Saturday, February 28, 2009

2 Games, 2 Losses, 2 Points

For the second time in 3 days the Binghamton Senators and Hershey Bears decided that a low scoring game wasn't for them. After Wednesday nights 6-5 game ended in a shootout the two teams skated to a 4-4 tie after regulation before the Sens won the game in overtime.

The teams also decided that starting goaltenders need line changes too. 4 different goalies started the two games, Daren Machesney and Martin Gerber started Wednesday and Jeff Glass and Kris Mayotte started last nights game. Only 1 of those 4 actually played an entire game and that was Glass, who actually got credit for both wins too.

Hershey jumped out to leads in both games but couldn't hold either one. Last night's culprit? The defense and the penalty kill. I was surprised when Bob Woods pulled Mayotte after he allowed his third goal. I thought Mayotte had played okay and the third goal was tipped in and would have been hard for ANY goalie to stop.

But someone made a good point on the AHL Live chat during the game last night. By pulling Mayotte and putting Machesney back in it should really boost Cheese's confidence. Basically the coaching staff was reaffirming their belief in him. So maybe that played into the decision?

Who knows but it seems that it may have at least helped Cheese as he came in and played very well the remainder of the game stopping 12 of 14 shots and making some very good and difficult saves.

The problem last night was truly the penalty kill AND the dumb penalties the Bears were taking. Bingo finished the game 3 for 8 on the power play but at one point during the contest they were 3 for 3. Yeah their power play was looking like Hershey's did in the beginning of the season.

Now that shouldn't' really surprise anyone since the Sens have the best power play in the league but wouldn't that (or shouldn't that) cause you to STOP TAKING BAD PENALTIES?? It didn't' seem to stop Hershey last night as numerous players took lazy penalties all night.

The offense is still there right now. Alexandre Giroux (his 41st), Kyle Wilson (23 and 24), and Graham Mink (24th) scored for Hershey. But if your defensive play is allowing guys to skate in untouched and uncovered then there isn't much the offensive production is going to fix.

And it isn't all the defenses fault either. The forwards need to learn how to play in their own end. Look at the game winning goal again, Darren Reid can see Bryan Helmer going towards Derek Smith along the boards while Tyler Sloan followed Greg Mauldin into the corner, both defensemen covering their men perfectly. But Reid decides that Helmer needs help so he skates over towards them while Peter Regin, who scored the last 3 goals for Bingo, skated in wide open behind him, gets the pass, and beats Cheese.

Positioning AND being aware of where you are on the ice and where the opposing players are is CRITICAL, especially in your own end. And the Bears have struggled with those two things for weeks now. I don't know if it communication issues, it doesn't seem like they are talking much out there, or poor coaching, or just straight up poor play but whatever it is it needs to change before the playoffs start or this team will be heading home before May.

My Three Stars of the Game:
  1. Peter Regin - 3 goals including the game tying goal and the game winning goal AND a primary assist
  2. Denis Hamel - 1 goal and 2 primary assists
  3. Karl Alzner - I had to put a Bear up here and even though he had no offensive stats I thought Karl played very soundly

Grading the Performance:
  • Offense - B+ - If they would have won I would have given them an A. I thought they played very well in the attacking end. There was some passes that shouldn't have been made and some players need to quit being cute and just get the puck into the zone but overall a good game. Glass made some nice saves for Bingo to keep them in the game.
  • Defense - D - Something is missing out there. I am not sure what it is cause I am not there for practices and I can't hear the conversation on the ice or the bench but something isn't there. And one thing that surely isn't there is physicality in front of the goalie. When an opposing forward is standing in front of your goalie PUSH HIM OUT OF THE WAY. Or at least hit him once or twice. This defense just lets guys stand there and wait for a pass or rebound. They would cut AT LEAST 1 goal a game by being more physical.
  • Goaltending - C - I thought it was better and Cheese made some great saves but there is still room for improvement. Mayotte allowed 3 goals on 8 shots and that isn't good. Varlamov is rumored to be close to returning and I hope he can make some saves but the defense HAS to play better in front of him.
  • Power Play - F - 1 for 9?? Seriously? Against the 22nd best PK unit in the league? They had trouble getting set up all game and when they did get it in the zone they spent their time passing the puck around the perimeter and taking shots from the blue line. GET THE PUCK LOW AND WORK IT FROM THERE!!
  • Penalty Kill - F - I am not sure this unit was even aware they were on the ice for the first part of the game. They didn't cover anyone most of the night and really struggled. Now if the team would quit taking bad penalties maybe they wouldn't have to play so much but the 26th best PK ranking really suits them right now.
  • Overall - D - The offense carried this team to a point last night. And Cheese deserves credit for preserving that point as he made some really big saves. But the special teams and defensive play are not working. Coach Woods....please make some changes! You run the same defensive pairings EVERY GAME (unless there is a different scratch). It is always Sloan/Helmer and Alzner/Lepisto and then the other unit is made up of whoever else dresses. IT NEEDS A CHANGE! Put Lepisto and Helmer together with Sloan and Alzner together if you must keep them in. Or put Lepisto with Amadio and Sloan with Deano. Do something to shake up the team.
Letting them play through this slump isn't working!!


Friday, February 27, 2009

Bears @ Bingo preview, 2/27

For the second time this week and the third time this month the Hershey Bears will be playing in Binghamton against the fourth place Senators. After starting of the season with 3 wins at home against Bingo the Bears have now lost 3 straight (1 at home, 2 on the road) to the Sens.

Wednesday's game was a first period shootout that turned into a backup goalie showdown and ended with an over matched goalie in a shootout. Daren Machesney and Martin Gerber started the night in goal but neither made it through the first period as Hershey took a 4-3 lead into the second period.

Neither team scored in the second but Bingo got two in the third and Hershey got one to send the game to overtime and ultimately into the shootout. Kris Mayotte was Hershey's goaltender in the shootout and he struggled mightily allowing 3 goals on 4 attempts while Jeff Glass stopped all 3 Hershey tries to get the win.

There is one more meeting between the teams after tonight's game. Neither team is playing great of late but both are still in the playoff race and if the season ended today they would have a 7 game series to fight it out in the first round.

Some good news for the Bears is that Simeon Varlamov is skating and is close to returning to action. He could be ready next week which would take a lot of pressure of the team if he can regain the form he had before the injury.

Hershey Bears
record ~ 37-17-0-5 79 points
standings ~ 1st in East Division
playoff positioning - 4 points ahead of 2nd place
most recent game ~ 6-5 SO Loss @ Bingo, 2/25
last 5 games ~ 2-2-0-1
road record ~ 17-9-0-3
goals for ~ 222
goals against ~178
power play ~ 18.8% (8th)
penalty kill ~ 80.2% (26th)

Binghamton Senators
record ~ 30-20-5-3 68 points
standings ~ 4th in East Division
playoff positioning ~ 5 points ahead of 5th; 6 points behind 3rd
most recent game ~ 6-5 SO Win vs Hershey, 2/25
last 5 games ~ 2-3-0-0
home record ~ 17-8-1-3
goals for ~ 168
goals against ~ 170
power play ~ 22.9% (1st)
penalty kill ~ 81.0% (22th)

last time teams met - Bingo won 6-5 in a shootout in Binghamton on Wednesday.

Players to watch:


C Keith Aucoin (11)- He is on a tear right now with an assist in 10 straight games. In that span he has 4 goals and 13 assists. Against Bingo this season he has scored in 5 of the 6 games.
LW Alexandre Giroux (12) - In the last 8 games he has 4 goals and 8 assists. Against Bingo this season he has scored 5 goals in 5 games.
G Kris Mayotte - He is going to get his 2nd start this season tonight. He is 1-1-1 since being called up by Hershey after coming in for a underachieving Daren Machesney the last 2 games.


C Josh Hennessy (23) - He is second on the team with 18 goals. He has 6 goals and 3 assists in his last 9 games including 4 points against Hershey in that span.

LW Ilya Zubov (36) - Leads the team with 39 points but has struggled in February with only 4 assists. 2 of those came Wednesday against Hershey.
LW Denis Hamel (17) - After struggling through the 2008 portion of the season he has erupted in 2009. He has 11 goals and 7 assists in 14 games in calendar year 2009. 6 goals and 2 assists in his last 7 games.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Response to Some Comments

On a couple of my posts in the past weeks I got 2 comments that I keep meaning to respond to but have not gotten to. So today I would like to acknowledge them and respond to them here.

The first comes from "Grippit" and was on the post "A Win is a Win." The post was a response to the Bears victory over Syracuse that I was unable to see. Thank you to Grippit for giving some information on the game.

Bears still need better back check commitment especially from MAG line. D pinch at inopportune moments or take some shifts off like the first one where Syracuse easily banged home the loss puck after Machesny made the initial save on Frischmon who blew around Helmer & crashed the net. Lots of perimeter passing & boards play from Hershey in the Syracuse end but not until Giroux & Gordon drove to the middle for scoring chances did it pay off. Syracuse got a lucky bounce off the back glass on their second coal but otherwise Machesny was solid. Must be tough getting 5 - 6 shots a period & those either come on a PP or odd man rush which Bears give up frequently.

He makes a few good points. The defense definitely pinches in a lot which leads to many of the odd man rushes that Hershey gives up. The system in place calls for this to happen though. If you watch the Capitals their defense also pinches in a lot but they seem to be less prone to odd man rushes the other way. Many times the pinching in leads to goals but I would be curious to know if it really makes a huge difference or if they should just stay back a little more.

I have never played goalie but I can only imagine that getting a handful of shots each period is hard. Any goaltender will tell you that they would rather face an offense that gets shots on goal consistently. It allows them to get into a rhythm during the game.

The one thing I didn't agree with from Grippit is the back checking. In the system that the organization plays it is not in the wingers job description to back check too deep in the zone. They are to stay out along the boards to cover the defense and to be prepared for the breakout passes. Many times the Bears struggle to get the puck out of the zone is because a winger has fallen too deep and isn't in position to help his defenseman get the puck out. At the same time that the wingers are staying up the center is supposed to be back helping out. He needs to be in there crashing around and taking the body away from the offense.

Thanks Grippit for the comment.

The other comment came from an anonymous commenter on the post "Some Notes and Observations." I made this post after the Hamilton game in response to the lackadaisical play from Hershey and the criticisms being made of them on the PennLive Forum.

it would be better if Varly would stay here for Playoffs too. Surely, Capitals is NHL, but it's not good for him...the environment in Washington is just sick and bad. Who would want to start a career in the team where everything is focused on one, two players who are allowed to do anything....drink heavily, party, ditch practices...It's just sad that Varly is Russian and will be influenced by that kind of players...Hershey is a better place to him to mature as a player

I disagree with this comment almost completely. The only thing I agree with is the beginning that it would be better for Varly to stay in Hershey for the playoffs. And even that I am torn on. It would obviously be better for Hershey but for Varly? I am not so sure.

But the rest of this comment just bothered me. The environment in Washington is exceptional! The team has plenty of young talent but the veterans there, Tom Poti, Sergei Federov, Viktor Kozlov, Donald Brashear, Jose Theodore, and Michael Nylander, are great locker room guys that want to win as a team and not pad their stats. Federov has said in the past season that he feels younger and is enjoying playing more now than in the past few seasons. Would he say that if it was a bad environment?

And obviously this person hasn't paid attention to anything that the "star" players do. It is traditional in hockey for the rookies to show up to training camp a week or so before the veterans to get some work in. Do you know who else showed up with them this season? Yup, Alexander Ovechkin. Not only did he show up in Washington but he PRACTICED with the rookies. And then he took a group of them (Varly included) out to dinner to talk to them.

Oh and then on his NIGHT OFF he drove his personal car up to Philly to watch his teammates play a preseason game. ON HIS OWN! He could have stayed behind and partied as you say but instead he took a teammate and went to the game. Why? Because he wanted to.

This is not a player that doesn't care about his teammates or isn't a good influence. If anything he is showing these younger players that in order to be great in this league you have to do everything not just score a few goals.

But either way thank you for the comment.

I enjoy discussing topics on the Bears or hockey in general. If any of you have something to add to any of my posts or a question about something please feel free to leave a comment.


Monday, February 23, 2009

What A Game

Now that was a finish. The Bears played rope a dope with the Phantoms on Saturday night in Hershey. They allowed the Phantoms to feel good about themselves by giving them 2 goal leads twice before winning in overtime.

Daren Machesney started the game in net but after giving up a goal on a shot that Hershey needed him to stop he was pulled in favor of Kris Mayotte who came in early in the second period and stopped 10 of 11 shots to earn his first AHL victory.

Philly jumped out to a 1-0 lead after the first period until Alexandre Giroux scored his 39th goal of the season only 15 seconds into the second period. Everyone in the building and myself included thought this was the beginning of a good period for Hershey. But that wasn't the case. Less than 3 minutes later it was 3-1 Philly and Machesney was sitting on the bench.

Even when Hershey climbed to within one later in the second with a Patrick Wellar goal the Phantoms scored again 4 minutes later to go up 4-2 and give the Bears a 2 goal deficit going into the third period.

At the beginning of that period my buddy asked me if I still thought they were going to win. You know what my answer was, absolutely. And it sure was exciting. Within less than 7 minutes gone in the third the score was 4-4 and Hershey was playing as well as they have played in weeks. I thought for sure they would win it in regulation and then I was confident in overtime.

But it almost didn't happen in either. Mayotte almost got the chance to face the Phantoms in the shootout. The same team that has given Hershey 2 of its 4 shootout losses this season. But Keith Aucoin decided that a shootout wasn't necessary. He scored his 20th of the year in spectacular fashion with about 1 second left on the clock.

That is the kind of game that builds confidence in a team. It is the kind of game that makes fans believe that this teaBulleted Listm can do great things. It was exactly the game that everyone needed.

My Three Stars of the Game:
  1. Karl Alzner - he had 2 assists and overall played an exceptional game
  2. Jay Beagle - way to get in there and pick up the easy goal on the rebound Jay
  3. Andreas Nodl - 2 primary assists for the Phantoms

Grading the Performance:
  • Offense - B+ - Honestly the first 2 periods were average at best and probably below average. But the third period was fantastic. Hershey came out skating as hard as they have in weeks. And it showed on the scoreboard. They also started crashing the net consistently and the scored some ugly goals. Exactly what they needed.
  • Defense - B - I don't remember all the goals exactly as they happened but I honestly felt that the defense played better this game. Tyler Sloan received a lot of criticism the past couple weeks but Saturday night he was very good. He blocked at least 3 shots on ONE penalty kill late in the second period. All in all I thought a very good game and a lot of hustle.
  • Goaltending - C - Machesney gets an F and Mayotte gets a B. I still think the team needs Varly back or Neuvirth back to make a run at the Cup but who knows. Cheese seems to have lost ALL his confidence and is getting lit up just about every time. Mayotte looked good but he also had the extra help from a team that actually wanted to win.
  • Power Play - B - Good pressure and 1 goal on the night. They are starting to get the puck low and work it from down there more often. And due to that they are getting better looks all around.
  • Penalty Kill - B - They were so close to killing off that 4 minute minor until a good play from Philly allowed Maroon to walk right into the center and beat Mayotte. Not a bad performance from the unit no matter what the numbers say.
  • Overall - B+ - If they would have played the whole game like they did the third period it would be an A easily. But the first two periods they chose to instead play tentatively and cautiously. Only when they got down 2 goals and they realized they had nothing to lose but to go full bore did they really start to play.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Bears vs Phantoms preview, 2/21

Tonight the Bears welcome the Philadelphia Phantoms to the Giant Center for the second to last time ever in regulation hockey. After this season the Phantoms will cease to exist in Philadelphia and there is no official word on what will happen to the franchise.

These teams are at opposite ends of the playoff picture currently with the Bears leading the division and the Phantoms trailing 4th place Binghamton by 4 points. They are also going in slightly different directions right now. Hershey has lost 5 of their last 6 while the Phantoms have won 4 of 6.

The interesting part of those streaks is the scoring from both teams. The Bears have scored 14 goals in their 6 games while the Phantoms have only scored 18, which includes 7 in last nights game. So that shows that even though Hershey isn't scoring a lot of goals right now they can still win with sound defense and goaltending.

Hershey has done well against Philly this season though. The two teams have faced off against each other 9 times already this year with Hershey winning 6 of them. They lost 2 in shootouts and have only lost 1 game to the Phantoms in regulation this year.

In those 9 games Hershey is averaging over 4.5 goals per game while Philly is only averaging just over 2.5 goals against Hershey. But most of the games have been competitive and Hershey is not playing to their full potential of late.

Hopefully Hershey can reverse what has ailed them the past couple weeks and get a much needed win tonight on home ice.

Oops, They Did It Again

Hershey blew another lead last night making it the 4th game in the last 6 where they have lost a lead in the game.

