Friday, April 11, 2014

Providence Primed For Playoffs

Providence Defenders Buy In

April 10, 2014

Thomas Chace Jr.



It took a while, but the Providence defenders have fully bought into the Bruins system at the right time of the season.  With just five games remaining, the Boston Bruins AHL farm club is ready to make a serious run in the playoffs.  The ability to defend as a team started in training camp and is now bearing the fruits of the team believing in the system.

Head Coach Bruce Cassidy explains, “That part of the game, the guys are buying into it.  As long as we keep our transition and quick strike offense going and we’re a threat to score and keep our PP working like it can, it makes us a pretty well-rounded team.”  Specifically, regarding the defensive part of the Providence team, Cassidy says, “I like that we are defending better, I really do, the guys are buying in.”

The difference between the defense in October and November to where the team is now is quite apparent.  They have been involved in numerous low scoring games of late, with a couple of blowout victories thrown in.  Balanced scoring has also been a great asset to the club this season as well. 

As always, good defense starts with goaltending.  Boston has a plethora of solid netminders in their system.  The Bruins had enough of them that they let Anton Khudobin go to the Carolina Hurricanes where he has mostly thrived in his first NHL season.  Providence retained solid goaltending in Niklas Svedberg and first year pro Malcolm Subban.  Svedberg played most of the games early and was let down many times by the young or new Providence defense.  Subban has improved his play in the second half and at times has been outstanding.  Cassidy says that, “They are competing against one another on a regular basis now.  They are pushing each other now and it’s going to go down to the wire as to who’s going to play at the end.”

Currently Providence sits in 6th place with just five games to go in the regular season.  Albany, Hershey, and Norfolk are three to five points back.  The Bruins have a big weekend coming up as they play Albany, Norfolk, and 1st place Manchester over the course of those three days.  The Bruins are 10th in points overall in the entire AHL.  Their home and away records are almost identical which again shows the balance in their overall play.  The Bruins are 19-11-2-3 on home ice at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center and sport a 19-12-0-5 on the road.  They also lead the league in overtime games with 23 games played and a record of 2-2-11-8 in those games.  Svedberg leads the AHL with 7 shootout wins to his credit. Rookie forward Seth Griffith is second in the league in shootout goals with seven on the season thus far.  Another rookie, Anthony Camara, leads the team in game winning goals with five; three of those were in shootout wins.

Rookies have played a significant role in the Bruins season, none more than Russian Alexander Khokhlachev.  Second among rookies in scoring with 56 points in 61 games, he, along with line mates Justin Florek and Seth Griffith, has become a force on offense. Providence presently has three 20 goal scorers in Khokhlachev, Griffith, and Craig Cunningham.  On the verge of hitting 20 goals is Florek with 19, Matt Fraser with 18, and Nick Johnson with 17 tallies.

Providence, much like their big club in Boston, can play whatever style the game takes on.  If you want to mix it up, you’ll have to deal with several willing combatants, including Bobby Robins, Tyler Randell, and Captain Mike Moore.  Robins is third in the league in fighting majors with 25 and is the heart and soul of the team.  Randell does not get many takers due to his stamina and fierce punching power. Moore, as classy a player as you’ll meet, has stood up numerous times for the more skilled Providence players.

The AHL playoffs are around the corner and Providence hasn’t lost in regulation in the last six games. The team has bought into what Head Coach Cassidy and Coach Kevin Dean have been selling all year and this bodes well as they approach the AHL tournament.