Friday, April 26, 2013

Bears CAN win this series

The 2009-10 version of the Hershey Bears were ridiculously good.  They dominated the regular season and then met little resistance on their way to the Calder Cup. 

Playing their best wasn't always necessary.  If they struggled out of the gate or had a mid game lull it didn't hurt them because they could easily make up for it.

Simply put...they didn't have to play their best hockey to win.

The 2012-13 version can't do that.  If they don't play their best hockey, they will lose.  Rarely this season did the Bears play a sub-par game and still come away with a win.  From time to time it happened, and bad starts were a regular occurrence, but it wasn't common.

So when you get the best team in the league, point wise at least, you can't have lackluster performances.

The 2010-11 and 2011-12 Bears teams played the same style of hockey as the 08-09 and 09-10 teams did.  But it didn't work as well because the personnel wasn't as good. 

Two first round exits the last two years and we Bears fans are itching for a long playoff run.  We were spoiled by the first 5 years of the Capitals affiliation (3 Cups, 1 2nd place) and we expect more. 

They don't raise Conference Championship banners in Hershey.  Or Division Championship.  When you play for the Bears or root for them, you want one thing...the Calder Cup.

Much of this season I said that considering the lackluster finishes the past 2 years maybe it was time for a more defensive system that is generally a better performing system in the playoffs.  The recent teams were built on speed and skill and didn't bring a lot of grit to the table...didn't have a lot of guys who would crash the net and get loose pucks and put them home. 

You know...the ugly goals.

So this season saw the development of a new system in the organization.  One that relies on solid play in the neutral zone and the Bears own zone and one that is designed to take advantage of opponent mistakes and capitalize on opportunities. 

The Capitals have bought in and are as hot as any team in the NHL (outside of Pittsburgh and Chicago anyway).  The Bears system is the same and it works just as well when they play it. 

This is a system that was designed in the 'ugly' (or boring) hockey capital of the world...New Jersey.  The Devils have been good for over a decade because their system is designed to win close games and get goals that require more effort than skill...although its also because of a certain hall of fame goalie.

That's what playoff hockey is all about.  It isn't about the flashy goals guys score all through out the regular season.  It's about the grinders picking up goals by crashing the net and getting the rebounds.  And goalies coming up huge for their teammates. 

Michael Neuvirth was a clutch playoff goalie.  You could always count on him to make a huge save when you needed it.  Philipp Grubauer has shown that same ability at times during the season.  He struggled a bit more late in the year, but he made huge saves with regularity.

I think the goalie part of the equation is there.  Defensively?  They are solid.  Sometimes they get caught in their own zone for a while, but so long as they keep the teams to the outside and don't let open guys stand in prime scoring locations they are fine.  Unfortunately, they do tend to wander from their positional responsibilities from time to time and that gets them in trouble.

But overall I think the defense is good enough to make a run.

So the goalie is in place and the defense is adequate.  What about the offense?

The moves made throughout the year have really changed how this team is built.  They went from a team of grinders to having some more guys that weren't afraid to go to the net and get shots. 

The question is, will this team take advantage of their chances when they get them?  When the team is clicking and playing their style they are good.  Just look at last Sunday...first period they came out shooting and scored a weak goal 16 seconds in.  They finished the period with 15 shots and 2 goals. 

When they had a look they were shooting and that leads to rebounds and deflections.  THAT IS HOW YOU SCORE IN PLAYOFF HOCKEY. 

Teams shut down the flashy scorers all the time.  Even in 09-10 the Texas Stars shut down Alexandre Giroux in the first two games. 

You have to be willing to go to the net and put pucks on goal. 

The problem for this years Bears team is when they don't play their game they don't shoot.  How many 2 on 1 or 3 on 1 opportunities did the Bears have this year where they passed it 1 (or 2) time too many and ended with no shot?  Or they hold and hold, waiting for the pass or shot to open up and then its too late?  Saw that happen on Sunday actually.

If you have an extra guy...put the puck on net and let the other guy crash for the rebound.  Nothing bad can come from it.  Even if he makes the save cleanly and smothers the rebound, you can still crash the net and disrupt his personal space. 

If they play the right way this Bears offense is good enough, and balanced enough, to make a long run in the playoffs. 

If they play the wrong way and pass on shots they will likely be golfing by the 2nd weekend in May.

My prediction...for this series...Bears in 4. 

Hershey HAS TO split the game in Providence tonight and Sunday.  If they don't then I honestly think they are done.  I won't stop rooting or believing, but if they come back from Providence down 2 games to none they would have to win 3 straight against a team that would be riding an 11 game winning streak and hasn't lost 3 in a row ALL SEASON. 

Tonight's game is as important as any.  If the Bears win they put all the pressure on the Bruins headed into game 2. 

Hershey needs to come out ready to play.  They have been in playoff mode for the past couple weeks and have won 3 of their last 4.  They need to make that 4 of 5.

Bears in 4.  Enjoy the games. 

Faceoff tonight is at 7:05...check it out on AHL Live or the radio.  I will have Stuccio's call on my phone through the Bears app.



Thursday, April 25, 2013

Let's Look at Bruins vs Bears

What do we make of the Bears first round series?  Obviously a 1 vs 8 matchup makes it look like one team is drastically better than the other, but in the AHL that doesn't necessarily mean anything.

The Bears played in the East Division which featured no bad teams.  Norfolk, the worst of the 5, finished just 2 points out of the playoffs with 79.  Hershey played 34 of their 76 games against the East.

The Bruins played in the Atlantic, which included 2 teams that finished well out of the playoffs, Worcester and St. Johns.  The Bruins played 38 of their 76 games against the Atlantic.

And that there is why you can't necessarily worry about playoff seeds.  Teams don't play balanced schedules.  The Bruins played Worcester 12 times.  The Bears played Wilkes-Barre 12 times.  Worcester finished 13th in the East, the Baby Pens finished 5th.  

So don't worry too much about anything that has happened up until this point stat wise.  Unfortunately that's the best way to compare the two teams outside of an extended regular season series.  So the rest of this post is going to feature lots of stats and team comparisons.  Some may end up being relevant, but others won't be.

Fact is, the Bears need 3 wins in their next 5 games to advance.  Simple as that.

So....a look at the Bears/Bruins first round series:  (If you don't care about stats or don't want to read a bunch of them...I would probably just skip to the bottom.  It gets a little numbery from here on.)

Season Matchups:

The Hershey Bears and Providence Bruins faced off twice during the regular season with each team winning on home ice 3-2.

Both games saw the Bruins jump out to 2-0 leads before Hershey rallied to tie it.  At Giant Center on March 30 the Bears managed to get the game winner in the 3rd period.  And on April 12 at Dunkin Donuts Center the Bruins put an end to Hershey's comeback with their own goal in the 3rd.

The good for each team....Bruins leading scorer Jamie Tardif scored 3 goals in the 2 games while Hershey's Ryan Potulny and Nicholas Deschamps each tallied twice in the series.

The bad....Bears defenseman Cameron Schilling was on the ice for 4 of the Bruins 5 goals and Bruins defenseman Colby Cohen was on the ice for 4 of the Bears 5 goals.

Neither team got their power play going in those games with the Bears going a combined 1 for 8 and Providence 1 for 3.

Providence out shot the Bears both games 39-26 and 27-26 and in 4 of 6 periods.  Surprisingly the Bears won the game where they were out shot worse and Providence won all 3 periods in that game when it came to shots.

What to make of this?  Who knows.  It's a very small sample size so it's hard to know if it means anything.


The most important position on the ice in any game takes on even more meaning in the playoffs.  Teams can ride hot goaltenders the whole way to a championship if things go right.  See Price, Carey...2007.

Both the Bears and Bruins are going to roll out rookie netminders as their #1's in this series.

Providence's Niklas Svedberg went 37-8-2 on the year with 4 shutouts.  He had a 2.17 goals against average and a .925 save percentage to go with it.

Hershey's Philipp Grubauer went 15-9-2 with 2 shutouts.  He had a 2.25 goals against average and a .917 save percentage.

Those numbers are very similar.  Svedberg got better goal support from his team so his record is better, but the goalie measurables are very close.

Now the bad news Bears fans....Svedberg is 12-1 in March and April and has only had a per game goals against average over 3.00 1 time and a per game save percentage under .923 1 time in that stretch.

The good news...that 1 loss and the gaa over 3 and save percentage under .923 came against the Bears at Giant Center on the 30th of March.


Balanced is the word of the day for the Bears.  They feature 11 skaters with double digit goals and none with  20 or more.  7 of those players have between 15 and 19 goals.

Balance is good in the playoffs as top lines are routinely shut down as space is harder to come by and defenses are ready to go.

The Bruins have balance as well with 10 double digit scorers, but only 3 of their players have more than 13 and 2 have 25+.

Obviously having the go to scorers is a good thing, but only if they are scoring.

Jamie Tardif leads the Bruins in goals with 30 but in his last 18 games (all of March and April) he has only tallied 4 goals.  Unfortunately 3 of those came against the Bears.

The Bruins 2nd leading scorer, Craig Cunningham, has 25 goals.  2 in the last 3 games, but not a single point in the 7 games prior to that.

So their go-to scorers aren't scoring a lot of late.

The Bruins are riding a 9 game winning streak so obviously they are getting scoring somewhere, but Hershey's balance can rival anyone's.

Hard to say if balance or go-to guys are better in the playoffs.  You have to have some balance, which both teams do, but having that one guy to look to to get a late goal is also nice.  Hershey doesn't have that.

Special Teams:

Another stat that is hard to really gauge.  No matter how you look at it, the Bruins are better...statistically...then the Bears.

League rank the Bruins power play is 8th, Bears is 11th.  Bruins penalty kill is 5th, Bears 10th.

Seems close.

Actual numbers...Bruins power play converts 18.5% of the time.  Bears, 18%.  Half a percentage point.  Not much.

Bruins penalty kill is successful 85.7% of the the time.  The Bears...84.2%.  A little larger difference, but still close.

And as mentioned above, neither team did much in the 2 games against each other.  Bears went 1 for 8 and Bruins 1 for 3.

Miscellaneous Records:

The Bruins scored 1st 48 times during the regular season...they went 37-8-0-3 in those games.  That was one of the top records in the league.

The Bears scored 1st 43 times and went 27-11-2-3.  One of the worst records in the league.

When leading after 1 the Bruins are 29-3-0-1 and the Bears are 20-4-0-2.

Leading after 2...Bruins are 32-1-0-1...Bears 25-1-2-2.

Tied after 1, Bruins are 16-11-0-3 and Bears are 12-9-3-2.

Tied after 2 the Bruins are 14-7-0-4 and the Bears are 10-6-1-2.

All of those records are relatively close.  Again, when looking at records it is hard because the level of competition is NOT the same.

Goals For and Against:

Overall the Bruins averaged 2.92 goals scored per game and 2.41 goals against.

The Bears scored 2.68 goals per game and allowed 2.58.

Eh.  Just tells me that the Bears are used to close games and are ready for playoff hockey.

BUT...the following numbers I think do tell a story.

The Bruins outscored their opponents in the first period by 31 goals.

The Bears....6 goals.

The Bruins start fast and in many games, that holds up for them.

In the final 2 periods the Bruins outscored their opponents by 2 goals.  The Bears...4 goals.

This just tells me that the Bruins start better than other teams, but don't have the killer instinct (or experience) in closing them out.

Overall Conclusion:

As I said above, regular season stats mean little.  All we really know about these teams is what we have seen and what they did against each other.

Any Bears fan knows that this team is great when they play together and shoot and below average when they don't.  Their problem is consistency.  One period they are great...see 1st period, this past Sunday.  The next period they are terrible....see 2nd period, this past Sunday.

I can't necessarily speak on the Bruins but it seems to me that a team that finishes #1 in the league would be due to better consistency.

My honest opinion...the Bears best is just as good as the Bruins best.  They just have a harder time finding it.

The wild card in this entire series will be experience.  The Bruins roster features 10 players who get regular minutes who are identified by the AHL as rookies.

The Bears...2.

We all know the Bears are old.  They have veterans up and down the lineup that understand what it takes to win in the postseason.

Will that help them in the playoffs?  Tim Leone doesn't think so.  He has the Bears losing in 5 and says the best they can do is the Eastern Conference Finals.

Is that a fair pick?  Absolutely.  But as an optimist and Bears fan I would like to believe they can go further.

The Bears season stats and record are deceiving because this team is DRASTICALLY different now compared to early in the year.  Zach Hamill, Garrett Stafford, Mathieau Beaudoin, and Kevin Marshall are gone.  In their place are players like Casey Wellman, Chey Genoway, Peter LeBlanc, Nicholas Deschamps, Nate Schmidt, Michael Latta, and Dane Byers.

I would take any of those upgrades any day of the week.

I will believe in the Bears until their final game.  I legitimately believe that that day could come in mid-June.  But I wouldn't be surprised if it came next weekend.

The Bears are in the playoffs.  Anything can happen now.

Just ask Ryan Potulny.  Two years ago he played for the Eastern Conference's 7th seeded Binghamton Senators.  They did ok.  Winning a Calder Cup and everything.

Series starts tomorrow night.

LET'S GO BEARS!!!!!!!!

Monday, April 22, 2013


It came down to the last game, but the Bears clinched a playoff berth for the 8th straight season and every year of the Capitals affiliation.

