I don't even know what to say anymore. I mean for the second straight game the Bears scored 8 goals in a completely dominating performance.
It all started when Manitoba got an early goal (about 1 minute in). Hershey did not take that well and decided to drop the hammer on the Moose. From then on the game was not in question. It was almost like the Moose players were standing still on half the plays.
This team is playing with extreme confidence and there is nothing that can derail them right now except themselves. Over confidence would be a worry for many teams but there are 2 reasons that I see to prevent that from being an issue....
One is the veteran leadership on this team. Add to that the fact that they all played together last season when they did hit some slumps. They know how it can fall apart and they seem to be fighting against it.
The second reason is the depth. Even if a line like Gordon, Giroux, and Aucoin were to come out and struggle for a few minutes there are 3 more lines to pick up the slack. The Bourque, Perreault, and Bouchard line is humming along playing exceptionally as are the other two lines with guys like Beagle, Wilson, Kane, Pinizzotto, Joudrey, and Osala.
And then there is the defense and goaltending. No offense to Daren Machesney but last season he was a liability for Hershey. When he was in net the defense couldn't rely on him. Braden Holtby however is a goalie that you can rely on. He makes every stop he can, gets in the opposing forwards faces, and is always ready to play.
Honestly I have been following this team very closely over the past 3 seasons since I started this blog and there is no way that at any point in that time they were playing this good. It is just phenomenal to watch the play at both ends. I mean it literally looks like the opposing players are just standing there and watching.
Last night on a power play, not sure the period but I think the second, I watched Giroux (I think it was him) skate complete circles around the offensive zone with no Moose players catching him before he found a place to shoot or pass from.
The passing last night was ridiculous. You aren't supposed to be able to do what they did against that level of competition. Yet the Bears did it and they made it look easy.
This is not a team that you can knock out early with an opening minute goal. That only fires them up even more. This is a team that thrives on another teams intensity. The more the other team is ready to play the better Hershey seems to play.
14 straight home wins. Multiple players getting ready to tie or break career bests in scoring. 4 of the last 5 games have seen 7+ goals. They have won 17 of their last 18 games.
And all this without the goalie that started the season as the reigning playoff MVP and the Bears #1, Michal Neuvirth.
How can you stop a team this balanced? Last year the defense and goaltending were known weaknesses. Teams were able to exploit them on occasion and get some wins. Last years team went through a couple patches where the top line was the only line to score.
This year...none of that.
Last year Giroux had 97 points while Aucoin had 96. This year both are on pace to break 100 points, Aucoin would get 116 while Giroux would get 110 if they play in all the remaining games and average the same points per game they have now.
To another franchise looking in here it can't even seem fair. You aren't supposed to be this good in the minor leagues. And it isn't like there are loads of veterans and a shortage of prospects on this team. Gordon, Bouchard, Bourque, Perreault, Wilson, Osala, Pinner, Carlson, McNeill, Beagle....they can all be considered legitimate prospects. Sure you have guys like Aucoin, Giroux, Kane, and Helmer but that isn't that many big time AHL free agents. And while Aucoin has had lots of scoring success elsewhere (a 99 points season for Albany) most of the others have had their best seasons with Hershey.
I don't know. The one thing I am sure of is enjoy it while its here. Enjoy another playoff run, enjoy the records that will fall this spring. Because eventually all teams have down years and all teams break up or fall apart. Many of the current team are free agents after the season including Aucoin, Giroux, Wilson, Beagle, Bourque, Gordon, Kane, and surely others are all either unrestricted or restricted free agents.
Will they leave? I don't know. But guys like Gordon, Aucoin, and Giroux are going to want another shot at the NHL I would think...I mean wouldn't you? Bourque got a taste of it this year and he might get a shot elsewhere although who knows.
Either way, enjoy this team now because there are no guarantees that they will be together next season. Last night the attendance figures were a new regular season record for Hershey. I encourage everyone to help break that record again this season. This team is definitely worth the price of admission.
Last nights game....
Hershey lit up former Bear goaltender Daren Machesney for 8 goals after ringing up 8 against Manitoba's #1 Cory Schneider on Friday night.
Hershey got goals from Keith Aucoin (24th and 25th of the season), Oskar Osala (12), Jay Beagle (9), John Carlson (2), Andrew Gordon (21), Chris Bourque (13), and Boyd Kane (16).
Braden Holtby made 31 saves on 33 shots to pick up yet another win.
As for the stars of the game....
the whole team to be honest. One of the most complete hockey games I have seen from any Bears team. With the exception of the first minute and a half they played phenomenally all game.
As for grading the performance....
A+ for all. Absolutely dominating performance of a team that absolutely wanted to beat Hershey in the worst way. Completely devastated the Moose confidence last night by scoring 3 times in a 5 minute span after Manitoba scored the first goal.
All aspects of the game showed up and performed last night....exceptional.