( Photo Credit: Tessa McAndrews / Providence Bruins )

By: Mark Allred | Follow me on Twitter @BlackAndGold277

The American Hockey League Providence Bruins have carved a path of resilience and skill through the regular season, earning themselves a well-deserved first-round bye in the Calder Cup Playoffs. The top minor-pro affiliate of the National Hockey League Boston Bruins finished the 2023-4 campaign ranked second in the Eastern Conference with a 42-21-6-3 record and 93 points. As the anticipation builds, they are gearing up for a thrilling best-of-five second-round series against their Atlantic Division rivals, the Hartford Wolf Pack. This matchup promises to showcase AHL talent and strategy, with both teams eager to advance further in the quest for the coveted Calder Cup.

The Providence season has been a testament to the team’s depth and determination. With a record that stands out in the AHL standings, the Bruins have showcased their prowess across all areas of the ice. Players like Georgii Merkulov, Jayson Megna, Patrick Brown, John Farinacci, Ian Mitchell, and Michael Callahan, whose pivotal contributions have led the team with goals, assists, and exemplary leadership.

The Bruins’ strengths lie in their offensive firepower, structured defense, and strategic gameplay, elements that were crucial in securing the first-round bye. The Bruins’ goaltending tandem of Brandon Bussi and Michael DiPietro was one of the significant factors of success in the 2023-24 regular season but will be challenged in this upcoming series against the Wolf Pack.

The Hartford Wolf Pack, no strangers to the pressures of the playoffs, made it to last year’s third round when they got swept 3-0 to the eventual 2023 Calder Cup champion Hershey Bears and have had a commendable regular season. The team boasts a roster of skilled players, including Alex Belzile, Brennan Othmann, Brett Berard, Nick Petan, and veteran Riley Nash, who have consistently impacted games significantly.

Wolf Pack netminder Dylan Garand is likely to get a bulk of the starts vs. Providence, as he was stellar in games two and three in the opening round vs. the Charlotte Checkers, going 2-1 with a 1.61 goals-against-average and a .955 save percentage. This will be the seventh time in Calder Cup Playoff history that Providence and Hartford have faced each other, and each series of the past has been intense and closely contested, making this matchup all the more exciting for the fans and players alike.

This series is expected to be a battle of tactics and talent. Both teams are closely matched on paper, but this was the same scenario that happened a year ago between both teams. In the second round of the 2023 Calder Cup playoffs, Hartford was the better team in the best-of-five series, winning 3-1 and taking advantage of Providence, who was on a bye week and out-of-game action for nearly two weeks. The key to victory will lie in which team can effectively exploit the other’s weaknesses while capitalizing on their strengths. Coaching strategies and line-up decisions will play a critical role in determining the outcome of this highly anticipated series.

The Providence forwards and defense will be heavily relied on to counter the physicality factor that Hartford will bring. Regardless of the B’s going 5-3-1-1 in the 2023-24 regular season, Providence will need to be better prepared, provide different results in this series, and not get into bad habits, which was seemingly the problem when the B’s faced this Pack team in the postseason last year.

Providence forward Marc McLaughlin said in an interview with Providence Communications Specialist Jordan Conn after this morning’s practice, “I feel like we owe them. Last year it didn’t do how we thought it would. We’re definitely looking to get revenge playing Hartford again.”

There is some good news out of Providence, Rhode Island, from Bruins longtime hockey scribe Mark Divver, who was at the rink covering this morning’s practice as the B’s prepare for their second-round battle against the Wolf Pack. NHL Bruins prospect Fabain Lysell, who’s been out of game action since March 23rd, was seen without a no-contact white jersey, suggesting he’s getting close to a return, but it remains to be seen if he’ll get into tomorrow night’s game one home battle.

Divver also mentioned that goaltender Michael DiPietro was not at the Providence practice this morning and to expect him to be with Boston tonight as the third goaltender. The Bruins play game five tonight at the TD Garden as the first round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs vs. the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs continues.

Providence fans’ support has been a driving force for the Bruins all season and should be the same when the second round officially starts tomorrow night. Hopefully, the atmosphere in the Amica Mutual Pavillion, especially during these postseason games, will be electric. With the stakes higher than ever in beating Hartford and redemption from last year’s second-round postseason series, the home advantage could be a significant factor for the Bruins. Fans are encouraged to show their support, creating an intimidating atmosphere for the visiting team and their fans who’ll travel from the state of Connecticut.

Providence Bruins 2024 Second-Round Calder Cup Playoff Schedule

Wednesday night, May 1st, 2024, Hartford at Providence at 7:05 p.m., Amica Mutual Pavillion.

Friday night, May 3rd, 2024, Hartford at Providence at 7:05 p.m., at the Amica Mutual Pavillion

Wednesday night, May 8th, 2024, Providence at Hartford at 7:00 p.m., at the XL Center.

Friday night, May 10th, 2024, Providence at Hartford at 7:00 p.m., at the XL Center (if necessary).

Sunday afternoon, May 12th, 2024, Hartford at Providence at 3:05 p.m., at the Amica Mutual Pavillion (If Necessary).