Saturday, February 27, 2010

Bears welcome former East division foe tonight

Wow...what an Olympics tournament so far! I will be honest with you...I haven't watched a Bears game in a couple weeks as I have been 1) very busy and 2) watching as much Olympic hockey and events as possible.

The men's tournament is coming down to the game the NHL, NBC, and Canada wanted. But lets be honest....the US didn't want this game. Canada is out to make a statement tomorrow afternoon and Ryan Miller is going to have to be HUGE yet again if the USA has any chance to win this game.

Even beyond the hockey matches though the Olympics have gained my attention and I have tried to watch most of the events. Unfortunately (as any regular readers will now) that means that I haven't been posting on here as much. But the Olympics are about done and the AHL stretch run and playoffs are coming up.

I have been paying attention though and it would seem as though the Bears are struggling a bit offensively. Again I haven't watched any games so I can't speak to what they do that doesn't show up on the scoreboard but you can find out a lot by looking at guys stats.

Keith Aucoin hasn't scored a goal since January and he has only 5 assists in 10 February games. Not too good considering his dominance in the first 3.5 months. In January he recorded a point in EVERY game and ended the month with 12 goals and 23 assists. He needs to pick it up going forward and find a little balance between his 5 point month and his 35 point month.

Alexandre Giroux is not doing much either. He also scored in every January game finishing the month with 14 goals and 17 assists but has struggled mightily in February. He has 3 goals and 3 assists in 9 February games and has only recorded a point in 3 games.

Andrew Gordon wasn't near as spectacular in January as the previous two but he has also struggled a bit in February with only 4 goals and 2 assists in 10 games.

No offense to Andrew Joudrey but when he is your leading scorer in any given month you are struggling a bit to put the puck in the net. He is tied for the team lead in goals (5) in February with Francois Bouchard and tied for the team lead in points (9) with Mathieu Perreault.

Heck Boyd Kane hasn't recorded a point yet this month and Kyle Wilson hasn't scored a goal either.

Just the fact that Hershey has a winning record with all those players struggling is a testament to the teams depth and talent level. To date in February the Bears are 7-3 with 30 goals scored and 29 goals against.

I will say it again....the fact that Hershey is 7-3 so far in February is impressive by itself. But they need to work through their problems and get back to scoring goals.

They have time though and honestly this will help them going forward. This is the adversity that teams generally go through every season that up to this point Hershey hasn't faced.

Playing at home they are still the best team in the league with 20 straight wins but the road is becoming another problem spot for them as they have lost 3 of 4 on the road with the only win coming against a weak Lake Erie team in a shootout.

Tonight the Bears host the Bridgeport Sound Tigers for the first and only time this season. Last year Bridgeport was in the East division and gave Hershey some fits during the season...but now they are in the Atlantic division and fighting for their playoff lives right now.

Tomorrow the Bears head up 81 to Wilkes Barre to face off against another team fighting for a playoff spot in the Baby Pens.

How many of you are truly going to watch/listen to the Pens game??? I mean starts at 3pm...the same time as USA vs Canada for the gold medal! Any other year and I would be sitting in front of the computer watching Hershey vs Wilkes Barre but getting to see the USA against (hockey's Dream Team) Canada for the gold medal....I will watch the game that happens once every 4 years at best.

Hershey Bears
record ~ 44-12-0-2 90 points
standings ~ 1st in East Division
most recent game ~ 3-2 Loss @ Toronto, 2/25
last 5 games ~ 3-2-0-0
home record ~ 25-3-0-2
goals for ~ 246
goals against ~141
power play ~ 21.7% (1st)
penalty kill ~ 88.5% (1st)

Bridgeport Sound Tigers
record ~ 27-25-3-6 63 points
standings ~ 5th in Atlantic Division
most recent game ~ 3-2 Loss vs Abbotsford, 2/24
last 5 games ~ 3-2-0-0
road record ~ 11-13-3-3
goals for ~ 147
goals against ~ 164
power play ~ 14.7% (25th)
penalty kill ~ 82.9% (12th)

last time teams met - First meeting this season. Hershey will visit Bridgeport on Tuesday.

Players to watch:


LW Chris Bourque (17)- In only 31 games this season he has managed to get to 4th in scoring for the Bears with 17 goals and 27 assists. Been somewhat productive in February with 3 goals and 5 assists in 8 games.
RW Francois Bouchard (22) - Having a solid month with 5 goals and 2 assists gives him 16 goals and 25 assists on the season...good for 5th on the team and MIGHT put him in position for a top line spot next season.
C Andrew Joudrey (23) - Definitely showing what he can do this month scoring 5 goals and 4 assists which ties him for the month's lead in both goals and points. Has already tied his career high in goals (11) and is only 2 off his career high in points (27 last season).

Sound Tigers:

LW Greg Mauldin
(20) - He is the team leader in goals (20) and in points (44). Riding a hot streak as well with 4 goals and 10 assists in his last 10 games.
LW Jesse Joensuu (6) - Second on the team in points (37) and leading the team in assists (27) he has had a solid February with 8 assists in 7 games.
LW Trevor Smith (23) - Second on the team in goals (17) and third on the team in points (35) he has 3 goals and 4 assists in his last 10 games.


Friday, February 19, 2010

Bears visit Phantoms to kick off very busy finish to season

With the Olympics going on and all the NHL teams on a mandatory break expect to see lots of scouts and executives at Hershey games for the next few games. The NHL trade deadline is coming up on March 3rd and you better believe the Bears players could be targeted. Not necessarily the big names Giroux, Aucoin, or Bourque, but maybe the players like Osala, Bouchard, and Gordon. Those players are still developing and could be included in a trade or two in a couple weeks.

That is all good news for Steve Pinizzotto. Pinner practiced on the top line with Coiner and Giroux yesterday and is expected to play there for the weekends games. Coach Mark French has decided that even though Hershey is winning there is no reason to stick with the status quo.

Some might argue that you don't fix what isn't broken but I actually think this is a good time to try some different things. It keeps some guys from getting complacent and keeps them doing everything they can to keep their spot.

Andrew Gordon, the former top line right winger, will join a line with Kyle Wilson at center and Andrew Joudrey at left wing. It isn't like Gordo hasn't been producing either, he has 2 goals and 2 assists in his last 3 games.

I think it is just a way to see what else could work going forward. Maybe a way to find a little more balance down through the lines.

It will be interesting to see Pinner get his shot at the top line and scoring some goals. He is surely up there on that line to protect Giroux and Coiner a bit but he can also score some too. Back in 07-08 he scored 15 goals and 17 assists in 40 games for the South Carolina Stingrays. And just last season he scored 4 goals and 6 assists in 11 games for SC. He just hasn't had a chance here in Hershey to put up goals. He does what he is asked to do and he does it very well...personally I am glad he is getting his chance to show what else he can do to help the club win.

Tonight Hershey kicks off a very busy stretch of games. They visit Adirondack tonight before returning home for Lake Erie on Saturday and Albany on Sunday. After that they have 5 games in 7 days next Wednesday through Tuesday. Combine the weekends and you have 8 games in 12 days.

That stretch will test this teams depth and focus. It is a great test for the stretch run and the playoffs. Overall the Bears play 27 games over the next 51 days to finish the regular season. That is a lot of games in a short period.

Hershey Bears
record ~ 41-10-0-2 84 points
standings ~ 1st in East Division
most recent game ~ 5-2 Win vs Lowell, 2/14
last 5 games ~ 4-1-0-0
road record ~ 18-7-0-0
goals for ~ 229
goals against ~127
power play ~ 22.2% (1st)
penalty kill ~ 90.2% (1st)

Adirondack Phantoms
record ~ 25-25-2-2 54 points
standings ~ 5th in East Division
most recent game ~ 4-3 Win @ Binghamton, 2/17
last 5 games ~ 2-3-0-0
home record ~ 13-10-2-0
goals for ~ 130
goals against ~ 157
power play ~ 11.9% (29th)
penalty kill ~ 83.1% (13th)

last time teams met - Hershey won 4-1 in Hershey on January 3rd.

Players to watch:


RW Steve Pinizzotto (13)- Taking the right wing on the top line gives the grinder a chance to prove how good he can be in the offensive end.
C Andrew Joudrey (23) - One of the most important players on Hershey's roster due to his great defensive play is approaching his career high of 11 goals this season. He has 9 goals and 11 assists so far and now he joins a line with Kyle Wilson and Andrew Gordon...he like Pinner is getting a chance to show what he can do.
G Braden Holtby (1) - With the scouts watching he will be the only of the 3 young stud goaltenders in action for Hershey/Washington right now. Don't think the Caps wouldn't trade one of their young star goalies for the right player either.


