Saturday, November 5, 2011

Pre-game Puckbag: P-Bruins @ Manchester Monarchs

Opening draw
Two teams with at least slightly better fortune on the road than at home will complete a back-to-back series Saturday night when the Providence Bruins visit the Manchester Monarchs at Verizon Wireless Arena.

The P-Bruins are vying to rinse out the vinegar from Friday’s 2-1 shortcoming at the Dunkin Donuts Center, which has already dropped them to 0-2-0 in their season series with the Monarchs.

Manchester improved to 4-4-0 on the road in Friday’s bout, with two wins apiece coming in Providence and Portland.

Conversely, the Monarchs have not won in their own domain since opening night, when they plastered the Springfield Falcons, 5-2. Since then, they have been blanked by St. John’s, 1-0, conceded a 2-1 decision to the Falcons and submitted to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, 4-1.

Notable names
Winger Brandon Kozun, who commenced the scoring on Friday, is on a two-game goal-getting streak and has landed at least one shot on net in each of his last 10 appearances. Linemates Jordan Nolan and Andrei Lotkionov have assisted on each of those tallies. No other Monarchs are fostering an active string of consecutive appearances on the scoresheet.

With Anton Khudobin and Martin Jones having dueled in the creases on Friday, there is a reasonable chance Providence could give Michael Hutchinson the nod and pit him against Manchester’s Jeff Zatkoff.

Zatkoff is 4-3-2 all-time in 10 starts against the P-Bruins, winning his first four decisions but going 0-3-2 for the better part of last season. Hutchinson, on the other hand, is 3-0-0 versus the Monarchs.

Providence newcomers Josh Hennessy and Jamie Tardif have each claimed two of their first four points at Manchester’s expense. Tardif assisted on Hennessy first strike as a P-Bruin at The Dunk on Oct. 14 and both were credited with setting up Max Sauve’s goal in Friday’s bout.

This is only the P-Bruins’ second excursion to Manchester in this calendar year. They won their previous visit on March 9 after deleting 1-0 and 2-1 deficits before claiming an epic, 14-round shootout. Providence figures to have seven holdovers from that game suiting up tonight, including both of its goaltenders and Lane MacDermid, who gave the Bruins the 5-4 win in one-on-ones.

This Date In Providence Bruins History: November 5

1999: Jeremy Brown tallies a hat trick while Cameron Mann scores twice and falls an assist short of a Gordie Howe Hat Trick, piloting a 9-4 romp of the visiting Saint John Flames.

2006: Playing their third game in as many days and in as many cities, the P-Bruins extend their winning streak to five games with a 5-3 home triumph over Binghamton. Providence initially trails the Senators, 2-0, at the first intermission but score five unanswered goals between 11:01 of the second period and 9:39 of the third. Ben Walter has a hand in four of those with two strikes and two helpers.

2010: After going 0-4-1 at The Dunk during the first month of the season, the P-Bruins finally win a home game by throttling the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, 6-1. Multipoint performers include Jamie Arniel (goal, assist), Jordan LaVallee-Smotherman (two goals), Yury Alexandrov (goal, assist) and two helpers apiece for Steven Kampfer and Kirk MacDonald.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Post-game Puckbag: Monarchs 2, P-Bruins 1

Swift summation
The Providence Bruins are symptomatic of Denis Lemieux Syndrome―i.e. allergic to home crowds.

Four times in their last seven home dates―bookended by the Manchester Monarchs two visits―the P-Bruins have entered the first intermission with a two-goal deficit glowering at them.

Moreover, the four games in question have been each of their last four Friday night games, which have all been played in front of Dunkin Donuts Center crowds exceeding 6,000 fans. Contrast that with their four Sunday matinees, which have been played before audiences of 5,072 or less.

On Friday, Providence paid for yet another frostbitten first period as Manchester subsisted on an initial 2-0 advantage through all of the remaining 40 minutes en route to a 2-1 decision.

For the better part of the opening stanza, the Monarchs all but sucked every Bruins-issued biscuit into Bermuda. Their pressure repeatedly flustered clearing attempts on Providence property while their penalty-killing brigade was quick to send the host power play into a regroup.

And then, barely a minute after getting through the stanza’s only 5-on-4 segment, Manchester sculpted its 2-0 lead on five shots all in a span of 1:58. First, winger Jordan Nolan hustled to negate an icing and turned to set up Brandon Kozun for the icebreaker with 11:19 off the clock. Patrick Mullen augmented the edge with a homeward-bound blast from the right point at 13:17.

The P-Bruins whittled the deficit in half around the halfway mark of the second period with the help of two happy returnees. Max Sauve inserted his second goal of the season at 10:37 with partial assistance from Jamie Tardif, who had joined his linemate on the injured reserve for each of the previous six games.

Providence more than doubled its shooting output in the third, running up a 21-8 gap for a final advantage of 40-34. But Monarchs stopper Martin Jones had an answer for everything.

P-Bruins pluses
The line of Josh Hennessy, Sauve and Tardif was an outstandingly kinetic trinity Friday night given that two constituents have been missing in body, the other in spirit for so long. They combined for seven of the Bruins’ 19 shots in the first 40 minutes in addition to getting collaborative credit on the Providence icebreaker. Hennessy also made an irreproachable bid for a shorthanded breakaway in the 17th minute of the middle frame.

By night’s end, they had taken 12 of the team’s 40 SOG, Tardif leading all Providence skaters with five.

Bruins blights
It won’t be long before road ventures are outnumbering home games in frequency, so the Bruins had best boot this habit of slow starts in the ostensibly advantageous Bear Den where they are now 3-5-1 and still have not won a game in regulation.

The P-Bruins have now trailed at some point in each of their last seven games and 10 out of 12 overall on the year.

As vital as it was to reincorporate Sauve, Tardif and to plug in the newly-obtained Chris Clark, it is a bit of a head-scratcher that Kyle MacKinnon was one of the odd men out. The rookie out of Providence College was just fostering a two-game point streak and coming off his first goal in the previous game against St. John’s.

At the rate he is producing, Jamie Arniel might have been a more ideal scratch. Although he landed four shots on goal to up his season bushel to 38, every shot that doesn’t go in (37 of them now) is making him look worse.

Lane MacDermid was the only P-Bruin who failed to formally test Jones.

Monarchs notes
Mullen snapped a 12-game goal-scoring drought that carried over from the final weekend of last season.

Center Robert Czarnik, who picked up the secondary assist on Mullen’s strike, had only one shot on goal in two previous appearances with the Monarchs. On Friday, he led all participants with six registered stabs.

The Monarchs won their first one-goal game in four opportunities.

After the P-Bruins went their previous two games with no fights, Kirk MacDonald dropped his mitts with Justin Johnson right off a neutral-zone draw at 15:10 of the opening frame. Johnson later engaged MacDermid at the 12:36 mark of the second period after the Providence enforcer took a hack at him with his twig.

Along with MacKinnon, fellow rookie forward Tyler Randell was scratched to make room for Sauve and Tardif. Yannick Riendeau’s midweek reassignment to Reading preceded Clark’s signing.

Hennessy’s assist on Sauve’s second-period strike constituted his 300th point in five-plus AHL seasons.

The contesting clubs followed the NHL’s dress code with the P-Bruins donning their road black uniforms for the night.

Pre-game Puckbag: P-Bruins vs. Manchester Monarchs

Opening draw
Three weeks after brooking a 7-1 throttling at the hands of the Manchester Monarchs, the Providence Bruins will vie for a refreshing do-over with their Granit State rivals at the Dunkin Donuts Center Friday night.

Since their previous meeting, both parties in question have generally strode in opposite directions from where that 7-1 upshot may have pointed. The P-Bruins amassed their first win the subsequent night and have gone 5-2-1 to improve from 0-3-0 to 5-5-1.

Manchester, on the other hand, was initially off to a 3-1-0 start but has since dipped to 1-6-0. They disrupted a five-game losing streak with a 5-2 win at Portland last Friday, but then endured a 4-1

In terms of winning percentage, the Monarchs are last in the Eastern Conference and second-last in the league behind the Lake Erie Monsters with a .364 point-getting rate.

