Saturday, October 22, 2011

Pre-game Puckbag: P-Bruins @ Portland Pirates

Opening draw
It’s a rapid rematch Saturday night as the Providence Bruins visit the Portland Pirates six days after claiming a 3-2 shootout decision back home at the Dunkin Donuts Center.

Portland has since occupied itself with the Manchester Monarchs on Wednesday and the Adirondack Phantoms on Friday, winning and losing 5-3 and 3-0 decisions, respectively. The P-Bruins will entertain the finale of the Pirates’ three-game homestand at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

Notable names
Two days after factoring into all five of the Pirates’ goals against Manchester, Andy Miele was summoned to the parent Phoenix Coyotes.

Ryan Duncan inserted the game-clincher on Wednesday and then led all participating skaters with eight shots on goal in Friday’s loss. Each of his bids was repelled by seasoned AHL and NHL stopper Michael Leighton.

In Miele’s absence, Duncan is presently the Pirates’ top point-getter with a 2-3-5 log through five games. He is tied with Nathan Oystrick for the team lead with 20 shots on goal. Oystrick matched Miele’s two-goal output against the Monarchs, both of his strikes coming on the power play.

At 1-2-0, goaltender Curtis McElhinney has taken the albatross in both of the team’s losses. Justin Pogge remains technically undefeated at 1-0-1, though he spilled the extra point against the P-Bruins last weekend.

Tyler Eckford and Brett Hextall are the lone two Portland skaters with a positive rating at plus-2 apiece. Meanwhile, recently reassigned defenseman Matt Bartkowski stands alone in the black for the P-Bruins after posting a crucial assist and a plus-1 rating in his AHL season debut Friday night.

Bartkowski charged up a goal and three assists in 12 encounters with the Pirates last season, though none of those points were cultivated in any of the last six Providence-Portland tilts.

Pirates’ penalty minute leader Ryan Hollweg has fought once in each of the last two games, against Manchester’s Nick Deslauriers and Adirondack’s Ben Holmstrom, respectively.

So far, the P-Bruins and their parents from Boston are a combined 3-0-0 in games played on Saturdays this season. Providence will try to simultaneously improve upon its 1-0 record on Saturday and on the road after last weekend’s 4-1 triumph at Springfield.

This Date In Providence Bruins History: October 22

1994: Eight days after winning their first meeting with the IceCats in Providence, 5-2, the P-Bruins lose their first-ever road game in Worcester by the same score.

2004: Brad Boyes’ hat trick fuels a 6-2 home win over the Lowell Lock Monsters.

2005: Eric Nickulas scores twice in a span of 51 seconds and the team scores four times in a span of 2:47 to sculpt a 4-0 lead midway through the first period. By the time the ice chips settle, Eric Healey has a hat trick while Nate Robinson joins Nickulas in the two-goal club while a total of 12 individual skaters chalk up a point in an 8-2 rout of Springfield at MassMutual Center.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Post-game Puckbag: P-Bruins 4, Sharks 3 (SO)

Swift summation
Well, at least the Providence Bruins scraped out a man-up goal of some sorts. And at least they got it when there were points to harvest out of it.

After trailing the visiting Worcester Sharks by two goals in two stretches (albeit one that barely lasted a minute) and failing to close the gap on each of five power-play opportunities, the P-Bruins pulled even during a 6-on-5 attack in the dying moments of regulation. Jamie Tardif’s extra-man conversion drew a 3-3 knot and set the stage for an eventual 4-3 shootout triumph before 6,869 fans at the Dunkin Donuts Center.

Tardif’s timely equalizer, followed by Jamie Arniel and Carter Camper’s one-on-one strikes, allowed the once 0-3-0 P-Bruins to surge right back to the .500 fence and all but instantaneously quelled any young notion of a Shark-dominated season series. The latter matter was certainly present in the atmosphere for the better part of regulation.

By the end of the first period, Worcester forward Curt Gogol’s transcript for the night already matched that of the Sharks’ previous visit to Providence 12 days prior. He had taken two shots on net, sustained seven penalty minutes through a fight and a set of coincidental minors and scored the first goal, drawing first blood at 10:31.