In those 6 games Hershey is 1-5 with losses to Hamilton, Portland, Binghamton, and bottom dwellers Norfolk and Rochester. In all of those games except the Bingo game Hershey had at least a 1 goal lead and blew it in every one.

Last night was no different. The Bears had a 2-1 lead and was dominating play and controlling the game until the final 4 minutes of the game. Rochester scored 2 goals in less than a minute to take a 3-2 lead that they made hold up.

Hershey has struggled mightily to score goals in the last 7 games. Dating back to the San Antonio game the Bears have scored only 16 goals in regulation. That is over a full goal a game lower than their season average of 3.6 goals per game.

The good part of all this is that they have only given up 24 goals in that period. That is a little over their season average of 2.9 goals per game but not a whole lot. So while we fans want to blame the defense and the goaltending for the bad streak it really isn't as much there fault as it seems.

The offense just isn't scoring. And quite honestly I think they have taken a step backwards from the past few months. No one wants to do the dirty work in the middle and it is hurting them big time. And the other problem I see is guys trying to make that extra pass all the time. SHOOT the damn puck. Mathieu Perrault is the worst with this and he needs to start shooting more, if he would I think the rookie line could return to their pre-Thanksgiving production.

Now saying all that doesn't mean the defense deserves no blame. At points during the season a defense and goalie have to step up and win some games when the offense isn't scoring and this team seems incapable of that. There have been some games where the defense comes up big and I thought last night was going to be one of them and then a minor collapse by a defenseman and a goaltender cost Hershey the win.

But you can't blame this team for not being able to win the low scoring games. In 05-06 the team was just as incapable. They only won 1 game during the season when they scored less than 3 goals and they won the Cup that year so all is not lost.

The solution though is simple:

Defense - positioning. Don't leave your position unless you KNOW your help is going to fill in. Communicate and talk to each other. And don't let players wander in behind you cause you are watching the play and not your man.

Offense - get traffic in front. Minker, Osala, Brennan (when your in), Reid, Laing, Pinner, Beagle, Bouchard, and even Giroux.....GET TO THE FRONT OF THE NET!!!!!! Minker has been doing a very good job of this lately and he has 6 goals in his last 8 games. You want more Brooks Laich and ask him what works. That guy isn't even as big as some of you but he gets to the front and gets the rebounds. Not only will the rebounds be there but the shots your linemates take will not be seen clearly by the goalie and have a better chance to go in.

And if you do those things you will win the Cup. It is as simple as that. Smart sound hockey. Even though this team is as talented as any you still have to do the little things to win. If you do the little things you will realize your goal of raising the cup!

My Three Stars of the Game:
  1. Stefan Meyer - scored twice for the Amerks
  2. Mike Brodeur - he made 27 saves and while he didn't need to be great he was good enough
  3. Ref. Jeff Smith - that was an excellent game. He made 3 calls all night and it was nice to see the players actually get to play the game without worrying about crappy calls

Grading the Performance:
  • Offense - B - They got some chances which is good. Actually they had some pretty good chances but by not bothering the goalie AT ALL they allowed him to see everything and he stopped most of them. The extra passes are starting to kill this team and there are multiple players doing it. I called out Perrault earlier but Bouchard, Bourque, and Coiner all did it too.
  • Defense - B - This was a good game from them until the last 3 minutes. Even on the game tying goal I thought they did their jobs but the goalie didn't help. Deano, you can't let guys skate in un-noticed behind you. Keep your head on a swivel and see things. That goal still could've been stopped but the pass and the open man never should have happened.
  • Goaltending - F - I was going to go D here but honestly 2 of those goals NEVER should have gone in. AND there were 2 other times where he almost screwed up. Early in the game a puck trickled through his legs before he finally fell on it and then while puckhandling in the crease he almost put it in the net and almost turned it over. The first goal was not his fault. It was a great deflection. The other 2 (especially the second one) he could have and maybe should have had.
  • Power Play - A - They only had 2 opportunities but they converted on both of them. Which is good in my book.
  • Penalty Kill - ? - They were only out there once and they kept them from scoring and actually had a great opportunity themselves to score but not enough information to make a grade.
  • Overall - C+ - This was an A for the first 56 minutes but those last 4 minutes cost them 2 points in the standings. With Wilkes Barre winning the Bears are only 1 point up in the race for 1st and only 10 points out of 4th.


Friday, February 20, 2009

Bears @ Rochester preview, 2/20

The Bears are up in New York for the second time this week to play the Rochester Americans. This is the second and final meeting this season between the two oldest franchises in the AHL. Hershey came into the league in 1938 while the Amerks came in 1956. And by the way the next oldest team after these two is the Providence Bruins who came into the league in 1992. So it isn't even close.

Hershey has had some success in New York this season going 4-1 so far with 2 more games to come this month (both at Binghamton next week). Monday's 3-2 win at Syracuse was important for the Bears as they had just lost 4 straight before that for the first time since they started their Washington affiliation in 05-06.

Tonight the Bears visit one of the worst teams in the league in Rochester who have truly struggled this season to score goals. Their leading goal scorer only has 15 goals. 6 Bears have more than that. As a team the Amerks only have 124 goals which is good for lowest total in the league.

Their goaltending situation right now is pretty good though. I am not sure which guy will play tonight (every time I guess it seems I am wrong) but with either guy, Tyler Plante or Mike Brodeur, they should be okay. Brodeur has been very good all season with a record of 14-6-3 and a goals against at 2.21 and save percentage at .930. Plante has been even better in February with 7 games played (including 1 where he left after the first for allowing 2 goals) and a 2.02 gaa and a .935 save percentage.

If Hershey had either of those numbers in goal they would be in much better shape. Michal Neuvirth remains on recall with the Capitals and Simeon Varlamov remains sidelined with a leg injury. That leaves Daren Machesney and Kris Mayotte to carry the team this weekend.

Hershey should have the services of Jay Beagle and Karl Alzner however as both were reassigned earlier this week.

Hershey Bears
record ~ 36-16-0-4 76 points
standings ~ 1st in East Division
playoff positioning - 3 points ahead of 2nd place
most recent game ~ 3-2 Win @ Syracuse, 2/16
last 5 games ~ 1-4-0-0
road record ~ 17-8-0-2
goals for ~ 210
goals against ~165
power play ~ 17.9% (12th)
penalty kill ~ 80.3% (24th)

Rochester Americans
record ~ 20-31-0-5 45 points
standings ~ Last in North Division
playoff positioning ~ 18 points out of 4th
most recent game ~ 2-1 SO Loss vs Grand Rapids, 2/18
last 5 games ~ 2-2-0-1
home record ~ 10-14-0-3
goals for ~ 124
goals against ~ 183
power play ~ 11.6% (28th)
penalty kill ~ 80.1% (25th)

last time teams met - Hershey won 8-3 in Hershey on October 26.

Players to watch:


C Keith Aucoin (11)- He is as important to this teams offense as Alexandre Giroux is. He still leads the team and the AHL with 51 assists and 70 points.
LW Alexandre Giroux (12) - He is second on the team and in the league with 64 points and is still the league leader in goals with 38.
The Defense - They played better in the game against Syracuse but that was just the first step. They might have lost Patty McNeil to injury, McNeill was arguably one of the better d-men this season.


RW Michael Repik (26) - The team leader with 33 points and tied for second in goals with 13. He has been hot of late with 6 goals and 8 assists in his last 11 games.

C Janis Sprukts (5) - He leads the team with 15 goals and is second on the team with 31 points. He has 3 goals in his last 5 games.
LW Karl Stewart (19) - Tied for second on the team in goals with 13. He has 4 goals and 2 assists in February.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Win is a Win

I didn't see or hear any of last nights game so I won't tell you how the team looked or anything like that.

But judging from the write up in the Patriot and looking at the scoresheet I would say that this wasn't a game to get too excited about.

The good part of the game is that Hershey managed to come from behind 2 different times and ended up winning it late in the third. That hasn't happened in a while.

My biggest concern was that they didn't get their first shot of the game until Bourque's goal almost 13 minutes into the first. Not sure if it was a lack of timing or effort but for whatever reason they didn't generate much pressure for the first period. After that though they seemed to have woken up and started firing shots again since they finished with 29.

Like I said I didn't see it so maybe it was just bad luck that they didn't get many shots. If you had any opinions or thoughts on their performance please leave them in the comments.

