Monday, June 22, 2009

New Coach Coming to Hershey

Well it is official now...Bob Woods is now an assistant coach for the Washington Capitals.

This was suspected for weeks now after the Caps didn't hire a new assistant to replace the one they let go. Woods was an assistant under Boudreau and he knows the system as well as anyone.

The question is now....who becomes Hershey's head coach?

We will surely know very shortly as the team is not going to wait long to make a decision.

A couple names to keep in mind:

Dale Hunter - former Cap and head coach for OHL's London Knights
Jared Bednar - head coach at South Carolina

I could see either of them landing in Hershey. Also don't forget Mark French who was the assistant coach this past season. He might be up for the job too.

Either way....a big CONGRATS and Thank you to Bob Woods for coaching the Bears to the Calder Cup and for his promotion to the big leagues. Good Job Woods!!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Sloan and Collins resigned

Apparently the information I had gathered in the past couple days was incorrect because both things I found had Sloan and Collins already signed for next season.

BUT both were officially signed yesterday, Collins for 2 years and Sloan for 1. Either way they are back for this upcoming season.

I am okay with these signings. Sloan had some struggles mainly because he jumps in to liberally and he struggles in my opinion moving the puck behind the net but he had an okay season. The Caps obviously think highly of him as he spent more time in the NHL then any other defensemen from Hershey not name Karl.

Sean Collins was very steady all season I thought. He got caught up in a numbers game in the playoffs as he is a puck moving d-man and there were already many of them in the lineup. His game is much like Bryan Helmer's and I think he could be a top pair kind of player this upcoming season.

I am going to be keeping a running roster of goalies, defensemen, forwards, and prospects in the sidebar to the right. I hope to have it up today or tomorrow. If you see something that you think is an error PLEASE leave a comment somewhere or email me.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Who Is Left to Play?

Yesterday we examined who was not signed for next year but that only answers part of the equation for the 09-10 Bears. Most of you have probably already figured out which players weren't listed yesterday so this list might not surprise you. But at the bottom I include a section on players that MIGHT make the move to the AHL this season that you may or may not have heard of.

  • Michal Neuvirth
  • Braden Holtby
Both of these netminders are under contract for multiple years (Neuvy for 2, Holtby for 3). Unless Neuvirth makes the Caps out of camp (unlikely in my opinion) this will be the goaltending duo for the next season or two.

  • Patrick McNeill
  • John Carlson
  • Tyler Sloan
  • Sean Collins
  • Joe Finley
  • Josh Godfrey
  • Viktor Dovgan
  • Greg Amadio
Already this looks like a pretty full lineup. The biggest question mark is Carlson. If the Caps have the space he might end up in Washington most of the season. There are a few players mentioned below that you might be able to add to this group.

As you can see there isn't a lot of room for too many more players. Which solidifies my opinion that Pokuluk, Lepisto, and Kronwall have played their final games in Hershey. But it also means good things for Deano and Helmer. Hershey will want some veteran leadership on the blueline and both players obviously provide that. Add to that the fact that Hershey obviously likes to have extra players in case of injury so adding two more isn't out of the question.

  • Keith Aucoin
  • Jay Beagle
  • Andrew Gordon
  • Francois Bouchard
  • Mathieu Perrault
  • Oskar Osala
  • Michael Dubuc
  • Quintin Laing
As far as players from this year that are still under contract that is it. And I think Aucoin is on an one way NHL deal next season which means he probably won't be playing in Hershey again. As for the others the only player that I think has a shot at the NHL next season is Beagle. And that is only if Boyd Gordon and Bourque are not resigned.

One could argue that any of the 3 rookies (Osala, Bouch, Mathieu) could make the jump to the NHL but judging from their (lack of) production in the second half I think they have at least another year of AHL work ahead of them.

Quintin Laing is the first of the free agents to resign with the Caps/Bears but I would not be surprised to see a few more in the next couple weeks.

