Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Caps trade Flash

The Washington Capitals today traded Tomas Fleischmann to Colorado for defenseman Scott Hannon.

While this move does not actually impact the Hershey Bears directly it does affect them indirectly.

First let's consider the good news of the situation...this gives the Caps another defenseman, 8 total. That means call ups of Brian Fahey will be much less common. While that definitely isn't what Fahey was looking for it does help the Hershey Bears as a team.

Now let's consider the bad news of the situation...Flash was one of the players keeping guys like Gordon, Perreault, and Beagle in Hershey. Washington still has 13 forwards so while a call up is not going to happen immediately it does make forward call ups much more likely going forward. One or two injuries to forwards in Washington will result in fewer players in Hershey.

Surely the players I mentioned above (Gordon, Perry, Beags) are happy about this. They were kind of stuck until now as the Caps had 2 extra forwards so call ups were rare. But this will surely make call ups more likely as we move forward.

The likelihood of a Bear forward getting a long term recall is still unlikely (barring a bad injury) it is much more likely that Hershey will be without players for a few games here or there.

So while the trade is actually good news for the short term as Fahey will no longer be getting called up regularly it will hurt down the road IF Caps forwards start getting hurt.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Welcome Back Braden

It was good to see Braden Holtby back in goal for the Bears last night. He played a fantastic game and recorded his first shutout of the season as Hershey beat the Adirondack Phantoms 4-0.

I think Dany Sabourin is a solid goaltender but the difference in rebound control between the goalies is substantial. On Wednesday night every shot seemed to create a scoring opportunity for Worcester while last night I can only remember one or two rebounds that did that.

Although it does help when you are playing the Phantoms. They are embarrassingly bad this year. They have played 22 games and have won only 3. They sit in last place in the league with only 8 points on the season. They average about 2 goals a game and allow about 4 a game. And they already changed coaches this year!

Outside of the goaltending I would say that the closed door team meeting that was called after Wednesday night's game had an effect. In the 2 games since the Bears have scored 9 and allowed only 1.

Again though, let's keep in mind who the opposition was for those 2 games. We already talked about Adirondack but Syracuse isn't much better. They reside in 2nd to last in the league with 16 points in 20 games. Definitely more competitive but still lacking in overall talent.

The communication definitely seemed better. They seemed to play with more cohesiveness. And they appeared to be playing better as a team instead of the lone wolf style they showed on Wednesday night.

There still needs to be more hitting but that will likely come as the playoffs get closer and games start to matter more.

This team has the talent to be a force in the league. What they need most is some continuity. Injuries and call ups are taking their toll on the teams overall development. It is hard to learn the tendencies of your new players when everyone isn't on the ice at the same time.

Keith Aucoin's injury hurts as he was developing a nice rhythm with Willsie before getting hurt. Now Perry is doing that but when Coiner comes back they will likely go back to their previous lines.

And the blue line is having those problems too. Souray, Collins, Kroll, and Fahey have all missed time due to injury or recall and Patty McNeill has yet to play a game this season. Knowing what your defensive partner is going to do is critical when the opposition is bearing down on the rush. And the only way to develop that knowledge is to play together constantly.

As the season rolls along this team will likely come together and become a legitimate contender. Right now though they are still finding their way. Some games are good like last night while others are a struggle like Wednesday.

Tonight the Charlotte Checkers make their first visit to Giant Center this season. They currently reside in 3rd place in the East division, two points ahead of Hershey. The Checkers started out the season slowly but have really picked it up in November. So far in November they are 9-2-0-2. They have lost only twice in regulation this month including once to Hershey.

The Checkers played in Worcester last night and Norfolk on Wednesday night. A busy travel weekend for them concludes with tonight's game in Hershey. Coming from Worcester overnight for a 5pm start in Hershey is not an easy travel day.

The Bears can make it a clean 3 in 3 sweep with a win tonight. After his performance last night I would expect to see Braden Holtby get the start again tonight.

A little more on the game tonight....

Hershey Bears
record ~ 12-8-0-1 25 points
standings ~ 4th in East Division
most recent game ~ 4-0 Win vs Adirondack, 11/27
last 5 games ~ 3-2-0-0
home record ~ 6-5-0-0
goals for ~ 80
goals against ~ 56
power play ~ 22.7% (3rd)
penalty kill ~ 82.8% (15th)

Charlotte Checkers
record ~ 12-8-1-2 27 points
standings ~ 3rd in East Division
most recent game ~ 4-2 Win @ Worcester, 11/27
last 5 games ~ 4-1-0-0
road record ~ 6-4-1-0
goals for ~ 73
goals against ~ 70
power play ~ 20.2% (6th)
penalty kill ~ 88.5% (3rd)

last time teams met - This is the 3rd meeting of the season but the first in Hershey. The teams split the 2 games in Charlotte earlier this month.

Players to watch:


RW Andrew Gordon (10) - Leads the league in goals with 15 and in points with 29. Has 8 goals in his last 8 games including 3 in his last 2. Also has 6 assists in that 8 game span.
C Mathieu Perreault (24) - Centering the top line in place of Keith Aucoin the diminutive pivot is 5th in the league in assists with 16 (tied with Nycholat). Also adding some goals with 4 in his last 4 games.
G Braden Holtby (1) - Probably the biggest key to Hershey's season he returned after a month in Washington to shut out the Phantoms last night. 6 games this year, 5-0-1 record with a ridiculous 1.65 goals against and a .944 save percentage.


C Zach Boychuk (11) - Leads the team in assists with 15 and is currently in the midst of a 5 game point streak. He has 2 goals and 6 assists in those 5 games.
RW Jerome Samson (17) - Leads the team in goals, 12, and points, 24. Has recorded a goal and 6 assists over the last 4 games including 3 assists last night.
C Zac Dalpe (19) - The rookie is tied for 2nd on the team with 9 goals but leads the team with an average of 1.08 points per game. 3 goals and 2 assists in last 3 games.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Bears drop another game

Before I get into the team and their problems last night I want to say how awesome it was to see the reaction and reception for the soldiers that were welcomed home last night. If you weren't there it was something special. Not only did they get a standing ovation from the crowd but even the players on the ice were saluting them by hitting their sticks on the boards and the ice. And this wasn't before the game or between periods but during a timeout in play.

Sometimes we get a little caught up in the sport and the outcomes and forget that it is, quite simply, just a game. Whether a team wins or loses it really doesn't matter in the grander scheme of things. Watching the players acknowledge that last night was amazing.

As someone who has relatives and friends serving our amazing country (as many of us do) it was definitely something I will always remember.

Now onto the game....

Not exactly the way Hershey wanted to kick off the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Worcester came into Hershey and played well enough to get a 3-2 win against a sluggish Bears team.

I have some thoughts on wait ails this team but first I want to say this...it is still early. There are many new pieces and due to call-ups and injuries they have had limited time to play together. I still contend that this team is very talented at the offensive end and can score with anyone.

But goaltending and defense are 2 different issues altogether.

Dany Sabourin and the Defense

First let me say this...Dany is having a hard time controlling rebounds this year. Last night was horrible as he kept directing rebounds right out to the circles and the center of the ice. You just can't do that and expect to win many games.

BUT I don't blame Dany (entirely) for the goals last night. The first goal was a poorly controlled rebound that dropped at the stick of a Shark. My problem here is that whichever defenseman was following him through the zone didn't tie him up. Not sure which defenseman it was but Miscovic and Nycholat were on the ice.

A very similar play happened at the other end but the Sharks defenseman tied Perreault and kept him from making a play.

The 2nd goal was quite simply a horrible play by Souray and Miscovic. The puck was in the neutral zone and yet they still got caught flat footed by the play and Wingels skated in all alone on Sabourin.

And the 3rd goal...you CAN NOT allow a guy to take a one timer from the faceoff circle. Especially at even strength. That is simply unacceptable. If I remember correctly Andrew Joudrey's guy is the one that scored and Joudrey did make an attempt to block the shot but it was already too late.

Sure, Dany could have made some more saves but he did keep Hershey in the game too. I thought he played OK. Unfortunately I don't think he is capable of winning games by himself and that is what Hershey is asking him to do right now. The defense isn't showing up with any consistency.


It doesn't appear that anyone on this team is communicating with each other. And that might have something to do with the constant line changing due to injuries and call-ups but it should be a simple and easy thing to correct.

It appeared to me that right now there are 5 guys on the ice playing as individuals instead of as a a team. Clever passes where no one is there, one on one moves when they are unnecessary, and (most importantly) NO ONE GOING TO THE NET!

