Sunday, March 29, 2009

Giroux Sets New Mark with 54!!

What a night in Hershey!!! Some many things happened and it is just a good time to be a Bears fan!

Let's start with this....54!!! Alexandre Giroux set a new Hershey Bears single season scoring record last night scoring twice to pass the previous record set by Tony Cassoloto in 1983. Unreal. Giroux's parents were in attendance and it was awesome to see him break the record at home.

The most amazing thing about the record is the consistency that he has shown all season. Most people would probably think that in order to get 54 in 62 you would have to have had multiple hat tricks. Not Giroux...he only has ONE hat trick all season. That is unbelievable consistency from a scorer on any level.

Congrats Giroux!!! Great season....but there is still work left to be done.

One thing that is getting overlooked is Keith Aucoin and his quest for 100 points. Coiner scored 2 goals last night AND assisted on 3 more. Giving him 94 points on the season with 7 games to go. His career best is 99 points which he achieved in Albany 2 years ago. Coiner is having just as impressive a season as Giroux and unfortunately for him it is getting overlooked somewhat.

You know what though...if the Bears keep producing like they have the past 2 nights Hershey could have TWO 100 point producers. Alexandre Giroux is at 89 right now. So he has a few more to get but it is surely doable right now.

We haven't even talked about what that win meant in the standings yet. Hershey now has a commanding lead over Bridgeport as they are 5 points up with 1 game against and a game in hand on the Sound Tigers. Add to that the Bears lead Wilkes Barre/Scranton by 7 points and have 3 games remaining head to head with the hate Penguins.

Wow...this team has just turned it on over the past few weeks and there is NOT a hotter team in the league right now. The Bears have won 5 in a row and 7 of 8 and are dominating the teams they will face in the playoffs.

And did I mention that Minker recorded a Gordie Howe hat trick?? Yeah, Minker had a goal, an assist, and a fight! Unfortunately that fight might have cost him as he injured his hand and was scheduled to get x-rays last night.

Oh and Simeon Varlamov returned to Hershey last night and played beautifully in goal stopping 38 of the 40 shots fired at him. Impressive for a guy who hadn't been involved in a real game for a couple of weeks. But Bears Nation don't get to excited, he will be heading back to Washington shortly. He was only down for the weekend cause the Caps don't have any games and he hasn't had much work.

More feel good stories from last night:
  • Staffon Kronwall absolutely drilled a guy last night. His open ice hit was HUGE and knocked a Sound Tiger out of the game. I thought it was Colliton but Tim Leone wrote in his piece that it was Bentivoglio. Either way he didn't return.
  • The power play unit was unstoppable last night as they scored on their first 4 chances. And they could have had more but Woods called off the dogs in the third and had guys like Brennan and Pinner playing with the extra man.
  • Chris Bourque notched his 20th goal of the season. That gives the Bears 7 different 20+ goal scorers. That is amazing. And for any team the Bears face in the playoffs....who do you key on??

On to tonight's game. Last night was very emotional and energy charged from the Bears, now they need to duplicate that tonight against the visiting Penguins.

My Three Stars of the Game:
  1. Keith Aucoin - 2 goals and 3 assists gets you the star even if a guy breaks a record
  2. Alexandre Giroux - 2 goals and 2 assists is damn good
  3. Simeon Varlamov - 38 saves AND an assist last night

Grading the Performance:
  • Overall - A - I am not going to go into each unit and give specifics. This team just scored 7 goals on 26 shots! That is the absolute definition of efficiency as it relates to hockey. You can't ask for a better performance. I spent some time on here the past few games saying the power play needed to be better and WOW that is what I call better. Even the penalty kill was okay. I probably wouldn't have given them an A but they did pretty good.
A thought on the penalty killing:

Jay Beagle is a BEAST on the PK. A couple years ago Dave Steckel was basically a one man penalty killing machine in the postseason and right now I would say Jay Beagle is getting close to that point. Stecks had the advantage of the long reach but I don't think there is a tougher player on the Bears roster than Jay Beagle. He does whatever is asked of him night in night out and plays 100% full speed every shift. He is willing to drop the gloves and does the dirty work in the corners better than anyone else on the team. Last night he was doing it again on the PK by possessing the puck along the boards and fighting off 3 different Sound Tigers to keep possession. Good job Beagle, keep up the hard work.

Good Game Bears!!! Now let's do the same thing tonight against the Pens!


Friday, March 27, 2009

Bears Are IN The Playoffs!

With 8 games left to play the Hershey Bears already know they will be playing in the postseason. Thanks to a dominating 4-0 win against the Binghamton Senators the Bears clinched a playoff spot.

Also due to both Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Bridgeport being off tonight the Bears now have a 3 point lead over the 2nd place Sound Tigers (with 1 game still in hand) and a 7 point lead over the 3rd place Penguins. The Bears have positioned themselves very well in their quest for the East division crown which would mean a first round matchup with the Senators or the Philly Phantoms if they can make a run.

Tonight was an impressive show of dominance in my opinion. And it wasn't because they played a perfect game. Each facet of the game could have been better as the offense I think missed some chances, the defense had multiple turnovers, and Michal Neuvirth made a couple questionable puck handling decisions.

But all that being said the Bears dominated this game. They shut down the Sens so much that according to the production crew at the game the play of the game for the Senators was Jeremy Yablonski's fight with Grant McNeill. Which by the way was a unanimous decision for Yablonski but of the game?? That tells you how unproductive the Sens were.

Couple of other big moments tonight:

Neuvirth made 46 saves to record his first AHL shutout. At times he was brilliant and other times just very very solid. Like I said the other day....I am VERY confident in the Bears chances in the playoffs with him between the pipers.

Alexander Giroux scored his 52nd goal of the season and is one goal away from tying the Bears single game mark and only 2 away from setting a new mark. With 2 games this weekend at Giant Center hopefully he can break the record in front of the home fans.

Some scary news from Norfolk came in during the game though. If you were listening to Walton on the radio you probably heard about this but if you weren't here is what was reported. Referee Chris Cozzan (called the game Wednesday in Hershey) was cut in the neck by a skate blade this evening and lost a lot of blood. Reportedly the blade missed his jugular vein by an inch. To explain how serious it was there wasn't a report issued that said he was injured, the report came in that said he will survive. Apparently there was tremendous blood loss on the ice but Cozzan is expected (at this time) to be okay.

As a fan of hockey in general this is not good news. Hopefully Chris is okay and doing better tonight and if you are of the praying type.....this might be a good time to include a referee in your prayers.

My Three Stars of the Night:
  1. Michal Neuvirth - 46 saves and his first AHL shutout gets the first star
  2. Francois Bouchard - back in lineup the rook produced 1 assist and might have been the Bears best forward
  3. Sami Lepisto - a couple bad plays but 2 assists and a team best +3 as he was on the ice for all 4 Hershey goals

Grading the Performance:
  • Offense - B+ - Considering Keith Aucoin was on recall to Washington, and Osala as well, this team played very well at the offensive end. Darren Reid was back in the lineup for the first time in a while and played pretty well. Overall 4 goals on 33 shots and they chased Jeff Glass from the goal.
  • Defense - B - Yeah the team got the shutout but this was not a great performance from the blue liners. Numerous turnovers and a few guys got burned standing around. On top of that there were defensemen awfully deep in the offensive zone too often in my opinion. It didn't burn them against the Sens but try it tomorrow night or Sunday and the outcome may be different.
  • Goaltending - A - Neuvirth's confidence seems to be snowballing right now. You can see that he is getting more and more comfortable in the net each and every game. He played the puck a little too much tonight and it almost bit him a couple of times but he got away with it.
  • Power Play - B - 1 for 5 with the man advantage is about average. I thought they played very well with the extra man though. A couple times they rushed shots and didn't set up their formation and that didn't work but when they got in the zone and set up they had their way with the penalty killers.
  • Penalty Kill - B+ - This unit was much better thanks to Michal Neuvirth and the fact that the Sens just couldn't get anything going at any point. A solid performance and I would love to see more of the 0 power play goals allowed games.
  • Overall - B+ - Overall a very good game. Not sure if this performance would beat the Pens or Tigers but it was plenty for the Sens. Again the team came out a little slow in the first period but that is okay if they continue to finish games like they have of late. A very good game but there is still room for improvement in my opinion.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Bears Penalty Kill Finishes Strong

After a poor start the Hershey Bears penalty kill unit came up huge at the end of the game last night. Going up against the 3rd best power play in the league, the Bears killed off a 5 on 3 and 5 on 4 to end the game last night in Hershey.

As I mentioned the penalty kill unit came up huge at the end but they started out terrible, allowing 2 power play goals on the first 3 chances. As for the Bears power play, they only got 3 chances but the did manage a goal. Not too bad but if the penalty kill unit is going to give up 2 a game in the postseason they better start scoring 2 per game themselves.

Either way the Bears spotted the Toronto Marlies a 2 goal lead 3-1 midway through the second but the Marlies, who are fighting for their playoff lives in the North division, couldn't hold the lead.

