Saturday, March 21, 2009

Good Golly Great Grachev

First Star: Evgeny Grachev

Instant replay from yesterday as we wrote about the chances of the Brampton Battalion to make it to the OHL finals:

For Brampton to get that far we believe he has to score that much because honestly there is nobody really big enough to stop him.

We get to say we was right which is always a nice thing because Evgeny Grachev goes out and makes us look really good do in his OHL playoff debut on Friday evening.

All Grachev did was score 2 goals and toss in 2 assists to tie a Brampton single game playoff points record while earning the game's first star as the Brampton Battalion just spanked the Peterborough Petes 5-2. As crazy as this is going to sound but what impressed us was his everything but his points.

We saw Grachev attacking the Petes physically, playing a rock solid game at both ends of the ice and even better we swear Grachev looked as if he was having a great time doing so. It was as if someone had hit a switch and released the monster upon the unsuspecting villagers.

Grachev got his night going just 2:36 into the first period by setting up Anthony Peluso for Brampton's first goal of the playoffs on the power play. Grachev followed that up by setting up teammate Matt Duchene for Brampton's 3rd goal of the game and eventual game winner also on the power play at 18:58 of the first period.

In the 3rd period at 9:14, Grachev played the role of Undertaker as he put the finishing touches on the Pete's by scoring his first playoff goal from the high slot with a blast for a 4-1 Brampton lead. Then Grachev showed his finesse side but taking the puck stick side high for a 5-1 Brampton lead as well a cap to a 4 point night.

If Grachev plays like this then for sure Brampton is going to have no problem erasing playoff demons of the last 2 seasons.

Second Star Michael Del Zotto

We would like to take this time to thank Michael Del Zotto for making us look smart with his play on Friday evening. Check is in the mail Michael as your 3 assists helped show Ranger fans that if you still are down on this young prospect then nothing is going to change your mind.

Del Zotto and his London Knights spotted Mitch Gaulton and his Erie Otters a 1-0 lead just 9 seconds into their playoff series before coming back with 3 third period goals to win 5-2. Del Zotto got his night going with a secondary assist at 9:57 of the first period which tied the score at 1-1.

In the 3rd period with the score tied at 2, Del Zotto set up Phillip McRae's second goal of the game to give the Knights a 3-2 lead at 6:27 that the Knights never gave back. Then Del Zotto set up Phil Varone for a power play goal at 9:50 and a 4-2 lead that killed off any chance of an Otter comeback.

It was a career playoff high for Del Zotto in both assists and points but more importantly, Del Zotto was as we thought he had to be for the Knights, the leader on the blueline. If Del Zotto plays like he did on Friday during the OHL playoffs then the Knights will have a very long run.


The Rest of the Prospects

Sticking with the Erie/London game, Mitch Gaulton was used as Erie's 6th defenseman playing limited minutes but credit London's defense for playing a strong game against Erie in the first place. It is going to be hard for Gaulton or any of his teammates to find space.

Derek Stepan and his Wisconsin Badgers saw their NCAA hopes come to an end as the Denver Pioneers shut them out 3-0 to defeat the Badgers in the WCHA semi-finals. Stepan has nothing to feel ashamed about as he led the Badgers with 8 shots on goal.

Given the way the NCAA hockey tournament is set up, it is almost impossible for Wisconsin to earn an at-large bid especially since if Denver does not win the WCHA they will hold a 5-0 season record over the Badgers.

Stepan has one last game to play this season as Wisconsin will play Saturday afternoon against North Dakota who were upset by Minnesota Duluth in the other WCHA semi-final. That upset also killed off any hope of an NCAA bid for Stepan and the Badgers.

On the other hand Carl Hagelin and his Michigan Wolverines are heading to the NCAA tournament with the only things left to be decided is will they earn a 1 seed, will they go as the CCHA champions or will they wind up as an at large bid.

All that because Hagelin and his teammates defeated the Alaska Nanooks 3-1 as Hagelin was scoreless and had for the most part a very quiet game. Next up for Michigan will be Notre Dame in the CCHA final for the 2nd time in 3 years.

Tysen Dowzak and his Kelowna Rockets should be very thankful that they were not the victims of a game one upset as they really did not play all that well as they escaped with a 4-2 win over the Kamloops Blazers. The Rockets may be up 1-0 in the series but if they play like this then this series will go longer than need be.

The score really does not tell the story as we were very disappointed in the efforts of the Rockets who as we feared may have read too much into their 9-0 regular season series sweep of the Blazers.

Dowzak really did not play badly but he also did not like his teammates do anything to remind us of the hottest team in the WHL down the regular season stretch.

Tomas Kundratek and his Medicine Hat Tigers dropped game one of their series with the Swift Current Broncos 4-2. The Tigers actually had a lead in the 3rd period but gave up 3 goals in the 3rd to lose the game.

Kundratek did not play badly but the Tigers need more out of him if they are to have any hope of defeating the Broncos.

In the QMJHL, the results were not at all unexpected but what was unexpected was that the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies did not even dress Antoine Lafleur in thei first game against the Montreal Junior.

The Huskies lost 5-3 but do not let the score fool you as the Huskies waited until they were down 4-1 before scoring a couple of late goals to make the score look respectable. Not sure why Lafleur did not even get to dress but in many ways Lafleur can point the finger at himself because of his play in the latter half of the season.

Who knows now if Lafleur will get to play in this series but if the Huskies drop game 2 then they had better think hard about making a goalie switch.

Chris Doyle and his Prince Edward Island Rocket got whipped 7-1 by the Moncton Wildcats in game 1 of their series. It was the expected result of a series that is a huge mismatch and the only question is will the Rocket even win one game?

Doyle was shut down like his teammates by the best defensive team in the QMJHL and a non-factor.

(Grachev courtesy of the Brampton Battalion, Del Zotto courtesy of the New York Rangers)

No comments: