On November 21 the Bears played and lost (4-0) to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. It was their 16th game of the season and they were 6-9-1-0 with 13 points so far in the young season.
They were averaging a pathetic 2.44 goals per game and were allowing 3 per game.
And then they sent Adam Oates back to Washington.
They have played 11 games since then.
Record of 7-3-0-1.
Goals per game - 3.10
Goals allowed per game - 2.45
As of this morning they sit in 8th place in the conference, only 2 points out of 4th.
The 3.10 goals per game would be good for 10th in the league right now. And the 2.45 goals against...try 4th best.
And consider that they are doing that mainly at even strength. Their power play has actually gotten worse since Oates left...a very low 12.0% conversion rate right now. And the penalty kill is only slightly better at 81.8% (which would be 21st in the league).
So while things have gotten better, there is still work to be done. Imagine what they can do if they figure out the special teams.
The Bears have lost 3 straight home games. Yet they have won 5 straight road games.
This is a team still trying to find their style and make it work for them. Still trying to find the right balance between offense and defense without compromising one or the other.
I am sure there are plenty of us who have been critical of the new system installed by Oates and company this fall. There have been questions of whether or not the players on the roster are the right skill set to be operating this type of system, which is more defensive and reactionary then the system used under Boudreau, Woods, and French's first few years.
Obviously it didn't start off that well in Hershey this year, but in all fairness I don't think the last two seasons ended that well either.
We all watch, year after year in the NHL, as the high scoring, offensively dependent teams crash and burn in the playoffs. And the defensive teams with solid goaltending rise up and make a run.
Adam Oates came to Washington from New Jersey. The hope of the neutral zone trap. A system that forces mistakes and then capitalizes on them.
New Jersey managed to reach the Stanley Cup Finals last spring.
I don't know about all of you, but I would take regular season struggles with an extended playoff run over regular season domination with an early playoff exit any day of the week.
There are still 49 games for these Bears to develop their game. The past 11 have been a good start, but there is still room for improvement.
I have faith they will make those improvements.
LET'S GO BEARS!!!