Friday, February 25, 2011

Short road trip was unkind to the Bears

Hershey won in a shootout on Wednesday night.  Excellent.  2 points and a step in the right direction.

Or not.

Braden Holtby was injured during the shootout and is listed as week to week.  Now injuries in hockey are always guesses but when a player is listed as week to week that is not good.  Andrew Gordon has been listed as day to day for a few weeks now.  Hopefully Braden returns sooner than later.

So the Bears recalled Jared DeMichiel from South Carolina to back up Todd Ford last night in Cleveland.  Good thing he arrived too.  Ford gave up 3 goals in 40 seconds in the 1st period and was not heard from again.  Hershey ended up losing 4-1 on the night.

But that wasn't all they lost.  Johann Kroll was injured during the game and is not expected to return before the postseason.

That obviously isn't as big a subtraction as Holtby but considering how the Bears have gone through defensemen this season it surely is a concern.

It isn't all doom and gloom on the blueline as Brian Fahey and Sheldon Souray returned to lineup while Dmitri Orlov practiced with the Capitals while the Bears were away and is expected to play at some point this weekend.

So while the Bears lost Kroll they technically gained Orlov, Fahey, and Souray.  I think they will be okay.

But the goaltending is definitely a concern.  It isn't like this team is lighting it up offensively right now.  They have scored about 2.6 goals per game since Gordon went down with his injury.  That is 29 goals in 11 games.  And that includes the 5 goals against Manitoba and the 6 against Bridgeport.  You take those out and things are even worse...2 goals per game.

And yet the Bears are still sitting in 2nd place in the East Division and still #3 in the league as far as points go.  That is somewhat remarkable considering they have gone 3-5 over their last 8 games.

Personally I think what is most troubling about the team this season is that when they get down they don't come back.  Last year and the year before it just felt like they were never out of it.  Obviously that has to do with the amazing talent level of those teams but this years team isn't a bunch of no body's. 

They are only 3-13-0-0 when trailing after the 1st period.  3 wins when they are down after one.  That isn't good.  They are worse when trailing after 2 periods...2-15-1-1.

They are absolutely dominant when scoring first.  In 59 games the Bears have scored the first goal 39 times.  That is the most in the AHL. 

In those 39 games they are 31-4-1-3 with 66 points. 

That means in the other 20 games when they have given up the first goal they are only 5-15-0-0. 

Obviously you want your team to do well when they score first.  That is fine...in fact it is great to see.  But when you are only winning 25% of your games when you don't score first you have a problem.

Just to compare with some other top teams...

Manchester has won 88.5% of the games (26 of them) in which they have scored first (that is first in the league, Hershey is #2 at 84.6%).  Which means are winning almost 40% of their games when they don't score first.  Not perfect but still better than Hershey.

Wilkes-Barre has won 82.9% of their games when scoring first (35 times).  That means they are winning 56% of their games when they give up the first goal.

Charlotte...winning 33.3%
Binghamton...winning 27%
Norfolk...winning 33.3%
Portland...winning 43%
Connecticut...winning 23.3%

So there you have the 8 playoff teams from the Eastern Conference as it stands right now.

Hershey is 7th of 8 when they don't score first.

And looking at the records when trailing after a period shows that Hershey is also 7th of the 8 teams in this category.  Hershey has a grand total of 5 wins when trailing after the 1st or 2nd periods.  Only Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has fewer with 4 but they have only trailed after 1 in 10 games with 2 wins (Hershey has trailed in 15 games winning 3) and have only trailed after 2 in 13 games with 2 wins (Hershey has trailed 19 times winning only 2).

It has to concern you a little bit.  On paper (when healthy) they rival any team in the conference but when looking at the records Hershey might be a weaker team (mentally at least) than the other 7 playoff teams.  They don't seem to have the ability to overcome when faced with a deficit.

My main reason for looking at these numbers was because of the Bears effort last Sunday against Charlotte (I actually left early from GC, which I never do, because of the horrible play) and apparently their effort last night.  Now let me say this about last night's game...I didn't watch or listen to it so I don't have an opinion of my own and maybe someone will correct me on this but after reading the review from the folks over at Sweetest Hockey on Earth I got the impression that Hershey wasn't truly pushing with everything they had after falling behind early:
During the second period, the Bears were able to mostly hold the Monsters back, but unfortunately Lake Erie did find the score sheet once again. The game might as well have been only two periods long. The third was the epitome of quiet. No scoring, no penalties, no fun. Some flashes of offense, a hit or two, but really nothing to write home about. We really only needed the first period to decide this one.
And the scoresheet confirms that as Hershey mustered only 4 shots in the 3rd period. 

Last years team would have come out flying in the third period looking to get something back.  This year's team doesn't appear to have that same attitude and energy.

And that, more than the injuries, offensive struggles, and goaltending, is what scares me the most.  Last year during the Calder Cup Finals I was confident that Hershey could come back from 2 games down. 

This year's team...I am worried.  Lately they have preferred to roll over and die instead of fighting back.  Definitely not the type of hockey you want to be playing as you get closer to the playoffs.

1 comment:

Michael said...

Very well said. I couldn't agree more. It appears the Bears have been taking after their parent club as of late. It's just so hot and cold...ugh. Aggravating.