Friday’s bout will constitute Part I of a home-and-home set, which will pick back up Saturday evening at Verizon Wireless Arena. It will be one of three times this season that the P-Bruins swap visits with an adversary on back-to-back the nights, the other sets being with Connecticut (Dec. 10-11) and Worcester (Jan. 20-21).

Notable names
Despite missing the first two games of the season, Jake Muzzin is tied for second among league defensemen with three goals and fourth among all AHL blueliners with 30 shots on goal.

Richard Clune leads the AHL’s penalty minute leaderboard with 55 and is second in terms of five-minute majors with five such infractions.

Goaltender Martin Jones is tied with the P-Bruins’ Anton Khudobin for second in the league with five losses on the year. Only Lake Erie’s Trevor Cann has had more setbacks with seven.

Touted defensive prospect Thomas Hickey has three assists on the year, but has gone 46 consecutive regular-season games without a goal, dating back to Jan. 14 of last season.

The Monarchs are one of two teams, the other being the Rockford IceHogs, who have yet to go to overtime in a single game.

Over the next two full months, the P-Bruins will tangle with the Monarchs in seven of their next 24 dates, beginning Friday at The Dunk and ending on New Year’s Eve at Verizon Wireless Arena. After that binge of battles, the two rivals will go nearly two full months without crossing paths and will clash only twice more overall in the second half of the season.

This Date In Providence Bruins History: November 4

2005: After losing each of their first three home games of the season, the P-Bruins rebound to top Shawn Thornton and the Norfolk Admirals, 4-1. Tyler Redenbach pilots the offense with two assists and an empty-netter.

2006: Kris Versteeg’s second goal of the night at 3:39 of the second period ultimately forces overtime, wherein Bobby Allen gives the P-Bruins their third straight road win as his strike finalizes a 4-3 decision at Albany.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Monarchs Have Tripped Since Trouncing P-Bruins

The presumptive debut of Chris Clark and possible returns of multiple scorers who were itching to break through even before their respective injuries is enough on the home front for the Providence Bruins to carry conviction into this weekend’s home-and-home set with Manchester.

Now throw in the fact that the Monarchs have done some, but certainly not much, to follow up on the 7-1 flare-up they inflicted on Providence in their last encounter three weeks ago. They did proceed to belt the Portland Pirates, 5-1, the following evening but have since gone 1-6-0, their other win being another lopsided upshot at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

The P-Bruins, who have gone a respectable 5-2-1 since hitting their nadir against Manchester Oct. 14, will have to play their cards carefully so as not to risk reinvigorating the Monarchs. That said, they will doubtlessly thirst for a redress in Friday night’s bout at the Dunkin Donuts Center considering the way the Monarchs made human Zambonis of them three weeks to date.

Other than a single play that saw Josh Hennessy, Jamie Tardif and the power-play brigade all break the ice after two games off, the P-Bruins let the data underline the stench that night.

En route to completing an empty three-game, season-opening homestand, they mustered but one goal for the third straight outing. They again let the final margin grow to three goals and beyond.

Moreover, despite manifestly out-disciplining Manchester, taking two minor penalties as opposed to the Monarchs’ seven, they reaped no rewards beyond Hennessy’s strike.

And it was patently a team loss. All 18 Providence skaters finished the night in the red under the plus/minus heading. The Monarchs had 17 players in the black while veteran Marc-Andre Cliche finished even.

The P-Bruins’ altogether unripe defense, which happened to be missing Matt Bartkowski in their first meeting with Manchester, has since improved to authorize 22 opposing tallies over eight games. That translates to a nightly average of 2.75 after letting in precisely five goals per night in their first three ventures.

On the other end, the Bruins have not let any adversaries confine them to fewer than two goals in any of their last eight outings.

Conversely, the 4-7-0 Monarchs have been outscored, 27-15, while going 1-6-0 over their last seven outings. In each of their last four losses, they have mustered two goals or less, including their second shutout setback of the year in a 5-0 whitewash at the hands of the Connecticut Whale.

Across their stats sheet, 12 individual Monarchs had at least three points in their first six games while four of them―Andrei Lotkionov, Cliche, Justin Azevedo, David Meckler―had at least three goals. Over Manchester’s last five ventures, no one has mustered any more than a single goal or two points.