This is always a problem for teams but this Hershey team is really struggling. There were numerous rebounds left by the Worcester goalie last night but there were no Bears around to take advantage. They were all standing on the outside near the boards.

This team has some big guys too. Greentree, Rome, Pinner, GMac, Rechlicz, and Beagle can all get down low and stir up some chances. But most of them don't want to do that.

Last night there were 2 players that seemed to be okay getting their nose dirty...Beagle and Perreault. And Perry is the smallest player on the ice many games but he was in there going after rebounds and trying to make something happen.

No one else.

Line Makeup

With all the injuries and call ups it has been hard to get any lines any continuity but the lines they are running right now are too scattered and inconsistent.

There is no telling when Aucoin will be back so let's make some changes now.

Kyle Greentree is a scorer in the Giroux mold. Not as good a shot and not as quick a skater (never thought I would say that) but a similar player. Why is he on a line with 2 muckers (Beagle and Rome)?

Put Greentree with Perreault and Gordon and move Willsie down to play with Beagle. Willsie is a great player but he is more of the grinder/mucker type than a scorer. Putting Greentree on the top line with open Gordon up for him to perform.

High energy, grinder lines are what this team needs. Maxime Lacroix and Trevor Bruess are playing great right now and that is what they are doing. I actually think Rome should move to this line with Kugryshev moving to the Beagle/Willsie line.

What all these lines need is balance. A scorer, a grinder and a playmaker. Hershey has some of each but not like last years team.

Putting Greentree with a terrific playmaker like Perreault and allowing Gordon to get to the net and score the 'ugly' goals will definitely help that line.

Beagle has a little playmaker in him but will also get in the corners and muck it up. Putting him with Kugryshev and Willsie will result in hustle goals.

Rome, Lacroix, and Bruess aren't going to score a lot but they will control the puck with the cycle and get a few chances while frustrating the opposition. They will draw penalties and do the dirty work down low.

The last line of Pinner, Kane, and Joudrey is much like the Bruess line. I think Pinner could offer more in the way of offense but I don't see the energy on this line as I do the Bruess line. They don't seem interested in cycling and possessing the puck. Which is what they are all built to do.

With some continuity and communication all of these lines could cause problems for any opposition.

Power Play

One more thing and this is for French.

Why the hell is Souray not on the #1 power play unit? I don't care if you have to put Willsie on the wing or the bench if you don't Souray as your only defenseman but he should absolutely be out there firing away.

Put Willsie, Perry and Gordon out as forwards with Nycholat and Souray on the blue line. I guarantee that goals will be scored.

Then the 2nd line could be Beagle, Greentree and Kurgryshev with Collins/Fahey and Miscovic on the point.

TWO solid lines that can score and produce some consistent pressure.

That's it for today. Hopefully Friday and the weekend go better than the last 4 have gone. Getting 40+ shots a game is good IF they are quality chances which most of Hershey's 40+ weren't last night.

Everyone have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Bears win 1 of 3

Not a great weekend for the Hershey Bears. They managed to record 44 shots in Friday's game at Binghamton but the Senators goalie, Barry Brust, stopped 42 of them and the Sens offense scored 4 times against Hershey goalie, Dany Sabourin, to pick up their first win over the Bears this season.

Saturday night saw a 4-3 loss at home at the hands of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. That makes it 4 straight losses against the Pens to start the season. 3 of the 4 games have been goal affairs. On bright spot in the loss was the Hershey power play which converted on all 3 of their chances.

Then came Sunday against the soon to be defunct Hartford Wolfpack. (Seriously in one week they will no longer exist...they will be the Connecticut Whale)

A strong but scattered first period led to a 0-0 tie after the 1st. The Bears took control with 4 second period goals and they took a 4-1 lead into the 3rd period. And then they tried to blow it late by allowing 2 goals midway through the 3rd period.

You could definitely see some tired legs out there. Andrew Gordon was one player that definitely looked like he could use a few days rest. He looked sluggish and just a little off his game all night.

In the end Hershey got 2 points out of a weekend in which they were not playing at full strength. But, surprisingly, they are healthier after the weekend then they were going into it. Brian Willsie and Sheldon Souray both played in games this weekend. Keith Aucoin, Francois Bouchard, and Steve Pinizzotto remain sidelined.

