Less Is More For The Bruins In Free Agency

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Photo Courtesy of Bob DeChiara – USA TODAY Sports

By: Tim Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson

Many Bruins fans, as soon as the final horn sounded ending the 2018-19 Stanley Cup Final and the Boston Bruins and fans alike watched the St. Louis Blues celebrate on TD Garden ice turned to free agency to see how this team could be improved. There are many talented players hitting the market this year, and the Bruins have around 14 million dollars in cap space. Now, I know a lot of you are thinking that with that kind of money our favorite team in black and gold could get an elite player or two and this team who was one game away from being Stanley Cup Champions, would be in a great position to get back there. Now, I don’t mean to burst your bubble but the Bs should not, and probably will not be very active in free agency.

The first reaction some of you may have had seeing that news may be a bit on the reactionary side, but I’ll explain why you should temper free agent expectations. The major reason is the amount of restricted free agents the Bruins have both this year and next year that they will likely keep. Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, and Danton Heinen are all restricted free agents this offseason and all three need to be re-signed. Brandon Carlo had an excellent season and played in his first playoffs ever despite this being his third year in Boston. The young defenseman played extremely well during the run to the Stanley Cup Final. A longterm four or five-year deal will probably be reached, and it’ll likely be for over four million dollars a year.

Danton Heinen is a player who some fans have soured on a bit because his offensive numbers were down from last season. While this may be a cause for concern, something that some people fail to realize is Heinen is one of the Bruins best defensive and possession forwards, which is hard to see on a scoresheet. At any rate, the down offensive season may actually end up working in the Bruins favor because in contract negotiations he probably will not be able to command as much money as he would have. I definitely see the Bruins and Heinen working out a four-year deal worth anywhere from two to three million dollars a year.

That leaves our final restricted free agent Charlie McAvoy. This one is a little bit trickier because McAvoy definitely deserves a big payday, and the Bruins want him to be a cornerstone of the team and defense for many years to come. However, giving him that huge contract he deserves may not be in the best interest for the Bruins right away. Next season, the Bruins have Jake DeBrusk, Matt Grzelcyk, Connor Clifton, and Karson Kuhlman who are also RFAs. All four of those players are ones you’d probably like to keep. On top of that, Torey Krug is going to be a UFA, and that is someone the Bruins may also try to keep. They need as much cap space as possible.

What the Bruins will probably try and do is sign McAvoy to a smaller “bridge” contract with the promise of a big payday after that. A major reason why this would work out in the B’s favor is after the 2020-2021 season the Bruins have David Krejci, Tuukka Rask, and David Backes all coming off the books. That will give the Bruins a little more than 20 million dollars to spend. If you give McAvoy a two-year “bridge” contract, you could line up his payday perfectly with that money coming off the books. The young Bruins defenseman seems to like Boston and wants to stay long term so I can see a “bridge” deal being agreed upon and then the big payday coming in a couple of years.

Ultimately, these are my thoughts as to why we shouldn’t expect the Boston Bruins to be too active in free agency. I think they have internal options to fill needs at the second-line right wing and I’d like them to keep their own guys. Despite losing in game seven of the Stanley Cup Final, the future is bright for the boys in black and gold. I think if they stay the course, and keep their own guys, the team will be in great shape going into next season. My biggest advice to Don Sweeney is no reactionary moves to the Stanley Cup Final loss. Feel free to send me any comments or questions on Twitter. I hope everyone has a fantastic offseason and enjoys the draft. As always GO, Bs, GO!

Check out this week’s Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 132 below!!

Marcus Johansson Playing Himself Into New Contract With Bruins

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(Photo Courtesy of Adam Glanzman / Getty Images)

By: Tim Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson

As the trade deadline approached in February, rumors swirled about what the Boston Bruins were going to do. Many people believed that the Bs needed a top-six forward to play on the second line with DeBrusk and Krejci. Right, when it looked like the Bruins were not going to make a trade before the deadline, the news came out minutes before the deadline that a deal had been made. That trade was with the New Jersey Devils. Boston traded their 2019 second-round pick, and a 2020 fourth-round pick for Marcus Johansson and the Devils would retain 40 percent of his remaining salary.

Initial thoughts were that this was a pretty good depth trade and that Johansson was a player that could play on any wing. Then just four games into the Sweden native’s tenure in Boston, he took a crushing hit against Carolina. Jojo, as his teammates call him, would suffer a bruised lung and be out for a couple weeks. This had fans all over thinking “oh no, not again” because this would be the second season in a row in which a deadline acquisition would get hurt early into their tenure in black and gold. Three weeks later Johansson would return to the Bruins lineup and play in the teams remaining six games of the regular season.

The final three games of the regular season were very good for Johansson. He finally seemed to gel with his new team, and he would go to score a goal and dish out an assist in those three games. Then came the playoffs, and the Bruins would play Toronto in the first round. His first four games played in the playoffs were forgettable, and he would even sit out two of the first six games of the series. Then it was like a switch went off. The former New Jersey Devil would start gaining confidence and gelled really well with fellow mid-season acquisition Charlie Coyle.  Johansson would go on to score a goal in game seven against Toronto, and since then the flood gates opened up.

The Bruins third line of Marcus Johansson, Charlie Coyle, and Danton Heinen has been an x-factor for the Bruins this playoff run. The chemistry that Coyle and Johansson have on the ice is mesmerizing to watch, and every time Johansson touches the puck it seems like he has a chance to do something special. Including that goal in game seven, in his last 13 playoff games, Johansson has netted three goals while dishing out six assists for nine total points. He is driving play and has been one of the best players on the ice for the Bruins these playoffs. Now, Johansson’s play this run to the Stanley Cup Final has brought up an interesting question. Do the Bruins re-sign him?

I think the Boston Bruins have to absolutely look at bringing Marcus Johansson back next season with one caveat. The price has to be right. The Bruins have around 14.3 million dollars in salary cap space going into this off-season. This seems like a big number, but let’s dig into that a little further. At the end of this season, Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo are both restricted free agents, and you have to absolutely keep both of those players. That could take up most of your cap space depending on whether or not McAvoy takes a smaller “bridge” contract pushing off his big payday for a few years. On top of that, after next season Jake DeBrusk, Karson Kuhlman, Matt Grzelcyk, and Connor Clifton are all restricted free agents as well. So, it may take some financial creativity to keep Johansson.

Now, what would a new contract for Johansson look like? I believe if you can get him to sign a one or two year contract in the neighborhood of 2.8-3.15 million dollars a year, then you have to absolutely sign him. Anything beyond that would probably be too detrimental to the salary cap and hurt your chances of keeping those core restricted free agents. One thing I do know for sure is that I hope Johansson keeps up his play the rest of this Stanley Cup run. He has been a lot of fun to watch, and it would be great to see his play rewarded with hoisting the Stanley Cup here in June. Feel free to send me any comments or questions on Twitter. Enjoy the rest of the Stanley Cup Final, and GO, Bs, GO!

Cliffy Hockey: Bruins Young Defenseman Shining On The Brightest Stage

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(Photo Courtesy of Charles Krupa / Associated Press)

By: Tim Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson

A year ago, young defenseman Connor Clifton played in his first season with the Providence Bruins. He came to Providence as a college free agent signing an AHL contract, after not signing with the Arizona Coyotes (the team that drafted him) and electing free agency. The New Jersey native came from Quinnipiac University, where he had a very successful college career, and even served as the Bobcats’ Captain in his senior season. After taking some time to adjust to the AHL game, the young defenseman got better with each game he played through the season. The Boston Bruins were so happy with his progression that they signed him to a two-year ELC after last season.

Coming into this season, the major things that stood out about Clifton’s game were his great skating ability, and his aggressive play both with and without the puck. The former Quinnipiac University Captain came into this season on a mission, playing extremely well for Providence. Even early in the season, it was easy to see that Clifton had the biggest improvement in play from last year to this year. Then in mid-November with a lot of injuries to the Boston defense, Clifton got his first call-up to the big club. In his nine-game stint, he looked good. The young defenseman didn’t register a point, but he played good defense and looked like he belonged in the NHL.

After being sent back down to Providence, he continued to improve his game. Playing great defense while also contributing offensively as well. The injury bug bit the Boston Bruins defense again, and in mid-March, Clifton was called back up to the NHL, and this time it was for good. He would play in 10 games at the end of the regular season and registered his first NHL point, getting an assist in a win against the Florida Panthers. Overall, in 19 games with the Boston, he registered the one point. While in Providence, he netted six goals while dishing out 21 assists for 27 points in 53 games played. That’s a point per game total of .509.

At the end of the season, Clifton was playing so well that the Bruins decided he would be in their line-up when the playoffs started April 11, 2019, against Toronto. The New Jersey native would get dinged up in the game one loss to Toronto, but finally got back into the line-up in time for the game seven victory that sent Toronto home for the summer and Cliffy Hockey was born. The young defenseman has played so well that he’s stayed in the rotation even with big free agent acquisition John Moore, who signed a five-year 13.75 million dollar contract in July being healthy.

With each game Clifton plays, you can see him getting more confident and playing better. Not only defensively, but offensively as well. The Quinnipiac Alum plays big. He’s not afraid to throw his body around, and he plays an aggressive style that is an absolute joy to watch. Not only that, his skating ability is awesome. Clifton’s speed has helped in both ends of the ice these playoffs. His play has really peaked during this recent eight-game playoff winning streak that the Bruins are on. In the eight games, he’s netted his first two career NHL goals, and dished out two assists for four total points. As the stage gets brighter, so does Clifton’s play. His goal in game one of the Stanley Cup Final was huge. The Bruins were down 2-0, and the goal turned the tide of the game.

The Boston Bruins find themselves just three wins away from hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup for the seventh time in franchise history. There are many contributing factors that have led them to this point. The play of Tuukka Rask, the play of Marcus Johansson, Charlie Coyle, and the third line, the play of Sean Kuraly and the fourth line, even the team’s defense as a whole. However, even with all of those factors, Connor Clifton’s coming out party which has solidified the defensive third pairing is as big a factor as all of those things. If Boston wants to finish off this season with a championship, then Clifton will need to continue his high level of play, and I expect him to do just that. Feel free to leave me any comments or questions on Twitter, and I hope everyone enjoys the rest of the Stanley Cup Final. Finally, most importantly, GO, B’S, GO!

