(Photo Courtesy of Providence Bruins / Flickr)
By: Mark Allred | Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277
Unfortunately, the spread of the Covid-19 virus has taken a toll on the North American sports scene as many amateur, minor-pro, and professional leagues shut down operations to appropriately contain this global pandemic. BNG Senior Writer Max Mainville updated Bruins Nation shortly after hearing the official National Hockey League press release of the 2019-2 being suspended (Seen Here), well shortly after the American Hockey League followed suit as seen below.
This egregious effort to cancel large gatherings is a no-brainer, in my opinion, but it does put a serious wrench in the gears of beloved sports fans and what goes on in day-to-day lives. As many Boston Bruins fans know, the team is in first place in the NHL. With a six-point lead over last year’s Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues, they pause their 2019-20 campaign as a favorite to return and hopefully capture the organization’s seventh league championship. The NHL Bruins top minor-pro affiliate the Providence Bruins have also reached impressive milestones this season with an outstanding second-half marching their way up the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference with playoff-type games leading up to the recent halt of the regular season.
The AHL team from the smallest state in the Union (United States) started a better part of the 2019-20 season in the middle of the Atlantic, but in the second half, the Providence club has really put the pressure on teams leading the way. A team such as the Hartford Wolf Pack, who ruled the early season, have taken a plunge since their parent NHL club the New York Rangers recalled phenom goaltender Igor Shesterkin. AHL Clubs like the Hershey Bears and Providence Bruins took advantage of the Wolf Packs downward spiral to be the new leaders of the Atlantic. If you follow the AHL on the regular, the Eastern Conference postseason outlook has been tight since the beginning of January, so you could already see organizations jockeying for Calder Cup Playoff positioning.
Before this sudden pause in the Providence regular season, the B’s were on a season-high 12 game point streak, which contributed to the recent successful rise up the AHL league standings but also a season-high 11 game winning streak. Another high point of the second half of this 2019-20 Providence Bruins season is the way the affiliate of the NHL B’s has played at home in front of the La Salle Square faithful. Before the recent consecutive winning success, the Providence club was a franchise dipping above and below the .500 mark for a better part of this season at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Downtown Providence, Rhode Island.
The Providence Bruins started the season off with a subpar home record of 7-8-0-1, but since the turn of the calendar year, have picked it up in front of the Providence faithful to produce a very respectable 10-3-2-1 record at the Dunk since the beginning of January 2020. Everything has been clicking nicely until today’s announcement, and as a media member under the credentials of the Providence organization, it’s going to be tough to see this what this minor-pro club has done this season to just stop and figure it out later. A huge chemistry speed bump, in my opinion, for everybody on this mission of a Calder Cup playoff run that I thought was coming this Spring.
The last time the AHL Providence franchise won season-ending bragging rights was in the 1998-99 campaign capturing a Regular-Season Title, Division Championship, Conference Championship, and raising the Calder Cup after beating the Rochester Americans in a seven-game series 4-1. I thought after watching this team and with the way goaltending from the backend was the catalyst to build on early on with the free-agent addition of Max Lagace. The 27-year-old Quebec, Canada native, was amongst the AHL league leaders when it came to highly ranked goaltenders. Lagace has been a solid depth netminder for the Bruins organization and might be Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney’s ace in the hole for another year of backup sustainability while on a cap-friendly contract.
Another member of the crease core in Providence is Dan Vladar, who I’ve always spoken high of has really turned his game around in the last season of his current three-year, entry-level contract. The former 2015 third-round draft pick is having his best pro season posting a 14-7-1 record with league-leading 1.79 goals-against-average, and .936 save percentage. The 22-year-old Czech Republic native is currently on a seven-game winning streak and, in that timeline producing an unbelievable 1.54 GAA and .940 Save%.
Providence stands as the Eastern Conferences best team with a 38-18-3-3 record and 82 points and tied for second place league-wide with the Iowa Wild eight points behind AHL leading Milwaukee Admirals who’re leading the league in its 84th year of operation as the top minor-pro affiliate of the NHL. After how this team came together orchestrated by bench boss Jay Leach who many fans wanted to see fired every start of regular seasons unable to wait for the mid-season ramp up. Yes, in previous years, the Providence club would struggle severely due to the fact that the NHL Bruins were recalling players ripping apart any youthful chemistry facilitating the higher up parent club. In recent years the new calendar year has been a turning point for Leach and staff to get healthy players back in the lineup and have a stronger competitive season.
Regardless of my displeasure of this whole situation and where this Bruins minor club was going, I hope that all of our readers do the right thing for your families and friends to help the cause. We need our sport back, but we also have to get our healthy life cycle back in order so we can go to these awesome spectator sports venues in the near future. It’s unfortunate that I had to cancel planned trips to Providence to cover this team as a media member via the Providence franchise for our production team, but it’s also a great little city to hang out in. I will miss my regular visits to the Trinity Brew House for a Rueben Sandwich and cold Rhode Island IPA, and Murphy’s Providence for an interesting Irish menu feast. Be safe everyone and the Bruins prospect talk from our BNG team will continue to keep the interest going through tough times.
Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 169 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.
Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!!