Semyon Varlamov played in 2 games and appears to have regained his mobility but I am not sure he is ready for the NHL. He didn't look great in any of the 3 games he has appeared in. But Braden Holtby didn't look good in his start Friday night for Washington.

I would expect to see Braden return to Hershey for the weekend games but who knows. Varly doesn't look ready to significantly contribute but I am not sure playing in the AHL will get him ready for the NHL anyhow.

**UPDATE - shortly after posting this I read on Capitals Insider that Holtby is expected to make another start for the Caps this week. So it would appear that Varly will still be in Hershey for at least the Wednesday night game and possibly longer.**

**UPDATE #2 - Varly was recalled to Washington as Neuvirth suffered a minor lower body injury in practice. Holtby started last night and Varly was the backup. No word on when/if one of the two will be reassigned to Hershey. They say Neuvy can probably play Wednesday so hopefully one of the 2 is back soon.**

Next up for Hershey...a 4 in 5! Not exactly what they need right now but all you can do is play the games that are scheduled.

3 of the 4 games are in Hershey starting with Worcester on Wednesday night.


Friday, November 19, 2010

Bears depleted as tough stretch begins

It is not a great time for Hershey to be facing all the injury issues they are having. Starting tonight Hershey plays 7 games over the next 10 days. They get Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday off. That's it.

Hershey's injury list looks like a pretty damn good power play unit...

Brian Willsie
Keith Aucoin
Francois Bouchard
Steve Pinizzotto
Sheldon Souray

That's a solid group of players to be missing.

Some good news though...Joel Rechlicz is cleared to return to the lineup. Probably not going to help much on the offensive end but healthy bodies are going to be important over the next 10 days.

Keeping with the healthy bodies theory, Nikita Kashirsky was recalled by the Bears as well. He will surely get into some games this weekend.

The goaltending situation is in better shape. Semyon Varlamov remains in Hershey as he tries to get back into game shape. He is expected to play in 2 games this weekend and then could be recalled to Washington.

As soon as he is recalled, Braden Holtby will surely be reassigned to the Bears. Braden is expected to make his 3rd start for the Caps this weekend but hasn't played much since being called up.

Dany Sabourin will also get a start this weekend.

Tonight Hershey visits Binghamton. And all who were in Hershey on Sunday evening recall what the Bears can do to the Senators. In 2 games this season Hershey has a 15-4 edge in goals and obviously a 2-0 record.

Sunday's game was somewhat lacking in the suspense area as Hershey scored their first goal 70 seconds into the game and finished the 1st period with a 6-0 lead. Included in that 1st period were 4 fights including 3 that came within about 30 seconds of each other. GMac (twice), Wellar, and Oreskovic all threw down with the Senators.

When you go up 6-0 in the first period it is kind of hard to critique the rest of the game as Hershey took their foot off the gas and the defense let up a bit as well. Varly also had the opportunity to relax a bit in net. Not saying any player wasn't trying but I think most players in most sports, on any level, would struggle to keep giving 110% effort when they are up 6 scores. (Just ask Mike Vick and the Eagles)

I have a funny feeling tonight's game is going to go differently against the Senators. They have been embarrassed twice against the Bears and are going to come out with something to prove.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bears playing well this weekend

2 down 1 to go for this 3 in 3 weekend. Personally I think the team has played very well this weekend. Obviously the 3-0 win in Syracuse last night shows that. But the 3-2 loss on Friday doesn't.

You know that feeling when you are trying to say something and you just can't figure out the word you are looking for. Or when you are watching a movie or tv show and an actor comes on and you know you have seen them before but you can't quite remember it. The answer is just at the tip of your tongue....

That's how the Bears played on Friday night. The plays were there, partially made. And then something would go wrong. Either an errant pass, an unlucky bounce, or just a good play from Toronto.

Things just didn't work out for 2.5 periods. You could feel the change though. Just before they scored I felt like bounces had started going their way, the Toronto goalie had started to give up some rebounds, and Hershey was making the passes.

Then the first goal...then the second goal.

And then...ouch. A play that goes fine 99 out of 100 times didn't work out. The bounce went Toronto's way. Sabourin played the puck behind the Hershey net but feeling pressure from behind he rushed the pass and it went directly to a Marlie who put it in the net before Sabs could get back in position.

But don't blame Dany for the loss. If anything you can celebrate him for keeping Hershey in the game. The first 2 goals would have been scored on damn near any goalie in hockey. Great plays by the Marlies and poor defensive positioning led to both.