From Non-Factor to X-Factor: Bruins Third Line Coming Up Huge In Playoffs

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(Photo Courtesy of John Tlumacki / Boston Globe Staff)

By Tim Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson

The Boston Bruins find themselves in the middle of a long playoff run, and while there are many different factors that have led to this, one of the biggest x-factors that fueled this run is the play of the third line, and the players that make up that third-line. Going into the season, if someone told you the Bruins would make it at least to the Eastern Conference Final, and that third-line was going to be a big part of that, you would probably think that person was nuts, but here we are. Marcus Johansson, Charlie Coyle, and Danton Heinen have played great hockey over the last few weeks, and they’ve really shown that they can hold the secondary scoring mantle. Secondary scoring was also a big problem for the boys in black and gold with many local and national media personalities telling us that while the first-line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak is elite, the team needed more balance on all lines.

With that balance needed, and the younger internal options never fully emerging the Bruins turned to the trade market to fortify the third-line. The guy that Boston turned to was Charlie Coyle. They traded Ryan Donato and a fifth-round pick to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Coyle. Then a few days later, the Bs traded a second and fourth-round pick to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for Marcus Johansson. Now, Coyle looked strong, and the Bruins seemed to finally solve the third-line center position, but Johansson was initially tried out on the second-line. Then only a few games into his tenure with the spoked B he took a hard hit from Carolina Hurricanes’ winger Micheal Ferland, which bruised the New Jersey Devils’ lung. As a result, we never were able to fully see what Boston’s new additions could do.

Even after Johansson came back from injury, he still needed time to fully show what he could do. Heading into the playoffs, Charlie Coyle had fully stabilized the third-line center position, and Johansson was still working to find his niche on the team. Even after game one of the first round of the playoffs against Toronto, the Bruins sat the Sweden native for games two and three. Since then, however, both Coyle and Johansson have been a force to be reckoned with these playoffs. Conor Ryan of the Boston Sports Journal even pointed out that Johansson and Coyle combined in the playoffs have netted nine goals and dished out 12 assists for 21 total points, and they’ve generated 25 individual high-danger scoring chances. Individually, Charlie Coyle has netted six goals while dishing out six assists for 12 total points, Marcus Johansson has netted three goals while dishing out six assists for nine total points, and the final member of the third-line Danton Heinen has netted two goals while dishing out five assists for seven total points.

To top all of that off, over the past five games that they’ve played together the three players have netted a combined four goals while dishing out a combined nine assists for 13 total points. To take it a step further, the 13 points in five games accounts for 21% of the points scored in those games. All five of those games have resulted in a Bruins victory.  Not only are these guys scoring, but they are also driving play when they are the ice which is one of the most important things, especially in the playoffs. A lot of fans were critical of Don Sweeney at the trade deadline stating that the trades getting Coyle and Johansson would not be enough to get past Tampa Bay and win a Stanley Cup. Luckily for Boston, Columbus took care of Tampa Bay for them, and their acquisitions are playing a large part in the Bruins being two wins away from a Stanley Cup Final appearance.

The Boston Bruins third-line has gone from a non-factor to an x-factor this long playoff run. They’ve become such a big strength that you have to consider re-signing Marcus Johansson in the off-season if the price is right. It seems like whenever he has the puck, he has a chance of making a big play. The play of the third line has been an absolute joy to watch, and Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson have become some of my favorite players to watch these playoffs. If Danton Heinen, Charlie Coyle, and Marcus Johansson can keep up their high level of play, then the Bruins’ chances of hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup in June are very good.

I hope everyone enjoys the rest of this playoff run. Feel free to leave questions or comments on my Twitter and Go, Bs, Go!

Bruins AHL Affiliate: Providence Bruins 2018-19 Season Review

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(Photo Courtesy of Providence Bruins / Flickr)

By: Tim Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson

The Providence Bruins 2018-19 AHL season came to an end on Friday, April 26, 2019, when they lost 4-1 to the Charlotte Checkers which gave the Hurricanes’ affiliate the 3-1 series win in the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs. It was an exciting season of highs and lows for the baby Bs, and the team gave us as fans a lot to look forward to in the coming years. There are many players that we can look forward to seeing not only in Providence next season but Boston for years to come. Later in the article, I will go a little more in-depth about a player at each position that I am especially excited about, but guys like Urho Vaakanainen, Jack Studnicka, Jeremy Lauzon, Trent Frederic, and Kyle Keyser are players you should be extremely excited about.

Team Breakdown 

The season started off rough for the Providence hockey club. They went 3-5-1 in October which frustrated not only the players but the fans as well. The month of November was much better for our boys in black and gold going 6-3-2 bring their record to 9-8-3. As we got deep into the holiday season, the Providence Bruins continued to struggle a bit. The month of December the Bruins went 5-7-2 bringing their overall record to 14-15-5. This was especially frustrating because despite the player call-ups and injuries this team was extremely talented and seemed to not be playing to their ability.

The new year hit, and the team was 15-16-5 after the first two games, and then something amazing happened. The team went on a 12-game point streak that went from January 6, 2019, to February 8, 2019. During the point streak, they went 10-0-1-1, and it was largely in part thanks to the defense and Zane McIntyre.  The point streak catapulted the team to a 25-16-6-1 record, and they jumped into playoff position during that 12-game period.

The rest of February wasn’t as kind to the Providence hockey club, they ended the month 3-4-1 pushing their record to 28-20-7-1 by the end of February. The month of March was very good to the baby B’s they went 7-4-1-2 pushing their record to 35-24-8-3 going into the final month of the season. The team would go 3-3 their final six games of the year pushing their final overall record to 38-27-8-3 (87 points) which was good for fourth in the Atlantic Division and seventh in the Eastern Conference.

The Providence Bruins ended up having a goal differential of +16 with 228 goals scored and 212 goals against. This was very good. The team defense was one of the best in the Eastern Conference.  The baby B’s would go on to have the seventh-ranked power play in the Atlantic Division and 12th-ranked in the Eastern Conference at 17.7%. The penalty kill, on the other hand, would end up being one of the best in the league being ranked third in the Eastern Conference as well as the Atlantic Division at 85%.

Forwards

The forward group had lofty expectations right from the get-go. They had a few big name prospects that were expected to make that jump from prospect to legitimate NHL player. The two main prospects that were supposed to take huge steps forward were Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Trent Frederic. Both young forwards were competing for the third-line center position in Boston during training camp. Ultimately, neither player would win the position out of camp and both would spend time in Boston never fully grasping the position.

Trent Frederic, a former University of Wisconsin Badger, did well in his first full professional year of hockey. Despite a slow start, it seemed like getting called up to Boston gave the young center confidence which translated into better play and more scoring later on in the season for Providence. Overall in 55 for the baby Bs, Frederic netted 14 goals while dishing out 11 assists for 25 total points. This is a point per game total of 0.45. Something else that was promising for the young center was 18 of his 25 points were scored after the new year. As the year went on, he got stronger. He did play in 15 games with Boston and didn’t register a point. However, he still looked solid when he played. Overall, I think this was a season that Frederic can build upon and I think he will end up being a good third or fourth line center for Boston in the future.

Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, on the other hand, might be a piece used in a bigger trade to strengthen the NHL roster. The former Boston University Terrier took a step back in a lot of people’s opinion. The young center did spend time in Boston and Providence and did deal with some injuries. It’s possible that the uncertainty about where he was playing, and getting hurt played into a less than stellar season. Ultimately, in 28 games with Providence, he netted seven goals and dished out nine assists for 16 total points. That’s a point per game total of 0.57. With Boston, he netted three goals and dished out six assists for nine points in 28 games. That’s a point per game total of 0.32.

Another forward that was expected to take a big leap forward, and failed to do so was Zach Senyshyn. The young speedster excelled in the OHL scoring at a point per game clip of 0.91 (114-63-177 in 195 games). This has yet to translate fully to the AHL game, though he does show flashes of brilliance. In 66 games with Providence, the young winger netted 14 goals while dishing out 10 assists for 24 total points. This is a point per game total of 0.36. While he did score two more goals than last season he did also have two fewer points overall in the same amount of games. Despite this, Senyshyn did earn a call-up to Boston and in two games netted a goal. I am hoping that the confidence he showed there translates next season.

Two forwards who were both in their first professional season who surprised and had great years were the former University of Minnesota-Duluth Captain and NCAA champion Karson Kuhlman and the former University of Wisconsin Captain Cameron Hughes. Hughes had a strong start to the season, and then injury hurt his productivity, but he still ended up netting 13 goals and dishing 15 assists for 28 total points in 53 games. That’s a point per game total of 0.53. The former University of Wisconsin forward looks like he could be a strong player on one of the bottom two lines at the NHL level. He will be someone to look at next season.

Kuhlman, on the other hand, had a marvelous season. The former NCAA champion netted 12 goals while also dishing out 18 assists for 30 total points in 58 games for Providence. That’s a point per game total of 0.51. The young forward played so well that he earned a call-up to Boston and in 11 regular season games netted three goals while dishing out two assists for five total points. The former University of Minnesota-Duluth Captain also has played in six playoff games for Boston this season and in those games has dished out two assists for two total points. He is someone who could potentially be a middle six forward in the NHL. He is someone to be excited about not only the rest of this season but next season too.

This brings me to the three guys who were probably the most consistent forwards throughout the year for Providence. First, is Jordan Szwarz who would serve as the Captain for Providence this season. The gritty forward was an excellent veteran presence in the locker room for the baby Bs. He is someone who served as a Captain or Associate Captain at every AHL team he’s played for. In 68 games with the Providence hockey club, he netted 23 goals and dished out 23 assists for 46 total points. That’s a point per game total of 0.67. It was his third year in a row with the spoked P where he netted at least 20 goals. He became the fifth person in team history to do so. Szwarz is an unrestricted free agent after this season so the likelihood of him in the organization next season isn’t great.

Next, we have Gemel Smith. The OHL product was acquired from Dallas in December and was excellent for Providence. In 47 games he netted 16 goals while dishing out 24 assists for 40 total points. That is a point per game total of 0.85. Smith is an RFA after this season so, he is someone that we may not see next season in the organization, but regardless was excellent this season. That brings us to the third guy on my list of “most consistent forwards on the year for Providence” Paul Carey. The veteran forward was acquired in January from Ottawa and was nothing short of brilliant in his time with the baby Bs. In 30 games with the club, the former Boston College Eagle netted 22 goals while dishing out 11 assists for 33 total points. That’s a point per game total of 1.10.

