The Thrashers concluded a six game homestand that showed what the team was capable of, and amazingly enough, it was a lot. It was a five game winning streak. It was outscoring the defeated opponents 19-3. It was taking out some of the best teams in the league – Washington, Detroit, Montreal, and Boston. It was outshooting the opponents in every game but one. It was a chance for Ondrej Pavelec to show everyone what a solid goaltender he could be – something he’s been working towards for three seasons. Pavelec was named the NHL’s first star of the week for last week, and in reading the article highlighting him, it seemed all that it took was a constant goalie coach in Clint Malarchuk. Having a goalie coach that knows what he’s doing – something that Atlanta has never had – has calmed Pavs down and given him confidence. Also, having a coach that knows that he’s working with young talent who needs confididence is helpful as well.
In two games at Boston a week apart, Dec. 23 and Dec. 30, then-coach John Anderson pulled him after allowing three goals in each before Pavelec could get out of the first period. Pavelec talked during the offseason about how that quick hook affected him negatively…
“I know last year was kind of — we were disappointed a little bit about it because I got pulled … last year in Boston,” Pavelec said. “It’s not the way you want to play. Like I said, it happened. … I got pulled twice in a row in Boston. But it’s a coach’s decision and nothing really you can do. If he wants to pull you, he’s going to do that and if he wants to do something to wake up the team, he’s going to do that.
“It depends on the situation. But, again, Johnny (Anderson) was in the NHL for two years, that said, as a (head) coach, and Rammer is in the League for a while — a while — so he probably knows how things work. Like I said, hopefully I never get pulled. You cannot give him the reason to do that. If you’re going to play well you’re going to stay in the net.”
All it took was someone to show confidence in Pavelec, and that confidence has not only given him a new spark, but has trickled down to the team as a whole. They’re playing with their heads up and a bit of a swagger that fans have never seen before. When it comes to confidence and swagger, fans really have to look no further than the NHL’s second star of the week, Dustin Byfuglien. Buff had nine points in those five games, and four last night – a goal and three assists. There’s whispers of Norris contention, there’s cries of hyperbole directed at people who think that the trade to get him is the best ever, there’s even a bit of a bump in power rankings because of Pavelec, Byfuglien, and the team’s play – the Thrashers are number 4 on TSN’s this week, and that might be the highest that they’ve ever been.
This week’s road trip, starting Tuesday in Colorado, is going to test the Thrashers’ mettle and if this wasn’t just a happy, five game accident. It’s difficult to break the confidence of a team that is playing as well as they have been, and it’s impossible to undo the education that coach Craig Ramsay has given them.
It’s early in the season to tell where the Thrashers’ll end up, but for right now Thrashers fans just need to enjoy what’s going on, and sights like NHL.com’s front page last night and today: