Monday, November 30, 2009

6 games, 10 days, 8 points...not bad

I tried to watch the games Friday and Saturday night but thank you AHL Live for screwing that up for me. Unfortunately I had a meeting and didn't get to see Sunday's game so everything I am giving you today is from the little I was able to see against the Phantoms and from Tim Leone's articles and the score sheets.

Overall Hershey went 3-1-0-2 in the past 10 days. Not bad although it could have been better. The blow out loss at home to the lowly Providence Bruins was kind of a downer the night before Thanksgiving but after that it got better with a beatdown of Adirondack Friday night. Then they let us down again in a shootout against the same Phantom team before coming up with a great performance against the flightless water fowl on Sunday night at Giant Center.

22 goals scored, 8 different goal scorers, 15 goals allowed, 3 different goalies. Not a bad 6 games. And more impressively is that Giroux wasn't one of the top goal scorers and wasn't even there for the last 3 games of the weekend. But other players stepped up when needed. Of the 8 goal scorers only 2 tallied only one goal...Keith Aucoin and Trevor Bruess.

Boyd Kane scored 6 times over the last 6 games and Kyle Wilson and Andrew Gordon scored 4 times each. Giroux (2), Michael Dubuc (2), and Darren Reid (2) scored the remaining goals. It was overall a very good team effort over the 6 games.

The most impressive performance of the 10 days was probably Michal Neuvirth's goaltending job against Wilkes Barre on Sunday. As I mentioned above I didn't get to see it so I can't attest to the claim of 42 shots for the Pens but either way none of them went in. 42 shots, 42 saves and a 5-0 Bears win.

Some games Neuvy is absolutely unbeatable and then others he seems to lose focus a bit and relax too much. If he can figure that part of the game out I can assure you that we won't see him in Hershey for too much longer. He is potentially the best goalie in the system when he is on his game and that is saying alot considering Varly and Holtby.

Good run of games. Only 11 games over the next 31 days should give the team a chance to get healthy. It will also test their concentration with extended time off in between most of their games. Fortunately the month includes two 3 in 3 weekends which should keep them focused.

Also it will be nice to see some different teams for a change. After playing Binghamton, Wilkes Barre, and Adirondack a combined 11 times in the first 23 games they don't play any of them in December. Games against Norfolk, Rochester, and Albany dominate the month.

A great start to the season considering the callups and injuries the team has played through. Leading the team in goals, 5th in the league in goals against, and a 7 point lead in the division.

Not too bad.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Okay start to 6 games in 10 days

Friday night in Binghamton the Bears continued their dominance in New York beating the Senators 5-2 for their third win in that building this season. Everything appeared to be going well as they started a 6 games in 10 days stretch with the Springfield Falcons coming to Hershey Saturday night.

But unfortunately Springfield goaltender Devan Dubnyk managed to control the game by making 29 saves during play and then another 5 in the shootout to give the Falcons a 3-2 shootout win.

It was Hershey's first shootout of the season and only the second game that even made it to overtime. Last season the Bears played in 17 overtime or shootout games and were 7-6 in 13 shootouts. Maybe it is just me but I never feel like Hershey (or Washington for that matter) is any good in the shootouts. Last season was better with Varlamov and Neuvirth in net but when Freddie or Cheese was in there I always felt the Bears were at a disadvantage.

Luckily though shootouts don't exist in the playoffs and eventually another shot would have gotten past Dubnyk. And it wasn't like the Springfield offense was bringing much as they only finished with 18 shots (1 for the shootout win).

Any way you look at it the Bears finished last weekend with 3 of 4 points and have the chance at 8 more points this weekend with 3 home games and a trip to Adirondack.

Tomorrow night in the lone Wednesday night home game of the season the Bears welcome in the (last place) Providence Bruins. Hershey beat the Bruins in Providence 5-1 an November 8th so the Bruins will be looking to get one back.

Hershey welcomes back defenseman John Carlson and forward Andrew Gordon from Washington as the Caps are finally starting to get healthy.

Looking forward to a nice 4-win holiday weekend.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Bears visit Senators tonight

The past two weekends the Bears answered questions about how they will respond when knocked down. And this weekend they will get to answer a couple more questions....

How will the team handle callups to multiple key players (Carlson, Beagle, Perreault, Neuvirth)?
Can the other goaltenders (Bacashihua and Holtby) step up?