In addition, the P-Bruins have settled six of their last seven games by a single goal, going a more-than-decent 4-1-1 in those arm-wrestling bouts. Overall, Manchester is 0-5-0 in games decided by two goals or fewer.

No time like Friday’s home date and Saturday’s rematch up at Verizon Wireless Arena for Providence to improve its handle on leads and exploit the Monarchs’ principal follies. Unless they let Monarchs extract the same minerals that have given them one scoring buffet in Providence and two in Portland, the Bruins ought to be raising the upper hand.

Bruins Puckbag: Random And Various Observations On Boston And Providence

Thursday is the seven-year anniversary of the untimely and frankly terrifying passing of Sergei Zholtok, the former P-Bruins all-time scoring leader who also saw action in 25 Boston games. Besides being the first great producer in Baby Bs history, Zholtok is doubtlessly still remembered as a dedicated on-ice representative and off-ice philanthropist for his native Latvia.

Boston goaltender Tim Thomas is among those taking part in the latest round of Discover Card commercials, cast as one of the infamous “Peggy’s” frustrated customers. But did you know that in their formative years, the Bruins actually had a player who answered to that unlikely guy’s name? Between 1933 and 1937, forward James “Peggy” O’Neill logged 141 games, 32 points and 105 penalty minutes.

If you haven’t been to T. Chace, Jr.’s “Providence Bruins Insider” blog lately, I highly recommend the impressive, quantitative game-day photo galleries.

Kyle MacKinnon is the last P-Bruins’ regular still without any penalty minutes on the year. David Krejci and Daniel Paille are still pristine in that column for Boston.

Patrice Bergeron is fostering his fifth five-game point-scoring streak―including one in the postseason―since coming back from his protracted injury in 2007-08. If he has a hand in any goals against the Maple Leafs on Saturday, it will amount to his first six-game streak since between Feb. 6 and Feb. 26, 2007. And those six games were nonconsecutive. Bergeron missed five straight outings between Feb. 13 and Feb. 23 that year.

Anton Khudobin is the only AHL goaltender to have faced 300 or more shots so far (302 total). Trevor Cann of the Lake Erie Monsters is a distant second with 251.

Overall, Khudobin’s save percentage is a so-so .904. But in his six appearances since allowing four-plus goals in three consecutive outings, he has stopped 199 out of 215 stabs for a .926 success rate.

Joe Colborne, exported to Toronto’s farm system in exchange for Tomas Kaberle prior to last winter’s trading deadline, logged eight goals and eight assists for the AHL Marlies in 20 games for last year’s homestretch. He has already charged up an identical 8-8-16 log in his first nine outings this season.

Another former P-Bruin, Keith Aucoin, is tied with Colborne for the league lead with 16 points.

After going scoreless in the first four outings (and he is historically prone to lengthy cold streaks), Chris Kelly has had a point-per-game dating back to his shorthanded strike against the Blackhawks. In addition, he has reached three goals and seven points quicker than in any of his previous six NHL seasons and leads all Boston strikers with an 18.8 percent shooting percentage.

With Chris Clark confirmed as a P-Bruin and the likes of Max Sauve, Jamie Tardif and Trent Whitfield figuring to return in the near future, odds are a couple of forwards are likely to join Yannick Riendeau down in the ECHL. May this author suggest Tyler Randell? And maybe now that Ryan Button is back, toss in defenseman Zach McKelvie while you’re at it?

Dennis Seidenberg is still clinging tightly to the Bruins’ unofficial Any Day Now Award. His 30 shots on goal are exceeded only by Tyler Seguin for Boston’s team lead, yet his shooting percentage remains a big Blutarsky. In addition, he is tied with Krejci and Joe Corvo for a team-worst rating of minus-6.

Speaking of plus/minus, besides his spiked productivity rate, Seguin’s rating has improved noticeably since his rookie campaign. Appearing in 74 regular-season games as a rookie, he retained a minus-4. So far this year, he is running away with the team lead at plus-8.

As was the case in 2008-09, Sean Avery’s second stint in the Rangers’ farm system came and went before he could face the P-Bruins, who will host the Connecticut Whale two weeks from Sunday. In turn, whether or not we are better off not seeing what sort of reception he would get at the Dunkin Donuts Center we simply have to guess.

