Friday, June 4, 2010

Bears lose game 1

Well that didn't go according to plan. Hershey managed just 2 shots in the first period, struggled for much of the game offensively, and lost 2-1 to the Texas Stars.

And if it wasn't for Michal Neuvirth making some big saves the game likely would have been much more lopsided.

Overall I would say that Hershey underestimated the Stars a bit. They came out slow in the first period and continued the unsuccessful attempts at cross ice passes for the entire game. The Stars defense is very good positionally and at blocking shots but the shots that were getting through were creating rebounds. Yet Hershey didn't try to shoot when they had open looks...they waited until a Stars player was standing in front of them.

I understand the idea of getting a screen in front of the goalie. And that did work for parts of the game but for the first 30-40 minutes Matt Climie looked very uncomfortable in net. He wasn't seeing the puck well and was giving up rebound after rebound. Unfortunately Hershey couldn't get the puck past him.

And then the physicality started. And it started with Climie. In the 2nd period there was a minor collision with the Stars goalie who took the contact personally. Can't remember who exactly was involved but I am pretty sure Alexandre Giroux had a part in it. Either way Climie was a better goalie after that happened.

Then the 3rd period came and emotions picked up more. Andrew Gordon threw what looked to me anyways to be a fairly questionable hit on Stars defenseman Andrew Hutchinson at the Stars bench. Hutchinson had his back to Gordon and was slightly bent over when Gordon plowed into him sending the Stars defenseman into the boards awkwardly.

No penalty was called on Gordon for the play which did not sit well with the Stars. And I can't blame them one bit, that hit occurs on John Carlson or Karl Alzner and fans might have rushed the ice in was a little dirty.

Matt Stephenson tried to take matters into his own hands. He almost immediately left the bench (not sure if there was a legal change or not) and him, along with the other Stars on the ice, were making a beeline for Gordo. And the Bears knew it was coming too. All the Hershey players on the ice formed a wall between the Stars and Gordon which caused a 10 player scrum for a few minutes.

It doesn't seem to take long for bad blood to surface during a Calder Cup Finals series and it surely didn't take long last night. Even though these teams have never faced off against each other there is plenty of animosity to go around.

Now let's get back to what Hershey did wrong...

Too much passing and stick handling. Every time down the ice they wanted to make the perfect pass instead of shooting. I am not one to yell shoot at the players but last night it would have made sense. And the stick handling complaint goes mainly to one player but plenty had a problem with it. Chris Bourque played phenomenally at both ends of the ice for much of the game but on MORE THAN ONE OCCASION he passed up a shot and tried to make a move around a guy only to get the puck poke checked away. The other players would have been Giroux, Mathieu Perreault, Karl Alzner, and John Carlson.

Defensemen getting greedy. More so than at any other time during the playoffs I thought the Hershey defensemen jumped into the offensive zone too much. Texas is an opportunistic team with good speed and excellent positioning. When a player like Carlson or Patty McNeill jump into the play and turn the puck over it leads to an odd man rush. The game winning goal was scored because Sean Collins tried to jump up into the play but missed the puck and it was a turnover going the other way. Stay back and stay in position, keep pucks in the zone, and take shots at the net when you receive passes at the point.

Trying to skate puck into the zone. One of the most frustrating offensive styles to watch is the dump and chase method but it can be effective. Hershey last night tried almost every time to skate the puck through the neutral zone and get it deep while in possession of the puck. The problem was that Texas either stood them up at the blue line or poke checked the puck away as they were skating to the dots. The times when Hershey actually played dump and chase they seemed to be successful. In the Manchester series this style didn't work because Jonathon Bernier was an excellent puck handling goalie but Climie does not seem to be as talented. Get the puck deep, start cycling, get shots from the point and be ready for the rebounds.

Honestly I thought Texas played outstanding hockey last night. But they aren't Manchester. I know the Stars fans and Tim Leone think they are similar and probably better than Manchester on defense but I disagree. Manchester gave up few odd man rushes through the entire series while Texas gave up multiple last night. Manchester always had 2 guys back and all 5 players would bunch up in front of Bernier when the puck was in the zone. The Stars defense jumped into the play often and they played more traditionally in the defensive zone. What Texas does so well is block passing lanes. If Hershey shoots instead of passes on half of those attempts they end up with 40+ shots in the game. You won't beat the Stars by passing it from one side of the ice to the other.

Game 2 becomes a must win for the Bears in my opinion. With 3 games in Austin coming next week being down 2-0 would be tough to overcome.

The goaltending was phenomenal for the Bears last night. Now the offensive and defensive games have to catch up.



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Ross said...

I agree with much of what you wrote. The Gordon hit probably deserved at least a minor, and in fact assessing one would have been a good idea because maybe it would have defused it a bit; now I feel like there's a target on his back. Don't look any further than our second round series against Chicago to find Stars willing to give out hits that aren't even questionable (Stafford and Peters). And we can't afford another suspension.

I was stunned by Chris Bourque's individual skills, both as a skater and punk handler. He's amazing, and fun to watch. But I can see why he hasn't had much success in his call-ups to the NHL because that style wouldn't go over well. I can also see why he both thrills and frustrates Bears fans.

True about the bad blood, that didn't take long at all.

Finally, I've never seen Texas block shots or passing lanes the way they did in game 1; they looked like Hamilton played against us.

Cheers and on to game 2.