January 7, 2013
Thomas Chace Jr.
The 2013 version of the Providence Bruins was surely going to score more than the previous two PBruins teams. Boston obtained last season’s leading AHL scorer, Chris Bourque, in exchange for disappointing Zach Hamill. The Bruins also had a healthy Jamie Tardif and Max Sauvé returning from injuries. The Boston Bruins third line left wing, Jordan Caron was here along with returning goal scorers Carter Camper and Craig Cunningham. Several puck moving defensemen joining rookie speedster Ryan Spooner were all expected to contribute and increase their goal totals this season.
Head Coach Bruce Cassidy was clearly displeased after Sundays 4-1 loss to Springfield. “We should have been fresh, there’s no excuse for our slow start. We’ve had trouble finishing all year, that’s nothing new. The last few games we’ve been in tight games and we’ve let them get away and we’re making poor decisions, giving teams’ odd man rushes and that can’t continue.”
After 32 games, it is fair to surmise that this 2013 team suffers from the same fate as those in recent years, they cannot finish. They cannot complete, or culminate their offensive chances. The inability to get the puck in the net for Providence almost seems like a foregone conclusion. Ironically, the team leads the entire AHL in average shots per game. In fact, they lead Rockford by a full shot 34.25 to 33.17 per game. This profusion of shots has resulted in a total of just 79 goals for Providence, good for second to last in the Eastern Conference.
In spite of this lack of scoring, Providence is still playing good hockey, due mainly to their goaltending tandem of Niklas Svedberg and Michael Hutchinson. Svedberg, a rookie from Sweden, has played the bulk of the games so far. His 13 victories, 2.45 GAA, and .921 save percentage are some of the best numbers in the AHL. The soft-spoken tandem has kept the Bruins in each game and given them a chance to win every time.
Providence has played .500 hockey in their last ten games. They are 7th in the Eastern Conference and are surrounded by many teams with similar records. They continue to draw well and have been as high as 2nd in attendance and no lower than 4th since the start of the season. The team is averaging 2.47 goals per game and is allowing 2.75. Those numbers need to move in order for Providence to be successful as they approach the February blues. It is a time of the year where several players seem to hit the wall and struggle to get to the finish line. However, with Trent Whitfield and Jared Knight both returning from long absences due to injury, Coach Cassidy believes that they may infuse the team during that February stretch. Cassidy says “They’ll have energy and want to play; they’ll be hungry while some other guys will be looking for the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Another sore subject over the years with both the big club in Boston and the Providence squads is their power-play performance. With the lack of scoring in general, the team’s power-play is a little brighter in regard to production. The Bruins are 21st in the AHL, which is an improvement over last year. However, one of their strengths, the penalty kill, has deteriorated. Currently 26th in the league, they are killing 80% of the opposition’s man advantage. Special teams can improve as the season moves along, the team usually chooses to practice on its even strength play in the first half of the season and move on to more specialty functions later in the year.
With the lockout over in the NHL, it is expected that several Providence players may open the season in a Boston jersey. Jordan Caron was injured on Friday and is expected to be out for several weeks, so he will be unavailable to play in Boston. Bourque is leading the team in scoring and could possibly fill in that third line wing position. Tardif leads the team in goals and may get an opportunity to perform with the big boys. Defensemen, Matt Bartkowski, David Warsofsky, and Torey Krug have been mentioned as possible call ups as well.
Providence can’t afford to lose any goal scorers whatsoever, but maybe the scoring burden will shift and perhaps some other players can step forward and finish what was started back in October. A time when most observers felt that Providence had what was missing from their previous squads, added scoring. We’re almost halfway through the season; let’s hope they learn to finish before the season concludes.