But a win is a win no matter how it comes. Hopefully the Bears can build on this good come from behind road win and get a few more this weekend.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

That's 4 In A Row

If you watched or attended the game last night in Hershey you were probably pretty excited after the first 5 minutes of the game. I know I was feeling good about it. And if you were listening to John Walton and his guest announcer Frank Schoenfield you would know they were pretty confident about it too.

But it was just a mirage. And it shouldn't have surprised anyone want followed with the way this team has been playing.

Hershey jumped out to a 3-0 lead with 3 power play goals in the first 5 minutes and carried that lead into the second period. But by the time the second 20 minutes had ticked off the Bears were trailing 4-3.

And while they did do a much better job and showed some urgency in the third they ended up losing to the Norfolk Admirals 5-4.

I think many complaints could be made about last nights performance. Kris Mayotte made his Hershey debut and definitely let in some goals that he would like to have back. But the defense definitely didn't do everything the could have either.

When you have a rookie/young/new goalie in net behind you, you need to step up your game and do more than usual to help him. Oh you never heard of that theory....go ask the Caps how that works. The rookie goaltenders Simeon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth have played a combined 3 games for the Caps this season. What's their record? 3-0. With a combined 4 goals allowed.

That's because when they are in the net the leadership on the Capitals roster makes everyone aware that they have to do more to protect and help build the confidence of the young netminders.

Hershey's young goalies this season, Kris Mayotte and Bobby Goepfert, have played in 4 games and started 3. They are 1-1-0-1 in those games. And you know how many goals they have allowed? 11. And after watching last nights game I would say the defense isn't doing much to help.

Goal 1 - This is again on Tyler Sloan. You can't just let guys skate up to the net untouched. If you do that's what happens.

Goal 2 - This was on the power play so I understand that every player can't be covered but if you are going to leave one open then it better be the guy at the point. NOT THE GUY STANDING IN THE MIDDLE. This one is on Dean Arsene as he didn't come to help. He just stood on the far post and watched the Admirals pass it to an open player.

Goal 3 - This one I think Mayotte would like to have back. It was actually pretty well covered by the defense and backchecking forwards. It was a weak shot that kinda surprised Kris but he needs to come up with that one.

Goal 4 - Mayotte probably should have had this one too but he wasn't completely helped here. I thought Sloan did a good job on this play cause he had his man tied up. Radek Smolenak slipped in and fired a shot high. Deano and Alexandre Giroux could have helped more but it happened pretty quick.

Goal 5 - This is on Deano. And how is it that John Walton and most people on the forum will tear Sami Lepisto to bits for a FLUKE TRIP the night before but when the beloved Dean Arsene gives the puck to Brandon Segal and then falls down no one says anything. The game was tied at this point.

Walton said that Sami's trip the night before just shouldn't happen at this time of the season. But let me tell you this....Dean's pass to Segal shouldn't happen ANYTIME!! What happened to Sami can happen to was a fluke play. What happened with Dean SHOULDN'T happen to ANY defensive player. That was a terrible pass that probably cost the Bears the game! Now that being said you also have to hope your goalie can stop a shot that he can absolutely see. But it was a pretty good shot so I wouldn't say Mayotte deserves all the blame but definitely some of it.

My Three Stars of the Night:
  1. Brandon Segal - scored Norfolk's first goal and the last goal
  2. Craig Kowalski - the stat guys gave him 46 saves so he deserves a mention
  3. Keith Aucoin - he and Giroux played well and he had 2 goals and an assist

Grading the Performance:
  • Offense - B - 46 shots is impressive but this grade will not go higher until the team starts getting some players in front of the goalie. I don't know if they are scared or just don't want to but to win late in the season and in the playoffs you have to EARN your goals and get the cheap ones. You do that by banging with the defense down low and getting in the goalies vision.
  • Defense - D - Not an F because I actually think the guys did better than Friday night. But still a ways off of good. If Deano and Sloan are in the lineup on Monday than something is wrong. Neither of them has looked good this weekend. Sami made one slip and he sat for a game. Sloan has made multiple errors and he is still playing.
  • Goaltending - C - It was his first game with Hershey so it is understandable that he would be nervous. But you have to make some big saves. This team NEEDS goalies to make big saves.
  • Power Play - C+ - Sure it looked great with a 2 man advantage. But where was it after that? Maybe I am being overly harsh but I thought this unit was no better than average after those early goals.
  • Penalty Kill - D - Some good things out there but not enough. They allowed 2 goals on 6 chances and the 2 allowed were pretty pathetic from my view.
  • Overall - D - The only reason this isn't an F is because they did score 4 goals. But you can't give up 5. Tighten the belts up and play some better defense. There is no excuse for giving up 4 goals in the 2nd period. Quit trying to score 10 and work on defending 3!!!!


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Bears vs Norfolk preview, 2/14

Hershey Bears
record ~ 35-15-0-4 74 points
standings ~ 1st in East Division
playoff positioning - 5 points ahead of 2nd place
most recent game ~ 5-1 Loss @ Binghamton, 2/13
last 5 games ~ 2-3-0-0
home record ~ 19-7-0-2
goals for ~ 203
goals against ~158
power play ~ 17.4% (13th)
penalty kill ~ 80.7% (25th)

Norfolk Admirals
record ~ 19-25-2-5 45 points
standings ~ Last in East Division
playoff positioning ~ 19 points out of 4th
most recent game ~ 2-0 Loss vs Hamilton, 2/13
last 5 games ~ 1-4-0-0
road record ~ 6-14-0-3
goals for ~ 151
goals against ~ 182
power play ~ 18.1% (11th)
penalty kill ~ 81.2% (23rd)

last time teams met - Hershey won 4-2 in Hershey on January 31st.

Players to watch:


RW Graham Mink (21)- He has 5 goals in his last 5 games. He also has 2 assists in those games. Seems to be the only Bear doing anything of late.
C Kyle Wilson (18) - He is tied for second on the team with 21 goals this season. In his last 6 games he has 2 goals and 4 assists. Against Norfolk he has 3 goals and 6 assists this season.
The Defense - This unit has under performed for much of the season. Something needs to change. Quit looking for the big hit or the breakout pass and focus on positioning until you master that.


RW Brandon Bochenski (27) - He is the team leader in goals with 18 and points with 37. In his last 4 games he has 2 goals and 2 assists.

LW Radek Smolenak (10) - He is second on the team with 15 goals but he only has 3 goals in his last 17 games. And those goals all came in one game.
C Paul Szczechura (12) - He has only played 1 game with Norfolk since November (last nights game) and only 24 all season. But he has 24 points in those 24 games.

News and Notes:
  • Hershey leads the season series 7-0-0-0
  • This is the start of a 4 game road trip for Norfolk
  • Norfolk is 2-4 in their last 6 road games
  • The Admirals have only scored 2 goals in their last 3 games
  • They haven't scored at all in their last 2 games against Wilkes-Barre and Hamilton
  • Hershey has lost 3 straight for the 2nd time in 2009 and only the second time this season
  • The Bears have dropped 2 straight at home
  • In their last 10 home games they have lost 5 of them

Another Lack-luster Game

According to the score sheet the Bears took 31 shots last night in their 5-1 loss to Binghamton. I don't believe that number. And if the number IS right than 30 of the shots were crap.

This team seems to have lost the desire to do the dirty work. The one goal for Hershey came on a rebound put back when Graham Mink was standing right in front of the goalie. That is the way to score goals late in the season and in the playoffs.

How did Hershey win the Cup a few years ago? With players like Eric Fehr, Mink, Brooks Laich, Boyd Kane, Dave Steckel, and Kris Beech getting traffic in front of the opposing goaltenders. That is the way to do it.

Even in Washington they are at their most successful when players like Laich, Steckel, Chris Clark, and Matt Bradley getting in front of the net.

Hershey? Mink is the only player willing to do the dirty work right now. And he is getting the goals. He has 21 this season and has scored in each of the last 5 games. But now the team needs more guys to do the same thing.

Oskar Osala, Darren Reid, Kip Brennan, Quintin Laing, Jay Beagle, Steve Pinizzotto, and even Alexandre Giroux should be joining Mink in getting traffic in the middle. That way when the other (typically smaller) players such as Andrew Gordon, Chris Bourque, Keith Aucoin, and Francois Bouchard take shots the goalies either don't see them and they go in or they leave rebounds and the guys in front get the puck and put it in the net.

Without this FUNDAMENTAL work you will NOT win in the postseason.

Last night was a bad night all around. Daren Machesney allowed 5 goals on 22 shots and the defense was pathetic. I spent the night watching the defense of both teams and the BIGGEST difference between Hershey and Bingo on defense last night ties into the point I made above.