Prospects to Watch:

Zach Miskovic - D - He spent the past 4 seasons playing NCAA hockey for St. Lawrence University. He signed a 1 year deal back in March so he doesn't have too much time to prove his worth. His offensive numbers improved just about every season and he finished this past season with 16 goals. Not a real big guy at only 6'1" 185 but that doesn't always measure physical play (see Bourque).

Keith Seabrook - D - The younger brother of Blackhawks Brent Seabrook he has spent the past 2 years playing in the WHL for the Calgary Hitmen (including one year with Alzner). He seems to play a similar style as his brother. He had 15 goals and 40 assists this season for the Hitmen so he can product on the blue line. He is also a little thicker then Miskovic at 198lbs. According to he is the #12 prospect in the Caps organization.

Trevor Bruess - C - He has spent the past 3 seasons playing NCAA hockey and creating quite a reputation for himself as a rough player. He was suspended two separate times this season for in game incidents. He was signed in March to a 2 year contract beginning in 09-10. He led his college team in points with 30 during his sophomore year which included 3 short handed goals. To me he seems like a Pinner type player...wouldn't be surprised to see an ECHL start for him.

Jake Hauswirth - C - Hauswirth was a free agent invite to developmental camp last season (like Dubuc) and was quite impressive. In fact he was impressive enough that the Caps offered him a 3 year contract. He is a big body...6'5" 210...who likes to bang in front of the net. He was the top goal scorer in developmental camp last season and then added 28 goals and 24 assists in 58 games in the USHL. Personally I don't think you can have too many big bodies that like to play in front of the goalie.

Joel Broda - C - Broda has spent the past many years playing in the WHL including this past season with Seabrook in Calgary. #14 prospect in the Caps organization he is eligible to turn pro this season but it isn't known if he will. He was drafted last year in the 5th round after scoring 36 goals in 38 games for Moose Jaw. This season he totaled 17 in 28 games but improved his assists by 10.

Dmitri Kugryshev - RW - The #10 prospect in the organization (top player other than Gustafsson not already in Hershey or Washington) is a definite prospect. Played this season in the QMJHL for Quebec and did wonders. He scored 34 goals and added 40 assists in 57 games. Like Broda he isn't a guarantee to turn pro this season but I would be surprised if he isn't in Hershey next season.

Mikhail Yunkov - C - Yunkov is a bit of an unknown. He has been under contract with a KHL team but is supposedly a free agent this summer and intends to come for the developmental camp. He has been compared to Ron Francis in his play and very well could be in Hershey this season. I would be very surprised if he makes the NHL that quickly.

That is most of the prospects in the organization that are eligible to play in the AHL this season. There are a number of NCAA players but I doubt any of them will be making the jump this year.

If you are wondering why I didn't mention Stefan Della-Rovere it is because he is not eligible to play in the AHL this season. He is not old enough as of yet as a player drafted out of the CHL needs to be 20 before the end of the calendar year to play in the AHL.

And as for Anton Gustafsson I would be really surprised if we ever see him in Hershey. He will stay in Sweden until he is ready to play for the Caps.

A couple other names to keep an eye on are Brett Leffler and Justin Taylor. Both players were originally drafted by the Capitals but were not signed before their rights ran out. Now they are re-entered in this season's draft. IF they go undrafted they will be free agents and Washington could conceivably sign both. I wouldn't be surprised to at least see them at the developmental camp in July. Leffler totaled 33 goals and Taylor had 37 in juniors this season.

It is going to be a very interesting and active offseason. On the sidebar you can find links for the Capitals/Bears contract situation as well as important dates this offseason.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Quintin is Back!

Sorry to interrupt this sequence of 09-10 preview posts I have going but some good news to report....

Quintin Laing has been signed to (what appears to be) a two way contract for 2009-2010.

Good to have you back Quintin!!

Official release here.

What Might the 09-10 Team Look Like?

Who knows right now but I am willing to bet it will look younger then this seasons team.

Let's first take a look at who is without a contract at this point.

  • Daren Machesney - RFA
Unfortunately I think Cheese is on the outside looking in as far as goalies go in Hershey. The ONLY way he stays is if the Caps trade Jose Theodore and make Michal Neuvirth the backup to Varlamov next season. Which is highly unlikely as they will want a veteran backup to take some of the pressure off.