Michal Neuvirth made 29 saves and the Bears got goals from Alexander Giroux (51), Keith Aucoin (23), Andrew Joudrey (5), and Oskar Osala (23) as the Bears won 4-3 over the Marlies.

It was a very physical game as well. Kip Brennan was back in the lineup after a few weeks where he didn't dress at all and he made his presence known with multiple big hits and a solid fight against Jay Rosehill.

The hitting didn't stop with Brennan though as multiple Bears including Steve Pinizzotto got into the action. Early in the second period Pinner landed a big hit on Jiri Tlusty. Tlusty turned at the last minute which resulted in Pinner hitting him from behind into the wall and according to John Walton, Tlusty left a sizable amount of blood on the ice. I don't think Tlusty ever returned to action but I am not certain of that.

After that hit Bates Battaglia fought Pinner and for the rest of the night Pinner's head was on a swivel as the Marlies were gunning for him.

Honestly I can see why they were upset and I can see why the hit could be deemed questionable but personally I found the hit to be clean. Could Pinner have let up and not hit him? Sure. But isn't this hockey? Part of the game, and to be honest a HUGE part of Pinner's game, is hitting and hitting hard. It's a tough play to call, no penalty was assessed and I doubt you will see any league action on the matter.

But I will say this....those are the kinds of fights that I absolutely think need to remain in the game. Many people have talked about eliminating fighting and I think you saw right there exactly why they need to stay. Battaglia felt the hit was dirty so he did something about it. If you are going to hit guys like Pinner does then you have to accept the consequences, which he did.

My Three Stars of the Game:
  1. Chris Bourque - 2 assists in his first game back after a brief callup...played a very solid all around game
  2. Andre Deveaux - 2 goals for the Marlies and he almost had more
  3. Jay Beagle - the assist on Joudrey's goal was spectacular and being part of the penalty kill at the end was the difference in the game

Grading the Performance:
  • Offense - B+ - Really there isn't much more they could have done. They finished with 4 goals on 30 shots and they played very well. My only complaint would be on Mathieu Perrault.....SHOOT!!! He came down with someone (might have been Gordon) and he tried to make a really tough pass at the end instead of just shooting.'s okay. Other than that the only complaint would maybe be a lack of consistent pressure in the early part of the game but they made up for it late.
  • Defense - B - Not too bad. Some minor struggles like in every game but all in all it was solid. Kronwall is starting to jump into the offensive zone a little more than I think is necessary but with Deano back there he knows there will be someone back.
  • Goaltending - B - The first goal definitely should have been stopped in my opinion. It was a perfect shot but you have to make those in the postseason. BUT I will say this too.....I am confident that the Bears can win the Cup with Neuvirth in the net for the playoffs.
  • Power Play - B+ - As I said before they scored once on three chances but they were consistently in the zone. I think they can do better but overall it was a good performance.
  • Penalty Kill - B - If you had asked me midway through the second I would have said F but the performance at the end made up for it. The end is always harder anyhow and to kill off a 5 on 3 was very good.
  • Overall - B+ - A good game from the Bears. I didn't think they had near as much urgency as the Marlies did but they still came away with the win which was important. This weekend I hope to see more jump in their step EARLIER. Late in games they are always ready to go but the first period and the first half of the second has been lackluster of late.

Oh and with the win Hershey retook first place in the division. With Bridgeport coming to town on Saturday (and being off Friday) the Bears could conceivably be up 5 points in the division by the time Wilkes-Barre/Scranton arrives Sunday evening.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Bears Trail Bridgeport by 1 with Toronto Visiting Tonight

A big thank you to the Worcester Sharks as they went into Bridgeport and came out of there with a win over the Sound Tigers. That game gives the Bears 3 games in hand over Bridgeport and only a 1 point margin to make up. And there are 2 games left against the Sound Tigers.

On top of that the Bears 4 points this past weekend combined with Wilkes Barre/Scranton's zero points gives the Bears a 5 point cushion over the Pens and 1 game in hand. The two teams still have 3 games head to head as well.

In other news I am not sure if you heard but Alexander Giroux scored his 50th goal of the season in Sunday's win. He becomes only the 45th player in AHL history to get to the 50 goal mark and he still has 10 games to many can he get?

Tonight's game is against the Toronto Marlies and will be Hershey's last game outside of the division this regular season. This game also begins what will be the final 4 in 5 of the season as well as the Bears have games Friday, Saturday, and Sunday this weekend.

Toronto is fighting for their playoff lives right now so they will surely be ready to play. But they have struggled mightily on the road recently having only won 4 of their last 14 on the road. And 2 of those wins came against division cellar dwelling Rochester. So not a lot of positives for the Marlies away from their home city.

But this is another one of those "can the Bears get excited for a non-rival" games. Personally I think that being its a final 10 game and with Bridgeport's loss last night Hershey can retake first place tonight the Bears will be ready to go.

Scoreboard Watchers:

Bridgeport is off until Saturday's game in Hershey
Wilkes Barre/Scranton hosts the Grand Rapids Griffins at 7:05

Hershey Bears
record ~ 44-19-1-6 95 points
standings ~ 2nd in East Division
playoff positioning - 1 pt behind 1st; 5 pts ahead of 3rd
most recent game ~ 3-2 SO Win @ Manchester, 3/22
last 5 games ~ 4-1-0-0
home record ~ 24-8-0-3
goals for ~ 264
goals against ~213
power play ~ 19.1% (6th)
penalty kill ~ 79.3% (29th)

Toronto Marlies
record ~ 35-27-3-6 79 points
standings ~ 4th in North Division
playoff positioning ~ 12 pts behind 3rd; 1 pt ahead of 5th
most recent game ~ 3-2 OT Loss vs San Antonio, 3/22
last 5 games ~ 2-1-1-1
road record ~ 14-15-2-4
goals for ~ 214
goals against ~ 203
power play ~ 20.5% (3rd)
penalty kill ~ 82.2% (17th)

last time teams met - Hershey won 6-1 in Toronto on March 7.

Players to watch:


C Mathieu Perrault - Has been one of the more consistent workers over the past couple of weeks even though it isn't showing up on the score sheet.
LW Alexandre Giroux (12) - He has reached 50...can he reach 54? And if he can when will it happen? Most are hoping for this Saturday or Sunday night. He has 3 goals and 2 assists in the past 2 games.
D Karl Alzner (7) - Here is a guy that you never hear about...which is the way d-men really want it. He doesn't show up on the score sheet very much but he is as consistent as anyone on this team. Unfortunately he will probably be in Washington for the playoffs.


C Tim Stapleton (17) - He leads the team with with 67 points and has 1 goal and 2 assists in his last 3 games.
RW Jeremy Williams (19) - Leads the team in goals with 24 goals. He has 3 goals and 1 assist in his last 5 games. Also a team worst -12.
LW Bates Battaglia (33) - Third on the team in points and assists he has 1 goal and 2 assists in his last 2 games. He is a team best +13.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Giroux Scores 50....Chasing 54

Alexander Giroux scored his 50th goal of the season on Sunday evening and is now chasing the Hershey Bears single season record of 53 set in 1982-1983 by Tony Cassoloto.

Giroux is only the 5th Bear to score 50 in a season. Tim Tookey was the last to do it in 1986-1987, Cassoloto's 82-83 season, Ross Fitzpatrick did it in 1985-1986, and Roger DeJordy accomplished the feat in 1966-1967.

Think about that. The Bears have been playing since 1939 and there are only 5 players who have scored 50+ goals in a season. Impressive.

In case you were wondering....cause I know I was....the AHL single season record is 70 goals in a season. Stephan Lebeau set the record in 1988-1989 while playing for the Sherbrooke Canadiens. I don't think Giroux will quite get to that point but if he did that would be special.

The feat really is something special. There have only been 45 (including Giroux) players to ever get to the 50 goal mark. That isn't too many considering how many teams and players have been part of this league. Of those 45 only 4 players have ever done it twice.

There is a bleak side to him getting to 50 goals though.....out of the 45 players to accomplish the feat (a total of 49 seasons thanks to the two timers) only 4 were also Calder Cup champions that year. The most recent was Dan Currie in 1992-1993 (he also scored 50 in 91-92) while playing for the Cape Breton Oilers. Joining Currie as Calder Cup Champs with 50+ goals are Michel Picard for the 1990-1991 Springfield Indians, Camille Henry for the 1955-1956 Providence Reds, and Carl Liscombe for the 1942-1943 Providence Reds.

So Giroux will be looking to accomplish another hard to obtain goal when he looks to become only the 5th AHL player to ever win a Calder Cup and score 50+ in a season.

I think he can do it.

read more here.


Monday, March 23, 2009

The Neuvy and Giroux Show

First of all let me congratulate Alexander Giroux for reaching the 50 goal mark. He is only the 5th Bear to ever do it and the first since Tim Tookey in 86-87. The club record is 53 which looks attainable at this point in the season. I will have more on the goal scoring records for the AHL tomorrow.

Now to last nights game. Can you say goaltending show? They really should have sold tickets to young goalies to come and watch a clinic. It was incredible at both ends of the ice. Combined the teams took 88 shots and the goalies made 84 saves. Easily the best goaltending dual I have seen all season.

