Sunday, May 31, 2009

Bears Are 3 Wins Away

That was about as bad a start to the game as you can have.

And that was about as good a start to the series as you can have.

Both starts attributed to the same team...your HERSHEY BEARS!!!!

The Bears escaped game 1 with a 5-4 OT victory on the shoulders of Alexander Giroux last night. Giroux scored 3 times including the game winning goal late in the first overtime to give the Bears a 1-0 lead in the series. Oskar Osala added 2 more and Michal Neuvirth made 26 saves to help Giroux.

It was a hell of a game with both teams catching breaks and bounces that you probably won't see again. I mean how many 5 on 3 power plays is one team going to get in a game? How many gratuitous bounces can the other team get in a game? And how many times will the defense either be caught flat-footed or too deep in the offensive zone in one game?

Look at all those instances.

Manitoba scored twice on 5 on 3 power plays but did not score once with the standard 5 on 4. Not saying they can't but they couldn't last night.

Then they scored on two breakaways. One of which saw Michael Grabner skate right by Patrick McNeill (which happened 2 other times too) and right in on Neuvy for a goal. The other breakaway happened because John Carlson and Staffon Kronwall decided they wanted to play forward and got caught INSIDE THE FACE OFF DOTS trying to score.


Hershey got some good bounces too. The shot the tied the game at 3 went of Manitoba defenseman Nolan Baumgartner and into the net. There were also some fortunate bounces that ended on the sticks of Bear forwards.

So both teams got some favorable bounces and plays to score their goals.

But Hershey also had to contend with the referee.

Referee Kyle Rehman whistled the Bears for 11 penalties including a terrible boarding call, a questionable delay of game call, and another TERRIBLE too many men call. The boarding call in my opinion was flat out wrong as Pinizzotto got to the side of the player and did NOT hit him from behind into the boards. BUT a little later Mink did board a guy and it wasn't called so it was pretty even at that point.

The delay of game call that I had a problem with was the one on Aucoin. The puck was shot in and he slapped at it and it bounced at the last second and went over the boards. This rule is ridiculous when that happens. There was no intention to hit the puck over the boards, it was just a fluke deflection.

The too many men call gave Manitoba another short 5 on 3. All in all the Moose had 10 power plays and scored on 2 of them. Hershey had half as many but also scored on 2 of theirs.

Obviously the refs did not influence the outcome of the game but they definitely played a role in the way it was played. The penalties at the end of regulation were unarguable as were most of the calls when goals were scored.

Some things I learned about Manitoba:
  • Not a terribly physical team, they had some big hits but not as many as Hershey.
  • Fast. At least it appeared that way when Patty was getting burned on multiple occasions.
  • Disciplined. There really weren't many (if any) missed calls against the Moose. They seem to know how to stay out of the box.
  • Goalie play....Schneider might be as big as Rask but he plays MUCH smaller in the crease. He goes down earlier and doesn't use his size to protect the net well.
  • Penalty Kill....unlike Providence they are not very aggressive. They play much like the Bears as they stay in their box and do not push the puck much.
  • Deep...this team was running 4 lines most the game just like Hershey. I don't think they played as much as the Joudrey line but they did play some.
  • Manitoba has 3 lines that can truly score. Hershey has not seen that in a while (and not in the playoffs) so they need to be ready no matter who is on the ice.
  • The teams are built similarly on the blue line with more athletic puck movers on defense which does 2 things...helps you score and leaves you susceptible in your own end.

A few notes on Hershey's play:
  • Hershey needs to start better. Again they let the opposition jump out to a two goal lead before the halfway point. Sure they came back but they need to stay in games from the start.
  • Hershey's depth seemed to help late in the game again. Even though Manitoba skated 4 lines they were not as energized late in the third and in overtime.
  • Neuvirth has been shaky lately. Last night he had trouble gaining control of the puck which causes more scrambling by the defense then should be necessary.
  • Expect to see at least 1 new defenseman for game 2. Patty McNeill was not playing towards the end of the game (Carlson wasn't either) because he couldn't keep up with the Moose forwards. I would expect to see either Collins or Amadio get in to game 2 for McNeill.

My Three Stars of the Game:
  1. Alexander Giroux - new AHL record with 72 goals in the season + playoffs after a hat trick last night
  2. Michael Grabner - scored 2 and assisted on another kept Manitoba in this game
  3. Oskar Osala - 2 goals to help Giroux get the Bears a victory

Grading the Performance:
  • Offense - B+ - Good play by the unit as a whole but I have one complaint....more puck possession down low is going to be needed. The only line that was able to keep the puck in low was Perrault, Beagle, and Bourque and that was mainly because Perrault is a magician behind the net and Beagle is strong on the puck. No other line could sustain pressure in the corners with a cycle.
  • Defense - D - This unit was out of position multiple times, bad line changing led to a Penalty Shot, and guys standing around led (eventually) to the first goal when Bourque had to take a penalty because the defense was left flat-footed on the blue line. AND would someone please teach the defense how to move the puck behind the net. You can't play with it back there all time!
  • Goaltending - B - He was really left out to dry on some of the goals but he did make some big saves including the penalty shot try. Personally I think he could have had at least one of the breakaway goals by Grabner but won't hold it against him that he didn't....those are tough to stop.
  • Power Play - A - I thought this unit was terrific. They got into the zone, passed well, and got shots on net. Pretty sure that they were able to generate pressure on every power play. They did add 2 goals on 5 chances to end with a pretty good 40%.
  • Penalty Kill - B+ - I actually think this unit played very well after the first 5 on 3 goal. That was piss poor in my opinion because the Moose tried the EXACT SAME PASS a minute before the goal and the PK didn't see it coming the second time. But other than that I think they played very well and didn't allow a 5 on 4 goal.
  • Overall - B - They did enough to win which is good but they went to extremes yet again to get there. Fighting back from 2 down and fighting through some questionable penalty calls proved they can get it done. But once I would like to see them come out and dominate in the first and second period and get their own 2 or 3 goal lead. Either way it happens though they are now only 3 WINS AWAY FROM THE CUP!!! If they can pull out a victory in game 2 they are going to be in pretty good shape heading home.


Saturday, May 30, 2009

Interesting Facts

I found these in the Bears/Moose preview on I thought they were interesting.

  • The Manitoba Moose are making the franchise’s first appearance in a league final. The team began play in the International Hockey League as the Minnesota Moose in 1994, moved to Winnipeg in 1996 and joined the AHL in 2001. The last pro hockey championship series played in Winnipeg was the World Hockey Association’s 1979 final, won by the Winnipeg Jets over Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers.
  • The Hershey Bears are making their 21st Calder Cup Finals appearance in 71 AHL seasons, extending their own league record. The Bears have won nine Cups, tied with the original Cleveland Barons franchise for the most ever.
  • Hershey is the sixth consecutive East Division team, and the sixth straight from the state of Pennsylvania,to reach the Calder Cup Finals. Manitoba is just the second North Division team in eight years (Hamilton 2007) to play for the Cup.
  • Manitoba finished first overall in the AHL’s regular-season standings, while Hershey was first in the Eastern Conference. The last time the league’s two regular-season conference champions met in the Calder Cup Finals was 2000 (Hartford vs. Rochester).
  • Hershey, which won the Calder Cup in 2006 and was runner-up in 2007, is the first team since Rochester (1990, 1991, 1993) to reach the Finals three times in a four-year span.
  • The Bears feature four players who were on their 2006 championship team: Chris Bourque, Graham Mink, Tyler Sloan and Dean Arsene.
  • Manitoba forward Jason Krog was the MVP of the 2008 Calder Cup Playoffs with Chicago. He enters this year’s Finals with 36 goals (12th all-time), 66 assists (third) and 102 points (fifth) for his AHL postseason career. Krog also reached the Calder Cup Finals with Bridgeport in 2002 and the Stanley Cup Finals with Anaheim in 2003.
  • Manitoba goaltender Cory Schneider, the 26th overall pick by Vancouver in the 2004 NHL draft, is in the Calder Cup Finals in just his second professional season after reaching the NCAA’s championship game twice at Boston College. In 2006, Schneider stopped 37 of 39 shots in a 2-1 loss to a Wisconsin team that included current Hershey forward Andrew Joudrey.
  • Hershey forward Alexandre Giroux, the AHL’s MVP and scoring champion in 2008-09, is in the Calder Cup Finals for the second time (2007, Hershey). Giroux could become the third consecutive player to lead the AHL in scoring in the regular season and the playoffs in the same season, following Jason Krog in 2008 and Darren Haydar in 2007.
  • Hershey’s Michal Neuvirth, selected 34th overall in the 2006 NHL draft by Washington, is looking to become the third consecutive rookie goaltender to win the Calder Cup, following Chicago’s Ondrej Pavelec (2008) and Hamilton’s Carey Price (2007).
  • Manitoba defenseman Nolan Baumgartner is in a final series for the first time in his 13-year pro career. Baumgartner has played 776 games (715 regular-season, 61 playoffs) in the AHL and 134 more in the NHL.
  • Hershey defenseman Bryan Helmer won the Calder Cup as a second-year pro with the Albany River Rats in 1995, and is back in the Finals for the first time since. Helmer, who skated for Manitoba during the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons, ranks seventh all-time with 111 career Calder Cup Playoff games played.
  • Bob Woods, who played his junior hockey in Brandon, Man., could join Chuck Hamilton and AHL Hall of Famer Frank Mathers as the only men to win Calder Cups with the Hershey Bears as both a player and a head coach. Woods was a defenseman on Hershey’s 1997 title team, and picked up a second ring as an assistant coach in 2006.
  • Hershey led the AHL in offense during the regular season with 296 goals scored; Manitoba was first in defense with 188 goals allowed.
  • Hershey led the AHL in attendance during the regular season, averaging 8,987 fans per game; Manitoba was second (7,769). Through three playoff rounds, Manitoba is first (8,919), followed by Hershey (7,329).

Calder Cup Finals Facts
NOTE: There have been 72 Calder Cup Finals in AHL history. The league championship series was best-of-five from 1937-43, and has been best-of-seven since 1944.

The team that wins…
  • Game 1 has won the Calder Cup 55 of 72 times (76.4%)
  • Game 2 has won the Calder Cup 54 of 72 times (75.0%)
  • Game 3 has won the Calder Cup 47 of 72 times (65.3%)
  • Game 4 has won the Calder Cup 49 of 70 times (70.0%)
  • Game 5 has won the Calder Cup 40 of 52 times (76.9%)
  • Game 6 has won the Calder Cup 26 of 32 times (81.2%)
  • Game 7 has won the Calder Cup 10 of 10 times (100.0%)
The team leading a Calder Cup Finals series (*best-of-sevens only)…
  • 1-0 has won the Calder Cup 55 of 72 times (76.4%)
  • 2-0 has won the Calder Cup 39 of 41 times (95.1%)
  • 3-0* has won the Calder Cup 21 of 21 times (100.0%)
  • 2-1 has won the Calder Cup 38 of 48 times (79.2%)
  • 3-1* has won the Calder Cup 29 of 32 times (90.6%)
  • 3-2* has won the Calder Cup 27 of 31 times (87.1%)
When a Calder Cup Finals series is tied (*best-of-sevens only)…
  • 1-1 the winner of Game 3 has won the Calder Cup 22 of 31 times (71.0%)
  • 2-2* the winner of Game 5 has won the Calder Cup 17 of 18 times (94.4%)

  • The team with home-ice advantage in the Finals has won the Calder Cup 49 of 72 times (68.1%)
  • The team with home-ice advantage in the Finals has won Game One 55 of 72 times (76.4%)
  • The Calder Cup has been won on home ice 46 of 72 times (63.9%)
  • There have been 16 Calder Cup Finals sweeps (14 best-of-seven, two best-of-five)
  • 12 Calder Cup Finals have gone the distance (10 best-of-seven, two best-of-five)
  • The home team has won every game once (Cleveland def. Pittsburgh, 1953)
  • The road team has won every game once (Adirondack def. St. John’s, 1992)

Manitoba is the 45th team in 73 years to reach the Calder Cup Finals after finishing first overall in the regular season. Previous number-one seeds are 32-12 in the Finals.

