Sunday, March 8, 2009

Big Win In Toronto

Simeon Varlamov returned to action last night and gave Bears fans a glimpse of what this team could be with him between the pipes. He didn't have to do too much but he made some big saves on a couple defensive letdowns that had been going in during the past few weeks. He ended up with 20 saves on the night.

Unfortunately for Bears fans it might be a limited glimpse as Varly is expected to switch places with Michal Neuvirth after he gets a couple games in. In most people's opinion Varly is the more NHL ready of the goaltenders so the Caps will want him to help Theodore (and maybe push Theodore) down the stretch.

Last night's game (I guess it was technically evening or afternoon) was dominated by the Bears. Not so much on the stat sheet as they only had 29 shots but on the scoreboard and on the ice the Bears pretty much controlled the play.

The first period gave an appearance of what would be a close defensive game as no goals were scored on a combined 16 shots. And then the second period came and Francois Bouchard score 2 goals (his 13th and 14th) from the same spot on the ice. The first goal was a beautiful pass from Andrew Gordon and the second was a rebound put back which gave the Bears a 2-1 lead.

After that it was all Bears. Alexandre Giroux scored once in the second (44th) and again in the third (45th) and Keith Aucoin (22) and Graham Mink added his 28th to give the Bears a 6-1 win.

Two things really contributed to this win a bit I think. First Varly's return (and some big saves early) really gave the Bears some confidence that their goalie was going to help them. And second I think Hershey ran into a cold goaltender. Adam Munro did not look good on many of the goals and just seemed flustered much of the game. He reminded me of Cheese after he let in those 2 goals in the second. He just couldn't find his game again.

It was an important win as Bridgeport also won to stay 2 points back of the Bears in the standings. The 2 teams play 2 games in Hershey this month with the first coming next Sunday at 5.

My Three Stars of the Game:
  1. Francois Bouchard - 2 goals (one a game winner) and great positioning on the ice for both
  2. Keith Aucoin - 1 goal and 2 assists to extend his point streak to 15 games
  3. Simeon Varlamov - not many saves but the confidence this team has with him in net is immeasurable

Grading the Performance:
  • Offense - A - 6 goals on 29 shots is pretty impressive. They got to the net and got some garbage goals and they rifled a couple past him. Overall they seemed to just out play the Toronto defense every time down the ice.
  • Defense - B - I think this unit was made to look much better with Varly in net. There were some really good Toronto looks that got stopped by Varly. With another goaltender in there I think this unit shows some flaws. Brian Pothier looked like he had been playing all the time. He looked really comfortable out there. And Staffon Kronwall looked very good too. I am glad he is a Bear cause he showed that he can play last night.
  • Goaltending - A - He only faced 21 shots which might be one of the lowest shot totals against in the recent months but he made some big saves at big times. He never seems flustered in the net. He moves all over but he always seems to be in control.
  • Power Play - B - Yes they scored 2 goal but it was a trial just getting set up in the zone. Especially early when it was still close they seemed to struggle keeping the puck in the zone and getting set up.
  • Penalty Kill - B - They allowed 1 goal on 4 chances which isn't terrible but really they still show some questionable decisions. I thought they looked better though and if they continue to move forward could become a strength.
  • Overall - B+ - Easily the best game since January. It still wasn't perfect though. If the Marlies get 30 shots, how many goals do they get? I am not saying Varly wouldn't have stopped most of them. What I am saying is maybe this team just wasn't on the same level tonight. Munro struggled and the offense never really got its footing. These are the games you have to win and the Bears did. Now let's make it 2 in a row against the West today in Cleveland.


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