Also due to both Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Bridgeport being off tonight the Bears now have a 3 point lead over the 2nd place Sound Tigers (with 1 game still in hand) and a 7 point lead over the 3rd place Penguins. The Bears have positioned themselves very well in their quest for the East division crown which would mean a first round matchup with the Senators or the Philly Phantoms if they can make a run.
Tonight was an impressive show of dominance in my opinion. And it wasn't because they played a perfect game. Each facet of the game could have been better as the offense I think missed some chances, the defense had multiple turnovers, and Michal Neuvirth made a couple questionable puck handling decisions.
But all that being said the Bears dominated this game. They shut down the Sens so much that according to the production crew at the game the play of the game for the Senators was Jeremy Yablonski's fight with Grant McNeill. Which by the way was a unanimous decision for Yablonski but still....play of the game?? That tells you how unproductive the Sens were.
Couple of other big moments tonight:
Neuvirth made 46 saves to record his first AHL shutout. At times he was brilliant and other times just very very solid. Like I said the other day....I am VERY confident in the Bears chances in the playoffs with him between the pipers.
Alexander Giroux scored his 52nd goal of the season and is one goal away from tying the Bears single game mark and only 2 away from setting a new mark. With 2 games this weekend at Giant Center hopefully he can break the record in front of the home fans.
Some scary news from Norfolk came in during the game though. If you were listening to Walton on the radio you probably heard about this but if you weren't here is what was reported. Referee Chris Cozzan (called the game Wednesday in Hershey) was cut in the neck by a skate blade this evening and lost a lot of blood. Reportedly the blade missed his jugular vein by an inch. To explain how serious it was there wasn't a report issued that said he was injured, the report came in that said he will survive. Apparently there was tremendous blood loss on the ice but Cozzan is expected (at this time) to be okay.
As a fan of hockey in general this is not good news. Hopefully Chris is okay and doing better tonight and if you are of the praying type.....this might be a good time to include a referee in your prayers.
My Three Stars of the Night:
- Michal Neuvirth - 46 saves and his first AHL shutout gets the first star
- Francois Bouchard - back in lineup the rook produced 1 assist and might have been the Bears best forward
- Sami Lepisto - a couple bad plays but 2 assists and a team best +3 as he was on the ice for all 4 Hershey goals
Grading the Performance:
- Offense - B+ - Considering Keith Aucoin was on recall to Washington, and Osala as well, this team played very well at the offensive end. Darren Reid was back in the lineup for the first time in a while and played pretty well. Overall 4 goals on 33 shots and they chased Jeff Glass from the goal.
- Defense - B - Yeah the team got the shutout but this was not a great performance from the blue liners. Numerous turnovers and a few guys got burned standing around. On top of that there were defensemen awfully deep in the offensive zone too often in my opinion. It didn't burn them against the Sens but try it tomorrow night or Sunday and the outcome may be different.
- Goaltending - A - Neuvirth's confidence seems to be snowballing right now. You can see that he is getting more and more comfortable in the net each and every game. He played the puck a little too much tonight and it almost bit him a couple of times but he got away with it.
- Power Play - B - 1 for 5 with the man advantage is about average. I thought they played very well with the extra man though. A couple times they rushed shots and didn't set up their formation and that didn't work but when they got in the zone and set up they had their way with the penalty killers.
- Penalty Kill - B+ - This unit was much better thanks to Michal Neuvirth and the fact that the Sens just couldn't get anything going at any point. A solid performance and I would love to see more of the 0 power play goals allowed games.
- Overall - B+ - Overall a very good game. Not sure if this performance would beat the Pens or Tigers but it was plenty for the Sens. Again the team came out a little slow in the first period but that is okay if they continue to finish games like they have of late. A very good game but there is still room for improvement in my opinion.
LET'S GO BEARS!!!