( Photo Credit: Providence Bruins / Flickr )

By: Mark Allred | Follow me on Twitter @BlackAndGold277

Last night the American Hockey League Providence Bruins played game one of the 2023 Calder Cup Playoffs, losing the game at the Amica Mutual Pavilion to the visiting Hartford Wolf Pack by the score of 1-0. With Providence capturing the AHL Atlantic Division title after the last game of the 2022-23 regular season and earning a first-round bye, the top minor-pro affiliate of the NHL Boston Bruins finally got into postseason action after almost two weeks off.

After a regular season record of 44-18-8-2 and 98 points, and a healthy roster, the Providence team looked ready to take on anyone in the Eastern Conference this postseason. At the AMP last night, it was a tough battle facing a Hartford Wolf Pack team who swept the best-of-three first-round series 2-0 against the Springfield Thunderbirds. Providence Head Coach Ryan Mougenel, assistants Trent Whitfield, and Matt Thomas worked this Bruins team hard with grinding practices and even a scrimmage to stay fresh during the 12-day non-game action duration.

Although this second-round best-of-five series against Hartford is far from over, with game one being played last night, Providence is back at it tonight, with game two at the AMP set for 7:05pm. I would imagine the B’s will be better prepared with more of their game legs under them and tie the series at one this evening in front of the home crowd in downtown Providence, Rhode Island.

Hartford played a stifling defensive game last night, pretty much shutting down the neutral zone. Providence had a hard time gaining offensive zone entries, and even when the entries were successful, the Wolf Pack forced the B’s to the outside, minimizing quality chances. This tight defensive effort last night from Hartford only led to 14 shots in the game from Providence on Wolf Pack rookie netminder Dylan Garand, who’s currently the best goaltender in these playoffs, with at least three games played this postseason. Garand appeared in 32 games in the 2022-23 regular season posting a 13-14-3 record with a 3.01 goals-against-average

While the Wolf Pack defensive game locked down the Providence offensive onslaught, on the other side of the ice, Bruins starting goaltender Brandon Bussi was a key factor in keeping his team above water. Against Hartford last night, the Boston Bruins prospect stopped 31 of 32 shots on goal in the shutout loss. With backup netminder Kyle Keyser with the NHL Bruins as their third goalie and prospect Reid Dyck with the Providence team as a backup from the WHL Swift Current Broncos, I’d expect Bussi to get the start tonight in goal again as the most experienced netminder the AHL B’s have.

If Providence wants to tie this second-round series at one tonight at home, they need to find a way to control the neutral zone as Hartford did to them last night. Instead of being forced to the wide sides and boxed out in the Hartford defensive zone, the B’s need to find a way to expose the Wolf Pack through the middle and find ways to get Wolf Pack netminder Garand to move side to side instead of just shooting mid-section with no chances of secondary opportunities.

During the 2023 regular season, Hartford had a 6-3-1 record against Providence and won five of the last six games, with three overtime victories, per New England Hockey Journal and NHL.com writer Mark Divver. As both teams played each other ten times during the regular season, there’s no love lost between these two clubs, and in game one, the physicality was definitely there. Look for that to continue tonight when both teams face each other in game two at the AMP in downtown Providence, Rhode Island.