Less than three minutes later, on his team’s first power-play of the night, Nathan Moon augmented Worcester’s lead to 2-0 by burying the remnants of Brad Mashinter’s bid.

Afforded a carry-over power play with 28 seconds till intermission, then 39 seconds worth of 5-on-3 time in the first minute of the middle frame, the Providence strike force chose to defer gratification. But over a span of 5:37, the Bruins went on a 7-0 run in the shooting gallery before Lane MacDermid converted on their eighth unanswered try at 6:14, whittling the deficit in half to 2-1.

Over the next nine minutes, Worcester took 12 of the period’s remaining 15 shots, but Providence stopper Anton Khudobin kept it a one-goal difference. And neither side registered another stab within the last four-and-a-half minutes of action before the second intermission.

Each team struck on their first shot of the closing frame. Mike Connolly augmented the Sharks’ edge to 3-1 at the 28-second mark, only to have Calle Ridderwall retort on the P-Bruins’ behalf 72 ticks later.

Ridderwall and linemates Craig Cunningham and Zach Hamill were involved in a multitude of subsequent bids for the equalizer, but that wouldn’t arrive until goaltender Anton Khudobin gave way to the six-pack attack. With 30 ticks to spare in regulation, the previously stifled Tardif guided Matt Bartkowski’s bid home, forcing bonus action.

P-Bruins pluses
The Sharks promise to deploy one of the AHL’s tougher laser-beams on the defensive front this season, as evidenced early in Worcester’s first two outings. For that reason alone, it was no small feat for the Bruins to have landed 24 shots on Tyson Sexsmith’s property before the second intermission. That was four more than Providence had mustered in all of its prior meeting with Worcester and eight more than the Sharks authorized in a full 60 minutes against Albany.

For themselves, the P-Bruins charged up a season-high 33 shots through the end of regulation.

Stefan Chaput, a healthy scratch in three of the first five games this season, played a vital role in what was ultimately a point-saving penalty kill late in the third. During one sequence, he decked attacker Matt Irwin and took it upon himself to spoon the puck out of the zone. Chaput also logged his first shot on net and first plus-1 outing of the young season.

Bruins blights
Amidst the refreshingly prolific shooting spree that saw Providence tack on those 24 SOG in the first 40 minutes, Josh Hennessy and Tardif were conspicuous by their absence. The two veterans obtained over the summer were among the five P-Bruins not to have chipped in up to that point. And that included three power plays and the brief 5-on-3, wherein they could have built upon their man-up icebreakers from last weekend.

Defenseman Andrew Bodnarchuk took a slight step back from his impressive welcome-back weekend, finishing with zero shots and a minus-1 rating. Meanwhile, Colby Cohen’s flagrant turnover aided in Connolly’s third-period goal and just might have ultimately given Worcester a valuable point in the Atlantic Division standings.

Sharks notes
Forward Tony Lucia and defenseman Sena Acolatse each made their season debuts for Worcester.

With the secondary assist on Gogol’s icebreaker, Connolly finished the night with a 1-1-2 log along with a plus-2 rating.

Blueliner Justin Braun led all Sharks with six of the team’s 42 shots on net. Mike Moore was the only Worcesterian with no registered stabs, but was credited with an assist on Moon’s power-play conversion.

Arniel led the P-Bruins with seven regulation shots and added an eighth bid in the dying seconds of overtime, strolling into the Sharks zone and letting one plop from a distance into the crease. Sexsmith recovered in time to prevent any rebound threats.

Randell, who engaged Gogol, and Lane MacDermid each picked up their second fighting majors of the season. MacDermid finished the night with nine penalty minutes, having also gone off with Gogol for coincidental unsportsmanlike conduct minors and a hooking infraction that effectively amounted to Worcester’s second goal.

Pre-game Puckbag: P-Bruins vs. Worcester Sharks

Opening draw
Two endeavors to concoct a three-game winning streak will conflict at the Dunkin Donuts Center Friday night when the Providence Bruins host the Worcester Sharks.

The Sharks have played fewer games than any other AHL club so far, having topped the Bruins, 4-1, on Oct. 9 and throttled the Albany Devils, 6-1, in their home opener on Oct. 15. But for what it’s worth, their defense is tops in the league with a nightly average of one goal-against and 18 shots-against.

