Last night Manchester controlled play from the opening faceoff and finished the night with a 1-0 victory to tie the Eastern Conference Finals at 2 games a piece. And it wasn't that difficult either as the Bears managed a whopping 18 shots on the night and had no more than 7 in any period.
Now Hershey needs to figure out how to regain momentum and create some offensive pressure, which has mysteriously disappeared in the last 2 games.
Can all of that be attributed to Andrew Gordon missing from the lineup? Or is this just Hershey getting complacent after going up 2 games to none?
I think it is probably a little bit of both. Hershey won game 2 and was up 2-0 in game 3 without Gordon so it isn't all that. But they would be better equipped to weather this storm if he was there.
No, I think this is more a little complacency from the defending Calder Cup Champs. They won the first 2 games and then were up 2-0 in the 3rd period of game 3 before letting Manchester back in the series. Now Manchester has all the momentum and Hershey is questioning their play.
So how do they fix it? Well...dressing 7 defensemen is not the answer. If you are struggling offensively I don't see how that makes any sense. And dressing a kid making his AHL debut who isn't known for his offensive output is also questionable. Della Rovere is going to be a solid player but he is not going to score a lot of goals.
In my opinion one of the big problems the Caps had and now the Bears are having is teams are able to shut down 2 good players on one line but they can't stop 3. That explains why, with Gordo in the lineup, the Bears are much better because if you are the opposition, who do you stop on that line?
But when you put Boyd Kane on that line he is no threat so you focus on Giroux and Aucoin and let Kaner run around wild.
Washington had the same problem in the playoffs. No offense to Mike Knuble but the Canadiens were not afraid of him. So they shut down Ovi and Nicky and let Knuble run wild. They were able to do that to every line on the Caps team.
Right now the Monarchs can do that to Hershey. Except the second line has been impressive the past 2 games. Bourque, Perreault, and either Bouchard or Beagle have been very good in both ends I thought. But it obviously isn't enough.
So what would I like to see tomorrow night? Well if he is available get Gordon into the lineup but if he needs another day don't rush him.
After that do 2 things...shuffle the lines and dress Michael Dubuc. Dubuc can score and play offense. Playing defense is generally considered his weakness.
Giroux - Aucoin - Bourque
Dubuc - Perreault - Bouchard
Beagle - Wilson - Pinner
Rome - Joudrey - Kane
That will help the offensive game. I know Bourque is a left wing and Beagle would rather play center but something needs to change. Without Gordon, Hershey is weak on the right side so you have to move someone over for a game.
I am sure Bourque can handle right wing for a game or two.
Now if you are the Monarchs...who do you stop on the top two lines? You can't possibly shut down everyone on the top line and if they let Dubuc alone he can surely score. And the third line is good too with Wilson getting some offensive help.
Any way you look at it Hershey HAS TO PLAY BETTER UP FRONT. If they don't get more shots and more goals soon this is going to be a bad way to end the season. Sure much of the problem has been the Monarchs ability to block shots but with 3 scorers on the top 2 lines you will have more options and more open lanes.
I watched the game on AHL Live last night and followed along with some of the chatter that was going on in the chat window.
Why does everyone seem surprised that Manchester is a good team? They had won 16 of 20 games coming into the series and had only allowed more than 3 goals twice in that time. Sure they didn't win the division but in 05-06 neither did the Bears!
And remember that while Hershey was decidedly better record wise in the regular season they also achieved those numbers against a weaker than usual East division. While Manchester played in the much more demanding Atlantic division and still managed to get to 95 points which would have been good enough for 2nd in the East division.
Manchester did not sneak into this round like Providence did last year. This team is for real.
I am as surprised as anyone about how the Bears have been playing the past 2 games but remember that I did say this series would go 7. So at some point Hershey was going to lose some games. Honestly I thought it would be more of a result of Bernier playing out of his mind while in reality it has been Hershey's lack of offensive push causing the problems.
Tomorrow nights game 5 is obviously big for both teams. If Hershey wins the Monarchs would then have to beat Hershey twice at home. Not hard...it has only been about 6 months since Hershey's lost 2 at home but still it is possible. But if Manchester wins they would only need to win one game in Hershey which while still difficult (only one other team has won a game in Hershey since November) is definitely easier to accomplish.
But in the end I only know this....
I still believe and I will be there on Saturday to root for the Hershey Bears on their quest for Calder Cup number 11!!
LET'S GO BEARS!!!!