Is there any doubt that tomorrow night’s game against the Bruins at Philips Arena is the biggest game of the season? Chris Vivlamore called it the biggest game since the Thrashers’ first playoff game in 2006-07, and it’s hard to argue with that.
The Thrashers sit one point behind the Bruins and can leapfrog them with a regulation win tomorrow night. If they win in OT or a shootout they’ll be tied and the Bruins have a game in hand. According to sportsclubstats.com the Thrashers have a 37.88% chance of making the playoffs right now and that leaps to 51.5% if they win in regulation on Tuesday. You have to like those odds, especially when you look at where the team sat a week ago.
Four straight wins, four strong games by the PK, four solid outings for the Atlanta goaltenders. Ondrej Pavelec stepped up in a huge way in Philly on Sunday, stopping 44 of 45 shots to earn the win, and in the process he showed his coaches and teammates that he can be relied on in pressure situations.
It seems like the whole team has stepped up lately, from grinders Jim Slater and Colby Armstrong to defensemen Ron Hainsey and Toby Enstrom to Nik Antropov who keeps finding new heights to reach. Night after night the Thrashers are playing as a cohesive unit with everyone on the same page, and the result is an overwhelming confidence that is clearly carrying over on the ice.
If they can keep playing the way they’re playing they WILL make the playoffs, and they might not even have to settle for the eighth seed. The Thrashers are playing great hockey right now while the Bruins (one point ahead), Flyers, and Senators (both four points ahead) are all struggling. If any of them crack under the pressure the Thrashers could climb to sixth or seventh, setting up a first-round meeting with the Penguins, Sabres or Devils instead of the Capitals.
The Thrashers versus Kovalchuk and the Devils in the first round (which begins April 14)? What a story that would be.