Thursday, April 30, 2009

Bears vs Penguins Series Preview

Season Series:

The Bears and Penguins played 10 games against each other this season. Overall the Penguins won more games but every game except 2 were close. In Hershey the Bears went 1-3-0-1 against the Pens. On the road the Bears went 2-2-0-1 against them. Overall that is 3-5-0-2 which isn't exactly great.

But if you look a little closer you will see that it was much closer than those numbers indicate. Overall the scoring was almost even. In Hershey the Pens scored 16 goals to Hershey's 14. In Wilkes Barre it was Pens 19 and Hershey 18. That makes a grand total of 35-32 in favor of the Pens. Pretty close.

Add to that the fact that all but 2 games were decided by 1 goal. Each team won a game in Wilkes Barre by 4 goals but other than that they were all 1 goal games. Including 3 shootout games which Wilkes Barre won 2 and Hershey won 1.

Top 3 Point Producers In The Series:


Janne Pesonen - 3 goals and 9 assists in 10 games
Chris Minard - 4 goals and 6 assists in 7 games
Mark Letestu - 3 goals and 5 assists in 9 games


Chris Bourque - 5 goals and 10 assists in 10 games
Alexander Giroux - 8 goals and 4 assists in 10 games
Keith Aucoin - 2 goals and 9 assists in 8 games

Bourque was absolutely the most consistent against the Pens this season. He recorded a point in every game except the shutout that the Pens recorded. Giroux was pretty consistent too getting a point in 8 of his 1o games.

For the Pens Chris Minard recorded a point in every game he played against Hershey. He did miss 3 games but recorded a point in all the others.

Goalie Comparison:


John Curry - Reg Season - 33-15-1, 4 shutouts, 2.38 goals against average, and .916 save %. Playoffs - 4-1, 2.67 gaa, .912 save %.

Against the Bears Curry has been a star almost all season. He made 8 starts against Hershey and went 5-1-1 and was pulled once. His save percentage was a .917 while his goals against was a little under 2.5.


Michal Neuvirth - Reg Season - 9-5-2, 1 shutout, 2.70 goals against average, and a .913 save %. Playoffs - 4-0, 1.50 gaa, and a .945 save %.

Neuvy started 3 games against Wilkes Barre and all 3 went to a shootout. That's right...each shootout these teams faced off in Neuvy was a part of. Overall he went 1-0-2 with a .921 save % and a goals against around 2.6.

Special Teams in the Series:


Power Play
overall - 27.3%
in Hershey - 36.4%
in WB/S - 21.2%


Power Play
overall - 23.1%
in Hershey - 14.8%
in Philly - 32%

Surprisingly both teams were better on the power play away from their home building. If you eliminate the first game of the season when Hershey went 5 of 7 the Bears are only 16.7% in Wilkes Barre and only 15.6% overall. So that one game made that much difference in the numbers so keep that in mind.

So far in the playoffs the Penguins are converting 43% of their chances while the Bears are at 26%. The penalty kill has been the story for the Bears though as they have NOT allowed a PP goal on 22 chances. The Pens meanwhile have allowed 3 goals on 24 chances for a 87.5% penalty kill rate. Not too bad.

Keys to the Series:

1. Scoring Balance - Hershey has gotten production from so many different players in the playoffs already. 11 different skaters have scored goals in the 4 games played. Only 3 players (Giroux, Kronwall, Perrault) have scored more than once. During the season series Wilkes Barre got scoring from more places though. Hershey's scoring depth has to continue for them to win.

2. Special Teams - Obviously we can put this up for just about any game in any series on any level of hockey. But there isn't a bigger key in this series. The numbers in the Philly series looked even worse on Hershey's side but the Bears still won the season series. Against the Pens though the power play units have really made all the difference. Many of the power play goals though came earlier in the season. In the past 5 games the Pens have converted on 16.7% of their chances while being completely shut down twice and the Bears have gone 13.6% and were shut down twice.

3. Goalies - Another topic that usually makes the difference. In the 3 games Neuvy played against the Pens he took them to a shootout...well there are no shootouts to save the Pens in the playoffs. And Curry didn't have great numbers in the first round against an offensively challenged Bridgeport team. Whichever goaltender gets (or stays) hot will win this series.

Players That Will Make The Difference:

Who will be the difference makers? Minard and Giroux are going to do their damage and you can see the other top players above. But who isn't on the above list that could swing this series?


C Dustin Jeffrey (21) - He scored 3 goals and added 2 assists during the season series and has been on fire so far in the playoffs with 4 goals and an assist.
LW Luca Caputi (19) - 2 goals and 6 assists in 8 games against Hershey this season. Isn't dominating in the playoffs but is producing with a goal and 2 assists.


RW Graham Mink (21) - His hand should be healed up pretty good now and he finally started to play better at the end of the Philly series. Not that he played badly before that but the end was definitely better. He had 6 goals and 3 assists against the Pens this season.
C Mathieu Perrault (24) - He didn't have a great season against the Pens this season with only 1 goal and 2 assists but over the past month or so there hasn't been a more consistent player on the ice for Hershey. So far in the postseason he is 3rd in points with 2 goals and 2 assists.


Last series I really thought the Bears could sweep the Phantoms and that is exactly what they did. This series scares the hell out of me. I will be honest here...if I was an impartial third party I would probably take the Pens to win the series. But I am not an impartial third party and always believe my teams can win. Neuvirth I think will be the difference in the series. He has been playing great up to this point and if he can continue that the Bears will win. Curry showed his human side against a Bridgeport team that wasn't known for scoring. And the Pens defence wasn't lights out against the Tigers either as they allowed 160 shots to get through while the Bears defense only allowed 109.

Surprisingly in the 4 previous series between these two teams none of them have gone more than 5 games. 2 of the series were sweeps and the other two went 5 games. Each team has a sweep and a 4-1 series victory. This year I think it goes longer. I actually do believe the Bears can win in 5 though due to Curry not being at the top of his game and the defense struggling a bit. If the scoring depth and general depth overall continues the Bears will be tough to beat.

Bears in 6


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Caps and Rays Having Success

I am working on a couple posts for Thursday and Friday/Saturday but they aren't quite ready. So instead let's take a little look around at some news and notes today.

  • The Washington Capitals won in game 7 last night and advanced to the second round where they will face the Pittsburgh Penguins beginning Saturday afternoon at 1. Honestly the Caps had no right to win that game last night. The Rangers dominated the first two periods but I believe the depth of the Caps bench made the difference. For the entire game Bruce Boudreau went with 4 lines while the Rangers only had 3. That kept the top lines for the Caps fresher when it mattered most. Congrats to the Capitals and I am excited about watching the Washington organization eliminate the Pittsburgh organization in the second round!
  • The South Carolina Stingrays are also in the playoffs in the ECHL. They won their first round series by winning four straight after dropping the first 2. In the second round they are up against the Florida Everblades and they have split the away games in Florida. The series heads to the North Charleston Coliseum for games 3,4, and 5 this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
  • Staffon Kronwall could be back as soon as mid second round but there is no definitive timetable as of yet. He had his cornea scratched and his eye was bleeding after taking a stick to the eye against Philly.
  • Could John Carlson play in Kronwall's place? Not sure if Woods will do that or not but it is a possibility. Carlson and Kronwall are very similar players as both are legitimate offensive threats. Carlson finished the regular season for the London Knights with 16 goals and 76 points and then had 7 goals and 22 points in 14 playoff games. Not too bad.

