Saturday, February 2, 2013

Bears Play Host to Two

The Bears have played a lot of close games over the past few weeks.  Five of their last 9 games have gone to overtime, with three of those five going to a shootout.

But lately the Bears have failed to impress.  In their last 4 games before the All-Star break the Bears scored a grand total of 6 goals.  Not surprisingly then, they also lost all 4 games.  They did manage to get 2 points during the streak, but that isn't something you want to brag about.

Based on my brief review of the trades that went down this week I would say that the Hamill for Wellman deal was strictly a way to get rid of that pesky "too-many veterans" problem the team had (for the second year in a row).  It doesn't feel like it was done to improve the Bears offense at all, but maybe it will.

The other trade...Beaudoin for LeBlanc, seems like it could have been more towards helping the offense...IF LeBlanc can find his scoring touch from last season.  So far this year his numbers were no more impressive then the player headed to Rockford. 

If these two moves don't spark something, does Yingst make more moves? 

The Bears have been impressive defensively this season.  They only give up 2.44 goals per game (top 5 in the league) and have consistently kept the Bears in games with solid play.  Goaltending has been a positive as well with Dany Sabourin and Philip Grubauer playing well (my pick would be Grubauer as the #1, but that's a different post altogether) since Braden Holtby took a trip south to D.C.

Unfortunately, the Bears offense remains anemic at best most nights.  Hopefully the time off this week allowed them to make some adjustments and start working back to the team that scored 12 goals in the 3 games (all wins by the way) before this recent 4 game slide.

Tonight we see if they look any different as the Manchester Monarchs come to town. 

While not a divisional game, this is a very important game for the Bears.  Manchester currently sits in the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 46 points.  Hershey sits in 11th, only 2 points back.

There are still 33 games left for the Bears so I would hardly call this a must win, but if they are going to make the playoffs, these are the teams they HAVE to beat on home ice.

The Monarchs are in a similar slide as the Bears.  They won 4 straight from the 18th to the 23rd, outscoring their opponents 14-4 and then took an offensive nosedive, scoring only 1 goal in each of their last 3 games and losing all 3 by a combined 11-3.  Including a 4-1 loss last night up 81 in Wilkes-Barre.

The main difference between the Bears and Monarchs streaks...Manchester has won their home games and lost on the road while Hershey seems intimidated by their own building.

This is Manchester's 4th road game in the past 8 days and things haven't gone well for them.  It is also their final road game on this trip as they return home after the game and have the next week off.  They surely don't want to end this streak (and begin a grueling week of practices) with a loss.  They will be ready to play.

Monarchs to Watch:
  • 26 | RW | Tyler Toffoli - the rookie has been impressive so far with 20 goals and 33 points in 42 games during his first extended taste of pro hockey.  He leads the teams in goals and is second with points and had a solid January with 6 goals and 4 assists in 9 games.
  • 9 | C | Linden Vey - another young Kings prospect, Vey leads the team with 26 assists and 37 points on the year.  He also had a good January with 3 goals and 10 assists in 11 games.  Although, he hasn't recorded an assist in his last 6 games.  (that dry spell follows 13 assists in 9 straight games.)
  • 14 | LW | Tanner Pearson - yet another top prospect, Pearson is tied for 3rd on the team in points with 29 (10g, 19a).  Not quite as good in January, 4 goals and 5 assists in 11 games, but still a solid month.  
Those three players above represent the top left wing, center, and right wing in the King's organization, according to  An impressive collection of talent to be sure.

Sunday the Bears welcome the rival Baby Penguins to Giant Center for a 2pm faceoff on Super Bowl Sunday. 

The Baby Pens were, for lack of a better term, BAD for long stretches this season.  In a recent 15 game stretch through December and into January, the Pens won a total of 3 games and endured losing streaks of 6 and 5 games.  Hershey was responsible for 3 of those defeats.

However, of late the Pens are much better.  They have won their last 2 against Hershey and have won 7 of their last 8 games. 

This is the final time the Pens will visit Hershey during this regular season and the Bears only make the trip up 81 twice more before April.

The Pens, despite their terrible stretch in December and January are still in better position then the Bears standings-wise.  They have 47 points and currently sit in 6th place in the conference.

Again, just like the Manchester game tonight, it isn't a must-win game for the Bears, but if they hope to make the playoffs they have to beat the teams directly above them in the standings.  Especially on home ice.

The Penguins will be bringing a new leading scorer into the game as well as they added Chad Kolarik from the Connecticut Whale early this month.  Kolarik had 16 goals and 19 assists in 41 games with the Whale and has 1 goal in 3 games with the Pens already.

The Penguins are winning games of late just like they did last season...with defense.  As I said before, they have won 7 of 8...they have only given up 6 goals in those 7 games.  It isn't hard to win games when the opposing team can't score on you.

Hershey has scored a total of 1 goal in their last 2 games against the Pens.

Both Wilkes-Barre goalies, Brad Thiessen and Jeff Zatkoff, have been involved in the latest run, but it is more the result of Thiessen apparently finding his game again.  In January he played in 7 games, winning 5 of them and posting a goals against average of 1.36 and a save percentage of .940.  Considering that in the 3 previous months of the season he had failed to be under 3.00 goals against or above .890 save percentage, you can see that his numbers help explain the Pens success.

No telling which goalie will make the start tomorrow, but both will surely give the Pens a chance to win.

Enjoy the games this weekend and...


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