Michal Neuvirth played for the Bears and Jonathan Bernier was in net for the Monarchs. I would give the nod to Neuvirth for the better performance but only due to his defense allowing good shot after good shot throughout the entire game. But I don't want to take away from what either goalie did.

Scoring was obviously a challenge for both teams. The MAG line was back together last night and managed to produce both goals on the evening for the Bears. Graham Mink tied his career high with his 31st goal less than 1 minute into the first period. It then took Hershey almost 43 minutes to score their next goal when Giroux scored on the power play.

Even in the shootout it seemed like a goaltending show. Both goalies allowed 2 goals from the first 3 shooters and then they both stopped the next 5 in a row before Keith Aucoin put one through the five hole on Bernier. All that was needed for Hershey was a stop by Neuvy to win and he managed to come through for the team.

Both teams wanted this game. Manchester is fighting for their playoff lives and Hershey needed to win to remain one point back of Bridgeport in the East.

My Three Stars of the Game:

  1. Michal Neuvirth - 47 saves during the game and then 7 more in the shootout
  2. Jonathan Bernier - 37 saves during and 6 in the shootout
  3. Alexander Giroux - 50th of the season and the game tying goal

Grading the Performance:
  • Offense - B+ - This would be an A if they would have gotten more pressure in the first period. But honestly they couldn't get out of their own zone in the first. They only managed 7 shots in the first period and other than that early goal there was minimal pressure in the Monarchs end.
  • Defense - B - You can't allow 49 shots in a game and expect to win very often. The only positive was that there weren't many screens in front of Neuvy. Positioning seemed good all game and honestly they didn't play bad but you have to do more shot blocking and knocking guys off the puck before they get their shots off.
  • Goaltending - A - Made every save that he should make and a couple that maybe he shouldn't have. Many of the saves were on difficult shots too.
  • Power Play - A - Not much offense 5 on 5 but on the power play they were dominant. They got 3 chances and made the most of them by scoring 2 goals.
  • Penalty Kill - B - 1 goal allowed isn't terrible. Not sure if there was much more they could have done but they weren't perfect.
  • Overall - B+ - If it wasn't for Neuvy this game probably would have been a loss. I think the whole team played good but it wasn't enough on this night without the goalie. And those games happen. It is good to see that Neuvy can handle winning one for the team even when he doesn't get 4 goals to work with.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Hershey Finishes Up 3 in 3 at Slumping Monarchs

Well I was hoping for a convincing win last night and it obviously didn't happen. But winning is winning and well they won last night. It took some late game heroics by the AHLs leading goal scorer (and I think the soon to be single season record holder in Hershey) Alexander Giroux, who scored 2 times in the third and assisted on the game winner, to get the 2 points for Hershey.

Tonight (or late this afternoon since its a 4:00 start) Hershey finishes up their season slate against the Atlantic division with a trip to Manchester to play the 3rd place Monarchs.

This is usually the time of year where teams begin making runs to the playoffs but in the case of Manchester (like Portland and Lowell the past 2 nights) they are playing their way out of playoff contention. Apparently the bottom 5 teams in the Atlantic division really don't want to play in the postseason.

Manchester comes into tonight's game losers of 4 straight, of which 3 have been at home. But keep in mind that the losing streak comes on the heals of a 6 game winning streak and they had won 9 of 11 at home before dropping the last 3. So while they seem to be struggling right now remember that before that they were dominating.

Hershey has been up and down for the past month and a half but to prove how good and talented they are (and how big there division lead was) they are still in the hunt for the division crown. Trailing Bridgeport by 1 point with 2 games in hand allows Hershey SOME wiggle room, not much but some.

Tonight would be the perfect night to show the teams in the East division that the Bears don't care where the game is, what time it starts, or where they were last night, all they care about is coming out and winning the game. Whether the win is a 6-1 blowout, 1-0 slug fest, or a 5-4 come from behind win in the last minute victory, it is still a victory.

Scoreboard Watchers:

Bridgeport hosts Portland at 4:00
Wilkes Barre/Scranton is off today

Hershey Bears
record ~ 43-19-1-6 91 points
standings ~ 2nd in East Division
playoff positioning - 1 pt behind 1st; 3 pts ahead of 3rd
most recent game ~ 5-4 Win @ Portland, 3/21
last 5 games ~ 3-1-0-1
road record ~ 19-10-1-3
goals for ~ 261
goals against ~211
power play ~ 18.8% (7th)
penalty kill ~ 79.3% (29th)

Manchester Monarchs
record ~ 33-29-0-7 73 points
standings ~ 3rd in Atlantic Division
playoff positioning ~ tied for 3rd/4th; 2 pts ahead of 5th
most recent game ~ 4-3 SO Loss @ Springfield, 3/20
last 5 games ~ 1-3-0-1
home record ~ 18-13-0-3
goals for ~ 183
goals against ~ 189
power play ~ 17.8% (12th)
penalty kill ~ 84.9% (6th)

last time teams met - Hershey won 2-1 in Hershey on January 24.

Players to watch:

RW Graham Mink - After dominating the month of February Minker has cooled off a bit of late. In his last 6 games he has only managed 2 goals and an assist. Still a serious offensive presence he isn't producing right now.
LW Alexandre Giroux (12) - Well 49 goals so far and 11 games to go. Can he get to 54? I hope so. 2 more goals last night and an assist on the game winner.
C Andrew Joudrey (23) - I am telling you right now that he is CRUCIAL to Hershey's success in the playoffs. He kills penalties and plays hard at both ends EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. And his reward is not on the score sheet....its on the scoreboard.


C Marty Murray (12) - He leads the team with with 47 points and has 3 goals and 4 assists in his last 6 games.
LW Scott Parse (23) - Currently the second leading goal scorer with 14 goals and he is tied for the team lead with a +8. He has 1 goal and 5 assists in his last 5 games.
LW Matt Moulson (52) - Currently tied for the team lead with 15 goals and he is also the current leader in points per game with .84 per game (36 points in 43 games).


Suspense Filled Victory in Portland

Well that is one way to go about getting a victory. In case you missed it the Hershey Bears spotted the Portland Pirates a 3 goal lead and then came back to win 5-4 in regulation.

Hershey jumped out to a 1-0 lead on Oskar Osala's 22nd of the year only 2 minutes into the game. But before Hershey could get through one period they were already down 2 goals with a 3-1 score after one period. And things didn't get better right away either as Portland scored less then 4 minutes into the second to go up 4-1.

It was at this point that John Walton decided to blame Daren Machesney for the amount of goals being scored. While I agree that the save percentage wasn't pretty and maybe another goalie would have stopped a couple, I DID NOT think Cheese was to blame for most of those. I honestly didn't think anyone was to blame. The fourth goal especially was just a favorable bounce for Portland. The puck was bouncing around like a Mexican jumping bean and it just happened to bounce in front where a Pirate was standing and he tipped it in. I didn't see what Cheese did that was so wrong, could he have had it? Sure. But should he have been expected to stop it....I don't think so.

In fact I think all 4 of Portland's goals were more the result of them out hustling the Bears to start the game and some favorable bounces. Once Hershey started to skate hard and hustle after every loose puck they started getting some favorable bounces themselves.

Alexandre Giroux came to play in the third period last night. For the first two periods he seemed to be struggling with the desire factor for the second straight night but he sure turned it on when needed. He scored twice and assisted on the game winner which leaves him at 49 games this season. He is only 5 goals away from becoming the all time Hershey single season goal scoring record holder. With just 1 more goal he becomes the first Bear since Tim Tookey (his name and number hang in the space above your heads at the Giant Center) to do so.

The victory was a big one as the Bears keep pace with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. And thanks to Norfolk the Bears are now a full 3 points in front of the Penguins. The Penguins are off tonight while the Sound Tigers host these same Portland Pirates at 4:00 this afternoon.

And keep in mind that Hershey has played 2 fewer games than the Tigers and Penguins with only 11 games to go for Hershey.

My Three Stars of the Game:
  1. Alexander Giroux - 2 goals, 1 assist, and a game high 7 shots for the AHL's leading scorer
  2. Staffon Kronwall - first goal as a Bear is a game winner. Since he arrived the defense has been MUCH better.
  3. Mark Mancari - a goal and an assist for the Pirates

Grading the Performance:
  • Offense - B+ - Really it was a tale of three periods. Through the first two it seemed like Hershey couldn't beat Enroth but the third was all Bears. They kept working and getting to the net and it paid off for them. Not much else to say....really good game.
  • Defense - B+ - I saw no real mistakes. Even on the four goals I really don't think they did too badly. Lots of blocked shots by everyone was very impressive.
  • Goaltending - B - Like I said above...I didn't think Cheese played badly. Sure some of those could have been stopped but every goal in theory could be stopped. I have seen much worse from the goalie's this season but I have seen much better too.
  • Power Play - B+ - Not many opportunities and I think they could have done better but 1 goal out of 3 chances is pretty good.
  • Penalty Kill - B+ - They only allowed a 5 on 3 goal and that was due to a lack of communication between Joudrey and Beagle that left a guy open for a second too long. Again...many blocked shots and solid positional play.
  • Overall - B+ - If you take away a couple of favorable Portland bounces this game is probably 4-2 Hershey and not close. I honestly think this was just one of those games. And the fact that the Bears stuck together and came back to win in the other teams building is very important and should not be overlooked. These are the games you HAVE to win from time to time to win a Cup and this team has done it a couple times now this season.

