By Tim Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson
The Providence Bruins come into the weekend 24-16-6-1 (55 points) and 8-0-1-1 in their last 10 games this is good for third in the Atlantic Division and fifth in the Eastern Conference. The Baby B’s are currently riding an 11-game point streak which has seen them go 9-0-1-1. This has catapulted them from near the bottom of the conference to right in the thick of things in the playoff picture. This weekend proves to be another tough test for our boys in black and gold. They have three games this weekend, and the two teams they play against are both ahead of them in the Eastern Conference standings.
The weekend action all starts on Friday, February 8, 2019, with a return home when the Bridgeport Sound Tigers invade the Dunk. The weekend continues Saturday, February 9, 2019, when the Bruins return the favor traveling to Bridgeport, Connecticut to take on the home team Sound Tigers at the Webster Bank Arena. Finally, the exciting weekend wraps up with some more home cooking as the Syracuse Crunch make their first trip to the Dunkin Donuts Center on Sunday, February 10, 2019. These are going to be three games you do not want to miss.
Friday, February 8, 2019 (HOME) and Saturday, February 9, 2019 (AWAY) Providence Bruins vs. Bridgeport Sound Tigers
The weekend home and home series will mark the either and ninth time that these two teams have met, and all the games have been closely contested games with five of the seven games going to overtime or shoot-out. The first game of the season series saw the Sound Tigers beat the Bruins 4-3 in overtime with the spoked P getting goals from the recently departed Colby Cave (2), and Jakub Zboril with goalie Dan Vladar playing well turning away 30 of 34 shots he faced. The next meeting saw the Providence club win 5-2 getting goals from Cameron Hughes, Colby Cave, Trent Frederic (2), and the now departed Jan Kovar. Goalie Zane McIntyre looked good in net stopping 25 of the 27 shots he faced.
The third meeting between the two clubs saw Providence breakout offensively winning 6-1 getting goals from Cameron Hughes (3), Zach Senyshyn (2), and Trent Frederic. In net, Dan Vladar was superb stopping 28 of the 29 shots fired his way. The next three meetings the Eastern Conference foes would play ended up going to overtime. The first of those ended up going the Sound Tigers’ way 5-4 with the Bruins getting goals from Jan Kovar, Anton Blidh, Jakub Zboril, and Ryan Donato. Zane McIntyre was in net for the contest, and he was a little off his game stopping 20 of the 25 shots that were fired his way.
The next meeting between the two teams had the puck bounce the Bruins way as they won 2-1 in overtime getting goals from Wiley Sherman, and Ryan Fitzgerald (OT). Goalie Dan Vladar was excellent in net stopping 29 of the 30 shots he faced. The sixth game of the season series saw the Baby B’s fell in overtime 4-3 getting goals from Anton Blidh, Peter Cehlarik, and Kyle Cumiskey with goalie Dan Vladar stopping 13 of 17 shots he faced. Most recently, the Bruins fell 4-3 in a shoot-out getting goals from Jordan Szwarz, Mark McNeill, and Zach Senyshyn while goalie Dan Vladar stopped 12 of the 15 shots that came his way. It’s been a crazy season series thus far, and I would look for it to continue that way.
The Bridgeport Sound Tigers come into the game 26-17-4-2 (58 points) and 4-6 in their last 10 games. This is good for second in the Atlantic Division and third in the Eastern Conference. Our boys in black and gold have had an up and down season against the Islanders’ affiliate this year going 3-0-3-1. However, over the past five years, the Baby B’s have seen success against the Bridgeport club going 23-16-5-3. This bodes well for the weekend series despite having more success at home than on the road. Major keys to this game will be special teams and getting a keeping a lead early.
The Sound Tigers have the eighth-ranked power play in the Atlantic Division, and 13th ranked in the Eastern Conference at 17.4%. Meanwhile, the Islanders’ affiliate has the fifth-ranked penalty kill in the Atlantic Division, and ninth-ranked in the Eastern Conference at 81.0% On the flip-side the Providence Bruins boast the second-best power play in the Atlantic Division and the fifth-best in the Eastern Conference at 20.1%. Their penalty kill is even stronger ranked second-best in the Atlantic Division as well as second-best in the Eastern Conference at 86.6%. In terms of grabbing an early lead and keeping it, the Sound Tigers are 13-3-2-1 when leading after the first period and 13-2-3-2 when leading after two. The Baby B’s are 11-5-2 when leading after one, and 18-3-2-1 when leading after two. It should be a closely contested home and home series with the two clubs.
Sunday, February 10, 2019, Providence Bruins vs. Syracuse Crunch (HOME)
The Sunday afternoon contest marks the first time these two teams have played each other this season. The Crunch come into the game 28-13-2-1 (59 points) and 7-2-0-1 in their last 10 games. This is good for second in the North Division and fourth in the Eastern Conference. Over the past five seasons, the two teams have not played each other much because they are in different divisions, but the Bruins have a record of 1-3 against the Crunch in that time frame. Something that does bode well is that they are 1-1 at home in that time frame. Also, the Lightning affiliate is 10-8-2 on the road this season which is much worse than their home record of 17-5-0-1.
