Sunday, December 12, 2010

Zuccarello, McDonagh, Grachev Lead Way As Whale Feast On Monarchs in 5-1 Win

The Connecticut Whale continued their excellent play last night when they took on the first place Manchester Monarchs by dominating on course to a 5-1 victory.  The Whale who had an entire week off would show no signs of rust in their game on this night. The victory brought the Whale all the way back to the .500 mark at 11-11-2-4 and extended their run to 3 straight victories and 5-0-0-1 since the change to from the Wolf Pack to the Whale.  The game was led by another strong outing from some of the young guys with Mats Zuccarello, Ryan McDonagh and Evgeny Grachev playing important roles as well as Kris Newbury continuing his recent hot play.

The Whale would have a couple of good opportunities for Zuccarello and Newbury stopped early on but would finally break the seal at 12:11 of the first period when Ryan McDonagh would score his first professional goal on a slapper from the point.  The goal was a big step for McDonagh who struggled mightily early on in his first professional season but has been playing much better the last month and on the goal there was no sense of hesitation to fire the one-timer.  After struggling all the way to -8 early in the year with his +1 in this game McDonagh has worked his way all the way back Even.

The Whale would extend the lead just 12 seconds later when Kris Newbury would streak in and beat Jeff Zatkoff five hole on a wrist shot.  The goal for Newbury was third on the year and with his assist later on Newbury now has 2 goals and 8 assists in his last five games.

The Whale were not done as Mats Zuccarello would get in on the act at 15:45 of the first with his 11th goal of the year when after his initial shot was stopped  by the goaltender Newbury would flip the puck back into the slot and a hard drive by Zuccarello to the front of the net would leave him there to take the rebound on the backhand and deposit in high glove the net.  The Whale would not get the 3-0 lead at the end of one period though when Wade Redden turned the puck over and the Monarchs would cash it in on a deflection off Niemi and by Johnson with just 20 seconds left in the period.

For all the bashing that Wade Redden has taken from Rangers fans, most of it deserved, a play like he had early in the second is why he has been a positive to that AHL team and the fans should give him credit for that as well.  Early in the second Pavel Valentenko got hammered by Rich Clune who is a tough guy and Redden while not one immediately came to the aid of his teammate and regardless of the outcome it was a symbol of why the entire team has been better lately.  The team has been doing a phenomenal job of late in standing up for one another when the situation calls for it.

Zuccarello would strike again with his 12th of the season at 11:57 of the period on a play where hustle and determination is the best way to describe the goal.  Zuke was tripped up just inside the offensive zone and would still find a way to play the puck towards the corner from the ice.  Kris Newbury would get to the puck, survey the ice and then find a wide open Zuke for a pass in the slot that the Hobbit would put home.

Another aspect of the Whale’s hot streak has been scoring in bunches and they would do it for the second time in this game as 1:12 after that goal they would strike again this time from Evgeny Grachev.  On this goal Grachev would carry the puck into the zone play a drop back pass to Dale Weise but instead of watch Grachev continued skating to the net and he would be rewarded.  The shot by Weise would leave a rebound in the crease and Grachev was right there to stick home his 4th goal of the season.  The overall numbers on Grachev still look awful but on the brighter side it was his third goal in the last five games and all have been on plays that show he is finding how he should be scoring.  Also Grachev now has at least 2 shots in all four games this month and 9 of his last ten games so he is being more active which is always a positive.

The third had no scoring and lots of fighting.  The game by Zuccarello and his two goals have only aided to the calls for him to be up in New York which I wrote about here this morning.

Also, over at Blue Seat Blogs there is a story on the Rangers allowing Tim Kennedy to seek a trade, so check that out.