This past week saw the Hershey Bears suit up against the Texas Stars for the first two games of the AHL's Calder Cup finals at Giant Center, and walk away with nothing to show for it. Both losses in Chocolatetown were decided by 1 goal (Thursday’s final score was 2-1, Saturday’s was 4-3), and were riddled with penalties and poor play. As Washington Capitals fans can agree - after watching a team fly through the regular season breaking record after record, it’s difficult to watch them struggle so excessively in the finals.
Tonight the Bears kick-off a (hopefully) three game stint in Texas with the hopes of winning enough to turn it around. So what do they need to do to turn things around?
For starters, they could take a page out of Ed Frankovic’s blog, and raise their “Hockey IQ.”
The Bears need to realize that the style of play they got away with all year, will not work against Texas. It barely worked against Manchester. “Cute” moves and passes through the slot simply do not work against a team that clogs the middle. Maybe they should just ask the Caps how that worked out in Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs this past spring.
The bright side here is that the Bears showed glimpses of understanding on Saturday night. There were times when they worked hard along the boards, cycled the puck with crisp passes, and created space to get the puck to the crease. Now the question is – can they do it for an entire 60 minutes? And if they can do it that long, can they actually turn this series around? One thing is for sure, this team knows how to come from behind. They’ve been doing it for the majority of the 2010 playoffs. I’m just hoping they can do it on a much larger scale. It’s one thing to come back from being down two goals – it’s another to come back from being down two games.
Despite the hole they’ve dug themselves in, I’m still planning on heading to Texas on Thursday to attend Game 5 on Friday night. I’m still assuming that there will be one. Maybe it’s stupid optimism, or maybe it’s the fact that I can’t believe that this team is going to roll over and take it in the finals. If Jay Beagle, Andrew Gordon, and Steve Pinizzotto can convince the rest of the Bears to follow their lead and put as much effort and heart into this series as they have, there will be a Game 5, and maybe a Game 6. If the Hershey veterans aren’t going to change their style and continue to try to force things that clearly don’t work, bench them (ahem: Giroux, cough, Kane, cough). The clear day roster is long and deep, and I’d rather lose with fresh meat in the line-up learning the game and gaining experience than with vets who refuse to do what is asked of them.
So come on! Be sure to tune in tonight to help cheer the Bears on to victory. Caps fans can get the games this week on CSN – Monday, Wednesday, & Friday at 8:30 our time. As a bonus, you get to hear John Walton (the Bears’ radio guy) do the play by play- and he’s awesome! Lets go Bears!