Hershey’s Alexandre Giroux is the 22nd AHL MVP to reach the Calder Cup Finals since the league first handed out the Les Cunningham Award in 1947-48. Those players have won the Cup 66% of the time.

Manitoba’s Cory Schneider is the sixth winner of the Baz Bastien Award to reach the Calder Cup Finals since the league first presented the award in 1983-84. Those players have won the cup only 40% of the time.

There are many more of these little facts in the preview. It is worth checking out.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Take the Bears in.....

It was a weird feeling making it to the Calder Cup finals this season. I basically expected it so it wasn't as big of a thing as it should have been. Following this team as closely as I did this year gave me the feeling that this team was getting this far. Sure there were some touch and go moments but even during the worst times of the season I always thought that this team would get to this point.

I never really doubted it from the moment they made the key signings last offseason. And then when the rookies showed their ability it just made my confidence grow stronger.

And now...Game 1 is almost here!

The team is in Manitoba already getting ready to face the #1 overall seed in the playoffs. This game might be the most important of the series. And in my opinion it is set up okay for the Bears. All of the pressure is on Manitoba in this game. For the first time in the postseason the Bears will not have the pressure on them in game 1.

In my personal opinion this team will shine when the pressure isn't on. There will be enough pressure to keep them focused and honest but not as much as what will be on the Moose. Because of 15,000 fans, home ice, and being the #1 seed. I mean really on paper you would have to say the Moose are the favorites to win this series. So Hershey finally gets to see what the underdog role feels like.

Personally I think they thrive!

Someone made mention on the forum that the Moose have not faced a team like Hershey yet in the playoffs and they are spot on. To get to this point the Moose have beaten a #4 seed, a #3 seed, and another #3 seed. I am not saying that those weren't good teams but they weren't the caliber of the teams Hershey played.

And I know the Bears played a 4, 3, and 2 seed (which isn't much better) but when that #3 seed is the second best offensive team in the league and a team that dominated you in the regular season it is a little more impressive.

The goalies that Manitoba went up against were not quite the caliber of what the Bears faced either. Most of the goaltenders (with the exception of Matt Climie of the Aeros who played 2 against Manitoba) didn't have a save percentage over .900. Compared to Adam Berkhoel and Tuukka Rask not too many goalies are in the same league.

Now all that being said I still think this is a very tough series for the Bears. I am going to make a pick here but I have to add to it.

I will officially take Hershey in 6.

BUT if the Bears win game could be over in 5. If they lose game 1 it won't end before game 6.

So there. Enjoy game 1. I know I will.

If you want some more info on the two teams check out this link:

Bears/Moose Preview -

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Look At The Manitoba Moose

Who are the Manitoba Moose?

The Moose are the AHL affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks. They finished #1 in the North division, Western Conference, and the AHL. They play their home games in the 15,015 seat MTS Centre in downtown Winnipeg. And they are expecting sellouts for the first 2 games in the series.

How did they get here?

As mentioned they entered the playoffs as the #1 overall seed in the AHL. They actually started the playoffs on a low note losing game 1 against Toronto and then they lost game 3 before winning their next 10 playoff games.

They played against #3 seed Grand Rapids in the North division final and the Griffins did not put up too much of a fight as the Moose swept the series 4 games to none. While all the games were close the Griffins couldn't quite pull out a victory.

Next up were the Houston Aeros who looked like they were going to go the way of the Griffins before pulling out 2 overtime victories in games 4 and 5. But in the end they too were no match for the Moose as Manitoba won in 6.

A couple postseason facts for you....
  • They are 12-4 in the postseason
  • They are 7-1 at home
  • They are 5-3 on the road
  • 9 of their 16 games have been decided by 1 goal
  • They are 5-4 in 1 goal games
  • Have NOT shutout an opposing team in the postseason
  • They are 0-3 in overtime


Very similar to Hershey statistically. Both teams have gone 12-4 to date. Both teams are 7-1 at home and 5-3 on the road. Both teams have scored52 goals in the playoffs. One of the few differences is that Hershey has allowed 35 goals to Manitoba's 33...not much of a difference.

The Moose are 6th in power play percentage at 19% and 3rd in penalty killing at 87.3%.

They have 15 different goal scorers and all but 2 of them have scored more than 1 goal.

Goalie Preview:

Cory Schneider was the AHL's goaltender of the year after going 28-10-1 with a .928 save percentage during the regular season. So he is definitely no slouch.

During the postseason he is 12-3 (got pulled in game 4 of Houston series after giving up 3 goals int he first period) with a .924 save percentage and a 2.03 goals against average.

Schneider is good. He is the #2 prospect in the Canucks organization according to Hockey's Future. He can win a series on his own if needed. He is actually a bigger goalie than Tuukka Rask of the Bruins. They are both 6'2" but Schneider is a good 25lbs heavier (weighing 195) than Rask.

Keep your eye on Schneider because his play will make or break this series. He hasn't faced an offensive team as prolific as the Bears this postseason.

6 Players to Watch:

  1. C Jason Krog (10) - He was with the Chicago Wolves last season and won the Calder Cup and was named playoff MVP. He was the team leader with 86 points in the regular season and is the team leader in the postseason with 18 points in 16 games.
  2. LW Jason Jaffray (15) - He is second on the team with 14 points in the playoffs. (6 goals and 8 assists)
  3. RW Michael Grabner (40) - Has really upped his production so far this postseason and is averaging almost a point a game with 7 goals and 5 assists in 14 playoff games. Also the team leader with 3 power play goals.
  4. D Nolan Baumgartner (5) - One of the top defensemen in the league he has not been an offensive force in the postseason but he is solid.
  5. C Cody Hodgson (18) - The #1 prospect in the Canucks organization he had 92 points in 53 regular season games and 31 points in 21 playoff games for his junior team. Has only played 6 games in the AHL and has 1 goal and 2 assists so far.
  6. C Alexandre Bolduc (49) - 5 goals and 4 assists in 10 games including 2 shorthanded goals. Has not played in a few games...injured? Not sure but if he plays watch out in the offensive end.