Granted the Manchester Monarchs were a little sluggish after clinching their playoff berth the previous night and resting their leading scorer and starting goalie, but Hershey came out last night and dominated the game.

Boyd Kane, when talking about Providence, said this:
“They've got a really good team there. But I think with our team right now, if we play our game, I think we can hang with anybody.”
I don't disagree with him one bit.  If the Bears play the way they did in the 1st and 3rd periods last night they can hang with anyone.

If they play like they did the rest of the past couple weekends...well, that wouldn't be as good.

Hershey can hang their hat on the fact that they won 3 of their last 4 to get in.

And that's what's great about statistics.  You can pick and choose and make them fit your argument.  For example:

In their final 3 weekends the Bears went 4-5, including two weekends of 1-2 hockey when they were fighting for the playoffs.

One stat shows the good, the other shows the bad.  Which one is a true indicator of where this team is right now...we don't know.  That's why they play the game.

Coach French said this:
“The last two weeks have been emotionally like we've been in the playoffs. It's been up and down, but we finished on an up and get to participate in the playoffs.”
Again, you can read that two ways.

The positive way:  The Bears are ready to go after being in do-or-die games over the past couple of weekends.  They are in playoff form mentally and will be ready to go next weekend.

Or the negative way:  The Bears, while knowing they needed wins to get into the playoffs, went through two 1-2 weekends, including a 4 game losing streak.

As you can see, I am not sure which team to expect come Friday night in Providence.  On one hand I am certain this team has the talent to win.  I know there are lots of you who doubt this, but I think last night showed that when they want to and when they are focused on shooting the puck, this team can hang with anyone.

But on the other hand I question whether or not they have the mental toughness to keep on their game and play like they need to.  They seem quick to bail on their fundamentals and 'system' when things go badly and can allow teams to dictate play.

Last night, despite playing very well for long stretches, they still experienced a couple instances where they were stuck in their own zone for multiple minutes.  You do that with a shortened bench, which we will surely see in the playoffs, against teams as good as Providence and it won't be a long playoff schedule for the Bears.

Best part of the playoffs though...records are reset to 0 and nothing before that first game matters anymore.  Hershey just finished their 76th game of the season and all it gave them was the chance they wanted all along...a shot to win the championship.

Can they do it?

I believe.  Doesn't mean that I expect it, but I can assure you that I will be disappointed when it is over...unless it ends with a celebration in June.


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Bears face elimination

A lot of times in sports you see teams fighting for the playoffs make unexpected runs in the postseason after barely getting into the playoffs.  Generally, you always hear the team say its because they have basically been playing in playoff like games for a while, just to get into the playoffs.

And it makes sense.

But none of the teams currently still alive for a playoff spot in the AHL's Eastern Conference can make that claim.  The Bears have gone a combined 3-5-0-0 in their last eight, winning one out of three the past two weekends and only one so far this one.

Last night Hershey actually could have clinched a playoff spot by winning.  Instead they dropped a 4-2 game to the 4th place Binghamton Senators.

Fortunately for the Bears neither of the other teams want in either.  Connecticut entered the weekend with 2 games and owning the main tiebreaker over both Norfolk and Hershey.  As it turns out they only needed one win.  Instead they lost both to go along with the previous 4.  6 straight loses have come after an 8-2 run.

But they still have a shot.  If both Hershey and Norfolk lose today...the Whale get the 8 seed.

Norfolk was playing some good hockey until this weekend.  They had won 8 of 10 entering last Sunday's game against Providence and looked to be the team to beat amongst the 4 teams fighting for two spots entering the weekend.

Back to back loses to Syracuse and Albany, and just 1 goal scored in the two games, leaves them in a world of hurt as they make the trip to Providence to play the AHL's best and hottest team as they have locked up the #1 overall seed and have won 8 straight games.

Norfolk can still get it in with a win and a Hershey loss or an overtime/shootout loss accompanied by a Bears regulation loss.

Now we come to our Hershey Bears.

It's quite simple really.  Win and your in, lose and your done.  The only way the Bears can lose and get in is if its in overtime or a shootout and even then they would need Norfolk to lose too.

The good news here is that Hershey doesn't NEED help.  If they take care of business against a surging Manchester team they will be playing next weekend.

As a player it has to be nice to have something so cut and dry.  Done.

The bad news is the Bears get Manchester.  I mean, it could be worse, they could be playing Providence, but the Monarchs are the AHL's second hottest team having won 6 in a row.  That includes a 4-3 win over Hershey last Saturday night.

The Bears and Monarchs have played 3 times so far with the Monarchs winning 2, both in Manchester.  The lone Hershey win was back in February at Giant Center by a score of 2-1.

On March 23 the Bears jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first 25 minutes only to see the Monarchs score 5 straight in the next 30 minutes of play before finishing up at 6-4. 

Last Saturday looked like it might go the other way as the Bears let Manchester jump out to a 3-0 lead in the first 10 minutes before scoring a couple in the second on their way to a 4-3 loss.

If the Bears can manage to win their 36th game of the season, they will make the playoffs.

If they can't, then they will have finished the season on a 3-6 stretch that saw 3 consecutive 1-2 weekends.

Not the way I would want it to end, that's for sure.

It's going to be a sold out Giant Center tonight and is surely going to be loud.  Norfolk plays at 3 so before the 2nd period Hershey should at least know that outcome, but it really doesn't matter.

Without a win, the Bears are likely done.


2012-13 Awards

I can't remember what all awards get announced at the final home game (later today) so I will just give my opinion on the players that I think deserve the awards I can remember (and some I just made up).

Team MVP

This one is easy. 

Winner...Jeff Taffe.

He leads the Bears (and is tied for the league lead) in points with 70.  Ranks 2nd on the team in goals with 18.  And he leads the Bears and the league in assists with 52.

He has been the most consistent offensive player on the team all season. 

Others considered: really no one, but one could make an argument for Casey Wellman.

Unsung Hero

This one was debated on Facebook a bit so why not throw my opinion into the discussion. 

I saw some people saying Jeff Taffe or Casey Wellman for this, but I think the idea of this kind of award is to recognize a player that might not be recording the most points but is still contributing in a big way.

This one too is easy for me to answer....Garrett Mitchell.

I can't think of a game that I saw this season where Mitchell wasn't giving his all from the opening whistle.  Everyone has some off games/shifts, but he always hustled. 

Also considered: no one, maybe Julien Brouillette.

Best Defenseman

This is a tough one considering how many guys have been recalled to Washington. 

Winner...Steve Oleksy

He has proven to be a very nice addition to the Bears/Caps family and played very well in his 55 games in Hershey. 

