Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Hershey has 11 games left.  That is 22 possible points. 

The Bears currently sit in 8th place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 31-25-3-6, good for 71 points.

Based on the standings of the past few years my estimation is the Bears need somewhere in the 82-84 point range to finish 8th in the conference.

(Last year the 8th place team had 83 points, the previous 2 years to that was 88 and 86 - but those 2 years had 4 more games so removing 4 points would equal 84 and 82.)

So Hershey would need approximately 11-14 points to finish in 8th, where they currently sit, or more than that to move up.

This is possible.

So far in 2012-13 the Bears are earning 1.09 points per game.  With 11 games left that equals approximately 12 points and 83 for the season, which would probably get them into the playoffs as the 8th seed.

That would just get them in.

Since the beginning of March the Bears are 6-4-0-1 (13 points or 1.18 per game).  Using that number the Bears would finish with 13 points in their last 11 for 84 points, which would again likely get them in as the 8 seed.

That obviously doesn't take into account difficulty of schedule or anything like that, but the Bears seem to have a decent chance to make the postseason.

The best news for Hershey on the playoff front is that Wilkes-Barre (7th place in the East) and Connecticut (6th place) aren't pulling away. In fact, the Bears and Baby Pens both have 71 points and the Whale only has 72. AND the Whale has played one more game then the Bears.

At this point I would say the best hope for the Bears is a 6th place finish. They could make a run towards 5th (currently Portland with 75 points), but I don't see it happening.

But if they are to make the playoffs, they will have to earn it on the ice and it won't be easy. 

It begins with what is essentially a game they can't lose on Friday night in Albany.  The Devils currently sit in 12th place in the East.  This is a game that playoff teams MUST win (or at least come away from with a point).

After that sees a visit from former Bears Chris Bourque, Graham Mink, and Christian Hanson and their Providence Bruins teammates on Saturday night at Giant Center.

Then it's almost a full week off before 2 games against Syracuse and a huge road game in Wilkes-Barre. 

Every game is huge now and the Bears can't expect to make the playoffs if they are going to blow 3 goal leads.  Getting points is critical so while losses in overtime or a shootout are losses, they also bring the Bears a point closer to the playoffs. 

No matter where they finish in the standings, each spot in the playoffs gives you the same opportunity as the other 7 teams.  Whether you finish 1st or 8th you have to win 15 games for the Calder Cup.

Monday, March 4, 2013

3 games. 6 points.

The Bears played a 3 in 3 this weekend and managed to come away with 3 wins, 6 points, and the 6th spot in the Eastern Conference.

Most of this season has seen a Bears show up like gangbusters one night only to come out flat the next game.  The Jekyll and Hyde approach.

That same approach was in play this weekend as well.  But instead of taking the time between games to transform, the Bears made the transformation in game.

Against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Friday night the Bears jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first 10 minutes.  They dominated the first 10 minutes and it ended up winning them the game. 

However, from reading some accounts of the game (I wasn't there) it sounds like the Bears returned to hibernation for the remaining 50 minutes of play.  They transformed from dominant to non-existent mid-period:

First 10 minutes...7 shots for, 3 goals scored, 2 shots against, 0 goals against.

Remaining 50 minutes...8 shots for, 0 goals scored, 32 shots against, 2 goals against.

Winning is winning though and the Bears returned from Northeast PA with 2 points in their pocket.

Saturday night the Bears hosted Norfolk at the Giant Center.  Again, I wasn't there, but from some first-hand accounts it didn't sound like Hershey looked "impressive" against the Admirals.

The Admirals took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.  Coming into the weekend the Bears had gone 0-11-0-2 when trailing after 1, and the two shootout loses came recently. 

Hershey managed to tie it up in the 2nd before Norfolk scored early in the 3rd to take a 2-1 lead.  Things seemed bleak until Ryan Stoa scored his 11th of the season with about 2:30 to go and the Bears seemed destined for another overtime game.

Then Ryan Potulny scored his 12th of the season, and 4th in as many games, with less than a minute to go to give the Bears a 3-2 win on home ice. 

Based on the scoresheet it didn't seem like the Bears were outplayed as bad as the night before, but according to people at the game, it wasn't a great performance either.

But...winning is winning and the Bears sent Norfolk packing and collected 2 more points on the weekend. 

By the way...this weekend was the FIRST TIME ALL SEASON that Hershey had won Friday and Saturday night of the same weekend. 

Sunday.  The East leading Syracuse Crunch (tied with Springfield as of this morning) came to Giant Center.  The Crunch entered the game having lost 2 straight after winning 8 in a row.  Still dangerous.

Hershey started out well enough, scoring the first goal just before the 7 minute mark of the first period.  But things went downhill from there as Syracuse scored twice, including with under 30 seconds to go in the period, to take a 2-1 lead into intermission. 

Now, I know the Bears won the night before after trailing after 1 period, but they were still only 1-11-0-2 in that position.  A 2-1 deficit against one of the best teams in the league is tough.

And the Bears surely didn't make things any easier in the 2nd period.  Less than 2 minutes in the score became 3-1 and starting goalie Dany Sabourin was on his way to the showers.

The rest of the period was definitive Jekyll and Hyde.  Hershey managed 4 shots in the frame and were thoroughly dominated for much of the period.  I was in attendance and there were more than a few 'boos' coming from the stands. 

Fortunately for the Bears, Syracuse goalie Cedrick Desjardins wasn't the sharpest as Jeff Taffe scored on 2 of the Bears 4 shots to make the game 3-3 entering the 2nd intermission.

During the third period, the Bears transformation was complete and they outplayed the Crunch for the full 20 minutes.  Casey Wellman and Cameron Schilling scored the goals and the Bears left Giant Center last night in 6th place in the conference and finishing their first 3-in-3 sweep of the season.

The question we all want to know is, which team is the real team and which team will be showing up going forward?  There is the team that played the last 50 minutes in Wilkes-Barre, most of Saturday, and the 2nd period last night.  That team was thoroughly dominated and has made numerous appearances all season.

Then there is the team that played the first 10 minutes against the Pens, the final few minutes against Norfolk, and the 3rd period last night.  I am convinced that this version of the Bears could and should be fairly competitive come late spring.  But they only show up for short bursts it seems.

The good news is that the 'good' Bears are making more appearances of late.  They have won plenty of close games and, despite not always playing great, have forced overtimes and gotten points in games they didn't deserve.  That, to me, is a sign of a team that doesn't give up and wants to win.

However, if the 'bad' Bears show up too often this spring one of two things will end up happening...either they will miss the playoffs completely or it will be a 3rd straight year of an early playoff exit.

3/4 of the season is over now.  19 games remain for the Bears and it is still unknown what kind of team this is. 

Lots of winnable games remain on the schedule.  10 of the last 19 games are against teams currently not in the playoffs.  (Interesting note...the Bears will play 12 of the other 14 Eastern Conference teams over their last 19.  Only missing Springfield and St. John's.)  Unfortunately, only 6 of the remaining 19 games are on home ice and road trips all over New England are on tap for March and April. 

A run for the division crown isn't necessarily out of the realm of possibility but it is a (very) long-shot.