Perry has been up in Washington for a while now so they have already played without him. Beagle has also been up for a couple games. But Neuvirth and Carlson just went up and won't be back this weekend.

Add to those callups the fact that Hershey faces a schedule of 6 games in the next 10 days, 4 of those against division opponents. Hershey's depth helps them in these situations but with multiple callups the depth is not as good as it was 2 weeks ago. Every team faces stretches like this but the Bears can make a statement by coming up with wins in the next 10 days.

Hershey Bears
record ~ 12-5-0-0 24 points
standings ~ 1st in East Division
most recent game ~ 3-1 Win vs Wilkes-Barre, 11/14
last 5 games ~ 4-1-0-0
road record ~ 7-3-0-0
goals for ~ 60
goals against ~35
power play ~ 12.7% (20th)
penalty kill ~ 92.2% (5th)

Binghamton Senators
record ~ 8-7-2-1 19 points
standings ~ 4th in East Division
most recent game ~ 2-1 SO Win @ Hartford, 11/18
last 5 games ~ 3-1-0-1
home record ~ 2-4-1-1
goals for ~ 55
goals against ~ 56
power play ~ 16.0% (12th)
penalty kill ~ 85.7% (12th)

last time teams met - Binghamton won 5-2 in Hershey on 10/24.

Players to watch:


LW Alexandre Giroux (12)- Leading the team in goals (8) and points (21) he has 1 goal and 3 assists in the past 3 games.
C Keith Aucoin (11) - Tied for second on the team in goals with 7 and has dominated in the month of November. 6 goals and 2 assists this month including 3 goals and 4 assists in his last 4 games.
D Karl Alzner (7) - Not a typical point producer he has a goal and 2 assists in his last three games and is a team best +14.


RW Ryan Keller (28) - Leading the Sens in goals (10) and points (19) he has scored 2 goals and 2 assists in the past 2 games.
C Martin St. Pierre (39) - Second on the team in goals (7) and points (18) he has only produced 1 point (assist) against Hershey this season but has registered a point in 6 straight games (2g, 4a).
LW Denis Hamel (17) - Producing at a good pace lately with points in 5 straight. 4 goals and 4 assists in those 5 games.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Beags and Neuvy with Capitals

Jay Beagle and Michal Neuvirth were recalled by the Capitals today. Neither is expected to play tonight against the Rangers however.

Jose Theodore is back in Washington tending to personal matters so Neuvy will serve as the backup to Semyon Varlamov tonight.

David Steckel took a puck off the foot at practice yesterday and his condition is somewhat unknown. IF he can't go Beags will replace him in the lineup.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Bears on a roll

The last time I wrote here (sorry about the lack of posts) I asked if the Bears were going to answer after their deflating performance against Portland.

They did.

Following that game in Portland they traveled to Manchester (1st in Atlantic) and dominated them. Then they went to Providence and dominated there.

Not bad. Dominated teams from the Atlantic division that they will see only 2 times a year. But how would they do against a team they play against 8+ times a season.

Well they got the chance to prove themselves again this past weekend in Hershey. And they passed that test as well.

Norfolk (4th in East) came to town Friday night and jumped out to a 1 goal lead just over a minute into the game. But Hershey answered and continued answering on their way to a 5-3 win.

Then Wilkes-Barre came to town Saturday (currently in 2nd in division) hoping to end the Bears run. They couldn't. I didn't get to see it but it sounds like it was a somewhat fluky win but a wins a win and the Bears are up 6 points in the division.

6 points is nice but lets face it...its early. There are lots of games to play and injuries to come. Mathieu Perreault remains on recall to Washington and very well could remain there for much of the season. Although Keith Aucoin could return to Washington as well for a time. Who knows.

Either way...the Bears have played a quarter of their road games and are 7-3 with 39 goals scored. They have scored (almost) an entire goal more per road game than home game this season. (5-2 with 21 goals for at home)

Two more things before I am done....

1. Michal Neuvirth has played extremely well the past 2 weekends. He has played in all 4 games since the Portland loss and has obviously won all 4. In those games...he has a .946 save percentage and about a 1.50 goals against average. And since the start of November he is 5-0 with a .942 save percentage and a 1.60 goals against average. Nice!

