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Can the Thrashers be this year's Southeast wonder?

790 Views 2 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  hattrick44
By Matt Canamucio, NHL Editor
10/13 14:30:50 ET

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - At this point in the season it's tough to write anything without getting way, way ahead of ourselves. That's why I have no problem anointing the Atlanta Thrashers as my new favorite to be the 2006-07 Stanley Cup champions.

OK, perhaps I won't quite go that far, but the Thrashers have early-season momentum and history on their side. It's true.

Whereas the Southeast Division used to be an enormous joke, it has spawned the last two Stanley Cup winners in Tampa Bay and Carolina. Both clubs used success in the infancy stages of the campaign to spark their ultimate runs to glory.

As I sit here writing this the Thrashers are 3-0-1, having defeated Florida, Tampa Bay and Boston on the heels of a shootout loss to the Lightning in the opener. During the winning streak they have outscored the opposition by a combined 11-1 margin, receiving two shutouts from sophomore goaltender Kari Lehtonen in the process.

Of course, while this is all well and good, the Thrashers must first take baby steps. The team entered the NHL in 1999 and has only managed one winning season, and that was last year. Atlanta missed the playoffs by a mere two points.

First goal. Get into the postseason, whether it's as Southeast Division champ or not. Then we can really talk.

For now, let's look at what the Thrashers have on the table. The club has a dangerous offensive attack led by Ilya Kovalchuk and Marian Hossa, and the defense, which has been the team's sore spot its entire history, appears to be vastly improved.

But right now the biggest thing the Atlanta Thrashers have going for them is the second-year goaltender, Lehtonen. He logged his first full NHL season in 2005-06 and went 20-15-0 with a 2.94 goals-against average and .906 save percentages. Decent numbers for a rookie on a developing club, but there were some worries that emerged from the effort. Lehtonen continued his seemingly chronic groin issues, missing two significant stretches of games in the first half. The worry of his groin problems lingered and will continue to be there until he proves he can remain healthy over a long season.

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This hockey club is strong fundamentally i can see them winning it all within the next 5 years and with a few lucky bounces and some smart moves maybe within 2!:)

go hot-lanta go
I siad they would go to the playoffs before the season started and a few people siad i was and idot and now most people believe they will

The key for this team is staying heathly especialy Lethonen, Kovalchuck and Hossa. Atlanta's D are underrated with the likes of De Vries, Sutton, Exalby, Havild and Visnevski all solid defencemen
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