This Date In Providence Bruins History: November 3

1995: The P-Bruins lose their first confrontation with the Carolina Monarchs, 3-0, at the Civic Center.

2000: A carry-over five-minute major gives the P-Bruins a rare overtime power play and Peter Ferraro converts at the 2:17 mark for a 7-6 home victory over the Worcester IceCats.

2002: Keith Aucoin’s 2-1-3 scoring log paces the P-Bruins to a 7-3 home win over the Springfield Falcons.

2006: Jonathan Sigalet pulls the P-Bruins ahead of the host Hartford Wolf Pack 1-0 and 2-1 before fellow blueliner Ryan Glenn scores the permanent go-ahead goal with 5:19 to spare in regulation, finalizing a 3-2 win at the Hartford Civic Center.

2007: In only their ninth game of the season, all of them on the road, the P-Bruins charge up their second four-game winning streak by edging Portland, 3-2. Pascal Pelletier assists on all three goals.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

P-Bruins Constantly Short Of Breathing Room

In their first 11 games, the Providence Bruins have rolled up a cumulative 670 minutes and 30 seconds of ice time. Within that full timeframe, they have only spent an aggregate 138:07 of those minutes safeguarding a lead.

Out of their five wins, they have only once drawn first blood and stayed at least one notch ahead from there on in, namely in a 4-1 triumph at Springfield Oct. 16. They have not sculpted a multi-goal edge before or since on their 2011-12 schedule.

They also prevailed in a shootout against Worcester on Oct. 21, but only after never leading within the preceding 65 minutes of full-scale hockey action.

In total, the P-Bruins have taken nine individual leads, not counting the instant-dry 4-3 edge granted by Andrew Bodnarchuk in Sunday’s overtime session against St. John’s.

Of those that the opposition has had a chance to delete, the Bruins have spilled all but two. Four of their leads have not lived to see 10 minutes of age.

And on three out of nine possible occasions, they have let an advantage devolve into a deficit.

Two of those toe-curling scenarios transpired over the most recent weekend of game action. In Saturday night’s visit to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, Providence struck first for the fourth time in 10 tries with Stefan Chaput converted at 17:21 of the first period.

That 1-0 edge, which also had the Bruins leading after the opening frame for only the third time, lived a 13-minute, 20-second lifespan. Justin DiBenedetto drew a 1-1 knot for the Tigers with 10:41 gone in the second and Casey Cizikas went on to grant Bridgeport and 2-1 and then permanent 3-2 lead.

Sunday’s bout with the IceCaps featured two outright lead changes and three equalizers. The P-Bruins’ 1-0 lead lasted a mere 9:24 in the middle frame and their later 3-2 advantage was zapped after a mere 7:34.

Most flustering for head coach Bruce Cassidy ought to be the fact that his pupils afforded themselves more chances to broaden their 1-0 gap in the last two outings than in previous ventures. That, and invaluable inches of ground they potentially squandered.

The P-Bruins’ 14-shot first period in Bridgeport was their single-most quantitative salvo in a 20-minute stanza up that point, yet Chaput’s connection was all they could boast.

On Sunday, they matched that mark by pelting St. John’s stopper David Aebischer 14 times in the second period, beating him on two of those. Carter Camper and Chaput each scored to sandwich a pair of IceCaps goals.

One more strike out of 34 and/or one more prevented against Bridgeport would have meant sparing at least one point, if not two on Saturday. One instance of a multi-goal advantage over St. John’s could have denied a divisional rival an overtime point.

Those scenarios could be a tad more frequent if the Providence strike force were to attack in droves, even with the resources they have had of late. This chiefly means drawing more out of proven sizzlers Jamie Arniel and Josh Hennessy, just to name a pair.

The solution going forward? The P-Bruins need to not only pester the opposing stoppers more consistently and assertively, but it couldn’t hurt to fluster the said goalie’s praetorian guards.

Tellingly enough, the Providence power play was 3-for-19 on the year in the wake of their 4-1 win over the Falcons. They had gone 2-for-5 with the corporeal advantage that night at MassMutual Center and all three of their conversions (including one the preceding night versus Manchester) had the help of Hennessy. Jamie Tardif had a hand in two.

