Sunday, January 2, 2011

Grachev Reminds Us Not To Give Up On Him Just Yet in 6-2 Whale Win

The Connecticut Whale kept their unbelievable run going as in the new year with their new home jerseys they defeated the Providence Bruins 6-2.  With the win the Whale have now won four straight and are an amazing 14-2-0-3 in their last 19 which has vaulted them all the way to second in the division, fourth in the conference.  The fact that the Whale are continuing their hot play despite losing two of their better players in Mats Zuccarello and Dale Weise to call-ups shows just how far this team has come.

The Whale would get on the board early behind Brodie Dupont and Kris Newbury working a pretty give and go move where Dupont fed Newbury along the wall and then streaked toward the net taking the return at the right wing circle and firing it low stick side to make it 1-0 just 3:15 in. 

Tim Kennedy would continue his recent hot play by taking a feed from Devin Didiomete and beating the goaltender short side at 16:08 of the first.  The Bruins would answer quickly as just 1:11 later Lane MacDermid would fire a shot from the point that beat Cam Talbot high glove after Andrew Bodnarchuk won the battle along the wall and fed the puck back to the point.  The Whale as they have done so often in this hot run would answer back quickly as just 1:27 after the Bruins cut it to 2-1 it would be Evgeny Grachev restoring the two goal lead.   On the play Chad Kolarik from behind the Bruins net would feed the puck to a pinching Wade Redden who played a short pass to Grachev in the slot and he would quickly flip it top shelf for his fifth goal of the season.  Grachev certainly was not done; more on him at the end.

After the flurry of scoring to end the first there would only be one tally in the second and it was by the Whale when Jeremy Williams would tally his 19th of the season on the power play.  On the play Wade Redden would have his attempted point shot blocked and the puck would find Grachev in the high slot who would play it back to Williams at the point who would fire it in at 4:05 of the second to make it 4-1.

The Whale continued their push early in the third with a goal from Justin Soryal and after the Bruins cut it to 5-2 on a goal from Jordan Caron the Whale would cap the scoring at 16:48 on a goal from the recently demoted Todd White.  On the goal Grachev would feed Jeremy Williams who wound up for the shot but instead of shooting on the goal he played the shot pass perfectly off the stick of White to make it 6-2.

Now on to Grachev personally, and to say that the time Evgeny Grachev has spent in Hartford over the last two years has been disappointing would be a vast understatement.  Following his tremendous season in Junior for the Brampton Battalion in which he scored 40 goals and had 40 assists in just 60 games the world was expected of the young Russian winger, but he has just not been able to put it together yet in the professional ranks.  The labels like enigmatic and even bust have started to make their way off the tongues of Rangers fans with more regularity and even relative ease, but last night Grachev sent a reminder of what his talent is capable of doing if you do not quit on him.

The most interesting thing I found was over at Howlings, where they do a great job of covering the Whale if you have not already found, was the post-game quotes that talk about how the thing that has Grachev more engaged right now is his use on the penalty kill.  From the linked article:
“I’ve been getting more ice time playing PK (penalty kill), and that helped me stay in the game more,” said Grachev, whose fifth goal of the season was his first game-winner. “Before when we got penalties, you have to sit for awhile, it kind of takes you out of the game, but now I feel like I’m staying in the game more, once I get going I’m staying on the ice and it has helped me a lot. I feel more comfortable the more I play the more ice time I have.”
I have been as hard as anyone on Gernander early in the year but this is exactly the kind of a move a young player like Grachev needs because the biggest knock on him has been his focus so to make sure he is out there more and keeping him engaged in the game will only be beneficial to him.  Right now is a crucial chance for Grachev with both Zuccarello and Weise who had moved in front of him on the Whale roster up in NY he will get more opportunities as was seen with his power play work today and if he continues to produce he will stay there even if other guys return.  The talent is most certainly still in there so before you go giving up on it just yet let’s see if this kind of game can spark more consistency out of Grachev.