So Long, AtlantaPosted on January 14, 2013 by Mike Vogel
For the second time, the city of Atlanta has lost an NHL team to a Canadian city. The long-rumored move of the Thrashers to Winnipeg became official today. The new Winnipeg club (which is sans nickname as of now) will remain in the Southeast Division for at least the 2011-12 season, so the Caps will make three trips to Winnipeg this season. There will be plenty of time to celebrate the return of NHL hockey to Winnipeg after an absence of a decade and a half, so I’d like to take some time today to remember the Atlanta NHL entries, as it seems unlikely the league would dip a toe in that water for a third time at any point in the future. My sincere and heartfelt condolences go out to the employees of the Thrashers, several of which I consider friends. And those same condolences go out to all the fans and those who supported hockey in Atlanta during the time it was there over the past four decades. Atlanta’s first NHL club was the Flames, who joined the NHL along with the New York Islanders for the 1972-73 season. The Atlanta Flames made the playoffs in six of their eight seasons of existence before moving north to Calgary for the 1980-81 season. The Flames didn’t have any more postseason success than the Thrashers, who made just one trip to the playoffs in their 11 seasons in the Peachtree State. The two Atlanta NHL teams combined for a 2-19 record in Stanley Cup playoff competition, and the Flames and Thrashers were outscored by a combined total of 79-38 in those 21 postseason contests. We’ll never know if the Thrashers’ fate might have been altered with more visits to the postseason – the city only hosted two playoff games during the Thrashers’ run in Atlanta – and more success in those visits. I liked going to Atlanta, and the Caps visited Philips Arena three or four times a season during most of the Thrashers’ 11-season lifespan. Washington’s first trip to Atlanta to take on the Thrashers was Dec. 15, 1999 when Olie Kolzig pitched a 4-0 shutout over the home team. The Caps closed out their Atlanta ledger this past Jan. 26 when the Thrashers’ Ondrej Pavelec blanked the Caps for the second time in 2010-11 with a 1-0 shutout. In between, there were a few memorable contests and moments. Maxime Ouellet pitched the lone shutout of his NHL career – a 5-0 Washington win – in Atlanta on Dec. 16, 2003. That win came in the first week on the job for Glen Hanlon as the Caps’ bench boss. Defenseman Mathieu Biron played the wing on the fourth line and skated just over 12 minutes – including 8:13 while Washington was on the power play – in a 6-5 shootout win over the Thrashers on Dec. 22, 2005. Biron had a power play goal and an assist for his only multiple-point game with the Caps. That win was Washington’s first in Atlanta during the Alex Ovechkin era. Alex Ovechkin notched the second hat trick of his NHL career in Atlanta on Dec. 15, 2006. Ovechkin accounted for all of Washington’s offense in a 3-2 Caps win that night. Ovechkin became the fourth rookie in NHL history to score 50 or more goals in a season when he tallied his 50th against the Thrashers in Atlanta in a 5-3 Washington loss on April 13, 2006. Nicklas Backstrom made his NHL debut against the Thrashers in Atlanta on Oct. 5, 2007. He picked up an assist while skating 14:45 in a 3-1 Washington win. My own personal favorite Atlanta memory came on March 21, 2008. Two nights after a 5-0 road loss in Chicago dealt their dimming playoff hopes a serious blow, the Caps went into the third period in Atlanta facing a 3-1 deficit. The Caps came away 5-3 winners that night on the strength of two goals each from Ovechkin (his 59th and 60th of the season) and Backstrom. That win ignited a seven-game winning streak that stretched through the rest of the regular season and propelled the Caps to a Southeast Division title and their first playoff berth in five years. The Caps scored three goals in 88 seconds in a 5-4 win over the Thrashers in Atlanta on Oct. 22, 2009. Caps blueliner Jeff Schultz had a goal and two assists, and the goal came from the Washington side of the red line, beating Pavelec on a fluky bounce. Goaltender Michal Neuvirth made 38 saves to backstop the Caps to an 8-1 win in Atlanta on Jan. 9, 2010 in what turned out to be Washington’s final win in the state of Georgia. The Caps had travel troubles on that trip, and were forced to fly to Atlanta on the day of the game. Schultz was a plus-5 in that game. Ovechkin will miss playing in Philips Arena; he had 16 goals and 32 points in 21 career games there. Personally, I will miss going to the Pan Asian Bistro, Chow Baby, and the awesome sports bar on the second floor of the Marriott Marquis in Atlanta. So long, Atlanta. Thanks for the memories.
A day after inking Swedish free agent Mattias Sjogren to a two-year contract, the Capitals consummated a minor deal with the Nashville Predators on Thursday when they obtained left wing Taylor Stefishen for a conditional seventh-round pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. A native of North Vancouver,