Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Night in the OHL

Our dream is an OHL final that pits 2008 First Round pick Michael Del Zotto's London Knights and 2008 Third Round pick Evgeny Grachev's Brampton Battalion. If the way the first round of the OHL playoffs are going that dream has a chance of becoming true.

Michael Del Zotto snapped back from what we considered a bad game 3 to score his first playoff goal of the season along with his 6th assist as his London Knights defeated Mitch Gaulton's Erie Otters 4-2. With the win the Knights head back to London (Ontario) with a 3 games to 1 series lead and a chance to finish off the Otters.

As has been our mantra with the Ranger prospects, the key words is "active role" as those who have been active have helped their teams win; those who are not watched their team lose.

Del Zotto got his night rolling by making Erie pay for taking a 5 minute major as Del Zotto scored at 12:51 of the first period to tie the game at 1-1. Del Zotto then followed it up by setting up teammate Phil Varone at 6:37 of the second period which gave the Knights a 2-1 lead.

That performance earned Del Zotto the games first star for his efforts (thanks to Salvage21 for pointing out that the OHL had Mitch Gaulton as the first star incorrectly) and it was well deserved given how well Del Zotto played.

For Del Zotto this was the kind of game we wanted to see out of him after some undisciplined play the night before. Good solid work at both ends of the ice and now the Knights will get a chance to finish off the Otters on Saturday evening.

As for the Otters and Mitch Gaulton, they are their own worst enemy as both teams were sent letters by the OHL about checking from behind and that is what David Shields did to give Del Zotto the power play that he scored on.

Gaulton has been nailed to the bench even though the Otters are very shorthanded on defense. This is not good when you are down to 4 dressed defensemen and you do not leave the bench. A very disappointing situation for Gaulton who has gone from great comeback story to the outhouse.

Why the Otters are even bothering to dress Gaulton and then treat him in such a manner is disappointing. Embarrassing a player by repeatedly dressing him and then not using him just causes problems for everyone in the long run whether the player deserves it or not.

Gaulton does not meet Robbie Ftorek's standards which is Ftorek's right as coach; but at the same time the whole world sees that the kid is just sitting on the bench not being used. Send him to the press box if you are not going to use him.

Given the kind of season that Evgeny Grachev has had then it is a big story when Grachev does not score or even earn a plus/minus but that is exactly what happened as Grachev's Brampton Battalion finished off the Peterborough Petes 3-2 to sweep their OHL playoff series.

Grachev actually had a goal waved off as he was ruled to have kicked in the puck in the first minute of the 2nd period. It was a good call on the replay and that was as close as Grachev got to scoring in this game.

That does not mean that Grachev played badly as he still did play well with a couple of good scoring chances as well as some good work on the Battalion power play and penalty kill.

Grachev has been on the Brampton first line during this round and we doubt that he will be coming off that line any time soon. Grachev finishes his first playoff round with a very good 4-4-8 mark (good for 7th in the OHL) as now the Battalion get ready for the second round.


Prospect Notes

Between Grachev and Del Zotto, the duo have a combined 5-10-15 points in 8 man games. One has to wonder just how good these 2 will become when they make the Rangers in the next 2-3 seasons.

If you have Friday off and want to see a future Ranger in action then head down to Bridgeport Connecticut to catch Carl Hagelin and the Michigan Wolverines as they take on Air Force in the opening round of the NCAAs starting at 3 PM EDT. This one has all the makings of a great game as Air Force has been known to pull off first round upsets in the past and Michigan is ripe for the pickings.

The game will be shown on ESPNU if you can not make it to the game and the folks at College Hockey News did a great job previewing not only this game but the East Regional right here.

There will be games all over the ESPN family during the next couple of days so if you have not gotten a chance to watch college hockey now would be a great time to start.

Tomas Kundratek and his Medicine Hat Tigers will be the only CHL prospect in action on Friday evening as they travel to Swift Current for Game 5 of their series. IF Kundratek plays like he did in Game 4 then the Tigers could steal back home ice advantage.

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

1 comment:

Salvage21 said...

Hey Jess,
I noticed that Mitch Gaulton was named the first star of the game last night even though he was held scoreless and even. I would imagine he had some kind of impact on the Otters defense.