  • Bryan Helmer - UFA
  • Staffon Kronwall - UFA
  • Dean Arsene - UFA
  • Sami Lepisto - RFA
  • Sasha Pokuluk - RFA
Helmer and Arsene have already said they would like to come back to Hershey next season. I could see both players returning to the roster next year. As for the other 3...they are done. I would be very surprised to see any of them back. Pokuluk never lived up to expectations, Lepisto had a good chance this season in Washington but didn't really show enough, and Kronwall would probably rather play in Europe before returning to the AHL full time. Maybe Kronwall would sign a 2-way deal but I suspect he will either sign with another team for a 1-way deal or head home to Sweden.

  • Alexandre Giroux - UFA
  • Graham Mink - UFA
  • Darren Reid - UFA
  • Quintin Laing - UFA
  • Grant McNeill - UFA
  • Kip Brennan - UFA
  • Chris Bourque - RFA
  • Steve Pinizzotto - RFA
  • Kyle Wilson - RFA
  • Andrew Joudrey - RFA
  • Travis Morin - RFA
That is a lot of names. It probably would have been easier to list the players under contract for next season as there are only 6. Of all the names on that list I think there are 3 that we will not see again in Hershey. They are Giroux, Brennan, and Bourque. Both Giroux and Bourque are going to be looking for one way NHL contracts and will probably get them somewhere (maybe even Washington) and Brennan's services probably won't be needed if G-Mac and Pinner are resigned.

Hershey is going to have to sign some guys back or go with a whole new team and that is unlikely. I am sure Mink would love a one way deal but that isn't going to happen. He is mainly hoping for a 2 way deal and might get it from Washington. According to Doug Yingst negotiations are underway to resign McNeill as well. IF Mink resigns I doubt you see Reid back but you never know. There are plenty of veteran spots available as it stands now so a few guys might get another chance.

Other guys like Joudrey, Pinner, Morin, and Wilson are still young guys who have a chance in the Washington organization. With the roster space available I doubt these guys will get far.

So there is a look at who needs to be resigned. Keep in mind that Washington has a say in many of these negotiations and need to get all their ducks in a row before some things will fall into place. The organization has until June 29th to offer qualifying offers to the RFA's and then they have until July 15th before they expire. At least that is the way I understand it.

With players like Viktor Kozlov, Donald Brashear, Sergei Federov, Boyd Gordon, Eric Fehr, Shaone Morrisonn, Milan Jurcina, and Jeff Schultz being free agents there could be a few positions open for guys to make the jump to the NHL. It will be interesting to see what players Washington thinks are worth the risk to resign.

Thursday I will examine who IS still under contract and what prospects might be ready to make the transition to the AHL full time.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Fun Night in Hershey

Well that was fun last night. But I have one question.....what was in the cups??

(Oh and if you are looking for me I am on the front page of the sports section, on the left, maroon hat with sunglasses on the was a good view from my spot and I have some more pictures that I will put up sometime soon, unfortunately they were kind of blurry cause I suck at picture taking)

It was great to see the Calder Cup and be able to hold it and touch it as it was passed around from fan to fan.

It was great to see all the players together, relaxed, and freshly shaved.

It was great to see YOUR 2009 CALDER CUP CHAMPIONS one more time!!

This team was destined to be here. I have to agree with something Yingst said last night....with the team they had the end result was Calder Cup or failure. Not sure if I said this before but personally I just expected them to get to this point. The playoffs just seemed like a formality until the finals...even the Wilkes Barre series seemed to be just another series for this team.

I haven't been able to find the words on what this Championship means so my post was kind of short yesterday and honestly I still don't have the words.

I have followed many teams but I have never followed a team as closely as I did this one. It is special to see them win the Cup.

But now it is on to next season. I have already begun thinking about what this team will look like next season. Hell even the captain Bryan Helmer has as he pretty much begged Yingst to bring him back next season. And Yingst kind of begged for Giroux to come back next year too.