The Sharks are also averaging a league-high 33.5 penalty minutes per game. That includes four fighting majors, a charging major and two 10-minute misconducts. In last Saturday’s clash at the DCU Center alone, Worcester and Albany combined for 103 minutes in the box.

Gogol, who scored the first goal and took seven penalty minutes against Providence, upped his PIM bushel to 19 (third in the league) with a two-and-10 combination against Albany, the misconduct coming for continuing altercation on top of a roughing infraction.

As it happens, though, only about half of Worcester’s roster is liable for its collectively blood-laden transcript. Of the 19 skaters to have seen action so far, eight have yet to commit an infraction while 11 have combined for the team’s 77 PIM.

On the flipside, the Sharks are a pristine 9-for-9 on the penalty kill. And at the other end, they have drawn themselves 15 power plays and converted a good 33 percent of them, including four out of night versus Albany. On top of that, five different goal-getters have converted while 5-on-4 and 12 skaters have had a hand in at least one man-up conversion.

Notable names
Left wing John McCarthy is coming off a playmaker hat trick against the Devils, his second three-point performance in 101 career AHL appearances, all of them with Worcester.

Top gun and Boston native Benn Ferriero was recalled to San Jose on Thursday. Ferriero had inserted Worcester’s last dose of insurance in their latest confrontation with the P-Bruins and charged up a goal-assist value pack against Albany last Saturday.

Ian O’Connor, who graduated from Providence College last spring, was released from a professional after three days with Worcester on Wednesday, not even having a chance to see game action.

The visiting team has won each of the last four installments of this matchup, two apiece at the Dunk and the DCU Center. The last home triumph was a 4-1 win for the P-Bruins on March 18.

The Bruins and Sharks parent clubs will meet at the TD Garden on Saturday night. They have similarly seen the road team emerge victorious in each of their last five encounters, dating back to the end of the 2004-05 NHL lockout.

This Date In Providence Bruins History: October 21

1994: The P-Bruins avert a winless four-game trip to the Maritimes with a 6-4 win over the Cape Breton Oilers.

2006: David Krejci and Petr Tenkrat assist on both goals in an eventual 3-2 home loss to the Manchester Monarchs.

2007: Jeff Hoggan (two goals), Byron Bitz (two assists) and Brett Skinner (two assists) each have a multipoint performance, although the P-Bruins’ season-long four-game winning streak is snapped with a 5-3 loss to Worcester at the DCU Center.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Bruins Flaunt A Defining Characteristic With Bounce-back Blowout Of Leafs

Yep, these are Claude Julien’s Bruins, all right.

In 29 of his first 335 regular-season games behind the Boston bench, Julien has endured a loss of a three-goal margin or greater. The most recent case, and first of this season, was a particularly acrid 4-1 decision against Carolina on Tuesday at TD Garden.

Yet in 21 of the games following those lopsided falters, the Bruins have cultivated a redemptive victory, including Thursday night’s 6-2 throttling of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Of the 21 wins, 10 have been by a three-goal margin or greater themselves.

Overall, Julien’s Bruins are now 21-5-3 all-time when trying to rebound from a vinegary result, posting at least a .500 record in that situation each season.

Here is a complete list of those 21 displays of resiliency, starting with Julien’s very first weekend on the job back in 2007:

October 5-6, 2007: 4-1 loss at Dallas followed by a 3-1 win at Phoenix

October 22-25, 2007: 6-1 loss at Montreal followed by a 3-1 win over Chicago

November 17-20, 2007: 7-4 loss at Montreal followed by a 4-2 win at Toronto

December 1-3, 2007: 4-1 loss at Tampa followed by a 3-1 win at NY Islanders

December 29-31, 2007: 5-0 loss at Atlanta followed by a 5-2 win over Atlanta

January 10-12, 2008: 5-2 loss at Montreal followed by a 4-3 overtime win at Philadelphia

January 22-24, 2008: 8-2 loss at Montreal followed by a 4-1 win over NY Islanders

March 6-8, 2008: 8-2 loss to Toronto followed by a 2-1 win over Washington

April 11-12, 2009: 6-1 loss at Buffalo followed by a 6-2 win at NY Islanders

October 1-3, 2009: 4-1 loss to Washington followed by a 7-2 win over Carolina

October 8-10, 2009: 6-1 loss to Anaheim followed by a 4-3 shootout win over NY Islanders

October 17-21, 2009: 4-1 loss to Phoenix followed by a 3-2 win over Nashville

November 16-19, 2009: 4-1 loss to NY Islanders followed by a 4-3 shootout win at Atlanta

December 4-5, 2009: 5-1 loss at Montreal followed by a 7-2 win over Toronto

March 2-4, 2010: 4-1 loss to Montreal followed by a 3-2 shootout win over Toronto

March 18-21, 2010: 3-0 loss to Pittsburgh followed by a 2-1 win over NY Rangers

October 9-10, 2010: 5-2 loss to Phoenix followed by a 3-0 win over Phoenix

November 28-December 1, 2010: 4-1 loss at Atlanta followed by a 3-0 win at Philadelphia

December 20-23, 2010: 3-0 loss to Anaheim followed by a 4-1 win over Atlanta

March 19-22, 2011: 5-2 loss at Toronto followed by a 4-1 win over New Jersey

October 18-20, 2011: 4-1 loss to Carolina followed by a 6-2 win over Toronto

Bartkowski Can Only Help Self, Team In Return To P-Bruins

One week after welcoming back Andrew Bodnarchuk, the franchise’s active all-time games-played leader among defensemen, the Providence Bruins are salivating for a symbiotic relationship with the return of Matt Bartkowski. The 23-year-old sophomore was sent down from Boston on Thursday morning and will doubtlessly have a spot in the lineup for Friday’s home bout with the Worcester Sharks and beyond.

During his season-opening NHL call-up, necessitated by Steven Kampfer’s injury sustained in an Oct. 1 exhibition, Bartkowski stood in for Adam McQuaid on three nonconsecutive occasions. With each appearance, his ice time steadily wilted.

All the while, the Baby Bs struggled to initiate an altogether unripe blue line brigade. With Bodnarchuk still nursing his own injury over opening weekend, Providence had only two non-rookies in Colby Cohen (only in his second full professional season) and Marvin Degon.

Back in The Show, Bartkowski played a cumulative 8:22 over 12 shifts on opening night versus Philadelphia, a mere 5:32 on 11 shifts at Chicago last Saturday and 4:29 on seven shifts on Tuesday against Carolina.

In addition, he lost a point on his plus/minus gauge against the Blackhawks and the Hurricanes.

Out of nine NHL regular-season ventures between this season and last, Tuesday was the smallest sweat Bartkowski has worked up in Boston attire. Granted, some of that owed to the Bruins’ frequent and protracted penalty kills, but it was still plain that the second-year pro needed more grooming on the farm.

There were fairly plain signs of that when he was last seen in Providence, anyway.

A little more than six months ago, Bartkowski partnered with Bodnarchuk in his last appearance with the P-Bruins, a 3-2 win at Springfield in the penultimate game of the 2010-11 season. He landed three shots on goal and was on the ice for all five strikes at either end, amounting to a plus-1 rating.

Ultimately, Bartkowski led all Providence blueliners with 158 SOG and a 5-18-23 scoring log, a indubitable factor in his garnering the team’s best defenseman award. He was ultimately credited with at least one registered stab in 60 out of 69 games-played. A return to that habit would be embraced by a P-Bruins squad that is currently taking a meek median of 23.8 shots per game.

And out of the team’s 48 power-play goals last season, Bartkowski had a hand in seven.

Although, there was also that egregious, team-worst minus-18 rating over the course of 69 AHL appearances. And there was the fact that he finished the year with a 10-game pointless drought, easily his longest cold spell.

The latter may have been due, in part, to his coming off of two years at Ohio State and a random inability to keep a full tank for his first professional season. After scoring his last meaningful point by setting up Jordan Caron’s power-play strike against Connecticut on March 19, Bartkowski’s rating dipped by six points in as many games, though he subsequently made four of those up in April.

But likely sooner rather than later, he should prove to have felt the worst stings of a few fiery baptisms in the AHL and NHL. In turn, Bartkowski’s return to Providence should alleviate the pressure on the P-Bruins’ four rookie defenders, particularly Zach McKelvie and Marc Cantin.

