The Atlanta Thrashers got a lot better over the weekend and are trying hard to become the birds of prey that they were earlier in the year. They traded one of their top prospects, Braydon Coburn away to the Flyers for veteran Alexei Zhitnik and also traded a 1st round pick, 2nd round pick, 3rd round pick, and Glen Metropolit to the Blues for Keith Tkachuk. Fortunately for the Hurricanes, this was all finalized after the game Saturday night, although the way the Canes performed it might not have mattered who was playing for Atlanta. In my opinion, it was one of the best games of the year for Carolina. The team did have a slow start and they did continue to have trouble with the power play, but after those first few rocky minutes everyone skated hard and skated well. John Grahame played very well in net and earned the honor of being one of the stars of the game for the 2nd game in a row.
Justin Williams opened the scoring for the Canes on a goal manufactured by simple hard work. He took 4 whacks at the puck while being harassed and knocked down, but the puck finally made it's way into the net because of his persistence. Less than 3 minutes later, Mike Commodore joined the rush on a delayed penalty and scored making it 2-0 Canes at the end of the period. After a scoreless 2nd period, the Thrashers scored a shortie on a shot from the blue line by Garnet Exelby 8 minutes into the 3rd. But Justin Williams took a nice pass from Frank Kaberle on a break away as Frank had just left the penalty box and made a beautiful shot that extended the Hurricane's lead and put the game well in hand. Ray Whitney closed out the scoring with an empty netter. I thought each of the Canes played very responsibly on the defensive end and they were able to cycle the puck extremely well, keeping the puck in the Thrasher's zone for extended periods of time. While at times it looked like the line of Vasicek, Walker, and Stillman wasn't even looking for a shot, they cycled, cycled, and cycled some more. Let's face it, it's hard for the Dirty Birds or any team to score if the Canes keep cycling the puck! While Anson Carter didn't set the world on fire in his first game on the team, he looked okay and didn't make any major mistakes. The game was a vital one for the Canes who quite frankly can't afford to fall behind any further in their division. Wouldn't it be sweet if they could finally put together some consecutive decent performances and wins?
Getting back to the trades that Atlanta made, they seem like desperation moves to me. Unlike last year when the Canes traded for Weight and Recchi and were near the top in the league, the Thrashers are on a losing streak and need to stop the bleeding fast. There is no gaurantee that the team will even make the playoffs at this point, and I can't see big, slow, Keith Tkachuk keeping up with speedsters Ilya Kovalchuk and Marian Hossa. Zhitnik and Tkachuk both will be assets on the power play though, so we will see what happens. General manager Don Waddell has his job on the line and this is a gamble that could hurt the Thrashers for years to come if it doesn't work out. If they go deep into the playoffs, then it was worth it. As with all trades, time will tell. I will keep track of the trades before the deadline on Tuesday and of course give my opinions. Later on after the trade deadline, I will compare the deals and track to see which ones were worth the price, and which ones were not. That will be interesting!
Finally, Carolina's 8 year old anthem singer Katherine Fritsch is featured on the Early Show again this week, showing on CBS. Her video, which won with 74% of the vote last time, has made it to the next round and is up for selection again. The link to "Living Room Live" is at the top right of this main page. Check it out if you have the chance. If you have not heard her before, she has an amazing voice! Good luck again Katherine!