Any way you look at it this team will look different next season.

But always remember this.....

"We don't hang up division championships. We don't hang up conference championships. The only thing you're going to see hanging are championships."

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Bears Win 10th Cup!!!

Well how about that? Hershey never gave the Moose a chance in game 6 and is now the only team in AHL HISTORY with 10 Calder Cup Championships.


Just over 11 minutes into the game and the Bears were already up 3-0 and the Moose were struggling to find any offensive pressure at all. And when they did find some offense Michal Neuvirth was there to shut the door on them.

After a 2nd period goal from Manitoba and an empty net goal from Keith Aucoin Hershey locked up the win 4-1.

It was a special celebration for any and all the players but some like Aucoin, Quintin Laing, Alexandre Giroux, and captain Bryan Helmer it meant that much more. Aucoin, Laing, and Giroux were titleless coming into this season and Helmer hadn't won the title since his 2nd year in the league...14 years ago. In what might have been the final game of his career Helmer was able to lift the Calder Cup above his head one more time.

Neuvirth was named playoff MVP after recording 16 wins, 4 shutouts, and just incredible numbers throughout the postseason. Without his play Hershey would not have won the Cup. He was absolutely the most deserving player on the ice for this award.

Tonight at 7 the Bears will celebrate with the fans before taking a well deserved break and spending quality time with family and friends.

Congrats to all the players who made this possible and to the coaches and management who put this incredible group on the ice for us to see!!


Friday, June 12, 2009

Must Win for Hershey??

I guess it isn't technically a must win for the Bears tonight but it kind of feels that way. If Manitoba is somehow able to pull out the W then the Bears would have to play a game 7 against a team with a lot of confidence and momentum at their home rink. I am not sure I would be able to sit down for any of that game.

Hell I might not sit down for tonight's game!

Coach Woods made mention of it the other day in the newspaper....the pressure has shifted to the Moose. Tuesday's game 6 had all the pressure on the Bears. Manitoba was able to come out and leave everything on the ice without really worrying about if they would win or not. Sure if they lost they would be done but they weren't expected to win and it wouldn't have surprised anyone if they would have lost.

When you are down 3-1 or 3-0 there is not much hope for you. Most people figure it is just a matter of time but when you are down 3-2 everyone starts to do the math....only 2 games left...we have won 2 games in a row many times. Add to that the games being in Manitoba and the Moose are almost expected to win the next 2.

They were the higher seed, best defensive team in the league during the season, have 2 home games remaining, and won the last game in Hershey.

Hershey still has the pressure of being up and this game can clinch but I think being down by 1 game like the Moose are will cause them to push a little harder and possibly make some mistakes.

Either way it will be a very good game tonight in Winnipeg. If you are heading down to the GC to watch the game enjoy yourselves. I will be at a friends house with food and drink watching to see if Hershey can claim their 10th Calder Cup.



Wednesday, June 10, 2009

2 More Chances

Wouldn't it have been incredible had they been able to tie the game at the end??? The Giant Center might not have a roof right now if they had!

Here are a few quick thoughts:
  • It seemed as though the ice was very choppy last night. With the warm weather, almost 11,000 fans, and the high humidity definitely had an effect. Both teams struggled controlling the puck as it was bouncing around like crazy all night long. Passes would get through and then seemed to give players fits when it got to them.
  • Cory Schneider was easily the best player on the ice last night. Hershey threw everything they could at him in the first 2 periods but couldn't beat him.
  • The refereeing was interesting for lack of a better word. He let a lot of stuff go including some very obvious calls. But as long as it is the same for both teams I don't think anyone can complain. I doubt the AHL is looking for a officiating job like that though as it was NOTHING like any other game this season.
  • Andrew Gordon, Chris Bourque, and Steve Pinizzotto were the best Bears on the ice. I was unimpressed with the MAG line last night as they seemed to fight the puck more than anyone else.

The pressure now shifts to the shoulders of the Moose in my opinion. I think being up 3-0 or 3-1 makes the clinching game the hardest to win because the team trailing is leaving everything on the ice. And Manitoba surely did that last night. They left everything on the ice and no the question they have enough left for Friday?

