By Tim Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson
Week 26 of the AHL season is here, and the Providence Bruins skate into it 35-24-8-3 (81 points) and 5-3-1-1 in their last 10 games. This is good for fourth in the Atlantic Division and seventh in the Eastern Conference. With just six games left in the regular season, the baby B’s find themselves sitting in one of the final play spots. Though they sit tight in that playoff spot, every point is crucial, and they will need to get back to their winning ways to secure that spot. The good news is that four out of the final six games are being played at the Dunk with two of three there this weekend. Our boys in black and gold play very well at home so, this bodes well for the remaining games.
The weekend kicks off on Friday, April 5, 2019, when the Bridgeport Sound Tigers skate into town to invade the Dunkin Donuts Center. The hockey action continues Saturday, April 6, 2019, when the Providence Bruins take their talents on the road and invade Bridgeport, Connecticut to take on the home team Bridgeport Sound Tigers at Webster Bank Arena. Finally, the weekend concludes on Sunday, April 7, 2019, when the baby B’s return home to take on the Vancouver Canucks’ affiliate, the Utica Comets. It will be an exciting weekend of hockey that you’ll want to see.
Friday, April 5, 2019 (HOME) and Saturday, April 6, 2019 (AWAY) Providence Bruins vs. Bridgeport Sound Tigers
The weekend home and home will mark the 11th and the 12th time that these two teams have met, and all the games have been closely contested games with six of the 10 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. Part seven of the season series saw the Bruins fall 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.
The season series continued Friday, February 8, 2019, when the Providence Bruins beat the Sound Tigers 2-1 getting goals from Captain Jordan Szwarz, and Connor Clifton. Goalie Zane McIntyre was excellent in the net stopping 25 of the 26 shots that were fired his way. The ninth game of the season series was the very next night, and it saw the Baby B’s fall to Bridgeport 4-2 with the Bruins getting goals from Emil Johansson and Cameron Hughes. Net-minder Dan Vladar played admirably in net stopping 22 of the 25 shots that came his way. The most recent game of the series saw the Sound Tigers win 5-4 in overtime with the Bruins getting goals from Paul Carey (2), Jordan Szwarz, and Gemel Smith. In net, Zane McIntyre had a less than stellar performance stopping 22 of the 27 shots that were fired his way.
The Bridgeport Sound Tigers come into the game 40-22-6-3 (89 points) and 5-3-1-1 in their last 10 games. This is good for second in the Atlantic Division and third in the Eastern Conference. The Providence Bruins had an up and down season against the Islanders’ affiliate this year going 4-1-4-1. However, over the past five years, the Baby B’s have seen success against the Bridgeport club going 24-17-6-3 including 16-6-3 at home in that time frame. This bodes well for the weekend match-up. 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 16th ranked in the Eastern Conference at 16.3%. Meanwhile, the Islanders’ affiliate has the fourth-ranked penalty kill in the Atlantic Division and eighth-ranked in the Eastern Conference at 81.1% On the flipside the Providence Bruins have the sixth-best power play in the Atlantic Division, and the 13th ranked in the Eastern Conference at 16.7%. Their penalty kill is much stronger boasting the second-best in the Atlantic Division as well as the Eastern Conference at 86.2%. In terms of grabbing an early lead and keeping it, the Sound Tigers are 19-3-3-2 when leading after the first period and 22-2-5-2 when leading after two. The Baby B’s are 16-7-3-1 when leading after one, and 28-4-2-2 when leading after two. These final two games of the season series are sure to be barnburners.
Sunday, April 7, 2019, Providence Bruins vs. Utica Comets (HOME)
The Sunday afternoon game will mark the second and final time the Providence Bruins play the Utica Comets this season. Despite both teams being in the Eastern Conference, they only play a limited amount of times per year because they are in different divisions. They played one game in Utica, New York and then the Sunday game at the Dunk in Providence, Rhode Island. The first game saw the baby B’s fall 5-2 with the Bruins getting goals from Jordan Szwarz and Zach Senyshyn. In net, Zane McIntyre had an off night stopping 21 of the 25 shots that were fired in his direction. The Utica Comets skate into the match-up 31-31-6-2 (70 points) and 1-8-1 in their last 10 games. This is good for sixth in the North Division and 13th in the Eastern Conference.
Over the past five years, the Bruins have a winning record against the Vancouver affiliate going 6-5 in that time, however that includes 2-3 at home. Team defense is going to play a major key in who wins or loses this game. Both teams are similar on offense, they’ve both scored 205 goals in 70 games which is good for 2.92 goals a game. The big difference between the two hockey clubs is their defenses. The Utica Comets have given 244 goals in their 70 games on the year. This is a terrible 3.48 goals a game. Only one other team in the Eastern Conference has given up more goals than Utica. Meanwhile, the Providence Bruins have given up 188 goals in their 70 games. That is good for 2.68 goals a game. Only two other teams in the Eastern Conference have given up fewer goals than the baby Bs.