If I am giving it to a guy on the team right now....Brouillette.  He has been as dependable in his own end as anyone and has been a consistent presence with all the recalls and roster movement.

Best In Season Addition

So much roster turnover this year creates a need for this new award.  Most of the newcomers weren't around long enough to really be considered for the other team awards so why not give them one of their own.

Winner...Casey Wellman.

Chey Genoway has also been impressive, but Wellman has provided an offensive spark for the team and is second in points to Taffe on the season. 

Also considered: Peter LeBlanc.

Best Rookie

Considering the shallow depth of Capitals organizational depth there aren't many names to consider here.

Winner...Philipp Grubauer.

Gruby has been solid all season.  In only his 2nd pro season he has been asked to mostly carry the load in Hershey since the NHL returned and Braden migrated south.  He is 13-8-2 on the year with a 2.28 goals against (10th in league) and .920 save percentage (12th in league).

Also considered...Cameron Schilling.

Most Improved Player

This is a tough one.  Again, with the roster turnover from the beginning of the season until now it is harder.


He started the season in the ECHL and has finished as one of the better goaltenders in the AHL.  For a rookie that is impressive in my opinion.  Even when he was recalled it was anticipated that it would be close to a 50/50 split with Dany Sabourin, but he has made it obvious to anyone watching that he is (or should be) the undisputed #1 right now.

Also considered...Schilling and Brouillette.

Player I Most Want to See in 2013-14

I will have much more discussion on the 2013-14 Bears as the weeks go on here, but I can say that I am excited about the roster already as a lot of the guys on this years team will be back.  And in my opinion, the better players will be the ones coming back.

But I pretty much created this category for one player...

Winner....Michael Latta.

I am very excited to see him play.  He brings both offensive creativity and a physical game.  Not too many players manage to do both well, but in the little I have seen him, I have been impressed. 

Also considered...Nate Schmidt.  

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Bears can clinch tonight!!

That went well.

The Bears pulled out a 2-1 win against the Phantoms and the Connecticut Whale and Norfolk Admirals lost. 

When the games started yesterday the Admirals were in 7th, the Whale were 8th, Manchester was 9th, and Hershey was 10th. 

When the games start today the Monarchs will be in 7th, the Bears in 8th, the Admirals in 9th, and the Whale in 10th.

And depending on what happens tonight you could be looking at any number of scenarios.  Including the possibility that Hershey locks up a playoff spot tonight in Binghamton.

For that to happen the Bears need a win and then a Norfolk regulation loss and Connecticut loss (in any form).  That would put the Bears ahead for good as they would then win any tiebreaker. 

If either Connecticut or Norfolk win, then it will all come down to Sunday. 

Good news for Hershey is that they just need to win.  If they win their last 2 they will make the playoffs as the 7th seed. 


No matter what though, tomorrow will mean something.  Even if Manchester and Hershey both clinch tonight the game will still have seeding implications. 

But if Hershey were to lose tonight, they would still be alive heading into tomorrow night no matter what.  At least by my math.  The Bears can NOT be eliminated from playoff contention tonight.

Although they can make it harder on themselves.

Win in Binghamton and things are looking damn good for playoff hockey at Giant Center this spring.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

73 down, 3 to go

3 games remain on the Hershey schedule. 

After 73 games the Bears are an unspectacular 34-30-3-6 (77 points).  Some might classify that as being above .500, but to me they are actually 34-39 since the last 2 numbers are still losses, they just come at a different time.

But all of that is meaningless right now. 

3 games.  Win those 3 games and chances are pretty solid that the Bears would make the playoffs. 

Lose 1 and chances are they are done. 

Really is quite that simple.

Let's see what Hershey needs to do to pass each team ahead of them in the standings that hasn't clinched a playoff spot.

Portland Pirates - 6th place - 83 points - 34 ROW - 3 games to play

Hershey can't pass them.  The first tiebreaker, whether it be 2 or 3 teams is number of wins minus shootout wins...or Regulation Wins + Overtime Wins (ROW).  Hershey currently has 30 ROW.  If they won all 3 games in regulation they would have 83 points, which is good enough to tie Portland, but only 33 ROW. 

Norfolk Admirals - 7th place - 79 points - 30 ROW - 3 games to play

This is the most complicated of the scenarios.  Norfolk has to lose at least one game.  If they lose 1 and Hershey wins all 3 the teams would be tied with 83 points.  But, assuming Hershey wins their games in regulation or overtime, the Bears would finish with more ROW. 

If Norfolk doesn't lose (they play at Syracuse, at Albany, and at Providence) then Hershey can't pass them.  And if they lose twice, Hershey only has to win 2 to tie them. 

Connecticut Whale - 8th place - 79 points - 33 ROW - 2 games to play

Because they only have 2 games to play this seems like the Bears best bet to make the playoffs.  But I think Norfolk is the more likely chance.  IF Connecticut wins their last 2 and Hershey wins their 3 then the teams would be tied.  BUT, unless the Whale wins both of their games in a shootout, Hershey can't even tie them in ROW.  Meaning that Connecticut would be in the playoffs and Hershey wouldn't.

The Whale plays Friday at Albany and Saturday at Portland.  Both tough, yet winnable games.  If Hershey hopes to pass the Whale then Connecticut has to lose at least 1. 

Manchester Monarchs - 9th place - 77 points - 33 ROW - 3 games to play

Obviously beating the Monarchs in the standings is only the first step to the playoffs since that would only get the Bears to 9th, but it is still a team that stands between Hershey and the postseason.

Luckily, the Bears and Monarchs play Sunday evening at Giant Center.  And it could mean everything...or nothing.

Let's assume that Manchester wins at Binghamton and at Wilkes-Barre on Friday and Saturday night.  And let's assume that Hershey beats Adirondack and Binghamton in their Friday/Saturday road trip.  That would leave both Hershey and Manchester with 81 points heading into Sunday. 

NOW, let's assume that Norfolk loses Friday (very possible)...then the winner of the Bears/Monarchs game would likely get the 8 seed while the loser goes home. 

There is a chance that both teams could get into the playoffs but that is complicated and brings in lots of what-ifs.

The easiest path to the playoffs for Hershey is through Norfolk.  The Admirals have 2 very tough games this weekend, at Syracuse and at Providence.  If they lose one (or both) the Bears chances get much better. 

Connecticut's weekend games are both easier and they would hold the tiebreaker over Hershey. 

No matter what the uncertainty heading into the weekend, there is one thing no one can dispute.

The Bears have to win to get in.  Another 2 points out of 6 weekend will not be enough.  They still have a chance, and a damn good one, but they have to show up in each and every game in this final 3 in 3 weekend of the season. 

Can they do it?  We shall see.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Another 1-2 Weekend

Last weekend the Bears earned 2 points out of a possible 6, but still controlled their own playoff 'destiny'.