Hershey had so much pressure on them last night that I was actually expecting to see an early Manitoba goal but even with the pressure Hershey outplayed Manitoba for most of the game. If it wasn't for a 1 minute stretch in the second the outcome likely would have been different.

I have to say this...I have said a few things about the fans on here and while there are always going to be fans that think they know what the players should be doing I have to give everyone some credit.....

Anytime you watch a game for any sport and the visiting team scores you typically here the crowd get very quiet....except in Hershey. It was very encouraging to see (hear) the Let's Go Bears chant right after the goals. Even after the 2nd goal the crowd stayed behind the team. It was a very impressive act in my opinion.

In case you haven't heard Game 6 will be televised by WHTM 27. However it will NOT be on their main channel so many of us will not get the game on TV. Personally I live in York County and do not have Comcast or Verizon which means that I do not get the game.

But as luck would have it we have options...

Giant Center WILL show the game on the scoreboard screens Friday night. If you are a season ticket holder you can get in at 715 and choose your seats and if you are a non season ticket fan you can get in at 730. Parking is free, admission is free, and some concession stands WILL be open.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A Few Links and Videos

Unfortunately I will not have access to the internet for the next 7-8 hours and then I will be in Hershey so this will be my only post today.

I wanted to share anything I could to get everyone pumped for tonights game. And remember to be LOUD TONIGHT....rumor has it the noise Saturday night disrupted the Moose!!!!

Check out the Old Barn Hockey Show if you haven't yet!

Are you ready????



Monday, June 8, 2009

Bears 1 Win Away

Michal Neuvirth was again a savior for the Bears last night as the Moose threw everything they could at him and he stopped all but 1 of their shots. He faced 31 shots and made 30 saves as he actually improved his already impressive numbers this postseason.

Kyle Wilson and Keith Aucoin managed to score the 2 goals necessary to get a Bears victory which sets up an opportunity on Tuesday night that Hershey hasn't seen since 1980....a Calder Cup clinching win on home ice!

For the second night in a row Hershey outplayed Manitoba in just about every aspect of the game. They finished every check (causing 2 Moose players to seek medical attention after the game), got to every loose puck, killed off any and all penalties, and made terrific passes in the offensive and defensive zones.

The only thing that seemed to trouble Hershey was the Moose penalty kill. I made the comment earlier this weekend that the lack of pressure from the Moose PK unit was benefiting the Bears power play. And that was true until last night. Last night marked a change in strategy for the Moose PK unit as they looked more like the Providence PK then they did the team Hershey saw in games 1-3. If you were one of the hundreds of fans yelling 'SHOOT' while Hershey was on the power play then maybe this will help you....they weren't facing the same PK unit as they did in games 1-3.

Obviously if you had watched the games the past 2 nights though you would be pretty confident that Hershey doesn't need their power play to score to be successful to win. Playing at even strength Hershey controlled Manitoba for much of the game. But a power play goal or two would be fine with me Tuesday night.

But let's keep this in mind isn't over yet. Remember the Capitals were down 3-1 against the Rangers and won the series...and Hershey was down 3-2 after losing 3 straight to the Pens before they won 2 straight. With all the leadership and desire on this Bears team I would be really surprised if there was even a minor let down Tuesday night but Manitoba is playing for their season and they won't be put away easily.

An early goal or some huge saves from Neuvy and you will probably see some frustration take over for the Moose.