More to come later this week including a look back at the season series between the teams and a look forward at the upcoming series.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Bears End Philadelphia Phantoms

What a game on Friday! Both goalies showed up and played huge for their teams but only one made it out of Hershey with a win. And that would be Michal Neuvirth.

In a somewhat surprising move, a move that in my opinion should have come in game 3, the Phantoms went with Jean-Sebastion Aubin for game 4 and he was excellent. Although to give the Bears some credit I think the score could have been 4-0 if some of the Hershey shots actually hit the net.

Either way both goaltenders played great. Neuvy ended with 23 saves while Aubin had 29 of his own.

Hershey completed the sweep, finished the series perfect on the penalty kill, and ended the Phantoms run in Philadelphia.

The key to the game was probably the 5 on 3 penalty kill in the second period. Philly had a two man advantage for almost 2 full minutes and they spent almost the entire time in the Hershey end and couldn't get the puck in the net. The crowd was going nuts after that and for the most part it sealed the deal as far as momentum goes.

Oh and the other thing that killed momentum for the Phantoms was Neuvy's stop on Jonathan Matsumoto's penalty shot. Which occurred because Chris Bourque wasn't thinking. I understand hustling to get back but you can't give up a penalty shot in the playoffs. But Neuvy stepped up and saved Bourque as he stoned Moto's try.

Graham Mink scored his first of the playoffs early in the second period. Most thought there would be more scoring after that and while both teams came really close neither could beat the opposing goalie.

I thought the MAG line was exceptional Friday night. They played hard at both ends and ended up with multiple chances. The line I think left something to be desired was the Wilson, Gordon, and Bouchard line. That line was easily the least effective of the four although they did get their chances and have produced this postseason.

Next up is the Penguins from up north. The series starts Saturday in Hershey an I will have a series preview mid week.

My Three Stars of the Game:
  1. Michal Neuvirth - shutout, 23 saves, huge when needed
  2. Jean-Sebastien Aubin - 1 goal allowed, 29 saves, huge when needed
  3. Graham Mink - excellent game, GWG plus led the game with 6 shots

Grading the Performance:
  • Offense - B - 30 shots is good and yes Aubin played great but there were opportunities to be had and they just didn't make them. They need to convert on every chance they get in the second round or they could be in trouble.
  • Defense - A - Great job. There are at times a few players standing around but for the most part it was a great night. I thought Sean Collins did a good job. He missed a couple passes but not anything that other players don't do as well. The crowd was hard on Collins for a couple things that they wouldn't even notice if Alzner or Amadio did them.
  • Goaltending - A - Some incredible saves to get the shutout. He is playing as well as any goaltender right now. He looks so calm and relaxed in net. His confidence is soaring too.
  • Power Play - B - Poor showing to be honest. It wasn't terrible though as they did get many chances and almost scored a few. Philly did a good job of clogging the middle and blocking shots and passes.
  • Penalty Kill - A+ - The 5 on 3 was amazing. For a good 90 seconds the same 3 players for Hershey (Joudrey and Arsene were two, Alzner might have been the third) stayed in position and blocked shots and passes. To keep them off the board on that try was huge.
  • Overall - B+ - A good game. It shows that Hershey can win games doing anything. If they need to score there are plenty of options. If there is a low scoring game, Neuvy can shut a team down. This team is playing its best hockey of the season at the right time.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Bears Looking For Sweep Friday!


The Bears need 1 more win to move onto the second round and that win could come at home Friday night in game number 4.

Hershey got goals from Staffon Kronwall, Mathieu Perrault, and Alexander Giroux and Michal Neuvirth made 25 saves as the Bears won 3-2 over the Phantoms.

There was some suspense in this one though. While the penalty kill has been phenomenal the power play actually allowed a goal last night when Lasse Kukkonen scored at 6:19 of the third to make it 3-2.

After that there was another scare as the Phantoms actually did put the puck in the net but a penalty was called on the Phantoms prior to the goal. And by prior I mean at the same time. This all happened with just under 3 minutes to go when a Phantom, Nate Raduns according to the score sheet, decided to take a Bear and hold him on the ice just to Neuvy's left.

Fortunately for Hershey referee Francis Charron was standing right beside the incident and immediately blew the whistle. After seeing the replay it was an obvious penalty but the question will be, did it happen before the puck went in. Surely the Phantoms don't think so but I think the right call was made, but it was a lot closer than you think.

The Bears got passed that and then put the game away by not allowing the Phantoms out of their zone in the final seconds so Scott Munroe had to stay in his crease and the extra attacker could not come on.

John Walton has been somewhat critical of Neuvy this postseason especially after games 1 and 2. I will agree that maybe a goal or two were questionable and might have been stoppable but I personally think Neuvy has performed at a top level in all three games. Shutouts are not common and if you offer this team 2 goals allowed in every game I am pretty sure they would be okay with that.

The thing you have to remember with goalies is that they will allow goals that those of us who aren't goalies think are stoppable. The question and criticism of some goalies is the timing and amount of those goals. Personally I think Neuvy has played very well in all 3 games and his numbers support that theory. 2.01 goals against, .930 save percentage, and a 3-0 record.

You can't ask for much more than that.

My Three Stars of the Game:
  1. Alexander Giroux - a goal and 2 assists including the game winning goal in the 3rd period
  2. Michal Neuvirth - 25 saves on 27 shots
  3. Steve Pinizzotto - no points but a few big hits that really set the tone for the game

Grading the Performance:
  • Offense - B - Probably the weakest performance of the series to date. Sure they had 3 goals and 27 shots but they could have had more. It was a little tougher it seems for them to cycle down low as the Phantoms played probably their best game so far.
  • Defense - A - Another huge performance from this group. They have absolutely stepped up their game in the playoffs. Kronwall was injured in the game and his status is unknown for Friday. That would be a loss for this team and it will be curious to see who gets into the lineup.
  • Goaltending - A - Positionally Neuvy is one of the better goalies we have seen here in Hershey. His confidence is obviously high and he is challenging shooters more and more. Another great performance.
  • Power Play - A - 2 for 5...40%. I can live with that. The unit has been dominant in the series and is a big part in the teams success.
  • Penalty Kill - A - This unit is the biggest part of the success. They absolutely struggled against the Phantoms during the season but have stepped up their play in the postseason and aren't allowing anything right now.
  • Overall - B+ - I think they played well enough for an A but it wasn't quite complete. Not sure what was missing but it might have just been how much better the Phantoms played. Philly came out like they had to but Hershey held them off. Now the Bears have a chance to sweep the rival Phantoms and end AHL hockey in Philadelphia for a while.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Look Around the Other Series

With the Bears taking on Philly for the 5th time in the past 6 games I figure you already have a pretty good idea of who they are and what they bring. So instead of giving you a game preview lets take a look around the AHL at the other series going on.
East Division
Wilkes Barre/Scranton @ Bridgeport

If you though Hershey got a raw deal in the scheduling take a look at what happened in this series. The Sound Tigers were the higher seed so they started at home. Except they couldn't use their own building as Sesame Street Live was there. So they opened with their 2 home playoff games being at Nassau Coliseum, home of the NHL's Islanders. Which according to Mapquest is about 1 hr and 20 minutes from Bridgeport.