Saturday morning I will have my game preview along with my pick. Be sure to check it out. I am absolutely psyched for the games to start.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Calder Cup Finals Set

Well Hershey took care of business in Providence and didn't allow the Bruins to gain any momentum or confidence.

Now comes a matchup with the #1 seed in the playoffs...the Moose from Manitoba.

Let's look at this matchup from a historical point of view for a moment:

6th straight year for a PA team in the finals....

These are the #1 seeds in their respective conferences....
They were 1-2 in attendance during regular season with Hershey #1....
They are 1-2 in attendance in the playoffs with Manitoba #1....

This is Manitoba's FIRST trip to the finals...
This is Hershey's TWENTY FIRST trip to the finals....

Hershey has made the Calder Cup finals once every 3.4 years....
Hershey has reached the finals in 30% of their 71 seasons....

This series is going to be GREAT!!!!


There will be more to come in the coming days.

What's coming:

Who are the Manitoba Moose
Series Preview
My Pick

Friday, May 22, 2009

Bears Score 4 in Third to Beat Bruins!

By a show of hands how many of you stopped listening after the Bruins went up 3-0? Well I paid $8 to see the game so I wasn't going to stop and I am glad I didn't.

I am still not sure that I actually saw what I saw. I would describe it as disbelief to a point...a kind of stunned feeling.

Down 3-0 three minutes into the second period and down 4-2 less then a minute into the third and the Bears did not give in. They put 4 pucks past Tuukka Rask in the THIRD PERIOD alone to win 6-4 in Providence.

I will be honest here...I was looking towards game 4 once the Bruins went up 3-0. Then Alexander Giroux scored his first of 2 goals and the Bears started playing again. 6 minutes later and it was 3-2 with over half the game to go.

Then another penalty call and yet another power play goal less then a minute into the game put the Bears down 4-2 and things looked bleak again. Little did anyone know at the time that Rask was going to lay an egg in the third period.

Give the Bears credit though...they never stopped playing and for the 3rd game in a row they dominated the Bruins late in the game. Not necessarily in shots as they only outshot the Bruins 12-8 in the third but more in effort and energy. You can see it in the way the teams are skating late in the game. The Bruins look tired while the Bears look like they just came out of the locker room to start the game.

Tonight the goalie looked tired too. To Rask's credit the defense definitely let him down and I would say 2 of the goals were just great plays and lucky bounces. But the other two, Giroux's second and Bryan Helmers goal with less then a minute to go, should have been stopped. Giroux deked Rask right out of the goal and Helmer just let one go from the point that just straight beat Rask.

I am thoroughly impressed in the way that Hershey stayed in this game. Going down 3-0 right after an intermission would destroy some teams energy but not this team. They kept going and were rewarded with a huge 6-4 victory and have at the very least guaranteed a return trip to Hershey if necessary.

Great game Bears....AWESOME effort!!

My Three Stars of the Game:
  1. Alexander Giroux - 2 goals, the first Hershey goal and the tying goal
  2. Jeff Penner - also 2 goals but it wasn't quite enough
  3. Bryan Helmer - 1 goal and an assist on the game winning goal by Mink

Grading the Performance:
  • Offense - A - I had no problem with their performance tonight. Good passing, good shots, and solid puck movement. Possession in the offensive zone has been solid this entire series to date and tonight was no different. All 4 lines were solid and all 4 had their chances.
  • Defense - B - Okay performance. John Carlson was scratched which kind of confused me a bit but unsure if there is an injury or something. I still think some guys need to learn how to watch the players in front of the goalie. Even late in the third 2 Bruins were standing wide open right in front and beside Michal Neuvirth.
  • Goaltending - C - I honestly was not impressed by Neuvy's performance tonight. He made 24 saves but I think he should have had more. I am sure he is unhappy with his performance as well though.
  • Power Play - B - Okay job tonight. They went 1 for 4 with that 1 being the last goal of the game. Good chances...good movement. Just didn't get the bounces.
  • Penalty Kill - F - The Bears gave the Bruins 4 power plays and allowed goals on 3 of them. A terrible job from this unit. I am not going to say it was any one players fault but Joudrey was on the ice for all 3 and Pinner was out there for 2. Again...NOT saying it was their fault but something doesn't seem to be clicking for this unit in this series.
  • Overall - B - A GREAT job tonight to pick up the pieces by the offense. On a night when the defense and goaltending wasn't excellent the offense took the team on their shoulders and won this game. 2 wins away from a finals appearance with 4 games to go in the series.


Bears/Bruins Resume Series Tonight

All week the issue of team depth has come up regarding the Bears/Bruins series. Apparently the Bruins like to skate with 2 lines and 4 defensemen which is obviously not good for conserving energy late in games. Considering Hershey runs 4 lines all game long this news is definitely good for the Bears.

But how true is it? I can't give you average time on ice for these teams as the stats page does not give that information. But I can tell you that 14 different Bruins have scored goals in the postseason. And 20 different players have recorded at least one point. Compare that to Hershey, who has 17 scorers and 23 point producers, and you see that the differences are not that defined.

Now that doesn't mean that the Bears don't have more depth than the Bruins, they absolutely do. But it does mean that the Bruins are obviously skating plenty with more than 2 lines. OR it means that the 3rd and 4th lines are dominant when they play. I am betting on the first part of that.

Sure Hershey's depth is a key to any series. There aren't many teams in the NHL that can run 4 lines all game and produce with all 4 let alone any teams in the AHL that can do it. The depth was the difference in the Philly series and most of the season. (Personally I feel that the defense and goalie play won the Wilkes Barre series) All year the Bears outplayed teams in the third period and it is happening again this series.

In both games so far Hershey has been the better offensive team in the 2nd and 3rd periods. Unfortunately the 1st period has presented the problems. If Providence can score a couple in the first period it doesn't matter how much depth the Bears have because Tuukka Rask is playing too good right now to give up many goals. How he has not been a top 3 star of the game in the first two games is beyond me.