The Syracuse Crunch score a lot of goals. It is going to take a total team effort defensively to keep them off the score-sheet, and team defense is going to be a major key for the Bruins if they want to win. Despite only playing 44 games the Tampa Bay affiliate has scored 166 goals. That’s an eye-popping 3.77 goals a game. Luckily, for the Baby B’s they boast one of the best defenses in the Eastern Conference giving up 132 goals in 47 games played which is 2.80 goals a game. Another reason why I said it would take team defense to beat the Crunch is that you can’t stop just one guy or even one line from scoring and be okay. They have nine players with a point per game total of at least 0.71 and six of those players have at least 30 points on the year. It should be an exciting game from the Dunk.
Who’s hot and Who’s not for the Bruins
Ryan Donato: Donato was sent down to Providence early last week before the team’s two games against Charlotte. The young winger promptly scored a goal and got an assist in his first game back. The former Harvard University forward has registered a point in six of his last nine games with Providence with stats of 6-4-10. He did have a stint in Boston mixed in there but has been excellent for the Baby B’s when with the club. In 12 games he has netted six goals and dished out five assists. That is a point per game total of 0.92 which is very close to his NCAA days of 1.07 (60-44-104 in 97 games played).
Paul Carey: The veteran forward has been excellent for the Providence Bruins since being acquired from the Senators in mid-January. Over his last five games he has netted four goals and tallied two assists, and in nine games with the Baby B’s he has a point per game total of 1.00 (5-4-9). Overall on the season the former Boston College Eagle and two-time NCAA champion has a point per game total of 0.93 (5-22-27 in 29 games). This is significantly better than his college days of 0.59 (45-41-86 in 147 games played).
Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson: The young forward was also sent down to Providence at the same time Ryan Donato was early last week. The former Boston University Terrier did register an assist in his second game back in the AHL but has not registered a goal in his last nine games with the Baby B’s and has only dished out three assists in that time frame. Forsbacka Karlsson was someone who the Bruins had hoped would take a big step forward this year, and thus far it’s been less than inspiring. On the year he has a point per game total of 0.41 (1-4-5 in 12 games). This is much less than his NCAA days of 0.81 (24-39-63 in 78 games played).
Jordan Szwarz: The Bruins’ Captain hasn’t registered a goal since January 19, 2019. That is a five-game goal-less streak. He has dished out three assists in that time frame, but the Baby B’s need him to start scoring more goals if they want to continue their hot streak. On the year the OHL product has a point per game total of 0.60 (14-10-24 in 40 games played). This is higher than his AHL career of 0.59 (104-134-238 in 404 games played) but is lower than his OHL days of 0.78 (82-122-204 in 262 games played).
My players to watch this weekend
Cameron Hughes: Hughes has had a good first full season thus far for Providence. The former University of Wisconsin Captain has a point per game total of 0.55 (11-15-26 in 47 games played) and has been especially good against Bridgeport this season. In seven games against the Islanders’ affiliate, the young forward has potted four goals while dishing out three assists for seven total points. That means a little more than a quarter of his point total has come against the Sound Tigers. Look for him to have a big weekend.
On the Blue Line
Kyle Cumiskey: The veteran defenseman has played well for the Baby B’s this season. Cumiskey has a point per game total of 0.56 (3-11-14 in 25 games). This is up from his career AHL total of 0.48 (25-95-120 in 250 games played). On top of that, the WHL product has been especially good against Bridgeport this season in three games played he netted one goal and dished out three assists for four total points. This means he too has scored a little more than a quarter of his points against the Sound Tigers this season. I think he has a big weekend in store.
Zane McIntyre: Zane has been one of the biggest reasons the Providence Bruins are on an 11-game point streak. Over his last nine games played he has a record of 9-0-0 while turning away 189 of the 207 shots that he has faced for a save percentage of .913 and goals against average of 1.96. The veteran goaltender has solidified the back-end of the defense. Look for him to have another big weekend for the boys in black and gold.
A few weeks ago, in one of these previews, I mentioned that this Providence team was too good to not be in a playoff spot. Since then the boys in black and gold have proved my point. There are many young, exciting prospects on the verge of being ready to make an impact in Boston. Despite that, they have a tough weekend ahead. Both teams they will be playing are above them in the Eastern Conference standings. A big weekend could change. We could see the Baby B’s climb to fourth in the division. Who would’ve thought that 11 games ago that when they started this crazy streak, we’d be saying that? I believed in the team, but I wouldn’t have guessed a streak like this was possible. I hope they can continue it this weekend. 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!