Penalty kill major reason for Thrashers' slump

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Is this the same team?

The Thrashers currently are mired in a four game-losing streak and have won just three of their past 12 games. Yet not so long ago, the Thrashers won 10 times in a 12-game stretch.

It is the same team -- with one big performance issue.

The Thrashers' penalty kill has been woeful the past four weeks. The unit has slipped to 29th in the NHL in the special team, which at one point this season was near the top of the league.

“Our penalty kill was improving and our power play was excellent,” Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay said.

The truth is in the numbers. The Thrashers have allowed 16 power-play goals in 47 times while shorthanded over the past 12 games for a 66-percent success rate. From Nov. 19 to Dec. 13, they allowed just four power-play goals in 39 chances for an 89.7 success rate.

They penalty-kill issues have led to other problems reflected in several statistics:

  • The Thrashers have been outscored 51-28 over the past 12 games, a goal differential of minus 23. During their winning run, they outscored opponents 41-22, a differential of plus 19.
  • They have allowed 421 shots on goal (.909 save percentage) during the past 12 games. They allowed 379 shots (.945 save percentage) during their 10-2-0 run.
  • They have eight power-play goals in 46 chances during the current slide. They had eight in 38 chances in the month of solid play.

The unit has struggled mightily over the past four games. They allowed five power-play goals in seven chances to Toronto last week. They allowed four goals in five man-disadvantages against Dallas on Saturday night.

“Special teams, especially penalty killing, is the ultimate team game,” Ramsay said. “That’s where everybody has to be together. When you decide to attack and chase because of a bouncing puck, and you have three out of four [players] doing it, it doesn’t work. Tonight basically on many occasions we had three out of four. It won’t work. It just won’t work.”

Ramsay said following the loss to Dallas that he tried several different players on the penalty kill, desperately searching for more help. Defenseman Johnny Oduya and center Alexander Burmistrov saw more time with the unit.

“You start trying to do too much with some people and with some people not enough,” Ramsay said.

Ramsay said overall he expected ups and downs this season with a new coaching staff and several new players. He admitted his team is in a precarious position.

“We are a fragile team right at the moment,” he said. “We expected a bit of a roller coaster this year. We’ve grown as a team. I thought the response from the team, for 45 minutes, was excellent. As soon as something went against us, we didn’t have the right response. … We have to understand that 60 minutes a night is required to play in the National Hockey League.”

The Thrashers may have a chance to improve the penalty kill soon. They play at Florida on Monday night and the Panthers have the worst power-play unit in the NHL, converting just 11.4 percent of their chances.

“I think if we put a couple games together of getting hot on the PK that’s going to help you win games,” Rich Peverley said. “That’s been one of our downfalls right now.”

Note

The Thrashers reassigned goaltender Edward Pasquale to AHL Chicago from ECHL Gwinnett on Sunday. The move likely clears the way for Peter Mannino to join the team in Florida for Monday night’s game against the Panthers. Chris Mason left Saturday night’s game at Dallas with a lower-body injury.