All this talk about Hershey's depth and up to this point it has not included Quintin Laing. But that might change tonight. Reports out of Providence have him as a possible player tonight when the Bruins and Bears resume the series. The question is....who sits if Quintin plays? Pinizzotto? Bouchard? One of them will be sitting already. What about Osala? I know he scored 2 goals in game 1 but has he played well enough otherwise? Do you sit Beagle? Joudrey? How about Gordon, has he done enough to remain? Do you sit Perrault? Reid?

My money would be that Reid sits since they are similar players but Reid has played very good the past couple weeks. With the exception of the late penalty in game 2 I would say he has been one of the best players in recent games.

It sure will be nice to get Lainger back in the game and back killing penalties. Now if he could just get Tyler Sloan to stay in position.

Players to Watch:


C Jay Beagle (14) - It is only a matter of time until he puts 2 in the net in one game. One of the hardest working Bears all year.
LW - Chris Bourque (17) - Can he ignore the attention he will get playing in New England? He needs to step up his game and produce something other than losing his helmet.
C - Keith Aucoin (11) - Another New England born player but he has the extra motivation of wanting to win a cup. He needs to start shooting, stop trying to beat entire teams, and helping to produce.


RW Brad Marchand (12) - He already has a goal and an assist in the series which gives him a team best 6 goals and 7 assists in the postseason.
C Martin St. Pierre (39) - He is leading the team in points this postseason with 14 in 13 games after leading them in points during the season with 66.
G Tuukka Rask (30) - If the Bruins win the series it will because Hershey couldn't solve the big Finnish goalie.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Note to Fans in Hershey (and elsewhere too)

I have sat around some knowledgeable fans over the years but unfortunately the past few games are not included in that list. I am all for everyone coming out to the games...I would to see sell outs every game....but let me explain something to you....


Yelling shoot is ridiculous. Sure you pay for your ticket so you can yell what you want and boo if you want. But realize that it isn't always the answer.

Times You Should NOT Shoot:

  • When there is no one in front of the goalie. It is VERY RARE when a guy will score on a slapshot with no one between the shooter and goalie. Sure it happens but if you have other options (even if you have to wait) it is better to take them.
  • When a guy is standing about 5 feet in front of the shooter. Why shoot from the point into the leg of a defenseman? Then they get the puck. Pass it around and wait for someone to come open.
  • From the point on the power play. I do not want to see point shots all the time. Yes Kronwall and Bourque can absolutely rip it BUT goals come when the puck is moving from side to side and open shots are made. I would say at least 15 of Giroux's goals this season came on passes from circle to circle from Aucoin....NOT from point shots. Shooting from the point can work but more often than not the puck gets blocked and cleared. I would rather see passing around the outside looking for that perfect shot then guys just shooting to do so.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Bears Rise to the Challenge Against Bruins

Last time I wrote something I said something to the effect of having a preview of the series up...well obviously I didn't get around to doing that.

But I am back now so let's take a look at games 1 and 2 and maybe glance forward and see what this weeks games could look like.

If you were surprised by how the Bears came out Saturday then you haven't been paying attention. I said all day that I was worried because I didn't think they were going to be 'up' enough for the game. And unfortunately I was right. It should have been expected though.


Just finished a great 7 game series against public enemy #1
Got to hear all week how the East division is so good and always beats the Atlantic
Got to hear about how good Neuvirth has been playing and how he can win games for them
and Heard how they were supposed to win in 5 games.

Add to all that the Bruins had to listen to how good the East division, Hershey, and Neuvy are. They came in with a purpose and it was obvious from the start of the game.

And before anyone comments that the team shouldn't have a problem getting 'up' for a game let me remind you that in happens in every sport at every level....Caps/Rangers ring a bell with anyone?

I was actually pretty confident when they went down 2-0 in the first on Saturday. I honestly thought that would be the best thing for them. And it was...right after the second goal they started playing much better. Why? Because they could relax and just start playing again. They didn't have to worry about falling behind because they already had.

After that they controlled the game. I still think Providence played very well after the first period but the Bears at least evened out the game if they didn't win the last 2 periods.

Fast forward to Saturday night and I thought the Bears looked MUCH better in the entire game. Yes I know they didn't get a shot in the first like 16 minutes but that is because all the shots were just wide or were blocked. It wasn't like they weren't getting pressure on Rask. They were firing shots they just weren't hitting the goalie.

Personally I thought they played fine Sunday in the first period. Many of you in the stands would probably argue with me considering there were actually a few boos raining down but if you paid attention to the game and not the stats you would have seen that they actually played much of the period in the Bruins zone. AND don't forget that the Bruins didn't have many shots in that period either. In fact they only had 6 to the Bears 5. I would say the Bears chances were much better in that period too. Just a couple near misses.

After that period Hershey absolutely dominated the game. If not for a goal on a late power play Neuvy probably would have earned the shootout. Even still the game was not as close as the score indicated.

Now looking ahead I would say there is one thing that worries me...the Bruins power play. In 2 games they have scored 3 goals on 6 chances. That equals a 50% conversion rate. If they can continue at that clip the Bears are in BIG trouble. It isn't a vaunted power play and at even strength they can not compete but the Hershey penalty kill better step up big time.

Some random thoughts and observations:
  • I thought Tyler Sloan played okay this weekend. He still pinches in to liberally and gets caught. And did anyone else notice that the PK was phenomenal in games 6/7 against the Pens with Collins and McNeill and when Sloan comes back it goes in the tank again? He has been on the ice for ALL 3 Bruin PP goals. Come on Tyler...I know you can play but start paying more attention on the PK!!
  • Why was Pinner scratched Sunday? I thought he played very well Saturday night but he did take some big hits so maybe it was a injury thing. Either way I thought Bouchard played good on Sunday but I would sit him in favor of Pinner if he is healthy.
  • Beagle has been fantastic since coming back down. He struggles some with the skill moves and play in the offensive end but that isn't his game anyhow. I love the Beags and Perrault together. They compliment each other nicely.
  • This is for Keith Aucoin....SHOOT!! I know you want to pass and I commend you for that but at this stage in the season when your team is struggling to get pucks on Rask let alone passed him please SHOOT more. We all know you can us again though.
  • The Bears are going to have to get Rask moving side to side to beat him. That is one of this teams specialties though so it shouldn't be hard. He is a very big goalie and plays an upright style so beating him high isn't going to work much. And the low shots are all getting blocked so getting him going side to side is absolutely the best (and possibly only) way to beat him consistently.