This weekend the Bears earned 2 points out of a possible 6 and now need help (from at least 2 teams) just to make it as the 8th seed in the playoffs.

Friday night in Providence, the Bears fell behind 2-0 early in the 2nd period before coming back and tying it up 8 minutes into the 3rd period before giving up the game winning goal just 4 minutes later and falling 3-2.

Saturday night in Manchester, the Bears fell behind 3-0 in the first 10 minutes of the game before making it a game with 2 goals in the first 7 minutes of the game.  The Monarchs scored the next goal and Hershey scored their 3rd and final goal with 5 minutes to go in the 2nd.  Manchester won 4-3.

So last Friday the Bears won in Syracuse.  Then Hershey, at a time when they are fighting for their playoff lives, lost 4 straight.  During that stretch the Bears went a whopping 1 for 17 on the power play. 

1 goal on 17 opportunities when they had more guys on the ice then the other team.

Wonder why they lost.

Well, maybe Sunday was the turnaround game. 

In Portland yesterday the Bears were awarded 10 power plays...they scored on 5 of them.  And what do you know, they won...6-3.

Hershey put an end to their skid and picked up a much needed win.

And things outside of their control were positive yesterday as well.  Norfolk and Connecticut lost to keep them at 79 points on the season.  They currently possess the 7th and 8th seeds in the playoffs.

The Manchester Monarchs are tied with the Bears for 9/10 but hold the tiebreaker as of now.

So, how can the Bears make the playoffs...

1.  Win all their games.  That would give the Bears 83 points, which MIGHT be good enough.

After that there are hundreds of possibilities.  Technically the Bears could still finish as high as 6th as Portland (like Hershey has already done) is trying to play their way out of the playoffs with a 4 game losing streak.

The Bears need to win.  If they do that they will jump Manchester as the two teams meet in the season finale in Hershey on Sunday.  They also need either Norfolk or Connecticut to lose.  Honestly, it is simpler if Norfolk loses.  If Hershey wins out and Norfolk loses just 1 game the Bears would win the tiebreaker and earn the playoff spot.  If Hershey ends up tied with Manchester, Connecticut, or Portland, they lose the tiebreaker.

So, as I said before...the Bears need to win all of their games and get help. 

Friday sees a visit to Adirondack to face the Eastern Conference cellar dwellers.  BUT, they are playing better than Hershey in their last 10 with a 5-3-1-1 record (compared to Hershey's 4-6-0-0) so it will not be an easy win.

Saturday sees the Bears visit the Binghamton Senators.  The Senators will still be in a battle for the East Division crown so this will also be a battle.  The Sens are 4-4-0-2 in their last 10 so they aren't exactly lighting the league on fire right now.

Sunday sees the final regular season game (and home game) for the Bears as the Manchester Monarchs arrive in town.  This game is either going to mean everything...or nothing.  The Monarchs just beat the Bears on Saturday and are on a 4 game winning streak and are 6-4-0-0 in their last 10. 

Those games will be tough enough.

And then the Bears would need help.  The good news there is that the teams tied or ahead of the Bears also have tough slates.

Portland has 4 games left beginning tomorrow night in Bridgeport.  IF they win that game they can't fall behind Hershey.  We can look at the rest of their games once that one is complete.

Norfolk has 3 games left, all on the road.  Friday in Syracuse, Saturday in Albany, and Sunday in Providence.  If they go 3-0 they get a playoff spot. 

Connecticut only has 2 games left...both on the road.  Friday in Albany and Saturday in Portland.  They will more than likely be sweating on Sunday.

Manchester has 3 games left, all on the road and very tough.  Friday in Binghamton, Saturday in Wilkes-Barre, and Sunday in Hershey. 

The Bears have made it interesting.  I, for some reason, still believe that all they need is a chance.  I am an eternal optimist and will always believe it is possible until it's officially over.  So if they make it as an 8 seed I truly believe they have a good shot to win the Cup. 

Friday night is huge.  A Bears loss probably means that tee times can be booked and exit interviews can be completed.  A win and who's out of their hands.


Monday, April 8, 2013

2 out of 6 ain't good

Apparently the 2012-13 version of the Hershey Bears is determined to make sure we get to see meaningful hockey games until the very last game of the regular season.  After earning a paltry 2 points out of a possible 6 the Bears now find themselves in a 'must win' situation every single night.

Friday night started out well with Hershey picking up a 4-1 win over Syracuse.  They followed that up with a 2-1 loss on home ice to the same undermanned Crunch team on Saturday night.  And then they gave the Baby Pens 4 straight goals Sunday afternoon before making a game of it late, falling 4-3. 

Not good.  Simple as that. 

A look at the AHL standings today shows that this is pretty much a 2 horse race now.  Wilkes-Barre and Portland are all but out of the equation with 84 and 81 points, respectively.  Connecticut, and the 7th spot, is still technically within reach, but even that is looking bleak. 

The Bears have 75 points.  So do the Norfolk Admirals.  Both teams have played 70 games. 

Hershey owns the tiebreaker...apparently.  (Not sure what that tiebreaker is, but it might be ROW - regulation + overtime wins...or...wins - shootout wins.  In which case Hershey has 29 ROW and Norfolk has 28.)

The only good news on the weekend was that the teams trailing Hershey, with the exception of Norfolk, all fell even further behind.  Manchester, Bridgeport, and Albany are all sitting with 71 points and 70 games played.  Translation...they need lots of help from BOTH Hershey and Norfolk.

Hershey tried to help them all this past weekend, but they were unable to capitalize. 

So, as I's a two horse race between the Bears and Norfolk.

And Hershey has no room for error anymore.  Which is a problem considering that 5 of their last 6 games are on the road. 

Away from Giant Center this season the Bears are actually a respectable 16-13-0-4 compared to just 17-15-3-2 at home.  One could make the argument, looking at the records, that the Bears are actually better on the road then at home. 

Offensively you would still be right too.  On the season, the Bears have scored 2.8 goals per game on the road and only 2.5 at home.  Defensively then its about a wash with 2.8 goals per game allowed and 2.4 at home. 

So things aren't too bad...right?

Well...let's see...
  • Since January 1 the Bears have played 19 road games.  They are 7-8-0-4 in those.  Not terrible.
  • Since February 1 the Bears have played 15 road games.  They are 5-7-0-3 since Feb 1.  Eh...worse, but still not terrible.
  • Since March 2 the Bears have played 8 road games.  They are 2-5-0-1 in those.  There it is...terrible. gets worse:

In those 8 games since March 2 the Bears have scored 2.8 goals per game.  Excellent...right on target.  They have allowed...3.6 goals per game.  And that includes the 2 wins when they gave up a total of 2 games.  In their 6 losses (yes a shootout loss is still a loss) they have allowed an very very bad 4.5 goals per game.

