By Tim Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson
Week 17 is upon us for the Providence Bruins. They come into it with a record of 22-16-6-1 (51 points) and 7-1-1-1 in their last 10 meetings. That includes a nine-game point streak in which the Baby B’s are 7-0-1-1. This has catapulted them into fourth place in the Atlantic Division and sixth in the Eastern Conference. That spoked P is playing great hockey right now which is backed by the outstanding play of Karson Kuhlman and Zane McIntyre. They have another short weekend playing just two games for the second week in a row. I can assure though; these games are ones you will not want to miss.
The action kicks off on Friday, February 1, 2019, when the Providence Bruins travel down to Charlotte, North Carolina to take on the home team Eastern Conference-leading Checkers at Bojangles’ Coliseum. The weekend the wraps up on Saturday, February 2, 2019, with the Baby B’s staying in Charlotte to invade the Bojangles’ Coliseum once again to take on the Checkers for the second night in a row. It’ll be a tough test for the boys in black and gold, but I think they will be up for the challenge.
Friday, February 1, 2019, and Saturday, February 2, 2019, Providence Bruins vs. Charlotte Checkers (AWAY)
The weekend series will mark the six and seventh times these two teams have faced each other, and things haven’t gone the Providence club’s way. In the first installment of the season series, the Carolina Hurricanes’ affiliate beat the Baby B’s 4-3 with the Bruins getting goals from the now departed Jan Kovar, Trent Frederic, and Jordan Szwarz. Meanwhile, goalie, Dan Vladar had a rough night in net turning away 20 of the 24 shots he faced. The second meeting did not yield better results for our boys in black and gold as the Checkers won 3-2 with the Bruins getting goals from Peter Cehlarik and Ryan Fitzgerald while goalie, Zane McIntyre played valiantly stopping 17 of 20 shots in the loss.
The third match-up between the two clubs saw the spoked P finally break through winning 2-1. They got goals from Peter Cehlarik and Jordan Szwarz. Zane McIntyre was superb in net turning away 25 of the 26 shots that were fired his way. More recently the Baby B’s fell in OT to Charlotte 3-2 getting goals from Jordan Szwarz and Trent Frederic. Zane McIntyre was great in net again, turning away 44 of the 47 shots he faced, and he pitched in with the rare goalie assist. The last meeting between the two clubs saw the spoked P beat the Hurricanes’ affiliate 5-3 with the Bruins getting goals from Trent Frederic (2), Gemel Smith, Paul Carey, and Karson Kuhlman. Zane McIntyre was very good in net turning away 24 of the 27 shots he faced.
The Charlotte Checkers come into the weekend 31-11-4 (66 points) and 6-3-1 in their last 10 games. This is good for first place in the Atlantic Division as well as first place in the Eastern Conference. The Checkers moved to Charlotte in 2010 from Albany, NY where they were the River Rats. Since making North Carolina their home, the Hurricanes’ affiliate has a record of 5-3-0-1 against our Bruins including a 3-0-0-1 record at the Biscuit. It should be a big test for the Baby B’s who have played extremely well recently. Their nine-game point streak has seen them jump into a playoff spot. These games could measure how far the Providence club has come since the start of the season.
There are a few major keys to the games this weekend that we should keep a lookout for. First, as with most match-ups, special teams are going to be key. The Providence Bruins boast the fifth best power play unit in the Eastern Conference with 20.7%. On top of that, they have the second-best penalty kill unit in the Eastern Conference at 86.6%. The Checkers, on the other hand, have the 13th best power play unit in the Eastern Conference at 17.6% and the third-ranked penalty kill at 84.2%. Another key is going to be which team is going to be able to out-shoot the other. The Baby B’s are 15-11-3-1 when they out-shoot their opponent and Charlotte is 15-7-3.
Who’s hot and Who’s not for the Bruins
Zach Senyshyn: Senyshyn has had an up and down season. He’s been streaky ever since coming to Providence from the OHL. Recently though, he’s played a lot better and has really been able to show his speed and play-making ability. Over his past four games, he has netted two goals while dishing out two assists for four points. Overall on the season, he has stats of 13-7-20 in 40 games played. This is a point per game average of 0.50 which is down from his OHL career of 0.91 (114-63-177 in 195 games played), but it is up from his career AHL total of 0.43 (25-21-46 in 106 games played).
Gemel Smith: Smith was acquired by Boston and sent down to Providence back in December. Since then he has been excellent for the Baby B’s. He has played in 17 games and netted eight goals while dishing out 8 assists. That’s 16 points in 17 games for a point per game total of 0.94. This includes two goals and two assists in his last four games. The young forward’s point per game total is closer to his OHL playing days of 0.77 (89-114-203 in 264 games) than it is to his AHL career of 0.50 (43-59-102 in 203 games played)
Austin Fyten: Fyten has skated into a bit of a cold spell recently. The gritty forward has not registered a point since January 5, 2019. So far on the year, the WHL product has netted three goals while dishing out six assists for nine total points in 40 games. This is a point per game total of 0.22. This is much lower than his WHL days of 0.63 (55-67-122 in 193 games played). It’s also much lower than his ECHL days of 0.72 (32-45-77 in 107 games played). Hopefully, the veteran forward can pick up his play and find himself in the hot category sometime soon.
Dan Vladar: The young goalie has had an up and down season for Providence. He seems to be a streaky goalie who is on a cold streak right now. In his last five games, he has a record of 1-2-2. In the time frame, he has turned away 123 of the 140 shots he faced for a .878 save percentage and goals against average of 3.33. With Zane McIntyre up in Boston because of injury, the Baby B’s may need to rely on Vladar to find his game for the near future.
My players to watch for the Bruins
Paul Carey: Carey has had an excellent season in the AHL this year. He was acquired from Ottawa on January 12, 2019, and the former Boston College Eagle and two-time NCAA Champion has not disappointed. In seven games with the Baby B’s the veteran forward has netted five goals and dished out three assists for eight total points. He has been especially good against the Charlotte Checkers this year. He has played in five games against them this season. The first four were for the Ottawa Senators’ affiliate, Belleville. In those five games, he has netted two goals and dished out three assists for five points. This includes one goal and one assist for Providence their last meeting with Charlotte. Look for him to have a big weekend.
On the Blue Line
Jakub Zboril: Zboril has had a pretty good season for Providence thus far. He has stats of 3-8-11 on the year while playing good defense. In the team’s last game against Springfield, he dished out two assists getting on the score sheet for the first time January 6,2019. That game against the Thunderbirds is the type of game that can catapult players into a hot streak. I have a feeling with how Zboril has played this season for the Baby B’s that it will do just that. Look for him to have a big weekend.
Dan Vladar: With Zane McIntyre in Boston on an emergency basis because of a Tuukka Rask concussion we may see Vladar in both games this weekend. As stated earlier his last five games have not been pretty going 1-2-2 with a .878 save percentage and 3.33 goals against average. If these Bruins want to continue their point streak, Vladar is going to have to find his game and play well against Charlotte. Luckily this year, the young goalie has been better on the road than at home.
The Providence Bruins have a tough task ahead of them this weekend playing the Eastern Conference-leading Charlotte Checkers in back to back games on the road. It will be a chance for the team and our fans to see where the Baby B’s truly are in terms of being contenders for the Calder Cup. I think if the boys in black and gold can come out of the weekend with at least one win then it will bode well for their chances moving forward. We will catch up with you next week to let you know how the team fared but feel free to send any questions or comments to me on Twitter. I hope everyone enjoys the games this weekend and Go, B’s, Go!