The only two active Providence blueliners who did not so much as take part in an amateur tryout late last year, McKelvie and Cantin’s struggles have shown through three games as the team’s third unit. Out of six even-strength goals authorized by the P-Bruins last weekend, McKelvie was on the ice for four, Cantin for three.

With Bartkowski added to the equation, at least one of his comparatively unripe colleagues could be sent down to ECHL Reading and thus receive his own version of what Bartkowski needs: More authentic, extramural action at an appropriate level.

Meanwhile, Bartkowski can collaborate with Bodnarchuk and Cohen to enhance the “veteran presence” on Bruce Cassidy’s blue line. And if he’s ready to revive the acetylene, playmaking twig he flaunted between last November and March, he can help the likes of Josh Hennessy in stoking the P-Bruins’ power play.

This Date In Providence Bruins History: October 20

1993: In their first-ever visit to Ed Lumley Arena in Cornwall, Ont., the P-Bruins drop a 7-3 decision to the Aces.

2006: David Krejci and Peter Tenkrat assist on both goals to help Providence garner a regulation point, although the Manchester Monarchs take the extra point with a 3-2 overtime decision at The Dunk.

2007: Four P-Bruins record two points, including Petteri Nokelainen, whose second-period goal proves the game-winner in a 6-3 victory at Philadelphia’s Wachovia Spectrum. With that, the P-Bruins improve to 4-0-0 on the year, having played every game on the road, no less.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Bruins Puckbag: An Assortment of Observations on Boston and Providence

• Everybody with a certain stake in the Bruins, from the coach to the captain to the crease custodian to the crowd, stepped out of line at various points Tuesday night. It’s that simple. The best Bruins buffs can hope for is that it goes down as an outright anomaly for the rest of the season, which for the most part, you can safely assume it will be.

• Through the first half of Tuesday’s 4-1 loss to Carolina, fourth-line center Gregory Campbell had gone 5-for-5 at the face-off dot. Over the latter 30 minutes, he went 1-for-7.

• Can you imagine what Tuesday’s combustible confrontation and all of its repercussions would have been like if the Hurricanes were still the Hartford Whalers?

• Of those who have played in all six of Boston’s games so far, four have kept their noses clean with an unhatched goose-egg in the penalty-minute column: Joe Corvo, Andrew Ference, Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton. That’s right, Shawn Thornton.

• Including his six-game amateur tryout last spring, P-Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller has already engaged in two scraps in 11 AHL games. And he has been on the starting unit in four of the team’s first five ventures this season, meaning he should continue to see substantial ice time and more scrappy situations. That points to the potential to become a fan favorite.

• Second-year stand-in blueliner Matt Bartkowski is the only active Boston Bruin with no shots on goal to his credit yet. And there seems to be a broad consensus among the regular TD Garden press corps that Bartkowski ought to be returned to Providence.

• Naturally, returning Bartkowski at this time appears less than practical with Adam McQuaid and Steven Kampfer still recovering from injuries, but why not give Colby Cohen a shot? Other than Andrew Bodnarchuk, who especially with his recent injuries is anything but ready for a call-up, Cohen is the most seasoned and sizeable of active defensive prospects. Not to mention, he is tied for a Providence team lead with 11 SOG.

• But speaking of Bodnarchuk, his icebreaker in Sunday’s 3-2 shootout win over Portland effectively makes him the only P-Bruin in the plus/minus black as of this week.

• Milan Lucic has thrown only 14 hits in his first six games, the fewest of his career at this point in the season since he was still wearing No. 62 and playing less than 10 minutes a night.

• Naturally, this is sheer coincidence, but Tyler Seguin’s only two pointless performances in the young season have also been Tuukka Rask’s only appearances in Boston’s cage.

• Rookie Providence pivot Carter Camper had no shots on goal until after his first night as a healthy scratch last Friday. He still doesn’t have much, but he took one SOG on Saturday and Sunday, also tacking on his second assist of the year.

• Similarly, Tyler Randell had landed nothing on an opposing cage in his first three twirls prior to Sunday. That was when he went 1-for-3, his goal temporarily renewing the Providence lead. Please stand by to see if another one of Randell’s limbs cracks out of his chrysalis sooner rather than later.