2. Dean Arsene was called up to Edmonton for the game yesterday in Atlanta. Unfortunately for Deano he was a healthy scratch and did not make his pro debut but hopefully he will get his chance soon enough. Congrats Deano on getting the call up...we are all pulling for you to get a game with the Oilers soon!!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Poor performance in Portland

I watched part of the game last night and it was a disappointing effort for much of the game. The first 10 minutes were good. It was how most road teams start out...lots of energy, some good chances, and overall good play. But if teams don't convert in those first minutes the home team begins to take hold of momentum and dominate.

That is how last night went for Hershey. The Bears came out great and dominated play for the first 8-10 minutes. Then it ended.

Portland scored their first goal, then their second, third, fourth, and finally their fifth goal. Yes that's right, the top team in the East division lost to the LAST PLACE team in the Atlantic division 5-0.

Teams have to show up every game for 60 minutes and unfortunately Hershey only showed up for a few minutes last night.

Next up for Hershey is a trip to Manchester to play the Monarchs. The Monarchs, first place in the Atlantic, have already beaten the Bears this season, in Hershey 2-1. So this game will be a good indication of what the Hershey Bears are this season.

Are they a team that will show up after a bad loss?

Will they avenge an earlier defeat?

Can they beat top competition on the road?

Great test tonight for the 09-10 Bears. It is time to forget about the long season and short summer. Time to forget about what worked last season. Time to focus on now and the next opponent. Time to figure out what will work with this team THIS YEAR.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Aucoin and Perreault performing well in new spots

Today marks the 2nd game of the 4 game 5 night New England tour for the Hershey Bears. After beating Lowell 5-2 on Wednesday night they visit Portland to play the last place Pirates.

Keith Aucoin returned to the Bears on Wednesday and promptly showed the Capitals that he is a player on the larger stage. Coiner returned and promptly scored a hat trick in Lowell. That comes on the heels of scoring 5 points in 8 games with the Caps.

Taking his place in Washington was the (apparently now 5'10") Mathieu Perreault. He played in his first NHL game Wednesday night and recorded assists on both of Washington's 2 goals. So he went from being 5'8" and playing on the top line in the AHL to 5'10" and getting 2 assists in only 10.5 minutes of ice time in the NHL.

I am not surprised by his hot start in the NHL. He is a traditional playmaker that will make those around him much better. I am somewhat surprised that he is listed at 5'10" although if they measured him while he was on his skates I could see it or if he was standing on a stool.

Both players played well in the NHL and both are game changers in the AHL. Glad to have either or both in Hershey!

Hershey Bears
record ~ 8-4-0-0 16 points
standings ~ 1st in East Division
most recent game ~ 5-2 Win @ Lowell, 11/4
last 5 games ~ 4-1-0-0
road record ~ 5-2-0-0
goals for ~ 43
goals against ~24
power play ~ 13.8% (16th)
penalty kill ~ 93.3% (4th)

Portland Pirates
record ~ 4-8-0-0 8 points
standings ~ Last in Atlantic Division
most recent game ~ 4-3 Loss @ Syracuse, 10/23
last 5 games ~ 2-3-0-0
home record ~ 3-1-0-0
goals for ~ 31
goals against ~ 47
power play ~ 12.1% (25th)
penalty kill ~ 70.9% (29th)

last time teams met - Hershey won 3-2 at home on Sunday, October 25th.

Players to watch:


LW Alexandre Giroux (12)- After last seasons amazing run he is picking up where he left off with 7 goals and 10 assists in only 8 games.
C Keith Aucoin (11) - Apparently he was trying to make up for lost time on Wednesday by scoring 3 goals. Now has 4 goals and 4 assists in only 5 games this season in Hershey.
LW Oskar Osala (36) - After struggling to score earlier in the season he has now scored in back to back games giving him 3 for the year.


LW Nathan Gerbe (19) - One of the biggest pests on the Pirates team the 5'5" wing has 3 goals and 7 assists this season but no goals since 10/16.
C Tyler Ennis (11) - Leading the team in goals with 6 plus an additional 4 assists. 3 of his goals were on the power play and none have come in the last 3 games.
RW Mark Mancari (25) - Leading the team in points with 11 (3g 8a). Has a point in 6 straight games (2g 5a).


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Perreault gets his chance

In what I consider to be an 'avoid waiver issues' move, Mathieu Perreault was recalled by the Capitals while Keith Aucoin was reassigned to Hershey.

If Aucoin were to spend 10 games or 30 days straight with the Caps he would have to clear waivers if they wanted to send him back to Hershey. This way they keep that from happening.