The Bingo defense did NOT allow a single Bear to stand near the goal untouched. If there was a Bear waiting by the goalie there was a Senator pushing on him trying to get him out of the way. At the other end the Senators forwards can basically have a nice drink right in front of Cheese will no fear of spilling it cause they aren't touched most of the time.

Many of the goals the defense typically gives up are right in front. And Bingo had their chances with those goals last night. But they didn't need them to win. No they got great help from the Bears lack of defensive effort. Let's examine those goals.

Goal 1 - I think Cheese would like to have it back but it was a pretty good shot either way. Drew Fata took a perfect shot from the center of the point. I think that is a good goal from Bingo and really no one on the Hershey team is at fault. Maybe another goalie gets it but not necessarily.

Goal 2 - Beautifully deflected shot that left Cheese with no chance. I really don't think Cheese could have gotten this puck even on his best day. I really don't think Martin Brodeur would have gotten that puck. It was deflected a few feet in front of the goal and went over his shoulder to the corner.

Goal 3 - This one in my opinion is all on Tyler Sloan. First of all he turned his body. Why he turned to skate forward is beyond me but he did. THEN he left his position in the middle. He was the only man back and he just bailed on his goalie to chase the puck. He went to the boards and Denis Hamel made a beautiful pass to Greg Mauldin who beat Cheese.

Goal 4 - This was the goal everyone is talking about. Sami Lepisto had the puck at the top of the offensive zone and was skating backwards looking to make a pass when he tripped and Josh Hennessy took it and beat Cheese 1 on 1. You can't not blame Sami but it wasn't as bad a play as John Walton made it out to be. He acted like Sami just killed the team and the season. It was ridiculous how he was selling Sami out. And yet he didn't say anything about Sloans complete misstep on the earlier goal.

Goal 5 - This one here was a power play goal and another defensive letdown. Hennessy was able to skate in right in front of Cheese to tip in the pass. Guess who the defense was. Sloan and Bryan Helmer.

Could Cheese be blamed for any of the goals? Probably. I think a goaltender has to step up and play great when his team is falling apart but in the last few games neither Machesney nor Michal Neuvirth has done anything that can resemble anything close to stepping up.

But at the same time he was put in tough situations. The 3rd and 4th goals were both basically breakaways where Cheese was 1 on 1 with the Senator. Could he have stopped them? Sure but lots of goalies would have allowed those goals.

But that doesn't mean that some of this shouldn't fall on Machesney's shoulders. It is time for Daren to either shine or fall. Simeon Varlamov is, in my opinion, the best goalie on the Hershey roster. When he gets back, and assuming he doesn't go to Washington to ride the bench, he will be the number 1 again in Hershey unless someone else steps up.

Daren, now is your chance. If you step up and make some big saves you will be the hero this season. But so far all you have shown is that you can't win a game for this team.

If you want the 3 stars or grades they are easy. The 3 stars are all Senators and the grades are all Fs.


Friday, February 13, 2009

Bears @ Bingo preview, 2/13

Hershey Bears
record ~ 35-14-0-4 74 points
standings ~ 1st in East Division
most recent game ~ 4-2 Loss vs Hamilton, 2/11
last 5 games ~ 3-2-0-0
road record ~ 16-7-0-2
goals for ~ 202
goals against ~153
power play ~ 17.9% (13th)
penalty kill ~ 81.0% (24th)

Binghamton Senators
record ~ 27-17-5-3 62 points
standings ~ 4th in East Division
playoff positioning ~ 1 pt behind 3rd, 4 pts ahead of 5th
most recent game ~ 4-2 Loss vs Albany, 2/11
last 5 games ~ 2-1-2-0
home record ~ 14-7-1-3
goals for ~ 146
goals against ~ 148
power play ~ 23.3% (1st)
penalty kill ~ 81.0% (23rd)

last time teams met - Binghamton won 4-1 in Hershey on December 27th.

Players to watch:


RW Graham Mink (21)- He has 4 goals in his last 4 games. He also has 2 assists in those games. Easily his best stretch since November.
C Kyle Wilson (18) - He is second on the team with 21 goals this season. In his last 5 games he has 2 goals and 4 assists.
LW Alexandre Giroux (12) - A little bit of a cold streak with no goals in his last 4 games but he does have 3 assists in those games. In 3 games against Bingo this season he has 4 goals.


LW Ilya Zubov (36) - He is the team leader with 37 points in only 37 games. In his last 7 games he has 5 assists.

LW Denis Hamel (17) - Tied for the team lead with 15 goals. In his last 8 games he has 6 goals and 5 assists.
C Josh Hennessy (23) - The other team leader with 15 goals. He has 3 goals and 2 assists in his last 5 games.

News and Notes:
  • Hershey leads the season series 3-1 with all the games so far being in Hershey.
  • These teams meet 3 times in the next 2 weeks. All 3 games in Binghamton.
  • Bingo has won 6 of their last 9 home games.
  • Since getting assigned to the AHL Martin Gerber has played 9 games and has a 5-4 record with a 2.47 gaa and a .922 save percentage.
  • Hershey has won 7 of their last 10 road games.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Some Notes and Observations

I didn't see much of the game last night. Only enough to know that Hamilton wanted that game more than the Bears did. So I am not going to give my opinion on the game or critique the performance. So instead I will give my State of the Bears address.

The other day I made the comment that the secondary scoring just doesn't seem to be there with this Bears team. I might have been wrong on that.

I went back and looked at some different stuff and for the most part that isn't true. But something does seem to be missing from this team at least right now. Maybe this is just a slump which but I don't think this team is as good as it was at the beginning of the season.

And I have some theories on that:

1. Not as high powered an offense as everyone thinks.

If you look at the season as a whole (53 games) the Bears have scored 197 goals (not counting the goals for winning a shootout) for an average of 3.72 per game. Which is good for first in the league. Not bad right?

Well you have to remember that 9 times this season Hershey has scored 6 or more goals in a game. If you eliminate those 9 games and the 67 goals scored in them the Bears only average 2.95 goals per game. That is still pretty good (8th in the league) but when you consider the weak penalty killing and the average goaltending it doesn't look as good.

Like I said I don't think they are in trouble but I think the expectations of this team at the offensive end have been mis-judged.

2. The best team always gets the best effort from the opposition.

This happens in every sport in every league. Teams want to beat the best and the Bears are the perceived best team in the league.

That might explain why night in night out the Bears seem to be running into hot goaltenders and great defenses. It isn't necessarily that the Bears play worse these nights but the other team considers it an achievement to beat the Bears so they bring their A game.

Obviously rivals are going to get up for these games anyways but Portland, Hamilton, and Manchester played some of their best hockey of the season against Hershey. And in my opinion it is because it is easier to get ready for a game against the best than the worst.

3. This is still a streaky team.

Looking at their schedule you can see that they have had 3 different runs of trouble not including the 2 game skid currently.

In the end of October and beginning of November they went 2-4-0-1 in 7 games before winning 11 straight games. After that winning streak they went 2-3 in their next 5 including a shootout win. That preluded a 6-1 run over the New Year where they outscored the opposition 28-17. Surprisingly that was followed by a 3 game losing streak and a 1-3-0-1 over the next five games in the middle of January.

But since then they haven't really bounced back into a winning streak. In the 10 games since then they are 6-2-0-2. That isn't bad but really it is 6-4 which is much worse.

During the regular season these streaks are pretty meaningless but it is bothersome for the playoffs. A team needs to respond to a loss instantly or they find themselves in trouble very quickly.

4. Maybe they are getting tired.

I don't know if this is more the length of the season or getting every teams best effort but Hershey was 24-8-0-1 before the new year. Since then they are 11-6-0-3 or 11-9 depending on how you want to look at it.

If they continue at that pace they would more than likely still make the playoffs but winning the division might be a lofty goal.

Now I did see some positives and good trends looking at the numbers. Not everything looks bleak.

1. The scoring from players is mostly consistent.

Looking at the double digit goal scorers (8 of them) and breaking it down by the New Year most of the players are on the same point production average.

For example Keith Aucoin scored 11 goals in the first 33 games this season and has 6 in 19 since the new year. So he is pretty much exactly the same with 1 goal for every 3 games.

Chris Bourque and Andrew Gordon are still doing good but not as good as the first part. Chris was scoring about 1 in 4 but is now 1 in 5. While Gordo was scoring 1 in 3 but is now 1 in 4.

Kyle Wilson, Graham Mink, and Alexander Giroux are either the same or better than the first part of the season.

