Sunday, February 28, 2010

Bear Hunting in Winter

Ever go to a military air show and see the sleek fighter aircraft going through their motions? The breathtaking mix of speed and power?

Well, that was the Hershey Bears last night as the home team strafed the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, 9-2, in front of a sellout crowd that included Capitals’ coach Bruce Boudreau, who was on hand for a book signing of “Gabby: Confessions of a Hockey Lifer.” It was Washington Capitals Night at Giant Center, and it looked as if the Bears were doing their best to show the big club that there are guys down on the farm who merit a good long look at the big club. In that sense, it was a somewhat odd game, given the score…

-- Despite nine goals, only seven players shared in the scoring. The Keith Aucoin - Alexandre Giroux - Andrew Gordon line went 4-7-11, plus-6 for the evening, but that only got them second best among the forward lines.

-- Mathieu Perreault – Chris Bourque – Steve Pinizzotto went 5-7-12, plus-12 (that’s not a misprint), Perreault netting four goals for the evening, including a successful penalty shot.

-- The Bears put withering pressure on Bridgeport from the drop of the puck. Perreault scored the first of his four goals 1:44 in, the Bears scored all nine goals in the game’s first 37 minutes, and Hershey put 50 shots on goaltenders Nathan Lawson and Scott Munroe.

-- It was almost sad to see the misfortune of Brendan Witt for Bridgeport. A former first round/11th overall draft pick of the Caps, he seems to be at the end now. He was a minus-4 for the evening and looked incapable of keeping up with the speedy Bears.

-- For all of the offense unleashed on Bridgeport, the Bears were “only” 1-for-5 on the power play, and the crowd seemed a bit perturbed early at the Bears’ difficulty in scoring on the man advantage, especially when the Tigers managed to net a shorthanded goal 15 seconds into the Bears’ first power play of the evening.

-- That was a franchise record for goals allowed by Bridgeport. And it could have been a lot worse if not for some fine netminding by Scott Munroe in the third – he turned away all 19 shots from the Bears in the period.

-- Braden Holtby shook off a bumpy stretch with a pretty solid effort. He had been 1-3-0 in his last five appearances (one no-decision), 3.77, .876. Tonight, 22 saves on 24 shots.

-- Tyler Sloan and Quintin Laing were in the lineup for the Bears on assignment from the Caps.  Sloan had an assist and was a plus-3; Laing was held off the scoresheet and was minus-1.

Nights like this make one wonder whether there is any team in the AHL who can defeat the Bears in a seven-game series down the road. It’s a club that is difficult to defeat when they’re on the road (19-9-0) and almost impossible to defeat at home. They score (4.32 goals/game), keep their own net clean (2.42 goals against/game). And right now they are at the top of their game -- 21 home wins in a row (26-3-2 overall)… more than half a home season’s worth of games. They’ve averaged almost six goals a game in doing it (5.90) – five times scoring at least eight goals – and shut down opponents (2.14 goals against/game). Amazing.

No comments: