Next year the AHL is going to make the first round series in the playoffs a best of five instead of the current best of seven.
After Hershey's 4-2 win early tonight the Bears and Checkers will begin a modified best in 5 on Tuesday.
It definitely wasn't perfect but Hershey won game 2 in what many would have considered a must win. In his traditional pregame interview Assistant Coach Troy Mann wouldn't call the game a must win but you knew that the guys in the locker room felt that way. And least to some extent.
Yet it was Charlotte that came out flying. It looked like the 3rd period of game 1 was still going. The Checkers speed caused problems for the first few minutes but then Hershey calmed down and played their game.
And at the end of the day they played very well. Charlotte's speed was absolutely neutralized by good positioning and good angles.
The addition of Zach Miscovic to the lineup definitely seemed to pay dividends. He is a much better skater and puck handler then Phil Oreskovic and it showed from his first shift.
With the exception of a few isolated incidents the defense was exceptional tonight. Charlotte only managed 24 shots and rarely did you see an uncovered Checker in the Bears zone.
At the other end of the ice I have this one thing to say...
Shoot high and to the glove side. I was watching in warmups and Pogge looked very good until guys went high glove and he couldn't stop anything.
Ok...so what...it's warmups. Who cares? Well, ask Sheldon Souray and Andrew Kozek how that glove hand is. (I think it was Kozeks but it might have been McNeill or Willsie's goal). Both shots went high glove and both went in.
Obviously hitting the top corner is easier said than done but Pogge isn't going to be the reason they don't go in. It will only be because they missed the net.
4 goals on 20 shots is good. But getting only 20 shots isn't great. I don't think the Bears are optimizing their talent and that might have taken a bigger hit in the 3rd period when Andrew Gordon went down. I know that he came back later but he didn't stay out long. He tried to go during a power play but left pretty quick and I don't remember seeing him the rest of the game. Hopefully it isn't serious but he definitely appeared to be in a lot of pain when the injury happened.
Beyond the injury I think the Bears are just not quite clicking in the offensive zone. Not sure exactly what it is and at this point it obviously isn't a big problem (8 goals in 2 games) but I think they can be better. And if they can get better they can go far in the postseason.
Goaltending...definitely better but...
I still think Braden Holtby needs to be better for Hershey to get all the way to June. Honestly he let in 3 goals tonight but the 3rd one was waived off as the 2nd official had called a penalty just before the puck went in. And the goals aren't being scored on great shots.
You have to give the Checkers credit though. Both their goals came on the heels of Hershey goals. They needed to respond and they did both times. If you are the Bears it definitely isn't something you want to see continue.
But I think we are just nit-picking a bit now.
Overall I thought it was a good (not great) game by the Bears. But it was what they needed tonight....a 60 minute TEAM effort. Positionally they were great. Hustle, plenty of it. Hitting...everyone was involved all game.
They play like that the rest of the series and they will advance to the 2nd round.