By Tim Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson
Week 19 of the Providence Bruins season is upon us, and our favorite AHL team has a jam-packed weekend ahead. The spoked P comes into the game 26-17-6-1 (59 points) and 8-1-0-1 in their last 10 games. This is good for third in the Atlantic Division and fifth in the Eastern Conference. This past weekend the boys in black and gold saw their 12-point streak come to an end, but they followed that up with an impressive shutout against the Syracuse Crunch. Hopefully, that is the start of another long point streak. Let’s get into what is on tap for the Baby B’s this weekend.
The Bruins have a weekend full of home cooking ahead. It all starts out on Friday, February 15, 2019, when the Toronto Marlies come into town for their only game at the Dunk this year. The weekend action continues Saturday, February 16, 2019, when the Charlotte Checkers come to town to finish up the season series between the two clubs. Finally, the Dunkin Donuts Center is sure to be rocking on Sunday, February 16, 2019, when familiar foe the Springfield Thunderbirds make their way to Providence. It’s going to be a great weekend of fast-paced, exciting hockey that you do not want to miss.
Friday, February 15, 2019, Providence Bruins vs. Toronto Marlies (HOME)
The Friday match-up marks the second meeting between the two hockey clubs this season. The Marlies are in the North Division, so because of that the Baby B’s only play them twice during the year. Once at home and once on the road. The first meeting between the two clubs saw the Bruins blank the Maple Leafs’ affiliate 5-0 getting goals from Jordan Szwarz, Zach Senyshyn (2), Karson Kuhlman, and Anders Bjork. Meanwhile, goalie Zane McIntyre was excellent in net turning away all 35 shots he faced. Over the past five seasons, our boys in black and gold have had some good success against the Toronto hockey club with a record of 4-2-1 overall and 2-1 at home. This bodes well for the spoked P on Friday night.
The Toronto Marlies come into the game 25-17-5-3 (58 points) and 5-2-2-1 in their last 10 games. This is good for third in the North Division and sixth in the Eastern Conference. There are going to be a few major keys to this game. The first thing is playing total team defense. Like the Bruins’ last opponent, the Syracuse Crunch the Toronto hockey club scores goals, a lot of goals. In their 50 games played they’ve scored 176 goals. That’s a whopping 3.52 goals a game. Now the reason why total team defense is going to be key for the Baby B’s is that the Maple Leafs’ affiliate has eight players with a point per game total of 0.58 or higher. This means you have shut down more than just one line. Luckily for the Boston affiliate, they have excellent team defense giving up 137 goals in 50 games which 2.74 goals a game.
Another major key to the game will be special teams. The Toronto Marlies boast the top-ranked power play in the North Division and the second-ranked in the entire Eastern Conference at 23%. Meanwhile, the Providence Bruins are equipped with the second-ranked penalty kill in the Atlantic Division as well as the entire Eastern Conference. This plays back into the first key I touched on which was team defense being essential to shutting down the Toronto Squad. Finally, it’s imperative that the Baby B’s have a lead when the second period ends. When leading after two, the spoked P is 20-3-2-1, and the Toronto affiliate is 18-0-1-1. Being on the right side of these battles Friday night will almost guarantee a victory for the boys in black and gold.
Saturday, February 16, 2019, Providence Bruins vs. Charlotte Checkers (HOME)
The Saturday match-up will mark the eighth time 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. The fourth installment between these two teams 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 fifth 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. In the six games of the season series, The Bruins beat the Checkers 2-1 in overtime getting goals from Ryan Donato, and Cameron Hughes (OT GW). Goalie Zane McIntyre was superb in net stopping 28 of the 29 shots he faced. The last grudge match saw the Baby B’s beat Charlotte 1-0 in overtime getting their game-winning goal from Gemel Smith. Goalie Dan Vladar was excellent in net turning away all 37 shots he faced.