Good Game Bears!!!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Bears Look to Get Win Against Pirates

After a loss last night in Lowell, the Bears make the short trip to Portland to avenge a home loss a little over a month ago. When Portland came to Hershey the Bears were not playing their best hockey and the Pirates beat them 3-2. Well of late the Bears have been playing better and hopefully they want to respond to the loss and get those 2 points back.

Last night was not a great night for Hershey but it wasn't that bad either. The bounces just weren't going their way. And some players didn't seem overly interested in playing the Devils. Tonight though I think this team will come out ready. They don't want to fall any further behind Bridgeport than they are right now so tonight's game is critical.

Portland has been questionable at home lately. They have lost 4 of their last 6 at home and haven't been really good there in a couple months. And it really comes down to the defense. Since December 28 they have only won once at home when they allow more than 1 goal (and that was against Springfield who scored 2 on January 1o). So basically if Hershey scores 2 or 3 goals they should win.

SHOULD WIN! They still have to play their best. I haven't seen anything yet on who will start in goal but I would imagine it would be Daren Machesney. But Woods might feel that Neuvy needs back to back starts to test him. We shall see. Either way they will get a test. Portland has 4 different 20+ goal scorers and 8 different skaters have double digit goals. So they can definitely put the pressure on and it comes from different places.

Hershey needs to win this game and it would be nice if they could do it convincingly.

Scoreboard Watchers:

Bridgeport hosts Providence at 7:00
Wilkes Barre/Scranton travels to Norfolk for a 7:15 start

Hershey Bears
record ~ 42-19-1-6 91 points
standings ~ 2nd in East Division
playoff positioning - 1 pt behind 1st; 1 pt ahead of 3rd
most recent game ~ 2-1 Loss @ Lowell, 3/20
last 5 games ~ 2-2-0-1
road record ~ 18-10-1-3
goals for ~ 256
goals against ~207
power play ~ 18.6% (8th)
penalty kill ~ 79.2% (28th)

Portland Pirates
record ~ 32-27-3-6 73 points
standings ~ 3rd in Atlantic Division
playoff positioning ~ 11 pts behind 1st; tied for 3rd/4th
most recent game ~ 3-1 Loss vs Hartford, 3/20
last 5 games ~ 2-3-0-0
home record ~ 20-12-0-3
goals for ~ 204
goals against ~ 199
power play ~ 15.9% (21st)
penalty kill ~ 84.1% (9th)

last time teams met - Portland won 3-2 in Hershey on February 8.

Players to watch:

Bob Woods - The line combinations were shuffled last weekend due to Keith Aucoin being recalled and the team played great. Last night the lines were still different but he was quick to return to the original lines. Also can he get this team pumped to play a team that isn't chasing them in the standings?
LW Alexandre Giroux (12) - Personally I thought last night was Giroux's worst game of the season. He was regularly standing around and didn't seem interested in being on the ice. He only has 2 goals and 1 assist in his last 5 games.
RW Grant McNeill (27) - In my opinion he has been instrumental in this teams return to form. Once he came back the Bears had a willing goalie crasher who will drop the gloves. He fought last night but he seemed to shy away from the front of the net...GMac...just run over the goaltender if he gets in your way!


RW Mark Mancari (25) - He leads the team with 26 goals and 58 points. In his last 4 games he has 3 goals and an assist.
LW Nathan Gerbe (19) - Second on the team with 25 goals he has 3 goals and 2 assists in his last 4 games.
LW Mathieu Darche (21) - The former Bear has been one of the most consistent Pirates this season. He is second on the team with 54 points and he has 3 goals and 2 assists in his last 4.


Bears Drop to Second in Lowell

Well color me surprised! Okay maybe not so much. I hate that I was right but the Bears did not seem at all interested in playing in that game last night. I was unable to watch it live but just finished watching it this morning and I would have to say that the first 2 periods were some of the most boring hockey of the season. Neither team seemed to want to play the game. But Lowell wanted to win more than Hershey and they did 2-1. The loss slides the Bears back to second place as Bridgeport won last night to take the division lead.

I actually think the team played okay. I thought the defense was solid and the goaltending was okay. It was actually the offense that I thought needed to do more. Maybe more isn't the write idea since they did have 44 shots. Maybe better would be more accurate. Go back and watch the game again and count how many of the shots were from bad angles or with no traffic. Honestly I didn't think Lowell goalie Jeff Frazee played that well. Sure he made some big saves but he got lucky numerous times and the Bears allowed him to see every single shot.

The Bears offense played the same way they did for most of February, take as many shots as you can and don't worry about making them good ones. Quantity over quality seems to be this teams mantra on many an occasion. But guess isn't working! Last weekend Hershey looked really good and I personally think the lines had a big effect on that.

With Chris Bourque expecting to get recalled he didn't play which left Woods in need of new line combinations. But I think he screwed up a bit. Last weekend I thought the Beagle, Osala, and Mink line was fantastic. I thought they played hard both nights and created numerous opportunities. Last night Perrault joined that line (with Mink and Osala) and I don't think they had any decent chances. I am not saying Perrault isn't worthy of that position but he would work better with Giroux or Gordon in my opinion.

Well we will see what happens tonight. Hopefully the loss will get the team fired up and they will come out swinging tonight against Portland.

If you are scoreboard watching tonight here are the games:

Bridgeport hosts Providence at 7:00
Wilkes Barre/Scranton travels to Norfolk for a 7:15 start

The Penguins lost last night in Philly while Bridgeport defeated Worcester 2-1. Not much offense in any of the games involving the division leaders as Bridgeport, Hershey, and Wilkes Barre combined for 4 goals and allowed a combined 5 as all three games ended 2-1. I can't imagine these teams won't score a lot more tonight to get back on track.

My Three Stars of the Game:
  1. Jeff Frazee - 43 saves will earn you some recognition. Not great but definitely good enough.
  2. Olivier Magnon - game winning goal on a rocket shot in the third
  3. Jay Beagle - good hustle all night provided him a goal and many other chances

Grading the Performance:
  • Offense - B - 44 shots but I would say many of them weren't worth taking. They hit a couple posts and missed a couple open nets but not a perfect game. Get traffic to the front and get the rebounds. Not a terrible game by any means but not quite enough either.
  • Defense - B+ - I don't blame them for either goal honestly and I think they all played very well. Still some unnecessary chasing and offensive zone play but overall I think they have improved exponentially in the past couple weeks.
  • Goaltending - B - I think Neuvy wants both goals back. The first was on a rebound where he ended up out of position (and unlike Varly he likes to be in position) while the second was just a rocket shot that beat the rookie. Still made some good saves and is definitely a calming influence in goal as he doesn't bounce around and get caught out of position much.
  • Power Play - ? - Not very consistent when they did get the chances but with only 2 chances you can't really grade it.
  • Penalty Kill - ? - There was only one Lowell power play all night so this unit wasn't out long. Although they did allow a goal on the one power play it was waved off.
  • Overall - B - Not terrible. I think if one of the bounces goes their way this is a whole different game. Frazee got lucky on numerous occasions as he was left vulnerable by his defense and his own rebounds on more than one occasion but sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. If you are looking for someone to blame for this lose I think you have to look at the coach. The line combinations worked great last week......why change them now???


news and notes:
  • Quintin Laing came back from injury to play for the Caps and will now miss the rest of the season with a new injury. Laing tore his spleen at some point in the game Thursday night and will miss the remainder of the season.
  • Mike Green was also injured Thursday night so there could be a call up coming but no word of yet.
  • Chris Bourque has been called up to Washington to replace Laing.
  • The Capitals/Bears signed Trevor Bruess to an amateur tryout contract. Bruess played at Minnesota State the past 3 seasons and seems like a pretty good player. John Walton has a decent write up about him in last night's game preview that gives more detail on what kind of player he is. Check it out here.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Bears visit Lowell Devils tonight

After two HUGE wins last weekend the Bears are on the road for a 3 in 3 this weekend. Tonight they are in Lowell to play the Devils. And hopefully they can get excited about playing the 6th best team in the Atlantic division.

Lowell is having some offensive troubles lately. First of all they are basically 3-7 in their last 10 home games (that includes 3 SO losses). So they aren't playing well at home. And honestly they aren't playing well at all in their last 10 either home or away. They are 2-8 in their last 10 overall and have scored more than 2 goals only twice....and they won both games. In the 10 games they have scored a whopping 14 goals and have allowed 32. You won't win too many with that kind of discrepancy.

During this poor stretch the Devils have scored 1 goal or less in 7 of 10 including 5 games in a row with only 1 goal. They are falling fast in the standings and are 6 points out of the playoffs right now.

