Mathieu Perreault, Francois Bouchard and Chris Bourque celebrate.

One look at the dismantling of the Chicago Blackhawks and it becomes apparent that the life blood of any hockey organization is its youth. If you can bring in young players that provide value at reasonable prices you have the ability to succeed in the long term. In the case of the Hershey Bears, it allows the Caps to fill their team with players who know how to win and execute Bruce Boudreau’s system.

The challenge then becomes not only which players to promote, but which players should be dangled in a trade and which you can simply cut bait with. The underlying question in all of this is simply: Does the front office feel a certain prospect can make it in the NHL?

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Alexandre Giroux Signs 1-Way Deal With The Edmonton Oilers.

Alexandre Giroux scores a deal with Edmonton.

Alexandre Giroux holds the Calder Cup. (Photos by Kyle M.)

Alexandre Giroux holds the Calder Cup. (Photos by Kyle M.)

One of the greatest Bears of all-time has finally left for a legitimate shot to stick in the NHL. Bears first line Left Wing Alexandre Giroux signed a one-way NHL contract with the Edmonton Oilers early Saturday morning.

Per Mitch Beck of Howlings, Giroux had several good offers on the table and chose Edmonton because he gets to play in front of an old mentor:

The Quebec City native will be reunited with ex-Rangers coach Tom Renney. The left handed shooting Center played for Renney in the one game he got in with the Rangers back in 2005. In that game he played just three shifts and drew a key penalty on the second shift that led to a power play goal.

Giroux told Howlings, that he had other NHL options, including an offer from the New York Islanders. He also had a much more substantial $1.3mm offer from the KHL that he leaves on the table in order to complete his dream of being a regular NHL player. He does it with no regrets. “It was a lot of money and it was a hard decision, but I’m really excited to have this chance to make an NHL roster,” the recently turned 29-year old said. “Coach Renney is a great coach and the organization has such a great history. I’m looking forward to going there and giving it everything I’ve got to help the team become a contender once again and prove I belong there.”

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Keith Aucoin shoots while Aaron Gagnon surely does nothing meriting a penalty. (Chris Knight / The Patriot-News)

You gotta give the Bears this: they know drama.  Despite the Hershey offense being well tuned and on-target all throughout game five, the visitors could not gain a lead over the Stars.  By the end of regulation, the Bears had notched 37 shots, but all but one were summarily blocked by the excellent Stars netminder Matt Climie.  It took nearly fifteen minutes of extra hockey for Alexander Giroux to finally defeat the Stars defense and create Hershey’s first game-lead of the series.  The Bears beat the Stars 2-1 in overtime to put the series at 3-2, Hershey.

Don’t be mistaken by the low score; this was a 70+ minute exhibition of superb hockey.   The refs all but abandoned the concept of adjudicating hockey.  The two teams traded off in puck domination and net aggression.  Players dove to block shots with astounding frequency, and no player seemed to forget this is the finals– even when exhausted.   Michal Neuvirth, without a doubt, deserves tonight’s MVP nod for having rebuffed the Stars on perhaps a dozen excellent scoring chances.   John Carlson and Kyle Wilson, too, deserve applause for their precise defensive and shot output respectively.

But it was Alexandre Giroux, all but silenced before this play, who stepped up in overtime to score the game-winner. Roo pounced on a loose puck and swatted it in with a tenacity and alacrity that Climie could not match.  After blocking 41 shots, Climie was finally defeated the goalie by Alex’s force of will.  As John Walton would say, “Good morning, good evening, good night!”

The Bears are probably airborne right now, headed home to Hershey for the final one or two games of the series.  The Chocolate and White now have two chances to win the Calder Cup, and they seem more determined to do so than ever.

Clear your social calendar for Monday, June 14.

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Above: Chris Bourque skies in the air to keep the puck on his stick. Top: Bourque and Andrew Gordon celebrate the GWG. (Photos by Chris Knight, The Patriot-News)

Above: Chris Bourque skies in the air to keep the puck on his stick. Top: Bourque and Andrew Gordon celebrate the GWG. (Photos by Chris Knight, The Patriot-News)

After an absolutely dreadful start which saw the Bears take a 3-1 deficit into the first intermission, even the most optimistic of Bears fans would have thought that the chances of Hershey coming back in this series were slim. But Head Coach Mark French showed confidence in his players and made the necessary adjustments. He allowed Michal Neuvirth to return in net for the second period, despite witnessing last year’s playoff MVP flub a clearing attempt on a first-period powerplay. Neuvy’s whiff led to Texas’s second goal of the night, an unassisted short-handed goal by Francis Wathier. French then subtlety tinkered with his forward combinations promoting Chris Bourque to the top line and dropping the 2008-09 AHL MVP, Alexandre Giroux, to the second. It paid immediate dividends.

Hershey went on to score five unanswered goals, punctuated by two third period tallies by Andrew Gordon which included the eventual game-winning goal. The Hershey Bears win 6-3. The high-octane offense has returned!
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Domination in Denver: Caps beat Avs 6-1

There’s a Mike Green-shaped stain on the glass at Denver tonight.

The Capitals’ 6-1 domination over the Avalanches shouldn’t be reduced to a single nasty hit, but our journalistic spidey sense tells us that if it bleeds, it ledes. We’ve worried in the past that the team depends too much on Mike Green‘s ice presence, and perhaps other teams are starting to notice, too. In a moment of impotent rage, 240-pound David Koci smeared D-man Greenie into the glass. The poor man’s Chris Cooley did not get up for some time, and did not return to the ice. Russian Machine Never Breaks World Headquarters (located several stories beneath the Green Turtle in historic downtown Frederick) is outfitted with a dedicated, secure phone line for a situations just like this. As soon the Green phone rings, we’ll update you.

What else happened tonight? The Caps beat the living snow out of Colorado.

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