As a close follower of both the Washington Capitals and their AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears, I’ve noticed many similarities in the first round for both teams thus far. Some are good, some are bad, and some are what they are. Here’s an in-depth look at the parallels drawn from watching the combined 6 total games played by both teams, and my thoughts on each.
Caps vs. Canadiens: Series Tied at 1-1
Game 1: Canadiens won 3-2 (OT)
Game 2: Caps won 5-6 (OT)
Bears vs. Soundtigers: Bears lead Series 3-1
Game 1: Bears won 4-3 (OT)
Game 2: Bears won 3-2
Game 3: Bears won 7-2
Game 4: Soundtigers won 4-1
Caps: The Caps have scored 1 goal in each of their two first periods and have allowed 3.
Bears: The Bears have not scored in the first period once in their entire series. That’s 4 games without a first period goal. They’ve allowed a total of 4 first period goals (2 in game 1, 1 in game 2, and 1 in game 4).
Both teams are known for their offensive firepower in their respective leagues. With their Round 1 performances, neither team has lived up to their “run & gun out of the gate” reputations.
Caps: The Caps went 0-for-4 on Thursday and 0-for-3 on Saturday. All together in Round 1, they’re 0 for 7 on the Power Play.
Bears: Hershey came into the playoffs leading the league with the man advantage. Through four games, they’re just 4-for-21 with the man advantage. Take out Saturday’s performance and they’re just 1-for-17 with the extra man.
Again – both teams are known for their offensive firepower – but neither have been able to do much when up a man. Let’s hope the respective units start clicking… soon!
Too Much Time In the Sin Bin:
Caps: The 14 minutes of minor penalty time served by the Caps through 2 games may seem small, but when you’re trying to overpower the Habs – shorthanded is not the way to do it.
Bears: Oh, AHL, when will you finally give us two refs? This one man “I control the game my way” show is getting old. That being said, the Bears have accumulated 68 minor minutes with 34 minor infractions (no fighting majors included in these numbers). That means that through 244 minutes (4 games +4 min of overtime) of play, the Bears have been a man down 28% of the time.
Penalties will happen during games, but both franchises need to limit them as much as possible - and avoid offensive zone, late in the period, and bone-headed infractions - especially when the oppositions' PP is so potent.
When the Big Guns are Big Guns:
Caps: Nick Backstrom has been huge – 4 goals (including an OT winner) and 1 assist is proof that hard work pays off. Ovie has also turned it on, chipping in 1 goal and 3 assists.
Bears: Alexandre Giroux has been coming up big for the Bears in a big way. He’s now tallied 5 goals and 3 assists for 8 points in 4 games played. Keith Aucoin has put up 6 assists along the way.
While it's nice to see some of the 'main' fellas do what we expect them to do, but where is all the second-and-third line goals we saw so much during the season? Pass around the smelling salts, boys...
Young Guys coming up Clutch:
Caps: The man who needs no introduction, John Carlson. Not only has he been the best on the blue-line for the Caps – he scored the game tying goal to force overtime in Game 2 and had an assist in Game 1. He’s also done what he does best – play smart, physical defense without a trip to the penalty box.
Bears: Andrew Gordon. Wow. Two assists in game 2, Three goals in game 3, and the only goal scored by the Bears in Game 4. Gordon has shown he belongs on the top line with his 6 playoff points.
It's like a mom watching their kid win for the first time when I see the new-comers play to the level that you knew they could. Hopefully the American Hero and Gordy's confidence will be inflated from their great play, and continue to build on it throughout the remainder of the postseason.