Hello, my friends, we meet again. It's been a while. Where should we begin? It feels like forever.
Well, OK, not forever, but it's been four years since the WBS Penguins and Hershey Bears met each other in the Calder Cup Playoffs, and the 7th time in WBS's 15 playoff appearances that they must go through The Franchise, the 11-time Calder Cup champions, on the path to the title they've never won. Let's take a look at the series.
|Wednesday, May 4||@ Hershey, 7:00 pm|
|Friday, May 6||@ Hershey, 7:00 pm|
|Saturday, May 7||@ WBS, 7:05 pm|
|Monday, May 9||@ WBS, 7:05 pm|
|Wednesday, May 11||@ Hershey, 7:00 pm|
|Friday, May 13||@ WBS, 7:05 pm|
|Sunday, May 15||@ Hershey, 5:00 pm|
|November 13||Hershey 0, WBS 7|
|November 28||Hershey 2, WBS 3|
|December 6||WBS 1, Hershey 4|
|December 26||WBS 0, Hershey 5|
|February 23||Hershey 4, WBS 1|
|March 5||WBS 2, Hershey 6|
|March 6||Hershey 4, WBS 5|
|March 19||Hershey 1, WBS 4|
|March 20||WBS 6, Hershey 5 (OT)|
|April 9||WBS 4, Hershey 3|
|April 10||Hershey 5, WBS 3|
|April 17||WBS 1, Hershey 2 (SO)|
|2001 Western Conference Final||WBS swept Hershey on the way to the Calder Cup final, where they would lose to the Saint John Flames in six games.|
|2006 Round 2||Hershey swept WBS on the way to the Calder Cup championship, the ninth in their history.|
|2007 Round 2||Hershey defeated WBS in five games, clinched by a 5 on 3 PP goal in overtime of Game 5 by Alexandre Giroux, the second 5 on 3 PP Hershey received in that OT alone. Hershey would make it to the final that year only to be defeated by the Hamilton Bulldogs in five games, led by that year's Calder Cup Playoffs MVP, current Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price.|
|2008 Round 1||WBS defeated Hershey in five games, capped off by a rare Dennis Bonvie goal with 15 seconds to go. That was the first step in a Calder Cup Finals run for the Penguins, who made it all the way to the league championship before falling to the Chicago Wolves in six games.|
|2009 Round 2||Hershey overcame WBS in seven games. All seven games in this series were won by the home team, punctuated by back-to-back 3-0 shutouts by Calder Cup Playoffs MVP Michal Neuvirth in Hershey to end the series. Hershey would go on to win the Calder Cup this year, the tenth in their history.|
|2012 Round 1||WBS defeated Hershey in five games. WBS would go on to lose in Round 2 to the St. John's IceCaps.|
The Penguins' power play received 11 chances in the Providence series, scoring two goals but allowing two shorthanded goals. The Penguins' penalty kill faced 10 opportunities and shut down 9 of them.
The Hershey power play received 20 chances in the Portland series, converting on two of them and allowing no shorthanded goals. The Hershey penalty kill faced 24 penalties and shut down 23 of them, allowing only one goal.
At the end of the day, it's still the Penguins and the Bears. When rivalry games such as these are played, none of the above matters. The key things to watch in this series are:
- How will WBS take the ice after 11 days of no games...sluggish, rusty, and slow, or like the well-oiled, ferocious machine I saw against Providence? There's only so much you can do to simulate game conditions in practice.
- Third periods will be huge in this series. WBS carried a lead into the third period in each of the three games against Providence, including a three-goal lead into the clinching Game 3, and lost each lead in the third, needing varying amounts of overtime to win each game. By contrast, Hershey carried leads into the third period in each of their last 3 games against Portland, conceding only one such lead in Game 3, which they lost in triple-OT. Hershey held its lead in Games 4 and 5 at home to clinch the series.
Justin Peters vs. the WBS Pens this season: 2-2-1, 3.45 goals-against average, .884 save percentage.— Seth Lakso (@CVSethLakso) May 1, 2016
- Pittsburgh vs. Washington: I would be remiss if I didn't address the elephant in the room, the fact that the NHL affiliates of WBS and Hershey are playing their Stanley Cup playoff series concurrently with their AHL affiliates. If Pittsburgh and Washington goes the distance, Game 7 would be played May 12, the day before a potential Game 6 between WBS and Hershey. It is very likely that the AHL series will stretch beyond the conclusion of the NHL series, so whichever affiliate sees their NHL parent club lose would be due for a significant infusion of players. For WBS, that could mean the addition of Matt Murray, Derrick Pouliot, Bryan Rust, and Conor Sheary for the end of the series if the Capitals win. It's less clear what the impact of a Pittsburgh win would mean for Hershey's roster, but Hershey has already survived a mid-series boost to their opponents once, as Florida's elimination from the Stanley Cup playoffs sent three players to the Portland Pirates for Games 3-5 of that series.
In their previous 14 playoff appearances, the Penguins won their first series in 13 of them. Of those 13 first series wins, WBS would go on to win their second series only five times. The second round has spelled the end of so many playoff runs for WBS over the years, with their title bids stopped by Hershey themselves three times. But on the heels of being about as wrong as I possibly could be with my first round prediction, and as a great band once said...