That doesn't make any sense to me but it is what happened. Oh and more thoughts on their schedule, they started with a 3 in 3 and if it goes 7 will finish with a 4 in 5. Games 1 and 2 were in Long Island where the Penguins won both.

Then the series moved to Wilkes Barre for game 3 on Sunday night and guess what....the Sound Tigers won there. Now get this...the series moves BACK TO BRIDGEPORT (actually in Connecticut too) for game 4 tonight before heading back to Wilkes Barre for 5 and 6 on Friday/Saturday. Game 7 is in Bridgeport on Sunday evening if necessary.

So this series stands 2-1 in favor of the Penguins.

Atlantic Division

Worcester @ Hartford

This series is set up as a normal 2-2-1-1-1 series and is currently 2-1 in favor of Hartford. The home team has won each game so far. Game number 4 is tonight at 6:35 in Worcester.
Portland @ Providence

Another series that is set up as the standard 2-2-1-1-1 that started in Providence. Portland jumped out early by winning game 1 on the road but since then Providence has won both games to go up 2 games to 1 in the series. Game 4 is Thursday night in Portland.

North Division

Toronto @ Manitoba

Manitoba finished the season as the overall #1 seed in the AHL but that success hasn't translated to well to the playoffs. The series is of the 2-3-2 variety due surely to the travel necessary. Currently the series is tied up 2-2 as each team is 1-1 at home. Game 5 is tomorrow night in Toronto.

Grand Rapids @ Hamilton

Here is the first series that the lower seed is winning currently. Another 2-3-2 series which puts Grands Rapids in great shape right now as they lead 2 games to 1 with 2 more at home. Although that might not be best as the road team has won each of the games in the series so far. Game 4 is tonight in Grand Rapids.

West Division

Rockford @ Milwaukee

This series is over actually. Milwaukee swept Rockford 4 games to none. And to make it known how dominating they were...Rockford scored 1 goal each game. That is efficient hockey from Milwaukee.

Houston @ Peoria

It looks like all of the Western Conference series went 2-3-2 as this one is scheduled that way as well. So far the series is tied 2-2 with game 5 tonight in Houston. The teams have split the home games to this point with each team going 1-1 at the other teams rink.

Tonight is a big game in Hershey. If the Bears win the series is all but over. If the Phantoms win then they still have a chance.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Bears Take 2-0 Series Lead

Well last night could not have started much worse....but it couldn't have ended much better either! Hershey fell behind early 2-0 before rallying with 6, yes 6, unanswered goals to take a 2-0 series lead back to Giant Center.

The first half of the first period did not go well. The first goal came only 53 seconds into the game and the second goal came less then 6 minutes later. That second goal is on 2 forwards. I am not sure who it was but 2 guys decided that a good time to make a line change was when Philly was moving the puck into the zone. By far one of the worst line changes I have seen this year and the Phantoms went right down and scored.

Fortunately the defense responded with 2 goals of their own. Bryan Helmer scored in the first and Staffon Kronwall scored late in the 2nd to make it 2-2 after 2.

Then came the third period....and possibly the end of the Phantoms in Philadelphia. Less then 3 minutes into the period Alexander Giroux scored on the power play to give Hershey a lead they would never relinquish.

The game continued 3-2 for the next 10 minutes before Mathieu Perrault put a shot by Munroe. Then came an empty netter from Steve Pinizzotto and a final nail in the coffin power play from Francois Bouchard.

The penalty kill remains perfect this postseason while the power play was lights out last night going 3 for 6.

And I will say this too....give me Ryan Fraser over Nygel Pelletier any day of the week. Fraser did a tremendous job all game in every aspect. If Nygel had called last nights game we might have seen an entire game played with guys in the penalty box because there were little scrums after every whistle.

Now the series returns to Hershey for Wednesday nights game 3 and the Bears have 3 home games to win 2 to end this series and avoid a return trip to the city of Brotherly Love.

My Three Stars of the Game:
  1. Steve Pinizzotto - the goal was overall meaningless but he played another great game
  2. Keith Aucoin - 2 assists including the game winning assist
  3. Michal Neuvirth - 25 saves including some very big stops

Grading the Performance:
  • Offense - A - 6 goals on 33 shots.....not too bad at all. Constant pressure and excellent work down low to keep possession. Passing, skating, hitting, it was all there last night from the forwards and the defensemen in the offensive zone. And the scoring depth...WOW. Every line has scored already and we are only 2 games into the playoffs. I am loving the new lines too. The Beagle/Bourque/Perrault line is really clicking and so is the Gordon/Wilson/Bouchard combo.
  • Defense - A - Excellent. This unit has really stepped up their play and last night was very good. Sure they struggled initially but as I mentioned before the 2nd goal allowed was due to a poor change from the forwards. Lots of hitting, solid positioning, and maybe most importantly fewer times caught up ice. Oh and 2 goals from the unit is always good in the playoffs.
  • Goaltending - A - The save in the third period with the stick on the goalline was PHENOMENAL! Walton did not do it justice on the call I can tell you that. The puck snuck through his pads and was inching towards the line when Neuvy brought his stick back and paddled it away AS IT WAS CROSSING THE LINE! The puck had to be almost completely across when he got it.
  • Power Play - A - As mentioned above they went .500 with the extra man and that is phenomenal as well. Considering they scored 2 power play goals ALL SEASON in Philly and they had 3 last night was great.
  • Penalty Kill - A - 5 chances...NO GOALS ALLOWED. I would be curious to know if they have shut out an opposing power play 2 games in a row all season. This group has come to play in the postseason....just keep it up.
  • Overall - A - Great game. Much better then Wednesday night in my opinion. They were down 2-0 and fought back by playing sound hockey. They didn't take too many outrageous risks and they managed to get 6 in a row. Now all they need is 2 in a row to eliminate the Phantoms and end the turnpike rivalry for good.


Friday, April 17, 2009

Bears Win Game 1

That was an impressive performance from Hershey last night. I was pleasantly surprised as I thought they might struggle in game 1 against the Phantoms. But really for the most part I think they dominated game 1 winning 4-2 against the home team.

Referee Nygel Pelletier decided prior to last night's game that he was in control and that he would make sure the game was played his way as he called 19 penalties, 16 of which were in the first 2 periods. He actually let the teams play in the third and it was probably the best period of hockey. The only thing you can say about the way he called the game was that it was even. He called 10 penalties on Hershey and 9 on Philadelphia so he did even out his questionable calls.

First let's look at some of the positives from last night:
  • The penalty kill was very good. They faced 7 Phantom power plays and killed off every single one.
  • 4th line of Pinner, Joudrey, and Osala was very very good last night.
  • Bears showed what kind of scoring depth they have as 3 lines scored BUT NONE of the goals came from the top line.