Honestly they are very similar players. Both are small playmaking centers. Aucoin is more experienced and can do more scoring but Perry can do amazing things with the puck on his stick and is probably the faster skater right now.

Congrats to Perry for getting his chance and to will surely be back up there soon.

Monday, November 2, 2009

A 4 point weekend

For most weekends of the AHL season when there are generally 3 games a 4 point weekend wouldn't be anything to write home about. But when you only play 2 games and travel 10 hours then it is more impressive.

The Bears started the weekend in Hartford on Friday night where they absolutely embarrassed the Wolfpack 6-0. To me the game felt dominated by the Bears but according to the score sheet the Wolfpack actually outshot the Bears 26-24.

Hershey continued the weekend into Saturday when they hosted the Albany River Rats. After allowing the first goal (shorthanded) they scored the next 4 goals to win 4-1. For the second straight night it felt as though Hershey dominated but again the score sheet says they were outshot 24-23.

So what was different about this weekend compared to previous ones? Two things.

1. Goaltending. Jason Bacashihua started both games after Michal Neuvirth got injured during pregame warmups in Hartford. And Cash looked great in both games. Allowing 1 goal on 50 shots and making several big saves in both games. Cash has played in 4 games, has won all 4, and has only allowed 4 goals.

2. Converting Chances. There were numerous attempts for the Bears in their earlier games that they let golden opportunities slip through their fingers...missing open nets, too much passing....but the past two games have been different. The passing has been spot on and the shots have been going in. Alexandre Giroux returned for Friday night which definitely helped the club as he scored 2 goals but he was missing Saturday night and the offense still showed up.

Francois Bouchard has been a big reason why. He started off the season getting bumped around between the third and fourth lines and everyone started to question his future. I got an email from someone interested to know what kind of player he was and why he wasn't performing. They asked if he was going to be another dominant junior player that doesn't put it all together at the pro level.

Honestly I said I didn't know. Anyone watching can see that he has tremendous skill and this past week proves that (5g, 5a in last 5 games). But what then has his problem been? It would seem that maturity and focus might have been his issues last season and while Oskar Osala, Mathieu Perreault, and others made noise at Caps camp it was quiet on the Bouchard front. He was one of the first players reassigned to Hershey and not many thought twice about it.

But don't forget that Bouch did this last season too. He and Osala scored plenty in the first 3 months of the season and then both trailed off to barely showing up by the end of the season. Bouch didn't even play much at the end. So is this season different? Will he be able to keep it up? Hopefully.

Beyond Bouch though multiple players stepped up this weekend. Mathieu Perreault, Boyd Kane, Andrew Joudrey, Andrew Gordon, and Oskar Osala also scored this weekend. That means 7 players scored 10 goals in 2 games for the Bears....not too bad.

My Three Stars of the Weekend:
  1. Jason Bacashihua - not sure if it is his play or the defense stepping up in front of him more than Neuvy but he has been better when he has played.
  2. Francois Bouchard - 2 goals and 5 assists in the two games....awesome weekend for the young right wing. Now consistency needs to develop.
  3. Mathieu Perreault - might be the best playmaker on the team. Had a goal and 2 assists this weekend but looked great in both games.

Grading the (Weekend) Performance:

  • Offense | A | The fact that they were outshot in both games makes the dominance even more impressive. Converted their chances and spread the scoring out to all 4 lines. Considering the 4th line on Saturday included Gavin Morgan (hadn't played in Hershey since 04-05) and Greg Amadio that is saying something.
  • Defense | A | I can't think of any particular play when the defense was bad. They seemed to settle in and play a little bit better this past weekend. It helps when your goalie saves you a couple times though.
  • Goaltending | A+ | Outstanding. Bacashihua played as well as any goaltender in Hershey this season. Bears have won 3 straight and guess what....Cash has played in 3 straight. Anyone else see a pattern?
  • Power Play | B | Not bad. 2 for 8. Allowed a shortie on Saturday. Had plenty of chances late in Hartford but didn't push too much since they were already up big.
  • Penalty Kill | A | Killed off all 8 chances for the opposition. Cash came up big on more than one occasion but the overall positioning was definitely better.
  • Overall | A | The best 2 games I have seen from Hershey this season. Excellent at both ends of the ice. Plenty of hustle and balance. This is they way they need to play if a repeat is in the cards. Teams are gunning for them and they can't outscore everyone this year.