Translation: The only night they have had any multi-goal leads has also been the only night that they have converted multiple power plays.

Since then, the man-up brigade has gone 2-for-24, inconsistently earning opportunities, much less cashing in. Tardif has been injured the last two weeks, but Hennessy has been available for the last seven games, yet launched a mere nine SOG and has yet to build upon his 2-1-3 scoring transcript.

Tardif, along with Max Sauve and Trent Whitfield could return to the lineup as early as this weekend. In addition, as of midday Wednesday, unemployed NHL veteran Chris Clark is reportedly on a professional tryout one month after being released from Boston’s training camp.

But an instantaneous impact from all or any of those four is hardly something to bank on. The P-Bruins’ active roster of the last two weeks has boasted enough of a definitive top six to be mounting more daunting deficits on their adversaries.

This Date In Providence Bruins History: November 2

1997: The P-Bruins lose their first-ever visit to the Hamilton Bulldogs, 5-3, at Copps Coliseum.

2001: The P-Bruins splash a season-long road victory drought by bumping the Rochester Americans, 3-1, at Blue Cross Arena.

2007: Confining the Springfield Falcons to exactly five shots in each period, the P-Bruins cultivate a 4-1 win at MassMutual Center.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Bruins 5, Senators 3: Players Roles In Win A Microcosm Of Team's Recent History

Entering this season, only Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Andrew Ference and Tim Thomas knew what it feels like to have a losing record in a Boston Bruins uniform after one month and 10 games. Yep, they all lived to tell about the blunderstruck 2006-07 season spent under the misguidance of Dave Lewis.

The rest of the active Bruins at least know what it is like to latch on to America’s oldest NHL franchise with the assignment to elevate the team’s standards. Milan Lucic is one of those who know how to sniff out a refreshing exit from the doldrums.

For the better part of Tuesday night’s hard-earned 5-3 home triumph over the Ottawa Senators, the survivors of the brief Lewis era and the dawn of Claude Julien’s ongoing tenure were piloting the pace. By the time Boston busted ahead for good, the contributions were coming from more of the more recent additives.

Bergeron and linemate Brad Marchand led the team with three shots through the first intermission and four registered stabs at the second break.

Lucic and Bergeron were the ones who struck to delete 1-0 and 2-1 deficits, respectively. And they were responsible for drawing Ottawa’s first two penalties. Less than two minutes after one-time Bruins’ blueliner Sergei Gonchar hooked Bergeron, Lucic polished off a rare power-play conversion to draw a 1-1 knot at 7:12 of the opening frame.

Chara assisted on Lucic’s goal, matched the young power forward’s output of three hits in the first 40 minutes and set up Boston’s first go-ahead goal, inserted by Chris Kelly with two minutes left in the second.

Compared to most of his peers, Ference saw relatively minimal ice time with only 15 minutes and 14 seconds of action. But he used that time to block the very first shot attempt of the game, help confine the Senators’ league-leading power play to only one shot on three opportunities and post a plus-two rating.

Putting in his eighth full-length appearance of the season, Thomas barred Ottawa from augmenting its leads to a two-goal gap, averted what might have been his first four-goal outing of the year and drew an opposing penalty himself.

Meanwhile, slick sophomore Tyler Seguin drew the Bruins’ third power play with a hooking infraction tagged on top Ottawa gun Jason Spezza at 6:30 of the second. That was barely two minutes after Seguin ensured that he maintained his point-per-game pace with the primary helper on Bergeron’s goal that made it 2-2.

From there, the home team highlights were generated chiefly by those who have been in Boston for two full years at the most as the Bruins permanently usurped the role of frontrunners.

The ex-Senator Kelly converted a pass from fellow 2011 trade deadline import Rich Peverley for Boston’s first lead. He later helped to renew that lead to 4-3 on a feed to Johnny Boychuk before Daniel Paille finalized the 5-3 upshot.

Eight Spokes: A List Of P-Bruins Looking To Improve In November

The data tells it crisply. With the calendar Zamboni taking its first monthly shift of the season, the Providence Bruins are in a half-full state.