RW Stefan Legein
(9) - All he does is score goals! Seriously. He is leading the Phantoms in goals this season with 21 but he is only 5th in points because he has only 5 assists in his 52 games.
LW Mika Pyorala (22) - He has only played 9 games for the Phantoms this season but he appeared in 36 for the Flyers too. He has 3 goals and 4 assists in those 9 games including 2 goals and 3 assists in his last 4 games.
LW Krys Kolanos (36) - After scoring 30+ goals in his last 2 seasons he has slowed a bit this season with only 9 goals in 27 games but 3 of those goals (and 2 assists) have come in the last 3 games.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Bears back to work this weekend

Now that we are all dug out of the snow it is time to get back to our regularly scheduled programming.

A busy weekend for the Bears as they have a 3 in 3 with two road games before heading home on Sunday.

The Bears are visiting Albany tonight in an attempt to extend their division lead to 22 points over the second place Rats. This will be the Bears last visit to Albany this season and maybe for a while longer as news has come down this week that the franchise is moving to Charlotte next season. While the AHL wants to have a team in Albany it remains to be seen if there will be a team there next year.

Hershey comes into this game having won 10 in a row and 22 of 23. They have also won 17 straight home games which is 2 short of the AHL record. If Hershey can win all three games this weekend they will break the long standing franchise record for consecutive wins of 12. It was set way back at the beginning of January!

Albany is just looking to stay ahead of 3rd place Norfolk as they have surely written off a division championship. They are 6 points up on Norfolk with a game in hand.

Recently the Rats have struggled going 1-3-0-1 in their last 5 games including an 8-3 beating at the hands of the Bears a couple weeks ago. They have not kept a team below 4 goals in that stretch while scoring more than 3 only once.

Hershey lost a couple players to the Caps yesterday, Chris Bourque and Karl Alzner, due to injuries with the big club. Michael Dubuc was recalled from South Carolina to help fill the void on the Hershey roster.

The goaltending situation in Hershey has worked itself out again with Semyon Varlamov heading back to Washington. Michael Neuvirth remains in Washington as he was injured in a game there last week but Braden Holtby and Jason Bacashihua are still healthy and still in Hershey. Expect to see both this weekend with Holtby likely getting 2 starts to Cash's 1.

Hershey Bears
record ~ 39-9-0-2 80 points
standings ~ 1st in East Division
most recent game ~ 5-4 Win vs Wilkes Barre, 2/7
last 5 games ~ 5-0-0-0
road record ~ 17-6-0-0
goals for ~ 219
goals against ~118
power play ~ 22.2% (1st)
penalty kill ~ 90.3% (1st)

Albany River Rats
record ~ 27-19-3-3 60 points
standings ~ 2nd in East Division
most recent game ~ 4-3 SO Loss @ Binghamton, 2/10
last 5 games ~ 1-3-0-1
home record ~ 17-8-2-1
goals for ~ 149
goals against ~ 150
power play ~ 14.4% (23rd)
penalty kill ~ 81.6% (18th)

last time teams met - Hershey won 8-3 in Hershey on January 30th.

Players to watch:


LW Michael Dubuc (15)- Replacing Bourque can't be easy but Dubuc gets his chance this weekend. So far this season Dubuc has played 7 games for the Bears scoring 3 goals and 2 assists. In SC he has 13 goals and 14 assists in 34 games.
C Mathieu Perreault (24) - Fresh off his hat trick against the Pens the diminutive center will be looking to continue his scoring ways. He has 5 goals and 4 assists in his last 5 games.
LW Alexander Giroux and C Keith Aucoin (12,11) - After scoring in EVERY SINGLE JANUARY game the duo has failed to record a point in a February game. This surely won't last so keep your eye on both these guys this weekend.

River Rats:

D Jamie McBain (2) - The rookie is tied for the team lead in assists with 21 and is 4th in points. In his last 4 games he has 1 goal and 6 assists.
LW Jacob MicFlikier (18) - Second on the team in goals with 13. In his last 4 games he has scored 3 goals and added 2 assists. He has 4 assists against the Bears this season.
LW Drayson Bowman (9) - Another rookie producing for the Rats this season. He has 2 goals and an assist in the last game.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Caps Weekly

Sorry about the lack of posts this past week. It has been terribly busy for me with work, then I got sick, and then that stupid groundhog dumped 20 inches of snow on me. And now he is sending more...damn him! is your weekly Caps report and I assure regular posting will resume later this week.

