Friday, October 31, 2014

4 Thoughts on the Bears in the Early Going

Don has written nice postgame pieces of each Bears game so far (you can find this past weekends write-ups here here and here).

But I haven't given any thoughts on the matter yet as I was waiting to see the team in person (and then waiting to find the time to write it).  So here it goes:

Bears vs Penguins, picture courtesy of Kyle Mace and Chocolate Hockey

In watching the Bears live twice last weekend I think 4 things jumped out at me:

1. Team Speed

It isn't that the Bears are lightning fast and just skating circles around the opposition...they aren't that fast.

But the other teams aren't either.

In recent years you could sit down at Giant Center and immediately the speed discrepancy between the Bears and the opposition was apparent.  It wasn't that the other teams were unusually fast...the Bears were just slow.

A lack of prospects in the system will do that as Hershey filled their roster with slightly older legs and hoped that the veteran positioning would counter the speedier teams.

It didn't.

But this year looks different so far.  The Bears are just as fast as the other teams and a lack of speed will not be the problem it was for the Bears in recent years.

2.  Depth

We kind of suspected this coming in to the season, but after seeing it live it is obvious.

What is the Bears best line?  Go ahead, try and convince me of one.

You can't.  Why?  Because there is little difference between the 1st and 12th forward on this team.  Seriously.

Sure, some players struggle with certain things and consistency for the young guys is sometimes lacking, but ultimately this team runs 4 very good lines that others have to account for.

The saying goes, you are only as good as your weakest link.

If that is the measurement model...these Bears are pretty darn good.

3.  Focus in the Moment

Last season was probably the worst for this.  The Bears would score a goal and almost immediately the opposition would come down and score as well.

It happens.  When one team allows a goal they are going to have new found motivation to get one of their own.

We saw during both games this weekend.

Hershey went up in both games.  They scored 7 goals in the 2 home games and only gave up 1.  And that one came at the start of a period...never right after a Bears goal.

I noticed it right away Saturday night.  Wilkes-Barre came hard after the Bears scored 2 midway through the 1st, but the Bears were focused and ready for it.

This is a credit to the new coaching staff.  They have them ready to play in situations where last years team seemed to be lacking.

4.  Aggressive Pinching by the D

I have noticed this both in Hershey and Washington and it brings memories to the Bruce Boudreau days.

Any time the puck is headed up the boards the Bears d-men were pinching in aggressively to keep it in.

The Phantoms and Penguins had few easy clears out of the zone.

Now, this style play can obviously lead to odd man breaks and while that didn't happen this weekend it surely will.  BUT, in order to create opportunities for your forwards the defensemen have to be willing to step up and keep the puck in the zone.

These kinds of plays often go unnoticed on the scoresheet, but they are critical to winning games and the entire organization seems committed to this system.

Obviously there were other thoughts (including what seemed to be better success in the faceoff circle) but those 4 things really stuck out to me after seeing the Bears for one weekend.

Do you agree?  Did you see anything else that stuck out to you?  Share in the comments.

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