The Charlotte Checkers come into the game 32-13-6-1 (71 points) and 2-4-3-1 in their last 10 games. This is good for first in the Atlantic Division as well as the Eastern Conference. The Baby B’s have had success against Charlotte not only this year but over the past five seasons. This year the spoked P is 4-2-1 against the Carolina affiliate and 6-4-1 over the past five seasons. Some major keys to this match-up are scoring early and keeping that lead. The Checkers are 16-3-1-1 when leading after the first period and 21-0-0-0 when leading after two periods. Meanwhile, our boys in black and gold are 12-5-2 when leading after one period and 20-3-2-1 when leading after two periods. Another major key is out-shooting the opponent. Both teams have great records when out-shooting the team they’re playing the Providence hockey club is 17-11-3-1 meanwhile the Charlotte team is 15-9-4-1. The season series between the two teams has been grueling, and the final game of the series will be nothing short of that.
Sunday, February 17, 2019, Providence Bruins vs. Springfield Thunderbirds (HOME)
This game mark the ninth time the Bruins and Thunderbirds have faced off this season. In the first meeting, Springfield beat Providence 6-3 with the Bruins getting goals from Zach Senyshyn, Ryan Fitzgerald, and Colby Cave. Meanwhile, goalie Zane McIntyre was a little off his game stopping 14 of 20 shots. The second meeting between the two teams saw a different score with the same result. The Florida Panther’s affiliate beat the Baby B’s 4-2 with the Bruins getting goals from now-departed Martin Bakos and Jan Kovar, while current goalie Zane McIntyre looked much better stopping 17 of 20 shots in net.
The third game of the season series saw the Bruins finally break through and get a win beating the Thunderbirds 5-4. The boys in black and gold got goals from Mark McNeill, Karson Kuhlman, Peter Cehlarik, Jordan Szwarz, and Connor Clifton while Dan Vladar stopped 22 of 26 shots he faced. The next installment of the season series did not go according to plan for the spoked P as they fell to the Springfield club 5-3. Bruins got goals from Zach Senyshyn, Gemel Smith, and Jordan Szwarz. Meanwhile, goalie Dan Vladar was a little off his game despite facing a barrage of shots stopping 34 of 39 he faced. Part five of the season series was a good one for the boys in black and gold. The Bruins beat the Thunderbirds 4-3 getting goals from Peter Cehlarik (2), Trent Frederic, and Paul Carey. Meanwhile, goalie Zane McIntyre continued to play well as he turned away 19 of the 22 shots he faced.
The sixth part in the season series saw the Panthers’ affiliate beat the spoked P 3-2 in overtime. The Baby B’s were able to get goals from Gemel Smith, and Cameron Hughes with Dan Vladar giving a tremendous effort in net stopping 38 of the 41 shots he faced. The seventh showdown saw the boys in black and gold win 2-1 in a shootout getting goals from Karson Kuhlman, and Trent Frederic netted the winning shootout goal. Zane McIntyre was excellent in net turning away 23 of the 24 shots he faced. The most recent throw-down between the two clubs saw the Providence hockey club win 3-2 getting goals from Mark McNeill, Gemel Smith, and Zach Senyshyn. Goalie Zane McIntyre was great in net stopping 22 of 24 shots that came his way.
The Springfield Thunderbirds come into the game 21-20-6-4 (52 points) and 3-6-1 in their last 10 games. This is good for seventh in the Atlantic Division and 13th in the Eastern Conference. The Baby B’s have had a good amount of success against the Panthers’ affiliate over the past five years with a record of 21-10-3 and 4-3-1 this season. Defense again will play a major role in who wins this game. The Thunderbirds have scored 170 goals in the 50 games they’ve played this season which is 3.33 goals a game their problem is they’ve given up 171 goals in that time frame as well which is 3.35 per game. As I stated earlier the preview, Providence’s defense is quite good giving up only 2.74 goals a game. Their offense is no slouch either scoring 3.30 goals a game. The other big key is again who had the lead after two periods. Despite their position in the standings the club from Springfield Massachusetts is 16-1-1 when leading after two periods and 0-18-1-1 when down after two periods. It should be an exciting game to end the jam-packed hockey weekend.
