By Tim Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson
Week 22 of the Providence Bruins season is here and our favorite team in black and gold skate into the weekend 29-21-7-2 (67 points) and 4-4-1-1 in their last 10 games. This is good for fourth in the Atlantic Division and clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Despite this, only two points separate them and fifth place in the Conference standings. This weekend’s slate of games could not have come at a better time. The baby B’s have three games at home with two of the games coming against a team that is ahead of them in the standings. A strong week 22 could help the spoked P leapfrog a few teams in the conference as well as give them a nice cushion from teams trying to claw their way back into the playoff seeding.
The action-packed weekend kicks off on Friday, March 8, 2019, when the Hershey Bears invade Providence, Rhode Island to take on the Bruins at the Dunk. The weekend continues Saturday, March 9, 2019, when the same two teams battle it out at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center to find out once and for all which team is the better bear. Finally, the action wraps up on Sunday, March 10, 2019, when familiar adversary the Springfield Thunderbirds swoop into town to take on our boys in black and gold at the Dunk. It is going to be an exciting, jam-packed three days of hockey that you will not want to miss.
Friday, March 8, 2019, (HOME) and Saturday, March 9, 2019, (HOME) Providence Bruins vs. Hershey Bears
The Friday and Saturday games will mark the fourth and fifth times that Providence has played Hershey this season. In the first meeting between the two clubs, the Baby B’s beat the Washington Capitals’ affiliate 6-2 with the Bruins getting goals from Jordan Szwarz (2), Cameron Hughes, Anton Blidh, Kyle Cumiskey, and Tanner Pond while goalie Zane McIntyre looked great in net stopping 19 of 21 shots he faced. The second meeting saw the Providence club win 4-1 getting goals from the now departed Cody Goloubef (2), Karson Kuhlman, and Mark McNeill. Goalie Zane McIntyre was excellent in net turning away 23 of the 24 shots that were fired his way. The third battle saw the Bruins fall 2-1 getting their lone goal from Karson Kuhlman. Goalie Zane McIntyre was still great in net stopping 17 of the 19 shots that were sent his way.
The Hershey Bears skate into the weekend 32-22-1-3 (68 points) and 7-2-1 in their last 10 games. This is good for third in the Atlantic Division and sixth in the Eastern Conference. Despite being ahead of the baby B’s in the standings, the Capitals’ affiliate could be the perfect opponent to start a win streak against. Over the past five seasons, Providence is 13-7-2-1 against Hershey going 8-2 at the Dunk in that time frame. With both games being at home this bodes well for our boys in black and gold. There are a few keys to the game that if the spoked P can control, they will likely come out on top in both games.
The first key is who is leading after the first and second periods. Hershey is 18-3-0-2 when they are ahead after the first period of action. They are also 24-1-1-2 when leading after two. Meanwhile, when down after one their records dips to 4-12-0-1 and when trailing after the second it falls even further to 5-19. On the other side, the Providence Bruins are 13-5-3 when ahead after the first period and 23-3-2-1 when they are leading after two. When trailing after one, their record dips to 5-14-2 and when down after two periods it dips even further to 4-17-2. Getting a lead early and holding onto it will be a major key into winning both games.
The other major key to the game will be team defense. The Providence Bruins have one of the best defenses in the entire Eastern Conference ranked third in goals against with 165 in their 59 games played. This means they are giving up 2.79 goals a game. On the other side of things, the Hershey Bears are ranked sixth in the Eastern Conference in goals against with 171 in their 58 games played. This is 2.94 goals given up per game. The big difference is that despite their record, the Capitals’ affiliate has a goal differential of –15. This means they’ve given up 15 more goals than they’ve scored on the season. To give you an idea of just how bad that is the baby B’s differential is +25. A combination of the Bruins’ stingy defense and the Bears’ mediocre offense bodes well for our boys in black and gold this weekend.
Sunday, March 10, 2019, Providence Bruins vs. Springfield Thunderbirds (HOME)
The Sunday match-up marks the 12th 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 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 ninth meeting 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 10th battle between the Providence Bruins and the Springfield Thunderbirds saw the baby B’s fall 4-2 getting goals from Paul Carey and Emil Johansson. Goalie Dan Vladar turned away 28 of the 31 shots that were fired his way. The most recent chapter of the long season series saw the Bruins come out on top 5-2 getting goals from Paul Carey (2), Urho Vaakanainen (2), and Connor Clifton. Goalie Zane McIntyre stopped 27 out of the 29 shots that came his way.
