Sunday, December 28, 2008

Bruins vs. Thrashers: Takeaways

For the first time this season, I got the chance to see the Bruins live tonight. As good as NESN makes them look, there's nothing like the real thing.

- Philips Arena is a fairly nice, though character-free, place to see a hockey game. It's part of the CNN Center, which is basically a mall/hotel complex, which makes for a Whaler-esque gameday experience. Go to the mall, grab a taco, see a hockey game.

Believe it or not, there are a decent number of Thrashers fans who really support the team. Unfortunately they are a minority in their own building -- more than two-thirds of the crowd is either visiting fans or casual attendees. Though the game presentation is sharp and the hardcore fans are dedicated, the overall atomosphere in the arena (even on a holiday weekend with a smoking-hot Original Six opponent) is muted. Well, muted is a soft word. Let's use "dead" instead.

Does the NHL belong in Atlanta? I think so. But only when the Thrashers organization gets its act together, and connects its fans with a promising and exciting team, will we see any rewards from this gamble. If the league decides to cut its losses and the Thrashers move, it won't be without collateral damage to the fanbase who continue to support them in spite of a mountain of challenges.

- Make no mistake, the Bruins didn't play winning hockey tonight. They were sloppy with the puck, especially in their own end, and took foolish penalties at bad times. Manny Fernandez stood on his head but was also very lucky not to let in 3 or 4 goals. With 10 minutes left in the game, I had that "We're playing right into their hands" feeling.

For their part, the Thrashers played very conservatively and spent the evening looking for a game-breaking play. Their problem isn't a lack of effort or coaching, but a lack of talent from top to bottom. This is not a roster that would be fixed by upgrading one, two, or even five roster slots. What can you do when you're in that position? I wonder how their fans feel about the second half of the season.

- David Krecji's assist on the game-winning goal was truly a thing of beauty. Only a truly special playmaker would've had both the vision and the skill to identify Michael Ryder's charge to the net and deliver a perfectly flat, precisely-timed pass across the entire zone while skating full speed and dodging a defenseman. It's becoming more and more obvious that the addition of Krecji is the single greatest factor in Boston's improvement over the past 12 months.

- Great to see Aaron Ward on the ice again. His game was mostly quiet, though he threw a crunching check in the 2nd. It'll be nice to start hearing scuttlebutt about Andrew Ference's return as well.

- Next up: Pittsburgh in a home-and-home to close out 2008 and open 2009. We've won 4 of 5 on this roadtrip so far and will be heading into our biggest homestand of the season. Should be a barn-burner at the Igloo.

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1) Traditionally Atlanta isn't a great sports city. That said, can't make any firm determination about the Thrashers because they have been run badly almost from their inception. Its difficult to attract/maintain a following when its so hopeless.
2) If we had to guess we won't seee hckey in Atlanta too much longer

Anonymous said...

Andrew Ference has started skating again, but no hard stops yet.