Safeguarding a 2-0 lead through last Saturday’s second intermission at Springfield’s MassMutual Center, the Providence Bruins registered a mere two stabs at Falcons’ stopper Paul Dainton in the first 15 minutes and 47 seconds of the closing frame.
In that time, Kirk MacDonald and Zach McKelvie had combined for three unanswered penalties. McKelvie’s hooking infraction, recorded in the evening’s crime log at the 7:43 mark, effectively amounted to Springfield whittling the lead in half.
At 9:07, a porch-bound Dane Byers directed Nick Drazenovic’s lateral feed from the near corner to the right of Bruins’ goalie Anton Khudobin, who had to deal with 12 total shots in the last 20 minutes after a mere 15 over the first 40.
Only at 15:48 and in the remaining 4:12 of clock time that followed did late-bloomer Zach Hamill perk up and salvage the P-Bruins’ first win of the season. His presto pair of insurance strikes―the second one an empty-netter with 19 seconds to spare―did not so much put the icing on the cake as hastily sugarcoat one that could have been genuinely sweeter to begin with.
Granted, after being outscored, 15-3, in a three-game, season-opening homestand, any win was welcome for Bruce Cassidy’s pupils. The same applies to the subsequent shootout win over Portland at the Dunkin Donuts Center Sunday afternoon.
Although, that eventual 3-2 decision was also a lesson-laden victory. The P-Bruins initially sculpted a 2-1 edge whilst running up a 12-1 lead in the first-period shooting gallery, but didn’t beat Portland goaltender Justin Pogge again until Jamie Arniel and Hamill inserted the clinching penalty shots.
They could have denied the Pirates the old-fashioned “regulation tie” point had they converted any of their three unanswered power plays in the opening stanza.
Given their thoroughly infertile start, perhaps a little perspective is in order. So soon after brooking a 7-1 beating at the hands of the Manchester Monarchs last Friday, Providence perked up to scrape out its first four points. Within 48 hours, they morphed their record from 0-3-0 to 2-3-0 and their outlook from “overrated” to “possibly playoff contenders after all.”
To sustain their redress, though, the P-Bruins will need to habitually formulate genuine, start-to-finish winning efforts sooner rather than later. Their two recent triumphs were fraternal twins characterized by sound tone-setters, latter-half laxity and a late resurgence to formally wrest the two-point package away from the adversary.
That simply will not fly in the majority of the 71 games that still lie ahead. But prevention measures are easy enough to outline.
The corporeal arrivals of Josh Hennessy on offense and Andrew Bodnarchuk on defense both helped over the weekend, to be sure. So, too, will the returns of veteran blueliners Matt Bartkowski (recall to Boston) and Nathan McIver (lower-body injury).
But the better part of the strike force still has yet to show up and/or stick around in spirit. Max Sauve and Lane MacDermid, the last two forwards cut from the parent club’s training camp roster, each tuned the mesh on opening weekend but have been pointless since then.
The grizzled MacDonald finally put his name on a scoresheet Sunday with an assist on Bodnarchuk’s icebreaker, but is otherwise one of 14 P-Bruins with one or no points to speak of. The reigning top gun Arniel still lacks a regulation goal.
And then there’s captain and two-time defending team MVP Trent Whitfield, who has dressed for all five games and still has three lemon-based doughnuts in his scoring log. Of his linemates, Hamill and Sauve have only put one biscuit apiece behind a real, live netminder.
With his fruitless start, Whitfield has matched a career-high as a P-Bruin with a five-game cold spell. The only other time he has gone five games with no production was between Feb. 19 and Feb. 26 of last season.
As it happened, Whitfield immediately shattered that hex when he launched his 12-10-22 run over 13 games in March, starting with back-to-back two-goal performances.
But during his last slump, he was at least serving up his share of rubber with no shotless outings in February. More recently, Whitfield has six SOG on the year, three of those coming on opening night.
The sooner Whitfield and at least the bulk of his nominal followers thaw out (especially six other goal-less forwards), the sooner they start firing in droves, the sooner the P-Bruins kiln more convincing confections.