By: Tim Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson
Week 21 is here, and the Providence Bruins skate into the weekend 28-20-7-1 (64 points) and 5-4-1 in their last 10 games. This is good for fourth in the Atlantic Division and eighth in the Eastern Conference clinging to that final playoff spot. This past weekend the Baby B’s had an up and down one getting three out of a possible six points going 1-1-1. Even though the boys in black and gold are sitting in that last playoff position, they are only three points behind the fifth-place Marlies of Toronto. That means a lot of ground can be made up in a short period of time. Let’s hope they start to make up that ground this weekend.
The jam-packed three-game weekend starts out on Friday, March 1, 2019, when the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins skate into Providence, Rhode Island to invade the Dunk. The weekend continues Saturday, March 2, 2019, when the Bruins take their show on the road to battle the home team Springfield Thunderbirds at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Massachusetts. Finally, the weekend comes to a close on Sunday, March 3, 2019, when the Springfield Thunderbirds fly into Providence, Rhode Island to take on the Baby B’s at the Dunk. It is going to be an exciting weekend of must-see hockey.
Friday, March 1, 2019 Providence Bruins vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (HOME)
The Friday match-up will mark the fourth time that these two teams have played each other, and Providence has had their way with the Pittsburgh affiliate thus far. The first battle saw the Bruins beat the Penguins 2-1 in overtime getting goals from the now departed Martin Bakos, and Ryan Fitzgerald (OT). Goalie Dan Vladar was superb in net denying 27 of the 28 shots that came his way. The second installment saw the Baby B’s route Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 5-2 getting goals from the recently traded Ryan Donato (2), Martin Bakos, Joel Messner, and Zach Senyshyn. Goalie Zane McIntyre was great in net stoning 20 of the 22 shots he faced. The most recent match-up saw the boys in black and gold win 4-2 getting goals from Ryan Fitzgerald, Peter Cehlarik, Ryan Donato, and Jakub Zboril. Goal Zane McIntyre was excellent in net stopping 32 of the 34 shots that were fired his way.
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins come into the game 26-22-5-2 (59 points) and 4-4-1-1 in their last 10 games played. This is good for sixth in the Atlantic Division and 11th in the Eastern Conference. The Providence Bruins have not only played extremely well against the Pittsburgh affiliate this year going 3-0, but over the past five seasons, the Baby B’s are 13-6-2-2. A major key for the boys in black and gold will be how their offense plays. The Penguins have given up a total of 164 goals on the year. Only six other teams in the Eastern Conference have given up less. Meanwhile, the Bruins have scored 172 goals this year which is the 11th most in the Eastern Conference. Hopefully, the offense is up to that task.
Special teams will also be a key in this game. The Providence Bruins are not only second in the Eastern Conference in goals given up with 157, but they are also second in penalty kill at 86%. That coupled with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton having the 11th ranked power play in the Eastern Conference at 17.6% means that if the spoked P can play their game and hold their ground, it bodes well for the overall outcome. Another major key for the Pittsburgh affiliate is whether they outshoot their opponents when they do, they are 17-13-1-1 but are 4-7-3-1 when being out-shot. On the other side, the Baby B’s are 9-5-3 when being out-shot and 17-13-4-1 when out-shooting their foe. It should be an exciting game of hockey and one that the Bruins could easily win.
Saturday, March 2, 2019 (AWAY) and Sunday, March 3, 2019 (HOME)
The weekend series will mark the 10th and 11th times 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 eighth 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 most recent chapter in the long season story saw the Thunderbirds win 5-1 with the Bruins getting their lone goal from Jordan Szwarz. Goalie Zane McIntyre had a rough game in net stopping 21 of 26 shots that were fired his way.
The Springfield Thunderbirds come into the weekend home and home series 22-23-6-5 (55 points) and 2-7-0-1 in their last 10 games. This is good for seventh in the Atlantic Division and 13th in the Eastern Conference. Despite having a rough season against the Panthers’ affiliate this year, the Baby B’s have played well against them over the past five years going 21-11-3. They also have almost identical records at home and on the road in that time frame. This bodes well for the weekend series. Defense again will play a major role in who wins this game.
