The Bears and Penguins played 10 games against each other this season. Overall the Penguins won more games but every game except 2 were close. In Hershey the Bears went 1-3-0-1 against the Pens. On the road the Bears went 2-2-0-1 against them. Overall that is 3-5-0-2 which isn't exactly great.
But if you look a little closer you will see that it was much closer than those numbers indicate. Overall the scoring was almost even. In Hershey the Pens scored 16 goals to Hershey's 14. In Wilkes Barre it was Pens 19 and Hershey 18. That makes a grand total of 35-32 in favor of the Pens. Pretty close.
Add to that the fact that all but 2 games were decided by 1 goal. Each team won a game in Wilkes Barre by 4 goals but other than that they were all 1 goal games. Including 3 shootout games which Wilkes Barre won 2 and Hershey won 1.
Top 3 Point Producers In The Series:
Janne Pesonen - 3 goals and 9 assists in 10 games
Chris Minard - 4 goals and 6 assists in 7 games
Mark Letestu - 3 goals and 5 assists in 9 games
Chris Bourque - 5 goals and 10 assists in 10 games
Alexander Giroux - 8 goals and 4 assists in 10 games
Keith Aucoin - 2 goals and 9 assists in 8 games
Bourque was absolutely the most consistent against the Pens this season. He recorded a point in every game except the shutout that the Pens recorded. Giroux was pretty consistent too getting a point in 8 of his 1o games.
For the Pens Chris Minard recorded a point in every game he played against Hershey. He did miss 3 games but recorded a point in all the others.
John Curry - Reg Season - 33-15-1, 4 shutouts, 2.38 goals against average, and .916 save %. Playoffs - 4-1, 2.67 gaa, .912 save %.
Against the Bears Curry has been a star almost all season. He made 8 starts against Hershey and went 5-1-1 and was pulled once. His save percentage was a .917 while his goals against was a little under 2.5.
Michal Neuvirth - Reg Season - 9-5-2, 1 shutout, 2.70 goals against average, and a .913 save %. Playoffs - 4-0, 1.50 gaa, and a .945 save %.
Neuvy started 3 games against Wilkes Barre and all 3 went to a shootout. That's right...each shootout these teams faced off in Neuvy was a part of. Overall he went 1-0-2 with a .921 save % and a goals against around 2.6.
Special Teams in the Series:
overall - 27.3%
in Hershey - 36.4%
in WB/S - 21.2%
overall - 23.1%
in Hershey - 14.8%
in Philly - 32%
Surprisingly both teams were better on the power play away from their home building. If you eliminate the first game of the season when Hershey went 5 of 7 the Bears are only 16.7% in Wilkes Barre and only 15.6% overall. So that one game made that much difference in the numbers so keep that in mind.
So far in the playoffs the Penguins are converting 43% of their chances while the Bears are at 26%. The penalty kill has been the story for the Bears though as they have NOT allowed a PP goal on 22 chances. The Pens meanwhile have allowed 3 goals on 24 chances for a 87.5% penalty kill rate. Not too bad.
Keys to the Series:
1. Scoring Balance - Hershey has gotten production from so many different players in the playoffs already. 11 different skaters have scored goals in the 4 games played. Only 3 players (Giroux, Kronwall, Perrault) have scored more than once. During the season series Wilkes Barre got scoring from more places though. Hershey's scoring depth has to continue for them to win.
2. Special Teams - Obviously we can put this up for just about any game in any series on any level of hockey. But there isn't a bigger key in this series. The numbers in the Philly series looked even worse on Hershey's side but the Bears still won the season series. Against the Pens though the power play units have really made all the difference. Many of the power play goals though came earlier in the season. In the past 5 games the Pens have converted on 16.7% of their chances while being completely shut down twice and the Bears have gone 13.6% and were shut down twice.
3. Goalies - Another topic that usually makes the difference. In the 3 games Neuvy played against the Pens he took them to a shootout...well there are no shootouts to save the Pens in the playoffs. And Curry didn't have great numbers in the first round against an offensively challenged Bridgeport team. Whichever goaltender gets (or stays) hot will win this series.
Players That Will Make The Difference:
Who will be the difference makers? Minard and Giroux are going to do their damage and you can see the other top players above. But who isn't on the above list that could swing this series?
C Dustin Jeffrey (21) - He scored 3 goals and added 2 assists during the season series and has been on fire so far in the playoffs with 4 goals and an assist.
LW Luca Caputi (19) - 2 goals and 6 assists in 8 games against Hershey this season. Isn't dominating in the playoffs but is producing with a goal and 2 assists.
RW Graham Mink (21) - His hand should be healed up pretty good now and he finally started to play better at the end of the Philly series. Not that he played badly before that but the end was definitely better. He had 6 goals and 3 assists against the Pens this season.
C Mathieu Perrault (24) - He didn't have a great season against the Pens this season with only 1 goal and 2 assists but over the past month or so there hasn't been a more consistent player on the ice for Hershey. So far in the postseason he is 3rd in points with 2 goals and 2 assists.
Last series I really thought the Bears could sweep the Phantoms and that is exactly what they did. This series scares the hell out of me. I will be honest here...if I was an impartial third party I would probably take the Pens to win the series. But I am not an impartial third party and always believe my teams can win. Neuvirth I think will be the difference in the series. He has been playing great up to this point and if he can continue that the Bears will win. Curry showed his human side against a Bridgeport team that wasn't known for scoring. And the Pens defence wasn't lights out against the Tigers either as they allowed 160 shots to get through while the Bears defense only allowed 109.
Surprisingly in the 4 previous series between these two teams none of them have gone more than 5 games. 2 of the series were sweeps and the other two went 5 games. Each team has a sweep and a 4-1 series victory. This year I think it goes longer. I actually do believe the Bears can win in 5 though due to Curry not being at the top of his game and the defense struggling a bit. If the scoring depth and general depth overall continues the Bears will be tough to beat.
Bears in 6
LET'S GO BEARS!!!!