While I unfortunately can’t grow a playoff beard (the closest I’ll get to that is buying fake facial hair or drawing on my face with a marker) or even cheer for my own team, the one thing I can do is watch the playoffs. I will openly admit that I love the playoffs, regardless of whether the Thrashers are playing or not (and, let’s face it, the answer is typically not). Cruel and unusual punishment? Maybe. But playoff hockey is the epitome of everything that is great about the NHL. Double overtime, old rivalries, bitter hatred between fan bases, comeback wins, big hits, up-tempo north-south hockey. The 13 straight hours of coverage today were like hockey’s version of the Ironman triathlon–4 games in a row, starting at noon and ending at 1 A.M., without interruption.
If the playoffs were Trend Watch in one of those tabloid magazines that we all read but won’t admit to, there would be two things to talk about: blown leads and quick goals. No lead has been safe, even when it is by as many as four goals. There have also been several instances of teams scoring two goals only a few seconds apart, which drastically changes the atmosphere of the game. The Blackhawks scored goals 7 seconds apart in a game last week.
Wait a minute…that sounds kind of familiar. Not being able to protect a lead, giving up multiple goals in a short span of time…I think you know what team I’m talking about here.
The Thrashers gave up two goals in less than two minutes close to 30 times this season. It only happened a few times during the first half of the season, but occured with increasing frequency down the stretch when they fell from first in the Southeast to multiple points away from a playoff position. If the downfall during the season could be blamed on one thing, it would very likely be this statistic.
One issue many fans had with head coach Craig Ramsay was the fact that he didn’t always change lines after the initial goal was scored, which often led to the second goal being scored less than two minutes later. They also called out the team’s lackluster defensive play at multiple points during the season and the defensive lapses of certain players that led to said goals. There were one or two players specifically that everyone pegged as the scapegoats for these scenarios. But which Thrashers were actually on the ice for both of the back-to-back goals? Some lengthy research provides some suprising (and some not so surprising) results.
Player name–number of times they were on the ice for both of the goals in less than two minutes (dates of games in which this occured)
Johnny Oduya—5 (12/20 @ TOR, 1/7 vs. TOR, 1/15 @ DAL, 2/19 @ EDM, 3/29 @ MTL)
Brent Sopel—4 (12/20 @ TOR, 1/9 @ CAR, 2/1 vs. NYI, 2/19 @ EDM)
Bryan Little—4 (12/20 @ TOR, 1/15 @ DAL, 1/23 @ TB, 2/19 @ EDM)
Zach Bogosian—3 (11/13 @ PIT, 1/15 @ DAL, 3/19 @ BUF)
Mark Stuart—2 (4/5 @ NSH, 4/8 vs. CAR)
Evander Kane—2 (12/20 @ TOR, 2/23 @ BUF)
Anthony Stewart—2 (2/23 @ BUF, 4/8 vs. CAR)
Toby Enstrom—2 (10/16 @ SJ, 2/23 @ BUF)
Nik Antropov—2 (10/30 @ STL, 2/23 @ BUF)
Ron Hainsey—1 (3/19 @ BUF)
Alex Burmistrov—1 (3/29 @ MTL)
Andrew Ladd—1 (11/13 vs. PIT)
Chris Thorburn—1 (10/30 @ STL)
Freddy Modin—1 (1/7 vs. TOR)
Rich Peverley—1 (1/7 vs. TOR)
Ben Maxwell—1 (4/8 vs. CAR)
Andrey Zubarev—1 (4/5 @ NSH)
Johnny Oduya was on the ice five times for both of the back-to-back goals, followed by Brent Sopel (who might’ve led the list had he finished the season in Atlanta) and Bryan Little. What players weren’t on the list? The name “Dustin Byfuglien” was notably missing, along with Eric Boulton.
Another interesting thing to note was the fact that many times the first goal was on a power play, and the second goal came a few seconds later at even strength.
If there’s one major change to the system that needs to be addressed this summer, it’s the two goal debacle.