My Three Stars of the Game

  1. Michal Neuvirth - 30 saves on 31 shots was again HUGE for Hershey
  2. Cory Schneider - If Manitoba scores another goal he could have be the 1st star
  3. Steve Pinizzotto - Great hustle and disruption from the 4th line pest...great game Pinner

Grading the Performance

  • Offense - A - 2 goals is obviously not enough but 33 shots on goal is an improvement. Good passing and good pressure all game long led to many good chances. They had the Manitoba defense confused and flustered most of the game.
  • Defense - B+ - Tyler Sloan and Karl Alzner deserve a lot of credit for their discipline and positioning. Sloan hustled every time he needed to and Alzner always seems to make the right decision. The only problem from this unit was really the few times Hershey couldn't get the puck out of their own zone but that wasn't terrible either.
  • Goaltending - A+ - Excellent game again making big save after big save. Get a good look at him now because he MIGHT not be back next season...maybe a Cap.
  • Power Play - C - As I said above this unit was pressured heavily and it showed in their performance. The lone PP goal was a 5 on 3 and even that was lucky and sloppy. I don't think they were ready for the pressure Manitoba put on them.
  • Penalty Kill - A - 5 chances and 5 kills. Excellent job again from everyone involved no matter how many guys they were down.
  • Overall - B+ - Very good game and almost perfect but it was a little too close for comfort at the end. They dominated similarly to the Saturday night game but unfortunately it was a much closer game.


Sunday, June 7, 2009

14 Down....2 To Go!

That game last night reminded me of games 6 and 7 against Wilkes Barre. Manitoba had their chances but between the defense and Michal Neuvirth they didn't get any goals.

Neuvirth has now recorded 4 shutouts this playoff season which is 1 off the franchise record of 5. ALL of his shutouts have come at home including 2 in clinching games. But that only tells part of the story...check out his stats at home:

win/lose - 8-1
save % - .959
gaa - 1.11

That is ridiculous and in all respect to Alexandre Giroux and his 25 points in the playoffs...right now Neuvirth IS your playoff MVP.

Neuvy was spectacular again last night as he made save after save and managed to stop everything whether he saw it or not. The 5 on 3 penalty kill in the second was great for momentum and it solidified Neuvirth (in my mind anyway) as the MVP of this team right now.

The defense was great too though. They took the body, cleared the puck, blocked numerous shots, and just played sound positionally hockey. The being in position part is critical against a team like Manitoba too. The Moose are good and they WILL take advantage of mistakes but last night Hershey didn't make many and the ones they did make were masked by the play of Neuvy.

Secondary scoring is still a problem in my eyes. Yes Graham Mink and Quintin Laing scored last night but Laing's was an empty net goal so that barely counts. BUT even though I consider this a problem the fact remains you only have to score more than the other doesn't matter how you do it or who does it...if you score more you win.

I do have to give credit to one player in particular last night who I thought played as well as anyone on the ice...Chris Bourque. Lots of fans have a problem with him and they are paying so that is their right BUT last night you have to acknowledge that he played an incredible game. The penalty he took WAS a penalty (one should have been called on the Moose too though) but I don't think it was a terrible penalty as far as what was going on. He hustled all night, moved the puck as well as anyone, and played every aspect of the game as well as it can be played.

Now onto tonight's game. IF Hershey is too win tonight they better be ready in the first period. Manitoba is up against it now...they do not want to go down 3-1 in this series and will come out firing. There was some extra curricular activities after the final whistle last night and players like Steve Pinizzotto and Dean Arsene need to keep their heads on in the early stages of tonight's game. NO BAD PENALTIES!! The Moose will probably bring the physical game early and see if they can force some penalties on the 'hotheads' on Hershey's bench. If they do it will make for an interesting game.

Great job last night Bears.....2 to go!! Let's get 1 tonight!!

My Three Stars of the Game:
  1. Michal Neuvirth - 28 saves to record the previously mentioned shutout
  2. Graham Mink - game winner (first goal of game) by going to the net hard
  3. Chris Bourque - best player on the ice in my opinion

