The Calder Cup Playoffs are finally here and the Hershey Bears Hockey Club for the eighth consecutive year will participate in the postseason dance. Beginning on April 26th, the Bears will kick off the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs with a first round, best of five series in Providence, Rhode Island.
Providence finished with the top record in the American Hockey League, capped a 50 win season and ended the campaign on nine game winning streak. Since hosting the annual AHL All-Star Classic in late January, the entire Bruins roster soon became stars of the league.
Welcome to a special edition of the Eastern Conference Playoff Picture. For the past seven weeks, we have tracked the Hershey Bears’ position in the conference standings and where they stack against fellow Eastern foes. Now with only three games remaining in the 2012-13 regular season, the Bears have their backs against the wall as they look to snatch a playoff seed.
We are only two weeks away from the checkered flag for the 2012-13 regular season with only a half dozen games remaining for the Hershey Bears. In previous weeks we have glanced at the overall division and monitored the play of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, Syracuse Crunch, Binghamton Senators and Norfolk Admirals. But with Hershey and Norfolk now tied for the final playoff spot, in this week’s edition of Monday’s Eastern Conference Playoff Picture we will break down just those two teams and their remaining schedules.
Welcome back to yet another addition of Monday’s Eastern Conference Playoff Picture as the 2012-13 season continues to whine down.
The Hershey Bears were able to peacefully celebrate Easter Sunday a night following a thrilling 3-2 win over the league’s top Providence Bruins. The win Saturday was a team milestone, as it was the first victory of the season when trailing after 40 minutes. Two third period goals by Nicolas Deschamps and Ryan Potulny broke the 0-20-0-2 streak.
Saturday’s contest against the P-Bruins suddenly turned into a must-win playoff-like game after a tough 5-3 loss to the Albany Devils. Philipp Grubauer continued his personal against the Devils, yielding three goals on only the first seven shots he faced. Dany Sabourin entered the game in relief and was handed an undeserving loss. He gave up just one goal, the game-winner only 93 seconds into the third period to Joe Whitney.
The Bears escape back-to-back weekends with a .500 record intact and soul possession of the Eastern Conference 8th seed. However with a great weekend by the surging Norfolk Admirals, they still remain a lone two points out from Hershey.
Here’s a look at the Eastern Conference Top 10:
First off, I would like to thank the American Hockey League web site for providing their own line that separates the 8th and 9th seed. You can see there is a four point spread between the Hershey Bears and the Manchester Monarchs, but keep in mind there are still two more meetings remaining this season among those two teams.
The Bears and Admirals will not meet again for the rest of the regular season. Tuesday, April 2, the Norfolk Admirals battle the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. That is a game where Bears fans might consider, and probably should be cheering for the Pens.
East Division Recap:
The Syracuse Crunch traveled to Norfolk, Virginia to face the Admirals win back-to-back tilts Friday and Saturday. In need of just one win to clinch the league’s first playoff spot, Syracuse lost both games by a 5-4 shootout decision, and a 2-0 shutout. The Crunch’s magic number remains at just two.
The Binghamton Senators also have their eyes set on another playoff run after hoisting Calder in 2011. Similar to Syracuse their magic number hangs at two, and are one win away from officially punching a ticket to the postseason.The B-Sens earned three points out of four on the weekend with a 5-2 victory Friday over the Adirondack Phantoms and a 3-2 skills competition defeat to Wilkes-Barre.
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins also received three out of four points on the weekend, but did so by losing Friday and bouncing back Saturday. The result of both matches were found in a shootout. Friday, W-B/S kicked the door open on their weekend against Providence. A packed Mohegan Sun Arena crowd watched former Bear Christian Hanson tie the game at 2-2 only 4:58 into the third period. Hanson later scored the game-winning shootout goal in round eight to deny Wilkes-Barre of 36th win.
The Penguins rebounded the next night with a 3-2 shootout win over their closest geographical rival and fellow East Division opponent, the Binghamton Senators.
Lastly the Norfolk Admirals were the only East Division team to cap a perfect weekend. They came back from a 4-1 deficit Friday to beat the Syracuse Crunch 5-4 in extra time, and beat Syracuse the next night by a 2-0 count. Whether or not Norfolk makes the postseason rests in the fate of the out of town scoreboard. They will constantly be looking for Hershey, Wilkes-Barre and even Connecticut losses to sneak into a Top 8 seating.
The Admirals also have games remaining against W-B/S Penguins, Binghamton Senators, Worcester Sharks, Providence Bruins, Syracuse Crunch and Albany Devils.
Games Remaining: 9
Syracuse Crunch- April 5, April 6
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins- April 7
Providence Bruins- April 12
Manchester Monarchs- April 13, April 21
Portland Pirates- April 14
Adirondack Phantoms- April 19
Binghamton Senators- April 20
Following a three game in three night New England road trip, the Hershey Bears acquired 3-of-6 possible standings points. Whether the glass is half full or half empty is for the fan to decide when reminiscing this past weekend. Friday the Bears jump started their weekend with a 3-2 shootout defeat against the Connecticut Whale. One of the most entertaining, end-to-end games of the season went in the Whale favor as Kris Newbury scored the skills competition’s only goal to silence Hershey.
Another week of Hershey Bears hockey is in the record books as we are now only 35 days away from the finish line. Following last weekend’s disaster, it is no surprise the Bears entered Saturday and Sunday in desperation mode. The most valuable player over the weekend for Hershey is hands-down Philipp Grubauer.
With three Bears defensemen currently enjoying life in the National Hockey League, Thursday the organization looked to bring in a helping hand to Chocolate Town.
What separates the American Hockey League uniquely from the NHL is the gruesome three games in three night stretches. As the regular season has progressed, we have learned a team’s spot in the standings can dramatically change in just a brief 72 hour period.
Welcome to the second edition of Monday’s Eastern Conference Playoff Look in. Seven weeks from today, the banner on top of the Hershey Bears web site will likely either say “Thank you fans”, or will be promoting an upcoming playoff series.
Sunday the Bears capped off their most impressive weekend this entire season. On Friday Hershey rode I-81 and payed visit to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Following a hot start leading to three goals in the game’s first ten minutes, the Bears held off a Penguins’ late game comeback attempt to secure a 3-2 road win.
Playoffs. It’s often a word coaches hate using unless absolutely necessary, and a word fans begin using in training camp every season. It is a word Hershey Bears fans have grown accustomed to using at this juncture of the season, and teams like the Adirondack Phantoms dream of using. Exactly eight weeks from today marks the day after the regular season for the Hershey Bears. Eight weeks from today it will either be locker clean out day at Giant Center, or day one of practice in preparation for the Calder Cup Playoffs.
Since the beginning of the Bears-Capitals affiliation in the 2005-06 season, the Bears are yet to miss out on the playoffs. Eight weeks from now, we will know if the playoff streak has been extended to eight consecutive years, or end at seven. Within the last seven years, Hershey has added three Calder Cup Championships, appeared in the finals four times, and have been knocked out in the first round on three occasions.
Each Monday until the end of the regular season, we will break down the standings in each division of the Eastern Conference and look at the conference’s current top 10 teams. Once the regular season concludes, the top eight will advance to represent the Eastern Conference in the postseason.