Providence Bruins Continue To Roll With Six Straight Victories

(Photo Courtesy of Providence Bruins / Flickr)

By: Mark Allred  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277

On Wednesday night the American Hockey Leagues Providence Bruins were on the road in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for a mid-week contest against the Penguins. The top minor-pro affiliate of the National Hockey Leagues Boston Bruins walked out of the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza with a significant 6-2 beatdown earning their sixth straight victory. The same two teams first faced each other in this two-game home and home series on Sunday, February 23rd, 2020, with the Providence club holding onto a 2-1 win at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island.

After a great start to the 2019-20 regular season campaign, the team from the smallest state in the Union went through a few bad times mid-season and many unsuccessful attempts to capture points in front of the hometown faithful. Hovering around .500 at home this season, the Bruins finally got back to winning ways at the La salle Squarefacility in the city’s capital to rise above that .500 mark at home with an impressive six-game stretch where Providence earned 11 of 12 points. During those consecutive games at the Dunk which took a better part of the month of February to complete, the Bruins now have a 15-10-2-2 home record. With last nights 6-2 road win in the state of Pennsylvania, the B’s continue to impress on the road and are in the top-five in the league with a 17-8-1-1 record away from the Dunk.

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Providence now sits in third place in the Atlantic Division and fourth place in the AHL’s Eastern Conference with a 32-18-3-3 overall record and 20 games remaining in the 2019-20 regular season. To go along with their six-game winning streak, the Providence club has actually earned seven points in the last seven games with an unfortunate 2-1 overtime loss to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers which kicked off the recent six-game homestand. The B’s are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games and are starting to be a nuisance to the teams ahead of them in the Eastern Conference with the B’s having 70 points in the fourth spot and only five points away from conference-leading Belleville Senators who’ve really kicked it up a notch to begin the second half of the season.

With last nights road win, the Providence team will finish this short three-game road trip with contests against the Springfield Thunderbirds on Saturday,  February 29th, 2020 at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Massachusetts and wrap things up away from the Dunk on Sunday, March 1st, 2020 at the XL Center against the Hartford Wolf Pack. Speaking of the Atlantic Division foe Wolf Pack team, if the 2020 AHL Calder Cup Playoffs started today, Hartford and Providence would meet each other in the best-of-five first-round series with the Wolf Pack dominating the Providence club with a 6-0-0-1 regular-season record. As of today in this potential 2020 Calder Cup playoff matchup, the Hartford team would obviously have home-ice advantage and with their play against Providence this season it would be a tough task for the B’s as the Wolf Pack have a 21-2-1-2 record at the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut but have only been able to muster up a 9-12-5-3 record on the road.

Providence Players Who Deserve Mentions As The Team looks To Clinch Their Eighth Consecutive Calder Cup Playoff Appearance

Paul Carey

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

The Providence Captain has been one of the club’s higher point producers throughout the season but as a veteran of the game, his experience and knowledge have been an asset to head coach Jay Leach’s staff away from the bench. Young Bruins prospects that get recalls often give high praise of him when asked who’s helped them along the way to get prepared for the higher level.

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The 31-year-old Weymouth, Massachusetts forward should be on the decline at his age but he never really slows down and able to keep up with the younger developing players. Carey sits in the second spot when it comes to team scoring with 20-16-36 numbers and 3-1-4 numbers in his last fours games as most Providence forwards are starting to pick up offensively. Paul who’s signed for another season will continue to serve the NHL Bruins organization as an inspirational leader at the developing depth but also a solid backup plan in case he’s needed in an emergency with Boston.

Peter Cehlarik

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

Cehlarik has missed a majority of games in February of 2020 but returned to the Providence lineup against Springfield on the 22nd and immediately got back to work offensively. Posting 1-1-2 numbers in the 7-4 victory over Atlantic Division rival Thunderbirds, the big 6′-2″ 205-pound versatile forward now has 2-2-4 in his last three games and his return and emergence couldn’t have been better timed as the Rhode Island team continues to climb the standings preparing for another postseason birth.