Finally, the forward I am most excited about next year and beyond is someone who didn’t play a regular season game for Providence but joined the team in the playoffs. That person is Jack Studnicka. To me, he is the best offensive prospect in the system. The young center spent the entire regular season in the OHL splitting time between the Oshawa Generals and the Niagra IceDogs. In 30 games with Oshawa, he netted 12 goals and dished out 22 assists for 34 total points. Then, in 30 games with Niagra, Studnicka netted 24 goals and dished out 25 assists for 49 total points. That means, in 60 total OHL games he netted 36 goals and dished out 47 assists for 83 total points. That’s a point per game total of 1.38. He also played in 11 playoff games with the IceDogs netting six goals and dishing out five assists for 11 total points. In four playoff games with Providence, he netted one goal and dished out one assist for two total points. The young forward is someone to look for next season and be extremely excited about.

Defense

The defense is another group that had many high profiles prospects that are well known throughout the system. Thanks to many injuries early on for the parent club in Boston, a lot of these prospects saw time in the NHL. One of those players is Jeremy Lauzon. The former QMJHL champion had a good season with Providence despite injury and being called up. In 29 games with the baby Bs, he found the back of the net once and dished six assists for seven total points. This is a point per game total of 0.24. The good news is he had the same exact stats last season in 55 games. So, his scoring rate increased despite getting hurt. In 16 games with Boston, he netted one goal for one total point. He also flashed some really good defensive ability. I could definitely see Lauzon being part of the Boston defense for years to come.

Another guy that spent a couple games up in Boston was Jakub Zboril. In two games with the parent club, he didn’t register a point but he played good defense. The major thing was he looked like he belonged. In 56 games with the Providence Bruins, the former QMJHL Champion netted four goals and dished out 15 assists for 19 total points. That’s a point per game total of 0.33. Again, the good news here is that the young defenseman had the same exact stat line in 68 games with the baby Bs last season. This means his scoring rate increased which is positive because he is billed as a two-way defenseman. Zboril is an interesting case because with the depth the team has he could be dealt for a bigger piece or he could remain with the organization and be part of the team’s defensive plan moving forward.

Connor Clifton probably made the biggest jump from year one with Providence to year two, and it was a surprising jump at that. With all of the other defensive prospects the team had, the former Quinnipiac University Captain was overlooked. That turned out to be a mistake. In 53 games he netted six goals while dishing out 21 assists for 27 total points. That is a point per game total of 0.51. The young defenseman’s scoring rate almost doubled from last season. To top it off he was playing really good defense, and when Boston needed someone called up because of injury, they called on Clifton. In 19 games with the parent club, he dished out one assist for one point, while also playing a key role on the third defensive pairing. He has also played a pivotal role in the playoffs anchoring the third pair. Overall, I think Clifton can be a better version of Kevan Miller for the Boston Bruins moving forward.

There are two defensemen that I am extremely excited for next season for two totally different reasons. The first one is Cooper Zech. The young defenseman came to Providence as an undrafted free agent in March after his freshman season at Ferris State University. While there, he led the Bulldogs in scoring netting eight goals and dishing out 20 assists for 28 total points in 36 games. That’s a point per game total of 0.78. In 12 games with the Providence hockey club, he didn’t find the back of the net but did dish out four assists for four total points, and in the team’s four playoff games, he netted two goals for two total points. The main reason I am excited about Zech is I want to see how his offensive game translates to the AHL. If he can keep up a point per game total of 0.78 for a full AHL season he would have a 59 point season over 76 games.

The other defenseman I am extremely excited about is Urho Vaakanainen. The Finnish defenseman was drafted in the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft and this was his first full professional season in North America. Despite getting injured during the second game of a brief two-game call-up, the young defenseman had a great season Providence. In 30 games with the baby Bs, he netted four goals while dishing out 10 assists for 14 total points. This is a point per game total of 0.46. He didn’t register a point during the brief Calder Cup playoff stint but he played great defense. This is a player that I think is going to be a top pairing defenseman for the Boston Bruins for years to come. He not only possesses the defensive ability, but he also has some nice offensive ability too. Look for him to possibly make an impact in Boston as early as next season.

Goaltending

The goaltending for the Providence Bruins this season was not very consistent. They had stretches where it was lights out and others where it seemed like every shot was going in. First, we had Zane McIntyre who in his fourth season with Providence you hoped he would show that he could potentially at least be a back-up in the NHL. In 46 games with Providence this season, the University of North Dakota alum was 25-14-7 with a GAA of 2.59 and a save percentage of .898. The veteran netminder will be a group 6 unrestricted free agent this off-season. This happens when a player is 25 and have had at least three professional seasons beyond junior or collegiate hockey. I believe this means that McIntyre won’t be back in the organization next season especially with Kyle Keyser ready for the AHL and Jeremy Swayman waiting in the wings at the University of Maine.

Dan Vladar had a respectable first season in Providence with the Bruins. In 31 games with the baby Bs, the 21-year old netminder was 13-13-4 with a GAA of 2.73 and a save percentage of .898. The young goalie showed you flashes of great play and the potential to be at least a back-up goalie at the NHL level. I expect him to share the load in Providence next season with Kyle Keyser who will likely play in his first full AHL season with the spoked P. It’ll be interesting to see if Vladar is able to take a big step forward next season, I like him overall as a prospect and hope that he has a great year next year.

That brings us to Kyle Keyser. The 20-year old goalie made his Providence debut during the Calder Cup playoffs in game four of the first round. The OHL product was forced into playing time because of a Vladar injury, and McIntyre being called up to Boston as the “black aces” goalie for the playoffs. The OHL product played as well as could be expected, stopping 26 of 29 shots that were fired his way in the series finale loss. Keyser is coming off an excellent season with the Oshawa Generals where in 47 games he was 32-8 with a GAA of 2.75 and a save percentage of .915. He also played excellently during their playoff run going 8-7 with a GAA of 2.83 and a save percentage of .925. This is the goalie I am most excited about the Bruins system. I think he has the tools to eventually be a number one goaltender in the NHL.

Ultimately, it was a fun season for the Providence Bruins that was full of ups, downs and a ton of excitement. It may have ended quicker than we all would have liked, but it was awesome watching our boys in black and gold play all season. There are many reasons to be excited about not only the AHL club moving forward but also the big club in Boston. They had prospects take important steps forward, and hopefully, those players continue their development and then make waves in the NHL. On a personal note, it was fun previewing the Providence Bruins for everyone this season, and I thank you for reading. Now that my rookie season is over expect next season to be even better. I will catch up with everyone as much as I can during the off-season but feel free to send any questions or comments to me on Twitter. I hope everyone enjoys the time off and Go, B’s, Go!  

Bruins AHL Affiliate: Providence Bruins First Round Playoff Update

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By: Tim Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson

A new week of playoff hockey is upon us and the Providence Bruins are right in the middle of their first-round series with the Charlotte Checkers. After splitting the first two game in Providence, the two teams traveled down to Charlotte, North Carolina to continue the series at the Bojangles’ Coliseum. Game three was a tough game for the Providence hockey club and the Hurricanes’ affiliate took the ever so important 2-1 series lead with game four on Friday, April 26, 2019. The baby B’s hope they can steal game four and push the series to a game five where anything could happen. It’s going to be an exciting finish to the series that you do not want to miss.

First Round Calder Cup Playoffs: Providence Bruins vs. Charlotte Checkers

Game One

Despite the slow start, game one was the one that got away for the Providence Bruins. The Checkers started off hot, less than two minutes into the game Morgan Geekie netted a goal that was assisted by Nick Shilkey and Andrew Poturalski. Then, a little more than two minutes later it was like deja vu all over again when Morgan Geekie netted another goal assisted by Andrew Poturalski and Nick Shilkey to make it 2-0 Charlotte less than four minutes into game one. After this, however, the Providence Bruins would come storming back. Captain Jordan Szwarz got the baby B’s on board netting a goal that was assisted by Anton Blidh. A few minutes later, on the power play, Cooper Zech took a feed from Zane McIntyre and tied the game up at two!

The Bruins would pull ahead less than a minute later when Anton Blidh scored on a feed from Trent Frederic and after the first period, it was 3-2 good guys! The second period was one that Providence would probably like back. was one that Providence would probably like back. It started out with Charlotte’s Tomas Jurco tying the game up at three on a goal that was assisted by Martin Necas and Jake Bean. Later in the second period, Julien Gauthier would put the Checkers up 4-3 on goal that was assisted by Nicolas Roy and Dennis Robertson, and that would be the score at the of the second period.

Now, during my preview one of the stats I pointed out was that the Hurricanes’ affiliate was 38-0 when leading after two periods in the regular season, this didn’t bode well for our boys. The Bruins would show signs of life in the third period, and almost seven minutes the Jordan Szwarz would get his second goal of the game assisted by Kyle Cumiskey and the game would be tied at four. However, later in the period, Bobby Sanguinetti would put the Checkers up for good on a goal that was assisted by Nicolas Roy. Checkers win 5-4 and lead the series 1-0. Zane McIntyre had a rough night in net for Providence stopping 22 of the 27 shots fired his way.

Game Two

Game two was the next day, and the Providence Bruins looked to even the series at one apiece. The Providence hockey club came out hot when Cooper Zech would net his second goal of the series. It was assisted by Jordan Szwarz and Paul Carey and the Boston affiliate took an early 1-0 lead. Then with a little over a minute left in the first period, Jack Studnicka would net his first professional goal on a feed from Lee Stempniak and Ryan Fitzgerald to make the score 2-0 and that would be the score at the end of the first period.

The score remained 2-0 for most of the second period, but with a little over two minutes left Andrew Poturalski would get the Checkers on the board on goal that was assisted by Trevor Carrick and Nicolas Roy. With under a minute to play in the second Charlotte would tie the game up at 2 with a goal from Dan Renouf that assisted by Andrew Poturalski and Morgan Geekie. It would remain 2-2 at the end of the second period. The third period started off slow but ended up being eventful. Almost 10 minutes into the period Peter Cehlarik would put Providence up 3-2 on a goal assisted by Jack Studnicka and Trent Frederic.

