By: Tim A Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson
The day we’ve all been hoping for is finally here. The start of the Providence Bruins 2020-2021 season is upon us. The 2019-2020 season ended abruptly due to the ongoing global pandemic. Even though the pandemic rages on, the AHL has decided to play its season. The spoked P is coming off a season that saw them go 38-18-3-3 (82 points). They also ended their season hot going, 12-0-1 in their last 13 games. There will be a few differences heading into the season. Not only is the roster different, but the baby Bs will be playing their home games at the New England Sports Center in Marlborough, Massachusetts.
The hockey action starts on Friday, February 5, 2021, when the Bridgeport Sound Tigers come to town to take on our Providence Bruins at the New England Sports Center in Marlborough, Massachusetts. The action wraps up on Thursday, February 11, 2021, when the Hartford Wolf Pack travel to take on the Providence Bruins at the New England Sports Center in Marlborough, Massachusetts.
Friday, February 5th, 2021, Providence Bruins vs. Bridgeport Sound Tigers (HOME)
The Friday season-opener marks the first of 12 matchups these two division foes will have this season. The Bridgeport Sound Tigers are coming off a season that saw them go 23-33-5-2 (53 points). That record was good for eighth in the Atlantic Division and 16th in the Eastern Conference. To compare, the Providence Bruins ended up first in the Atlantic Divison and the Eastern Conference.
Last season our boys in black and gold went 5-3-1 against Bridgeport, including 2-3 in Providence at the Dunk. Over the past five seasons, the Bruins are 26-19-7-3, including 16-8-4 at home. One thing that was key in the games these two played last season was special teams. The Sound Tigers managed to net two power-play goals in 42 opportunities. That is a 4.8% rate (stats courtesy of the AHL). On the flip side, the Providence penalty kill was a superb 95.2% against the Islanders’ affiliate (stats courtesy of the AHL). I believe this will come into play again this season.
Thursday, February 11, 2021, Providence Bruins vs. Hartford Wolf Pack (HOME)
The Thursday matchup marks the first of 12 the two division rivals will have this season. The Wolf Pack are coming off a season that saw them go 31-20-6-5 (73 points). This record was good for fourth in the Atlantic Division and seventh in the Eastern Conference. The Rangers’ affiliate had the Bruins’ number last season. Providence was 3-6 against Hartford, including 1-3 at home. Over the past five seasons, the matchup has been pretty even. The spoked P is 24-17-4-2, including 14-7-1-1 at home.
Grabbing an early lead and holding that lead will be a key to victory in this matchup. When leading after the first period, Providence was 23-0 last season, and Hartford was 14-1-2 (stats courtesy of the AHL). When leading after two periods, the Bruins were 31-0, and the Wolf Pack was 21-0-1-2 (stats courtesy of the AHL). It’s pretty evident that both teams play better from ahead, and it’ll be imperative again.
My Players To Watch This Weekend
Oskar Steen: Oskar Steen’s first season in Providence was last year. He came to the Bruins after spending the beginning of his career in Sweden. The 2016 draft pick started the 2019-2020 season slowly but played better as the year went on. In 60 games last year, he netted seven goals while dishing out 16 assists for 23 total points (stats courtesy of EliteProspects). Steen also played on loan at the beginning of this season with HF Bjorkloven of the HockeyAllsvenskan league in Sweden. In 16 games there, he found the back of the net 12 times while tallying three assists for 15 total points (stats courtesy of EliteProspects). Look for him this weekend.
On The Blue Line
Jack Achan: Jack Achan signed with the Bruins as an undrafted free agent. He spent each of the last four seasons with St. Cloud State University, the last of which he served as captain. In 33 games with SCSU in 2019-2020, he netted seven goals while tallying 18 assists for 25 total points (stats courtesy of EliteProspects). He’s undersized but plays bigger. The young defenseman is speedy, has a high hockey IQ, and can play in any situation. Look for him this weekend.
Jeremy Swayman: Jeremy Swayman signed his entry-level contract after spending the last three seasons at the University of Maine. The young netminder was by far their best player. Swayman’s 2019-2020 season was unforgettable. He was a Hobey Baker Finalist for the nation’s top player. He also won the Mike Richter Award for the nation’s top goalie. He would go on to win many more awards for his excellent season. In 34 games with the Black Bears last season, he went 18-5-11 with a .939 save percentage and a 2.07 goals-against average (stats courtesy of EliteProspects). He should go into the season as Vladar’s backup, but look for him to play a decent amount of time.
Providence Bruins hockey being back is an exciting time. Due to the pandemic, the Bruins will only be playing three teams this season. They are playing the Wolf Pack and Sound Tigers 12 times each, and they have one game against the Utica Comets. Despite the short year, I expect a lot of fun, hard-hitting hockey to enjoy. I hope everyone is staying safe and enjoys the start of the season. Feel free to send me any comments or questions on Twitter. As always, GO, Bs, GO!