Now, the negatives:
  • Not sure what happened on the Phantoms first goal but a defenseman got caught up in the neutral/offensive zones. I haven't seen a replay but when I do I will confirm this but I think it might have been a bad change. Either way it left one guy (Helmer I believe) back to face a 2 on 1 and it didn't work out.
  • Communication in the Hershey end was pitiful. Multiple times the puck was reversed around the boards but the closest player was a Phantom. You do that too many times and it WILL come back to bite you.
  • Giroux and Aucoin were killing penalties and while it isn't the worst thing I really think there are better players for it. Beagle, Joudrey, Pinner, Bourque, and Gordon should all get called on to kill penalties before the MAG line.
  • Neuvirth played well in net stopping 30 shots to pick up the win but he gave up some really BIG rebounds. And not just a few either. I would say 7-10 nice rebounds that another team might put in the back of the net. Neuvy needs to calm down and control some of those better.

It was a great start to the series though. Hershey came out and played hard from the opening faceoff. They took the body, controlled the puck, and hustled to every loose puck. Coming out of Philly with even 1 win is huge considering 4 of the last 5 are in Hershey. They have accomplished that so now let's go get game 2 as well and all but put the series away!

My Three Stars of the Game:
  1. Kyle Wilson - a goal and an assist to lead the way. Also got flat robbed on another try that could have been a goal.
  2. Jay Beagle - great all around game. did take a bad penalty early but responded with great hustle and work in the offensive zone and scored the put away goal late in the third.
  3. Jonathan Matsumoto - a goal and an assist for the Phantoms best player. He played well and had a game high 9 shots on goal

Grading the Performance:
  • Offense - A - I think one of the best performances in months last night. They played aggressively yet controlled for the entire 60 minutes and it showed on the scoreboard. If they can get 31 shots and 4 goals every game they shouldn't have too much trouble in the playoffs.
  • Defense - B+ - The score sheet says Philly got 32 shots but if they did then half of them were worthless. The D kept players to the outside and didn't allow pucks through the middle for the most part. There are still some defensemen that think they are forwards though. This game it was Staffon Kronwall driving the puck down into the offensive end....this WILL come back to haunt the team if it continues.
  • Goaltending - B - Neuvy played very well don't get me wrong but the big rebounds are going to hurt this team if they continue. Walton thought goal number 2 was soft and I though maybe he could have had the first one too. But only allowed 2 goals on 32 shots so that is good enough.
  • Power Play - B - 1 for 6 wouldn't be very good most nights but considering the Bears had only scored 2 power play goals all season in Philly it wasn't bad. Plenty of good puck movement and good chances.
  • Penalty Kill - B+ - Maybe the best they have played all year but I also feel that they could have been better. On one particular occasion a defenseman got out of position and a Phantom was left alone right in front of the net where he almost scored. There were Phantoms open on the power play but they couldn't connect on passes or missed shots. Overall very good but still room to get better.
  • Overall - B+ - I am probably being a little picky here since it is the playoffs but I think they could have won 6-0 last night. Great game though and a great way to start off the series.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bears vs Phantoms Series Preview

Season Series:

The season series this year went 12 games between the Phantoms and Bears. 6 games at the Spectrum and 6 at Giant Center. And guess what....the Bears won 8 of those games. In Philly the Bears went 4-1-0-1 with the only regulation loss coming last Friday as the Phantoms drew 15,000 fans for the final regular season game in the building. In Hershey the Bears went 4-1-0-1 and the lone regulation loss was back in November.

So the Bears dominated the season series.

Looking at the scores of those games the Bears outscored the Phantoms 52-38 including 23-20 in Philly. Obviously the overall numbers are skewed a bit by the 9-0 beatdown the Bears put on the Phantoms in November. Most of the games were close as 7 of the 12 were decided by 2 goals or less and extra time was needed in 3 of the games.

Top 3 Point Producers In The Series:


Jonathan Matsumoto - 7 goals and 5 assists
Danny Syvret - 2 goals and 9 assists
Daniel Laliberte - 5 goals and 5 assists


Alexander Giroux - 8 goals and 5 assists
Kyle Wilson - 8 goals and 5 assists
Keith Aucoin - 2 goals and 9 assists

I am sure you were all surprised to see Giroux's name on the list but were you surprised to see Wilson's?? I was surprised that he had done so well this season against the Phantoms to be honest. 13 points in 12 games is pretty good.

Goalie Comparison:


Scott Munroe - overall - 31-19-4, 4 shutouts, 2.46 goals against average, and .926 save %.

Against Hershey Munroe is not nearly as good. He is 2-4, with a goals against average over 4, and his save percentage is .874 in the 6 games he played against Hershey. He was also pulled in 2 of his appearances against the Bears. Jean Sebastien Aubin also started 6 games against Hershey and also went 2-4 with a goals against average over 4, and a save percentage of .888. Munroe has been the primary starter this season so I assume he will get the starts in the series.


Michal Neuvirth - overall - 9-5-2, 1 shutout, 2.70 goals against average, and a .913 save %.

He has only played 2 games against Philly. Both of those games were this past weekend and he went 1-1 with about a 3.00 goals against average and a save percentage of .895. Assuming Simeon Varlamov does not return to Hershey expect Neuvirth to get all the starts in the series.

Special Teams in the Series:


Power Play
overall - 25.7%
in Hershey - 23.7%
in Philly - 28.1%


Power Play
overall - 15.2%
in Hershey - 23.3%
in Philly - 5.6%

Keys to the Series:

1. Bears Penalty Kill - being that the PK unit is the worst in the league this is a huge concern for Hershey. Also add to that the Phantoms success on the power play against Hershey this season and you can see why this is such a critical part of the series. On the plus side though the Bears still did win the season series even though they were terrible in the special teams department.

2. Bears Depth - If this series goes 7 games the teams will be playing 5 games in 7 days to finish. The scoring depth of the Hershey Bears will come into play if that happens. Of the players on the current rosters that have played in the season series the Bears have 17 guy how have scored against the Phantoms. The Phantoms on the other hand only have 10 players who have scored against Hershey.

3. Crowds - The only game Hershey lost in regulation in Philly this season came in front of their biggest crowd in 9 years. The Phantoms average only 6,500 and last Friday there were over 17,000 in paid attendance. There will not be that many there this Thursday and Friday but back in Hershey you will probably see crowds at or around 8,000 per game minimum. Giant Center can get pretty loud even with only 8,000 people there.

Players That Will Make The Difference:

Personally I feel that the top players don't make the difference in these kinds of series. Sure the Matsumoto's and Giroux's of the series are going to get their points but these players are the ones to watch because their production will be important for their teams.


RW Anreas Nodl (14) - Spent a good amount of time with the Flyers and only played in 4 of the games against Hershey. He scored 1 goal and had 4 assists in those 4 games.
LW Patrick Maroon (16) - Started slow against Hershey scoring only 2 goals in the first 7 games of the season series. In the last 5 games though he has 2 goals and 5 assists.


RW Andrew Gordon (10) - He had 4 goals and 3 assists against the Phantoms this season. Everyone knows that Gordo can be a game breaker but he has been terribly inconsistent since October this year.
C Mathieu Perrault (24) - Against Philly he had 1 goal and 7 assists this season. If Keith Aucoin gets recalled to Washington in the Playoffs he will be taking over as #1 center and will have to produce. He has started to show even more playmaking ability in the past couple weeks so I think he can be a difference maker.


