Yesterday, I read an interesting article on A Yankee Whistles in Dixie which makes some excellent points. The Ilya Kovalchuk theory like the Patrick Ewing theory states that the team will actually play better without the distraction of a star player. This theory holds true in relation to the Thrashers as they hold an impressive 4-1-2 record since trading their superstar and sit surprisingly in a playoff position.
With Kovalchuk gone, three separate lines account for scoring with even the fourth line chipping in.
De-facto top-liner and centerpiece from the Kovalchuk deal, Niclas Bergfors looks revitalized with six points in seven games. He woke up center Nik Antropov, who now posted nine points over his last six games. Even sophomore slumper Bryan Little potted six points in as many games, giving the Thrashers a very effective top line.
Newcomer Clarke MacArthur proved his worth last night as he chimed in during the first period barrage of goals. His linemates Maxim Afinogenov and Rich Peverley combined for three points on the evening, giving coach John Anderson another excellent option.
The most intriguing line in Atlanta proves to be the combination of Jim Slater, Evander Kane and Colby Armstrong. A mix of youth, inconsistency and grind look to turn their season around. All three young players now find their names on the score sheet. Acquiring MacArthur will likely cut their ice time but they all seem to be taking another step forward in their development due to additional confidence.
On the backend, Tobias Enstrom and Pavel Kubina continue to hold down the blue line as Zach Bogosian still fails to step up. With steady veterans like Ron Hainsey and Johnny Oduya fully capable of carrying the load, expect Bogosian to see less time down the stretch until spots open up in the offseason due to free agency. Although at one time the former 3rd overall selection led all defensemen in goals, he failed to keep his game consistent, which is a requirement for an NHL offensive defensemen.
With the Thrashers now in the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference and coming off an impressive 6-3 win against the Islanders, expect more of the same from a very hungry young team.