Thrashers season 20 games in: The good and the bad

After starting the season 4-1, the Thrashers have become a streaky team. They’ve had a four-game winning streak. They’ve also had four-game and three-game losing streaks.

Here is a look at the good and bad thus far:

The Good

The Thrashers have received production from their three biggest offseason acquisitions. Max Afinogenov, signed for the bargain price of $800,000, has nine goals. Nik Antropov has 19 assists centering the top line. Pavel Kubina has helped improve the defense and special teams units.

The goaltending has been outstanding. Johan Hedberg and Ondrej Pavelec have kept the Thrashers in nearly every game. Eight of the 10 losses have been by just one goal.

Ilya Kovalchuk has started strong. He leads the team in goals and is second in points despite missing six games with a broken bone in his foot. He’s part of an offense that ranks first in the NHL in goals per game (3.5)

Rich Peverley leads the team with 24 points (eight goals, 16 assists). The Thrashers recently locked up the forward for two more years with a new contract.

The youngsters are performing. Zach Bogosian, 19, has shown a willingness to jump into offensive plays and has eight goals, tops among all NHL defensemen. Forward Evander Kane, 18, has seven goals. That’s second in the league among rookies.

The Thrashers have improved both special teams dramatically. Both are now top-10 units. The team is  sixth in the NHL in the penalty kill with an 82.7 percent success rate. At the end of last season, the Thrashers were next to last in the league (76.0).  They are also eighth in the league on the power play with a 23.5 percent success rate.

The Bad

The team is lacking production from its forwards. Slava Kozlov (two goals), Bryan Little (two) and Antropov (one) were counted on for more scoring. Colby Armstrong (three) and Todd White (three) are both behind their pace of 22 goals last season.

There has been a disturbing trend of falling behind early. Opponents have scored first 13 times this season, 65 percent of the time. The Thrashers are 3-7-3 in those game. While they always seem to rally and make it interesting, coach John Anderson is concerned that playing from behind so much could have adverse effects down the line. He recently called the team’s early-game performance embarrassing.

The Thrashers are just 4-5-2 at Philips Arena. Some tough teams have come through town, including Washington twice and Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh. But playoff teams do not play under .500 on home ice.

Anderson is concerned with the makeup of the team. “I don’t think we fully believe it yet,” Anderson said of his team’s belief that it can play with – and beat – the elite teams.

The Thrashers are last in the NHL in shots allowed per game (35.4). They have been out-shot in 16 of 20 games. As a result, they are 22nd in goals allowed (2.95).

Kovalchuk has not been re-signed. Contract talks with the franchise player are ongoing. However, the future of team’s all-time leader in goals, assists and points remains unknown.

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