Monday, December 17, 2012

Since 11/21...An Improvement

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

Definitely an improvement.  The Bears were not in playoff positionwhen Oates left.  In fact, they were almost at the bottom of the conference.

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. 


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Bears Winning...But First, a Giveaway

Favorite all-time hockey player?  Jeremy Roenick.  Loved the passion he played with, the physicality, and he was damn good. 

Recently he put out a book, J.R.: My Life as the Most Outspoken, Fearless, and Hard-Hitting Man in Hockey, and some how I was offered a copy of the book to read and issue a review or mention here on the site.

I got it a couple of weeks ago and read it right away.  Great read for hockey fans who want to hear a little more about life in the locker room and some of the dynamics between teammates and their coaches. 

The book was great, but I was sent 2 copies.  So, I am going to give one away to a reader of this here blog.  Not exactly Bears related, but it's hockey related so I think some of you will be interested.

I will pick someone at random...all you have to do is comment here on this post, email me (hersheybearshockey(at), or comment on the Facebook page under the discussion for this post.  Just tell me why you want the copy of the book (for yourself, gift, etc.) and I will pick someone at random. 

All comments/emails need to be received by the end of this weekend and I will select the winner on Monday morning.  I will mail the book to you as soon as I get your information so if you want to give it as a gift for Christmas, you should have time to get it wrapped.

Good luck.

One more thing...because they asked nicely (and offered a nice Christmas gift as well)...if you are looking for any Outdoor Signs, please consider for your purchase.  They do many different types of custom print jobs, including business cards, magnets, and banners.

Another post, this time about the Bears and their recent run of success, will be coming later today or tomorrow. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Bears are 3-1 in their last 4 (staying positive)

The Bears just finished up a 9 game in 16 day stretch and I think we would all agree it included some mixed results. 

Overall the Bears went 4-5 during the span that stretched from November 16 through this past Saturday.  Not exactly lighting the league on fire, but it sure as hell could have been worse.

On a positive note, the Bears went 3-1 in the last 4 and 3-2 since co-coach Adam Oates relinquished his position and returned to Washington.

There appeared to be positive signs heading into Saturday's home game against the East Division's cellar dwelling Norfolk Admirals.  The Bears had just recorded their 2nd and 3rd highest shot totals of the season in wins over the same Admirals and the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.  Things were looking up.

Then a familiar thing happened...the Bears forgot how to score.

The Bears have played 21 games this season.  In 8 of those they have failed to score even 2 goals.  Not surprisingly, they are 0-7-1-0 in those games.  Therefore, simple math tells us that they are 9-4-0-0 when they score at least 2 goals. 

That's the team we all want to see more often.

And I think we will.

When Oates left on Thanksgiving we all knew that an overnight change wouldn't happen.  French would still have to make adjustments to Oates system and get everyone on the same page.  Remember that the majority of this Bears team didn't play for French last year.  They are still getting used to him and for the first 2 months of the season they had another guy in town calling (some of) the shots.

So French had, not counting Thanksgiving, 4 days to make the changes after Oates left.  And that doesn't include the travel to and from Norfolk for last Wednesday's game. 

And the players finished up a 9 in 16 and a 5 in 8 and were likely tired.  Is that an excuse for giving up 5 goals and by all indications 'mailing-it-in' on home ice on Saturday?  Of course not.  But when your legs are tired and you have played so many games in so many days you are going to fall back into bad habits.  So the changes French instituted, the ones that resulted in 14 goals scored in 3 games, were neglected.

This week the Bears have 4 days (Sunday through Wednesday) to just rest and practice before starting another grueling stretch of games.  Beginning in Washington (special game against Norfolk) the Bears play 5 games in the next 7 days.  Only 1 of which, this Saturday vs Hamilton, will be at home.  The Bears will leave Norfolk and play the Baby Pens in Wilkes-Barre on Friday, return home for the Hamilton game, and then leave Monday (I suspect) for 2 games against St. John's on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week.

It's a tough stretch, but I think it will be a significant preview as to what we will see the rest of the season.  I won't call it a 'must-win' set of games and I won't say that if they struggle it is time to hit the panic button, but we are getting close to that. 

French will have had 4 days of practice to implement his changes, plus the 5 games and 4 days he had before this week.  Obviously tweaks may continue, but I am guessing some substantial changes were made over this period of time and will be drilled into the players this week. 

So, if you watch on Thursday (it's on ABC's digital channel for those in the Hershey area), I think you will see a team that more closely resembles the team that just won 3 straight, and not the one that just lost 5-1 on home ice.