Grading the Performance:
  • Offense - B+ - Should have been more in my opinion. I know Coiner missed an open net and a couple other guys did to as the puck seemed to bounce at bad times. Still only 24 shots on a goalie of Schneider's caliber is not enough. But they made good use of the shots they took and if they do it again they will win again.
  • Defense - A - The entire unit did great. Karl Alzner played for the first time since game 4 against the Pens and he was great last night. Very steady...very heady play from the kid...he will be missed next season as he moves to the Caps. Tyler Sloan was also VERY good last night. He has definitely taken some heat this season but last night he showed why the Caps have so much faith in him.
  • Goaltending - A+ - What else can I say? Amazing!
  • Power Play - A - They only had 3 opportunities as Koharski elected to let NUMEROUS calls for BOTH teams go last night but they converted on 2 of the 3. Excellent job moving the puck. It is nice to see a team not pressure as much as Providence or Wilkes Barre as it gives our guys time to set up.
  • Penalty Kill - A - While Manitoba has done well on the power play this series most of those have come with 5 on 3 advantages. Seeing them kill off a 5 on 3 was great for the team and for momentum. Awesome game from this unit...GREAT HUSTLE to get pucks out of the zone.
  • Overall - A - I said at the beginning that this reminded me off the last 2 of the Wilkes Barre series...those were some of the most complete games I have seen all season from this team. Tim Leone said the other day that this team was playing as well as they have all season and I would have disagreed with him then...but now....absolutely. Great game all around and if they can do it 2 more times in the next 3 days we will get to see the Cup in Hershey!!


Saturday, June 6, 2009

Bears Need 'Great Depth' To Help

I have been reading all about Hershey's supreme depth over the past few days as one reason why they will beat the Moose. While I agree that during the season and in previous rounds their depth was a big plus I haven't seen it yet in this series.

In Game 2 the Bears looked tired at the end of the game. You could see it in the way some of them were skating and how they weren't giving it their all at the end of the game. So the depth really didn't play into the game too much in that game.

The other BIG problem with the so called depth is there is currently no scoring help for Giroux. The Bears have scored 6 goals in the series and he has 4 of them. And Osala has the other 2 so I wouldn't say there is any scoring depth right now.

Guys like Bourque, Gordon, Mink, and Wilson need to start producing soon because Giroux can not win this series by himself.

That being said I am giving you 2 players to watch for Hershey tonight. I feel like they are going to produce and I think tonight is the night.
  • Chris Bourque - has played very well just hasn't gotten the puck in the net as of yet. He has been close though and I think a goal is coming least 1.
  • Keith Aucoin - in each of the first two games Coiner actually shot the puck on odd man rushes which is a big change from the usual. I think he is due to put on in the back of the net...let's hope it comes tonight.

Just a thought 07 the Bears had home ice against Hamilton and lost game 1 but won game 2 before losing 3 straight on the road as the fighting Carey Price's won the cup that year. Sure there isn't a dominant goalie this season like then but Manitoba lost game 1, won game 2, could they lose the next 3 on the road to the fighting Giroux's??

I sure hope so!


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Bears and Moose Tied at 1 Game Each

Well Hershey definitely came out firing last night. They played possibly their best 1st period in the past few weeks but it wasn't enough. After firing on all cylinders for the first 20 minutes they struggled to get any shots in the 2nd and then they appeared tired late in the 3rd period.

It ended up biting them when they gave up the winning goal with less then a minute to go in the game. It was a shot from Jason Jaffray that went off of Bryan Helmer's stick that got by Michal Neuvirth with only 46 seconds left to go.

Personally I think this was the 2nd best outcome for the Bears last night. Obviously the best option would be winning but here are my reasons why this could have been worse:
  • If they make it to overtime and lose they are just giving a team that has struggled in OT some confidence for the next time,
  • If they get blown out they obviously doubt themselves and the Moose then have the confidence and momentum,
  • If they trail all game they also allow the Moose to gain confidence and the momentum,
  • If they would have given up a bigger lead and lost it would have caused the same as the two above choices.

By losing late in the game on a deflected shot they still have the confidence and neither team has momentum. Sure the Moose gained some confidence but more than anything they are just glad they didn't lose both their home games. Where as Hershey is surely disappointed that they didn't win a very winnable game but they still achieved their main 1 of the first 2 in Winnipeg.