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So far this year the 24-year-old forward has appeared in 42 games for Providence posting 15-17-32 numbers and in his three games with the NHL Bruins in this 2019-20 campaign notched an assist before being waived for the purpose of AHL placement. Peter is another leader on a team full of good low-risk European talent and with 20 games remaining in this season, I believe he’s just getting warmed up as he’s auditioning for more time with the B’s organization as he’s a restricted free agent at the end of the year.

Trent Frederic

( Photo Credit: Team Shred Photography )

Trent possesses many attributes that you want to see in a young player that’s on the verge of starting a long NHL career. He has a good mind for the game and for a big kid has a tremendous pair of hands. He does have decent speed when needed but Frederic’s game, in my opinion, is how he grinds along the boards and in the dirty areas around the net. As many Bruins, fans already know, Trent is not afraid to mix it up or be a nuisance to an opposing team which he felt did his team wrong with liberties taken.

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Regardless of his heavy playing style, the former 2016 first-round pick of the Bruins has already passed his AHL career-high of 25 points in 55 games last season to 7-23-30 totals thus far in 53 games for his Providence club in 2019-20. Frederic who leads the AHL in penalty minutes is currently on a three-game point streak with four assists in his last three games. That hard-nosed grind it out style will be needed down the stretch and in the upcoming Calder Cup Playoffs if in fact the B’s get in and secure a spot.

Brendan Gaunce

( Photo Credit:  Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images )

Gaunce was a sneakingly smart free agent signing for the Boston Bruins when both sides agreed to a one-year two-way contract during the offseason. Brendan is another player with a heavy bag of attributes and solid plan “B” asset for the higher NHL Bruins if needed regardless of the situation. After missing almost a month in the early season with a concussion and facial lacerations from a suspendable open-ice hit from former Laval Rocket forward Michael McCarron he’s really stepped it up offensively in the second half of the year.

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Brendan is currently on a season-high seven-game point streak where he’s contributed 5-5-10 numbers in that timeframe. In his last 20 games, he’s posted 9-10-19 numbers and has been one of the veteran players that Head Coach Jay Leach can put in a multitude of situations including when a tenacious forechecker is needed. it’s hard to say if this career-high streak can be sustained but it’s been fun to watch as the club continues to gell together in hopes of a long postseason run.

Max Lagace

( Photo Credit: ProvidenceBruins.com )

Another great find for the Boston Bruins over the offseason as Legace started the year on fire and hovering at the top of the AHL’s top goaltenders when it comes to individual stats. Max signed a one-year, two-way contract last summer and not only was he going to be a solid veteran presence in the Providence crease, but he also came to the  Bruins organization with some NHL playing experience. When the AHL plays three games in three nights on a weekly schedule his athleticism and demeanor at the minor-pro level have been nothing but impressive.

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Lagace who started off like a firecracker to start the year as mentioned has appeared in 31 games thus far in 2019-20 posting a 20-7-3 regular-season record with a 2.40 goals-against-average, and .918 save percentage. The 27-year-old netminder is currently in second in the AHL in shutouts with five (Leader- Six) and riding a three-game winning streak and 7-2-1 in his last ten games. In that ten-game stretch the Quebec, Canada native has a 2.77 GAA and .908 Save%. It should be interesting to see how the goaltending will be planned out for Lagace down the stretch and potential postseason because of another Providence netminder who’s been on a tear since early December 2019.

Robert Lantosi

( Photo Credit: Providence Bruins / Flickr )

I have to give major props to the Boston Bruins scouting staff on the AHL free agent signing of forward and Czech native Lantosi. A low-risk high reward decision is certainly paying dividends in his rookie year in North America. Robert was invited to the 2019 Bruins development camp and the NHL B’s did their due diligence with scouting him up close and offering him a contract before the 2019-20 campaign started. Lantosi is an extremely fast forward that doesn’t exactly have the biggest Getty up and go stride but instead, it’s the hole-shot he creates with increased foot speed. He has really good edge work and offensive creativity to stickhandle in a phone booth.

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In his first year of AHL hockey, the 24-year-old Slovakia native has contributed 11-20-31 numbers and another player who’s earned the trust of Coach Leach and has the ability to play with anyone up and down the right side. He does have a sick one-timer in Pastrnak’s office and wish he’d use that weapon more often in key scoring situations like increased power-play time. In his last four games, Robert has posted 1-2-3 numbers as he as well needs to be strong down the stretch and in the postseason as he’s playing for another minor-pro contract after this season.

