P-Bruins remain in Playoff Position
With less than two months to go and only 23 games left in the regular season, the Providence Bruins are continuing their strong push towards the postseason. The team is tied atop the Atlantic Division with the Portland Pirates who both have 66 points. Their overall record is 31-18-0-4, and have been one of the hottest teams in the league. Their last ten games have seen the team go 7-2-0-1, the second best record in the AHL during that time period. While the P-Bruins and Pirates are fighting things out for the Division lead, no other team is really threatening to take over. The next closest team is 10 points behind, and the P-Bruins have the fourth most points in the Conference.
This is the best team Providence has put on the ice this late in the season, and it is because they have fixed the things that have derailed them over the last few seasons. When the team hit the ice for a power play, they would spend more time chasing the cleared puck down the ice than actually shooting. Plays seemed unorganized and just getting the puck into the attacking zone was a challenge. Statistically, they were at the bottom of the league in percentage and chances to grab momentum in the game were wasted. Now, the power play isn’t great, but it is respectable. Good plays and passes make for great scoring chances, and even when the puck doesn’t hit the back of the net it is looked at as a positive shift. It does not ruin the team’s momentum and for the most part has swung things back in the Bruins favor. Percentage wise, the team sits in the middle of the pack (13th) with 17.5% of power plays leading to goals.
Offense in general has become a strength of the team, and chemistry between the players is one of the biggest reasons why. In years past, roster moves would be made almost everyday, players would take time to get comfortable with each other, and line mix ups were frequent. Most of this year’s team has been together since opening night, and every game they appear more and more comfortable with each other. Many guys have stepped up their play and the team has not had to rely on just one player being a dominant offensive force. That being said, All-Star Jamie Tardif has been the team’s best goal scoring weapon. Second on the team in scoring at 36 pts, he leads the team in goals with 26. This mark is good for second in the AHL despite the fact that he has only suited up in 44 games this year. Tyler Johnson leads him by two goals, but has played 9 more games.
Even when play making forward Chris Bourque was called up to Boston, the offense did not miss a beat. More players rose to the challenge of filling the void, including Ryan Spooner. Spooner is currently the team’s leading scorer with 38 points, lighting the lamp 10 times while registering 28 assists. Those 28 assists are second on the team only to third leading scorer Carter Camper, who has 29 assists. The scoring has been very balanced, as 14 players have 10+ points, 6 of which have 20+. This list doesn’t include Trent Whitfield, who is still getting back into the swing of things after his injury. The veteran has 8 points through 29 games, and is only getting better. Come playoff time, Whitfield’s tough play and ability to lead will be heavily leaned on if the team wants to go far. Despite everything just talked about, the biggest reason the P-Bruins have failed to make the playoffs in recent years has been goaltending. Every game the team would be down early and forced to play from behind. This year, they have found their answer in net in All-Star Niklas Svedberg. The young Svedberg took over the starting duties very early in the season, and after his early success the question became if he would eventually break down. Thus far, he has answered that question. He is 25-7-1 with a GAA of 2.34 and a save percentage of 91.9%, proving to be one of the most consistent goalies in the league. Backup Michael Hutchinson has also kept up his solid play, allowing Svedberg to rest and stay fresh.
Providence has three games this weekend, including an important match-up against the Portland Pirates at home on Sunday. That is one of two home games the team will have, as they play the Sharks on Friday at the Dunk. Friday’s game will take place at 7:05 and Sunday’s game will be at 3:05.