Some notes and observations from the game last night:
  • For the first time in a long time Hershey looked tired at the end of the game. Guys weren't skating hard and while they outshot the Moose in the 3rd they still didn't look their best.
  • Someone other than Alexander Giroux better step up and score some goals or it is going to be a long series.
  • Guys need to stop slashing opponents. ALL season 2 players have continuously gotten slashing calls called on them for being stupid with their sticks....Keith Aucoin and Chris Bourque. And Aucoin did it again last night. He actually got called twice (the 2nd call was bogus) but still the first penalty was well deserved and a stupid play.
  • Surprised to see Patty McNeill in the lineup last night. After getting burned multiple times in game 1 I thought he would be sitting again. I still think he should sit as he got burned a couple more times last night.
  • Good to see Greg Amadio in the lineup though. Not sure what happened with Carlson. He made a couple errors in game 1 so maybe it was a way to get his focus back.
  • The series appears to be gaining some animosity and physicality as multiple players needed to be separated at the end of the game last night....including Ammo and Arsene.

Game 3 is very important as teams that are tied 1-1 after 2 games the winner of game 3 wins the series 71% of the time. Hershey obviously has an advantage playing at home so hopefully they can take advantage and pull ahead 2 games to 1.

My Three Stars of the Game:
  1. Jason Jaffray - scored all 3 goals for the Moose
  2. Cory Schneider - not great but good enough with 27 saves
  3. Michal Neuvirth - 28 saves in the loss

Grading the Performance:
  • Offense - B - Good chances but they couldn't solve Schneider last night. 1 goal is not going to win against this team very often so players not nicknamed Rooster have to start scoring. The 4th line is getting as many chances as any of the other lines and while that is great for the depth it raises questions about the other lines effectiveness.
  • Defense - B - Not bad...McNeill got caught a couple times and Helmer shouldn't have tried to block the shot (although I understand why he did it) but other than that the defense was solid but not spectacular.
  • Goaltending - B+ - If Helmer doesn't tip that shot I really think Neuvy stops it and the Bears go to overtime. Neuvirth played very good all night and only got beat on a couple bad bounces again.
  • Power Play - B - They got a few chances but didn't have as good a game as in game 1. Setting up was a problem and getting shots on goal was a struggle. Could have been better but definitely better than in other games.
  • Penalty Kill - B - Technically they gave up 2 power play goals but one was an empty netter late in the game and the first one was a lucky bounce right to Jaffray in front. This unit has played much better so far in this series.
  • Overall - B - Not a bad game by any means but obviously not enough to get the win. More players need to step up their game to help Giroux. Mink, Bourque, Gordon, Wilson, and others really need to start scoring more.


Monday, June 1, 2009

Bears and Moose Need Game 2

Game 2 is almost upon us and I for one am getting excited! Game 1 was an incredible roller coaster ride of a game and I think the entire series could go this way.

There has been some debate on the forum about whether or not Hershey is that much better or if Manitoba has yet to give their best stuff.

Personally I think all the talk of Hershey's scoring depth is moot at this point until someone else scores. So far 2 players have scored goals and a few of those goals were lucky. I mean how many times are you going to bank a shot in off a defenseman that is a good 6 feet away from the goal?

That being said I have already commented that all of Manitoba's goals were on special plays, 2 of them on 5v3 power plays and 2 more on poor defensive plays that led to breakaways. Can they score when Hershey is not taking penalties and playing good defense? Time will tell...assuming Hershey can stop taking bad penalties.

With all that said I now say this....

Neither team has played their best yet. After not playing each other in the regular season both teams spent game 1 getting a feel for each other. Early in the game the Bears were struggling with the Manitoba speed, throughout the game Manitoba struggled with Hershey's strength, and late in the game Manitoba again struggled with the Bears hustle and depth.

Game 2 figures to be a pretty big game in the series. Both teams need the win in my opinion. Sure Hershey now has home ice advantage and they don't have to go back to Manitoba if they can win their games at home. But if Manitoba comes out and wins they will gain a lot of confidence and momentum and they proved in 2008 that they can win in Hershey.

Hershey is going to have to come out much better then they have since the Wilkes Barre series if they want to take a 2-0 lead back to Hershey.

Can they get up for the start of a game when they already achieved their main goal of winning 1 in Manitoba?

Let's hope so.