• With the Toronto Maple Leafs and the seventh return of Phil Kessel to TD Garden on Thursday, there is doubtlessly another tempest of “Who won the trade?” debates on the horizon. This author says give it a rest.

So far, the Bruins have won a Stanley Cup a little help from their No. 2 draft choice, aka Seguin, who is now leading the team with five points and could have more if his linemates could just stave off the hangover. Kessel is likewise tops on the Toronto leaderboard with a 6-3-9 log. If each youngster stays with his respective club and ultimately wins at least a Cup or two, which is a more-than-possible eventuality, why should it matter who “won” the trade back in 2009?

This Date In Providence Bruins History: October 19

1996: After winning only one out of four games in a season-opening homestand, the P-Bruins begin their road slate on a winning note with a 4-2 victory at Portland.

2001: A 3-1 home win over Hartford nudges the P-Bruins back over the .500 mark at 3-2-0.

2002: Rich Brennan, Lee Goren and Matt Herr all etch two points apiece as part of a 3-2 home win over Lowell. Brennan assists on both of Goren’s first-period goals before Herr scores the eventual winner, his fourth game-clinching strike in the first month of the season.

2008: Johnny Boychuk extends his season-long point-getting streak to five games and has his third multi-point game in as many days. Likewise, the P-Bruins extend their point-getting streak to five games (4-0-1) by battering the Portland Pirates, 4-1, at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

P-Bruins’ Goal Should Be A Full, Balanced, 60-Minute Offensive

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.

This Date In Providence Bruins History: October 18

1992: The P-Bruins sweep their first weekend slate of home games by outscoring the Moncton Hawks, 4-3.

1997: The P-Bruins drop a 5-2 decision at the Providence Civic Center in their first-ever meeting with the Beast of New Haven.

2002: Matt Herr inserts his third winning goal in as many games on the year as the P-Bruins reap a 2-1 decision in their home opener against Springfield.

2003: Matt Herr scores two goals for the second consecutive night and Sergei Zinovjev converts on a power play midway through the third period en route to a 4-2 win at the Springfield Civic Center.

2008: Johnny Boychuk has a hand in both goals as the P-Bruins delete a 2-0 deficit within the final 6:06 of the third period to force overtime, where they settle for a single point in a 3-2 loss to the host Worcester Sharks.

2009: Vladimir Sobotka and Andy Wozniewski score two goals and two helpers apiece while Brad Marchand and Adam McQuaid each log a 1-1-2 performance to paste the visiting Portland Pirates, 7-2.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Key P-Bruins Team Statistics (Through Games of Oct. 16)

Special Teams
Power Play: 3-for-24 (12.5 percent)
Penalty Kill: 18-for-22 (81.8 percent)
Combined Special Teams: 21-for-46 (45.6 percent)
Shorthanded Goals For: 0
Shorthanded Goals Against: 2

Situational Records
When Scoring First: 2-0-0
When Opponents Score First: 0-3-0
When Leading After 1: 2-0-0
When Leading After 2: 1-0-0
When Trailing After 1: 0-2-0
When Trailing After 2: 0-3-0
When Tied After 1: 0-1-0
When Tied After 2: 1-0-0

Goals For-Goals Against in 1st period: 5-6
Goals For-Goals Against in 2nd period: 2-8
Goals For-Goals Against in 3rd period: 2-4
Shots For-Shots Against in 1st period: 46-49
Shots For-Shots Against in 2nd period: 31-52
Shots For-Shots Against in 3rd period: 41-45
Shots For-Shots Against in Overtime: 1-5

Penalty Breakdown
Minors: 25
Majors: 3
Misconducts: 0
Opposing Minors: 29
Opposing Majors: 3
Opposing Misconducts: 0

This Date In Providence Bruins History: October 17

2003: A two-goal lead singlehandedly sculpted by Matt Herr evaporates, but Tim Thomas’ 42-save performance salvages a 2-2 draw with the Worcester IceCats at The Dunk.

2004: Hours before Dave Roberts steals second base at Fenway Park, Hannu Toivonen blanks the Springfield Falcons, 4-0, at The Dunk.

