Providence Bruins Learning Curve
By Thomas Chace Jr.
When I went to the Providence Bruins second official practice on October 2nd, I was trying to gauge the enthusiasm and the emotional aspect of the players. Granted it was extremely early, but with a new head coach and a new assistant coach, I was looking for something different. With former Assistant Coach Bruce Cassidy now in charge and NHL veteran Kevin Dean, the new right hand man, I found my search pretty uneventful, through no fault of the coaches. The bottom line was that many of the skaters I saw that day would not last the week. The Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins still had half a dozen Providence players still in their own training camp.
As the regular season approached I hoped to find what I could not, the week before. Opening night before a packed house at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence would surely bring out the enthusiasm and emotion of a new team with new coaches. Such was not the case. Providence nearly scored in the first minute of play, which quite possibly could have led to a boost of confidence instead of a night of frustration.
St. John’s scored right after that near miss at the 1:15 mark to take a 1-0 lead. The St. John’s Icecaps have replaced the Manitoba Moose and are the AHL affiliate of the Winnipeg Jets. Within three minutes, Providence’s Max Sauve, tied the score at 1-1. Everyone was feeling better again. However, from that point on, it was all Icecaps. Starting with killing a four minute high-sticking penalty, St. John’s began to dominate the game.
One of Providence’s strengths this season should come in goal with Anton Khudobin. However, the Kazakhstan native would surely have liked several Icecap goals back, I’m sure he felt he should have stopped a couple. In fairness, Khudobin made several saves during the game that most goaltenders would not have made.
The defense is suffering from the loss of several veteran blue liners due to injury. Andrew Bodnarchuk, who should return next week, and tough as nails, Nathan McIver, who will miss 4-6 weeks. This has resulted in a very raw, young defensive corp. Their inexperience was noted by Coach Cassidy after the 4-1 loss. Cassidy stated that “the young D is going to go through hiccups,” but maintains that they will steadily improve.
As for that emotion and enthusiasm I was looking for, Cassidy said “I was surprised by the lack of emotion, there needs to be energy and push back in our game.” At one point Cassidy called a timeout in the second period after St. John’s scored two unanswered goals in less than two minutes. Cassidy assessed the frustration brewing and wanted to reassure the team that “there was plenty of hockey left.”
There was plenty of hockey left, and it was carried the rest of the way by the St. John’s Icecaps. It was just one game. Providence’s young players certainly appeared somewhat nervous in front of a big home crowd. Better days should be ahead for this new version of Providence Bruin hockey, especially when they start to “push back”.