The Springfield Thunderbirds come into the weekend home and home series 24-24-6-5 (59 points) and 3-6-0-1 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 22-12-3. 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 193 goals in the 59 games they’ve played this season which is 3.27 goals a game their problem is they’ve given up 194 goals in that time frame as well which is 3.28 per game. Providence’s defense, on the other hand, is quite good giving up only 2.79 goals a game. Their offense is no slouch either scoring 3.05 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 19-1-1 when leading after two periods and 0-22-1-2 when down after two periods. Meanwhile, the Baby B’s are 23-3-2-1 when leading after two and 4-17-2 when trailing after the second period. It should be an exciting game that you do not want to miss.
Who’s hot and Who’s not for the Bruins
Paul Carey: Paul Carey has been very good for Providence since coming over in a trade with the Senators in January. Since the trade, the former Boston College Eagle has played in 18 games finding the back of the net 11 times and dishing out five assists for 16 total points. This is a point per game clip of 0.88. To top it off the two-time NCAA Champion has six points in his last seven games, netting five goals and dishing out an assist during that time frame. The veteran forward needs to continue his hot play if the Bruins hope to have a good weekend.
Jordan Szwarz: Jordan Szwarz has been great for Providence this season. The captain has found the back of the net 18 times while dishing 13 assists for 31 total points in the 52 games he’s played in. This is a point per game clip of 0.59. To top it off, recently he has scored five points in his last seven games netting three goals and dishing out two assists in the time frame. The OHL product is just two goals away from 20 on the year. Once he reaches that mark, he will be the fifth player in Providence Bruins history to have 20+ goals in three separate seasons. Be on the lookout for that.
Zach Senyshyn: Zach Senyshyn may be the most talented of all the Bruins forward prospects. Despite this, the young winger has proven to be a streaky player since coming to Providence, and right now he’s on a cold streak that’s as cold as the ice he skates on. The OHL product has netted 13 goals and dished out nine assists for 22 total points in the 51 games he has played in. This is a point per game total of 0.43. This is considerably less than his OHL days of 0.91 (114-63-177 in 195 games played). To top it off, he has scored just two points in his last 11 games dishing out two assists. He has not scored a goal since January 26, 2019. Hopefully, the speedster can find his offensive game and turn the corner this weekend.
Mark McNeill: Mark McNeill has had a good season for Providence overall. In the 46 games that he has played in the gritty forward has found the back of the net seven times while dishing out 16 assists for 24 total points. This is a point per game total of 0.52. Even though the WHL product has been good overall this season, he’s been on a big cold streak recently. He has recorded just two points in his last 14 games dishing out two assists. McNeill hasn’t found the back of the net since January 26, 2019. Hopefully, the veteran forward can turn things around and have a great weekend.
My Players to watch this weekend
Gemel Smith: Gemel Smith has been excellent overall for Providence this year. In 31 games since being acquired from Dallas in a trade, the young forward has found the back of the net 12 times while dishing out 16 assists for 28 total points. This is a point per game total of 0.90. To top it off he has been especially good against Springfield and Hershey this season. In 11 games against the two teams this year he has found the back of the net three times and dished out eight assists for 11 total points. That means 39% of the points he has scored with the Bruins have come against this weekend’s opponents. Look for him to have a good week 22.
On the Blue Line
Urho Vaakanainen: Urho Vaakanainen has had a great first professional season despite missing time due to a concussion. In 25 games with the Providence Bruins, the young defender has found the back of the net two times while dishing out 10 assists for 12 total points. This is a point per game total of 0.48. This is much higher than his Liiga days in Finland of 0.21 (7-16-23 in 109 games played). As well as his offensive game is coming along, the WJC Gold Medalist’s defensive game has been just as impressive. He looks like he’s already NHL ready despite being only 20 years of age. Last weekend the young defenseman scored his first two professional goals. Look for him to continue his play and have a good weekend.
Zane McIntyre: Zane McIntyre has played well for Providence overall this year. At the turn of the new year, it was his fantastic play in net that helped solidify the backend of the Bruins’ defense. As good as his play has been, the veteran goalie has been better at home this season and been especially good against Hershey. In the three games against the Capitals’ affiliate, the netminder’s stats are 2-1 with a goals against average of 1.68 and a save percentage of .922. With all three games being home and two of them against Hershey, look for him to have a big weekend.
The Providence Bruins come into the weekend clinging to that eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. This weekend is the perfect one to gain some ground and pad their position in the standings. All of the weekend’s games are at home, and on top of that, the Providence club is playing teams they should beat. I would look for the Bruins to nab at least four of six points. This could help them leapfrog a team or two in the standings. Anything else would be a total loss for the 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!