Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Glory Days

It is funny but the supposed experts seem to think that the New York Ranger prospects are not all that good. We have to wonder who are they watching as the Ranger prospects we are seeing are pretty damm good.

Evgeny Grachev is a prospect that every time we see him he does something else to get us excited. Come tomorrow by 2 PM EDT we also expect that Grachev will be named the the 2008-09 recipient of the Emms Family Award for the OHL Rookie of the Year as well as a member of the OHL First Team All-Rookie team.

Tuesday night Grachev gave us a lesson about his willingness to win when he crashed the next with 35 seconds left in regulation to score the tying goal for his Brampton Battalion and tie the score at 3-3. The Battalion eventually went on to lose on overtime 4-3 to the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors to tie their playoff series at 2 games each.

It was the kind of goal we had been wanted to see from Grachev as it was what you want from an impact player; it was the badly needed goal when your team needed it the most. To set the stage, the Battalion were trailing 3-2 with under a minute remaining and having pulled their goalie.

The Battalion won a faceoff (Cody Hodgson) and got the puck behind the net where Matt Duchene threw it out front where Grachev crashed in to blast the puck into the net. Now with this series tied at 2-2 we are going to get good look at how Grachev handles adversity as he needs to elevate his game in order get the Battalion to the Eastern Conference finals.

This series is going to go the distance of 7 games and the team that wins is going to be the one who's best players step up and we will get to see how Grachev handles what is now a best of 3 series.

We talk about how the playoffs are where players will earn their good or bad reputations. Right now anyone who is wondering about Michael Del Zotto needs to think twice about it as Del Zotto is playing his best hockey of the season for his London Knights.

Del Zotto told us in November that his main goal this season was winning a championship not how many points he scored because as Del Zotto put it "winning will take care of the points." Did we mention how smart Del Zotto just so happens to be as his bold prediction is coming true.

Del Zotto notched his 14th point of the OHL playoffs as his London Knights eliminated the Saginaw Spirit in 4 games with a 5-3 win and now advance to the OHL Western Conference finals. In 9 playoff games, Del Zotto is 2-12-14 +7 and just 2 PIMs which are all career highs with the exception of goals but we are sure before Del Zotto is done that too will change.

Now Del Zotto and the Knights get a chance to rest up as the other conference semifinal between Windsor and Plymouth is tied up at 2-2. This will be the 5th trip to the conference finals for the Knights in the last 6 years.

Oh did we forget to mention the advantages of Del Zotto playing for Dale Hunter the former NHL player? Just look at the changes and improvements to Del Zotto in the playoffs and say thank you to the former Ranger foe.

During the first 2 games of their WHL playoff series against the Tri-City Americans, Tysen Dowzak and his Kelowna Rockets basically helped to beat themselves into a 0-2 series hole with their play.

Coming home to Kelowna, the Rockets badly need to get better efforts from both forwards and defense if they had any hope of getting back into this series. Dowzak and his fellow blueliners put on a defensive show as they limited the Americans to just 16 total shots on goal as the Rockets blew out the Americans 7-2.

Dowzak and his teammates also were very strong on the penalty kill limiting the Americans to just 1 for 7. That defense helped generate offense as the Rockets were on the attack taking the game to the Americans as the Rockets got 7 goals from 7 different players.

If one ever needed a class on how important special teams are to a team's playoff chances then watch the tape of this game. In addition to the penalty kill, the Rockets went 4 for 9 on their power play which was the final difference maker for this win.

Now if the Rockets play like this then this series just like the Brampton series will wind up going 7 games. They do not get a chance to savior this win as they go back to work on Wednesday for Game 4.


We would be remiss if we did not not only congratulate Ryan Callahan for winning the McDonald award but we also want to congratulate Ranger fans and the Blueshirt Bulletin as well. Callahan there is no need to explain why he deserves this award.

We congratulate the Ranger fans for once again proving that to the Ranger's management that it is the homegrown talent that means more to the fans than the fat contract free agents. Callahan's win makes it 5 straight wins by a Ranger draft pick for this important of team awards.

Ranger's management has said that Ranger fans do not support no-name unknowns; Ranger fans sent a long loud message about the kind of players they want wearing Broadway Blue AGAIN. They want those who will never say quit and will bring pride to the Ranger uniform.

We also congratulate the Blueshirt Bulletin because the only ones who believed that Callahan was ever going to make it to the NHL was us at the Blueshirt Bulletin. Everyone else said he was too small for the NHL but during the 2005-06 season we told the Ranger fans that Callahan was everything that Ranger fans wanted in a player from his heart to his ability to score goals.

(Grachev:Brampton, Del Zotto/Stu Switzer (Phatso Photography), Dowzak/Tim Swanky)

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