2007: Rookie Vladimir Sobotka’s first AHL goal is the eventual game-winner while T.J. Trevelyan scores two unanswered doses of insurance to exorcise the Lowell Devils, 4-1, at Tsongas Arena.

2008: Johnny Boychuk’s playmaker hat trick gives him five points in his first three games with the P-Bruins. Meanwhile, Martins Karsums chips in three points of his own, including the eventual game-winner in a 6-3 home win over Springfield.

2010: The P-Bruins face the Hartford Wolf Pack for the final time before their time-honored rivals morph into the Connecticut Whale post-Thanksgiving. Hartford claims a 3-0 victory at The Dunk.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Post-game Puckbag: P-Bruins 3, Pirates 2 (SO)

Swift summation
Jamie Arniel was nearly the goat of the game when he took an ill-advised tripping penalty in the first minute of overtime, just as the Providence Bruins were initiating a potential end-to-end onslaught, no less.

But after his teammates bailed him out, literally and figuratively, Arniel broke the ice in the ensuing shootout. His second-round roofer combined with Zach Hamill’s homeward-bound lace around Portland Pirates goaltender Justin Pogge’s left boot and Providence stopper Anton Khudobin’s 4-for-5 performance stamped a 3-2 triumph before 4,368 congregants at the Dunkin Donuts Center.

To start, Providence decisively outshot and out-disciplined Portland with a 12-1 edge in the shooting gallery and three unanswered power plays within the first 20 minutes. But the Bruins only barely outscored the Pirates with strikes by Andrew Bodnarchuk and Tyler Randell sandwiching Matt Watkins’ equalizer on Portland’s only stab of the period.

Portland blueliner Michael Stone’s point-shot was a subtle, yet impactful killer of brittle Bruins leads. After Watkins deflected his bid home for a 1-1 draw at 11:36 of the first, Stone dropped a rebound on Khudobin’s porch. Pirates’ winger Ryan Duncan was there to lasso and bury the rebound by for a power-play conversion at 5:03 of the middle frame.

P-Bruins pluses
With the assists on Bodnarchuk’s icebreaking strike, Craig Cunningham and Kirk MacDonald both cultivated their first points of the 2011-12 campaign.

Randell also got productively involved. In addition to his first-period strike, the rookie winger parked himself in front of the Portland cage in the final minute of the second period for a can’t-hurt effort to extract David Warsofsky’s rebound. Pogge’s alert pouncing denied Randell a second opportunity to restore the Providence lead and potentially deprive the Pirates of a point.

Khudobin was his vintage self during the overtime penalty kill, repelling all four of Portland’s power-play shots. Earlier, when Max Sauve and Colby Cohen combined to create a 5-on-3 segment, the Bruins confined the Pirates to two stabs just as Cohen’s sentence was expiring.

Bruins blights
The only thing that went wrong for the hosts in the opening frame was three missed opportunities to augment their lead. The P-Bruins spilled all three of their unanswered power plays, two of which were awarded within two minutes of a goal or fewer.

The line of Hamill, Sauve and Trent Whitfield had an impossible time sustaining a threat on Portland property as multiple passes failed to connect or were picked off. On top of that, they were all on the ice for the Pirates first goal.

Whitfield finished with a minus-1 rating (as did his linemates) along with no shots on goal. The captain and two-time defending team MVP remains pointless through five games on the year.

Up to this point in the season, only rookie defenseman Marc Cantin shares the distinction of a barren scoring log after five games-played. On Sunday, only Lane MacDermid and Zach McKelvie joined Whitfield in failing to register a shot.

Pirates notes
Pogge made his season debut between the pipes for Portland and remains technically undefeated in five career confrontations with the P-Bruins at 3-0-2. He is 2-0-2 all-time in visits to The Dunk.

Duncan was the only of five Pirates to beat Khudobin in the shootout. His bar-down conversion in the top of the fourth round drew a brief 1-1 knot, which Hamill promptly and permanently busted.

Stone, Mathieu Beaudoin and Nathan Oystrick led all participating skaters with four shots on goal in the first 65 minutes of action.

Kyle Chipchura and Tyler Eckford garnered the secondary assist on Watkins’ and Duncan’s goals, respectively.

