TORONTO – If recent history is any indication, get ready for an Atlanta Thrashers winning streak.
The streaky Thrashers beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-3 Tuesday night, ending a three-game losing skid. It was the second three-game slide this season for the Thrashers, who have also suffered through a six-game winless streak. But the mercurial Thrashers seem to get their results in bunches, as they have also put together a five-game winning streak this year.
That kind of manic behaviour can be maddening for a first-year coach like John Anderson.
“I hope we win in bunches now, it’s one in a row,” chuckled Anderson. “I think it’s just a little bit of consistency. The three games we did lose (most recently), we lost by one goal (not including empty-netters) and that’s pretty difficult.
“Little things we do that cause ourselves problems, we’ve got to fix and it’s part of the growing pains of getting to know each other and getting to know me as a coach.”
One of the biggest contributors to Atlanta’s highs this year is right-winger Bryan Little. A former standout with the Ontario Hockey League’s Barrie Colts, Little has nine goals and 18 points through 20 games.
The 21-year-old thinks a positive mindset can even out the Thrashers’ trajectory.
“We’ve got to believe we can (win games) all the time because we can,” he said. “We’re a better hockey team than, I think, some people give us credit for.”
Little is certainly a much better player than he showed last year as a rookie. He split time between the American Hockey League and the NHL, posting just 16 points in 48 games with Atlanta.
“When I have the puck this year, I just feel more confident and I just feel like I want to hang on to it longer, make plays, where last year I just wanted to kind of give it away as fast as I could or go to the net,” Little said.
Little shifted from his natural centre position and has thrived playing the right side this year on a line with pivot Todd White and left-winger Vyacheslav Kozlov.
“He’s not a huge guy, but he’s very competitive and he’s got great speed on the outside,” said Anderson. “Him playing the wing might be the key, he’s done a great job there”.
According to Little, it has been a seamless switch.
“It’s not too bad,” he said. “It’s kind of less responsibility. There’s more for a centre than a winger and for me it hasn’t been too big of an adjustment.”