Oh and just in case you wanted to know I WOULD have said Bears in 5 as well. I don't think that will happen now but that is what I would have said.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

8 Down...8 To Go!!

Well most of you know what happened Tuesday night. The Bears blanked the Pens for the second straight game 3-0.

It was the first time a goalie has recorded shutouts in both game 6 and 7 in AHL history.

This was only the 4th series in AHL history that the home team won every game in a 7 game series.

It was the first back to back playoff shutout by a goalie since Freddie Cassivi did it in 2006 and only the third time in Bears history (other time was 1947 I believe).

I am pretty sure it was only the second game 7 shutout in team history...last one was in 1947 in game 7 of the Calder Cup Finals.

So it was a pretty historic night for Michal Neuvirth but he didn't do it alone. The defense was outstanding. Clearing loose pucks, blocking shots, getting the puck out easily, and taking the body, whatever it was they all did it. And in one of the cooler things I have seen after a hockey game the ENTIRE DEFENSE, Helmer, Collins, P. McNeill, Carlson, Arsene, and Kronwall were ALL the #3 star of the game.

Nice Job Guys!!

Scoring wise it didn't take long. For those of you not there or haven't read about it yet, the game winning goal was scored 50 seconds into the game. Keith Aucoin got that one. Bourque tipped in a Giroux shot in the second and Pinner scored a nice goal in the third to eliminate any doubt.

The only bad thing for the Bears came a full day after when Providence won their series in 6. Had they lost they would have played game 7 tonight and had to be in Hershey Saturday for back to back games. But they will get 2 days off while Hershey gets 3 so it should be pretty even.

Some organizational bad news that comes with a positive for Hershey is that the Caps lost last night in game 7 against the bigger Penguins. The positive is that Jay Beagle and Tyler Sloan will be coming back to Hershey probably today.

I am not saying the loss was good as I am a Caps fan and was rooting for them all year. But if you can take a positive from a negative you might as well do it.

Next game is Saturday night against the Bruins. I will have a series preview up either tomorrow or Saturday so be sure to check it out. Lots of unknowns against this opponent since the Bears only saw them twice.

My Three Stars of the Game:
  1. Michal Neuvirth - great game...huge saves...thank you Neuvy!
  2. Steve Pinizzotto - 1 goal, the game clincher, but plenty of pesting and big hits and hustle
  3. John Carlson - always steady in his own end and a factor on offense...a complete d-man

Grading the Performance:

A!!! There really is no reason to go into anything else. The Bears dominated in every facet of the game Tuesday night.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Just in case you weren't pumped up enough on this game 7 morning...

And this too....



Monday, May 11, 2009

Bears Force Game 7

The Bears and Pens had faced off 4 times in the playoffs prior to this season and none of those went longer than 5 games. Well this year we get the hype fulfilled and will see a game 7 Tuesday night.

All season these teams play and their goal is home ice for the playoffs. Why? So that they will host a game 7 instead of having to travel somewhere else. When the Bears were struggling late in the year I made numerous mentions about the lack of importance of the #1 seed. Well I was wrong. This year being the #1 seed in the East division might be what decides the series.

The home team has won each of the 6 games heading into Tuesday's game. And with the exception of game 3 where the Bears played better than the Pens every other game was convincingly won by the home team.

The question is...will that continue?

The Penguins did not look good last night. They did get 30 shots on Neuvirth but they looked out of place and flustered for much of the game. Frustration ran through the team and Jeff Taffe even got kicked out for arguing with the referee. Overall the Pens just weren't ready for that game last night.

The Bears though did everything right. The big scorers came back as Andrew Gordon and Alexander Giroux scored and Darren Reid added his 2nd in as many nights and probably locked himself into the lineup for the foreseeable future. Neuvirth played great getting his second shutout of the playoffs and his 7th win.

Impressive was the first time the Pens were shutout since March of 2008. Yes 2008!

The special teams for the Bears also showed up Sunday evening. The penalty kill rebounded and stopped all 4 power plays the Pens had and the power play managed to score 1 goal (Giroux) which made the score 3-0 and was probably the most important goal of the game.

Hershey played like they wanted to win last night. They wanted it more than the Penguins did and it showed up on the scoreboard and the effort. Finishing checks, getting to loose pucks, big/timely saves, and getting shot after shot on Berkhoel in the Wilkes Barre net.

Will home ice reign supreme again Tuesday night? The Penguins might think so...they chose to stay in Hershey last night and tonight in what might be an effort to become more familiar with the playing surface. Or it was just a way to avoid the travel before such a big game. I was surprised to learn they were staying considering how close the cities are.

Last night was a great game. The Bears showed up and played their game after allowing the Pens to control games 4 and 5. Now it comes down to a winner take all game 7. And because of the effort during the will be played in Hershey.

My Three Stars of the Game:
  1. Michal Neuvirth - 30 saves to shut out the Pens will get any goalie on the board
  2. Andrew Gordon - 1 goal and tons of hustle. skated hard all game long
  3. Darren Reid - made Engelland look silly on the goal

Grading the Performance:
  • Offense - A - 43 shots is what this team needed. They struggled to get shots and pressure on Berkhoel in games 4 and 5 so getting all those on net in game 6 was big. I also liked to see the guys shooting more on odd man rushes. Usually they wait and wait and make a pass really late but last night there was more shooting.
  • Defense - A - Cleared everything out of the middle and blocked plenty of shots. Anytime there was a loose puck in front of Neuvy the guys were clearing it out of harms way. Need to see more of that Tuesday night.
  • Goaltending - A - First time the Pens were shut out since March 2008. Impressive. Neuvirth made a couple big saves but also got plenty of help from his defense.
  • Power Play - B - They got 1 goal but they had 7 chances. Would like to see 2 of 7 go in at the very least. Seemed to struggle getting set up late in the game.
  • Penalty Kill - A - After getting victimized in the last 2 games the unit pushed forward and shut down the vaunted Penguins power play.
  • Overall - A - One of the better games this year in my opinion. They had the Penguins questioning what they were doing at the end. Players and coaches alike for the Pens were feeling the pressure and weren't sure what to do. Hopefully that continues through Tuesday night.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

It's Win or Go Home Time in Hershey

Well first the good news....the home team has won every game so far in the series and the Penguins have no more home games.

