Overall I felt that the Bears were dominated for much of the game. The only forward line to really sustain pressure at even strength was the Bourque/Beagle/Perreault line. Hershey finished the game (which included almost 5 minutes in overtime) with only 25 shots on goal. At the other end the Penguins took 43 shots.
Michal Neuvirth played brilliantly again as he made 40 saves and as I mentioned the only goals that went in were deflections or lucky bounces. The first goal deflected in off of Bryan Helmer, the second off of I believe Dean Arsene's stick, and the third and final goal was bouncing around in the crease before being nudged over the line.
Neuvy made huge saves to even keep the Bears in the game as the Pens came out hard and continued it all game. They really controlled the play for much of the game and while the Bears did have some good chances they didn't have near as many as the Pens did.
The defensive unit also deserves some credit because even though the Pens had 43 shots many of them were contested. Positioning was a strong point as well in the defensive end as the Bears managed to get in passing lanes and they took the body often.
Really I think it came down to two things:
1. Some of the forwards trying to be a little too cute and do it all themselves at times. Alexander Giroux did this a couple times as did Keith Aucoin, Oskar Osala, Kyle Wilson, and Francois Bouchard. I think it is better to circle back into your own zone then to try to get through 3 Penguin players by yourself.
2. The Penguins needed this game more than the Bears. They came out more determined and played like they wanted it more. Now that they have gotten to within one they have a little more confidence and might relax just a touch.
Any way you look at it Friday nights game is huge. If Hershey wins then all they need is 1 win in the last 3 games. If the Pens win then it is a best of 3 series going forward.
In my personal opinion the Bears need one of the next 2. As long as they win 1 game in Wilkes Barre they are in great position to win the series.
My Three Stars of the Game
- Michal Neuvirth - he didn't win but 40 saves and 2 of the goals were deflections of his own players.
- Mark Letestu - one goal but it was an important one, the game winner
- Chris Bourque - very consistent and aggressive...probably the best Bear not in goal last night
Grading the Performance:
- Offense - C+ - Disappointing in my opinion. They had some chances (Beags I am looking at you here) that they weren't able to convert but the consistent pressure wasn't there last night. Whether that was because the Pens played better or Hershey played worse it is tough to say but more shots and more consistent pressure is needed.
- Defense - B+ - They need to limit the number of shots but many of the shots were from the outside. Positionally the unit played very well and while they did lose the game and 3 goals went in I would argue that all 3 were flukes.
- Goaltending - A - Sure he didn't get the win but how good was Neuvy last night? You take away 2 fortunate bounces for the Pens and Hershey wins this game 2-0.
- Power Play - A - 2 goals on 5 chances is fine with me. You do that every game and you will win most of them. They took advantage of what was given to them instead of forcing the issue and that is a key to a good power play.
- Penalty Kill - A - I know they gave up 1 power play goal but it was a lucky bounce. This unit has been dominant this postseason and much of the credit for the teams success should go to them. Andrew Joudrey deserves a mention every game as he has been this year's penalty killing guru like Dave Steckel from 2 season ago.
- Overall - B - I think more than anything Wilkes Barre played their A game while the Bears didn't. Usually only one team can play perfect and this night it was the Penguins turn. Now the Bears are going to be hungrier for Penguin on Friday night.
LET'S GO BEARS!!!