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Friday January 29, 2010 3:47 pm

Thrashers jump 7 spots with win




Posted by Adrien Griffin Categories: Editorial, NHL,

Ilya KovalchukTalk about a leapfrog. The Atlanta Thrashers beat the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3 on Thursday night. The exciting part for Thrashers fans is that they took over 6th place in the Eastern Conference from the hometown Flyers, but the interesting part for hockey fans everywhere is that going in to the game, Atlanta was in 13th. Thanks to the NHL’s tiebreaker rules, the Thrashers earned two points with the win, and bypassed the Islanders, Bruins, Canadiens, Rangers, Panthers and Flyers in the standings.

Perhaps the three-point NHL system isn’t as bad as we thought it was. With roughly two-thirds of the 2009-10 season complete, there are still this many teams so close together in the standings in the East. Two points separate eight teams competing for three playoffs spots. By comparison in the West, seven teams are separated by six points and are battling for the final two spots. To date, the Dallas Stars have benefited most from overtime losses, adding 11 points to their total of 57.

The Thrashers’ newfound playoff spot is far from safe. Not only do three of the teams they passed play on Friday night, there’s still plenty of season to go. The Thrashers are now second in the Southeast Division, but are still 20 points behind the Eastern Conference leaders in Washington. They no longer have to rise the ladder, they have to learn how to defend what’s now theirs, but with players like Ilya Kovalchuk, Maxim Afinogenov, and Nik Antropov, that might not be too difficult – assuming they’re not forced to trade any of them.

So much has been made of the NHL’s three-point system. People talk about how even mediocre-to-bad teams can climb standings not by winning hockey games, but instead by not losing within 60 minutes. But the unspoken upside of overtime loss points is that it does keep teams within striking range of those above them in the standings, keeping playoff races tight down the stretch. Maybe this ghost point isn’t so bad after all, just don’t say that to the teams who earn their points in regulation time.

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