It would stay that way until the very end of the game when Chris Breen would add an empty net goal with one second left to make it a 4-2 game. Bruins win and tie the series up at 1-1. Dan Vladar was great in net stopping 25 of the 27 shots he faced. At the end of the game as the empty net goal was being scored a scrum broke out and two Bruins players (Jordan Szwarz and Lee Stempniak) and three Checkers players (Trevor Carrick, Tomas Jurco, and Bobby Sanguinetti) were given game misconducts. This is significant because Bobby Sanguinetti was suspended one game for his role in the scrum and Trevor Carrick has been suspended three games for leaving the bench during an altercation.

Game Three

Both teams packed up and set sail for Charlotte, North Carolina where the rest of the series will be played at the Bojangles’ Coliseum. The Checkers came out strong in the first period and about halfway through Andrew Poturalski scored his second goal of the series which was assisted by Aleksi Saarela to put them on top 1-0. About four minutes later Charlotte would go up 2-0 when Morgan Geekie scored his third goal of the series which was assisted by Jake Bean and Andrew Poturalski and the period would end with the Hurricanes’ affiliate up 2-0. Both teams would put up a goose egg in the second period and at the end of two, it was still 2-0 Checkers.

Again, going back to game one the Charlotte hockey club including regular season play was now 39-0 when leading after two periods. About a minute into the third period Andrew Poturalski would net an unassisted goal his second of the game and third of the series to put Charlotte on top 3-0 and that would go on to be your final with the Carolina affiliate now up 2-1 in the series. Goalie Zane McIntyre was adequate in net stopping 25 of the 28 shots he faced. Something else of note, Dan Vladar was set to start game three but an injury during the pre-game skate forced Zane McIntyre into the lineup.

Who’s hot and Who’s not for the Bruins this series

Hot

Cooper ZechCooper Zech has been great for Providence this series. In the three games, he netted two goals and has two total points. He came over to Providence in March signing as an undrafted free agent after his freshman year at Ferris State. While there, he led the team in scoring netting eight goals and dishing out 20 assists for 28 total points in 36 games. That’s a point per game total of 0.77. In 12 regular season games with Providence, the young defenseman didn’t find the back of the net but did dish out four assists for four total points. That’s a 0.33 point per game total in a limited sample. Hopefully, Zech can keep up his hot play and provide both offense and defense for the Bruins the rest of the series.

Jordan SzwarzThe Captain has been great for Providence this series. In the three games, he has netted two goals and dished out one assist for three total points. Szwarz had another great season for Providence in 68 games he netted 23 goals while dishing out 23 assists for 46 total points. That’s a point per game total of 0.67. The OHL product will need to continue to play well if the Bruins hope to take games four and five in Charlotte.

Not

Zane McIntyre: Zane had a pretty good regular season for Providence. He was 25-14-7 with a GAA of 2.59 and a save percentage of 0.898. This series, however, has been bad for the North Dakota alum. In two games the veteran netminder is 0-2 with a GAA of 4.14 and a save percentage of 0.855. With the injury to Vladar before game three, and the severity of it unknown, the Bruins need McIntyre to pick up his play if they hope to move on to the second round of the playoffs.

Zach SenyshynZach Senyshyn had an up and down regular season. The speedster showed some flashes of being elite, and at times looked a little lost. In 66 games with Providence, he netted 14 goals and dished out 10 assists for 24 total points. That’s a point per game total of 0.36. The young winger did get a call up to Boston and in two games netted a goal for his only point. That was something I was hoping would catapult him into a big playoff series, but in three games against Charlotte he has yet to register a point and if the Bruins want to advance to the next round, they need more offense.

Outlook for the rest of the series

A couple of things I said in my preview for the series that were important were overall team defense and would the Bruins get enough offense to win games. Both points seem to be rearing their ugly head as the team defense in game one as well as game three were suspect, and the Bruins just didn’t get enough offense especially in game three. Providence only had 20 shots on net in the game three loss and that just is not going to cut it and if the baby B’s hope to move onto the second round they need to generate more opportunities.

Before Wednesday night’s contest at Bojangles Coliseum, Providence rookie goaltender Dan Vladar went down with a lower body injury which is rumored to be a hamstring issue. With Zane McIntyre spending time with Boston as the “black ace” third goaltender, another rumor floating around the Boston Bruins organization is B’s goaltending prospect Kyle Keyser “could” get his first AHL start in goal in his first Calder Cup Playoff game. The 20-year-old Keyser recently ended his year with the Oshawa Generals a team who was eliminated in the  third  round of OHL playoffs to the hands of the leagues best Ottawa 67”s.

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I think that the boys in black and gold can win two in a row and still take this series. They proved earlier in the year that they could beat Charlotte on the road. Like I stated earlier game four will be Friday, April 26, 2019, and it will be one you do not want to miss. If Providence can come out on top, then the deciding game five would be Saturday, April 27, 2019. Let’s hope they can take game four Friday night! We will catch up with you next week to let you know how the team fared but feel free to send any questions or comments to me on Twitter. I hope everyone enjoys the series and Go, B’s, Go!

Bruins AHL Affiliate: Providence Bruins First Round Playoff Preview

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( Photo Courtesy of Providence Bruins / Flickr )

By: Tim Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson

After a grueling 76-game schedule, the AHL regular season has come to an end. The Providence Bruins finished off the year 38-27-8-3 (87 points) and 5-5 in their last 10 games. This was not only good for fourth in the Atlantic Division, and seventh in the Eastern Conference but also a spot in the coveted Calder Cup Playoffs. Our baby B’s will take on the Carolina Hurricanes’ affiliate the Charlotte Checkers in the first round. The hard-hitting playoff action begins on Saturday, April 20, 2019, at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island. It’s going to be an exciting series that you do not want to miss.

First Round Calder Cup Playoffs: Providence Bruins vs. Charlotte Checkers

The Providence Bruins will be in the playoffs for the 22nd time since 1987 and the 20th time since the team moved to Providence in 1992. Their first two playoff appearances were as the Maine Mariners in 1987-88 and 1990-91. The baby B’s will look to capture their second Calder Cup with their only one coming in the 1998-99 season. Our boys in black and gold will take on the Charlotte Checkers who are the top-ranked team in the Atlantic Division as well as the Eastern Conference. The first-round schedule will be as follows:

Game 1 Saturday, April 20, 2019: Providence vs. Charlotte at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, Providence, RI

Game 2 Sunday, April 21, 2019: Providence vs. Charlotte at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, Providence, RI

Game 3 Wednesday, April 24, 2019: Providence vs. Charlotte at the Bojangles’ Coliseum, Charlotte, NC

Game 4 Friday, April 26, 2019: Providence vs. Charlotte at the Bojangles’ Coliseum, Charlotte, NC*

Game 5 Saturday, April 27, 2019: Providence vs. Charlotte at the Bojangles’ Coliseum, Charlotte, NC*

*If Necessary

The Charlotte Checkers finished the year 51-17-7-1 (110 points) and 8-2 in their last 10 games. During the regular season, the Providence Bruins and the Hurricanes’ affiliate played eight times with the Providence hockey club going 4-3-1. In the first installment of the season series, the Carolina Hurricanes’ affiliate beat the Baby B’s 4-3 with the Bruins getting goals from the now departed Jan Kovar, Trent Frederic, and Jordan Szwarz. Meanwhile, goalie, Dan Vladar had a rough night in net turning away 20 of the 24 shots he faced. The second meeting did not yield better results for our boys in black and gold as the Checkers won 3-2 with the Bruins getting goals from Peter Cehlarik and Ryan Fitzgerald while goalie, Zane McIntyre played valiantly stopping 17 of 20 shots in the loss.

The third match-up between the two clubs saw the spoked P finally break through winning 2-1. They got goals from Peter Cehlarik and Jordan Szwarz. Zane McIntyre was superb in net turning away 25 of the 26 shots that were fired his way. The fourth installment between these two teams the Baby B’s fell in OT to Charlotte 3-2 getting goals from Jordan Szwarz and Trent Frederic. Zane McIntyre was great in net again, turning away 44 of the 47 shots he faced, and he pitched in with the rare goalie assist. The fifth meeting between the two clubs saw the spoked P beat the Hurricanes’ affiliate 5-3 with the Bruins getting goals from Trent Frederic (2), Gemel Smith, Paul Carey, and Karson Kuhlman. Zane McIntyre was very good in net turning away 24 of the 27 shots he faced.

In the sixth game of the season series, The Bruins beat the Checkers 2-1 in overtime getting goals from the now Ryan Donato, and Cameron Hughes (OT GW). Goalie Zane McIntyre was superb in net stopping 28 of the 29 shots he faced. The seventh grudge match saw the Baby B’s beat Charlotte 1-0 in overtime getting their game-winning goal from Gemel Smith. Goalie Dan Vladar was excellent in net turning away all 37 shots he faced. The final game of the season series saw Providence fall 3-2 getting goals from Paul Carey and Jakub Zboril. In net, Dan Vladar was good stopping 29 of the 32 shots that were fired his way.

There are many different keys to victory for the Providence Bruins, and the first one is special teams play. The Charlotte Checkers had the second-ranked power play unit in the Atlantic Division and the fifth-ranked in the Eastern Conference at 19.7%. Along those same lines, the Carolina affiliate also scored the second-most overall power play goals in the Atlantic Division and fourth-most in the Eastern Conference with 61. Meanwhile, the baby B’s penalty kill that will be dealing with that power play is quite good ranked third in the Atlantic Division as well as the Eastern Conference at 85%. The spoked P has given up 47 power play goals, and only two other teams have given up less than that amount in both the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference.

On top of that, the boys in black and gold scored 12 shorthanded goals, this was the most in the Atlantic, and third most in the East. The Bruins’ power play was less than spectacular on the season. At 17.7% it was ranked sixth in the Atlantic and 12th in the East. Our boys in black and gold scored 56 power play goals this was 10th most in the conference and fifth most in the division. Meanwhile, the penalty kill for Charlotte was elite all year. At 86.6%, it was top in the Atlantic as well as the East. The Checkers only gave up 41 power play goals this was also top in the conference and division. The one thing the Hurricanes’ affiliate didn’t do was score shorthanded goals. They nabbed six on the year. Only two teams in the Atlantic and the East scored less.

