All season these teams play and their goal is home ice for the playoffs. Why? So that they will host a game 7 instead of having to travel somewhere else. When the Bears were struggling late in the year I made numerous mentions about the lack of importance of the #1 seed. Well I was wrong. This year being the #1 seed in the East division might be what decides the series.
The home team has won each of the 6 games heading into Tuesday's game. And with the exception of game 3 where the Bears played better than the Pens every other game was convincingly won by the home team.
The question is...will that continue?
The Penguins did not look good last night. They did get 30 shots on Neuvirth but they looked out of place and flustered for much of the game. Frustration ran through the team and Jeff Taffe even got kicked out for arguing with the referee. Overall the Pens just weren't ready for that game last night.
The Bears though did everything right. The big scorers came back as Andrew Gordon and Alexander Giroux scored and Darren Reid added his 2nd in as many nights and probably locked himself into the lineup for the foreseeable future. Neuvirth played great getting his second shutout of the playoffs and his 7th win.
Impressive stat....it was the first time the Pens were shutout since March of 2008. Yes 2008!
The special teams for the Bears also showed up Sunday evening. The penalty kill rebounded and stopped all 4 power plays the Pens had and the power play managed to score 1 goal (Giroux) which made the score 3-0 and was probably the most important goal of the game.
Hershey played like they wanted to win last night. They wanted it more than the Penguins did and it showed up on the scoreboard and the effort. Finishing checks, getting to loose pucks, big/timely saves, and getting shot after shot on Berkhoel in the Wilkes Barre net.
Will home ice reign supreme again Tuesday night? The Penguins might think so...they chose to stay in Hershey last night and tonight in what might be an effort to become more familiar with the playing surface. Or it was just a way to avoid the travel before such a big game. I was surprised to learn they were staying considering how close the cities are.
Last night was a great game. The Bears showed up and played their game after allowing the Pens to control games 4 and 5. Now it comes down to a winner take all game 7. And because of the effort during the season...it will be played in Hershey.
My Three Stars of the Game:
- Michal Neuvirth - 30 saves to shut out the Pens will get any goalie on the board
- Andrew Gordon - 1 goal and tons of hustle. skated hard all game long
- Darren Reid - made Engelland look silly on the goal
Grading the Performance:
- Offense - A - 43 shots is what this team needed. They struggled to get shots and pressure on Berkhoel in games 4 and 5 so getting all those on net in game 6 was big. I also liked to see the guys shooting more on odd man rushes. Usually they wait and wait and make a pass really late but last night there was more shooting.
- Defense - A - Cleared everything out of the middle and blocked plenty of shots. Anytime there was a loose puck in front of Neuvy the guys were clearing it out of harms way. Need to see more of that Tuesday night.
- Goaltending - A - First time the Pens were shut out since March 2008. Impressive. Neuvirth made a couple big saves but also got plenty of help from his defense.
- Power Play - B - They got 1 goal but they had 7 chances. Would like to see 2 of 7 go in at the very least. Seemed to struggle getting set up late in the game.
- Penalty Kill - A - After getting victimized in the last 2 games the unit pushed forward and shut down the vaunted Penguins power play.
- Overall - A - One of the better games this year in my opinion. They had the Penguins questioning what they were doing at the end. Players and coaches alike for the Pens were feeling the pressure and weren't sure what to do. Hopefully that continues through Tuesday night.
LET'S GO BEARS!!!