By Tim Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson
Week three of the AHL season is here, and the Providence Bruins go into it 3-1-0-1 (7 points). This is good for second in the Atlantic Division as well as third in the Eastern Conference. Our boys in black and gold are coming off a down week in which they beat the Rochester Americans 3-2 in their home-opener. They would then lose to the Springfield Falcons 5-2 before losing again to the Laval Rocket 5-4 in a shootout to end the week. Week three should be full of exciting hockey that you don’t want to miss.
The hockey fun kicks off on Friday, October 18, 2019, when the Providence Bruins take on the Laval Rocket for the second game in a row at Place Bell in Laval, Quebec, Canada. The action continues on Saturday, October 19, 2019, as the Bruins continue their tour of Canada when they travel to Belleville, Ontario, Canada to battle the Belleville Senators at CAA Arena. Finally, the week wraps up on Tuesday, October 22, 2019, when Providence invades Bridgeport, Connecticut to take on the Bridgeport Sound Tigers at Webster Bank Arena.
Friday, October 18, 2019, Providence Bruins vs. Laval Rocket (AWAY)
The Providence Bruins kick off the weekend against the Laval Rocket. It’s the second of four meetings between the two clubs this season. Our boys in black and gold lost to the Montreal affiliate in the first meeting 5-4 in a shootout. They got goals from Peter Cehlarik (2), Paul Carey, and Brendan Gaunce. Goalie Max Lagace was less than stellar in net turning away 14 of the 18 shots he faced. The Providence club has had a tough time with Laval historically.
Over the past five seasons, they’ve gone 2-1-0-2, including 1-0-0-2 on the road. The Laval hockey club has had a rough start to the year. They are 2-3 (4 points) to start the season. This is good for sixth in the North Division and 12th in the Eastern Conference. They had a record of 30-34-6-6 (72 points) last season. This was good for seventh in the North Division and 14th in the Eastern Conference.
The defense is going to play a major role in this game. The Montreal affiliate gave up 231 goals last season while only scoring 195. This means their goal differential is -36. Anything below zero is incredibly bad, but -36 is awful. Providence has had some ups and downs defensively over the past few games, but I believe this is still one of the better defenses in the AHL. Urho Vaakanainen is one of the major reasons I believe this. He’s been stellar so far, and I expect him to help shut down Laval.
Saturday, October 19, 2019, Providence Bruins vs. Belleville Senators (AWAY)
The Saturday night matchup between the Belleville Senators and the Providence Bruins marks the first of two these teams will have. There isn’t much history between these two clubs over the past five seasons, because of being in different divisions. Despite this, our boys in black and gold are 2-1-1 against the Ottawa affiliate in that time frame including 0-1-1 on the road.
The Belleville Senators have had a rough start to their season going 1-2 (2 points). This is good for eighth in the North Division and 16th in the Eastern Conference. Last season the Ottawa affiliate was 37-31-3-5 (82 points). This was good for fifth in the North Division and 10th in the Eastern Conference. Special teams are going to play a big part in this game.
The Senators are 0/11 on the power play to start the year. The Bruins’ penalty kill is stingy only giving up four goals in 22 opportunities. These two components coupled together should tip the scales in Providence’s favor. On the other hand, our boys in black and gold have netted just three goals in 23 power-play opportunities and Belleville has given up three goals in 16 chances on the penalty kill. Hopefully, this can give the Providence club a chance to get the power-play on track.
Tuesday, October 22, 2019, Providence Bruins vs. Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AWAY)
The Tuesday night matchup between Bridgeport and Providence will be the first of 12 between the two clubs. Over the past five seasons, the Sound Tigers and Bruins have been pretty evenly matched. Our boys in black and gold are 21-16-6-3 including 7-10-3-3 on the road. It should be an evenly matched game between the two clubs.
The Bridgeport Sound Tigers are 1-2-1 (3 points) to start the young season. This is good for eighth in the Atlantic Division and 15th in the Eastern Conference. Last season, the Islanders’ affiliate was 43-24-6-3 (95 points). This was good for second in the Atlantic Division and fourth in the Eastern Conference. They would go on to lose to the Hershey Bears in the first round of the playoffs.
I expect this game, and the season series to be close. Last season, six of the 12 games went to overtime or shootout. With both clubs so evenly matched, it seems likely that the Tuesday night game will be a one or two-goal game. When you have closely contested matchups, goaltending, defense, and special teams generally play a huge part in deciding the outcome. To start the season Providence has the edge in those categories. I expect them to come out on top.
Who’s Hot and Who’s Not
Anders Bjork: Anders Bjork has had a blistering start to the season. In five games with Providence, he’s netted three goals while dishing out three assists for six total points. This is exactly what both the young forward and the Bruins wanted to see after each of the last two seasons were cut short with shoulder surgery. If the Notre Dame alum keeps this up, he may force his way into Boston’s lineup.
Peter Cehlarik: Peter Cehlarik is a guy who had an excellent season in Providence last year. The young forward is in an awkward position currently. The team doesn’t really have room for him in Boston, and he’s a restricted free agent at the end of the season. Despite that, he’s started off hot scoring three goals in his first two games of action for three total points. He looks like one of the best players on the ice which is an excellent sign.
Zach Senyshyn: Zach Senyshyn found himself in the not section last week as well. It’s unfortunate because you would like a player, especially one of Senyshyn’s caliber to start the year hot. The young forward is one of two players to play in all of the team’s games this season and not register a point. Despite this, Senyshyn does seem to be chomping at the bit. I expect him to break out of the scoreless streak soon.
Trent Frederic: Trent Frederic is the other player on the roster to play in every game and not register a point. The University of Wisconsin alum has had a slow start to the year, but he’s another player that I expect to break out of the slump soon. He’s way too good to go too long without a point.
My Players To Watch This Weekend
Anders Bjork: Anders Bjork has had a marvelous start to the 2019-2020 season. He’s scoring at a point per game clip of 1.20 and looks excellent on the ice. This is exactly what you want to see from a top prospect who has been injured each of the past two seasons. I expect the Notre Dame alum to keep up his hot start. Keep an eye on him, he’s a joy to watch.
On The Blue Line
Jakub Zboril: Zboril has had a good start to his AHL season. He’s playing a heavy game and doing well defensively. He hasn’t found the back of the yet but has dished out an assist for one total point this season. The good news is one of the teams that Providence plays this weekend is the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. In 10 games against the Islanders’ affiliate, last season Zboril netted two goals and dished out three assists for five total points. Look for Zboril to rack up some points this weekend.
Max Lagace: Lagace came to Providence as a free agent after being in the Vegas Golden Knights’ system. The veteran netminder has been good thus far going 2-0-0-1 with a 2.22 GAA, and a save percentage of .923. Look for him to have a big weekend on the road for Providence.
The Providence Bruins looked great the first week and not great the second. As I’ve previously stated, I still believe this team could be special. They have all the tools to put together a magical season. I expect our boys in black and gold to have another stellar week. They should be able to collect at least four of six possible points. Feel free to send me any comments or questions on Twitter. As always, GO, Bs, GO!
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