Sabs kept Hershey in the game with 2 other great 1 on 1 saves in the 2nd and 3rd periods. Without those saves it would have 4-0 before Hershey got on the board.

If you want to blame someone for the loss...blame the defense. They didn't play with any consistency that game.

Or blame the centers...they were dominated in the faceoff circle for much of that game. Whether in the offensive or defensive zone it seemed that the Marlies won all the big faceoffs. Hershey has a 5 on 3 power play...can't win a draw to keep the puck in the zone. Hershey has a big draw when on the penalty kill...the Marlies win and keep possession.

In my opinion Hershey didn't play great on Friday but they did outplay the Marlies. Those games will even themselves out over the course of the season as Hershey will get all the bounces in some games.

The fact that Hershey overcame the tough luck and miscues to tie the game up with a legitimate chance to win says how good this team is.

They rebounded nicely on Saturday night as they out shot the Crunch 40 to 24 and outscored them 3-0. Sabourin made all the saves to pick up Hershey's first shutout of the season. Willsie and Gordon continued their good play picking up their 7th and 8th on the season respectively. And Ashton Rome scored his 4th after being a healthy scratch on Friday.

Tonight Hershey is back home at Giant Center serving host to the Binghamton Senators. In one game against Bingo this year, October 15th in Bingo, Hershey won 7-1 as 6 different Bears scored in that game.

Semyon Varlamov is expected to get the start for Hershey as he prepares to return to the Washington lineup. Varly hasn't played in Hershey since last February 28th in another conditioning assignment. And he hasn't played at all since October 21 when he got the start and the loss in a 4-1 loss in Boston. He has only appeared in 2 games for the Caps this year so rust could be an issue tonight.

Binghamton comes to town at the tail end of a 4 in 5 weekend. They beat Wilkes-Barre on Friday on the road before losing last night to Toronto at home. They haven't scored fewer than 3 goals in their last 5 games but have dropped 2 of those games.

Rookie Bobby Butler is leading the league in goals this season as he has 12 goals in 15 games. 7 of those have come in the last 5 games. And Corey Locke leads the league with 22 points this season as well.

Bingo currently resides in 5th place in the East division, one point behind the Bears. They are 3-2-0-1 on the road this year and 7-6-1-1 overall. Their power play on the road is 24th in the league while their penalty kill is #2 on the road. To compare, Hershey has the 10th best power play at home and the 16th ranked penalty kill at home.

Should be a good one at the GC tonight.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

MoJo joins Hershey in Charlotte

With the Capitals playing so well at this moment, winners of 3 straight, and all the forwards seemingly healthy (quick...knock on wood) the Caps sent rookie pivot Marcus Johansson to Hershey yesterday. He is expected to play tonight as Hershey goes up against the Charlotte Checkers for the first time.

MoJo had one goal in 6 games with the Caps while playing on the 3rd line alongside Jason Chimera and Eric Fehr.

The adjustment from the Swedish Elite League to a more aggressive North American style has been slower than the organization was looking for. He has played well defensively but has been largely ineffective in the offensive end.

Watching him skate you can see the amazing natural skill that he possesses, very fluid and definitely fast. He obviously has tremendous upside.

But the Caps are looking to win this year and with the team getting off to a slow start they don't have time to wait for a rookie to get up to speed. So while his reassignment to Hershey might be for just a short while, don't be surprised if he doesn't hang out with the Bears for the foreseeable future.

All of that will depend on what injuries Washington will have to deal with. I would say that until someone gets hurt all of the 'call-ups' will remain in Hershey. The organization would rather see Johansson play in Hershey then sit on the bench in Washington.

In other roster news, Dmitry Kugryshev and Johann Kroll were assigned to South Carolina for the weekend. Due to the longer trip the Bears were traveling with a smaller team and instead of leaving the two in Washington they sent them to help the Stingrays in their 3 in 3 this weekend.

Both are expected back in Hershey after the 2 game trip to Charlotte.

Now onto tonight's game.

Let's talk about the Charlotte Checkers. They are the new/old affiliate of the Carolina Hurricanes. Last season they were the Albany River Rats in the AHL. But the Charlotte Checkers were an ECHL team last year too. So it is kind of a new/old affiliate.