Now the bad news....the Bears are down 3 games to 2 and haven't been too good the past two nights. Although I did think they played pretty good in last nights game it wasn't enough.

The Wilkes Barre power play has figured out the Bears penalty kill. In the 3 games in Wilkes Barre the Pens went a collective 6 for 16 on the power play which isn't terrible. But in the last 2 games it has gone 5 for 10. 50%! It would take a pretty good offensive performance to overcome those kinds of numbers.

Unfortunately for the Bears the offensive performance hasn't been that great. 3 of the 4 goals in the last 2 games came from guys that don't even play regularly, Darren Reid, Grant McNeill, and Steve Pinizzotto, and the other came from Keith Aucoin. That means in the last two games neither Alexander Giroux, Graham Mink, Chris Bourque, Kyle Wilson, and Andrew Gordon didn't score at all.

Your top scorers have to perform in the playoffs no matter who they are matched up against and the top players aren't doing that right now.

Tonight at 5 the Bears season is on the line in Hershey. If the Bears can't muster a better performance at both ends of the ice tonight they will be playing golf on Monday.

I think they will!


Friday, May 8, 2009

Bears Looking For Game 4 Win

Who is excited for tonight's game??

I am!

This game is HUGE for both teams. If the Bears win they are in great shape with only 1 more win necessary.

If the Pens pull it out then the series is tied with tomorrow nights game in Wilkes Barre again and it becomes a must win for Hershey.

The Bears can not allow the Pens to get the win and regain their confidence and momentum. They have to come out better and actually get some shots against the Pens goalies. I don't think they need 40-45 shots but getting to 30 would be nice.

There is a possibility of a call up to Washington so that is something to watch for this afternoon. Last I heard there were rumors of a call up but no confirmation or denial from anyone. I would imagine if there is/was a call up it has already happened and will be announced this morning.

This team is absolutely deep enough to handle it but some other players are going to have to step up. Andrew Gordon and Kyle Wilson are the first two names that come to mind. Both are terrific players but consistency is killing them lately. They show up and get points in a game and then disappear for a while. The team needs them to produce more.

Jay Beagle needs to hit the net when he gets open looks. It isn't something anyone is going to hold against him but if he scores one of the two chances on Wednesday night then the Bears more than likely win. I am not saying they were easy or that there wasn't pressure but you have to put those away when you get them.

The MAG line also needs to be more consistent. I know in the postseason, especially on the road, the other team is looking to shut down the top line but Alexander Giroux, Keith Aucoin, and Graham Mink should be good enough to break through and get more pressure. It isn't even the goals that are lagging...the consistent pressure is not there.

The Bears played great in games 1 and 2. They looked solid in game 3. They need to be great or better in game 4 so that they can close out this series Saturday night in the WB.


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Pens Take Game 3 Against Hershey

Well that was a tough loss to take. Not because the Penguins didn't deserve to win, they did, but because so many of their goals were just fortunate bounces. But that is what it takes to win in the playoffs.

Overall I felt that the Bears were dominated for much of the game. The only forward line to really sustain pressure at even strength was the Bourque/Beagle/Perreault line. Hershey finished the game (which included almost 5 minutes in overtime) with only 25 shots on goal. At the other end the Penguins took 43 shots.

Michal Neuvirth played brilliantly again as he made 40 saves and as I mentioned the only goals that went in were deflections or lucky bounces. The first goal deflected in off of Bryan Helmer, the second off of I believe Dean Arsene's stick, and the third and final goal was bouncing around in the crease before being nudged over the line.

Neuvy made huge saves to even keep the Bears in the game as the Pens came out hard and continued it all game. They really controlled the play for much of the game and while the Bears did have some good chances they didn't have near as many as the Pens did.

The defensive unit also deserves some credit because even though the Pens had 43 shots many of them were contested. Positioning was a strong point as well in the defensive end as the Bears managed to get in passing lanes and they took the body often.

Really I think it came down to two things:
1. Some of the forwards trying to be a little too cute and do it all themselves at times. Alexander Giroux did this a couple times as did Keith Aucoin, Oskar Osala, Kyle Wilson, and Francois Bouchard. I think it is better to circle back into your own zone then to try to get through 3 Penguin players by yourself.
2. The Penguins needed this game more than the Bears. They came out more determined and played like they wanted it more. Now that they have gotten to within one they have a little more confidence and might relax just a touch.

Any way you look at it Friday nights game is huge. If Hershey wins then all they need is 1 win in the last 3 games. If the Pens win then it is a best of 3 series going forward.

In my personal opinion the Bears need one of the next 2. As long as they win 1 game in Wilkes Barre they are in great position to win the series.

