Tuesday, November 1, 2011

P-Bruins Log: Seasoned Sticks Setting The Right Tone

Forward Zach Hamill and defenseman Andrew Bodnarchuk, the only two active team members with more than 200 games’ worth of experience with the Providence Bruins, each boast an even 20 percent shooting accuracy one month into the 2011-12 season.

Of those who have seen regular time since the team snapped out of hibernation three games late, only Stefan Chaput has had a broader bulls-eye. The grinding pivot was scratched from three of the P-Bruins’ first five outings but has since landed nine shots on net and four in the net for a thick-and-rich 44.4 connectivity rate.

In each of three previous AHL campaigns, Chaput has never mustered any more than 10 goals. (In fairness, his first full campaign could have been more fulfilling than a 4-7-11 log had he not missed 65 games with a recurring injury.) His active pace for up to 37 strikes, along with his average accuracy, is all but bound to taper off, though a facile career campaign is difficult to doubt.

One way or another, more stabs simply ought to equal more output from Chaput. But the two longest-tenured P-Bruins, whose arrival virtually coincided with first-year head coach Bruce Cassidy’s arrival as Rob Murray’s sidekick, are the ones most expected to follow up on the ripples they made in October.

The way he is producing and the way the year is going for the parent club that made him a No. 7 overall draft choice four summers ago, Hamill will likely relinquish a few twirls with the Spoked-P in exchange for more of a genuine break in Boston. But odds are he will still see substantial action on the farm for his fourth full AHL season.

So long as he is in Providence, Hamill, not unlike Chaput, has a relatively shallow career mark to exceed, that being his 14-goal, 44-point run in 2009-10. The quicker and the more emphatically he crushes his chrysalis, the more conviction he ought to dole out to the Bruins’ dressing room.

Bodnarchuk, who automatically ensured his second multi-goal season as an AHLer with his walk-off goal against St. John’s on Sunday, assumes a similar task amongst the blue line brigade.

When he was polishing off the last of his recovery from a preseason injury, the P-Bruins resorted to sending out four defenders with less than a full year of professional hockey experience. Those four, combined with Colby Cohen, still had a man-game count dwarfed by Bodnarchuk’s.

In those two games, a pair of 4-1 losses to St. John’s and Worcester, Providence only managed 42 shots on goal, a mere five of those coming from the point.

Conversely, in eight of Bodnarchuk’s nine appearances, P-Bruins defensemen have combined for six shots or more.

Granted, some of that is owed to Cohen’s initiative, the return of Matt Bartkowski from Boston and the gradual wing-spread of rookies Ryan Button, Marc Cantin, Zach McKelvie, Kevan Miller and David Warsofsky. But the A-captain Bodnarchuk could be a key to keeping the pace, especially as he is doubtlessly striving to replenish the form that had him posting a 5-10-15 scoring log and claiming the team’s best defenseman award two years ago.