Either way most of the players on the roster were Albany River Rats last year...minus one big name...Justin Peters. Their top goalie from last year is now in the NHL backing up Cam Ward in Carolina. That has apparently hurt this team a little bit. Last year they challenged Hershey for much of the year and finished 2nd in the East division. This year, with many of the same players, they are in 5th place after 14 games with only 5 wins.

But you have to expect that at some point the big players will get the team together. 9 of the top 10 scorers from last year are still there including former Bear Oskar Osala. Joining him are Stefan Chaput, Zach Boychuk, Jacob Micflikier, Chris Terry, Drayson Bowman, Nick Dodge, Jerome Samson, and Bryan Rodney.

Add to that mix a few college players, Zac Dalpe (played 9 AHL games last year and scored 6 goals in them) and Riley Nash. As well as some guys who made the move from juniors to the A, Matt Kennedy, Jared Staal (yes another Staal brother), and Michal Jordan.

And a few veterans joined the team as well. C Jonathan Matsumoto comes over from Adirondack where he scored 30 goals and added 32 assists last season. (Matsumoto is currently playing in the NHL) D Ethan Graham joins the team after spending 09-10 with Texas, Norfolk, Milwaukee, and the ECHL version of the Checkers. Also coming over is D Bobby Sanguinetti who served on Hartford's blueline the past 2 years.

Expect this team to gel and find their legs going forward. Lots of talent and scoring depth returns from last year and plenty of new faces, young and old, team up with them.

So far this season they have struggled to keep the puck out of their own net more so than scoring it themselves. They have allowed the 3rd most goals against, 41, in the AHL so far. Justin Pogge and Mike Murphy have each played 7 games and neither has much to show for it.

This will be the Checkers 3rd game in as many nights (actually this is an afternoon tilt with a 3:00 start time) and then a 4th in 5 nights as the Bears and Checkers play again on Tuesday.

Those kind of schedules will be a common thing for the Checkers as teams have to travel further than usual to play them. That usually means a couple games back to back instead of traveling all that way just to play one game. Something they will likely adjust to as the season moves along.

Helping them get their legs this afternoon will be a Hershey team that hasn't played since last Sunday. That's a substantial amount of time between games for a team so it will be interesting to see how the Bears come out today.

Hershey Bears
record ~ 6-3-0-1 13 points
standings ~ 3rd in East Division
most recent game ~ 7-3 Win vs Manchester, 10/31
last 5 games ~ 4-1-0-0
road record ~ 3-1-0-1
goals for ~ 40
goals against ~29
power play ~ 19.6% (9th)
penalty kill ~ 79.7% (21st)

Charlotte Checkers
record ~ 5-6-1-2 13 points
standings ~ 5th in East Division
most recent game ~ 3-1 Win @ Norfolk, 11/6
last 5 games ~ 3-0-0-2
home record ~ 1-2-0-2
goals for ~ 38
goals against ~ 41
power play ~ 17.3% (15th)
penalty kill ~ 87.5% (7th)

last time teams met - First of 8 meetings this season. Hershey went 6-2 against the Rats last season including 2-2 in Albany. Hershey outscored Albany 41-21 over the course of the season and none of the games were really close as only 2 of the 8 games were with 2 goals and neither were 1 goal games.

Players to watch:


C Marcus Johansson (17) - Making his Hershey debut today. Hasn't played in a while and was more of a defensive center when he did play. How will Hershey use him today?
RW Andrew Gordon (10) - Leads the Bears in goals with 7, and is 2nd on the team in points with 15.
RW Brian Willsie (18) - Promoted to the top line for the Manchester game, he has 5 goals and 6 assists on the season.


C Zach Boychuk (11) - Leading the team in points with 13 and second on the team in goals with 6 through 14 games.
RW Jerome Samson (17) - Last years top scorer is leading the team again in goals with 7 and is 2nd on the team in points with 11.
LW Oscar Osala (32) - Finished 2nd on Rats with 24 goals last season (16 of those were in Hershey), he has 2 goals and 6 assists to start this season.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pens getting best of Bears early

Are the Pens going to dominate the East division like Hershey did last year?

That is a question being asked by a few people lately.

The typical answer is...its too early to know.

But the honest answer is....hell no.

Sure the Pens are 8-0-0-0 and all of those have come against the division. That definitely gives them a good start on the East division race but it isn't necessarily indicative of how good a team they really are.