Personally I believe enough in this team that I think they can and should sweep this series. The way they have played against the Phantoms all year gives me confidence even with the game last Friday. But I think the Phantoms got a break getting the first 2 games in Philly and wouldn't be surprised at all if they won the first game of the series. After that I don't see the Bears struggling too much in this series.

Bears in 5


Monday, April 13, 2009

First Round Schedule!!

Game 1:

Thursday, April 16, 7:05
@ Wachovia Spectrum

Game 2:

Saturday, April 18, 7:05
@ Wachovia Spectrum

Game 3:

Wednesday, April 22, 7:00
@ Giant Center

Game 4:

Friday, April 24, 7:00
@ Giant Center

Game 5 (if necessary):

Saturday, April 25, 7:00
@ Giant Center

Game 6 (if necessary):

Sunday, April 26, 5:05
@ Wachovia Spectrum

Game 7 (if necessary):

Tuesday, April 28, 7:00
@ Giant Center

My thoughts on this is that it is ridiculous!!! I understand that Giant Center is booked this upcoming week but why can't they play games Tuesday/Thursday in Hershey????

If this series goes 7 there will be 5 games in 7 days!! That is absurd.

Even if it only goes 6 you still have a 4 in 5. During the season I understand this...hell I understand it in the playoffs if there is too much travel needed.

BUT this is Philly/Hershey. A whopping 100 miles separate the two. It takes all of 2 hours to get from one to the other!

Oh well....nothing I can do about it.

It should be interesting though!

Any of you have any thoughts on this???

Not Exactly A Great Weekend

With the exception of Saturday night the weekend was pretty lousy for the Bears. After getting run out of Philly on Friday the Bears played a great playoff like game on Saturday before coming out flat against the Penguins on Sunday.

I am slightly concerned about this. Not saying last night's game or Friday's game for that matter was hugely important but against rivals late in the season with playoff positioning on the line for all three games I would have hoped to see more intensity.

Right now my biggest fear is the Bears coming out flat in game 1 of any series and finding themselves in a 1-0 hole without putting up much of a fight. Or coming out flat in any game during the series.

Hopefully the veterans on this team can get the guys up and ready to play but too many times this year this team has come out sluggish in the first period. If you do that in the playoffs you will have trouble winning games.

Obviously it was a tough weekend. First you close down the Spectrum, then you have what amounted to a playoff game at home, then to finish the 3 in 3 you get a (somewhat) meaningless game with the Pens. Last night's game was not terribly important but still....the Pens were finishing up a 4 in 5 and they looked pretty good.

I am not saying they played bad because we have seen much worse this season but I also didn't feel like they were ready to play against a team that was resting many of their best players. Hershey played most of their best players (minus Graham Mink) and it didn't seem like they were able to keep the intensity throughout the game.

Basically I feel like they could have been better.

Like Saturday night. What a game that was! From the opening faceoff until the final whistle it felt like a playoff game. The crowd was phenomenal (although a touch quiet in the 2nd and 3rd but still good) and the Bears played great all night. Even with the referee trying to help the Phantoms it didn't matter, the Bears wanted that one more than anyone else.

But like I said before I am concerned about the sluggish starts. Remember that Philly had nothing to play for on Saturday and they still almost won. And on Sunday, the Pens had minimal to play for and yet they won.

I am not saying I am really worried about the Bears not winning a series because I believe they are winning the Calder Cup. BUT I am concerned that they will be playing from behind in a series and some games because they struggle to come out ready to play.

We'll see.

The playoff schedule is up at for 7 of the 8 series. Which series is missing? You guessed it....Phantoms/Bears. Word on the street is the schedule will be out today but until it happens you never know. But I will have it here as soon as it comes available.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

East Division Champs!!

Great game last night. Even though the referee tried to force a big game tonight by calling numerous ridiculous penalties on the Bears and not calling many at all against the Phantoms.

But tonight's game is still big. If the Bears win they will be the #1 overall seed in the postseason. Meaning they will have home ice in every single round no matter what.

Although sometimes with scheduling that can change...remember the Portland/Hershey series from 2006 playoffs? Yeah Hershey was the lower seed and should NOT have been hosting game 7 but due to scheduling problems the Bears hosted that game and won.

Either way I will have more on this weekend's games early this week. We should now when the first games are going to be played for the first round against Philly. But the scheduling issues could come alive right away this year as Disney on Ice is scheduled for Giant Center Wednesday through Sunday. It will be interesting to see what happens.

But for today let's just say this....Thank you AMMO!! Thank You Neuvy!!

And have a Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Last Night Couldn't Have Gone Worse

Okay that statement isn't entirely true....Manitoba could have won too. Other than that every team that Hershey wanted to see lose....won. Bridgeport, Wilkes-Barre, Norfolk, and Milwaukee all won.

And worst of all Philly won.

Not sure what happened there but the cards were stacked against the Bears I think.

First you had the (potentially) last game at the Spectrum....
Second the Phantoms were fighting for their playoff lives....
Third you had a little pregame ceremony that takes a little out of you...
Fourth is was the biggest crowd Hershey has seen in a LONG time....
and Fifth Philly has been playing great of late.

Hershey definitely came out flat in the first but not terrible. They just didn't want to shoot...everyone wanted to make the extra pass which isn't a terrible thing but eventually someone has to shoot and no one was.

Michal Neuvirth looked human in goal for the first time in weeks and he let in one (the 4th goal) that absolutely should have been stopped.

Personally I blame the defense for at least 2 of the first 3....specifically the 2 power play goals allowed. Dean Arsene and Tyler Sloan both missed guys/assignments that led to goals. Not saying it was just on them but they were the two main pieces.

The Bears looked much better in the 2nd and 3rd periods and would say that they out hustled the Phantoms for most of the game but they couldn't get shots on net. The other problem I saw was a lot of missed passes and bouncing pucks that jumped over many Hershey sticks.

There was not a single Bear that played great last night and many looked lost amongst the atmosphere. Even in Hershey the Bears only ever see 11,000 so to see (supposedly) 17,000 probably affected them in some fashion.

*side note - there is no way there was 17,000 there...I would say closer to 15,000 as there were plenty of empty seats*

Hopefully the Bears come back tonight and play great. Philly has little to play for at this point after clinching a playoff spot last night. They can not improve their position so they might even rest some players tonight.

Hershey on the other hand now has a fight on their hands. They still control their playoff fate but it is a much harder road. A win (or loss for that matter) tonight coupled with a Penguins win would set up a very important game tomorrow night. IF the Pens lose tonight and the Bears win Hershey would clinch the division.

Other than that Hershey is still in line for the overall #1 seed but they might have to win both games to get it.

So with that, let's see what the schedule looks like tonight:

Lowell @ Bridgeport 7:00
Norfolk @ Wilkes Barre/Scranton 7:05
Manitoba @ Lake Erie 7:30

**I will have more on last night's game earlier this week as it was an interesting night in my opinion.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Please Take a Minute and Read This

I know this is a blog about the Hershey Bears but I beg you to take a minute and read this post.

It is from a blog that I read daily, Sharapovas Thigh.