Now, that schedule again...5 of 6 on the road. 


Well, maybe the teams they are playing aren't that good on home ice.  Hmmm, let's see...
  • Providence, Friday's opponent, is 22-9-0-3.  Ouch, that's a good record. 
  • Manchester, Saturday's host, is 16-14-2-3.  Eh, things are looking better for Hershey.
  • Portland, Sunday's opponent, is 22-10-2-1.  And it's shitty again.
  • Adirondack, next Friday, is 16-14-1-2.  Not terrible for Hershey.
  • Binghamton, next Saturday, is 23-8-1-3.  DAMN.
Ok.  Now, does that mean the Bears can't or won't make the playoffs.  No, I refuse to believe that.  I look at this team and see talent.  Maybe I am the only one, but I think the team that Yingst has assembled can win against most teams in this league. 

So just cause the road ahead looks bad, I still think Hershey can win all 6 of their remaining games and make it in and then go on a run and win a Cup.  That's what I will think and root for until they prove me wrong (which they are currently working on).

Alright.  Enough doom and gloom.  How about some good news.

The Norfolk Admirals finish the season with 6 straight road games.  And they are NOT a good road team.  They are 13-17-1-1 on the road this year and average 2.2 goals per game while allowing 3 goals per game. 

They do have an easier slate of games, but it won't be easy for them to make a run. 

The Bears have a 6 game season, starting on Friday night in Providence.  Hershey just beat Providence on March 30, in come from behind fashion, so they can beat them.  If they want to make the playoffs they must.

Having a week to actually practice with their new additions (Michael Latta met the team in Syracuse Friday morning and has had nothing more than pregame walk-throughs as a member of the Bears) will surely be an addition. 

Personally I thought Latta looked good.  He doesn't seem like the fastest guy, but he actually won faceoffs (interesting concept that the rest of the guys should try), showed some offensive creativity and vision, and definitely has no problem hitting people.  He looked a little lost in the defensive end at times...but again, he just met the team on Friday. 

Dane Byers looked pretty good as well.  And Joel Rechlicz, well, Joel did what he does just fine.  I wouldn't be surprised to see him listed as a healthy scratch for many of the remaining games.  He isn't going to help the team offensively and isn't necessary on they physical side with Latta, Byers, and Wellar getting regular minutes.  I like Joel, love the enthusiasm, but the Bears need goals right now.

At the very least the Bears will make this interesting down to the final weekend.  And hey, they finally got me to start posting regularly again...that's something, right?

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Bears win...little changes in playoff picture

The Bears earned a 4-1 win over the Syracuse Crunch last night, keeping them in 8th place in the Eastern Conference. 

Most of the teams surrounding the Bears in the standings kept pace however.  Entering the night the Connecticut Whale sat one point in front of the Bears and despite falling behind 2-0 to one of the Eastern Conference's top teams, the Springfield Falcons, in the first period, they came back to earn two points with a 4-3 regulation win to maintain their one point advantage in the standings.

The Norfolk Admirals, who trailed the Bears by 2 points, also beat one of the top teams in the conference, the Binghamton Senators, 2-1 to keep from falling any further behind. 

The other two teams ahead of Hershey that the Bears can possibly catch in the standings, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Portland, also won their respective games to maintain their 5 and 6 point advantages, respectively.

The only teams to lose last night were the teams that trailed Norfolk.  The Albany Devils and Manchester Monarchs lost their games last night to fall even further behind in the playoff race. 

After last night this is shaping up as a 3 team race for 2 playoff spots.  The Baby Pens and Portland aren't clear of the woods just yet, but they would have to partially fall apart to fall out of the playoffs at this point.

For the scoreboard watchers out there...Norfolk again plays host to Binghamton at 7:15 tonight while Connecticut visits Bridgeport, with faceoff coming at 7:00. 

Hershey welcomes the Syracuse Crunch to, what should be, a loud Giant Center tonight. 

The Bears need points this weekend and a quick glance at the schedule prior to last night's game in Syracuse would have scared some backers.  But the Bears couldn't have asked for a better time to play the Crunch.  Despite clinching a playoff spot last night, along with 3 other top teams in the conference, the Crunch have struggled mightily of late.  In their last 6 games they are just 1-4-1-0 and have scored a total of 8 goals and have been shut out 3 times. 

The reason for the lack of offensive production seems to be a general lack of offensive talent.  On the season the Crunch have 10 players with double-digit goals.  The top 6 of those players are either recalled to Tampa Bay or are no longer on the team.  The current goal scoring leaders are Ondrej Palat and J.T. Wyman who have each scored 11 on the season. 

Hershey needs to take advantage of a weakened opponent and capitalize.  They did last night as Syracuse didn't even get their first shot until around the 11 minute mark of the 1st period. 

The Bears need to do it again tonight on home ice.

And they should get some solid support from the home crowd who will surely be excited to see enforcer Joel Rechlicz make his Bears 2012-13 debut after being a healthy scratch last night in Syracuse. 

Hershey has 8 games left.  16 possible points.  13 clinches a playoff spot.


Friday, April 5, 2013

Bears and the Playoffs

With 9 games left in their season the Bears sit precariously in the 8th, and final, spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

They are 1 point behind the 7th place Connecticut Whale, 2 points ahead of 9th place Norfolk, 3 points in front of 10th place Albany, and 4 points in front of the 11th and 12th place teams, Manchester and Bridgeport.

Seems to me that that covers all the teams that Hershey can catch in the standings or that they need to worry about beneath them.  Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is in 6th with 78 points, 5 more than Hershey's 71.  The chances of catching them are probably slim, but the Bears do have 2 games in hand and Sunday features a head to head matchup with the I-81 rivals.

Tonight and tomorrow feature a tougher set of games in the form of a home and home against the Syracuse Crunch.

The Bears, much like the Caps, playoff hopes really are quite simple....

Win the rest of your games and you are in.

See, nothing to it.

Last week I said that the Bears likely needed about 83 points to make the playoffs.  I stand by that number and that means the Bears need to earn 10 points in 9 games.  Definitely possible.

Good news?

All of the teams mentioned above have tough slates this weekend as well.

Norfolk gets 2 games against Binghamton.  Manchester gets Portland and Providence tonight and tomorrow.  Albany gets Providence, Wilkes-Barre, and Rochester.  Bridgeport gets Connecticut.  The Whale get Springfield, Bridgeport, and Providence.  And Wilkes-Barre gets Albany and Hershey (plus Adirondack...not a toughie).

Got all that?  Yeah, me neither.

It's pretty simple though.  Hershey can't afford losses.

