Monday, January 30, 2012

Providence Streaking in Right Direction

Boys to Men
January 30, 2012
By Thomas Chace Jr.

The AHL All-Star Game will be played tonight in Atlantic City, NJ.  No tickets will be left for “Nucky” Thompson to attend.  Despite being over the halfway point of the regular season it’s a good place to measure your team’s success and find ways to improve your team with a little over 30 games remaining.

The Providence Bruins only all-star representative is rookie Carter Camper who leads the team in points and has missed only one game this season.  Carter was able to figure out early what he could and couldn’t do in his first professional season.  The rest of the team is comprised of another seven or eight rookies who did not “get it” or flourish for much of the early season.  Recently, it appears that these older boys are fast becoming young men.  With a five game point streak and just two regulation losses in their last ten games, the young men are starting to come around.

Ranked tenth in the Eastern Conference, the Bruins are just two points out of the playoffs.  Providence has three Atlantic Division foes ahead of them; Portland, Worcester, and Manchester.  Manchester has 50 points and has played an equal amount of games as the Bruins.  Worcester and Portland have several games in hand, but it should be a battle for the rest of the season within the division.

The fact that they even have a chance with their goal scoring deficiencies is quite amazing.  Their leading goal scorer, Josh Hennessey, has 13 goals. The only other Bruin to have double digit goals scored is Camper with 10.  The Providence club is last in the entire league with just 2.31 goals per game.  Not a lot of room for error.  Lately, the lack of errors has allowed them to win games.  On the positive side, they are allowing only 2.84 goals per game, which ranks them 12th best in the league.  Likewise, their power-play is dreadful, but their penalty killing is 5th best in the AHL. 

Head Coach “Butch” Cassidy likes where the team is headed.  Most of the early issues dealt with the sheer number of first year players on the club, the teaching and implementing of the Boston Bruins systems, some veteran injuries, and shuffling of lines and players.  Cassidy states, “We’ve corrected some of our issues, at least away from the puck.  We’re breaking out of our end much cleaner.  We also have not allowed a lot of sustained pressure in our end of the ice.”

With those improvements and a young team gaining confidence weekly, it’s possible that the goals could start coming.  A big road win a week ago against a strong Wilkes-Barre/Scranton club really had emotions running high.  Emotion is what you want and what you need to succeed in a quest for the playoffs.  The fans have been consistently attending all year and Providence is poised to give them something to get excited about as spring approaches.  Good starts are paramount to this club.  In games when Providence scores the first goal, the Bruins are 15-3-0-1.  When leading after the first period, they are 10-1-0-1.

They may have gotten off to a slow start but what really matters is the finish.  Cassidy says, “This group has been resilient all year.”  Will that positive trait and the ability of all the rookies to finally “get it” propel them into the playoffs for the first time in several seasons?  Stay tuned…

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