Jack Studnicka

( Photo Credit: ProvidenceBruins.com )

I know many Jack Studnicka mega fans are boiling over with the fact that’s he’s not playing regularly in the NHL yet, I believe the Boston organization is doing the right thing. By keeping a player like this in with the top-minor pro affiliate allows him to continue to develop and absorb the different aspects of the games as he’s currently in his first full year of AHL hockey. With potential departures on the NHL roster by this fall, it’s no doubt in my mind he’ll earn a spot in Boston after working hard during the offseason and providing Bruins management with no option to send him back to Providence after a solid NHL training camp in the fall of 2020.

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Jack currently leads the Providence club with 20-22-42 numbers in 54 games and when it comes to special teams play he’s contributed three goals on the power-play and leads the AHL with six shorthanded goals. After going eight games without a point from late December 2019 to mid-January 2020, the former 2017 second-round pick snapped out of that pointless funk to produce 6-10-16 numbers in his last 14 games. Jack is so fun to watch because of his tremendous hockey intelligence and the way he maneuvers effortlessly through all three zones. Be patient Bruins fans because Studnicka is coming and if you’ve had the chance to watch him play throughout his development you know what kind of special player he can be.

Dan Vladar

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

A big netminder with a ton of potential but his first few seasons of minor pro developmental hockey have been up and down as he continues to learn the pro game. I’ve always been high on Dan and can see why the Bruins selected him with the third-round selection in 2015 as the second-ranked European goaltender per NHL Central Scouting. The 6′-5″ 195-pound Czech Republic native has the size to smother any lose pucks down low and has the athleticism to be an effective butterfly style netminder. His up and down years when it comes to season records shouldn’t be any indication of his future as all hockey players go through highs and lows trying to soak so much information in while training to be a world-class athlete.

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The beginning of the 2019-20 season didn’t exactly start off the way anyone expected. The 22-year-old got his first win of the regular season giving up one goal in a 21 save effort but in his next contest he gave up five at the Dunk in Providence to go 1-1 in the early season with a 3.05 GAA and .888 Save%. His next game in Laval, Quebec he suffered a high ankle sprain and was out for a better part of six weeks. when he returned on the 1st of December, he certainly blew me away with a 36 save shutout and a return to the ice playing a style I’ve never seen him play before. During his injury rehabilitation, he worked with Bruins goaltending coaches Bob Essensa and Mike Dunham to minimize his movements in the crease.

Since coming back in the last month of 2019, Vladar has a 10-7-1 record with three shutouts, a 1.91 GAA, and .931 Save%. Dan’s goals-against -average ranks second and save percentage ranks third in the AHL. He’s currently on a three-game winning streak which has the potential to extend with an appearance in one of the road games this weekend. The young goaltending prodigy has worked very well with the aforementioned Max Lagace as both netminders look for equal regular-season playing time down the stretch.

Jakub Zboril

( Photo Credit: Tumblr )

Not a fan favorite when selected by the Boston Bruins in the first round with what talent remained on the draft board after the Boston organization had three straight selections. Regardless of fan opinion and NHL playing time, I believe Zboril has been a good soldier even though he’s spent a majority of his development with the Providence Bruins. He plays an aggressive shutdown style of defense and although he’s not considered to be much of an offensive producer from the backend, the 23-year-old has the vision and quick hands for fast outlet passes for defensive transition out of the zone. Those quick decisions have got him into trouble on several occasions throughout his pro-development but it’s not a knock as he continues to learn patience in his all-around game.

With fellow blueliner Jeremy Lauzon up with the NHL Bruins, for now, the 6′-0″ 195-pound Czech Republic native, in my opinion, is having his best season so far in his minor-pro career and has even surpassed former first-rounder Urho Vaakanainen on my depth chart. His defensive awareness and overall play with more trust from Head Coach Leach has been a pleasure to see and should bode well in contract negotiations this summer as a restricted free agent. Not saying that he’d get an extension for permanent NHL duties but could be retained and continue to develop in Providence as future roster spots become available with potential departures. In 52 games this season Zboril has 2-12-14 numbers and logs a lot of minutes as a depth defenseman with seniority.

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