Thursday, March 26, 2009

Bears Penalty Kill Finishes Strong

After a poor start the Hershey Bears penalty kill unit came up huge at the end of the game last night. Going up against the 3rd best power play in the league, the Bears killed off a 5 on 3 and 5 on 4 to end the game last night in Hershey.

As I mentioned the penalty kill unit came up huge at the end but they started out terrible, allowing 2 power play goals on the first 3 chances. As for the Bears power play, they only got 3 chances but the did manage a goal. Not too bad but if the penalty kill unit is going to give up 2 a game in the postseason they better start scoring 2 per game themselves.

Either way the Bears spotted the Toronto Marlies a 2 goal lead 3-1 midway through the second but the Marlies, who are fighting for their playoff lives in the North division, couldn't hold the lead.

Michal Neuvirth made 29 saves and the Bears got goals from Alexander Giroux (51), Keith Aucoin (23), Andrew Joudrey (5), and Oskar Osala (23) as the Bears won 4-3 over the Marlies.

It was a very physical game as well. Kip Brennan was back in the lineup after a few weeks where he didn't dress at all and he made his presence known with multiple big hits and a solid fight against Jay Rosehill.

The hitting didn't stop with Brennan though as multiple Bears including Steve Pinizzotto got into the action. Early in the second period Pinner landed a big hit on Jiri Tlusty. Tlusty turned at the last minute which resulted in Pinner hitting him from behind into the wall and according to John Walton, Tlusty left a sizable amount of blood on the ice. I don't think Tlusty ever returned to action but I am not certain of that.

After that hit Bates Battaglia fought Pinner and for the rest of the night Pinner's head was on a swivel as the Marlies were gunning for him.

Honestly I can see why they were upset and I can see why the hit could be deemed questionable but personally I found the hit to be clean. Could Pinner have let up and not hit him? Sure. But isn't this hockey? Part of the game, and to be honest a HUGE part of Pinner's game, is hitting and hitting hard. It's a tough play to call, no penalty was assessed and I doubt you will see any league action on the matter.

But I will say this....those are the kinds of fights that I absolutely think need to remain in the game. Many people have talked about eliminating fighting and I think you saw right there exactly why they need to stay. Battaglia felt the hit was dirty so he did something about it. If you are going to hit guys like Pinner does then you have to accept the consequences, which he did.

My Three Stars of the Game:
  1. Chris Bourque - 2 assists in his first game back after a brief callup...played a very solid all around game
  2. Andre Deveaux - 2 goals for the Marlies and he almost had more
  3. Jay Beagle - the assist on Joudrey's goal was spectacular and being part of the penalty kill at the end was the difference in the game

Grading the Performance:
  • Offense - B+ - Really there isn't much more they could have done. They finished with 4 goals on 30 shots and they played very well. My only complaint would be on Mathieu Perrault.....SHOOT!!! He came down with someone (might have been Gordon) and he tried to make a really tough pass at the end instead of just shooting.'s okay. Other than that the only complaint would maybe be a lack of consistent pressure in the early part of the game but they made up for it late.
  • Defense - B - Not too bad. Some minor struggles like in every game but all in all it was solid. Kronwall is starting to jump into the offensive zone a little more than I think is necessary but with Deano back there he knows there will be someone back.
  • Goaltending - B - The first goal definitely should have been stopped in my opinion. It was a perfect shot but you have to make those in the postseason. BUT I will say this too.....I am confident that the Bears can win the Cup with Neuvirth in the net for the playoffs.
  • Power Play - B+ - As I said before they scored once on three chances but they were consistently in the zone. I think they can do better but overall it was a good performance.
  • Penalty Kill - B - If you had asked me midway through the second I would have said F but the performance at the end made up for it. The end is always harder anyhow and to kill off a 5 on 3 was very good.
  • Overall - B+ - A good game from the Bears. I didn't think they had near as much urgency as the Marlies did but they still came away with the win which was important. This weekend I hope to see more jump in their step EARLIER. Late in games they are always ready to go but the first period and the first half of the second has been lackluster of late.

Oh and with the win Hershey retook first place in the division. With Bridgeport coming to town on Saturday (and being off Friday) the Bears could conceivably be up 5 points in the division by the time Wilkes-Barre/Scranton arrives Sunday evening.

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