My Three Stars of the Game
  1. Michal Neuvirth - he didn't win but 40 saves and 2 of the goals were deflections of his own players.
  2. Mark Letestu - one goal but it was an important one, the game winner
  3. Chris Bourque - very consistent and aggressive...probably the best Bear not in goal last night

Grading the Performance:
  • Offense - C+ - Disappointing in my opinion. They had some chances (Beags I am looking at you here) that they weren't able to convert but the consistent pressure wasn't there last night. Whether that was because the Pens played better or Hershey played worse it is tough to say but more shots and more consistent pressure is needed.
  • Defense - B+ - They need to limit the number of shots but many of the shots were from the outside. Positionally the unit played very well and while they did lose the game and 3 goals went in I would argue that all 3 were flukes.
  • Goaltending - A - Sure he didn't get the win but how good was Neuvy last night? You take away 2 fortunate bounces for the Pens and Hershey wins this game 2-0.
  • Power Play - A - 2 goals on 5 chances is fine with me. You do that every game and you will win most of them. They took advantage of what was given to them instead of forcing the issue and that is a key to a good power play.
  • Penalty Kill - A - I know they gave up 1 power play goal but it was a lucky bounce. This unit has been dominant this postseason and much of the credit for the teams success should go to them. Andrew Joudrey deserves a mention every game as he has been this year's penalty killing guru like Dave Steckel from 2 season ago.
  • Overall - B - I think more than anything Wilkes Barre played their A game while the Bears didn't. Usually only one team can play perfect and this night it was the Penguins turn. Now the Bears are going to be hungrier for Penguin on Friday night.


Monday, May 4, 2009

Weekend Was Good For Bears, Bad For Penguins

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

Not a bad weekend for the organization!

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

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

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

My Three Stars of the Weekend:

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

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


Friday, May 1, 2009

Psyched for Game 1

Personally I am already getting amped up for tomorrow nights game. This series makes me nervous and excited all at the same time. I am hoping to not have a voice by the time tomorrow night is done. We need to be loud and supportive tomorrow night.

Yesterday I gave you a look back at the season series and gave some information on how the teams performed most of the season.

Today I want to get into how the teams are playing now and who is doing it.

Let's start with the Penguins:

They beat the Bridgeport Sound Tigers 4 games to 1 in the first round. It was a much closer series than you would think though. 4 of the 5 games were decided by 1 goal and the other game (game 5) was decided by 2 goals. 2 of the games went to overtime as well.

The really surprising part of this series is that the road team won the first 4 games. It was an interesting setup (2 @ BPort, 1 @ WB, 1 @ BPort, 2 @ WB, 1 @BPort) and the only home team to win a game was Wilkes Barre in game 5. The first four games were all one goal games where the road team won.

During the regular season the Penguins were second only to the Bears in goals scored with 274 so them scoring 18 in the first 5 games of the playoffs really isn't a surprise. Also during the season they were tied for the conference lead in goals allowed (212, tied with Bridgeport) so they usually don't give up too many goals. But they gave up 14 to the Sound Tigers in round one. Not a large amount but more than I would have expected them to give up to a team that wasn't known for its goal scoring.

The power play is the best in the league right now converting on almost 43% of their opportunities while their penalty kill isn't as good but not too bad either at about 88%. Obviously when your power play is converting at a 43% rate you are going to be very tough to beat.

Another key stat for the Penguins is their scoring so far. They aren't as deep as the Bears as they have only gotten goals from 7 players but 4 of those players have scored 15 of the goals. Chris Minard, Jean-Michel Daoust, Jeff Taffe, and Dustin Jeffrey are those 4 players. While it makes it a little easier to defend when only a few guys are scoring this is tough because those players are on 2 different lines according to Tim Leone.

John Curry has been solid but not spectacular in net. So far in the playoffs he has faced 160 shots and has a goals against average of 2.67 and a save percentage of .912. Not bad numbers but not as good as his regular season numbers either.

Now the BEARS!!

We all now that the Bears swept the Phantoms and that there are 11 different goal scorers for the Bears in the postseason. If you read yesterday's post then you also know that the penalty kill is perfect and the power play is converting on 26% of their chances.

You are also probably aware that Michal Neuvirth is having an incredible postseason to this point. He has recorded one shutout and has a goals against average of 1.50 and a save percentage of .945 on the 109 shots he has faced.

Scoring wise for the Bears they did about as well as they did during the season. 14 goals in 4 games while only allowing 7. So the defense and goaltending was a bit better than the regular season but the offense was definitely better.

Other than that the important information is that John Carlson has reported to Hershey and could play Saturday night. He was a first round pick this past summer and almost made the Capitals out of camp. He might have had he not been so young. He is an offensive defenseman that can definitely move the puck at this level.

IF Staffon Kronwall can not go I would not be surprised to see Carlson in the lineup. In fact I think it would be a mistake to play Kronwall this early. Let him rest for the weekend and then bring him into game 3. But if he is 100% then there is no reason to hold him out. He has been practicing but they say he isn't quite 100%.

I expect either Carlson or Collins to play Saturday.

Now lets look at the players to watch:


The top line from WB/S - C Taffe (22), RW Daoust (26), and LW Minard (14) form the top line for the Pens. They have combined for 11 goals and 10 assists in their 5 playoff games so far. Minard has 5 goals while the other 2 have 3 and each player has 7 points.
C Dustin Jeffrey (21) - He has 4 goals and an assist in the playoffs while skating on the third line. 3 of his goals have come on the power play.
C Mark Letestu (10) - He centers the second line and has 4 assists this postseason. My is probably getting some time on the power play too.


LW Alexander Giroux (12) - 2 goals and 4 assists in the 4 games so far. Not bad but the Bears will need more scoring from him in this series. Both of his goals have come on the power play.
The 3rd line - LW Bouchard (22), C Wilson (18), and RW Gordon (10). I consider them the third line based on their production but that is a pretty good 3rd line. They HAVE TO PRODUCE. The Pens will be able to slow down the MAG line so the 3rd line needs to do something.
D Greg Amadio (32) - He is the emotional and physical leader of this team. He is a very important part and he needs to get the guys focused and at the same time hyped. Get some big hits early to set the tone and then settle in to shut down the Taffe line.

There are numerous Bears you can put on this list. Joudrey will probably be a big part on the PK and just in the defensive end. Bourque needs to keep his stupid penalties. Sloan needs to stay in position...learn from the mistakes others are making and don't pinch in too much. Osala is needed now too. If he wants to play in the NHL next season he better dominate the remaining playoff games. Pinner is going to be huge with his hits and pest like tactics.

There are many crucial parts that I can't even begin to cover them. Basically every single player has to step up his game. They stepped it up one level for the Phantoms series and now they have to up it another level for the Pens.