Remembering the Best Friend I Ever Had

Keep this in mind the next time you have a beer or two and decide to drive afterwards.

Bears/Phantoms and Scoreboard Watching

I am heading to Philly in about 7 hours to see the (hopefully) final game at the Spectrum. Tonight the Bears get to move one step closer to clinching the division. With a little help from Springfield (@ BPort) and Albany (@ WBS) the Bears could clinch the division with a win.

And furthermore with a little help from Toronto (vs Manitoba) and Chicago (@ Milwaukee) the Bears could all but clinch the overall number 1 seed for the playoffs. They would be 2 points ahead of Manitoba with 2 games to go.

Personally I am also rooting for Bingo to beat Norfolk tonight to even further hurt Philly's chances at making the postseason.

But either way I am most excited about this game tonight. I will be in section 311a and am hoping to be surrounded by Bears fans. If you are going leave a comment and let me know.

Hershey has dominated Philly this season going 7-1-0-2 against them. Here is hoping to finishing the season series 9-1-0-2!!

Scoreboard Watching:

Springfield @ Bridgeport 7:00
Albany @ Wilkes Barre 7:05
Norfolk @ Binghamton 7:05
Manitoba @ Toronto 7:00
Chicago @ Milwaukee 8:00

If you want to see the current standings you can find them at the AHL's website here.


Thursday, April 9, 2009

Big Joe Finley

Doug asked a couple days ago about Big Joe Finley so here is my response. (sorry it took so long Doug)

I do not get down to see the Bears practice so I can't tell you how he is looking there. With Sami Lepisto being out (lacerated spleen if you hadn't heard) he will surely make is debut this weekend. Although I would have bet money that he would have played even with a healthy Lepisto.

I am hoping to get a good look at Big Joe Finley tomorrow night in Philly. Although it hasn't been announced that he would be in the lineup I don't know why he wouldn't be. I would expect him to play at least 2 of 3 this weekend.

As for Karl Alzner (or @kingkarl27 on Twitter) he is playing very well. I hope (this is kind of selfish but oh well) that he is in Hershey for the remainder of the season. In my opinion he has been the steadiest defenseman on the blueline in Hershey all season and the Bears could surely use him for their Calder Cup run. (Greg Amadio would be 2nd on that list in my eyes)

Luckily, the word on the street is that barring injury Alzner will be in Hershey the rest of the season. But fear not Caps fans, I am sure Coach Bruce will call him up if any Caps d-men struggle. You will also get him all next season as he will probably not spend any time in Hershey.

But I do want to ask the Caps for a favor. Can you please send Varly back to Hershey? I know he wants to stay there and that would be great for him but Hershey could really use him. Down in DC he is only going to be the backup where as up in Hershey he would be the star! Neuvy has been playing great of late but I would feel much better with BOTH rookies here instead of just one.


Bears Can Get Home Ice This Weekend

If the Bears win out this weekend they will clinch home ice advantage for the ENTIRE playoffs. The other teams in position for that honor are Manitoba and Milwaukee. Manitoba is tied with Hershey with 104 points with only 2 games to go while Milwaukee is at 105 but only 1 game remaining.

And thanks to some help from other places last night the Bears magic number in the division is 3. All they need is a win and overtime or shootout loss and they clinch the division. Obviously we are hoping for more but that is the minimum.

Wilkes Barre-Scranton lost last night in overtime and are 4 points back with 3 to go and Bridgeport is 2 back with 2 to go.

The fourth place race also heated up last night as Philly lost in a shootout while Bingo won in overtime. They are now tied for 4th and each team has 2 games remaining.

Now Hershey's games against Philly this weekend are even more critical for both teams. Hershey needs the wins to get home ice throughout and Philly needs to win just to make the playoffs.

IF Hershey can win both over the Phantoms then in order for Philly to make the playoffs they would have to see Bingo lose both their remaining games as Philly holds the tiebreakers.

How exciting is this final weekend shaping up to be? I am pumped and it is only Thursday!!



Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Who Should The Bears Hope To Play

The Bears are in an interesting position right now. They could conceivably play any of the other 4 teams currently fighting for the playoffs. If they win the division they will play either Binghamton or Philadelphia. If they slip to 2nd or 3rd they would play either Bridgeport or Wilkes-Barre.

So who should they want to play...or who will probably put up the least resistance?

Let's look at it team by team.

Bridgeport Sound Tigers:

They are playing pretty well as they have won 3 straight and finish with games against Springfield and Lowell this weekend.

So far this season the Bears are 4-1-1-0 against the Tigers so they have fared well against them so far.

The thing with the Tigers is that they are getting more help then any of the other teams after Sunday. Kurtis McLean, Jesse Joensuu, Blake Comeau, and Jack Hillen will all be returning from the Islanders after the Isles final game this weekend. That is one defenseman short of an entire line. Now McLean and Joensuu spent most of the season in Bridgeport so it isn't too bad but still that is some nice help to get.

Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins:

They have won 4 of their last 5 but have 4 games to go. They will be tired after this weekend as they have a 4 in 5 to close out the season and they visit Hershey Sunday for their season finale.

Hershey has only gone 3-4-0-2 against the Baby Pens this season but they have won 2 of the past 3. Most of the games have been very close with only 2 games (1 win for each) that was decided by more than a goal.

As of now there is not a single player on the Pittsburgh roster that will be heading back to Wilkes Barre when their season ends. According to their clear day roster all of the players eligible to play for the Baby Pens are already there.

Still though they have a very formidable lineup and are second in the league in scoring this season (trailing only Hershey). And for the first 2/3 of the season they seemed to have Hershey's number. Has that changed?

Philadelphia Phantoms:

Philly is the hottest team in the division right now. They have won 6 straight and are currently in position to make the playoffs. They have three games left starting tonight in Albany and then 2 games against Hershey this weekend.

Hershey has dominated the season series this year going 7-1-0-2 so far. With two games to go Philly can make that a little more respectable though.

I was surprised that Claude Giroux was NOT on the clear day roster for the Phantoms. Although it probably wouldn't matter since the Flyers are in the playoffs but I thought he would be an option. When (not if) the Flyers are eliminated from the playoffs Andreas Nodl, Darrell Powe, and Ryan Parent will join the Phantoms if they are still alive.

If the Bears play Philly it would be in the first round so none of those pieces are really in play.

Binghamton Senators:

Bingo is playing poorly at the wrong time. They have lost 4 of their last 6 and are now on the outside looking in on the playoffs. They do have 3 games remaining and it is an easier schedule then the Phantoms have with games against Syracuse and Albany on the road and Norfolk at home but they might need to win all three.

Hershey dominated the first part of the season but have since only won once in the last 4 or 5 games. Overall the season series is 4-2-1-1 in favor of the Bears but most of those losses have come in the past couple months.

Another surprise for the Senators organization was Brian Elliott not being on the clear day roster. So that is one good thing because Ottawa will be sending players to Bingo after this weekend. But only 2. Brendan Bell and Brian Lee are on the clear day roster but being that both play defense it really won't help their scoring too much. Ryan Shannon is another that I thought would be on the clear day roster but he isn't.

They are still a dangerous team but not nearly as much as they could have been.

So who should we root for?