Winning Continues

The Capitals are only 4 wins away from setting a new NHL record for consecutive wins. They are currently #3 with 14 straight but the (I believe) 92-93 Pens won 17 in a row. (It might be a different year but it is the Pens). Unfortunately the best the Caps can do before the Olympic break is tie the record as they have only 3 games remaining this month.

Ovechkin and Backstrom Dominating

Ovi was named the NHL's 1st star of the week for the 3rd time this season and the 2nd time in the last 4 weeks. Meanwhile Nicky Backstrom was named the 3rd star of the week for the 2nd consecutive week. Impressive for the individuals but the team winning streak is still the #1 story.

Kovalchuk Traded

All that speculation of the Caps getting Ilya Kovalchuk from the Thrashers is over with as the winger was traded to the Devils this past week. I would imagine that the recent success the Caps have experienced is leading them to believe that they don't need that much more to make a legitimate run at the cup this Spring.

Upcoming Schedule

The last week before the Olympics sees the Caps hit the road for 3 straight games. Will the added travel hurt their streak? Hopefully not.
  • Wednesday - @ Montreal
  • Thursday - @ Ottawa
  • Saturday - @ St. Louis
The Ottawa game is the most interesting of the bunch as the Senators are 11-1 in their last 12 games. They had won 11 straight before losing to Toronto on Sunday.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Caps Weekly (2/2/10)

A look at the big club in Washington....

Winning Streak

The Caps will go for a franchise record 11th consecutive win tonight in Boston. The Caps haven't lost since a 7-4 defeat in Tampa on January 12th. The Caps have played 7 home games during the current 10 game run while only traveling away from the friendly confines in DC 3 times. During the 10 game stretch they have scored 48 goals while allowing only 21.

Wonderful January

Beyond the 10 game winning streak the Caps dominated the entire month of January. They played 15 games during the month going 13-2 with their only losses coming in LA and Tampa. The LA loss happened the first game of the month which makes the Caps 13-1 in their last 14. Not quite 20 in 21 like Hershey but definitely impressive none the less.

Goaltenders Getting Healthy?

Semyon Varlamov has resumed practicing this past week and is expected to play in Hershey on a conditioning stint at some point this week or next. Fortunately for the Caps having their (at the time) #1 goaltender go down did not affect the rest of the organization. Jose Theodore has been exceptional going 8-1 during January while Michal Neuvirth has also been solid going 5-1 during the month.

Trade News

It would appear as the Ilya Kovalchuk rumors are subsiding. The Kings and Flames are considered the top contenders for the winger but rumor has it the Flyers are throwing their name into the hat. Still plenty of time before the trade deadline and nothing will happen until after the Olympics.

Upcoming Games

The Caps again have 4 games this week including a nationally televised game vs Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon.
  • Tuesday - @ Boston
  • Thursday - @ NY Rangers
  • Friday - vs Atlanta
  • Sunday - vs Pittsburgh

Monday, February 1, 2010

Only 6 goals?? What happened?

Hershey won their 8th straight game last night 6-1 at home against bottom dwelling Binghamton. It was the first time in 5 games that Hershey scored less than 8 what happened?

Ok, obviously I am kidding. There is nothing wrong. Hershey has won 20 of their last 21 and has scored an obscene 59 goals in their last 8 games, all wins. That equals out to about 7.4 goals per game. 7 GOALS PER GAME!! Are you kidding?

The offensive force of this team is incredible. Looking for you go:
  • Keith Aucoin had more points (35) in January than 9 AHL teams leading scorers have all season.
  • Hershey occupies 11 of the top 16 spots in plus/minus.
  • Hershey has averaged 4.40 goals per game this season, 2nd place Hamilton...3.28.
  • Aucoin and Giroux have 16 game point streaks going and have combined for 72 points in that span.
How do you possibly compete with this offense? Well, most teams haven't been able to. I am guessing that the top competition to the Bears are just waiting for the team to slow down a little bit.

I mean no team can continue this stretch for too long...can they?

I don't know about that but this team is absolutely clicking on all cylinders right now. Hopefully, if they do stumble they do it over the next 2 months and not in the playoffs. Watching a team dominate this much during the season is obviously going to be favored to win in the playoffs which means EVERY team in the league will be looking to knock off the champs.

This week is a slightly slower week for Hershey after last weeks 4 in 5. A trip to Norfolk, the place Hershey last lost 3 weeks ago 4-3 (their only loss since 12/5), and then a visit from Wilkes Barre Scranton on Saturday before a 5 day layoff between games.