Monday, April 25, 2011

In an instant it ends

First let me make 2 points...

1.  It was a good season.  The Bears dealt with injuries and recalls all season to finish in the top few teams of the AHL.  Trying to compare this team to the 08-09 or 09-10 versions just wasn't fair but human nature is such that we tried to do that time and time again.

In the end it was a great season that I feel ended before it was supposed to.  But you can't win them all and Hershey's record run of 8 straight playoff series wins ended 8.

2.  Congratulations to the Charlotte Checkers.  They were the better team in the series.  You saw it in game 1 and that continued through game 6.  Despite the urgency that Hershey should have possessed in game 6 it was the Checkers that had the quick counter punch and the Checkers had the majority of the scoring opportunities.

They played a great season and deserved the victory.  Now...go get those Penguins!!!! that those two points are out of the way I want to say a couple more things about game 6 and the series as a whole.  Then we will move on and look at the offseason and follow the Caps as they look to continue deep into the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Personally I blame the game 6 and series loss on 2 things...

1.  Lazy play.  The final goal was exactly what cost this team during the playoffs....too many guys standing around watching and not enough playing. 

It was almost as if the Bears expected to win and were just waiting for the puck to go in the Charlotte net or be cleared from theirs. 

Sure, Braden Holtby didn't play as well as he did during the regular season...BUT neither did the defense.  Routinely Checkers were left standing by themselves right beside the goal just waiting for a rebound.  And those rebounds came (sometimes far too often) and that is an easy way to score goals in the playoffs.

Offensively this team just wasn't the same without Andrew Gordon.  Once he went down the Bears chances seemed to go with him. 

Which brings me to my 2nd complaint...

2.  Coaching.  I know French is a good coach but personally I think he let down the Hershey team and the fans.  If you watched the game yesterday you know that Hershey generated FEW real scoring chances.  And while I didn't see games 3-5 I expect that those games looked very similar to game 6.

You watch in the NHL and you see coaches willing to make changes.  Last year the Blackhawks shuffled lines in the Stanley Cup finals to get Toews and Kane more chances.  This year you have goalies being pulled every game in Philly.  In Vancouver the coach had the guts to sit Roberto Luongo.....yeah one of the best goalies in the league...because of 2 subpar outings.  Even in Washington you saw Boudreau make line adjustments damn near every period during the season.

But in Hershey?  French rolled the same lineup with the same line combinations for 4 straight games after Gordon went down.  And it worked 1 time.  And even that 1 time Hershey tried to blow a 3 goal lead.

I don't know if different combinations would have one does.  But I knew that the same ones wouldn't.  And honestly...when I saw the scratches and the starting lineup last night a sense of calm kind of came over me.  I obviously still believed but at the same time I knew that this was quite possibly the last time we would be in Hershey this spring.

And that sucked.  I just feel like French left something on the table.  I feel like he could have done more.  In the end it comes down to the players but the coaches didn't help them.

All series long they kept saying..."if we just play our game for 60 minutes."  What does that mean?  Sure if you say that after one game it makes sense.  But we have been saying that about this team all season.  In my opinion it was all the more reason to make some changes to the lineup and go out swinging.

But instead it feels as though they just rolled over and died.

In the end it really came down to one simple thing....Andrew Gordon.  You could have asked me before the playoffs to name one player that Hershey couldn't "afford to lose" and I would have listed at least 3 other names before Gordo.

Apparently I was wrong.  He was the Hershey offense this year.  Sure other guys scored goals but none were as dominant as Gordo when he was healthy. 

Unfortunately that was only evident when he wasn't healthy...including in the playoffs.

But in the end one injury should not derail a season like this. 

Oh well.  As I said above...You can't win them all.

Next year is another opportunity to hang banner #12.




James said...

I agree with almost everything you say.

