The Hershey Bears and Manitoba Moose will meet for the chance to win the Calder Cup. Both teams finished first and second in the league during the regular season, so it’s only fitting they play for the Calder Cup. Here’s a preview of the Calder Cup finals.
CALDER CUP FINALS
Manitoba Moose vs. Hershey Bears
Manitoba’s Playoff Record: 12-4
Hershey’s Playoff Record: 12-4
Series Preview: It just seems right to have the two best teams during the regular season and the postseason in the finals. Manitoba led the league during the regular season with 107 points, while Hershey finished the season with 106 points. Hershey had a chance to finish with 108 points, but lost their final regular season game, giving the Moose home ice advantage in this series, which could very well be critical. To get to the finals, the Moose needed six games to get past the Toronto Marlies in the division semifinals, then swept the Grand Rapids Griffins in the division finals, and ousted the Houston Aeros in six games in the conference finals. The Hershey Bears swept the Philadelphia Phantoms in the division semifinals, then needed seven games against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the division finals, and sent the Providence Bruins home in five games in the conference finals.
This series is going to feature relative newbie’s in net. Hershey’s Michal Neuvirth is a rookie, and Manitoba’s Cory Schneider is only in his second season. Regardless of the length of their experience, both goaltenders have shown this postseason that they can play with the best. Neuvirth ranks third in the league with a 2.03 goals against average, while Schneider ranks fourth with a 2.04 goals against average. Neuvirth has a .929 save%, while Schneider is at .924%. Neuvirth leads the league with three shutouts during the postseason, while Schneider has yet to record a shutout.
Both teams are virtually equal when it comes to offense and defense. The Bears and Moose have scored the same amount of goals, 52, in the same amount of games, 16. Alexandre Giroux ranks second in the league with 20 postseason points. Chris Bourque ranks fourth with 18 points. The Bears will need to get a few players involved in the offense to take the pressure off the top line. Kyle Wilson has under achieved thus far in the playoffs, and Oskar Osala and Francois Bouchard (when playing) need to pick up their game. Manitoba is being led by Jason Krog, who won the Calder Cup last season with Chicago, with 18 points. Jason Jaffray is having a great postseason with 17 points thus far. When it comes to defense, it’s hard to pick which team has the edge. The Bears have allowed 35 goals and the Moose have allowed 33.
The edge in special teams would have to go to the Moose. Manitoba has the third best penalty kill team at 87.3%. Through the first round, Hershey was the best penalty killing team, but has fallen from first to 12th in the league at 78.4 %. Hershey might have the edge on the power play, but not by much. Hershey has scored 19 power play goals for 20.9%, while the Moose have scored 15 power play goals for 19%.
The Eastern Conference might as well be renamed the Pennsylvania Conference. For the sixth straight year, the Eastern Conference champion has come from the state of Pennsylvania, with Hershey being the last team to win the Calder Cup in 2006.
Game 1: Saturday, May 30 – Hershey at Manitoba, 8:30 pm
Game 2: Tuesday, June 2 – Hershey at Manitoba, 8:30 pm
Game 3: Saturday, June 6 – Manitoba at Hershey, 7:00 pm
Game 4: Sunday, June 7 – Manitoba at Hershey, 5:00 pm
*Game 5: Tuesday, June 9 – Manitoba at Hershey, 7:00 pm
*Game 6: Friday, June 12 – Hershey at Manitoba, 8:30 pm
*Game 7: Sunday, June 14 – Hershey at Manitoba, 8:30 pm
* – if necessary
Prediction: Hershey in six