In fact I would say that they are actually weak offensively at this point in the season. Defense has carried them so far. 15 goals allowed in 8 games is impressive...especially considering that 5 of their game were against teams that average 3 or more goals per game (Hershey averages 4, Charlotte 3).

But outside of Hershey they haven't played anyone with a winning record. Okay...technically Binghamton has a winning record, 4-3-1-1, but in reality it is 4-5. They have played the Phantoms twice, Charlotte twice, and Bingo once. 3 teams that are not in the top 8 in the conference at this point including 2 (Adir and Char) that have a combined 5 wins in 22 games (5 wins!! ouch).

And their dominance of Hershey is not exactly unheard of...in 08-09 they won 5 straight against Hershey, outscoring the Bears 23-15. But outside of one game, a 6-2 Pens win, all the games were one goal games including 2 shootout wins.

This year...through 3 games...the Pens have a 6-2 win and 2 other one goal games..including a shootout victory.

See any similarities?

Remind me how that season turned out....oh yeah...the 10th Calder Cup in franchise history!

It is way too early in the season to worry about anything let alone the Pens dominance in 3 games against the Bears this season. Hershey will be fine, both against the Pens and in the division.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Another successful 3 in 3

What an interesting weekend we just witnessed. 3 different games, 3 different opponents, and 3 different Bears teams. Or so it seemed.

Friday started off poorly as Hershey fell behind 2-0 early in the 2nd before springing to life to pick up a 4-3 overtime win in Syracuse.

Saturday was one that we would all love to forget. A 6-2 handling on home ice at the hands of the Baby Pens.

Sunday was an exciting game to see as goals came fast and furious throughout the first as Hershey skated to a 7-3 win over Manchester.

It was an interesting weekend for Hershey goaltenders as well. Braden Holtby remained on recall to Washington which meant Todd Ford and Dany Sabourin would be in goal for Hershey.

Neither goalie looked great and both finished with a win, Sabourin's on Friday and Ford's on Sunday, with an ugly performance stuck in the middle. Sabourin got the start against the Pens but was pulled early in the 1st period after giving up 3 goals on 7 shots. Ford played a little better allowing 3 goals on 16 shots. Overall it was a poor performance across the board for the Bears Saturday night.

But they returned the favor on Sunday to the Monarchs. Manchester's starting goalie, Jeff Zartoff, managed to hang in for about 15 minutes but that was only because Hershey didn't get many shots on him up to that point. At one point Hershey had 3 goals on 3 shots. Zartoff ended up giving up 4 goals on 5 shots before being pulled in favor of youngster Martin Jones. Jones played much better as he allowed only 1 more goal on 14 shots.

It wasn't enough though as Hershey held Manchester to 3 goals and picked up 2 empty netters in the closing minutes.

The weekend ended up a success as the Bears went 2-1 for the second weekend in a row. If they could just find a way to beat those damn Penguins...(more on that coming in a couple days).

One thing I wanted to say though is this....it is still early. I saw a comment somewhere that this team is mediocre at best and another asking if the Pens were that good or is Hershey just bad.


Hershey has only played 10 games....only 70 to go!

They have dealt with injuries (Souray, McNeill, Rechlicz)....
They have had a fair share of callups (Perreault, Beagle, Holtby, Fahey)....
And they are still breaking in a relatively new lineup (Greentree, Willsie, Nycholat).

And please keep this in mind too...last season was incredible. It was a once in a lifetime kind of season. All the pieces fell into place as Hershey set record after record on their way to the Cup.

Add to that 3 Finals appearances in the previous 4 years (4 in 5 total) and I think we could all say that we are kind of spoiled. Most teams don't see the Calder Cup Finals at all and we have been watching hockey into mid June for a while.

This years Bears team is good. I said to start the year that I think offensively they could compete with last years team (assuming call ups don't kill the team) but defensively and in goal there are serious concerns. They can no longer rely on Alzner and Carlson on the blueline or Neuvirth in net. And considering the durability of a certain goalie in Washington I am not sure Holtby will be around too often either.

This team is skilled and can play with anyone. Yes they have lost to Wilkes Barre 3 times to start the season. And yes the Pens are undefeated after 8 games. And yes they have come out slow multiple times already.

But all of those things happened in the past 2 years as well....and guess what happened come Spring...

Hershey was celebrating with the Calder Cup in mid June.

There is lots of hockey to play yet in 2010-11.