Grachev's 3 Points Paces Whale Win
First three point game in young Russian foward's young career
Grachev Paces Another Whale Victory
By Gerry Cantlon
HARTFORD, CT. – A new year, a new Grachev.
Russian Evgeny Grachev had his first pro three-point game in a 6-2 victory over the Providence Bruins before 5,416 at the XL Center Saturday.
Head coach Ken Gernander has had numerous chats with Grachev since he has been playing there and it seems finally Grachev is using his full potential which was on full display, by increasing his playing time and added responsibilities such as penalty killing over the course of the last four games.
“I’ve been getting some ice time, and that helped me stay in the game more,” remarked the 6’4 225lb. Grachev, whose fifth goal of the season was his first game-winner. “When we got penalties (before), I had to sit for awhile, but now I’m staying on the ice more and getting going and it has helped me a lot. I’m more comfortable the more I play.”
Grachev, went into an early seasons coring funk mirroring his dreadful second half last season.
“There was a tough stretch when I wasn’t scoring for awhile,” said Grachev, who had one goal in nine games this season and and a amzing 38 games back to last season “It was very frustrating, but then I scored a few goals and that helped me to get out of the dump. (Rangers coach John Tortorella) told me to keep working on using by size to protect the puck and be physical again.
“(Being with the Rangers) gave me another understanding how badly I want to play up there and maybe made me work harder to get myself there.”
Gernander whose blood pressure points were high with Grachev at points this year and lasts eason called it one of Grachev’s better games in which he was rewarded for it so “we have to hope he keeps trending in that direction and that becomes the standard now.”
“We’re always trying to have guys finishing checks, and it’s not just being physically intimidating,” Gernander said. “A lot of times it’s a strategic play to separate the puck carrier from the puck and to maintain defensive position on him. That’s something we encourage all the time.
“I’m not asking people to be rock ’em, sock ’em, through the glass all the time, but everybody on our team has to finish hits. I don’t care who they are. Like I said, it’s a strategic play, not just physical intimidation. And more guys than not, it actually enhances their play. When guys are finishing hits, they’re a lot more physically emotionally engaged. There are some guys who bring the grit and make you really pay the price, but sometimes you’re on them to be a little better positionally.”
“The defense was very good transitioning the puck,” Gernander said. “We didn’t spend a lot of time in our end. It was just defenseman-to-defenseman or a quick-up (pass), and the less time you spend in your end the better.”
The Whale (18-12-2-5) has won four in a row and is on a 12-1-0-2 run that has put them six games above .500 for the first time this season. The month-long surge has vaulted them from the Atlantic Division cellar into second place, two points ahead of idle Portland (18-10-4-1), which has four games in hand. The Whale is 9-0-0-2 in their last 11 division games and has a standings point in 15 of their last 16 games (12-1-0-3) and 17 of their last 19 (14-2-0-3).
“We’re playing well right now, and it seems like we have quite a bit of depth, which is always a bonus, in probably every position,” Gernander said. “There are a lot of elements, and everybody is playing pretty well.
The Bruins (13-17-2-1) are last in the Atlantic Division and 4-15-0-0 in their last 19 games but had been 9-4-1-0 on the road, where they are playing five in a row. They had the better of the play the opening 10 minutes, but the Whale took a lead it never relinquished 3:15 into the game when Brodie Dupont skated through the neutral zone, made a give-and-go play with Kris Newbury into the right circle and beat Matt Dalton (33 saves) to the far stick side.
The Bruins had an 8-3 shot advantage until the first power play for the Whale, who had 12 of the next 13 shots in the ensuing 10:48 in building a 4-1 lead.
After Dalton made a brilliant right pad save on Dupont’s redirect of Chad Kolarik’s pass from the right corner, the Whale converted their first power play thanks to a subtle play by Devin DiDiomete. Stu Bickel’s clear-in pass fluttered into open space in the high slot, where DiDiomete tipped the puck to Tim Kennedy, whose quick finish with 3:52 left in the period was his third goal in as many games.
Just 1:11 later, the Bruins scored on their only shot in the Whale surge as Andrew Bodnarchuk shoveled the puck along the right boards to the point to Lane MacDermid, whose 55-foot screen shot beat Cameron Talbot (24 saves) high to the glove side, just the second time the Whale goalie allowed a goal to the Bruins in 147:19.
