Personally I am already getting amped up for tomorrow nights game. This series makes me nervous and excited all at the same time. I am hoping to not have a voice by the time tomorrow night is done. We need to be loud and supportive tomorrow night.
Yesterday I gave you a look back at the season series and gave some information on how the teams performed most of the season.
Today I want to get into how the teams are playing now and who is doing it.
Let's start with the Penguins:
They beat the Bridgeport Sound Tigers 4 games to 1 in the first round. It was a much closer series than you would think though. 4 of the 5 games were decided by 1 goal and the other game (game 5) was decided by 2 goals. 2 of the games went to overtime as well.
The really surprising part of this series is that the road team won the first 4 games. It was an interesting setup (2 @ BPort, 1 @ WB, 1 @ BPort, 2 @ WB, 1 @BPort) and the only home team to win a game was Wilkes Barre in game 5. The first four games were all one goal games where the road team won.
During the regular season the Penguins were second only to the Bears in goals scored with 274 so them scoring 18 in the first 5 games of the playoffs really isn't a surprise. Also during the season they were tied for the conference lead in goals allowed (212, tied with Bridgeport) so they usually don't give up too many goals. But they gave up 14 to the Sound Tigers in round one. Not a large amount but more than I would have expected them to give up to a team that wasn't known for its goal scoring.
The power play is the best in the league right now converting on almost 43% of their opportunities while their penalty kill isn't as good but not too bad either at about 88%. Obviously when your power play is converting at a 43% rate you are going to be very tough to beat.
Another key stat for the Penguins is their scoring so far. They aren't as deep as the Bears as they have only gotten goals from 7 players but 4 of those players have scored 15 of the goals. Chris Minard, Jean-Michel Daoust, Jeff Taffe, and Dustin Jeffrey are those 4 players. While it makes it a little easier to defend when only a few guys are scoring this is tough because those players are on 2 different lines according to Tim Leone.
John Curry has been solid but not spectacular in net. So far in the playoffs he has faced 160 shots and has a goals against average of 2.67 and a save percentage of .912. Not bad numbers but not as good as his regular season numbers either.
Now the BEARS!!
We all now that the Bears swept the Phantoms and that there are 11 different goal scorers for the Bears in the postseason. If you read yesterday's post then you also know that the penalty kill is perfect and the power play is converting on 26% of their chances.
You are also probably aware that Michal Neuvirth is having an incredible postseason to this point. He has recorded one shutout and has a goals against average of 1.50 and a save percentage of .945 on the 109 shots he has faced.
Scoring wise for the Bears they did about as well as they did during the season. 14 goals in 4 games while only allowing 7. So the defense and goaltending was a bit better than the regular season but the offense was definitely better.
Other than that the important information is that John Carlson has reported to Hershey and could play Saturday night. He was a first round pick this past summer and almost made the Capitals out of camp. He might have had he not been so young. He is an offensive defenseman that can definitely move the puck at this level.
IF Staffon Kronwall can not go I would not be surprised to see Carlson in the lineup. In fact I think it would be a mistake to play Kronwall this early. Let him rest for the weekend and then bring him into game 3. But if he is 100% then there is no reason to hold him out. He has been practicing but they say he isn't quite 100%.
I expect either Carlson or Collins to play Saturday.
Now lets look at the players to watch:
The top line from WB/S - C Taffe (22), RW Daoust (26), and LW Minard (14) form the top line for the Pens. They have combined for 11 goals and 10 assists in their 5 playoff games so far. Minard has 5 goals while the other 2 have 3 and each player has 7 points.
C Dustin Jeffrey (21) - He has 4 goals and an assist in the playoffs while skating on the third line. 3 of his goals have come on the power play.
C Mark Letestu (10) - He centers the second line and has 4 assists this postseason. My is probably getting some time on the power play too.
LW Alexander Giroux (12) - 2 goals and 4 assists in the 4 games so far. Not bad but the Bears will need more scoring from him in this series. Both of his goals have come on the power play.
The 3rd line - LW Bouchard (22), C Wilson (18), and RW Gordon (10). I consider them the third line based on their production but that is a pretty good 3rd line. They HAVE TO PRODUCE. The Pens will be able to slow down the MAG line so the 3rd line needs to do something.
D Greg Amadio (32) - He is the emotional and physical leader of this team. He is a very important part and he needs to get the guys focused and at the same time hyped. Get some big hits early to set the tone and then settle in to shut down the Taffe line.
There are numerous Bears you can put on this list. Joudrey will probably be a big part on the PK and just in the defensive end. Bourque needs to keep his head...no stupid penalties. Sloan needs to stay in position...learn from the mistakes others are making and don't pinch in too much. Osala is needed now too. If he wants to play in the NHL next season he better dominate the remaining playoff games. Pinner is going to be huge with his hits and pest like tactics.
There are many crucial parts that I can't even begin to cover them. Basically every single player has to step up his game. They stepped it up one level for the Phantoms series and now they have to up it another level for the Pens.
LET'S GO BEARS!!!!