Hershey on the other hand is where they have been all first place. They fell out of first for a weekend but played some of their best hockey of 2009 and won 2 games to get back into first.

Now the question is can they play their best hockey against teams that aren't chasing them in the standings. After tonight they play Portland and Manchester and they need to win all of them to guarantee a first place position after the weekend. They are ONLY 1 point ahead of both Bridgeport and Wilkes Barre. So which Bears team will show up? The one that beat Wilkes Barre and Bridgeport last weekend or the team that lost to last place Springfield.

I am telling you now....don't be surprised if they don't dominate tonight and come out flat. AND also don't worry if they do. Sure they should want to dominate but even I am not as excited about tonight's game so I am sure the players aren't either.

Some minor changes to the roster this week. Keith Aucoin was reassigned and will be ready to go tonight. Michal Neuvirth is (probably) the #1 goaltender right now and will start tonight. And Quintin Laing is healthy....but he is in Washington for now.

Hershey Bears
record ~ 42-18-1-6 91 points
standings ~ 1st in East Division
playoff positioning - 1 pt ahead of 1st
most recent game ~ 3-2 Win vs Bridgeport, 3/20
last 5 games ~ 3-1-0-1
road record ~ 18-9-1-3
goals for ~ 255
goals against ~205
power play ~ 18.8% (8th)
penalty kill ~ 79.2% (28th)

Lowell Devils
record ~ 29-30-2-6 66 points
standings ~ 6th in Atlantic Division
playoff positioning ~ 6 pts behind 4th
most recent game ~ 1-0 Loss @ Hartford, 3/18
last 5 games ~ 1-4-0-0
home record ~ 15-12-0-5
goals for ~ 184
goals against ~ 210
power play ~ 16.1% (19th)
penalty kill ~ 81.5% (21st)

last time teams met - Hershey won 4-2 in Hershey on December 20.

Players to watch:

G Michal Neuvirth (30)- He returns to the Hershey lineup after spending a few weeks backing up Jose Theodore in Washington. He will be the goalie Hershey leans on for the rest of the regular season (and maybe longer) so he needs to be sharp every game.
C Keith Aucoin (11) - Some players come back after a recall and don't play as effectively. Surely Woods will put him back on the top line so he has to be ready to play. Will Woods keep his lines changed or will the MAG line return?
LW Chris Bourque (17) - He is hitting his stride at the right time. He has points in 7 straight games and has 4 goals and 7 assists in those games. Can he continue to produce into the playoffs?


RW Nicklas Bergfors (18) - He leads the team with 18 goals on the year and is one of the few players that has done anything in March. He has 2 goals and 2 assists in his last 4 games.
RW Jon DiSalvatore (14) - Team leader in points with 46 but he has struggled of late. He has only 1 goal and no assists in his last 10 games.
RW Matt Halischuk (28) - The rookie had an incredible February with 5 goals and 10 assists but in March he has only managed 1 goal.


Monday, March 16, 2009

Machesney Comes up Big for Hershey

Two games in two nights against their main TWO challenges in the division and what do the Bears do?


Two huge victories that put Hershey back into first place in the division with only 13 games to go.

I already discussed the Saturday night game here so I will focus on last night's big win over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

I honestly didn't think this game was as close as the score for most of the night but to be honest I wasn't watching super intently. I had some other (prior) engagements distracting me so I watched what I could.

If you look at the stats it looks as though Bridgeport dominated as they outshot the Bears 38-26. But from what I saw many of those shots were average at best and the Bears controlled the play.

Daren Machesney was in goal last night after Simeon Varlamov was recalled by Washington and he played great making 36 saves and earning a big win for the Bears.

The defense has been much better this weekend and Tyler Sloan returned to the lineup last night and played a very good solid game himself. Hopefully this unit can continue with the progress they showed this weekend and play this good the rest of the season and in the playoffs.

This weekend was very important for the Bears as a measure of where they are in the East division. They came in after a bad loss to Springfield Wednesday and had been struggling mightily in recent weeks. But they rose to challenge and knocked off the teams that have been chasing them all season and retook first place in the division.

Good game and Great Weekend Bears!! Take the momentum and get three wins in New England this weekend.

My Three Stars of the Game:
  1. Daren Machesney - has had some rough games but 36 saves on 38 shots against the (former) division leaders is impressive
  2. Mathieu Perrault - he has been one of the most consistent hustlers and performers of the past couple weeks and the assist on Giroux's goal was GREAT
  3. Jon Sim - he had a goal and an assist for the Sound Tigers and is probably the most dangerous player on the team

**I am not going to grade the performance today as I didn't see enough specifics to really get an accurate portrayal.

Scoreboard watching this week:
  • Wilkes Barre/Scranton @ Albany - Tonight 7:00
  • Philly @ Wilkes Barre/Scranton - Wednesday 7:05
  • Worcester @ Bridgeport - Friday 7:00
  • Wilkes Barre/Scranton @ Philly - Friday 7:00

News and notes:
  • In case you didn't hear Michal Neuvirth is back in Hershey but Varly and Brian Pothier are up in Washington.
  • With Pothier playing that means there is no risk of Alzner getting called up until the postseason (there is no salary cap for postseason) unless an injury occurs.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sound Tigers Come To Hershey

After a huge win last night over the hated Penguins the Bridgeport Sound Tigers come to Giant Center today. The Sound Tigers are currently in first place in the East division but only by one point. Whoever wins will lead the division after today's game.

Hershey is coming off a playoff like game last night and needs to be ready for another one tonight. Bridgeport lost in Hartford last night and probably didn't face the same intensity in their game. They are also missing multiple players to NHL call up including 2 of their top 3 point producers Mike Iggulden and Kurtis McLean.

What the Bears need to do is get over last nights game and we get set for tonight. Playing back to back games with this much intensity is tough but it is what you have to do in the playoffs. The Giant Center will probably be a near sell out again tonight and will be loud after the impressive performance the Bears put in last night.

Bridgeport and Hershey have played 3 times this season with Hershey winning the last 2. There are 3 more games this season including tonight's game. Win tonight and the worse that Hershey can get is a split of the season series.

Hershey Bears
record ~ 41-18-1-6 89 points
standings ~ 2nd in East Division
playoff positioning - 1 pt behind 1st; 3 pts ahead of 3rd
most recent game ~ 3-2 Win vs Wilkes Barre, 3/14
last 5 games ~ 3-1-0-1
home record ~ 23-8-0-3
goals for ~ 252
goals against ~203
power play ~ 18.7% (8th)
penalty kill ~ 79.2% (28th)

Bridgeport Sound Tigers
record ~ 41-19-3-5 90 points
standings ~ 1st in East Division
playoff positioning ~ 1 pt ahead of 2nd
most recent game ~ 6-3 Loss @ Hartford, 3/14
last 5 games ~ 4-1-0-0
road record ~ 19-13-2-2
goals for ~ 200
goals against ~ 173
power play ~ 16.7% (16th)
penalty kill ~ 84.5% (8th)

last time teams met - Hershey won 5-3 in Bridgeport on January 16.

Players to watch:


LW Chris Bourque (17)- He has had a successful season with 59 points but the goals haven't come as easily this year. In his last 6 games he has 2 goals and 6 assists and is on a 6 game point streak.
C Andrew Joudrey (23) - Easily one of my favorite players he is always hustling and working hard in the corner. And in his own end he is one of the best on the team. Not a point producer although he does have 21 this season he is the kind of player that makes things happen.
RW Andrew Gordon (10) - I would say he is one of the more talented players on this team but he isn't producing with any consistency. Once he gets going he will be hard to stop and he was skating hard again last night. Hopefully he can start putting some pucks in the net soon.

Sound Tigers:

LW Jon Sim (16) - He has only played 6 games for the team this season (all in March) but he has made them count. He has 6 goals and an assist in those games.
RW Junior Lessard (17) - After spending most of the season in Chicago he has played 10 games for Bridgeport nad has 7 points. In his last 4 games he has 3 goals and an assist.
LW Trevor Smith (23) - He leads the team in goals with 27 and is second on the team in points. In his last 8 games he has 3 goals and 5 assists.


Hershey beats Penguins in Regulation

That was a hockey game! And it seemed very playoff like to me as well.

The Bears came away with a 3-2 victory over Wilkes Barre for the first time since well the first game of the season. They had lost 5 straight to the Baby Penguins since then. But last night the team came together for a great performance.

Graham Mink scored 2 goals (29th and 30th) and Grant McNeill picked up his 2nd of the season as the Bears built a 3-0 lead. And as it turns out they needed all 3 of those goals. WB/S came within whiskers of tying the game in the third period but the Bears defense picked up their play to help the team get the win.

For weeks I have been complaining about the defensive play in Hershey but last night was EASILY the best that unit has played. I would love to take those 6 guys into the playoffs. But unfortunately what you are seeing will probably end up just being a mirage. Karl Alzner and Brian Pothier will more than likely be in Washington for the playoffs. So get your fill of them now.

