By: Tim Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson
Week 25 of the AHL season is here, and the Providence Bruins skate into it 34-23-8-3 (79 points) and 6-2-1-1 in their last 10 games this is good for third in the Atlantic Division and sixth in the Eastern Conference. With just eight games left in the regular season, the baby B’s are making their final push towards the playoffs. Right now, our boys in black and gold sit firmly in the middle of the playoff picture. They’ve played well recently, and we hope they can finish strong the last few weeks of the season. This weekend won’t be an easy one with both games coming on the road against strong opponents, but we will get an idea of what this team may be able to do come playoff time.
The weekend kicks off on Friday, March 29, 2019, when the Providence Bruins skate into Syracuse, New York to take on the home team Syracuse Crunch at The Oncenter War Memorial Arena. The weekend then continues Saturday, March 30, 2019, when the baby B’s invade the Giant Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania to take on the home team Hershey Bears. Both games will serve as a test for the Providence hockey club, with both of their opponents sitting in playoff spots. It’s going to be an exciting weekend of hockey that you would kick yourself for missing.
Friday, March 29, 2019, Providence Bruins vs. Syracuse Crunch (AWAY)
The Friday night contest marks the second time these two teams have played each other this season. The first meeting saw the Providence Bruins blank the Crunch 4-0 getting goals from Cameron Hughes, Karson Kuhlman (2), and the now departed Ryan Donato. Goalie Zane McIntyre was superb in net turning away all 27 shots fired his way. The Crunch come into the game 42-19-4-3 (91 points) and 6-2-1-1 in their last 10 games. This is good for first in the North Division and second in the Eastern Conference. They are also one of two teams to already secure a playoff spot.
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 2-3 against the Crunch in that time frame. Something to keep an eye too, the Crunch are 24-6-1-2 at home. With the Providence club being 12-15-4-2 on the road it’ll be a tough task. 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. In 68 games the Tampa Bay affiliate has scored 235 goals. This is good for the most in not only the Eastern Conference but the entire AHL. That’s an eye-popping 3.45 goals a game.
Luckily, for the Baby B’s they boast one of the best defenses in the Eastern Conference giving up 184 goals in 68 games played which is 2.70 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 0.60 and six of those players have at least 40 points on the year. It should be an exciting game from Syracuse, New York.
Saturday, March 30, 2019, Providence Bruins vs. Hershey Bears (AWAY)
The Saturday games will mark the sixth time 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 fourth match-up between the two clubs saw the Bruins win 3-2 in a shootout getting goals from Jordan Szwarz, Paul Carey, and Anton Blidh (SO). Goalie Zane McIntyre was excellent in net stopping 28 of the 30 shots fired his way. The most recent battle saw the Bruins win 4-3 in overtime getting goals from Trent Frederic, Urho Vaakanainen, and Paul Carey (2). Goalie Dan Vladar was able to earn the win stopping 19 of the 22 shots that were sent his way.
The Hershey Bears skate into the weekend 36-24-3-4 (79 points) and 4-3-2-1 in their last 10 games. This is good for fourth in the Atlantic Division and seventh in the Eastern Conference. Over the past five seasons, Providence is 15-7-2-1 against Hershey going 5-5-2 at the Giant Center in that time frame. Despite the record in Hershey, this should be a good match-up for our boys in black and gold based on how they’ve played the Capitals’ affiliate overall not only this season but over the past five seasons. With both teams being neck and neck with each other, this game is going to be very important to the playoff seeding.
The first key is who is leading after the first and second periods. Hershey is 19-3-0-3 when they are ahead after the first period of action. They are also 25-1-1-2 when leading after two. Meanwhile, when down after one their records dips to 5-12-1-1 and when trailing after the second it falls even further to 5-21-1-1. On the other side, the Providence Bruins are 16-6-3-1 when ahead after the first period and 27-3-2-2 when they are leading after two. When trailing after one, their record dips to 7-15-2 and when down after two periods it dips even further to 4-19-3. 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 184 in their 68 games played. This means they are giving up 2.70 goals a game. On the other side of things, the Hershey Bears are ranked seventh in the Eastern Conference in goals against with 199 in their 67 games played. This is 2.97 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 +17. A combination of the Bruins’ stingy defense and the Bears’ mediocre offense bodes well for our boys in black and gold this weekend.
