The easy thing would be to brag about how smart we are after we wrote this yesterday in previewing the Brampton Battalion and Mississauga St. Michaels Majors series:
We say that the biggest difference in this series is going to come down to the play of Grachev mainly because the Majors are going to have their hands full trying to stop the 6'5 Ranger 2008 3rd round pick. If Grachev puts up the kinds of numbers that he did in the first round (4-4-8 in 4 games) then the Majors do not have an answer for Grachev.
We would thank Evgeny Grachev for proving our point in the series opener by scoring the first goal of the series and adding an assist as Grachev's Brampton Battalion won game 1 with a 3-0 shutout. Grachev earned the Game's 2nd star for his efforts but here is the best part; the points Grachev put up do not tell the story about his play.
This just may have been Grachev's most complete game this season which is scary considering how well Grachev played. Grachev was a force physically like we had not seen him before hitting any Major player who came within his sights.
The pre-series talk was about how the Majors were going to play a physical game and beat up on the Battalion. So Grachev's line of Grachev, Cody Hodgson and Anthony Peluso just attacked and kept attacking which led to a first period where the Battalion sent a huge message about they were not afraid of the bigger Majors.
Grachev's goal was more of an "excuse me" type of goal as Grachev got credit for a a goal that deflected in off his skate (and was ruled good) It was an even strength goal at just 3:57 of the first period and Grachev's 5th of the playoffs as well as his first game winner.
In fact it is interesting to breakdown Grachev's 5 goals; one power play, one shorthanded, one game winner (also one first goal) and one insurance goal. And of course the most important stat: all 5 were key game turning goals.
Grachev also earned a secondary assist on Josh Day's goal at 11:18 which gav the Battalion a very important 2-0 lead barely halfway though the first period. We also have to mention that Grachev would have had a second goal if not for a beauty of a save by Major goalie J. P. Anderson in the second period.
5 games 5-5-10 for the Ranger's 2008 third round pick and as we said yesterday, if the Battalion get this kind of contribution from Grachev then the Battalion will win this series.
Then our other "genius maker" Michael Del Zotto had a strong game of his own as his London Knights just outskated the Saginaw Spirit 7-3 in a game that was not even as close as the score.
Del Zotto had an assist as well as a +3 in this game to bring his playoff totals to 1-8-9 +5. On such a loaded roster like the Knights have Del Zotto sometimes gets overlooked but his contributions can not be ignored.
Del Zotto is not a good skater, he is an excellent one and when he makes it to the Rangers then he will become a difference maker. As we keep saying, Del Zotto is going to have a major impact on how far the London Knights go in the playoffs.
If Del Zotto remains on his current pace then we can expect our dream matchup of Grachev's Battalion against Del Zotto's Knights in the OHL Finals.
In either case Ranger fans will win because the longer these two prospects get to play the more they will speed up their development towards a trip on Broadway.
(Grachev: Brampton, Del Zotto: Stu Switzer (Phatso Photography)
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