The Thunderbirds have scored 182 goals in the 56 games they’ve played this season which is 3.25 goals a game their problem is they’ve given up 186 goals in that time frame as well which is 3.32 per game. Providence’s defense, on the other hand, is quite good giving up only 2.80 goals a game. Their offense is no slouch either scoring 3.07 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 17-1-1 when leading after two periods and 0-21-1-2 when down after two periods. Meanwhile, the Baby B’s are 22-3-2-1 when leading after two and 4-16-2 when trailing after the second period. It should be an exciting home and home series to end the weekend.
Who’s hot and Who’s not for the Bruins
Gemel Smith: Gemel Smith makes his way into this category for another week, and he is on fire. He has netted a goal in each of his last three games and has scored points in 11 of his last 13 games. The 24-year old forward has netted six goals and dished out nine assists for 15 total points in that time frame. Since being traded from Dallas in December, the OHL product has been on the Bruins best players. In 28 games played he has potted 12 goals while tallying 15 assists for 27 total points. That’s almost a point per game player. Hopefully, he keeps up his scorching pace this weekend.
Lee Stempniak: Lee Stempniak has had a long successful career in the NHL scoring 203 goals and dishing out 266 assists in 909 games. That’s a point per game total of 0.52. The veteran forward was in Providence on a player tryout and played well in the four games he’s played in. In those games, he has netted two goals while also dishing out two assists for four total points. The former Dartmouth College Captain recently signed a contract with Boston and will likely spend the rest of the year in Providence barring any injury. Hopefully, the veteran forward can continue his solid play for the Baby B’s this weekend.
Mark McNeill: Mark McNeill has proven to be streaky for Providence this season. On the year he does have stats of 7-16-23 in 43 games played. This is a point per game total of 0.53. This is a bit lower than his AHL career of 0.56 (96-120-216 in 386 games played), as well as his WHL days of 0.88 (97-146-243 in 276 games played). Despite having a decent year, the gritty forward has only registered two points in his last 11 games dishing out two assists. The WHL product also hasn’t scored a goal since January 26, 2019. Hopefully, the McNeill can find his scoring touch this weekend.
Zach Senyshyn: Zach Senyshyn is one of the most talented players on the Providence Bruins roster. His potential is sky high. However, since coming to Providence, he has proved to be a very streaky player. Currently, on the year, he has netted 13 goals while dishing out nine assists for 22 total points in 48 games played. That is a point per game total of 0.45. This is much lower than his OHL days of 0.91 (114-63-177 in 195 games played). To top it off in his last eight games played he has dished out two assists for two total points and hasn’t scored a goal since January 26, 2019. The young forward can be dynamic and has shown flashes of brilliance. Hopefully, he can find the back of the net a few times for the Bruins this weekend.
My players to watch this weekend
Zach Senyshyn: Despite being on a cold streak, Senyshyn is one of my players to watch this weekend. He has played well against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Springfield this season. In 11 games against the two clubs this season he has netted four goals and dished out two assists for six total points. That means that almost a quarter of his goals have come against these two teams this season. On top of that, I believe that the young forward is extremely motivated to do well. He really wants to see a call-up to the big club and Boston. I have a feeling we may see the beginning of a hot streak this weekend.
On the Blue Line
Jakub Zboril: Jakub Zboril is having a pretty good season for Providence. Not only playing good defense, but he has potted four goals and dished out 11 assists for 15 points in 37 games this year. That is a point per game total of 0.40. This is much higher than his pace last season which was 0.27 (4-15-19 in 68 games played). On top of that, the young defenseman has registered a point in three of his last five games netting a goal and dishing out two assists for three points in that time frame. I would look for him to have a big weekend.
Dan Vladar: Dan Vladar has had an up and down season this year but has also had the short end of the stick for part of it. He is 8-11-4-2 with a 2.73 goals against average, and a save percentage of .902. Having six games end in overtime or shoot out loss is a lot of tough luck. The young goaltender has played better on the road than he has at home this season. So, he is likely to only play one game barring any injury, but I would look for him to have a good game and bring home two points for Providence.
The Providence Bruins have had a rough couple of weeks since their 12-game point streak was snapped. They dropped a few spots in the Eastern Conference but remain right in the middle of the playoff picture. That being said, with the two teams they face this weekend below them in the standings, this is the perfect time for them to pad their playoff spot and possibly gain grown on teams ahead of them in the standings. I would look for the Baby B’s to get at least four out of six points. Anything less would be a major missed opportunity. 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!