My vote goes to Binghamton to be honest. Originally I would have said Philly because I assumed Bingo was going to get a few pieces back but after looking at their clear day roster I am not too worried.

**let me say this though...I am NOT an expert on AHL roster moves so I do not know if there are exceptions that would allow other players to return from Ottawa**

I think Philly is very dangerous right now too. They are playing great and the games with the Bears are usually pretty close. That is why I vote for Bingo over Philly.

Now if the Bears lose the division crown I would rather see Bridgeport. Sure they have been good all season and are playing pretty well but Hershey has managed to beat them more times than not.

The team I least want to see at all in the playoffs is Wilkes Barre. Mainly because they have controlled the Bears this season and have looked very good each time the two teams play.

So really I am just rooting for Hershey to win all 3 games this weekend, clinch first place, and help get Bingo into the playoffs. If that happens I will be very happy.

But if it doesn't, I am still confident in this team and I truly believe that in a 7 game series the veterans on this team can beat any other team in this league!

Who do you want to see in Round 1? Vote on the poll to the right and tell me why in the comments.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Great Article on Boudreau

Just saw this article today and thought I would share with all of you. It is a nice write up on Bruce Boudreau. Definitely worth the read.

I will have something up tomorrow about potential first round matchups and who the Bears should hope to see.

Until then give me your opinion on the sidebar.....who do you want to see the Bears play in the first round?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Neuvirth and Giroux Steal a Win Over Pens

Chris Bourque got off a plane at HIA at 5 yesterday afternoon. By 7:15 he already had an assist in Wilkes Barre. Not to bad!

But the stars of the night were Michal Neuvirth and Alexander Giroux. Other than Giroux the Bears offense struggled to even get shots on goal as they finished with 20 and Giroux had 6 of those. Meaning the other 17 skaters only managed 14 shots. Not a great night offensively.

Fortunately for the Bears they didn't need to be great offensively because Neuvy made a very impressive 40 saves during the game and 3 more in the shootout as the Bears skated to a 3-2 shootout victory.

Neuvy was tremendous all game, making huge glove saves and just being in position for everything. Watching play goal is much more relaxing than watching Simeon Varlamov. I can barely watch as Varly jumps, slides, and dives all over the crease while Neuvy is very fluid and always seems to be in position.

You can also credit Neuvy for the penalty kill being perfect on the night. Sure the defense helped some but Neuvy was there for every single shot that they weren't there for. And if it wasn't for a lucky deflection off a skate the Bears would have won in regulation.

But a win is a win and now the Bears have a 4 point lead over Bridgeport and a 5 point lead over the Pens. The Pens do have a game in hand over the Bears and Tigers as they have a 4 in 5 next weekend while the other two only have 3 games remaining.

If you are curious about the 4th place race both Bingo and Philly won and the Sens remain 1 point up on the Phantoms BUT the Phantoms have a game in hand. Unfortunately for the Phantoms that game in hand is against the Bears.

Last night's game against the Penguins showed that this Hershey team can perform in any conditions. They are still without Keith Aucoin as he remains in Washington for the time being and Graham Mink is out for a couple weeks yet. Add to that Bourque had just gotten off a plane! And Giroux was sick with the flu about 24 hours prior. Oh and the Bears had played an overtime game the night before against the 2nd place team in the division ON THE ROAD!

And yet the Bears still went into a rivals building fighting for playoff positioning and came away with a much needed victory.

If I had told you 2 weeks ago that Hershey would take away 3 points from a weekend road trip to Bridgeport and then Wilkes Barre you all would have been ecstatic. And that is exactly what they did.

Good Job Bears!!!

My Three Stars of the Game:
  1. Michal Neuvirth - 40 saves and many were amazing
  2. Alexander Giroux - 2 goals was almost all they needed
  3. Chris Bourque - 2 assists after landing in Harrisburg 2 hours prior

Grading the Performance:
  • Offense - C+ - They got enough and that is all that matters but if they continue to only get 2 goals a game they will be in trouble. Coiner should be back before next weekend so that will help a lot. Honestly the offense had pressure but it was mainly around the boards. The one thing I really did like was the crashing of the net. Every shift there was a guy in Curry's way.
  • Defense - B - They held the Pens to really 1 goal. I am not going to count the last one because it was a fluke and the Pens know it. There were some questionable plays and some great ones. Pretty average but that is okay with me.
  • Goaltending - A - Awesome game from Neuvy. There really isn't much more you can say about it in my opinion. He was in position all night on just about every shot. Not quite as smooth as Carey Price for Hamilton a couple years ago but they play a similar game.
  • Power Play - F - TERRIBLE. I don't think Coiner is that important to this unit but they could not get in the zone most of the night. They only got 3 chances but I am not sure they got a single shot with the man advantage.
  • Penalty Kill - B+ - The only reason this isn't an A is because they gave up a lot of chances. And if the Pens make a few nicer passes then they probably score a couple. But they did still keep the Pens PP off the board and that deserves something.
  • Overall - B - Not a great game and surely not a pretty one but a win is a win. The thing that impresses me most about this game is that the Bears have only won a handful of games this season when they score 3 goals or less. So that makes this game, with it's importance, one of (if not the) biggest win of the season to date. It gives the team confidence that they can still win if they don't score a lot. And that is going to be HUGE come playoff time.


1 More Thing:

HOW IN THE HELL does Letestu get 2nd star and Neuvy 3rd star???? AND Bourque is the 1st star while Giroux isn't even there!! I couldn't believe it when I saw that on the score sheet. What is wrong with the crew in Wilkes Barre???

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Bears Missing Entire Line and Lose to Bridgeport

Well the final week of the season is going to be interesting to say the least. Hershey has 4 games remaining starting with tonight's game against the Penguins. After that there isn't any action until next Friday in Philly.

Last night the Bears had the opportunity to all but put away the Bridgeport Sound Tigers but they fell in overtime 4-3 after leading the game 3-1.

But before you question whether or not the Bears played their best or if Daren Machesney should get any blame remember this. The Bears were without 3 of their 4 leading scorers AND their leading scorer Alexander Giroux was ill for most of the day and wasn't even a guarantee to play.

Then you throw in the number 1 and 2 goaltenders were not available. Simeon Varlamov is the unquestioned number 1 and he is up in Washington with Coiner while Michal Neuvirth (the number 2) is out for the weekend due to illness.

The 3 Bears missing are probably not going to be back today either. Chris Bourque is out for the weekend after a family member passed away, Keith Aucoin is still in Washington and with word that Sergie Federov had to leave practice today he won't be coming back anytime soon, and Graham Mink is out with a broken hand.

So consider the fact that there is NOT another team in this league that can lose 3 of its top 4 scorers (basically a whole line) AND the top 2 goalies and come out against a top team and get at least a point.

I would say considering the circumstances the Bears played a pretty good game last night. There were obviously some problems on offense and in goal and the defense struggled at times but for a good part of the game Hershey was in the lead.

Tonight is going to be another tough game. Wilkes Barre is going to be well rested having not played in a few days and the Bears will still be short handed. And they could lose another player today IF Federov can't go tomorrow. The Caps are home for Atlanta tomorrow night and they could call someone up to play if needed.

