tried to win this game as individuals, instead of as a team. Anytime you do that, it never works,” Ramsey said following the loss.
Today, the Thrashers hope to have a better performance in the final 60 minutes of the season. There is no reason why Atlanta’s compete level shouldn’t be that of where it was when the games still counted.
“We know it’s too late right now, but we still want to win the games. It’s the NHL. When you step onto the ice, you want to play as hard as you can,” Ondrej Pavelec said.
As for the Pittsburgh Penguins, they are undefeated in the month of April, with wins against the likes of the Florida Panthers, New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils. Pittsburgh, which will finish 4th in the Eastern Conference after today’s game, will meet the Tampa Bay Lightning for round one of the Stanley Cup playoffs which will start this coming week. The first two games of the series will begin at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.
Coming off a 4-3 shootout victory on Friday night against the Islanders, Pittsburgh lost newly acquired forward James Neal to an undisclosed injury. Initial reports indicated a potential wrist injury from an awkward collision with an Islander defender.
When it’s all said and done today, you can officially close the book on 2010-11 for the Thrashers. The positives outweigh the negatives though, and in the coming weeks, we will take a look at the progress made by General Manager Rick Dudley from the Coaching staff to the players.
Until then, enjoy the final game of the season today from the Phillips Arena.
The Thrashers have recalled forward Carl Klingberg from the Chicago Wolves of the AHL.
Captain Andrew Ladd will play for Team Canada at the IIHF World Championships in Slovakia starting at month’s end.
Ondrej Pavelec earns Georgia’s own Credit Union Three Stars of the year Award. The award goes to the player who collects the most points out of a 1st, 2nd or 3rd star of each game.
Darren is the Washington Capitals correspondent. He spent the 2010-11 season covering the Atlanta Thrashers and the 2011-12 season covering the Columbus Blue Jackets. Feel free to contact him @ DKoz256@yahoo.com. You can also follow him on Twitter. DarrenCoslov