Another major key to the series will be grabbing an early lead and keeping it. When leading after the first period, the Checkers are 30-5-1-1. The Providence hockey club is 17-7-3-1 when they are leading at the end of one. When ahead after the second period, the Charlotte hockey club is an astounding 38-0. The Bruins, on the other hand, are 30-4-2-2 in the same scenario. The other major key to winning is will the baby B’s get enough scoring. The boys in black and gold scored a total of 228 goals on the year which is 3.00 goals a game. This was good for 10th in the East. The Checkers only gave up 189 goals on the year which is 2.48 goals a game. Only one team was better than that in the Eastern Conference. If the Providence Bruins want to win, they are going to have to get scoring from everyone.

 Who’s hot and Who’s not for the Bruins

Hot

Jordan SzwarzJordan Szwarz has had a great season for Providence. The Bruins’ Captain in 68 games played netted 23 goals while dishing out 23 assists for 46 points. That’s a point per game total of 0.67. That it includes netting five goals and dishing out 12 assists for 17 total points in his last 17 games. The OHL product has been essential to the success of the baby B’s and when he scored his 20th goal on the year, he became the fifth player in Providence Bruins history to score 20+ goals in three different seasons. It’s safe to say that if the gritty forward is doing well so are the Providence Bruins. If they want to take out the Eastern Conference-leading Checkers, then Szwarz is going to need a big series.

Gemel Smith: Gemel Smith has had an excellent season since coming over to Boston in a trade with Dallas back in December. After three games with the big club, the OHL product was sent to the AHL and excelled almost instantly recording points in nine of his first 12 games. Recently, he has still been great. Over his past nine games, the gritty forward has found the back of the net three times while also dishing out six assists for nine total points. The Former Stars’ draft pick is another player crucial to the success of the Providence Bruins as a whole, and they need him to come up big in the Calder Cup playoffs.

Not

Peter CehlarikPeter Cehlarik has been good for the Providence Bruins as a whole this season, and his play recently shows that he might be turning the corner on the mini-slump that he was in, but I am not willing to say he’s out of the not category just yet. In 53 games with the Providence Bruins, he netted 12 goals and dished out 26 assists for 38 total points. That’s a point per game total of 0.71. The SHL product has not netted a goal since March 22, 2019, but has dished out seven assists in that time frame. Hopefully, the Slovakian native can pick up his game for the Calder Cup playoffs. The baby B’s are going to need all the scoring they can get.

Ryan Fitzgerald: Ryan Fitzgerald is another guy that overall has had a good season for Providence, despite some adversity. The former Boston College Eagle was arguably the best forward for Providence over the first few months of the season, and then injury derailed the year a little bit. In 61 games, the gritty forward has netted nine goals while dishing out 28 assists for 37 total points. This is a point per game total of 0.60. Despite this, Fitzgerald has only found the back of the net once and dished out three assists for four total points in his last 13 games. The Bruins will need the winger to pick up his play in the playoffs if they hope to capture Calder Cup immortality.

My players to watch this series

Up Front

Trent Frederic: Trent Frederic has had an up and down season for Providence. It was his first full professional season, and he played well at times but also disappeared on the ice at times as well. The former University of Wisconsin Badger played in 55 games for the baby B’s as well as 15 games with the big club in Boston. With Providence, the young center netted 14 goals while dishing out 11 assists for 25 total points. That is a point per game total of 0.45. Despite this, his play has been strong as of late and he even registered his first career hattrick against Springfield in the playoff-clinching win. On top of that, he played very well against Charlotte this season netting four goals and dishing out one assist for five total points in four games against them this year. Look for him to have a big series and be crucial to the team’s success.

On the Blue Line: 

Victor Berglund: This one may surprise you a bit considering he has only played in four games since coming over from the Swedish Allsvenskan league in late March, but I think he is someone that could end up playing a huge part in the Providence Bruins’ quest for the Calder Cup. In the four games he has played in he’s netted one goal and dished out 1 assist for two total points. To top it off, the young defenseman from Sweden played well overall. He looked good on the ice. The defense is something that is going to play a major role in the outcome of this series, and I think Berglund can help solidify Providence on the back end.

In Net

Zane McIntyre: Zane McIntyre is another player that had an overall solid season for Providence. On the year, he was 25-14-7 with a .898 save percentage and goals against average of 2.59. The veteran netminder also played a lot better at home than on the road this year with 20 of his 25 wins coming at the Dunk this season. The first two games of this series are in Providence, so if he can play well the baby, B’s could be up 2-0 going back two Charlotte. To top it off, in five games against Charlotte this season, the University of North Dakota alum was 3-1-1 with a .926 save percentage and goals against average of 2.14. He will play a major role in whether the Bruins are successful this postseason.

The Calder Cup playoffs are here, and our Providence Bruins are lucky enough to have a spot in the tournament. The baby B’s do have an uphill battle playing against not only the number one team in the Atlantic Division but also the Eastern Conference. Despite this, our boys in black and gold went 4-3-1 against Charlotte this season and over the past five seasons are 6-5-1. This means the teams are more evenly matched than stats and records may indicate. If the Providence hockey club can take both games at the Dunk this weekend, then I think they will go on to win the series. It all starts on Saturday and I hope everyone is excited. We will catch up with you next week to let you know how the team fared but feel free to send any questions or comments to me on Twitter. I hope everyone enjoys the series and Go, B’s, Go!

Bruins AHL Affiliate: Providence Bruins Week 27 Preview

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( Photo Courtesy of Providence Bruins / Flickr )

By Tim Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson

Week 27 of the AHL season is upon, and with it brings the final three games of the regular season. The Providence Bruins skate into it 37-25-8-3 (85 points) and 5-3-1-1 in their last 10 games. This is could for fourth in the Atlantic Division and seventh in the Eastern Conference. With just three games remaining in the regular season the baby B’s magic number to clinch the playoffs is just one. This means, clinching the spot is just a formality at this point, and if the standings stay the same it looks like the Bruins would take on the Atlantic Division-leading Charlotte Checkers in the first round. However, before the excitement of the first round is here, we must finish the final three games this weekend.

The hockey action kicks off on Friday, April 12, 2019, when the Lehigh Valley Phantoms invade Providence, Rhode Island to take on the Bruins at the Dunkin Donuts Center. The exciting hockey action continues Saturday, April 13, 2019, as the Providence Bruins head on the road to take on a familiar foe the Springfield Thunderbirds at the MassMutual Center in Springfield. Massachusetts. Finally, the regular season wraps up on Sunday, April 14, 2019, when the Springfield Thunderbirds fly into town to take on the baby B’s at the Dunk. It should be an exciting end to the 2018-19 AHL regular season!

Friday, April 12, 2019, Providence Bruins vs. Lehigh Valley Phantoms (HOME)

The Friday match-up marks the sixth time the Bruins have faced the Phantoms this season. In the first meeting, Lehigh Valley beat Providence 5-4 with the Bruins getting goals from Karson Kuhlman, Cameron Hughes, Colby Cave, and Wiley Sherman. Meanwhile, goalie Dan Vladar was off his game stopping 21 of 26 shots in net. The second meeting between the two teams saw a much better result for the Bruins. The Baby B’s beat the Philadelphia Flyers’ affiliate 6-3 with the Bruins getting goals from Austin Fyten (2), Cameron Hughes (2), Ryan Fitzgerald, and Jordan Szwarz, while goaltender Dan Vladar was good in net stopping 18 of the 21 shots that came his way.

The third match-up was another tough outcome for our boys wearing the spoked P. Lehigh Valley beat Providence 3-1. With Providence getting their lone goal from Joona Koppanen with goaltender Dan Vladar continuing his solid road play stopping 17 of the 19 shots that were fired his way. The fourth battle between the clubs saw the baby B’s win 4-2 getting goals from Gemel Smith (2), Trent Frederic, and Joona Koppanen. Goalie Zane McIntyre was fantastic in net turning away 20 of the 22 shots that were fired his way.  The most recent match-up saw the baby B’s win 5-3 getting goals from Lee Stempniak (2), Zach Senyshyn, Peter Cehlarik, and Gemel Smith. In net, Dan Vladar played well stopping 19 of the 22 shots that were sent his way.

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms skate into the game 37-30-4-3 (81 points) and 6-3-1 in their last 10 games. This is good for fifth in the Atlantic Division and ninth in the Eastern Conference. Despite the fact they are on the outside of the playoff picture, this game will not be easy for Providence. Over the past five seasons, the Bruins are 10-12-2-1 against the Flyers’ affiliate including 5-5-1-1 at home. It should be a tough test for our boys in black and gold. There are a few keys to victory if the baby B’s plan on bucking the trend and beating Lehigh Valley. The first is getting a lead and holding onto it. The Providence club is 29-4-2-2 when leading after the second period, and the Phantoms are 26-1 when leading after two.

Special teams will also play a major key in who wins this game. The Flyers’ affiliate boasts the third-best penalty kill in the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference at 85.3%. Meanwhile, the baby B’s power play is ranked sixth in the Atlantic Division and 12th in the Eastern Conference at 17.4% On the flip-side the Bruins have the second-best penalty kill in Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference at 85.7% and the Phantoms have the third-best power play in the Atlantic Division and sixth in the Eastern Conference at 19.0%. If our boys in black and gold can keep out of the penalty box, they have a good chance of coming out of the game with two points.

Saturday, April 13, 2019 (AWAY), and Sunday, April 14, 2019 (HOME), Providence vs. Springfield Thunderbirds

The weekend home and home marks the 13th, and the 14th time the Bruins and Thunderbirds have faced off this season. In the first meeting, Springfield beat Providence 6-3 with the Bruins getting goals from Zach Senyshyn, Ryan Fitzgerald, and Colby Cave. Meanwhile, goalie Zane McIntyre was a little off his game stopping 14 of 20 shots. The second meeting between the two teams saw a different score with the same result. The Florida Panther’s affiliate beat the Baby B’s 4-2 with the Bruins getting goals from now-departed Martin Bakos and Jan Kovar, while current goalie Zane McIntyre looked much better stopping 17 of 20 shots in net.