Simeon Varlamov started in goal for the 4th straight game and was spectacular. I wonder though, does his heart beat incredibly fast when he finds himself way out of position? He is always so active and I know my heart is beating faster when he challenges so much and gets caught. The Pens didn't score on any of those but I know that it makes me tense anyway. Do you think it even fazes him??

Either way he played great, the offense played great, and the defense played great. I was impressed and I am expecting to see the same thing this evening when Bridgeport comes to play.

Oh and in case you didn't know, Bridgeport lost last night so if the Bears win in regulation tonight they reclaim the top spot in the division. GO BEARS!!!!

My Three Stars of the Game:
  1. Graham Mink - 2 goals and he was killing people all night. Way to step up Minker!!
  2. Jay Beagle - he had 1 assist but he played the whole night. Great hustle!
  3. Simeon Varlamov - made some HUGE saves and was solid all night long

Grading the Performance:
  • Offense - B+ - I think the only knock on the game last night is the lack of shots. They finished the game with 22 of them which isn't enough. But they made them count. I would rather score 3 goals on 22 shots than 2 on 45 which they have done. Oh and keep in mind that EVERY GOAL last night was from RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE NET!! That is how you win in the playoffs and last night was as close to playoff hockey as you can get in the regular season.
  • Defense - B+ - There were a couple minor lapses, one that led to a goal, but for the most part this unit was on top of their game. You aren't going to see perfect games so for only a couple of lapses I think it was pretty good. I still want to see Sami realize that he is NOT MIKE GREEN and stop jumping into the offensive zone so much. You don't see Helmer or Alzner doing that do you?
  • Goaltending - A - Varly played a great game. He ended up with 29 saves and many of them were great. The first goal was maybe stoppable but he might not have seen it as there were many bodies in front of him. But the second goal was a perfect tip in and not many goalies, if any, would have gotten it.
  • Power Play - C - I know they scored once but this unit was largely ineffective all game. There were multiple power plays where I don't think they had any shots. And in the first they had a 4 minute chance and didn't do much. Not having Keith Aucoin on the ice really hurt the power play unit I think.
  • Penalty Kill - B - They allowed a goal which isn't great but this unit also played very well. They were mixing it up and clearing pucks that were left laying. Dean Arsene was trying to block every single shot and everyone on these units worked together and killed off 5 different power plays.
  • Overall - B+ - Very good game. Not perfect and not their best of the season. But if this is how they are going to play in the postseason I am confident and excited. Playoff hockey is about grit, determination, and hustle. And this team showed that last night. Their hustle was previously unmatched in many games as they got to all the loose pucks and cycled the puck exceptionally all game. Good game do it again tonight!!!

Oh and the 4th line of Pinner, Joudrey, and GMac deserves a special shout out. You guys might have been the BEST line on the ice last night. You earned playing time and you made the most of it. Good game fellas!!!


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Bears Need Win Over Pens

Obviously we all know how important this game is tonight. So far the Bears and Pens have played 6 games head to head and the Bears have struggled going 1-3-0-2. And that one win was the first game of the season.

The games have all been pretty close though. The last 2 have ended 4-3 in shootouts and only 2 games (the Bears win and one Pens win) were decided by more than 1 goal. In fact if you take away the 2 goals the Pens were awarded for the shootout victories these teams have been almost identical with the Pens outscoring Hershey 25-23 in 6 games.

You can't get much closer than that. But Hershey needs to climb back into the win column against the Pens tonight. This is the first of 4 games remaining between the clubs and 3 of those will be in Hershey.

A few weeks ago Hershey was almost 10 points up in the division but now they are only 7 points out of 4th place Binghamton. Bridgeport, who visits tomorrow, is 3 points ahead of Hershey and the Baby Pens are in position to jump Hershey with a win tonight.

Just when Hershey needs a big win the Pens might have gotten stronger. Miroslav Satan cleared waivers and is listed on the Pens roster. He hasn't not played a game yet for the Baby Pens but tonight could be his debut. The veteran NHLer was struggling a bit in Pittsburgh but he still had 17 goals and 19 assists this season. If he brings that kind of production to the AHL he could add a whole other dimension to the Baby Pens.

The Giant Center is sold out and a playoff like atmosphere is expected tonight in Hershey. This weekend will tell us all a lot about what this Bears team is capable of. If Hershey can win at least one of the two games it will be an step in the right direction. But what they really needs is two victories over their two main rivals for playoff positioning. Hopefully they can pull it off.

Hershey Bears
record ~ 40-18-1-6 87 points
standings ~ 2nd in East Division
playoff positioning - 3 pts behind 1st; 1 pt ahead of 3rd
most recent game ~ 3-2 SO Loss vs Springfield, 3/11
last 5 games ~ 3-1-0-1
home record ~ 22-8-0-3
goals for ~ 249
goals against ~201
power play ~ 18.6% (8th)
penalty kill ~ 79.2% (29th)

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
record ~ 41-21-2-2 86 points
standings ~ 3rd in East Division
playoff positioning ~ 1 point behind 2nd; 6 pts ahead of 4th
most recent game ~ 4-1 Win @ Albany, 3/13
last 5 games ~ 3-2-0-0
road record ~ 18-14-1-0
goals for ~ 229
goals against ~ 177
power play ~ 18.0% (11th)
penalty kill ~ 83.8% (12th)

last time teams met - Hershey lost in a shootout 4-3 on January 30 in Wilkes Barre.

Players to watch:


C Kyle Wilson (18)- He is third on the team in goals with 24. But he hasn't scored a goal in 5 games but does have 4 assists in that period.
Defense - This unit has to be better starting tonight. We aren't going to see Greg Amadio much during the regular season but guys like Helmer and Lepisto have to start playing better.
G Simeon Varlamov (31) - He appears to be healthy and he made some great saves Wednesday just to keep Hershey in the game but he needs to be at his absolute best tonight.

Baby Pens:

LW Janne Pesonen (25) - Team leader in points with 66. He has 8 goals and 9 assists in his last 9 games.
C Matt Letestu (10) - He is third on the team in points but has been solid recently. 3 goals and 6 assists in his last 6 games.
LW Miroslav Satan (81) - The NHL veteran had 17 goals and 19 assists with the Pittsburgh Penguins this season before getting sent down.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Bears Drop Another

Here are the 3 key things you need to know from last night's shootout loss at home vs Springfield.

1. Simeon Varlamov is the ONLY reason the Bears got 1 point out of the game. He made many great saves and the two goals weren't totally his fault.
2. The offense was okay but needs to be much better. 2 goals against a bad team at home is not enough. Sure the goalie made big saves but the forwards didn't seem to be interested in playing the way they need to play.
3. The defense was TERRIBLE! If that wouldn't have been for Varly the score could have been 7-2 Falcons. It was horrible.

I have done my fair share of complaining over the past month about the defense and the struggles of this team is not all on them. For instance, Alexandre Giroux, what the hell were you doing in the third period last night? You had 2 horrible plays. The first was a 3 on 1 and you waited way too long to make a pass and you guys didn't even get a shot. Either pass or shoot but you have to do it before you get to the goalie. And the other problem was on the power play. You were WAY out of position. If you were over around the faceoff dot where you are supposed to be you would have had a goal. But instead you are hanging out between the circles with the defensemen causing confusion. TERRIBLE!

Now back to the defense. Tyler Sloan was horrible last night. The first goal happened cause Sloan had NO idea there was a guy skating in behind him. Tyler, watch Brian Pothier play or Karl Alzner, they ALWAYS know where the opposition is and where they are going.

Oh and to Sami Lepisto and Sloan, why are you going deep into the corners with the puck in the offensive zone? Let me give you guys a piece of advice if you EVER want to last in the NHL....NEITHER of you is Mike Green or Tom Poti. DO NOT CARRY THE PUCK DEEP!! And don't jump into the play when you are skating 4 on 4 in overtime either. Sami jumped in last night and forced Coiner to take a penalty cause our defense isn't doing its job.

My advice and opinion is that unless the defense shapes up and starts playing better this team will be golfing before the conference championships. I don't know who is responsible for the defense but here are my recommendations:

The six defensemen that should be playing every night in the playoffs are (assuming Alzner is in Washington):

~ Greg Amadio - he isn't going to do much at the offensive end but he knows EXACTLY where to be at the end he plays in and that is crucial right now.
~ Sean Collins - he has had some bad moments this season but has been one of the steadier players in my opinion.
~ Patrick McNeill - same as Collins. Struggled at times but has been much more consistent than some others.
~ Staffon Kronwall - so far he has shown me nothing but good things. And he can help with the power play too.
~ Sami Lepisto - maybe getting less ice time will help his play cause it hasn't been spectacular this season.
~ Bryan Helmer - still the captain so he needs to be on the list but he has struggled against some of the top players of other teams.

Top Bench Guys:

~ Patrick Wellar - I would feel comfortable with him over Sami and Helmer.
~ Dean Arsene - Much like Amadio he is going to play well in his own end but he has struggled with his play and health again this season.

And Here are the Pairings for these Players:

~ Amadio - Lepisto: This way when Sami jumps up we know there is a good player back.
~ Kronwall - Helmer: Kronwall is a much better skater than Helmer so he will compliment him well
~ Collins - McNeill: They have been solid all season so keep them in and play them together.