BUT, if you want to scoreboard are the games to watch tonight:

Wilkes-Barre at Adirondack - 7:00
Providence at Albany - 7:00
Springfield at Connecticut - 7:00
Portland at Manchester - 7:00
Binghamton at Norfolk - 7:30

And of course...Hershey at Syracuse - 7:30.

A Connecticut loss, coupled with a Bears win would be rather awesome as it would give the Bears some breathing room between them and 9th place.

9 games left.

I expect to see some hockey at Giant Center after April 21.


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Bears add more toughness

The Caps didn't trade Ribeiro to replenish the organizational depth yesterday.  No, they went the opposite way and traded one of their best prospects, Filip Forsberg, for an old winger in Martin Erat.  I am not a fan of the move...BUT it brings a new player to Hershey so at the end of the day it works out.

Michael Latta is a 6 foot, 213lb center who will be a prime candidate for an energy/checking line.  Latta comes from the Milwaukee Admirals were he had 9 goals and 26 assists in 67 games this season.  Last year, his first full pro season, he had 14 goals and 13 assists in 51 games.

Oh and he has 184 penalty minutes this year.

That now ranks 1st on the Bears.

So far this season the Bears have earned 965 penalty minutes.  Second fewest in the Eastern Conference.

That should change now.

With the addition of Latta, Dane Byers, and Joel Rechlicz the Bears added 478 penalty minutes.  That's a lot.

Geez, what do you think Yingst and company thought was the weakness on this team??? 

Latta could be the most interesting of the three.  We all know what Wrecker brings to the table and he will be an incredible addition to the general atmosphere surrounding the team.  Byers is a big body that has seen some pretty good success in the AHL over the years and is looking to turn things around in Hershey this year.  I don't remember seeing him play, but I am envisioning a Graham Mink like player.  This year he has struggled with only 6 goals and 4 assists in 58 games, but just last year he scored 16 goals and added 23 assists in 61 games. 

Guys who come to Hershey generally experience better offensive numbers.  It was always this way in the past under Boudreau and Woods and it is continuing under French.  Proof?  Look at the forwards who have come this year:

Casey Wellman -
  • Before Hershey - 37 gp | 7 goals - 16 assists
  • Since Hershey - 24 gp | 8 goals - 15 assists
Peter LeBlanc -
  • Before Hershey - 34 gp | 4 goals - 8 assists
  • Since Hershey - 24 gp | 5 goals - 9 assists
Nicolas Deschamps -
  • Before Hershey - 50 gp | 7 goals - 9 assists
  • Since Hershey - 7 gp | 3 goals - 1 assist
All of those players improved their points per game numbers with Hershey.  Hopefully Byers (and Latta) can continue this trend.

Latta is thought to have NHL potential.  Not as a top 6 forward, but as a Boyd Gordon like player I think.  Or a Jay Beagle if you would rather a current Caps comparison. 

Here is's thoughts:
Latta may not have ideal size for an NHLer, but he has shown that he has ample heart. He's displayed a willingness bordering on zeal for competing in the corners and in front of the net. Latta's an effective playmaking center who improves his linemates both through skill and by setting an example on how to pay attention to the intangibles that separate winning teams from the mediocre ones.
I envision him as a Beagle or Steve Pinnizzotto type player.  Someone who can probably give you 15-20 goals a season and be an absolute pest on the forecheck.  Willing to stand up for teammates, finish their checks, and just make the opposing player think twice before carrying the puck too long.

It's hard to really gauge a players role without having seen him so take my comments on Byers and Latta lightly until we see them play this weekend.  But based on what I am reading and seeing with their measurables, I think I am probably pretty close.

A commenter a couple of days ago said that this might just be an average Bears team and that we shouldn't expect too much.  I disagree with that.  Yes, maybe the team that started the season was average, but it seems to me that with the trades the organization has made the Bears are in much better position heading towards the playoffs. 

Will it payoff?  We will see.  But it will be fun to watch and follow along over the next 3 weekends.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

New Bears, Old Bears...and my opinion on the Caps and Ribeiro

Tomas Kundratek and Dmitry Orlov were re-assigned to Hershey yesterday.  I am guessing that means Kundratek is healthy and ready to play, but he has missed games in Washington recently due to injury and I am not certain on his status.

It helps the Bears immensely as they shipped defenseman Garret Stafford to Oklahoma City for left wing Dane Byers earlier last night.

At first glance (if you don't or didn't know who Dane Byers is) was that maybe this was a move to get under the veteran limit and not have the difficult decision of which veteran to sit each night.  But it isn't.  Byers is also an AHL veteran and has served as team captain multiple times in his career.

No, this was strictly a move to improve the Bears toughness and grit. 
“It's clearly a thing of trying to add a quality that we think we need to win.”
That was Mark French's comment on the Stafford trade.  The team obviously feels like they aren't playing physically enough and in order to get tougher they traded a solid defenseman.

Further proof that I wasn't entirely off base on Monday with my post...

The Bears/Caps traded Matt Clackson to Phoenix for Joel Rechlicz.  Obviously I don't have to tell you much about Joel, but he isn't here to help in the goal scoring department.

In Clackson's defense...the team didn't really give him the chance to truly succeed in Hershey.  He dressed in only 19 games so far this year, including just 2 of the last 22.  It's kind of hard to really get and stay in game shape, both physically and mentally, when you are playing so infrequently.

In the Bear's defense...even when he dressed he didn't seem to fill the role they were looking for.  He just didn't seem to have the 'edge' to his game that everyone expected.  I really expected more of a physical player that was willing to drop the gloves whenever given the chance.  But I don't think that was the case this season. 

Overall, I like the moves.  The Bears needed to get more physical and adding these guys will do that.  BUT, I don't see Byers getting into a ton of games unless he starts scoring.  Who do you sit instead...Kane? Taffe, DiSalvatore, Crabb, Potulny? 

I am sure Byers will get his chances early on.  This is a guy that has scored 20+ goals in multiple AHL seasons so the potential is there. 

As for Joel...he brings an energy to the team and game when he is playing.  He will get his chances, but he will also be little more than a cheerleader come the 3rd period of games.  Same as last year.  He is a good guy, a great teammate (based on things I read), and obviously a energizing presence, but his skill set is limited.  I welcome him back to the roster and hope that he can breathe some life into this roster.

NHL Trade Deadline:

The big debate, which probably isn't much of one anymore considering their recent success, in Washington the past week has you trade Mike Ribeiro.  Since my opinion is never requested, I just figured I would offer it.

Personally I agree with this view from RMNB.

I think the Caps should be sellers at today's NHL trade deadline.

Why?  Because your goal at the beginning of each season is not to just make the playoffs.  Your goal, every season, should be to win a championship. 

The Capitals, as they are built right now, don't seem capable of doing that.  There is obviously something to be said for just getting a chance and possibly getting hot and making a run, but considering the teams at the top of the conference, it seems unlikely that the Caps will be able to win 16 games after the regular season ends.