The third game of the season series saw the Bruins finally break through and get a win beating the Thunderbirds 5-4. The boys in black and gold got goals from Mark McNeill, Karson Kuhlman, Peter Cehlarik, Jordan Szwarz, and Connor Clifton while Dan Vladar stopped 22 of 26 shots he faced. The next installment of the season series did not go according to plan for the spoked P as they fell to the Springfield club 5-3. Bruins got goals from Zach Senyshyn, Gemel Smith, and Jordan Szwarz. Meanwhile, goalie Dan Vladar was a little off his game despite facing a barrage of shots stopping 34 of 39 he faced. Part five of the season series was a good one for the boys in black and gold. The Bruins beat the Thunderbirds 4-3 getting goals from Peter Cehlarik (2), Trent Frederic, and Paul Carey. Meanwhile, goalie Zane McIntyre continued to play well as he turned away 19 of the 22 shots he faced.

The sixth part in the season series saw the Panthers’ affiliate beat the spoked P 3-2 in overtime. The Baby B’s were able to get goals from Gemel Smith, and Cameron Hughes with Dan Vladar giving a tremendous effort in net stopping 38 of the 41 shots he faced. The seventh showdown saw the boys in black and gold win 2-1 in a shootout getting goals from Karson Kuhlman, and Trent Frederic netted the winning shootout goal. Zane McIntyre was excellent in net turning away 23 of the 24 shots he faced. The eighth throw-down between the two clubs saw the Providence hockey club win 3-2 getting goals from Mark McNeill, Gemel Smith, and Zach Senyshyn. Goalie Zane McIntyre was great in net stopping 22 of 24 shots that came his way.

The ninth meeting saw the Thunderbirds win 5-1 with the Bruins getting their lone goal from Jordan Szwarz. Goalie Zane McIntyre had a rough game in net stopping 21 of 26 shots that were fired his way. The 10th battle between the Providence Bruins and the Springfield Thunderbirds saw the baby B’s fall 4-2 getting goals from Paul Carey and Emil Johansson. Goalie Dan Vladar turned away 28 of the 31 shots that were fired his way. The 11th chapter of the long season series saw the Bruins come out on top 5-2 getting goals from Paul Carey (2), Urho Vaakanainen (2), and Connor Clifton. Goalie Zane McIntyre stopped 27 out of the 29 shots that came his way. The most recent battle saw the Bruins fall 3-1 getting their one goal from Urho Vaakanainen. In net, Zane McIntyre was good turning away 20 of the 23 shots fired his way.

The Springfield Thunderbirds come into the weekend home and home series 31-28-9-5 (76 points) and 5-3-2 in their last 10 games. This is good for seventh in the Atlantic Division and 12th in the Eastern Conference. Despite having a rough season against the Panthers’ affiliate this year, the Baby B’s have played well against them over the past five years going 22-13-3. They also have almost identical records at home and on the road in that time frame. This bodes well for the weekend series. Defense again will play a major role in who wins this game. The Thunderbirds have scored 234 goals in the 73 games they’ve played this season which is 3.20 goals a game their problem is they’ve given up 233 goals in that time frame as well which is 3.19 per game and a goal differential of just one.

Providence’s defense, on the other hand, is quite good giving up only 199 goals in their 73 games which is only 2.72 goals a game. Their offense is no slouch either scoring 219 goals in 73 games which is 3.00 goals a game and a goal differential of 20. The other big key is again who had the lead after two periods. Despite their position in the standings the club from Springfield Massachusetts is 24-1-2 when leading after two periods and 1-25-1-2 when down after two periods. Meanwhile, the Baby B’s are 29-4-2-2 when leading after two and 4-20-3 when trailing after the second period. It should be an exciting game that you do not want to miss.

Who’s hot and Who’s not for the Bruins

Hot

Paul Carey: Paul Carey has made his way into the hot category once again. It seems like he’s here every other week, but that’s just a testament to how well he’s been playing for Providence since being traded from Ottawa in early January. In 29 games with the baby B’s, the former Boston College Eagle has netted 21 goals while tallying 11 assists for 32 total points. That’s a point per game total of 1.10. That includes netting five goals and dishing out four assists for nine total points in his last five games. The two-time NCAA champion was so good this week he was named the CCM/AHL player of the week. Hopefully, the scoring continues as the playoffs come to a beginning.

Cooper ZechCooper Zech is new to the weekly hot or not list. Signing his first contract the second week of March, the young defenseman came to Providence by way of Ferris State. While a freshman at Ferris State, he led the team in scoring netting eight goals and dishing out 20 assists for 28 total points in 36 games. That’s a point per game clip of 0.78. In 10 games since coming to Providence, the 20-year old has not found the back of the net but has dished out four assists while playing great defense. This includes the nice little three-game point streak that he is currently on. Let’s hope he can continue his play through the end of the season and the playoffs.

Not

Ryan Fitzgerald: At one point during the season, Ryan Fitzgerald was the Providence Bruins’ best forward. You could have made the case that he deserved to be called up to Boston to get a shot with the big club. However, injuries hampered the former Boston College Eagle’s season. In his past nine games, the young forward has netted one goal while also dishing out one assist for two total points. Despite this, the season hasn’t been all bad. In 58 games, the 24-year old has netted nine goals and dished out 26 assists for 35 total points. Hopefully, the gritty forward can pick up his play as we head towards the playoffs.

Mark McNeill: Mark McNeill has been on a bit of a cold streak. The gritty forward started out by having a very good year, but since has dropped off a bit. The WHL product in 54 games, has netted eight goals and dished out 17 assists for 25 total points. This is a point per game total of 0.46. Despite this, in his last 22 games, the veteran has netted one goal and dished out two assists for three total points. This means, before the cold streak he had netted seven goals and dished out 15 assists for 22 points in 32 games. The Providence Bruins are hoping he can find the scoring touch again as we come to the end of the season.

My players to watch this weekend

Up Front

Gemel Smith: Gemel Smith has been excellent since being traded to Boston from Dallas in December. In 44 games with the Providence Bruins, the young forward has netted 15 goals and dished out 21 assists for 36 total points. That’s a point per game total of 0.81. As good as the OHL product has been overall, he’s been exceptionally good against Lehigh Valley and Springfield this season. In 13 games against the two hockey clubs this season, Smith has netted six goals and dished out seven assists for 13 total points. This means that 36% of his total points have come against these two teams. Hopefully, the winger can continue that hot play this weekend.

On the Blue Line

Urho VaakanainenDespite missing time because of injuries and the World Junior Championships, Urho Vaakanainen has had an excellent first professional season with the Providence Bruins. In 29 games with the Baby B’s the young defenseman has netted four goals while dishing out 10 assists for 14 total points. This is a point per game total of 0.48. This is much higher than his Finnish Liiga days of 0.21 (7-16-23 in 109 games). To top it off, the rookie has played very well against Springfield. In eight games against the Thunderbirds, he has netted three goals while dishing out five assists for eight total points. This means 57% of his points have come against the Panthers’ affiliate. Hopefully, the young defenseman can carry that play into this weekend.

In Net

Zane McIntyre: Zane McIntyre is another guy that has had an interesting season. On the year, the veteran netminder is 25-12-7 with a goals against average of 2.48, and a save percentage of .901. Mid-season the Providence Bruins went on an impressive point streak, and at the time neither goalie had really solidified himself as the number one guy. McIntyre was able to anchor the backend of the defense and do just that. To top it off, he has been a lot better at home than on the road this season with 20 of his 25 wins coming at the Dunk. With two of three games in Providence this weekend, look for him to be essential in the baby B’s success.

The Providence Bruins are currently sitting in playoff position by four points. With 3 games remaining the team’s magic number is 1. The magic number is the number of points needed to clinch the playoff spot. The magic number goes down when it earns points either with victory, or overtime/shootout losses. The magic number also goes down when the team with the highest possible point total that isn’t currently in playoff position, loses. This means the Providence club just needs to at the very least let one of the next three games go to overtime, and they will make the playoffs.

Now, hopefully, they can win a few of these last three games and gain some momentum going into the post-season. Unless the Bruins move up in the standings, it looks their first-round match-up will be against the Division and Conference-leading Charlotte Checkers, a team that the boys in black and gold went 4-3-1 against this season. We will catch up with you next week to let you know how the team fared but feel free to send any questions or comments to me on Twitter. I hope everyone enjoys the final three games of the season and Go, B’s, Go!

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Bruins AHL Affiliate: Providence Bruins Week 26 Preview

BruinsvBridge

( Photo Courtesy of Providence Bruins / Flickr )

By Tim Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson

Week 26 of the AHL season is here, and the Providence Bruins skate into it 35-24-8-3 (81 points) and 5-3-1-1 in their last 10 games. This is good for fourth in the Atlantic Division and seventh in the Eastern Conference. With just six games left in the regular season, the baby B’s find themselves sitting in one of the final play spots. Though they sit tight in that playoff spot, every point is crucial, and they will need to get back to their winning ways to secure that spot. The good news is that four out of the final six games are being played at the Dunk with two of three there this weekend. Our boys in black and gold play very well at home so, this bodes well for the remaining games.

The weekend kicks off on Friday, April 5, 2019, when the Bridgeport Sound Tigers skate into town to invade the Dunkin Donuts Center. The hockey action continues Saturday, April 6, 2019, when the Providence Bruins take their talents on the road and invade Bridgeport, Connecticut to take on the home team Bridgeport Sound Tigers at Webster Bank Arena. Finally, the weekend concludes on Sunday, April 7, 2019, when the baby B’s return home to take on the Vancouver Canucks’ affiliate, the Utica Comets. It will be an exciting weekend of hockey that you’ll want to see.

Friday, April 5, 2019 (HOME) and Saturday, April 6, 2019 (AWAY) Providence Bruins vs. Bridgeport Sound Tigers

The weekend home and home will mark the 11th and the 12th time that these two teams have met, and all the games have been closely contested games with six of the 10 games going to overtime or shoot-out. The first game of the season series saw the Sound Tigers beat the Bruins 4-3 in overtime with the spoked P getting goals from the recently departed Colby Cave (2), and Jakub Zboril with goalie Dan Vladar playing well turning away 30 of 34 shots he faced. The next meeting saw the Providence club win 5-2 getting goals from Cameron Hughes, Colby Cave, Trent Frederic (2), and the now departed Jan Kovar. Goalie Zane McIntyre looked good in net stopping 25 of the 27 shots he faced.

The third meeting between the two clubs saw Providence breakout offensively winning 6-1 getting goals from Cameron Hughes (3), Zach Senyshyn (2), and Trent Frederic. In net, Dan Vladar was superb stopping 28 of the 29 shots fired his way. The next three meetings the Eastern Conference foes would play ended up going to overtime. The first of those ended up going the Sound Tigers’ way 5-4 with the Bruins getting goals from Jan Kovar, Anton Blidh, Jakub Zboril, and Ryan Donato. Zane McIntyre was in net for the contest, and he was a little off his game stopping 20 of the 25 shots that were fired his way.

The next meeting between the two teams had the puck bounce the Bruins way as they won 2-1 in overtime getting goals from Wiley Sherman, and Ryan Fitzgerald (OT). Goalie Dan Vladar was excellent in net stopping 29 of the 30 shots he faced. The sixth game of the season series saw the Baby B’s fell in overtime 4-3 getting goals from Anton Blidh, Peter Cehlarik, and Kyle Cumiskey with goalie Dan Vladar stopping 13 of 17 shots he faced. Part seven of the season series saw the Bruins fall 4-3 in a shoot-out getting goals from Jordan Szwarz, Mark McNeill, and Zach Senyshyn while goalie Dan Vladar stopped 12 of the 15 shots that came his way.

The season series continued Friday, February 8, 2019, when the Providence Bruins beat the Sound Tigers 2-1 getting goals from Captain Jordan Szwarz, and Connor Clifton. Goalie Zane McIntyre was excellent in the net stopping 25 of the 26 shots that were fired his way. The ninth game of the season series was the very next night, and it saw the Baby B’s fall to Bridgeport 4-2 with the Bruins getting goals from Emil Johansson and Cameron Hughes. Net-minder Dan Vladar played admirably in net stopping 22 of the 25 shots that came his way. The most recent game of the series saw the Sound Tigers win 5-4 in overtime with the Bruins getting goals from Paul Carey (2), Jordan Szwarz, and Gemel Smith. In net, Zane McIntyre had a less than stellar performance stopping 22 of the 27 shots that were fired his way.

The Bridgeport Sound Tigers come into the game 40-22-6-3 (89 points) and 5-3-1-1 in their last 10 games. This is good for second in the Atlantic Division and third in the Eastern Conference. The Providence Bruins had an up and down season against the Islanders’ affiliate this year going 4-1-4-1. However, over the past five years, the Baby B’s have seen success against the Bridgeport club going 24-17-6-3 including 16-6-3 at home in that time frame. This bodes well for the weekend match-up. Major keys to this game will be special teams and getting a keeping a lead early.

The Sound Tigers have the eighth-ranked power play in the Atlantic Division, and 16th ranked in the Eastern Conference at 16.3%. Meanwhile, the Islanders’ affiliate has the fourth-ranked penalty kill in the Atlantic Division and eighth-ranked in the Eastern Conference at 81.1% On the flipside the Providence Bruins have the sixth-best power play in the Atlantic Division, and the 13th ranked in the Eastern Conference at 16.7%. Their penalty kill is much stronger boasting the second-best in the Atlantic Division as well as the Eastern Conference at 86.2%. In terms of grabbing an early lead and keeping it, the Sound Tigers are 19-3-3-2 when leading after the first period and 22-2-5-2 when leading after two. The Baby B’s are 16-7-3-1 when leading after one, and 28-4-2-2 when leading after two. These final two games of the season series are sure to be barnburners.

Sunday, April 7, 2019, Providence Bruins vs. Utica Comets (HOME)

The Sunday afternoon game will mark the second and final time the Providence Bruins play the Utica Comets this season. Despite both teams being in the Eastern Conference, they only play a limited amount of times per year because they are in different divisions. They played one game in Utica, New York and then the Sunday game at the Dunk in Providence, Rhode Island. The first game saw the baby B’s fall 5-2 with the Bruins getting goals from Jordan Szwarz and Zach Senyshyn. In net, Zane McIntyre had an off night stopping 21 of the 25 shots that were fired in his direction. The Utica Comets skate into the match-up 31-31-6-2 (70 points) and 1-8-1 in their last 10 games. This is good for sixth in the North Division and 13th in the Eastern Conference.

Over the past five years, the Bruins have a winning record against the Vancouver affiliate going 6-5 in that time, however that includes 2-3 at home. Team defense is going to play a major key in who wins or loses this game. Both teams are similar on offense, they’ve both scored 205 goals in 70 games which is good for 2.92 goals a game. The big difference between the two hockey clubs is their defenses. The Utica Comets have given 244 goals in their 70 games on the year. This is a terrible 3.48 goals a game. Only one other team in the Eastern Conference has given up more goals than Utica. Meanwhile, the Providence Bruins have given up 188 goals in their 70 games. That is good for 2.68 goals a game. Only two other teams in the Eastern Conference have given up fewer goals than the baby Bs.

Despite Utica’s bad defensive numbers, something major to look for is they play a lot better when the game is close. In one-goal games, the Comets are 15-5-6-2. Meanwhile, Providence is 16-10-8-3. The other curious thing to look at would be how the two teams when outshooting their opponent and then being outshot. When being outshot the Utica hockey club is 20-12-2-1, but when they are outshooting their opponents, they are 11-17-3-1. On the other end of things, the Providence hockey club is 24-16-5-1 when they outshoot their opponent and 9-6-3-2 when being outshot. This is something that could play a major role in the Sunday battle.

Who’s hot and Who’s not for the Bruins

Hot

Lee StempniakLee Stempniak has been good since joining Providence this season. The former Dartmouth College Captain was initially on a tryout with the club before signing a contract right before the NHL trade deadline this year. In 15 games with the Bruins, the veteran winger has netted six goals while dishing out six assists for 12 total points. This is a point per game total of 0.80. That includes finding the back of the net four times and dishing out three assists for seven total points in his last eight games. I gritty forward has been able to provide offense and leadership that has helped the baby B’s in the late part of the season. Hopefully, his play continues through the playoffs.

Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson: Forsbacka Karlsson has had an interesting season. It all started back in training camp when he was one of the leading candidates for the third-line center position. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t win the battle out of camp and started the year in Providence. The former Boston University Terrier was eventually called up to Boston and spent a good amount of time there before being sent back down to the AHL. The young center’s offensive game hasn’t exactly progressed as quickly as some people may like, but recently he has been playing better. Over his past six games, the forward from Sweden has found the back of the net two times while also dishing out two assists for four total points. This is very encouraging. Let’s hope he continues this play through the end of the season, and into the playoffs.

Not

Zach SenyshynZach Senyshyn has had a trying season for the Providence Bruins. The OHL product is probably the most talented forward prospect currently in either Providence or Boston, but for some reason, the talent and potential have not produced results so far. Since January 26, 2019, the young winger has found the back of the net one time and dished out three assists for four points total points in his last 22 games. During his OHL days, Senyshyn scored at a point per game clip of 0.91 (114-63-177 in 195 games played). However, since coming to the AHL that has dipped to 0.39 (26-24-50 in 128 games played). The good news is that the former Sault Ste, Marie Greyhound is only 22 years old, and he has time to develop into the player we want him to be. More positive news for the speedster, he was recently called up to Boston on an emergency basis. Hopefully, he can get in a game or two to regain some confidence.

Jeremy Lauzon: Jeremy Lauzon is another guy that has had an interesting season. He started the year playing well for Providence but received a call-up to Boston when the big club was going through a myriad of injuries. Once the parent club got healthy, he was sent back down to the AHL to work on a few things, and despite the low offensive output was playing good defense. Recently coming back from an injury that saw him sit for a few weeks, he’s looked okay but not great and has not recorded a point in his last nine games played. Now, the young defenseman has only played three games since coming back from injury, and he has time to gain momentum these last six games of the season. Hopefully, the former QMJHL Champion can turn it on come playoff time and give the baby B’s a big boost on the backend.

My players to watch this weekend

Up Front

Tommy MarchinTommy Marchin is a name you may not recognize, but he has played in three games so far with Providence, not registering a point but looking good on the ice. On March 25, 2019, the young forward signed a deal with Providence as a college free-agent. A few days later, March 27, 2019, he made his pro debut. Marchin spent the last four years playing for Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island serving this last season as their Captain. In 115 games the young winger netted 40 goals while dishing out 36 assists for 76 points. This is good for a point per game total of 0.66. Keep an eye for Marchin this weekend, hopefully, he can provide some offensive punch for the Bruins.

On the Blue Line: 

Kyle Cumiskey: Kyle Cumiskey has quietly put together a nice season for Providence. The veteran defenseman came to the baby B’s on loan from the ECHL’s Newfoundland Growlers in mid-November and has stayed ever since. In 34 games, the WHL product has netted three goals while dishing out 14 assists for 17 total points. This is a point per game total of 0.50. To top it off, in seven games against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and Utica Comets this season, the gritty defenseman has netted one goal while dishing out six assists for seven total points. This means that 41% of Cumiskey’s points have come against these two teams this season. Hopefully, he can keep it up this weekend.

In Net

Zane McIntyre: Zane McIntyre is another guy that has had an interesting season. On the year, the veteran netminder is 23-12-7 with a goals against average of 2.43, and a save percentage of .902. Mid-season, the Providence Bruins, went on an impressive point streak, and at the time neither goalie had really solidified himself as the number one guy. McIntyre was able to anchor the backend of the defense and do just that. To top it off, he has been a lot better at home than on the road this season with 18 of his 23 wins coming at the Dunk. With two of three games in Providence this weekend, look for him to be essential in the baby B’s success.

The Providence Bruins are currently sitting in playoff position by five points. With 6 games remaining the team’s magic number is 10. The magic number is the number of points needed to clinch the playoff spot. The magic number goes down when it earns points either with victory, or overtime/shootout losses. The magic number also goes down when the team with the highest possible point total that isn’t currently in playoff position, loses. This means the Providence club either needs to win five of their last six games, or they need some help with the team directly below losing to clinch that playoff spot. The good news is that they remain in a good spot, and in charge of their own destiny. Hopefully, the club has a good weekend, and that number shrinks. We will catch up with you next week to let you know how the team fared but feel free to send any questions or comments to me on Twitter. I hope everyone enjoys the games this weekend and Go, B’s, Go!

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Bruins AHL Affiliate: Providence Bruins Week 25 Preview

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Photo Courtesy of Providence Bruins / Flickr

By: Tim Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson

Week 25 of the AHL season is here, and the Providence Bruins skate into it 34-23-8-3 (79 points) and 6-2-1-1 in their last 10 games this is good for third in the Atlantic Division and sixth in the Eastern Conference. With just eight games left in the regular season, the baby B’s are making their final push towards the playoffs. Right now, our boys in black and gold sit firmly in the middle of the playoff picture. They’ve played well recently, and we hope they can finish strong the last few weeks of the season. This weekend won’t be an easy one with both games coming on the road against strong opponents, but we will get an idea of what this team may be able to do come playoff time.

The weekend kicks off on Friday, March 29, 2019, when the Providence Bruins skate into Syracuse, New York to take on the home team Syracuse Crunch at The Oncenter War Memorial Arena. The weekend then continues Saturday, March 30, 2019, when the baby B’s invade the Giant Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania to take on the home team Hershey Bears. Both games will serve as a test for the Providence hockey club, with both of their opponents sitting in playoff spots. It’s going to be an exciting weekend of hockey that you would kick yourself for missing.

Friday, March 29, 2019, Providence Bruins vs. Syracuse Crunch (AWAY)

The Friday night contest marks the second time these two teams have played each other this season. The first meeting saw the Providence Bruins blank the Crunch 4-0 getting goals from Cameron Hughes, Karson Kuhlman (2), and the now departed Ryan Donato. Goalie Zane McIntyre was superb in net turning away all 27 shots fired his way. The Crunch come into the game 42-19-4-3 (91 points) and 6-2-1-1 in their last 10 games. This is good for first in the North Division and second in the Eastern Conference. They are also one of two teams to already secure a playoff spot.

Over the past five seasons, the two teams have not played each other much because they are in different divisions, but the Bruins have a record of 2-3 against the Crunch in that time frame. Something to keep an eye too, the Crunch are 24-6-1-2 at home. With the Providence club being 12-15-4-2 on the road it’ll be a tough task. The Syracuse Crunch score a lot of goals. It is going to take a total team effort defensively to keep them off the score-sheet, and team defense is going to be a major key for the Bruins if they want to win. In 68 games the Tampa Bay affiliate has scored 235 goals. This is good for the most in not only the Eastern Conference but the entire AHL. That’s an eye-popping 3.45 goals a game.

Luckily, for the Baby B’s they boast one of the best defenses in the Eastern Conference giving up 184 goals in 68 games played which is 2.70 goals a game. Another reason why I said it would take team defense to beat the Crunch is that you can’t stop just one guy or even one line from scoring and be okay. They have nine players with a point per game total of at least 0.60 and six of those players have at least 40 points on the year. It should be an exciting game from Syracuse, New York.

Saturday, March 30, 2019, Providence Bruins vs. Hershey Bears (AWAY)

The Saturday games will mark the sixth time that Providence has played Hershey this season. In the first meeting between the two clubs, the Baby B’s beat the Washington Capitals’ affiliate 6-2 with the Bruins getting goals from Jordan Szwarz (2), Cameron Hughes, Anton Blidh, Kyle Cumiskey, and Tanner Pond while goalie Zane McIntyre looked great in net stopping 19 of 21 shots he faced. The second meeting saw the Providence club win 4-1 getting goals from the now departed Cody Goloubef (2), Karson Kuhlman, and Mark McNeill. Goalie Zane McIntyre was excellent in net turning away 23 of the 24 shots that were fired his way.

The third battle saw the Bruins fall 2-1 getting their lone goal from Karson Kuhlman. Goalie Zane McIntyre was still great in net stopping 17 of the 19 shots that were sent his way. The fourth match-up between the two clubs saw the Bruins win 3-2 in a shootout getting goals from Jordan Szwarz, Paul Carey, and Anton Blidh (SO). Goalie Zane McIntyre was excellent in net stopping 28 of the 30 shots fired his way. The most recent battle saw the Bruins win 4-3 in overtime getting goals from Trent Frederic, Urho Vaakanainen, and Paul Carey (2). Goalie Dan Vladar was able to earn the win stopping 19 of the 22 shots that were sent his way.

The Hershey Bears skate into the weekend 36-24-3-4 (79 points) and 4-3-2-1 in their last 10 games. This is good for fourth in the Atlantic Division and seventh in the Eastern Conference.  Over the past five seasons, Providence is 15-7-2-1 against Hershey going 5-5-2 at the Giant Center in that time frame. Despite the record in Hershey, this should be a good match-up for our boys in black and gold based on how they’ve played the Capitals’ affiliate overall not only this season but over the past five seasons. With both teams being neck and neck with each other, this game is going to be very important to the playoff seeding.

The first key is who is leading after the first and second periods. Hershey is 19-3-0-3 when they are ahead after the first period of action. They are also 25-1-1-2 when leading after two. Meanwhile, when down after one their records dips to 5-12-1-1 and when trailing after the second it falls even further to 5-21-1-1. On the other side, the Providence Bruins are 16-6-3-1 when ahead after the first period and 27-3-2-2 when they are leading after two. When trailing after one, their record dips to 7-15-2 and when down after two periods it dips even further to 4-19-3. Getting a lead early and holding onto it will be a major key into winning both games.

The other major key to the game will be team defense. The Providence Bruins have one of the best defenses in the entire Eastern Conference ranked third in goals against with 184 in their 68 games played. This means they are giving up 2.70 goals a game. On the other side of things, the Hershey Bears are ranked seventh in the Eastern Conference in goals against with 199 in their 67 games played. This is 2.97 goals given up per game. The big difference is that despite their record, the Capitals’ affiliate has a goal differential of –15. This means they’ve given up 15 more goals than they’ve scored on the season. To give you an idea of just how bad that is the baby B’s differential is +17. A combination of the Bruins’ stingy defense and the Bears’ mediocre offense bodes well for our boys in black and gold this weekend.

Who’s hot and Who’s not for the Bruins

Hot

Jordan SzwarzThe Bruins Captain has been very good for the team this season. In 60 games for the Providence hockey club, the veteran forward has found the back of the net 21 times while dishing out 17 assists for 38 total points. This is a point per game total of 0.63. Recently, in the game against the Belleville Senators on March 22, 2019, the OHL product scored his 20th goal of the season. This made Szwarz the fifth player in Providence Bruins history to record 20+ goals in a season for three separate seasons. On top of that, the Captain has recorded a point in seven of his last 10 games finding the back of the net three times while also dishing out six assists for nine total points. Congratulations to Szwarz on the accomplishment and let’s hope he keeps it rolling this weekend.

Trent Frederic: Trent Frederic has had a pretty good year for Providence. While he has proven to be a streaky player, he’s also had a few different call-ups to Boston playing in 13 games for the big club. In 48 games with the Baby B’s the former University of Wisconsin Badger has netted 11 goals while also dishing out 11 assists for 22 total points. That’s a point per game total of 0.46. That includes registering a point in four of the past six games the young forward has played in for Providence. Netting one goal and dishing three assists for four points in that time frame. Frederic is one of the better prospects the Boston Bruins have so it’s nice seeing the center find his scoring touch at the end of his first full professional season.

Not

Ryan Fitzgerald: Ryan Fitzgerald has had an up and down season for Providence. The former Boston College Eagle started out the year on fire. He was leading the team in scoring, and really showing off his playmaking ability. Then, unfortunately, injuries derailed the once excellent season. On the year the winger has netted eight goals while dishing out 25 assists for 33 total points in 53 games played. That’s a point per game total of 0.62. Over his past 11 games, the young forward has netted one goal and dished out three assists for four points. With the playoffs around the hope is that Fitzgerald can find his scoring touch again and help lead the team to a championship.

Anton BlidhAnton Blidh has proven to be a streaky player since coming over from Sweden where he was playing for Frolunda HC of the Swedish Hockey League. On the year, the winger has found the back of the net eight times while dishing out 12 assists for 20 total points in 67 games played. This is a point per game total of 0.29. On top of that, the young forward has not scored a goal since February 15, 2019, and in the 17 games since then has dished out two assists for two total points. Despite being on a cold streak as cold as the ice he skates on, the baby B’s hope he can pick up some scoring in the last few weeks of the regular season. If Blidh can get on a hot streak going into the playoffs, it could go a long way for our boys in black and gold.

My players to watch this weekend for the Bruins

Up Front

Paul Carey: Paul Carey has been excellent since being traded to the Bruins from the Senators this year. In 24 games with Providence, the former Boston College Eagle has netted 16 goals while also dishing out seven assists for 23 total points. Playing at a point per game pace of 0.95 has really helped the Providence offense out a great deal. The two-time NCAA champion has also played well against Hershey this season. In two games against the Bears this season, he has netted three goals while also dishing out one assist for four total points. The veteran forward has been so good for the Baby B’s that he signed a contract extension for two-years. Look for him to have a big weekend.

On the Blue Line

Victor Berglund: Victor Berglund is a name you might not recognize. That’s because he has not played a game with Providence this season. The young defenseman has been playing in Sweden for MODO Hockey of the Allsvenskan league, which is Sweden’s second-tier league. While playing there this season, the 19-year old in 50 games netted four goals and dished out nine assists for 13 total points. Recently, he signed his professional contract to play for Providence. He has joined the team, and we may see him make his debut for the baby B’s this weekend. All indications are that he is someone to be excited about because of his skating and shooting ability. Keep an eye out for him.

In Net

Dan VladarDan Vladar has had an up and down season for the Providence Bruins. On the year, he is 11-12-4 with a goals against average of 2.70 and a save percentage of .901. The good news is that seven of the 11 wins the young netminder has on the season have come on the road. With both games over the weekend coming away from the Dunk, this may be a weekend that we see Vladar shine.

The Providence Bruins are currently sitting firmly in a playoff spot. With 8 games remaining the team’s magic number is 14. The magic number is the number of points needed to clinch the playoff spot. The magic number goes down when it earns points either with victory, or overtime/shootout losses. The magic number also goes down when the team with the highest possible point total that isn’t currently in playoff position, loses. This means the baby B’s are sitting in a good position right now and can hopefully make that magic number dwindle down this weekend. We will catch up with you next week to let you know how the team fared but feel free to send any questions or comments to me on Twitter. I hope everyone enjoys the games this weekend and Go, B’s, Go!

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Click Here For The Boston Bruins 2018-19 Regular Season Schedule and Ticket Info From SeatGiant.com

Click Here for The Providence Bruins Schedule and Ticket Info From SeatGiant.com