The Bears have been playing better hockey of late and have been doing so on a more consistent basis. Instead of only playing hard for a few minutes a game they have managed to do it for periods at a time and in a couple of instances…a full 60 minutes!!
Wow, imagine that.
They have worked themselves up from the cellar of the Eastern Conference and are currently tied for 9th (with Adirondack) with 40 points. St. John’s currently holds the 8th spot with 41 points.
The playoffs are a legit possibility.
If the Bears can figure out how to play away from Giant Center.
This team has done a complete 180 from the beginning of the year and has figured out what home ice advantage is all about.
Since December 14 the Bears have played 9 games at home. They are 7-2-0-0 in those games while scoring 4.1 goals per game and only allowing 2.3 per game.
That is impressive.
Especially considering that in the 12 games prior to that they were an ugly 4-4-1-3 (that’s 8 losses in some capacity…no matter what the W-L columns say that isn’t a .500 record). During that horrendous stretch they were scoring 2.9 goals and allowing 3.4 each game.
So yeah, they have figured out how to play on home ice.
While that is important you must realize that the Bears are past the halfway mark in home games. They only have 17 left and 8 of those come in the next 4 weeks and 14 games. After that they finish the final 2 months of the season with only 9 home games and 17 road tilts.
That wouldn’t be terrible if they were still playing on the road like they were early.
Over the first 7 (up until December 6) road games they averaged 3.1 goals for and only allowed 2.6 and were a respectable 3-3-1-0 away from home.
If you combine that with their recent home play and this team would probably waltz into the playoffs with a 5/6 seed.
Unfortunately, while they have improved on home ice they have struggled away from Hershey.
Over their last 8 games (since December 6) they are 3-4-1-0. Not substantially worse record…but the measurable tell a different story. They are scoring only 2.5 goals per game and allowing 3.
You won’t win many games allowing more goals per game than you are scoring.
Obviously they are small sample sizes and they have been playing even better of late. But looking at just the last 4 games since their home play turned around (so since December 14) they have played 4 games and have failed to score more than 2 goals in 3 of those games.
Oh and the 1 game they scored more than 4 was in Atlantic City…not a true road game.
Maybe it’s a matter of confidence. Hopefully they will continue building that confidence over the next few weeks with the majority of their games on home ice before they embark on a travel-filled end to the season.
Time will tell.
On home ice they are probably as good as any team in the league right now. We saw proof of that this past Saturday when Springfield (one of the AHL’s top teams in terms of points) came to Hershey and was fairly dominated for 60 minutes.
The final score of that one was 5-3, but it didn’t feel that close from where I was sitting.
This weekend will see an additional test as the Albany Devils, the Eastern Conference’s current 5 seed, comes to town.
If the Bears want to make the playoffs this is a HUGE game. Not only in the standings, but for their confidence as well.