Who’s hot and Who’s not for the Bruins
Jordan Szwarz: The Bruins Captain has been very good for the team this season. In 60 games for the Providence hockey club, the veteran forward has found the back of the net 21 times while dishing out 17 assists for 38 total points. This is a point per game total of 0.63. Recently, in the game against the Belleville Senators on March 22, 2019, the OHL product scored his 20th goal of the season. This made Szwarz the fifth player in Providence Bruins history to record 20+ goals in a season for three separate seasons. On top of that, the Captain has recorded a point in seven of his last 10 games finding the back of the net three times while also dishing out six assists for nine total points. Congratulations to Szwarz on the accomplishment and let’s hope he keeps it rolling this weekend.
Trent Frederic: Trent Frederic has had a pretty good year for Providence. While he has proven to be a streaky player, he’s also had a few different call-ups to Boston playing in 13 games for the big club. In 48 games with the Baby B’s the former University of Wisconsin Badger has netted 11 goals while also dishing out 11 assists for 22 total points. That’s a point per game total of 0.46. That includes registering a point in four of the past six games the young forward has played in for Providence. Netting one goal and dishing three assists for four points in that time frame. Frederic is one of the better prospects the Boston Bruins have so it’s nice seeing the center find his scoring touch at the end of his first full professional season.
Ryan Fitzgerald: Ryan Fitzgerald has had an up and down season for Providence. The former Boston College Eagle started out the year on fire. He was leading the team in scoring, and really showing off his playmaking ability. Then, unfortunately, injuries derailed the once excellent season. On the year the winger has netted eight goals while dishing out 25 assists for 33 total points in 53 games played. That’s a point per game total of 0.62. Over his past 11 games, the young forward has netted one goal and dished out three assists for four points. With the playoffs around the hope is that Fitzgerald can find his scoring touch again and help lead the team to a championship.
Anton Blidh: Anton Blidh has proven to be a streaky player since coming over from Sweden where he was playing for Frolunda HC of the Swedish Hockey League. On the year, the winger has found the back of the net eight times while dishing out 12 assists for 20 total points in 67 games played. This is a point per game total of 0.29. On top of that, the young forward has not scored a goal since February 15, 2019, and in the 17 games since then has dished out two assists for two total points. Despite being on a cold streak as cold as the ice he skates on, the baby B’s hope he can pick up some scoring in the last few weeks of the regular season. If Blidh can get on a hot streak going into the playoffs, it could go a long way for our boys in black and gold.
My players to watch this weekend for the Bruins
Paul Carey: Paul Carey has been excellent since being traded to the Bruins from the Senators this year. In 24 games with Providence, the former Boston College Eagle has netted 16 goals while also dishing out seven assists for 23 total points. Playing at a point per game pace of 0.95 has really helped the Providence offense out a great deal. The two-time NCAA champion has also played well against Hershey this season. In two games against the Bears this season, he has netted three goals while also dishing out one assist for four total points. The veteran forward has been so good for the Baby B’s that he signed a contract extension for two-years. Look for him to have a big weekend.
On the Blue Line
Victor Berglund: Victor Berglund is a name you might not recognize. That’s because he has not played a game with Providence this season. The young defenseman has been playing in Sweden for MODO Hockey of the Allsvenskan league, which is Sweden’s second-tier league. While playing there this season, the 19-year old in 50 games netted four goals and dished out nine assists for 13 total points. Recently, he signed his professional contract to play for Providence. He has joined the team, and we may see him make his debut for the baby B’s this weekend. All indications are that he is someone to be excited about because of his skating and shooting ability. Keep an eye out for him.
Dan Vladar: Dan Vladar has had an up and down season for the Providence Bruins. On the year, he is 11-12-4 with a goals against average of 2.70 and a save percentage of .901. The good news is that seven of the 11 wins the young netminder has on the season have come on the road. With both games over the weekend coming away from the Dunk, this may be a weekend that we see Vladar shine.
The Providence Bruins are currently sitting firmly in a playoff spot. With 8 games remaining the team’s magic number is 14. The magic number is the number of points needed to clinch the playoff spot. The magic number goes down when it earns points either with victory, or overtime/shootout losses. The magic number also goes down when the team with the highest possible point total that isn’t currently in playoff position, loses. This means the baby B’s are sitting in a good position right now and can hopefully make that magic number dwindle down 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!