Typically in sports, questions about teams are answered during the regular season. Unfortunately, in minor league sports, things don't always work out the way they are expected to. With recalls, loans, and trades, sometimes teams never get 'answers'.
At the beginning of the season the Bears looked like a legitimate Calder Cup contender. They had 2 goalies who would start for most teams, a defense that, while not exceptional, was definitely strong enough, and an offense that most considered the best in the league.
Now, the Bears have two goalies that have combined for 7 starts in the AHL this season. Those 7 starts have resulted in 7 losses by the way.
The offense has been decimated by recalls and injuries the past month or so. Keith Aucoin and Cody Eakin remain on recall to Washington and it is unlikely that either will be back until at least game 3 next Wednesday night...if then. Young Eakin hasn't been in the Caps lineup so far this postseason so the option is there to send him back to Hershey for the playoffs. However, I think that is unlikely.
In addition to those two, Jacob Micflikier hasn't played since March 9 and Boyd Kane, DJ King, and Graham Mink have missed games the past few weeks with injuries. Ryan Potulny has also been banged up in some games and hasn't been practicing 100% of the time either. And Christian Hanson was injured in a game on February 18 and I don't believe he has done anything since then.
The Bears roster of late has looked more like a college team than an AHL team as a number of players were signed to amateur tryout agreements and were given a rare opportunity at playing time with meaningful games left to play. Some of the guys have looked good...others have struggled.
The good news is that the players in Hershey seem to be getting healthy and fewer of the college guys are expected to play meaningful minutes in the postseason. Micflikier has practiced recently and King, Mink, and Kane all played in games this past weekend. Hanson is another story, but apparently a return has not been ruled out. As of Tuesday, he is officially out for games 1 and 2...anything after that is a guess I would imagine.
- Game 1 - Friday, April 20 - 7:05 - in Wilkes-Barre
- Game 2 - Saturday, April 21 - 7:05 - in Wilkes-Barre
- Game 3 - Wednesday, April 25 - 7:00 - in Hershey
- Game 4 - Friday, April 27 - 7:00 - in Hershey (if necessary)
- Game 5 - Saturday, April 28 - 7:05 - in Wilkes-Barre (if necessary)
GoaltendingWilkes-Barre has their top 2 goalies ready to go. Scott Munroe went 19-10-3 on the season with a 2.52 goals against average and a save percentage of .907. Brad Thiessen went 23-15-2 with a 2.82 gaa and .887 save percentage.
DefenseDefense is such a hard thing to judge. They have so much influence over the goaltending numbers and yet, there is really no way to truly judge a defenseman at this level without looking at every single game and every single shift.
ForwardsThe Baby Pens leading scorer on the season was Ben Street who had 27 goals and 30 assists and averaged .80 points per game. The Bears had 5 players (including Aucoin) who averaged .88 or better per game. So keep that in mind when looking at the numbers below...Hershey is a bit more top heavy than the Pens.
Bryan Lerg - Cal O’Reilly - Paul Thompson
Jason Williams - Brian Gibbons - Colin McDonald
Ryan Craig - Zach Sill - Brandon DeFazio
Boyd Kane - Jacob Micflikier - Chris Bourque
Barry Almeida - Mike Carman - Matt Pope
DJ King - Andrew Carroll - Garrett Mitchell
Random Stats and Thoughts
|Team||PP||PK||PP vs||PK vs|
|Team||# FG||Record||Win %|
|Team||Home||Road||Home Vs||Road Vs|
Here is the great equalizer for the Bears in my opinion. The Pens are simply put...not good at home. Most teams are great at home, average on the road...like the Bears. But the Pens are not. Under .500 winning percentage at home on the season and only .500 vs the Bears this season.
So it really is strength vs strength and weakness vs weakness in this series as far as home/road performance goes. Hershey is strongest at home, Wilkes-Barre strongest on the road. Hershey is weaker on the road, WB is weaker at home.
I honestly think that this helps the Bears more than anything else. Knowing that they can win in their building will definitely help heading into the series.
Will it be the difference? Maybe.
My PickTim Leone is a true journalist so he has to keep a somewhat subjective view of the team and the league. He picked the Pens to beat the Bears in 5 games.
I am not a journalist and don't have to keep a subjective view. I am picking the Bears in 4. And here is why...
The Caps will lose 2 of their next 3 and will be eliminated from the NHL playoffs by the end of the day on Sunday. This is not necessarily what I want (I am rooting for the Caps every second), but without Nicky Backstrom tonight and with the Bruins capitalizing more often on the Caps defensive and goaltending lapses, I don't see this series going 7 games. And I don't see the Caps winning it.
So, Hershey would split the games in weekend with Jacob Micflikier playing 2nd line center (definite offensive improvement over what the other options have been) and then Aucoin and Eakin will return for games 3, 4, and if necessary, 5.
Earlier this week I said that Hershey's biggest problem was at 2nd line center...not anymore in my opinion. The last time Hershey had a offensively gifted 2nd line center...the Bears won 7 straight.
Now, if the Caps at least force a game 7 or should they win the series outright, I think the Bears would need the 5th game just to have a chance at the series.
The Bears are a much better team then they have been the past couple of weeks. They will show it in round 1.
LET'S GO BEARS!!!!!