Despite Utica’s bad defensive numbers, something major to look for is they play a lot better when the game is close. In one-goal games, the Comets are 15-5-6-2. Meanwhile, Providence is 16-10-8-3. The other curious thing to look at would be how the two teams when outshooting their opponent and then being outshot. When being outshot the Utica hockey club is 20-12-2-1, but when they are outshooting their opponents, they are 11-17-3-1. On the other end of things, the Providence hockey club is 24-16-5-1 when they outshoot their opponent and 9-6-3-2 when being outshot. This is something that could play a major role in the Sunday battle.
Who’s hot and Who’s not for the Bruins
Lee Stempniak: Lee Stempniak has been good since joining Providence this season. The former Dartmouth College Captain was initially on a tryout with the club before signing a contract right before the NHL trade deadline this year. In 15 games with the Bruins, the veteran winger has netted six goals while dishing out six assists for 12 total points. This is a point per game total of 0.80. That includes finding the back of the net four times and dishing out three assists for seven total points in his last eight games. I gritty forward has been able to provide offense and leadership that has helped the baby B’s in the late part of the season. Hopefully, his play continues through the playoffs.
Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson: Forsbacka Karlsson has had an interesting season. It all started back in training camp when he was one of the leading candidates for the third-line center position. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t win the battle out of camp and started the year in Providence. The former Boston University Terrier was eventually called up to Boston and spent a good amount of time there before being sent back down to the AHL. The young center’s offensive game hasn’t exactly progressed as quickly as some people may like, but recently he has been playing better. Over his past six games, the forward from Sweden has found the back of the net two times while also dishing out two assists for four total points. This is very encouraging. Let’s hope he continues this play through the end of the season, and into the playoffs.
Zach Senyshyn: Zach Senyshyn has had a trying season for the Providence Bruins. The OHL product is probably the most talented forward prospect currently in either Providence or Boston, but for some reason, the talent and potential have not produced results so far. Since January 26, 2019, the young winger has found the back of the net one time and dished out three assists for four points total points in his last 22 games. During his OHL days, Senyshyn scored at a point per game clip of 0.91 (114-63-177 in 195 games played). However, since coming to the AHL that has dipped to 0.39 (26-24-50 in 128 games played). The good news is that the former Sault Ste, Marie Greyhound is only 22 years old, and he has time to develop into the player we want him to be. More positive news for the speedster, he was recently called up to Boston on an emergency basis. Hopefully, he can get in a game or two to regain some confidence.
Jeremy Lauzon: Jeremy Lauzon is another guy that has had an interesting season. He started the year playing well for Providence but received a call-up to Boston when the big club was going through a myriad of injuries. Once the parent club got healthy, he was sent back down to the AHL to work on a few things, and despite the low offensive output was playing good defense. Recently coming back from an injury that saw him sit for a few weeks, he’s looked okay but not great and has not recorded a point in his last nine games played. Now, the young defenseman has only played three games since coming back from injury, and he has time to gain momentum these last six games of the season. Hopefully, the former QMJHL Champion can turn it on come playoff time and give the baby B’s a big boost on the backend.
My players to watch this weekend
Tommy Marchin: Tommy Marchin is a name you may not recognize, but he has played in three games so far with Providence, not registering a point but looking good on the ice. On March 25, 2019, the young forward signed a deal with Providence as a college free-agent. A few days later, March 27, 2019, he made his pro debut. Marchin spent the last four years playing for Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island serving this last season as their Captain. In 115 games the young winger netted 40 goals while dishing out 36 assists for 76 points. This is good for a point per game total of 0.66. Keep an eye for Marchin this weekend, hopefully, he can provide some offensive punch for the Bruins.
On the Blue Line:
Kyle Cumiskey: Kyle Cumiskey has quietly put together a nice season for Providence. The veteran defenseman came to the baby B’s on loan from the ECHL’s Newfoundland Growlers in mid-November and has stayed ever since. In 34 games, the WHL product has netted three goals while dishing out 14 assists for 17 total points. This is a point per game total of 0.50. To top it off, in seven games against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and Utica Comets this season, the gritty defenseman has netted one goal while dishing out six assists for seven total points. This means that 41% of Cumiskey’s points have come against these two teams this season. Hopefully, he can keep it up this weekend.
Zane McIntyre: Zane McIntyre is another guy that has had an interesting season. On the year, the veteran netminder is 23-12-7 with a goals against average of 2.43, and a save percentage of .902. Mid-season, the Providence Bruins, went on an impressive point streak, and at the time neither goalie had really solidified himself as the number one guy. McIntyre was able to anchor the backend of the defense and do just that. To top it off, he has been a lot better at home than on the road this season with 18 of his 23 wins coming at the Dunk. With two of three games in Providence this weekend, look for him to be essential in the baby B’s success.
The Providence Bruins are currently sitting in playoff position by five points. With 6 games remaining the team’s magic number is 10. 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 Providence club either needs to win five of their last six games, or they need some help with the team directly below losing to clinch that playoff spot. The good news is that they remain in a good spot, and in charge of their own destiny. Hopefully, the club has a good weekend, and that number shrinks. 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!