Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Five Things The Providence Bruins Have Never Done In Their History

As part of the site’s ongoing commemoration of the Providence Bruins’ 20th anniversary, Daniel’s Den would like to remind everyone that, as history-laden as they are, the P-Bruins are still a fairly young entity.

There is no more effective way to underline that notion than to sniff out some of the achievements that are still conspicuously absent in the Spoked-P annals.

On that note, here are the five most prominent items that have never come up in the P-Bruins first two decades of existence:

A Series-Deciding Game on Home Ice
Whether it has been a best-of-three qualifying round, best-of-five or best-of-seven series, the P-Bruins have seen action in six go-on-or-go-home games in the Calder Cup playoffs. Most astonishingly, they are 5-1 in that scenario.

Here is the all-time Game 5/7 log:
1995, Northern Division semifinals, Game 7: Providence 6, Portland 3
1997, New England Division semifinals, Game 5: Providence 3, Worcester 2
2000, Eastern Conference finals, Game 7: Hartford 3, Providence 2 (OT)
2001, New England Division semifinals, Game 5: Providence 2, Hartford 1
2001, New England Division finals, Game 7: Providence 3, Worcester 2 (OT)
2007, Atlantic Division semifinals, Game 7: Providence 5, Hartford 4

What is so astonishing about this (apart from the fact two one of those wins came against a defending Calder Cup champion, one against a regular-season champion and two after trailing a best-of-five series, 2-0)?

The answer is that all six of these games were played somewhere other than the Divine City. On another eight occasions, the P-Bruins have come within one game of staging a rubber game in Providence. But in five of those cases, they lost the series by a two-game margin. In the other three—including two during their 1999 championship run—they cut off the opposition’s rally.

But this trend could reverse at any time, provided the P-Bruins garner home ice for any playoff series.

An Award-winning Goaltender
Two of their coaches have won the Louis A.R. Pieri Award. Two of their defenseman have garnered an Eddie Shore Award. Their hallmark championship campaign came with both an AHL regular-season and playoff MVP.

All this, and yet no Bruins backstop has ever corralled the Baz Bastien Award as the league’s most valuable goaltender. John Blue never did it. John Grahame never did it. Andrew Raycroft, Hannu Toivonen and Tuukka Rask never bested all of their AHL peers.

Not even Vezina Trophy winners Jim Carey or Tim Thomas topped the league goaltending ranks while laboring for Providence.

Might Anton Khudobin splash the team’s life-long drought? There’s an item worth filing under the burning questions for this season.

A Game on the Parents’ Pond
Unfortunately, this scenario is even less conceivable now that the AHL has whittled two home dates off of every team’s regular-season schedule. Unless, of course, there was a way to guarantee a full house at TD Garden and make sure a hefty share of the revenue went directly to the P-Bruins.

So many other AHL teams with neighboring NHL affiliates have done this. And the Pawtucket Red Sox have annual their “Futures at Fenway” affair. So why couldn’t the Baby Bs, a part of the longest living AHL-NHL partnership and one of the best road draws in the league, convince Boston’s busy venue to let them come up for just one Friday night or weekend afternoon?

If they were to face off with the likes of Manchester, Springfield or Worcester in this game, so much the better. Together, the two teams could offer a multitude of regional fans, especially youth groups, an otherwise unrealistic opportunity to take in a pro game at an NHL venue. In turn, they could max out the 17,565 seating capacity and give their respective treasuries a little booster injection.

Not to mention, 19 aspiring Boston Bruins could whet their appetite to make the Garden their regular workplace at a time other than the NHL preseason.

A Bout with an Opponent from Cleveland
Local hockey history scholars all know that before the P-Bruins’ 1999 title run, the city’s last Calder Cup crown came in 1956, courtesy of the Providence Reds and their four-game sweep of the Cleveland Barons.

And in terms of cumulative seasons, whether they are consecutive or nonconsecutive, Cleveland and Providence are in the AHL’s platinum longevity club, opposite Hershey, Rochester, Springfield and Syracuse.

And yet the P-Bruins have never crossed paths with an adversary from northern Ohio. They could have engaged the most recent version of the Barons at any time between 2001 and 2006, but never did. (They have, however, played the each of the Barons two sandwiching incarnations—the Kentucky Thoroughblades and the Worcester Sharks.)

And since 2007, the Lake Erie Monsters have drawn enough puckheads to Quicken Loans Arena, but so far have yet to reel in an opponent from New England.

Isn’t it high time that changed?

An Engagement with Grand Rapids, Oklahoma City or Peoria
Of the other 29 active AHL cities, the P-Bruins have exchanged multiple visits with all but four.

There is still time to break the ice, but it is perplexing as to why they have been paired up with Abbotsford a cumulative eight times in each of the previous two seasons while never facing the Peoria Rivermen or Grand Rapids Griffins, who have each been in the league longer.

The lack of a Grand Rapids matchup is especially peculiar. The Griffins fled the caving-in IHL to join the AHL in 2001, along with the Chicago Wolves, Houston Aeros, Milwaukee Admirals and two teams that no longer exist.

Providence has tangled with Chicago, Houston and Milwaukee in three different seasons. But in all of 10 years as AHL cohabitants, they have yet to either welcome the Griffins or venture into Michigan.

There would have been no better time than this season to buck that trend. Newly elevated P-Bruins bench boss Bruce Cassidy guided the Griffins through both their final IHL and inaugural AHL season, garnering the Louis A.R. Pieri Award along the way.

If Cassidy’s P-Bruins stopped in at Grand Rapids’ Van Andel Arena, it would indubitably make for an appetizing feature story, generating the kind of publicity that the AHL perpetually pines for. Same thing if the P-Bruins faced incumbent captain Trent Whitfield’s old employers from Peoria.