If having young wunderkin Alexander Ovechkin exceed expectation wasn't enough, the Washington Capitals got some great news Wednesday night when their AHL affiliate Hershey Bears took out the Milwaukee Admirals in Game Six to win the Calder Cup for the 9th time in team history. This is the first year the Caps have had their prospects in Hershey and it seemed to pay dividens.
Young guns like Kris Beech, Eric Fehr, and Tomas Fleischmann were the main guys on the scoresheet for the Bears, while defenseman like Mike Green, Lawrence Nycholat, and Louis Robitaille held down the fort infront of Frederic Cassivi. Role players like Dave Steckel and Graham Mink helped out the younger players on the Bears, as the team atmosphere was alive and well. The Bears also had 14 players on the Game Six roster who had been up with the Capitals at one point in time during the season.
Full marks to the Admirals, though, who are the primary affiliate to the Nashville Predators. Goaltender Pekka Rinne, though shaky in Game Six, showed that he's ready for the big time next year and will get the chance with Chris Mason not getting re-signed. Darren Haydar and Simon Gamache led the way for scoring on the Admirals side, while youngsters Shea Weber and Kevin Kline led the way on the blue line.
The Bears tie the old Cleveland Barons (1936-72) win nine Calder Cup trophies to their name, with the Bears last one coming in 1997 while affiliated with the Philadelphia Flyers. Quite a difference three years make, however, as the Bears were out of the playoffs in '03-'04 and '04-'05 while affiliated with the Colorado Avalanche. Now, with the new young crop coming in from Washington, the Bears have plenty to build off of to continue the success.