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.


Anton said...

Taffe is the 2nd leading scorer in the league. Physical play is only part of the equation. Someone's gotta be able to put the puck in the net.

And if the talent is there, then why can't they get any scoring outside of Jeff Taffe? They're an average team this season with almost no prospects and/or depth scoring to help the vets out. Sometimes teams are only good enough to place in the middle of the pack, and I believe it's pretty obvious that this is one of those seasons.

richard said...

Interesting read--never could understand why Clackson dressed so rarely--wonder if our record is better with him in line-up---Someone must have read your blog-Recker back,Dane Byers acquired---there's the beef----Orlov and Kundratek back----may be late,but Washington really cares about us??Interesting!!!

GM said...

Anton - fair enough. Taffe is the offensive force on this team so expecting a physical game from him is maybe a lot. Although I would say that Ovechkin plays a physical game, Malkin, Giroux...lots of tops offensive weapons are willing to take the body when they get the chance. And I can assure you that Taffe has played a physical game in the past as his time in the NHL wasn't spent scoring goals. But you are right, the Bears are one of the lowest scoring teams in the league and maybe this team just isn't talented. I feel like they have added talent of late though and are better then they were early in the season.

Richard - I don't think Clackson was as physical a presence that the Bears were expecting. I would say the Bears are partially to blame as they didn't play him a lot, but I also feel like Clackson was the same player he had been in the past. And yes, I noticed that Yingst felt the same as I did and went out and added some muscle. As for the Caps...defensemen were bound to return to Hershey when their d got healthier. Good to see Orlov and Kundratek back. Hopefully Kundratek is healthy and ready to go.