Editors Note - Sorry in advance, I got a little long-winded.
In the Bears first 9 games this season they scored at least 4 goals in a game 6 times. Combined they scored 31 goals in those 9 games.
In their last 12 games they have scored 4 goals in a game only once. Combined they have scored 19 goals.
First 9 games...32 goals.
Last 12 games...19 goals.
And that doesn't even tell you how bad it as been.
In the Bears last 5 games they have failed to score more than 1 goal in regulation. Seriously. In their last 5 games the Bears have scored a total of 4 goals.
The amazing part is that in those 5 games they are 3-2-0-0.
Yeah, I know. The Bears have won 3 of their last 5 despite only scoring 4 goals in those 5 games.
There is little chance that many other AHL teams have ever acomplished that feat.
Alright, more than likely you already knew all of this. But let me say that I believe this is good for the Bears. This stretch tells us two things:
1. The defense and goaltending are really good.
2. When the playoffs come and games typically get tighter and lower scoring, the Bears will be experienced in that.
However, I would feel a whole lot better about their playoff chances if they could score some goals.
While waiting in line for the turkey shoot last Wednesday (I scored by the way) one guy made a pretty accurate comment to me. He said that after the first 2 home games this season he was ready to send in his money for the playoff tickets. But after this recent stretch he said he will hold on to his money for a while.
I completely agree.
So how do the Bears fix it?
Before the season even started I mentioned that there were no true go-to scorers on this team. And that has proven true.
Sure, there is a ton of talent. But 2 things stand out to me:
1. There seems to be no difference in how each line plays in the offensive zone.
2. The best offensive weapon is stuck with less talented line mates.
That player is Stanislav Galiev. Everyone has known about his talent for a while now. And damn, we have seen his skills in flashes this season.
In fact, he is the only Bear to score in the last 3 games.
So what's the problem?
The problem is all of those goals have come on the power play.
That's important, sure. But what the Bears need is production at even strength. Yet Galiev is playing with Chandler Stephenson and Nathan Walker.
Now let me stop and say this...I think Stephenson was the BEST forward on the ice (all-around) for Hershey the last few games and Walker is definitely fun to watch.
But neither are offensive stars in the making. They aren't playmakers. They are energy line guys. There is nothing wrong with that.
Except when the 3rd guy on that line is also the best offensive weapon the Bears have.
Which brings me to point #1 from above, there is no separation of lines in Hershey. Thanks the incredible depth the Bears seem to be running 4 scoring lines.
That sounds terrific...4 lines that can produce and score goals. Awesome.
Yeah...how is that working out?
What the Bears NEED are 2, maybe 3, scoring lines, and 2, or at least 1, energy line.
What is the difference?
For starters, the style is different. Scoring lines enter the zone and try to create. They move around, try to get open, and make extra passes trying to get the best shot.
That's a fine strategy. It leads to goals because over the course of a game, the energy lines are tiring out the defense with a different style.
Except the Bears don't have an energy line. They don't have a line that comes out, cycles the puck down low, and makes the defense really work to get the puck away from them.
So, in turn, the scoring lines don't have the luxury of space when the come on the ice. Which results in stolen passes or never seeing a good look at the net.
Truth be told, Hershey's roster isn't constructed with a ton of energy line type guys. Or checking line type guys. It's a smaller roster overall, laden with playmakers. But there are guys that can serve the role.
Here is what I want to see:
Brown - Newbury - Galiev
That would be my top line intially. Brown is listed as a RW but I am sure he could make the switch. You have the playmaking of Newbury with the scoring of Galiev and a guy in Brown that is big enough (and seemingly willing) to get dirty in front of the net.
Plus you know Galiev will be protected against physical defenseman since Newbury seems to be a rather angry person and Brown will stick his nose in as well.
Cornet/Conner - Kennedy - Wellman
There is my second line. Cornet would move to the press box when Conner is healthy, but both guys need to step it up a bit. A smaller line, but some good offensive potential here. If Wellman could play LW I would consider him for the top line.
So there are our two scoring lines. Notice that Dane Byers hasn't been mentioned. I love Dane. Think he is a TERRIFIC player.
But he isn't an offensive weapon. Not like the other guys.
Byers - Stephenson - Herbert/Mitchell
This is Garrett's spot when healthy, but Herbert's for now. The old guy with the young guys. An energy line. Get the puck down low and start cycling. Keep it moving and make the defense work to earn it.
And score a goal or two. This would also be the line you want out against the other teams top scoring line since all these guys can play in their own zone.
Walker - Broda - Gazley
Another energy line. Throw this line out there and watch the speed take over. Broda isn't fast, but the other two are and they will cause problems when they are out there together.
I personally believe if the Bears would create true scoring and energy lines they would be a better team going forward.
Unfortunately it does not appear that the coaching staff feels the same way. The lines they were running at practice this week were the following:
Conner - Kennedy - Brown
Cornet - Wellman - Gazley/Herbert
Byers - Broda - Mitchell
Walker - Stephenson - Galiev
Newbury was sidelined with a back injury so he didn't practice, but I would expect him back at C on line 2 if he was healthy with Wellman moving to right wing.
The top 2 lines aren't terrible...but they still have the most talented offensive player Hershey has playing with 2 guys that aren't going to help him create.
Personally I think that this team will always be performing below their potential until they make room for Galiev to play with the top offensive playmakers like Wellman, Newbury, or Kennedy.
But hey, what do I know.
Hopefully the drills Mann is running and the (slightly) adjusted lines will do the trick.