1-6-0-1....that is Hershey's record against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins after last nights game in Hershey.
28 to 13....that is the combined scores of the games against the Pens. The Pens have the higher number in case that wasn't clear. Hershey has failed to score more than 1 goal in each of their last 3 games versus the Pens and have only scored 3 goals twice in 7 meetings. In turn the Bears have only held the Pens to fewer than 3 goals 1 time this season, Hershey's only win.
I was not impressed with Hershey's efforts last night. It was almost like the Bears were afraid to play with the Pens. They didn't go hard after pucks, they didn't hit, and they were afraid to test goalie Brad Thiessen for much of the night.
A lot of the problems last night were similar to problems I had Saturday night. Unfortunately due to the amazing job the officials did on Saturday I neglected to share my thoughts on the Bears performance. So I will do that now...consider the rest of this post a review of both games this weekend.
Great Job by Coach French
After the "goal" and then the cheap shot on Aucoin Saturday night we all wanted Joel Rechlicz to get some ice time to see him take down an Admiral. I wanted it as much as anyone. Hell...I was ready to go down there myself!!
But French didn't play him. It was a statement and the right move for his team. Him not playing Rechlicz again said that the Bears were more concerned with winning the game then getting retribution at that point. No revenge is as sweet as on the scoreboard!!
Mistake by Coach French
My biggest complaint of French during the playoffs last year is becoming my biggest problem again this year...the line combinations.
Mathieu Perreault is arguably the most talented player on the Hershey roster. Possibly in the entire AHL. He is a tremendous playmaker that can stick handle in a phone booth if necessary. At this level he is as good as it gets.
So when he was returned to the Bears this week we were all excited. Then for Wednesday's game French put him on a line with Bouchard and Lacroix while moving Joudrey to the 2nd line between (I believe it was) Greentree and Willsie.
Bouchard and Lacroix? I think they have a combined 12 goals at this point in the season. Not exactly an offensive juggernaut. And yes maybe Bouchard will do better with his buddy Perreault back on his line...but he wasn't exactly lighting it up when Perry was in Hershey for the first 2 months.
And no offense to captain Joudrey but he isn't exactly producing offensively this year and, unlike Bouchard, isn't expected to.
We all know how Wednesday night went.
Let's look at Saturday...Joudrey moves back down and with Pinner out the top line looks like this - Greentree, Aucoin, Willsie. And the 2nd line has Kane, Perry, and Bouch. A little better. It resulted in a win. Once Aucoin went out French moved Perry to the top line and they produced the winning goal.
Great! A line that can produce with regularity. Just in time for the Baby Pens to come to town....
Except the lines on Sunday were...Greentree-Willsie-Rome (ROME??) with Perry centering Kane and Bouch again.
If I was rating the Bears forwards in terms of production I would rate Ashton Rome near the bottom. He knows how to do one thing...shoot. He does it often and he does NOT do it effectively. He misses the net with regularity and when he does the puck ends up out of the zone. I am not a fan of his style of play at all.
WHY...WHY would you not put your best possible line out there???? I know French likes to see 2/3 of his lines remain together to develop consistency and familiarity. Fine...when the team is healthy. When you are missing 3 of your top 6 scorers you need to make a change.
He did...in the 3rd period (when the offense actually started producing 5 on 5) he put Perry on the top line with Willsie and Greentree.
I know that doing that hurts your depth. Joudrey has to move to 2nd line center, Carroll to 3rd and Rome can play 4th line center.
At least you would have 1 line that can produce.
The Capitals organization really needs French and Boudreau to get together for a nice dinner. Boudreau changes lines every few minutes in a game while French changes lines every few months. If some of each could rub off on the other both teams would be better!
This is really another shot at French. If you are going to dress him...PLAY HIM!!!!! I understand the situation Saturday night. Fine...make him sit then. But on Sunday the boys were dragging and yet I don't think Rechlicz saw a single second during the 3rd period.
I know this team isn't as deep as years past...talent wise that is obvious. But the benefits to playing 4 full lines IS NOT to get scoring or offensive production from all 4 lines. It is to make sure your top lines are rested for a strong third period.
Too many of Hershey's top players (Kane and Willsie specifically) are playing in every situation right now. They play 5 on 5, on the PK and on the PP. There is NO WAY they can hold up through the entire season playing this many minutes.
If Joel can't handle the 3rd period then dress someone else.
Where was the hitting last night? Kane, Souray, Wellar, and Collins seemed willing to take the body. Everyone else...it seemed like they were scared of the Pens.
I know Willsie isn't a big physical player but I don't think he touched a Penguin last night unless it was by accident. And he was in on the forecheck all night long but he would turn and chase instead of hit.
If you give a team as talented as the Pens enough time they WILL take you apart.
Rome...you are a decent sized guy (6'1" 205lbs)....HIT SOMEONE!!!!!!!!!!!!! You are a 3rd/4th line player...play like it.
David de Kastrozza...also decent sized (6'3" 200lbs)....HIT SOMEONE!!!!! If you want to stay in the AHL and make a career you better learn how to hit.
Bouchard....do you ever want a shot at the NHL??? HIT SOMEONE!!!!!!!!!!! You did get a good hit on Thiessen in the 2nd period and got up willing to go...but 99% of the time you turn and skate instead of throwing a hit.
It doesn't have to be a bone crushing hit but get in the corner and make them pay for going after the loose puck. You can't just let them get the puck without a fight and give them the opportunity to scan the ice and be patient. When the Bears are playing their best they are consistently taking the body and making teams pay for playing the puck.
It is known as "playoff" hockey.
Hershey played it Saturday night. They did not play it Sunday night.