The biggest concerns have already been mentioned and that is Oskar Osala and Francois Bouchard. The big O was scoring 1 in 2 and while Bouchards numbers aren't that bad, 1 in 4 before but 1 in 5 now, he hasn't scored since the 16th of January.

But everyone is still scoring which is good BUT there is room for improvement for some of the players.

2. Good when they score.

Obviously all teams are good when they score but what I mean is this: when the Bears score more than 3 goals they are 23-2. That is pretty good but unfortunately the team doesn't average 4 goals per game.

Unfortunately it isn't all good news on the scoring front. When Hershey scores under 4 goals they are only 12-16. That also doesn't bode well for the playoffs though. Low scoring games are common place in the postseason and the Bears aren't strong in those games.

3. Solid but not great since Varly went down.

I am a believer in that Simeon Varlamov is the best goaltender on this team and he gives Hershey the best chance to win.

I was honestly surprised that since his last game (Jan 14) the team has actually been pretty good. Since his injury Hershey is 7-2-0-3. Obviously the problem with that is the 3 shootout losses but the nice thing about that is there are no shootouts in the playoffs. But 2 of those wins also came in shootouts meaning that Hershey has been having trouble closing out games of late. Which doesn't fall on the goalie.

I still think Varly is the goalie that gives Hershey the best chance to win in the playoffs. Now the problem with that is he is also the most NHL ready of the 3 netminders. That wouldn't be a bad thing if both goalies in Washington were healthy BUT they aren't. Brent Johnson had surgery yesterday to fix his hip and will be out for at least most of the regular season.

I expect Varly to be headed up to Washington in a few weeks UNLESS Michal Neuvirth performs very well up there.

Which means that Daren Machesney and Neuvirth will probably carry the team through the rest of the season and maybe the playoffs. And that isn't necessarily the best news in the world.

So basically there are concerns heading into the final third of the season that have to be worked out. The scoring isn't necessarily a huge problem but if the goaltending or the defense isn't up to par than the scoring better be great. I would be perfectly to see every Bears game end 4-3 with Hershey on top but that isn't likely since they only average 3 goals per game.

I think the biggest issue is the streaky-ness of this team. This weekend is going to go a long way to proving this teams heart to me. After losing 2 in a row at home they need to win at least 2 of 3 this weekend.

All teams lose and I wouldn't expect them to win all 80 games BUT I also think that when you lose you should want to win the next game. And while I am not saying that they don't WANT to win it doesn't seem like they are always as focused as they need to be.

Obviously that might change come playoff time when the stakes are higher BUT if they would show it now I think they would boost the confidence of many of the fans and of themselves.

Now at the same time the streaky-ness could be a good thing. If they can go back on an 11 game winning streak they would be only 1 game away from the Calder Cup Finals. Which I still believe they will win!!


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Bears vs Hamilton preview, 2/11

Hershey Bears
record ~ 35-13-0-4 74 points
standings ~ 1st in East Division
most recent game ~ 3-2 Loss vs Portland, 2/8
last 5 games ~ 3-1-0-1
home record ~ 19-6-0-2
goals for ~ 200
goals against ~149
power play ~ 18.3% (9th)
penalty kill ~ 80.9% (24th)

Hamilton Bulldogs
record ~ 30-19-2-0 62 points
standings ~ 3rd in North Division
most recent game ~ 1-0 Win vs Lake Erie, 2/8
last 5 games ~ 2-3-0-0
road record ~ 14-9-1-0
goals for ~ 174
goals against ~ 136
power play ~ 21.0% (3rd)
penalty kill ~ 80.3% (25th)

last time teams met - Hamilton won 6-0 at home on October 29th.

Players to watch:


LW Oskar Osala (12)- After scoring 16 goals and adding 5 assists in his first 2 months (24 games) he has hit the wall. In his last 25 games he has 3 goals and 7 assists. Including NO points in his last 9 games.
RW Graham Mink (21) - After having a couple month slump in December and January (5 g, 5 a) he is lighting it up in February. In 3 games this month he has a goal in each and 2 more assists.
G Daren Machesney (1) - Has been no better than average most of the season and hopefully he forgot about the previous meeting with Hamilton. In that game he faced 30 shots and allowed 6 goals.


RW Mike Glumac (15) - He is the team leader with 21 goals. In his last 8 games he has 4 goals and 2 assists.

C Ben Maxwell (91) - Second on the team in assists (23) and points (36). He has 5 goals and 6 assists in his last 11 games.
C Yanick Lehoux (85) - He leads the team in assists (30) and points (45). He hasn't scored a goal in his last 11 games but he does have 5 assists in those games.

News and Notes:
  • Last season the home team won each game.
  • This game marks the first of a 5 game road trip for the Bulldogs.
  • The first 4 games of the trip are against the East division (WB, Phil, Nor)
  • They have NOT lost more than 2 road games in a row this season. And they have lost their last 2 road games.
  • After starting the season 15-3-0-0 at home the Bears are 4-3-0-2 in their last 9 games.
  • In those 9 games 4 have gone to a shootout. In the previous 18 only 1 went to a shootout.

Monday, February 9, 2009

A Poor Outing

Was Alexandre Giroux even on the ice last night? He managed to get an assist so it looks like a solid night for a guy but considering what he has done the past month he had an off night. He only managed 2 shots the entire game which is very unlike him. Did I miss an injury or something??

But that really just shows how limited the Bears secondary scoring is. Guys like Andrew Gordon and Chris Bourque have played better of late but the consistency isn't there. Giroux isn't going to be able to score every night. Other players HAVE to step up.

The rookie line of Oskar Osala, Mathieu Perreault, and Francois Bouchard has been quiet for over a month now. Perreault has been the most consistent of the three with 3 goals and 6 assists in 2009. But he only has 4 points in his last 9 games. The other two are worse. Bouchard and Osala have COMBINED for 8 goals and 9 assists SINCE NOVEMBER!! Neither of them have come up on the score sheet since January 16th.

And just in case you were curious, Bouchard and Osala had combined for 23 goals and 16 assists in October and November. So it is a HUGE drop off.

There are other players that need to step up too. Andrew Joudrey has done okay with 4 goals this season but he scored 11 in 61 games last year. So only 4 in 45 is a slower output. Jay Beagle missed substantial time due to a concussion but last year he had 19 goals and 18 assists in 64 games, in 25 game this season......he has 2 goals and 3 assists.

Giroux, Keith Aucoin, and Kyle Wilson have been the most consistent players this season. Other guys like Graham Mink, Bourque, and Gordon have been solid but inconsistent. Consistency is critical late in the season.

The secondary scoring (or lack there of) for this team of late is worrisome. Sure the team is still in first place and probably will stay there. BUT this team is in trouble come playoff time if the other players don't step up.

And lets be totally honest here. The Bears don't have a goaltender that can win a bunch of games in the playoffs. Simeon Varlamov COULD be that player but injury concerns and a looming call up to Washington affect that thought.

So the scoring NEEDS to come. The scoring is what will win the Cup this year. And the lack of secondary scoring is a significant problem that must be addressed. Whether it is done through switching up the lines or sitting certain players when they don't perform. Anyway you look at it, it needs to get better.

My Three Stars of the Game:
  1. John DeCaro - 37 saves in only his 3rd career AHL game
  2. Nathan Gerbe - Lead the Pirates in shots with 5 and added an assist
  3. Jay Beagle - Surprisingly the team leader in shots with 6 but he hustled all game long and almost came up with a goal or two

Grading the Performance:
  • Offense - C - I am tired of seeing upper 30s or low 40s in shot totals and thinking that the offense must be performing good. The top lines last night just didn't have the energy it seemed. Sure DeCaro played great and what not. But how many times have people said the Bears faced a hot goalie and lost. Eventually the team has to beat those goaltenders!
  • Defense - C - I don't like the Sloan/Arsene pairing. Neither of the two are puck movers which you need at least one of in the leagues anymore. They were on the ice for the final two Portland goals as well. All teams have nights when their offense struggles and the defense has to help carry the team to a victory, except Hershey's.
  • Goaltending - C - Neuvirth hadn't played in a while and this was supposed to be a game to keep him fresh for the Caps but there is no way Boudreau watched that game and feels confident that Neuvirth can win in the NHL right now.
  • Power Play - B+ - I thought this was the one positive of the night. They had 3 chances and converted on 1 which isn't great but good enough. They started getting the puck down low and moving it from there instead of focusing on the blue line.
  • Penalty Kill - ? - They were only out there for 1 chance and they killed it off.
  • Overall - C - Not enough effort. Some of the players didn't even seem to be there. Portland controlled the play from the get go. It wouldn't be so bothersome but Portland had LOST 10 of their last 12 road games!! And Hershey is supposedly the best team in the league.....I didn't see it last night.


