PRE-GAME: IceCaps at Bears – 10/31

Happy Halloween everyone!

While I sit here in the booth and jot down some notes on tonight’s matchup between the Bears and St. John’s IceCaps, I’m just baffled as to how the last two weekends have gone.  A trip to Utica, a return at 3:30 am last Saturday, and then the home opener.  Last night, a trip to Syracuse, a return at 2:00 am, and a game tonight against the early North Division leaders.

WHY couldn’t those two games be on back-to-back nights – two towns separated by 40 minutes??

Eh… that’s why I do what I do, I guess!!

Anyway, no time to dwell on last night.  I’ve been asked by four different people since I took my seat here: “why are they playing so badly?” or “didn’t they play at all last night?”.

Case #1: the team is NOT playing badly.  The group IS trying to find a team identity, and over the last four games, coach Mann has moved players around to find just that right combination.

Case #2: the team DID play last night.  First period? As dominant a period as I’ve seen in years.  No shots for Syracuse until halfway through, and the only thing that gave them any life at all was a late-period power play – on which Dan Ellis was tremendous and the defense in front of him was in prime position.

What happened last night – and, in some cases, the weekend in Portland – boiled down to one thing: clears.  The Bears did not get good clears from their own zone last night.  And as Mann likes to say, “once you prevent a clear once, you’ve got momentum on your side and you’ll do it again and again.”  That happened to the Bears more and more as the game went on.  The ultimate results?  Turnovers.  And those turnovers happened at the wrong time, and ended up in the back of the Bears’ net.

Tonight, you have a group of developing Montreal Canadiens in here with points in eight of the ten games they have played.  You have a group that plays a bit differently than we have seen in recent weeks – not as aggressive, a bit more passive.  The IceCaps give up the blue line a little bit more, resulting in more shots allowed (to the tune of over 32 per game average, sixth from the bottom in the AHL).  But they rely on strong goaltending (Zach Fucale is 4-0-0 and will play tonight) and get points from just about everywhere.

Pre-game airs in 15 minutes.  Click here for tonight’s notes.  Intern Matt has in-game updates tonight.