Yesterday we looked at some stats that tell a bit of a story. In many ways the Charlotte Checkers were the superior team to Hershey this season.
But stats are generally meaningless once you get to the postseason. The best teams routinely get ousted in the playoffs.
Winning in the playoffs in many ways comes down to players and getting the occasional bounce to go your way.
Since there is no way to break down fortunate bounces we will instead look at the players today.
Here is a category that most Bears fans would probably feel really good about. The Bears have Braden Holtby. He has been great for the Bears and even a bit better for the Capitals this season.
For sake of this preview we are going to assume that Braden Holtby and Justin Pogge will be the goalies for each game of the series. Mike Murphy and Dany Sabourin would be the top backups but they are both injured. Nolan Schaefer and Bobby Goepfert are the current backups.
But we only care about the starters. During the regular season they compare like this...
Pretty good for both guys to be honest. Braden's numbers are better but that was to be expected.
Now let's look at how they performed in the season series...
That tells a different story a bit doesn't it. Pogge's stats are slightly deceiving as he was pulled in 1 game against Hershey and was tossed in another. So while he only allowed 7 goals many of them came in a short amount of time.
I don't think too many people would argue the fact that Holtby is the better overall goalie right now but he struggled against the Checkers this season, hasn't looked great in recent outings (unless he is playing for Washington), and struggled in his 3 playoff outings last season.
Pogge can be rattled as he did multiple times this season. If Hershey can crash the net and crowd his crease they should be able to frustrate the Checkers #1.
This is one of the hardest things to measure. How do you measure a players effectiveness on defense? It is almost impossible considering the statistics provided by the AHL. In the NHL they track more stats which if combined/divided/multiplied can tell you a players effectiveness.
Plus/minus is a tough statistic to rely on because of the many factors that play into it. But it is all we have right now.
Another way to gauge a defenseman's effectiveness is based on his offensive production. So many blue-liners are asked to contribute more offensively now that they can rack up solid point totals. Lawrence Nycholat averaged almost a point a game when he was actually able to play.
First up let's look at the Bears. The following players are the guys I would expect to see as the top 6 entering the series. Two huge questions with this list...1) if Sean Collins returns he absolutely makes this list and 2) I am not sure Nycholat will see much time with the veteran limit and all.
A solid group. Admittedly I was surprised to see Orlov at -5 and Wellar at just a +1. Dmitry has not been in the lineup against Charlotte this season. Over the season series Fahey had 4 assists against the Checkers while Wellar was a -2. The biggest surprise on the season series would be that Collins, who led the Bears with a +29 on the year, was a very poor -5 against Charlotte.
Now let's look at the Checkers top 6 based on my assumptions (which admittedly could be way off).
Not certain that those are the players we will see or not. But that is my best guess. Outside of Rodney there isn't much offense there. Although keep in mind that Sanguinetti only played in 31 games this season so he averaged about a half point per game.
As I mentioned before...measuring a defensemans worth is hard to do with statistics. As a unit the Bears seemed to block a lot of shots but again the AHL does not provide us with enough statistics to make a true valuation.
Based on the overall performance of the defenses you would have to give the Bears the advantage here but that can definitely be neutralized by ill-timed penalties and unfortunate bounces.
In years past this was a no-brainer...the Bears were better and deeper. This year that isn't necessarily the case.
On the season Hershey had 9 (if you count Kozek) double digit goal scorers and 6 players with 40+ points. Charlotte, likewise, had 9 double digit goal scorers but they had 8 40+ point getters.
The big difference comes at the 20+ goal mark. Hershey had only 4 while the Checkers had 6. Not a huge difference but if you put three of those players on one line Hershey has only 1 left while the Checkers have 2 full lines of 20+ scorers.
Here are the top 7 forwards for the Bears as I see it. That stats you see in parentheses are from the season series.
The most troubling part of the Bears 7 is that they are much better at home than on the road. For example, Aucoin had 44 points on home ice and only 28 on the road despite playing in 1 more road game. Gordon, 11 points less. Kane, 13. Pinner, 10. Willsie, 8. Perry, 7. Greentree is the only (of the top 7) Bears player to even get to even between road and home as he actually had 3 more road points then home points.
Does that mean anything? It might mean that games 1 and 2 are as important as any in the series. Or it might mean nothing.
The only reason it really concerns me is that the Checkers don't have the same problem. I didn't calculate all 7 guys numbers but I did do 4 of them (sorry...ran out of time). The only one that saw a drastically lower number on the road was Dalpe. The rest of the guys I checked (Boychuk, Terry, and Micflikier) were either better on the road or just a couple points worse on the road.
Here are there numbers before analyzing more.
So...what do you think?
Charlotte has some definite talent in their top 6. They can score and they have some good balance. Something Hershey said a lot last year.
Based on the seasons they had I would say that the Checkers actually have the edge in the discussion about offense. Offensively they are the class of the league.
But after all that you need to keep one very important thing in mind...Charlotte hasn't seen a full Hershey team yet this season. The closest Hershey came to having a full squad was the 1-0 win over Charlotte in Hershey on January 29. Even in that game Hershey was missing Perry, Nycholat, and Orlov.
In fact the only other game against Charlotte that Gordon and Aucoin played in together was the first of the year on November 7. They are arguably 2 of the best players in the league and one or the other missed 6 of the games against Charlotte this season.
When healthy I still contend that Hershey is as talented as any team in the AHL.
And they are healthy now.
Check back later today for my prediction...a hint...Bears will win.
Like I would ever say anything else!!
LET'S GO BEARS!!!!!