Monday, May 4, 2009

Weekend Was Good For Bears, Bad For Penguins

The entire Washington organization is pretty happy today after a successful weekend on the ice. The Capitals won game 1 against Pittsburgh on Saturday, the Stingrays won 2 of 3 (coming back from 3 goals down in game 5) to take a 3-2 series lead, and the Bears beat the Baby Penguins 8-4 in the two games to take a 2-0 series lead.

Not a bad weekend for the organization!

Hershey looked very good but so did Wilkes Barre in my opinion. I think the team owes Michal Neuvirth a very nice dinner after his performance in the first two games of the series. Neuvy must have seen the highlights of Varlamov's incredible because he pulled an "anything you can do I can do better" moment Sunday night as he robbed the Penguins with 2 remarkable saves in the second period.

While the penalty kill did allow Wilkes Barre some life in game 1 they completely shut them down in game 2 which included an extended 5 on 3. The number 1 ranked power play in the playoffs has gone a combined 2 for 12 in the first 2 games of the series.

Other observations from the first 2 games:
  • Rookie John Carlson has looked very good so far. He has played in both games and scored his first professional goal in game 2 (the game winner actually). Not sure why some people are so surprised by this as Carlson had a great camp and (rumor has it) could have played for the Caps this year but the organization decided to be patient and sent him to juniors. Bears fans....enjoy him and Alzner while you can because both players will be full time Capitals next season more than likely.
  • As mentioned above Neuvy was phenomenal. He made 35 saves Saturday night and added 24 saves on Sunday night to complete the weekend with a 93.7 save percentage. That is pretty good.
  • The big question heading into game 3 is who starts in goal for the Pens? John Curry was pulled after giving up 3 goals on 9 shots in the first period of game 2 in favor of Adam Berkhoel. Berkhoel played very good in the second and third period of game 2. Will the Pens do what the Phantoms should have and play their backup? It is a tough call that I am glad I don't have to make.
  • Tyler Sloan and Karl Alzner were held out of the lineup Sunday night due to what the team called "an illness". Well it turns out the "illness" was a case of callup-itis as the Caps have recalled both players due to injuries to Erskine and Schultz. I would expect Alzner to remain with the Caps for a while but Sloan could be back as early as Wednesday.
  • The refereeing this weekend was pretty bad in my opinion. I don't think they made the worst calls (although Giroux for diving??) but they let plenty go while at the same time calling other things that were less severe. Basically it comes down to consistency and I think both refs failed in that regard this weekend.
  • Staffon Kronwall has been one of the best players on the ice so far and to think he was supposed to be out 2-4 weeks and was only gone for about 10 days. Pretty impressive.

My Three Stars of the Weekend:

  1. Michal Neuvirth - 59 saves on 63 shots is a very good two game stretch
  2. Andrew Joudrey - Penalty killing and defensive zone genius in both games
  3. Mathieu Perrault - Probably the best puck handler on the team had a great weekend

Grading the Performance:
  • Offense - B+ - They scored plenty on John Curry but when Berkhoel came in they seemed to struggle some. If he plays that well on Wednesday the Bears will need to be more effective in the offensive zone. Some of the goals Curry let in were pretty soft too.
  • Defense - B+ - Wilkes Barre played very well at times and the Bears struggled to clear the puck multiple times. Plenty of blocked shots and timely saves by Neuvy kept the Bears in the game.
  • Goaltending - A - That was quite an impressive display of goaltending on Sunday. The two saves on the Pens power play in the 2nd period was huge. Neuvy has been nothing short of dominant in the postseason to date.
  • Power Play - B - On Saturday the unit was great with 2 goals on 3 chances. Sunday they struggled a bit and went 0 for 6. They have been solid the postseason and surely will be again soon.
  • Penalty Kill - A - A little struggle in the first game as they allowed 2 for 6 on WB chances. The second game was much better as they forced the Pens into an 0 for 6 game. They have slowed down and controlled the league's best power play unit.
  • Overall - B+ - 2-0 after 2 games against the rival Pens puts the Bears in pretty good shape moving forward. The Pens would now have to win 4 of 5 to advance in the playoffs while the Bears only need 2 more games. The next three are in Wilkes Barre and if the Bears win 1 of those games they would return to Hershey next Sunday up 3 games to 2.


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