Sunday, February 8, 2009

Bears vs Pirates preview, 2/8

Hershey Bears
record ~ 35-12-0-4 74 points
standings ~ 1st in East Division
most recent game ~ 3-2 SO Win vs San Antonio, 2/7
last 5 games ~ 4-0-0-1
home record ~ 19-5-0-2
goals for ~ 198
goals against ~146
power play ~ 18.2% (12th)
penalty kill ~ 80.8% (24th)

Portland Pirates
record ~ 25-20-1-3 54 points
standings ~ 4th in Atlantic Division
most recent game ~ 3-2 SO Loss @ Albany, 2/7
last 5 games ~ 2-2-0-1
road record ~ 8-10-1-3
goals for ~ 145
goals against ~ 135
power play ~ 15.1% (24th)
penalty kill ~ 85.7% (5th)

last time teams met - First meeting this season. Portland won both games last season.

Players to watch:


LW Alexandre Giroux (12)- After missing the last 2 games due to a call up to Washington I expect the leading scorer will be back in Hershey tonight for the game.
C Mathieu Perrault (24) - Along with the other two rookies (Osala, Bouchard) he played very well last night. Probably the best performance from the rookie line in over a month.
C Kyle Wilson (18) - Managed to convert twice in the shootout last night but didn't light the lamp during the game. Maybe tonight will be different.


C Nathan Gerbe (19) - The rookie is tied for the team lead in goals and second in points with 19 and 35. He has 5 goals and 6 assists in his last 9 games.

RW Mark Mancari (25) - The other team leader in goals with 19. He also leads the team in points with 44 this season. A goal and an assist in his last 3 games.
C Colton Fretter (27) - He is 3rd on the team in 15 goals this season. 3 goals in his last 4 games. And he is the team leader with a +13 rating.

News and Notes:
  • These teams will meet again in Portland on March 21st.
  • A new affiliation means this is not the same team that went against Hershey in the 05-06 Eastern Conference Finals. That was an epic 7 game series.
  • Portland is 2-9-0-1 in their last 12 road games.
  • Expect Jhonas Enroth to get the start in net tonight for the Pirates.
  • The rookie is the number 1 goaltender for the Pirates. His number are : 18-13-3, 2.47 gaa, .922 save %.
  • Hershey has gotten at least a point in 10 straight games.
  • Kris Mayotte is expected to start in goal today for Hershey. He was signed to a tryout contract earlier this week with Neuvirth up in Washington and Varly not ready to return yet.
  • Mayottes's numbers this season in the ECHL: 30 games, 18-9-2, 2.70 gaa, .912 save %.

Bears Get the W

In the first ever visit to Hershey by the San Antonio Rampage fans in Hershey were treated to a pretty entertaining game. And for the most part a dominating performance from the Bears in every facet of the game except the most important, the scoreboard.

Hershey managed to get 2 points with a shootout victory after leading 2-1 with only 1 minute to go but couldn't prevent the tying goal from the Rampage. With the extra man and an empty net behind them San Antonio got a goal and a point out of the night.

Bryan Helmer scored his first goal of the season for Hershey midway through the second period and Graham Mink added his 18th early in the first to complete the scoring for the Bears.

Daren Machesney started his second straight game and played pretty well most of the game. He had one huge save in the first period as the Rampage came in on a 2 on 1 and got a really nice shot off but Cheese made the save.

So far in this 3 in 3 weekend the Bears have only given up 4 power plays. Unfortunately of those 4 chances they have given up 2 goals. Not a good percentage but if you only give 2 power plays a game then they aren't going to be hurt by the weak penalty kill as much.

My Three Stars of the Game:
  1. Josh Tordjman - he stopped 37 shots during regulation to get his team a point
  2. Kyle Wilson - 2 goals in the shootout to win the game for Hershey
  3. Daren Machesney - only stopped 20 during the game but stopped 5 of 7 in the shootout

Grading the Performance:
  • Offense - B+ - the rookie line was easily the best last night as far as chances and pressure go. But all the lines did well. 39 shots and many were decent shots that could have gone in. Some of the guys need to shoot more when they are in position. Specifically last night would have been Darren Reid who came in on a 2 on 1 and passed it into the defenseman and didn't get a shot. Next time SHOOT Darren.
  • Defense - A - I thought the D played very well last night. The Rampage never really set up in the offensive zone and were harassed each time they entered the zone. And in the offensive zone the defense was very good as well. They kept the puck in the zone and got shots at the net frequently.
  • Goaltending - B+ - A couple goals that almost cost the team a win but you can't really blame him for the second goal as many players were around the puck smacking at it. Some huge saves and some even bigger saves in the shootout.
  • Power Play - B - 1 for 4 with the man advantage but it should have been more. They had a short 5 on 3 in the first period and I thought they got some good looks there but they couldn't beat the hot goalie.
  • Penalty Kill - D - Gave up another goal but I can't tell you why. I thought it looked like a player or two might have been standing still but it wasn't terrible or anything. I think one improvement could be made if the guys would get their sticks in the passing lanes more.
  • Overall - B+ - A very good performance and really a dominating performance. Sometimes though you run into a hot goaltender and there isn't much you can do. That was the case last night. Tordjman played very well and made numerous big saves.


Saturday, February 7, 2009

Bears vs Rampage preview, 2/7

Hershey Bears
record ~ 34-12-0-4 72 points
standings ~ 1st in East Division
most recent game ~ 5-3 Win @ Philadelphia, 2/6
last 5 games ~ 3-0-0-2
home record ~ 18-5-0-2
goals for ~ 195
goals against ~144
power play ~ 18.1% (12th)
penalty kill ~ 81.0% (24th)

San Antonio Rampage
record ~ 21-30-1-1 44 points
standings ~ Last in West Division
most recent game ~ 4-3 OT Loss @ Wilkes-Barre, 2/6
last 5 games ~ 1-3-1-0
road record ~ 7-14-1-1
goals for ~ 130
goals against ~ 164
power play ~ 18.3% (10th)
penalty kill ~ 85.2% (7th)

last time teams met - San Antonio won 3-0 on December 11th in San Antonio.

Players to watch:


RW Andrew Gordon (10)- Last 2 games he has 4 goals. Hopefully he can continue this scoring streak through the rest of the season.
RW Graham Mink (21) - With Giroux up in Washington Minker has to step up and score some big goals. It is said that he has better 2nd halves than 1st so lets see it.
C Jay Beagle (14) - The scrappy center has done amazing work defensively and as a tough guy since his return from injury. Now the Bears need him to put a couple pucks in the net.


F Chad Kolarik (42) - The rookie is the team leader in assists and points with 23 and 37 respectively. He has points in 6 straight games (2 g, 7 a) and 12 of his last 16 games (4 g, 14 a).

C Wyatt Smith (11) - He is currently tied for the team lead with 15 goals. In his last 10 games he has 9 goals. He started the season with Norfolk but has played the last 28 games with SA and has 12 goals and 10 assists in that period.
LW David Spina (17) - He is 2nd on the team with 32 points this season. He has points in 13 of his last 18 games with 7 g and 12 a over that period.

News and Notes:
  • This is more than likely the final meeting this season between the teams unless SA runs the table and gets to the Cup Finals.
  • Hershey has won 3 of their last 4 home games after losing 3 straight.
  • This is the final game for Hershey against the West division this season.
  • This is the first of a three game home stand for the Bears.
  • San Antonio just started a 25 day 13 game road trip.
  • They are 0-3 so far on the trip with one overtime loss.
  • In 23 road games this season the Rampage has scored in all of them but in 9 games they have only scored 1 goal.
  • The 3 straight road losses come after a 5 game road winning streak.

Bears win again in Philly

In what was their second to last game ever in the Spectrum the Bears came out flying in the first period jumping to a 3-0 lead in the first 10 minutes.

Playing without the AHL's leading scorer, Alexandre Giroux, Hershey totaled 5 goals and managed to hold on to a 5-3 win. Giroux was called up by Washington and very well might play tonight against Florida.

Andrew Gordon continued his new found scoring touch with 2 more goals last night giving 4 in two games. Kyle Wilson, Graham Mink, and Tyler Sloan closed out the scoring for Hershey.