You will notice that Sloan is not on this list. I think the team would be much better if he was not on the ice. But since that isn't likely I would HIGHLY recommend playing him alongside either Kronwall or Amadio but NOT Sami or Helmer.

If those things happen than MAYBE this team can improve their defensive zone play. If Woods and French keep the same defensive pairings for the playoffs the offense and goalie's are going to have to carry this team. And I am not sure they can do that.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Loss in Cleveland

I have been a little under the weather since Sunday morning so I didn't get to see the whole game and am only now giving my opinion of it.

But I was not surprised by the outcome on Sunday and it wasn't because I thought Lake Erie was playing better than Hershey. It was because it was the classic letdown game scenario.

Hershey just got their number 1 goalie back and won a big road game 6-1 in Toronto. They were feeling good about themselves and they were going up against the 6th best team in the North Division. The 6th best team doesn't sound threatening and it causes you to lose a little focus sometimes.

It happens to all teams in all sports. You go to play a game against a team that isn't as good as you and you don't play your best. Well in most sports teams aren't that far apart in talent and ability. It is usually just a matter of who plays better on any given day.

That is what happened to Hershey. They didn't come out ready to play and never quite found their rhythm but Lake Erie did. They were ready to play and they showed it winning 6-3.

Now I don't think the Bears are in trouble cause of that loss. Yes they are tied with Bridgeport (and could trail them after tonight) but that doesn't mean Hershey is any worse then they were. All it means is that they have to focus on the team in front of them no matter what their record or place shows.

Tomorrow night the Bears get the Springfield Falcons at home. Springfield is in last place in the Atlantic division and hasn't been playing great lately. But you still have to play your best and not look forward.

If Hershey comes out Wednesday night and looks ahead to the weekend when they have critical games against both Wilkes Barre-Scranton and Bridgeport in Hershey then they could be in trouble against the Falcons.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Bears @ Lake Erie preview 3/8

With a big win in Toronto last night the Bears held onto their 2 point lead in the division. Now they had to Cleveland to play the Lake Erie Monsters, a team that is very hot right now. Lake Erie has won 7 of their last 8 games overall and has won 9 of their last 11 at home. So Hershey is walking into a building where the home team is playing very well.

Simeon Varlamov made his return to the lineup last night so I would expect to see Daren Machesney in net tonight so they don't push Varly's knee too much too soon. So Cheese is going to have to make some big saves.

Former Bear Matt Hendricks is leading the Monsters charge over the past couple weeks. On the season he has played only 31 games and has only registered 11 goals and 11 assists but 6 of those goals have come in the past 6 games. Included in that is 2 goals and 1 assist in last night's win over Rochester.

After a good performance last night from the Bears they need to turn it around and get ready for another tough game. Staffon Kronwall and Brian Pothier both looked very good last night and are steady influences on the blue line for Hershey. Kronwall will likely remain in Hershey for the duration of the season but so long as Pothier stays healthy he will be in Washington in a week or so.

If you are scoreboard watching here are the games to keep an eye on.

Hartford at Bridgeport - 4:00 start
Norfolk at Wilkes Barre - 5:05

Hershey Bears
record ~ 40-17-1-5 84 points
standings ~ 1st in East Division
playoff positioning - 2 points ahead of 2nd place
most recent game ~ 6-1 Win @ Toronto, 3/7
last 5 games ~ 3-0-1-1
road record ~ 18-9-1-3
goals for ~ 244
goals against ~192
power play ~ 18.7% (8th)
penalty kill ~ 79.4% (29th)

Lake Erie Monsters
record ~ 29-30-1-5 64 points
standings ~ 6th in North Division
playoff positioning ~ 5 points behind 4th
most recent game ~ 6-2 Win vs Rochester, 3/7
last 5 games ~ 4-1-0-0
home record ~ 18-11-1-2
goals for ~ 162
goals against ~ 169
power play ~ 11.7% (29th)
penalty kill ~ 82.3% (17th)

last time teams met - Hershey won in a shootout 3-2 on December 21 in Hershey.

Players to watch:


C Keith Aucoin (11)- He had a goal and 2 assists to extend his point streak to 14 games. And his linemates are producing as well which shows how well he is playing.
RW Graham Mink (21) - He is on a 5 game scoring streak after scoring a goal last night. During the streak he has 6 goals and 5 assists.
Rookie Line - They aren't producing as consistently or as much as they were early in the season but in the last 6 games they have combined for 4 goals and 7 assists.

Lake Erie:

LW Chris Durno (25) - He is the team leader in points (36) and tied for the lead in goals with 14. In his last 4 games he has 1 goal and 3 assists.

C Philippe Dupuis (9) - Tied for the team lead in goals with 14 and is 2nd in points with 34. He has 3 goals and 6 assists in his last 7 games.
C Matt Hendricks (16) - The former Bear has been playing very well of late. Overall he has 11 goals and 11 assists in 31 games but in his last 6 games he has 6 goals and 2 assists including 2 goals and an assist last night.


Big Win In Toronto

Simeon Varlamov returned to action last night and gave Bears fans a glimpse of what this team could be with him between the pipes. He didn't have to do too much but he made some big saves on a couple defensive letdowns that had been going in during the past few weeks. He ended up with 20 saves on the night.

Unfortunately for Bears fans it might be a limited glimpse as Varly is expected to switch places with Michal Neuvirth after he gets a couple games in. In most people's opinion Varly is the more NHL ready of the goaltenders so the Caps will want him to help Theodore (and maybe push Theodore) down the stretch.

Last night's game (I guess it was technically evening or afternoon) was dominated by the Bears. Not so much on the stat sheet as they only had 29 shots but on the scoreboard and on the ice the Bears pretty much controlled the play.

The first period gave an appearance of what would be a close defensive game as no goals were scored on a combined 16 shots. And then the second period came and Francois Bouchard score 2 goals (his 13th and 14th) from the same spot on the ice. The first goal was a beautiful pass from Andrew Gordon and the second was a rebound put back which gave the Bears a 2-1 lead.

After that it was all Bears. Alexandre Giroux scored once in the second (44th) and again in the third (45th) and Keith Aucoin (22) and Graham Mink added his 28th to give the Bears a 6-1 win.

Two things really contributed to this win a bit I think. First Varly's return (and some big saves early) really gave the Bears some confidence that their goalie was going to help them. And second I think Hershey ran into a cold goaltender. Adam Munro did not look good on many of the goals and just seemed flustered much of the game. He reminded me of Cheese after he let in those 2 goals in the second. He just couldn't find his game again.

It was an important win as Bridgeport also won to stay 2 points back of the Bears in the standings. The 2 teams play 2 games in Hershey this month with the first coming next Sunday at 5.

My Three Stars of the Game:
  1. Francois Bouchard - 2 goals (one a game winner) and great positioning on the ice for both
  2. Keith Aucoin - 1 goal and 2 assists to extend his point streak to 15 games
  3. Simeon Varlamov - not many saves but the confidence this team has with him in net is immeasurable

Grading the Performance:
  • Offense - A - 6 goals on 29 shots is pretty impressive. They got to the net and got some garbage goals and they rifled a couple past him. Overall they seemed to just out play the Toronto defense every time down the ice.
  • Defense - B - I think this unit was made to look much better with Varly in net. There were some really good Toronto looks that got stopped by Varly. With another goaltender in there I think this unit shows some flaws. Brian Pothier looked like he had been playing all the time. He looked really comfortable out there. And Staffon Kronwall looked very good too. I am glad he is a Bear cause he showed that he can play last night.
  • Goaltending - A - He only faced 21 shots which might be one of the lowest shot totals against in the recent months but he made some big saves at big times. He never seems flustered in the net. He moves all over but he always seems to be in control.
  • Power Play - B - Yes they scored 2 goal but it was a trial just getting set up in the zone. Especially early when it was still close they seemed to struggle keeping the puck in the zone and getting set up.
  • Penalty Kill - B - They allowed 1 goal on 4 chances which isn't terrible but really they still show some questionable decisions. I thought they looked better though and if they continue to move forward could become a strength.
  • Overall - B+ - Easily the best game since January. It still wasn't perfect though. If the Marlies get 30 shots, how many goals do they get? I am not saying Varly wouldn't have stopped most of them. What I am saying is maybe this team just wasn't on the same level tonight. Munro struggled and the offense never really got its footing. These are the games you have to win and the Bears did. Now let's make it 2 in a row against the West today in Cleveland.


Saturday, March 7, 2009

Bears @ Marlies preview, 3/7

Hershey begins a 2 game road trip late this afternoon with a 4:00 face off in Toronto against the Marlies. Tomorrow evening the Bears make a stop in Cleveland to play the Lake Erie Monsters.

But first up are the Marlies. They are currently in the playoffs in the West but are just in at this time so every game means more to them. And being at home is an added bonus. They have not played an overtime game at home since 12/27 and are 11-5 over that stretch. They had actually lost 3 in a row before winning their most recent home game.