But the Bears might get a boost in goal tonight with Braden Holtby expected to get the start. The 19 year old will be making his first pro start of his career after finishing up his season in the WHL this past week. He was in Bridgeport serving as Machesney's backup and got to take practice earlier in the day. John Walton said that Holtby looked very impressive during practice so if he does get the start he should be ready.

Scoreboard watching for tonight:

Bridgeport is off tonight
Philadelphia is @ Norfolk
Binghamton is home vs Albany

My Three Stars of the Game:
  1. Sean Bentivoglio - game winning goal and an assist
  2. Darren Reid - easily his best game of the year and he scored a goal
  3. Jesse Joensuu - a goal and an assist

Grading the Performance:
  • Offense - B - They finished with 32 shots and 3 goals which isn't terrible. Considering who was missing from the lineup I thought they played very well. Even the fourth line with Kip Brennan and Grant McNeill got into the act.
  • Defense - C - I thought this group really struggled last night at times. Sami Lepisto had a couple serious mishaps that either led to a good scoring chance or a goal for the Tigers. Even Karl Alzner had a moment or two were he didn't seem 100% focused. A rough night for this group.
  • Goaltending - B - Average is the best way to describe Cheese's game. Some great saves and some really questionable moves. I don't blame him for most of the goals (except the first one) but he could have done better I thought. BUT I also thought he gave the team a chance to win.
  • Power Play - ? - They only got 3 chances and they scored on 1 but it was tough to really get a read on this group.
  • Penalty Kill - ? - Really the same as the power play. They killed 2 of 3 and the one goal scored was a great deflection.
  • Overall - B- - Not a great game by any means. I think if this was the team the whole season there would have been a lot more games like this. It would be tough for any team to go into a huge game like this late in the season with so many key players missing. Overall it wasn't a terrible game but there was definitely something missing.


Friday, April 3, 2009

HUGE Weekend Upcoming

We all know Hershey's schedule the rest of the way, right? If not you can find it on the sidebar right here on this site.

And we also know that the Bears are leading the East division by 3 points. If you didn't know this you do now. Both Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Bridgeport have 98 points while the Bears have 101 points.

We also now that as of this moment the Binghamton Senators are in 4th but only by 3 points as the Philadelphia Phantoms have managed to close the gap and are trying to extend the life of the Spectrum by a few games.

But do you know what kind of schedules these other teams have? I mean Hershey's schedule is pretty tough right? Each of the final 5 games is against teams either in the playoffs or fighting for a spot. As well as 3 of those games on the road.

So the Penguins and Sound Tigers must have tough roads too, right? Not exactly.

Bridgeport's schedule (4 games remain):

vs Hershey (4/3)
vs Albany (4/5)
vs Springfield (4/10)
vs Lowell (4/11)

Wilkes Barre/Scranton's schedule (5 left):

vs Hershey (4/4)
vs Norfolk (4/8)
vs Albany (4/10)
vs Norfolk (4/11)
@ Hershey (4/12)

Wow....both of the Bears main challengers for the division title get 4 more home games and of the 9 total games left between the teams only the 3 games against Hershey feature playoff teams. Both the Pens and Tigers should be able to win at least 3 games each based on those schedules.

The fortunate part for Hershey is if they win the 3 games remaining against both teams they will win the division. BUT if Hershey loses just 2 of those games (maybe even 1) then the division might be lost.

Translation.....this Friday and Saturday feature the BIGGEST games of the season to this point.

Now onto who is going to finish in 4th in the division. Right now Bingo is in with Philly playing great. So who has the easier schedule? You decide.

Binghamton's schedule (5 left):

@ Rochester (4/3)
vs Albany (4/4)
@ Syracuse (4/8)
vs Norfolk (4/10)
@ Albany (4/11)

Philadelphia's schedule (6 left):

@ Norfolk (4/3)
@ Norfolk (4/4)
vs Norfolk (4/5)
@ Albany (4/8)
vs Hershey (4/10)
@ Hershey (4/11)

To me I think Bingo has the upper hand. They are already 3 points up and they only play 1 playoff team (Syracuse). While the Phantoms only get 1 playoff team (Hershey) they do have to play 6 games in 9 days. That is a tough schedule this late in the season.

And how about the mini-series against Norfolk, IF they sweep the weekend set with the Ads they will be in pretty good shape.

Any way you look at it it looks like this:

If Hershey wins this Friday AND Saturday they will be 5 points up on both the Tigers and Penguins. With that they would only need a win to eliminate the Tigers from the discussion.

But this is all we need to worry ourselves with.....


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Young Players On Their Way

If any of you watched or listened to the Bears game last night against Norfolk you surely heard mention of Michal Neuvirth leaving after the first period.

And if you are like me you started having chest pains right then and there. Knowing that Simeon Varlamov is going to remain on call up for the foreseeable future and the possibility of only having Daren Machesney in Hershey scares the hell out of me.

Luckily we got some good news today Bears fans!

First of all Neuvy is sick, not hurt. So he will be back soon.

Secondly, Braden Holtby is expected in Hershey sooner rather than later.

According to Holtby is actually higher rated than Neuvirth. And he has had a solid season in the WHL recording 40 wins with a .910 save percentage and 2.62 gaa. I am looking forward to getting a look at him if he plays.

Also coming to Hershey is BIG Joe Finley. Finley measures in at an impressive 6'7" 240 lbs. That is a big man! He just finished up his senior season with North Dakota and signed an entry level deal with Washington, he is expected in Hershey early next week.

And one other player that we could see in Hershey this season and more than likely next season is best described as a pest. Stefan Della Rovere signed this week and was expected in South Carolina this week to start in the ECHL. Della Rovere is a borderline dirty player and while watching the World Juniors earlier this year I can see why that label is there. He loves to hit you and better be ready to back up his hits in the pros.

It will be interesting to see Big Joe on the ice though. 6'7"....are you kidding me? That's like 6'10" on skates.

Bears Drop Game in Norfolk

Well as we all saw the Bears lost last night to last place Norfolk. There were some people who were pretty disappointed in the chat during the game and who can blame them. I didn't look on PennLive but I am sure there were some people that were none to pleased with the Bears performance.

But let me say this....

It is very hard to get excited or ready for every single game of the season. I know you are reading this thinking yeah but they are professionals and it is the end of the season and they are fighting for playoff positions BUT it is still an 80 game season spread out over the course of 6.5 months before the playoffs.

THERE IS NO WAY a player (even NHL players) can get up and get really excited for every game. Should they win against a last place team? Probably. But I would rather see them lay an egg against a team like Norfolk than a team like Bridgeport.

You can't honestly expect players in any sport to be 100% ready to go for every game of every season. And think about it....were you that excited to watch/listen to Hershey play Norfolk? I wasn't. But tomorrow night, hell I am already psyched for that game.

I would love to see this team come out to play their best every single game of the season but that isn't going to happen. The games that matter to us as fans are also the ones that matter more to the players.

And also keep in mind that Hershey has been in first place for (almost) the entire season. WHICH MEANS that they get every other team's best each and every night. Why? Because it is the other teams chance to prove they are good enough play against the best.

So if you combine the fact that the Bears players aren't going to be as "pumped up" to play Norfolk or Springfield while those teams are giving 110% to beat the Bears it spells trouble.