Defenseman Maxim Goncharov was liable for three consecutive Pirates’ infractions. He was flagged for hooking at 6:54 of the first, tripping at 15:25 of the same stanza and high-sticking at 14:03 of the middle frame.

Providence rookies Kevan Miller and Carter Camper each earned their second points of the season by assisting on Randell’s goal.

Defenseman Ryan Button was scratched from all three P-Bruins games over the weekend. Forwards Stefan Chaput and Calle Ridderwall likewise sat out of Sunday’s affair.

Pre-game Puckbag: P-Bruins vs. Portland Pirates

Opening draw
One day after rinsing out the vinegar force-fed to them by the Manchester Monarchs, the Providence Bruins will try to deprive the Portland Pirates of the same opportunity Sunday afternoon.

The Pirates and P-Bruins converge on the heels of a 5-1 home loss to Manchester and 4-1 road win over Springfield, respectively. Providence is still looking for its first home triumph after whiffing on its first three bids of the young season, the most recent being a mortifying, 7-1 decision versus the Monarchs on Friday.

With Sunday’s twig-lock, the P-Bruins will promptly finish breaking the ice with all four of their Atlantic Division rivals. So far, their inter-divisional record matches their home transcript at 0-3-0.

Notable names
Portland winger Ashton Rome is the younger brother of Aaron Rome, who gained instant infamy among Bruins buffs last June for his damaging hit on Boston’s Nathan Horton in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals. Ironically, Ashton was originally drafted by Boston in 2004, but has since changed organizations four times and still seen no action in the NHL.

Ryan Duncan, who garnered the 2007 Hobey Baker Award as a sophomore at the University of North Dakota, is back in North America for the first time since a two-game amateur tryout with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in 2009.

Another Fighting Sioux graduate, Brett Hextall, leads Portland with three points and a plus-2 rating through the first two games of the Pirates schedule. Hextall charged up a goal-assist value pack in Portland’s 4-2 win at Bridgeport last weekend.

The Pirates have a pair of journeymen for a goaltending tandem in Curtis McElhinney and Justin Pogge. Pogge has accumulated 217 AHL games with three previous organizations in four cities (Toronto, San Antonio, Albany, Charlotte) while McElhinney is back in the minors for the first time since 2007-08.

The Pirates are delving into their first season as the Phoenix Coyotes’ top development team. The P-Bruins last faced a Phoenix farm club on Feb. 13, 2009, when the San Antonio Rampage pillaged The Dunk, 5-1.

Current Pirates winger Igor Gongalsky was with the Rampage in that game, though he did not transfer to Portland with the rest of the Coyotes prospects. Rather, he is the Pirates’ lone holdover from their final year as the Buffalo Sabres’ affiliate.

Defenseman Andrew Bodnarchuk will played his 210th career game with the P-Bruins, thereby surpassing former captain Jay Leach for 14th on the club’s all-time list. Among defensemen, only Zdenek Kutlak, Peter Laviolette, Denis Chervyakov and Bill Armstrong have donned the Spoked-P on more occasions. All are within easy striking distance for Bodnarchuk to pole-vault this season.

This Date In Providence Bruins History: October 16

1992: The P-Bruins snap their 0-4-0 skid and win their inaugural regular-season home game by thrashing the Hershey Bears, 9-3. Goaltender Mike Bales does his part by repelling 45 out of 48 shots while Chris Winnes converts the team’s first-ever penalty shot as part of a six-goal second period.

1999: A two-goal game by Andre Savage highlights a come-from-behind, 4-3 home victory over the St. John’s Maple Leafs.

2004: After deleting an initial 3-0 deficit and ultimately drawing a 4-4 knot in regulation, the P-Bruins partake in their first-ever shootout. Patrice Bergeron and Andy Hilbert both connect, but the host Lowell Lock Monsters beat goaltender Peter Hamerlik thrice to take the one-on-one contest, 3-2, along with the extra point in the standings.

2009: Linemates Mikko Lehtonen, Jeff LoVecchio and Trent Whitfield combine for six points and at least one of them has a hand in each goal as the P-Bruins top the Lowell Devils, 4-2, at The Dunk.