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 said...it'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?
- 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.
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.
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?