Daren Machesney got the start in goal last night and looked lost for the first 2 periods. He gave up 3 goals on 9 shots in those periods. In the third he seemed to settle down and he made 10 saves to preserve the win.

It was a very sloppy game from Hershey as the defense seemed to struggle a little and Cheese had a tough go of it. The offense did enough but they also went 0-5 on the power play. And the penalty kill is still a significant problem as they allowed a goal on 2 tries.

The 2 best things from the game would be that the secondary scoring is still performing. Minker and Gordo are going to need to score regularly for this team to win the Cup. The other positive from this game is that the Bears only gave up 2 power plays. It was a disciplined performance from the guys in chocolate and white.

My Three Stars of the Game:
  1. Andrew Gordon - Both goals were nice and important
  2. Quintin Laing - assisted on both Gordo's goals and was all over the ice hitting people
  3. Graham Mink - a goal and two assists including one primary assist

Grading the Performance:
  • Offense - B+ - 35 shots and 5 goals is obviously very good. BUT would they have scored those goals against a real goalie? Who knows but they need to keep it up cause the defense and the goaltending continues to struggle.
  • Defense - C+ - I wasn't impressed with the defensive effort last night. It seemed like they were content to sit back and let the offense win the game for them and keep them in the lead. Hopefully the next few months can bring about some changes so that the defense can win a couple games for the Bears in the playoffs.
  • Goaltending - C - The only reason this isn't an F is because Cheese managed to make all 10 saves in the most important period. But the first 2 periods were very disappointing from a goaltending perspective.
  • Power Play - F - 0-5 and minimal pressure. There were some chances that they didn't even manage a shot. Unacceptable. I wish the coaching staff would make some changes in the style of attack on the power play. With Coiner and Perrault you have two of the best puck movers around, why not let them control the puck down low and get passes into better scoring positions than the blue line.
  • Penalty Kill - F - Sure they were only out there twice but this unit is not performing right now. They gave up one goal and didn't look overly impressive on the other one either.
  • Overall - B - I would like to have seen some improvement on the special teams after a week with no games and just practice but it didn't happen. If anything those units were worse after a week of no games. In the playoffs special teams are critical and this team needs to improve on theirs NOW.


Friday, February 6, 2009

Bears @ Phantoms Preview, 2/6

Hershey Bears
record ~ 33-12-0-4 70 points
standings ~ 1st in East Division
most recent game ~ 4-2 Win vs Norfolk, 1/31
last 5 games ~ 3-0-0-2
road record ~ 15-7-0-2
goals for ~ 190
goals against ~141
power play ~ 18.4% (10th)
penalty kill ~ 81.2% (23rd)

Philadelphia Phantoms
record ~ 26-21-1-1 54 points
standings ~ 5th in East Division
most recent game ~ 4-1 Loss vs Wilkes-Barre, 2/3
last 5 games ~ 2-3-0-0
home record ~ 14-7-1-1
goals for ~ 139
goals against ~ 146
power play ~ 19.0% (6th)
penalty kill ~ 82.2% (18th)

last time teams met - Philadelphia won 4-3 in a shootout on January 17th in Hershey.

Players to watch:


RW Andrew Gordon (10)- Hasn't been a big goal producer most of the season but maybe the 2 goals in his last game with spark his second half.
LW Oskar Osala (36) - He has not registered a point in the last 6 games but does have 6 goals against Philly this season.
LW Alexandre Giroux (12) - He also has 6 goals against Philly this season and is obviously the teams best scoring threat night in night out.


C Jared Ross (18) - He leads the team in goals and points with 19 and 42 respectively. In his last 9 games he has 6 goals and 5 assists and has spent some time up with the Flyers recently.

C Jonathan Matsumoto (11) - He is second on the team with 18 goals and has 4 goals and 5 assists in his last 9 games. Also, he has 5 goals and 2 assists against Hershey this season.
D Danny Syvret (25) - He leads the team in assists with 36 but only has 1 assist in his last 5 games. Against Hershey this season he has 2 goals and 6 assists.

News and Notes:
  • Hershey leads the season series 5-1-0-2.
  • Hershey is 3-0-0-1 in Philly this season.
  • There are still 4 games between these two teams this season. Including what will be the final AHL game at the Spectrum and the final regular season game for the Phantoms.
  • Philly has lost 2 straight at home after winning 5 in a row.
  • Ryan Parent, one of their best defensemen, is on indefinite recall to the Flyers.
  • Scott Munroe has started the last 9 games in net and is expected to play tonight.
  • Hershey has won 6 of their last 9 road games.
  • No telling who the goalies will be this weekend. Currently Michael Neuvirth is up in Washington backing up Theodore. Daren Machesney is likely to get the call tonight.
  • Hershey signed G Kris Mayotte to a tryout contract this week. He could play this weekend.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A Look Back....January 09

I mentioned yesterday that I would be doing these from here on. I intend to recap the previous month and give a brief preview of the upcoming month. If you like it or don't like it....let me know. And if you have any suggestions for anything else just email it to me.

January 2009:

Record going into the month : : 24-8-0-1
Points entering the month : : 49
Place in standings entering month : : 1st

Games in January : : 16
Record in January : : 9-4-0-3
Points earned in January : : 21
Points left on the table : : 11
Home record in January : : 4-2-0-2
Road record in January : : 5-2-0-1

Three Stars for January:
  1. Alexandre Giroux - Surprise! What a month he had! After getting recalled to Washington and returning on January 3 he scored 18 goals and 9 assists in 15 games during the month. Set the Bears points streak record and broke the AHL consecutive goal scoring streak during the month.
  2. Keith Aucoin - He got to center Giroux for the whole month so in turn his stats were phenomenal as well. The AHL points leader kept the lead with 6 goals and 13 assists during the month.
  3. Chris Bourque - While he drew the ire of some fans for a questionable decision before the All-Star break he still had a very good month. He totaled 4 goals and 11 assists in his 15 games this month.
How did the Bears do this month?

I thought they were average to be honest. With the exception of Giroux I think this team is in trouble if their scoring doesn't get better. Sure they get numerous shots like the 49 they had against the Pens on Friday. BUT they can't seem to score enough. Shots from the point are worthless unless you have bodies in front creating screens and getting rebounds.

The goaltending for the month wasn't very good either. Varly started the month of very good but then had a couple bad games before missing the rest of the month with an injury. Cheese and Neuvirth managed to win some games but neither looked stellar. There needs to be a definite number one before the playoffs and if he stays healthy I think Varly is as good as they have.

The special teams units need to be improved. The Capitals were having problems in the same area and spent a whole practice or two just working on their power play last week. Since then...they have scored in under 10 seconds on 3 power plays this week. The Bears need to do something like that. With multiple 4 in 5s and 3 in 3s it is tough to get any work in and especially anything specialized but there is more time now. This week would be ideal. As a fan I expect to see a much better effort on the special teams when the Bears return to action this weekend.

A look ahead at February:

Games in February : : 12
Home games : : 6
Road games : : 6
4 in 5 weekends : : 1 (ends March 1st)
Games against division : : 7

Games to Pay Attention to in February:
  • @ Philly on Friday
  • vs Hamilton on 2/11
  • 3 games @ Bingo on 2/13, 25, 27
Really the schedule is favorable for the month. The best team based on points this month is Hamilton with 58 points. Other than that the Bears 3 of the four division bottom dwellers with San Antonio, Norfolk, and Rochester.


Points available : : 24
Schedule difficulty : : 1 out of 5

Points the Bears SHOULD get this month : : 20


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A 3 Point Weekend

I didn't see Friday night's game at all but according to what I read it sounded like the offense played very good but couldn't beat Curry.

I didn't see Saturday's game until Sunday morning and still only saw part of it.

So I didn't write reviews (or previews for that matter, sorry if you were looking for it) and won't be giving my opinion too much.

I will say this though....

It was very nice to see some secondary scoring on Saturday night. Andrew Gordon and Jay Beagle scored 3 goals between them after not scoring much recently. I know Beag's was out and isn't a 30 goal scorer anyways but he usually helps with a goal every few games.

Gordon though started off the season very well with 9 goals in his first 19 games. Then he went on a serious slide. In his next 29 games he only scored 3 times. That isn't and won't be enough if the Bears are going to make a run at the Cup. Hopefully his 2 goals Saturday night jump start the second half of the season for him.

Other than that I am not going to say anything about the games. I didn't see them and I hate critiquing games that I wasn't a witness to.

Later today or tomorrow I will be starting a new feature here. I am going to do a monthly recap that looks back at the games from the month just ended. So check back later today or tomorrow for that write up.