Monday, April 20, 2009

Close is Not Good Enough

There are going to be a lot of those corny cliches used in describing how the London Knights and Windsor Spitfires series; it is going to be very hard to let people call this a classic of a series. Yes all 4 games have been decided in overtime but only because no team has been able to hold on to a lead.

In Game 4, Windsor became the first team in this series to blow a lead and then rebound to win as the Spitfires scored just 59 seconds into overtime to earn a 5-4 win and a commanding 3 games to 1 lead in their OHL Eastern Conference Final.

The jokes have already started about how Windsor now holds a 2 game lead that they will blow it like they have game leads. Michael Del Zotto and his London Knights are sure hoping that they do.

With London trailing 4-2, Del Zotto made a great play to score his 3rd goal of the playoffs at 14:28 of the 3rd period. It was a sign of Del Zotto's improvement overall as Del Zotto intercepted a pass and blew a shot past Windsor goalie Andrew Engelage to pull London within one.

Del Zotto's goal was the middle goal of a 3 goal third period comeback but the problem is that one can not be sure if Windsor simply stopped playing or London outplayed them. To be blunt it does not matter because London eventually lost the game and are in serious trouble.

Del Zotto in this game was much better than he was in Game 3 as he did a better job playing under control while trying to be more physical. Del Zotto and his defensive partner John Carlson were the London 3rd period scoring all of the goals.

Now on Wednesday we get to see how Del Zotto handles playing in a "must win" situation, which is not exactly what we were hoping for but still a very educational lesson for both prospect and Ranger fans.


Tuesday it becomes the turn of Evgeny Grachev of Brampton and Tysen Dowzak of Kelowna as both prospects are going to face tests of their own. If both pass then they will move much closer towards a chance at their respective league finals.

For Grachev and friends, it is game 4 at home but with a twist as until the 2nd period of their series with the Belleville Bulls this series has been all Brampton. The Battalion stopped doing what got them to the conference finals and allowed their tempers to get the better of them.

Grachev needs to go back on the attack putting pressure on the Bull's defense because the Bulls got most of their offense in Game 3 from their defenders. If Grachev is in his attack mode then neither PK Suppan or Shawn Lalonde will have time to score since they will be too busy trying to stop Grachev.

In the case of Dowzak and the Rockets, they return home having split the first 2 games on the road. Game two was more like "we got our win so we are happy" and there lies the danger that the Rocket's face.

Game 2 was to be generous a weak effort in terms of both discipline and effort as the Rockets with a better effort could have come home with a 2-0 series lead. Vancouver is too good a team to give any kind of opening to win.

In Game 3 the Rockets need to return to their "Big Bang Hockey" in order to win; do so and they can defeat the Giants but it will take a smart physical game like they played in Game 1 to do so.

(Del Zotto courtesy of the Rangers)

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