The only disagreement I have is your opinion on Mark French. You speak of a lot of what NHL coaches have done this year. But I feel that the NHL organization over the AHL team has a lot more say on to who will play than we realize. I feel like in the playoffs the coach doesn't have a huge amount of control, but I guess we'll never know.

GM said...

Yeah this is an argument that I have heard before. And while I will acknowledge that players who are signed to a team is influenced by the NHL club and MAYBE (big MAYBE) the teams influence the playing time during the early parts of the season. I really doubt the NHL clubs get involved in the playoffs.

What I was calling for was a chance to see the lines shuffled...not players sitting and watching. I would like to have seen more balance on the lines to help generate more offense.

And if the Caps wanted certain prospects to play why would they leave Kugryshev and Mitchell on the bench and Bouchard on the 4th line? Kugs and Bouch are 2 of the highest paid prospects in the organization!!

And why is Perreault still centering the 2nd line? Why are none Caps property guys like Kane, Lacroix, Carroll, Rome, and Souray getting so many minutes while Caps prospects sit upstairs and on the bench?

I know this is a developmental league but I don't think the NHL (or at least the Caps) really "forces" too many decisions on Hershey.

I mean if they did that do you think Anton Gustafsson would have been sent to the ECHL at the beginning of the year??? No way.

GM said...

Thanks for the comment by the way. I do love hearing from readers and love debating an opposing argument.

I think French is a good coach. I just think he failed to make adjustments when the situation called for them.

That's all. Next season is only 6 months away!

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure why Coach French did not make line adjustments. Last playoff season he moved Giroux to a different line when they were not scoring. It worked. I really expected to see some line changes on Sunday especially after the first period. I think he should have given Kugryshev a chance. I really like Steve P but don't think he is a first line winger. I'm not sure why Jay Beagle was not on the Clear Day. Both he and Sean Collins were not dressed for any of the Caps playoff games. The Bears could have used them. I feel Patrick McNeil played better when he was paired with Collins. Collins had the best plus/minus numbers, and yet he sits in Washington not playing. Once the Caps beat the Rangers, why didn't they send him back for Sunday's game. They still had Sloan as an extra D man. It's easy to say "what if". It frustrating that the Bears are done. We've been spoiled for the last 5 years. It's just going to be a long summer. Hopefully the Caps continue to win.

Michael said...

Once again, it was nice meeting you last night. It just doesn't feel right that we're done watching hockey in Hershey for the spring...but so goes it. I agree that not enough was done to shake things up, with the hopes of producing a different result.

It really was a shame to see Beags and Collins not with the team, and basically sitting around doing nothing. I also don't understand why we didn't see Kugs at all during the series. I felt he would have had a positive impact. He's a scrapper with some quickness, and you never see him quitting on a play.

I have a couple of questions. First, do we really know what Chris Bourque is doing? Is he playing somewhere? Also, how are we looking free agent wise going into the offseason? Who do you think we are likely to NOT see back in Hershey this fall?

Thanks again for your blog! Keep up the good work!

GM said...

The Caps (like the Bears) like to have extra players for practice purposes. The Bears have done it to South Carolina the past couple of years and the Caps get to do it this year.

I agree that Beagle would have helped but not that much. Beags isn't an offensive player and Hershey was good on the penalty kill. Obviously it would have been nice to have him in Hershey but I don't think it changes the series outcome.

Same with Collins. Did you know he was a -5 against Charlotte during the season? Again, in my opinion, the defense wasn't the main problem. It was the offense and Collins doesn't help that much. Yeah I think he would have been better than maybe Wellar but I wouldn't have taken Miscovic out and I think thats what French would have done.

In the end it is simple...the better team in the series won. Had French made some changes maybe things turn out differently but there is no way to know.

Michael - pleasure to meet you too. Feel free to revisit next season altough my seats might change slightly so if you can't find me email me first. I answered most of the questions in a new post but the one I forgot...Chris Bourque played in the Swiss league this season. He registered 14 goals and 19 assists in 39 games.