Ribeiro is 33.  He is having a career year point-per-game wise (only 1 other time in his career did he average a point-per-game like he is this year) and his other measurables (faceoff wins and puck possession time) are lacking. 

He has made it clear that he wants a 5 year deal.  Surely at about $6 million a year.  That means you would be paying a 38 year old center $6 million in a few years.

Simply put...that would be a mistake.

And if they don't trade him and don't resign him, then they are getting nothing for him. 

I understand that the organization has been looking for a 2nd line center for a while, I get that.  But do you really think there is only one guy that can fill that role?  Evgeni Kuznetsov is expected in Washington sometime next season and is expected to play center.  I am willing to bet that he can win as many faceoffs as Ribeiro and while he will likely take a year or 2 to adjust to the NHL game, he will surely be better (or at least as good as) Ribeiro shortly.

Ribeiro has huge value right now.  Sometimes you have to plan for the future and make a move that sets you up better for the future for a negative now.

I won't pretend to know what some team will pay for Ribeiro, but seems like a high pick and a couple of prospects would be a good starting point.  There has to be a team out there willing to give up a lot for a player playing to Ribeiro's caliber right now.

Trade Ribeiro, replenish your farm system (weak right now, let's be honest) with picks and prospects and address the 2nd line center role through free agency this summer.  Surely they can find a stop-gap player to fill the role for a season until Kuzentsov is ready to go. 

Hell, I think you trade Mike Green too.  And Jeff Schultz...if you can get anyone to take him.  And maybe even Neuvirth. 

Time to fix the problem you created by selling prospects and picks for fringe players at past deadlines and look towards the next few seasons, instead of a possible playoff berth this spring.

I fully expect the Caps to stand pat at the deadline and try and make the playoffs.  If they go that route...I hope they make the playoffs and I hope they make a run to the Cup finals.  But that won't change my opinion.

Monday, April 1, 2013

A 2 point weekend....good enough?

By a show of hands, who feels better about the Bears playoff chances after a 1-1 weekend? 

Yeah, me neither.

It was a good finish though.  After getting beat by a team riding a 6 game losing streak on Saturday (Albany) the Bears stormed back from behind on Sunday to pick up a 3-2 win over one of the top Eastern Conference teams (Providence).

But it took a highly questionable call on Chay Genoway by referee Jean Herbert for the Bears to really start playing hockey.

The Bears have talent.  And through trades I think this team is easily as talented as any other.  Maybe not as fast, but talent wise I think they are pretty deep. 

Which will likely only get better in the coming week (or so) when Capitals prospect Filip Forsberg is expected to be joining the Bears for a trial run after his season in Sweden ends on April 5.

No, the talent is there.

And I hate to question a team's "effort" or "heart" as I don't know these guys and can't speak to how hard they are working and how much they want to win.  Without being there on a day to day basis I don't see how anyone can.

But I can question their physicality and, in a manner of speaking, toughness.

This team doesn't want to hit anyone.  Even fan favorite Matt Clackson shied away from some hits on Saturday night. 

Until the call by Herbert on Saturday night I could probably count on 1 hand the number of real hits the Bears made in 35ish minutes of hockey.  Once that call was made and they actually saw their coach react, they started taking the body more and playing physical hockey.  And all of a sudden they were controlling the play and forcing mistakes by the Bruins.

Anyone else notice how many turnovers the Bruins made in the third period when the Bears were actually playing a physical game?

Even Ryan Potulny was hitting people in the 3rd period. 

Jeff Taffe is 6'3" 209 lbs and if the AHL kept track of hits, I bet you he wouldn't even rank amongst the top 10 Bears.

What makes no sense to me is that the Bears are getting hit all game long.  It isn't like the officials are calling every single hit for interference or something.  Sometimes, yes, it makes sense to pull up and not make the hit, but so often the Bears just skate towards a guy, attempt to poke the puck, and when they miss, they turn and skate away.  The opposing player is bracing for a hit and yet he isn't touched.

Fact is, hockey is a physical game.  You are going to get hit.  So why not hit them back?

Garrett Mitchell hits.  Danick Paquette sure as hell did when he played.  Boyd Kane usually does, although on Saturday even he was turning away from hits early in the game.  Steve Oleksy did. 

That's pretty much it. 

The 2008-09 Bears had Steve Pinnizzotto, Greg Amadio, Dean Arsene, Kip Brennan, Staffon Kronwall, Bryan Helmer, Quintin Laing, Andrew Gordon, Chris Bourque, Jay Beagle, and Graham Mink.  All of those guys played the body and made a hit when they got a chance.  They also had some contact-adverse players such as Mathieu Perreault, Keith Aucoin (although he would hit from time to time), and Alexandre Giroux (same as Coiner).

2009-10 had many of the same players. 

Those years saw a good mix of talent and physicality.  Since then...talent hasn't been a problem. 

So is it the roster or is it the coaching?

As I mentioned...there is size on the roster.  But they don't seem to play with any emotion.  And that would tell me that it has something to do with their emotionless leader.

And I think Saturday night confirmed that for me.  Before he got physicality from the team and little emotion.  Afterwards...they came back to win after trailing at the 2nd intermission for the first time this season.

It wasn't just body checks either.  In the first period a Bruins player made solid contact with Philipp Grubauer's leg in the crease after the whistle and did anyone go after him...nope.  Questionable hits on other Bears, any post-whistle scuffles...nope.

For all you Matt Clackson lovers (nice round of applause when he was announced as a starter)...he was even out there when Grubauer got run...and he did NOTHING.  Was it partially the fault of a Bear playing directing him towards the crease?  Yes.  But watch any other hockey game and see if that stops anyone from putting a hand in the guys face.

Finally, late in the 2nd period someone stuck up for a teammate.  I can't remember which player took the questionable hit, but Chay Genoway stood up for him. 

Yes, Chay Genoway.  All 5'9" 177lbs of him.  The smallest Bear on the ice Saturday night went after Bruins forward Bobby Robins (6'1" 220lbs) after a questionable hit. 

At least someone did.  His retaliation created the questionable call by Herbert, which caused Mark French to have a lengthy conversation with Herbert, which led (finally) to the Bears playing like they actually wanted to win and want to make the playoffs.

So if the Bears make the playoffs I believe it will be Chay Genoway and shitty officiating by Jean Herbert as the main reasons.

This team HAS the talent to win.  But if they aren't playing a physical, emotional game, then the opposition will always control the play and will be unafraid to push the limits of the rules.  French needs to figure out a way to tap into the emotion and physicality that they showed in the 3rd period Saturday night the rest of the season.  If he can't, then I hope Doug Yingst will bring in a coach that will.