But as the Whale has done a lot lately, they sloughed off the goal and regained a two-goal lead on a power play as Grachev converted Redden’s rebound off Kolarik’s pass from behind the net with 1:14 left in the period.
Dalton made a sprawling save to rob Justin Soryal 3:22 into the second period, but it didn’t deter the Whale as Williams one-timed Grachev’s pass past a screened Dalton for his team-leading 19th goal and the Whale’s second on the power play at 4:05.
Talbot made a nifty right pad save on Jeremy Reich cruising down the slot at 5:22, then Dalton made bang-bang stops on Williams and Todd White, playing his second game since clearing waivers and being sent down by the Rangers on Wednesday.
Talbot kept the Whale in command when he stopped a wide-open Juraj Simek’s shot from the left circle off a Bickel turnover with 2:55 left in the period. Then during the Bruins’ fourth power play early in the third period, Talbot denied Jordan LaVallee-Smotherman in the slot at 22 seconds and Joe Colborne’s rebound at 1:37.
Dalton made a brilliant save off DiDiomete, set up in the slot by Ryan Garlock, at 5:52. But undeterred, DiDiomete forced former Yale defenseman Ryan Donald to turn over the puck behind the net with a solid hit, then Garlock quickly passed it to Soryal alone in front who wasted little time for a 5-1 lead at 6:15.
DiDiomete’s strong forecheck and subsequent pass and finish by the fourth line epitomized the Whale’s effort the last few weeks and what germander was illustrating he has been communicating to his troops.
“I think the whole team had a pretty strong game, and it’s great when Kenny gives (the fourth line) the opportunity to play,” said DiDiomete, who had his first multiple-point game as a pro. “It’s nice to chip in and help the team the way we did. Everyone knows I’m willing to fight to stick up for guys, but I’ve wanted to work on playing and getting pucks out on the wall and making sure I’m finishing all my checks. I’ve been working a lot on that in practice with Kenny and (assistant Pat Boller), and it’s always nice to know the coach is on your side and they’re there to help you be a better player.
“But the better thing is the team is still playing a team game and we’re winning. We’re playing an awesome game right now, and everyone is doing what they have to do to be successful. The scorers are scoring, the guys that set up the scorers are setting up the scorers, the fighters are fighting, our checkers are finishing checks and our defensive players are playing good defensive hockey. We’re playing a great team game, and our record in our last 15 games shows that. We’re one of the hottest teams, if not the hottest team, in the league.”
The Whale continued to press after Soryal’s goal, but Dalton stopped Kolarik’s semi-breakaway at 9:12 and Grachev’s close-in bid 34 seconds later.
The Bruins then got to 5-2 when rookie Jordan Caron scored on a power play with 5:35 left after having two excellent bids stopped by Talbot which were his only three shots of the game. That gave the Bruins one more goal on Talbot than they had on 68 shots in the teams’ first two meetings both in Providence.
Slovak Juraj Simek acquired last month from Norfolk then got a double minor for bloodying Dupont with a highsticking after he bloodied Dupont, and the Whale quickly converted as forward Todd White perfectly redirected Williams’ pass off his back skate into the open side of the net with 3:12 left with ease for his second goal in as many games with the Whale.
Dupont, needed several stitches to close a cut on his right eyelid.
The Bruins didn’t have many quality chances in the first 131/2 minutes, when they had an 8-3 shot advantage, but the Whale outshot 39-26.
“I don’t think I just own Providence, I think we all kind of own Providence,” said Talbot, who is 3-0 with a 1.00 goals-against average and .968 save percentage (92-for-95) and one of his two shutouts against the Bruins. “Every game, we’ve jumped out to a pretty good lead, and it’s a lot easier for a goalie to be little more relaxed when you’ve got guys putting the puck in the net early for you. And it’s a lot easier when you’ve got (defensemen) Pavel Valentento, Jared Nightingale and Ryan McDonagh going down blocking shots. I think they might have stopped more shots than I did. I think (Valentenko) blocked 10 in the third period, and they cleared away some bad rebounds that I left. It was a great team effort by everyone.”
Gerander said Dupont and defesneman Wade Redden who suffered a lower body injury would be evaluated before Sunday’s game.
“The better the team plays, the better individuals look,” Gernander said. “I thought it was a pretty complete game, and consequently some individuals looked really good and seemed to stand out. But I thought it was a pretty strong game by everybody.”
Story added on 2nd January 2011 at 18:17 GMT
Story submitted by: Gerry Cantlon.