Who’s hot and Who’s not for the Bruins
Zane McIntyre: The recent point streak the Providence Bruins went on, and their climb in the standings was in large part thanks to McIntyre. The University of North Dakota alum has been excellent recently. Over his past 11 games, the veteran net-minder is 11-0-0 turning away 241 of the 260 shots that came his way for a save percentage of .927 and goals against average of 1.70. It cannot be overstated how he has played recently. It seems like he took the quote “new year, new me” to heart and really turned around not only his season but the Baby B’s season as well.
Gemel Smith: Gemel Smith has been nothing short of excellent since coming over to Providence. The gritty forward was acquired from Dallas in December and after three games with the big club in Boston, was sent down to Providence. Since then the OHL product has played in 22 games for the Baby B’s netting nine goals while dishing out 12 assists for 21 total points. That is a point per game total of 0.95 which is higher than his OHL days of 0.77 (89-114-203 in 264 games played). To top all of that off, he has registered a point in six of his last seven games in which he has found the back of the net three times and tallied six assists for nine total points.
Kyle Cumiskey: Cumiskey has been pretty good for Providence since joining the team. However, the veteran defenseman is on a bit of a cold streak. The WHL product has only registered a point in one of his last six games dishing out two assists in that time frame. He also hasn’t found the back of the net since December 15, 2018. Despite the cold streak, he still is scoring at a point per game clip of 0.55 (3-13-16 in 29 games). This is higher than his AHL career of 0.48 (25-97-122 in 253 games played) as well as his WHL career of 0.45 (12-67-79 in 177 games played).
Mark McNeill: Mark McNeill has proven to be streaky for Providence this season. On the year he does have stats of 7-15-22 in 37 games played. This is a point per game total of 0.59. This is slightly higher than his AHL career of 0.57 (96-119-215 in 380 games played) and lower than his WHL days of 0.88 (97-146-243 in 276 games played). Despite this, the gritty forward has only registered one point in his last six games. The Baby B’s offense has still been clicking recently; however, with Kuhlman getting called up to Boston, Providence will need someone to pick up the mantle in the scoring department. McNeill could help do that.
My players to watch this weekend
Jordan Szwarz: Szwarz has had a good season for Providence this year. The Baby B’s Captain has netted 15 goals while dishing 11 assists for 26 total points in 43 games played. This is a point per game total of 0.60. This is right on par with his AHL career of 0.59 (105-135-240 in 407 games played), but lower than his OHL days of 0.78 (82-122-204 in 262 games played). On top of that, the gritty forward has been especially good against Charlotte, Springfield, and Toronto this season. In 15 games against those teams this season he has found the back of the net six times while dishing out four assists good for ten points against them this year. That means 38% of his points have come against these three teams. Look for the Captain to have a big weekend.
On the Blue Line
Urho Vaakanainen: Urho Vaakanainen has been good in limited time for Providence this season. The young defenseman has only played in 16 games with the Baby B’s because earlier in the year he was called up to Boston and in his second game with the big club, he got an elbow to the head leaving him concussed. After recovering from the injury, he then played for Finland in the World Junior Championships where he helped lead his team to the gold medal. Not only has he played well since returning to the spoked P, but three of his eight assists on the season have come in the four games against Springfield he’s played this season. Look for the future star to have a good weekend.
Zane McIntyre: I know it was stated earlier in the preview how good Zane has been for Providence, but he’s been so good that the numbers bear repeating. He was won his last 11 games that he’s played in while stoning 241 of 260 shots faced in that time frame. That’s good for a save percentage of .927 and goals against average of 1.70. He has also been especially good at home this season. With all three of the weekend games being played at the Dunk look for the veteran net-minder to continue his scorching hot play.
The Providence Bruins had their 12-game point streak snapped last Saturday night. However, they followed that up by shutting out one of the best offenses in the AHL the very next day when they beat Syracuse. That shows the heart of this team. It is very easy after losing a long point streak to let things snowball in the wrong direction. Instead of letting that happen, the Baby B’s had one of their best games of the season right after. The three games the boys in black and gold play this weekend are winnable. The toughest one coming Saturday when they take on Charlotte. I would expect the Bruins to secure at least four points this weekend continuing their hot play. 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!