Wednesday, November 08, 2006



Johan Hedberg's had the hot hand in Atlanta lately (and as I write this, naturally, he's given up two first-period goals to Ottawa), and it's made him the flavor-of-the-month down here -- even just one month into his Thrasher career.

Hedberg's one of those guys I routinely forget is still in the league, since his brief moment of glory as a hot Penguins rookie earlier in the decade. When he signed with the Thrashers this off-season, I was surprised that he hadn't been playing in Europe, and was more surprised he'd been with Dallas -- how did I not hear about that? I vaguely remember him playing for the Canucks at some point, which is more or less the death knell for any goalie, so I figured he was backing up Peter Skudra somewhere in Bulgaria or something.

So, I was pleased to see he was still around -- it was like finding out that your old high school friend hadn't ended up in jail, as everyone predicted -- and more pleased to see him start doing really well once Kari Lehtonen faltered a bit.

But I wasn't expecting to find him already a fan favorite when I (belatedly) attended my first Thrashers game of the season Monday night (5-3 over the Bruins). People already had moose antlers and Hedberg jerseys. Calls of "Mooooooooooooooooose" echoed through the arena after good saves (and he made some great ones). Atlanta fans have quickly gravitated to goalies in the past -- Pasi Nurminen had perhaps the most dedicated cheering section of any player in the team's short history -- but even this is a bit weird.

(And Hedberg has given up two more goals since I started writing this, and been yanked for Lehtonen with the Thrashers trailing 4-2. Note to self: don't start posts while the game is on)

Couple other Thrasher notes from my first time seeing them live:

* Much has been made about Ilya Kovalchuk's new commitment to defense, but all that means is that he's playing it, not that he's playing it well. Kovy on the point is still a rather nervous proposition -- it can result in goals, goals, goals (as it did against Boston) or a whole lot of odd-man rushes the other way (as it has tonight).

* Marian Hossa, meanwhile, may be the best thing ever to happen to this team. Not really the most daring comment to make ("Brad Larsen is the best thing ever to happen to this team" would be more interesting), but the other night just reminded me what a joy he is to watch, fantastic in all areas. Ilya got the hat trick the other night, but Hossa was the best player on the ice.

* The defense was a major source of concern heading into this season, but it looked solid the other night, and the more suspect members of the corps (Exelby, Sutton, Hnidy) all looked calm and reliable, a far cry from the messes of last season. None of the frequent defensive-zone turnovers, blue-line giveaways, sloppy stickwork. Maybe poor Jaroslav Modry was the problem? Maybe Vitali Vishnevski, funny as he looks, is the "steadying influence" of legend?

Meanwhile, Senators-Thrashers is 4-4. Blogger problems and work have rendered this whole thing somewhat irrelevant.

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