One player to keep an eye on for Toronto is Jiri Tlusty (he is mentioned below). He has been on an absolute tear over the past few weeks. In his last 14 games he has 14 goals and 17 assists. Yeah you read that right...he is averaging over 2 points per game in his last 14 games. That includes 3 games that he has recorded at least 4 points. So he is one player to watch.

Fortunately for the Bears they have a spy in their locker room. Staffon Kronwall was playing in this town and in this arena just a few weeks ago before getting claimed by the Capitals on waivers. Since then he has played sparingly in Washington before getting sent to Hershey this week. He is expected to make his Bears debut against a team that he played for as recently as January 31st.

Some other good news for Hershey is that for the next few games the Bears will have the services of Brian Pothier. Pothier has missed about a year of hockey now with serious concussion issues that have put his future in doubt. If he has any setbacks it is more than likely that he will be forced to retire. So let's all hope that he is symptom free and that he can make a return to full time player.

And also Simeon Varlamov is set to return to action this weekend. I haven't heard whether or not that will come tonight but it could. He has been out since January 14th due to a knee injury. Hopefully he can get a couple wins for Hershey over the next week or so cause he won't be around long. It is assumed that once he has a few games under his belt he is headed up to Washington and Neuvirth will return for Hershey. Apparently Washington feels (as do I) that Varly is more NHL ready at this point than Neuvirth so he will be up there for the foreseeable future.

Hershey Bears
record ~ 39-17-1-5 84 points
standings ~ 1st in East Division
playoff positioning - 2 points ahead of 2nd place
most recent game ~ 6-4 Win vs Providence, 3/1
last 5 games ~ 3-0-1-1
road record ~ 17-9-1-3
goals for ~ 238
goals against ~191
power play ~ 18.3% (8th)
penalty kill ~ 79.4% (29th)

Toronto Marlies
record ~ 31-24-2-5 69 points
standings ~ 4th in North Division
playoff positioning ~ 9 points behind 3rd; 3 points ahead of 5th
most recent game ~ 2-0 Loss @ Hamilton, 3/6
last 5 games ~ 2-3-0-0
home record ~ 19-11-0-2
goals for ~ 194
goals against ~ 179
power play ~ 20.5% (4th)
penalty kill ~ 81.9% (20th)

last time teams met - First meeting of the season. Toronto won both games between the teams last season.

Players to watch:


C Mathieu Perrault (24)- He has been one of the best forwards in the recent weeks and he has begun producing again. He currently has a 5 game point streak and has 1 goal and 6 assists over that span.
RW Graham Mink (21) - He is on a 4 game scoring streak. During the streak he has 5 goals and 4 assists.
C Keith Aucoin (11) - His point streak still isn't being talked about but it is now at 13 games after he collected 2 assists in the last game.


LW Jiri Tlusty (41) - He leads the team with 23 goals on the season and is second in points. In his last 14 games he has 14 goals and 17 assists including 3 goals and 8 assists in last 4 games.

C Tim Stapleton (17) - Leads the team in points with 58. In his last 3 games he has 2 goals and 4 assists.
RW Jeremy Williams (19) - He is second on the team in goals with 18 and in his last 10 games he has 7 goals and 5 assists. He has only played 29 games for the Marlies this season.


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Capitals Make No Moves

Yesterday the trade deadline came and went in the NHL and no one in the Washington organization was affected.

But was this the right move? Or is it time to panic?

Yes, I think it was the right move. And no it is NOT time to panic.

Many people have said that there were two serious areas of concern for the Capitals, a goaltender (backup or otherwise) and a defenseman.
Let me first start this by saying if they are hurting that bad at those two positions what is one d-man or a backup goaltender going to do to help in the playoffs? A backup goaltender is meaningless in the postseason and a defenseman probably isn't going to solve the problem by himself.

But either way that was the discussion and there were options for both.

At either position it was going to cost a lot to get someone worth while. You had a few goalies mentioned but are any of them an upgrade over Theodore? And if all you are looking at is a backup, what is wrong with the young kids Simeon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth. Both have looked good in Washington when they have gotten a chance.

On defense there was more options including Jay Bouwmeester from Florida, Chris Pronger from Anaheim, and Derek Morris from Phoenix. Only Morris ended up moving and honestly it cost A LOT. The Rangers had to give up 3 roster players to get the defenseman.

Pronger and Bouwmeester deals would have reportedly included Karl Alzner AND John Carlson AND Simeon Varlamov. If the Caps had done that deal everyone would have been calling McPhee an idiot.

Why would you possibly trade your future for a rental player and a shot (remember nothing is guaranteed) at a Stanley Cup. Especially when your team is already going to get a shot (and a rather good one) at the Cup. They are 3rd in the Eastern Conference and easily ahead in the Southeast division.

My opinion:

If there would have been a small move to make than it MIGHT have made sense BUT to give up more than a prospect and a pick for anyone is too much. The Caps made that kind of mistake a few years ago with Jagr and that worked out well.

Thank you to GMGM for NOT getting rid of any players for a one year run at the Cup. Next year and the year after will see players like Alzner, Carlson, Varlamov, Neuvirth, Osala, and others make the jump to the NHL and help the Caps win the cup.

Remember no hockey team is going to be perfect. There will always be problems. This team has won 40 games with the team they have now. They WILL get their shot to win a Cup soon.

And remember this too....if Brian Pothier can come back from his concussion and play and be near the player he was that will be just like a trade deadline acquisition.

Other opinions on the Non Moves:

News and Notes:

  • Brian Pothier and Staffan Kronwall have been reassigned to Hershey. Pothier is on a conditioning assignment and Kronwall is here for the time being.

  • If Pothier has any more concussion symptoms then his career is probably over. Hopefully he can step in to Hershey and everything goes well for him and he will be back up in Washington soon.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A Look Back....February 09

February 2009:

Record going into the month : : 33-12-0-4
Points entering the month : : 70
Place in standings entering month : : 1st

Games in February : : 12
Record in February : : 5-5-1-1
Points earned in February : : 12
Points left on the table : : 12
Home record in February : : 3-3-0-0
Road record in February : : 2-2-1-1

Three Stars for February:
  1. Keith Aucoin - His month was incredible. He played in all 12 games in February and accounted for 20 points (4 goals and 16 assists). And to make things even better....he recorded a point in every game of the month. Oh and you want more....with regards to plus/minus he was either even or plus in every game of the month.
  2. Graham Mink - This was his month to shine as far as scoring goes. January was Giroux's month but February was Minks. He scored 10 goals and added 5 assists in 12 games last month.
  3. Alexander Giroux - He only played in 10 games this month due to a call up he managed to get points in 9 of those games. He scored 5 goals and assisted on 8 others in 13 games.

How did the Bears do this month?

This team struggled mightily for most of February. The scoring wasn't there at the beginning of the month as they only scored 3 goals twice in the first 8 games and this team isn't strong when they score 3 goals or less. And it didn't help that the goaltending for the month of February was definitely below average.

The goalies, Daren Machesney and Kris Mayotte, just couldn't get any consistency out of their play. It wasn't all their fault though since some of the blame could be placed on the defense but some big saves would have helped occasionally. Their numbers look pretty similar for the month as they each have goals against averages over 3.70 (Cheese 3.72; Kris 3.84) and save percentages below .850 (Cheese .844; Kris .843). They each showed great potential in a couple games and both showed why they are destined for the bench in others.

As I previously mentioned the defense was bad most of the month. Many of the goals given up by the goaltenders would have been difficult for NHL All Stars to stop because guys were getting wide open looks from the circles or worse yet they were left untouched at the edge of the crease. None of the defenseman did anything to warrant large accolades as they were all to blame at some point or another.

Fortunately the Bears seem to be turning the corner as the month has ended. In the past week the defense has improved, Machesney has regained some confidence, and the offense has regained their scoring touch. With those things being fixed the team is heading in the right direction as we get into March.

A look ahead at March:

Games in March : : 13
Home games : : 7
Road games : : 6
4 in 5 weekends : : 1 (ends March 29)
Games against division : : 5

Games to Pay Attention to in March:
  • 2 home games against Wilkes Barre (3/14, 3/29)
  • 2 home games against Bridgeport (3/15 , 3/28 )
  • 1 game @ Bingo (3/27)
This is a tough and very important month. 5 divisional games and all are against the other current playoff teams in the division. Fortunately 4 of those 5 games are at home so it should make it easier. Other than those 5 games there are 5 against the Atlantic division and 3 against the Western conference including 2 against Toronto.

Expectations for March:

Honestly I think the expectations should be high. After the way the team has rebounded late in February I expect to see at least a winning record through March. And you add to their improved play the return (hopefully) of Simeon Varlamov should help the goaltending and in turn the defense.

This month will determine where Hershey finishes in the division. While I really don't think there is much chance they miss the playoffs I am not sold that they can hold on to the division lead. Wilkes Barre is currently 4 points back and Bridgeport is only 6 back. So every game against those teams matter and there are 4 total this month.

I think out of a possible 26 points 16 or 17 is definitely manageable. With more of those coming in the form of wins, not overtime or shootout losses.