The Bears started the weekend in Hartford on Friday night where they absolutely embarrassed the Wolfpack 6-0. To me the game felt dominated by the Bears but according to the score sheet the Wolfpack actually outshot the Bears 26-24.
Hershey continued the weekend into Saturday when they hosted the Albany River Rats. After allowing the first goal (shorthanded) they scored the next 4 goals to win 4-1. For the second straight night it felt as though Hershey dominated but again the score sheet says they were outshot 24-23.
So what was different about this weekend compared to previous ones? Two things.
1. Goaltending. Jason Bacashihua started both games after Michal Neuvirth got injured during pregame warmups in Hartford. And Cash looked great in both games. Allowing 1 goal on 50 shots and making several big saves in both games. Cash has played in 4 games, has won all 4, and has only allowed 4 goals.
2. Converting Chances. There were numerous attempts for the Bears in their earlier games that they let golden opportunities slip through their fingers...missing open nets, too much passing....but the past two games have been different. The passing has been spot on and the shots have been going in. Alexandre Giroux returned for Friday night which definitely helped the club as he scored 2 goals but he was missing Saturday night and the offense still showed up.
Francois Bouchard has been a big reason why. He started off the season getting bumped around between the third and fourth lines and everyone started to question his future. I got an email from someone interested to know what kind of player he was and why he wasn't performing. They asked if he was going to be another dominant junior player that doesn't put it all together at the pro level.
Honestly I said I didn't know. Anyone watching can see that he has tremendous skill and this past week proves that (5g, 5a in last 5 games). But what then has his problem been? It would seem that maturity and focus might have been his issues last season and while Oskar Osala, Mathieu Perreault, and others made noise at Caps camp it was quiet on the Bouchard front. He was one of the first players reassigned to Hershey and not many thought twice about it.
But don't forget that Bouch did this last season too. He and Osala scored plenty in the first 3 months of the season and then both trailed off to barely showing up by the end of the season. Bouch didn't even play much at the end. So is this season different? Will he be able to keep it up? Hopefully.
Beyond Bouch though multiple players stepped up this weekend. Mathieu Perreault, Boyd Kane, Andrew Joudrey, Andrew Gordon, and Oskar Osala also scored this weekend. That means 7 players scored 10 goals in 2 games for the Bears....not too bad.
My Three Stars of the Weekend:
- Jason Bacashihua - not sure if it is his play or the defense stepping up in front of him more than Neuvy but he has been better when he has played.
- Francois Bouchard - 2 goals and 5 assists in the two games....awesome weekend for the young right wing. Now consistency needs to develop.
- Mathieu Perreault - might be the best playmaker on the team. Had a goal and 2 assists this weekend but looked great in both games.
Grading the (Weekend) Performance:
- Offense | A | The fact that they were outshot in both games makes the dominance even more impressive. Converted their chances and spread the scoring out to all 4 lines. Considering the 4th line on Saturday included Gavin Morgan (hadn't played in Hershey since 04-05) and Greg Amadio that is saying something.
- Defense | A | I can't think of any particular play when the defense was bad. They seemed to settle in and play a little bit better this past weekend. It helps when your goalie saves you a couple times though.
- Goaltending | A+ | Outstanding. Bacashihua played as well as any goaltender in Hershey this season. Bears have won 3 straight and guess what....Cash has played in 3 straight. Anyone else see a pattern?
- Power Play | B | Not bad. 2 for 8. Allowed a shortie on Saturday. Had plenty of chances late in Hartford but didn't push too much since they were already up big.
- Penalty Kill | A | Killed off all 8 chances for the opposition. Cash came up big on more than one occasion but the overall positioning was definitely better.
- Overall | A | The best 2 games I have seen from Hershey this season. Excellent at both ends of the ice. Plenty of hustle and balance. This is they way they need to play if a repeat is in the cards. Teams are gunning for them and they can't outscore everyone this year.
LET'S GO BEARS!!!!