Over the offseason the Hershey Bears saw several key veterans sign elsewhere, such as future AHL Hall of Famer Keith Aucoin, 2011-12 AHL leading scorer Chris Bourque, and fan-favorite enforcer Joel Rechlicz. The team also had to deal with a peculiar problem due to the lockout: two head coaches, Mark French and new Caps bench boss Adam Oates. Capitals general manager George McPhee mandated that Hershey learn Oates’ new system, so that the organization’s minor league players could be used to it by the time NHL games started being played. All this change has seen the team scuffle to a .500 record through 34 games this season (16-16-1-1).
But now things are starting to look up. Before it was announced that the lockout had been lifted, Hershey had been getting its best goaltending of the year from Braden Holtby, who was recently named AHL player of the month for December. Stan Galiev, who had been struggling with his transition from junior hockey, is starting to look more comfortable on the ice and more worthy of his #29 prospect ranking from Hockey Prospectus. The organization also has a surplus of quality goaltenders in the ECHL knocking at the door of the AHL: Philipp Grubauer and 2012 seventh-round pick Sergey Kostenko.
On Saturday, after the Bears’ 3-1 loss to the Binghamton Senators, I asked French if this is the best he’s seen Braden Holtby play, if the sky is the limit for Riley Barber, and if Caps fans should be worried about Galiev’s early season struggles.
On December 6th, the Verizon Center hosted the AHL Showcase between the Hershey Bears and Norfolk Admirals. Due to the lockout, it was the first hockey game played in Washington since May 9th, when two current Bears were playing with the Capitals: Braden Holtby and Dmitry Orlov.
The Hershey Bears have long been considered one of the elite teams of the American Hockey League. The Bears have won eleven Calder Cups and had eleven of its coaches and players inducted into the NHL or AHL halls of fame. With its rich history and fantastic arena, the Bears have routinely churned out top prospects and cultivated a huge following, leading the AHL in attendance for the past six seasons. But how do they compare to the rest of the world?
While Dmitry Orlov is a defenseman who is known more for his offensive instincts, the 21-year-old Russian sure loves to hit too. Last season he crushed Blake Wheeler, Steve Downie, and Lars Eller all with devastating hip checks. And during Hershey’s second game of the season this year, he flipped a dude head over heels. Last night, during Teddy Bear Toss night at Giant Center, Orlov — apparently jealous of the fans — attempted to toss something over the boards too: Norfolk’s Jay Rosehill.
The lockout is miserable, but at least we get NHL stars participating in silly AHL promotions. Check out Braden Holtby (front row, second to the left) and Dmitry Orlov (back row, dude wearing the hardhat) doing their best to raise money for the American Cancer Society by showing off new pink t-shirts and sticks. The “Pink The Rink” shirts will be available for purchase at the Bears game on Sunday behind section 117, and the pink sticks they use during warm-ups will be up for silent auction behind section 119.
That’s great and all, but where can I buy that hard-hat Dima’s wearing?
Whatever you think of Bruce Boudreau, he will forever be a part of DC hockey lore. He transformed the Washington Capitals into contenders, won the Jack Adams his first year behind the bench, and he invigorated a languid fan base. He had stories; amazing hockey stories. After talking with Caps radio man John Walton, I’m ready to share one of Bruce’s most legendary moments.
The team ran into post-holiday traffic, pushing their arrival time back a few hours. When the Bears finally arrived at the Arena at Harbor Yard, they had just 20 minutes before warm-ups. As each player grabbed his gear off the bus, they ran to the locker room. Boudreau, who always preferred the comfort of his track-suit on the bus, grabbed his only companion, a suit bag, and headed inside to the visiting team’s coaches’ office along with assistant Bob Woods and general manager Doug Yingst.
November 1st marks the first day of Movember, an event where men across the globe grow mustaches to raise money to fight prostate cancer. Hockey players have been among the most avid supporters of the charity, raising thousands for research and awareness.