The Hershey Bears are being talked about as possibly the best team in the history of the AHL, and they would know: They've been in the AHL since 1938. They have the most AHL Championships in league history (10) and the most Finals appearances in league history (22). They scored 104 MORE goals than the Texas Stars did this season. They set a record with 60 wins. They are elite in every sense of the word (Their players are property of the Washington Capitals) and they will put their formidable talents to work on our Texas Stars tonight when game 1 gets cranking at 6:00pm CDT.
The Stars are not without their own impressive accomplishments this year. They beat the two best teams in the Western Division. They won two consecutive game 7's on the road, a feat not to be scoffed at in any level of professional competition, and they came back from an 0-2 hole to win their series against Hamilton. All in their first year of existence.
Texas will once again rely heavily on two guys to push them onward: Their goaltender, and their NHL rookie sensation Jamie Benn.
The goaltender will be Matt Climie until further notice. Brent Krahn, injured in the second round, is skating but will not backup Climie in game 1 tonight. Both goaltenders are capable and accustomed to the Stars style this year, which frankly is to be grossly out shot more often than not. They've also surrendered the first goal of the game in 10 straight contests.
Jamie Benn, meanwhile, with one more goal can set the AHL record for playoff goals by a rookie at 15. Teams have been obviously focused on Jamie all playoff long and have been unable to slow him down. He has thus far appeared to be on a completely different level than everyone else on the ice. If there's one team against whom that will not be true, it could be Hershey. His effectiveness got the Stars this far and it will likely determine how competitive they can be in the Finals. Jamie likes to play with the puck, and the more he has it, the better of they'll be against a far superior offense.
Let's not mince words here: The odds are stacked very high against them here. They've done remarkably well to make it this far and have provided Cedar Park (as well as the Dallas Stars) with an inaugural season that greatly exceeded everyone's expectations. They're playing with house money, and there's no shame in losing to what might be one of the most dominant AHL teams in the league's history.
But still....why not go just a little bit further? Please?
Check out Hundred Degree Hockey as always for complete coverage of the Texas Stars.
The Morning News has a good piece on Benn.
Here's a good preview of the series by a Hershey blog.
We'll have a GDT tonight for those who want to follow along, or are watching on theahl.com or listening to the free radio broadcast (also found at theahl.com). The league pursued television options, but were unable to find any takers.