At 5-5-1 for half of the 22 possible points after 11 games, the P-Bruins are essentially lodged in third place of the five-member Atlantic Division. The Worcester Sharks, who have five games in hand as well as four on the St. John’s IceCaps, boast the AHL’s best winning percentage at .833 and have only lost one point out of a possible 12 to none other than these Bruins.

Were they to repeat the rate that they set through the first one-sevenths of the slate, the P-Bruins would frankly be bound for a third consecutive Calder Cup playoff no-show. That said, they are fortunate to have what they have to build upon and the resources for redress figure to be available.

Whether it is through better play or better health, a mass multitude of Providence players can be leaned upon to give the Baby Bs a supra-.500 month of November. The eight players to track are as follows in alphabetical order:

Jamie Arniel: Last year’s leading goal- and point-getter currently leads the P-Bruins with 34 shots on net, yet has put only one of those in the net. He is also worst among all Providence forwards with a minus-4 rating, although that was primarily compounded by two poor defensive outings against Manchester and St. John’s (Oct. 14 and last Sunday).

Ryan Button: Recalled from Reading on Tuesday after three conditioning games, Button was limited to two appearances with Providence last month due to injury and illness.

Marc Cantin: The rookie defender has played in all but two games and dug up a team-worst minus-7 ditch in that span.

Josh Hennessy: One in a handful of players to miss to the start of the game schedule, Hennessy hit the ice churning on the second weekend of action, scoring three points―all on the power play, no less―on six shots within his first two games. In the seven games since, he has logged a cumulative nine shots, including only five in the last four, and his only appearances on the scoresheet have been a pair of penalties.

Zach McKelvie: Like Hennessy, McKelvie was out with an injury on opening weekend. Since coming into the active lineup, the rookie blueliner has been an utter nonfactor and has been on the ice for multiple opposing goals in three out of seven outings. To his credit, though, he has at least mustered a shot on net in each of his last three games.

Max Sauve: He came down from Boston right at the conclusion of NHL training camp, scored the first Providence goal of the season less than five minutes in, then disappeared. Sauve had four pointless games before missing the last two weekends with a concussion. But he figures to return for Friday’s home date with Manchester, at which point he will begin striving to stave off the sophomore slide.

Jamie Tardif: Another striker who was ailing for the second half of the month, Tardif’s was most conspicuously amiss under the SOG heading in his first five appearances. After scoring 27 goals on 230 registered stabs for the Grand Rapids Griffins last year, the veteran is 2-for-12 in that regard with the P-Bruins so far. But now that the team in general is launching more rubber, Tardif ought to dole more out himself.

Trent Whitfield: Can the captain make history repeat? Only 10 months removed from returning from an Achilles affliction, Whitfield should be able to thaw out his game a little quicker on the other side of an upper-body injury. After five pointless games and a six-game stint on the sidelines, the ice is Whitfield’s to break.

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.

This Date In Providence Bruins History: November 1

2002: Lee Goren’s Gordie Howe Hat Trick and two-goal night pilot a 7-3 home win over the St. John’s Maple Leafs.

2003: With 42 saves by Tim Thomas and two goals via Carl Corazzini, the P-Bruins muster a 4-4 tie with the IceCats at the Worcester Centrum.

2008: Jeremy Reich tallies a hat trick and Brad Marchand (goal, two assists) equates his three-point output to top the San Antonio Rampage, 5-1, at the AT&T Center.

2009: The P-Bruins avert an empty three-game weekend and snap a four-game losing streak with a 4-3 home with over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Zach Hamill and Jeff Penner each score a goal and two helpers while Jordan Knackstedt assists on each of the Bruins’ last two goals.

Monday, October 31, 2011

P-Bruins Log: MacKinnon, Linemates Stepping Up, Filling In

For all of the grinding sessions featuring the line of Stefan Chaput, Kirk MacDonald and Kyle MacKinnon, that particular unit did not get around to testing St. John’s IceCaps goaltender David Aebischer very much in the first 40 minutes of Sunday’s contest.

Through those first two periods, the Providence Bruins had landed 23 shots on goal. Chaput himself had put one of those in the cage on a shorthanded wraparound while MacDonald had pelted Aebischer once.

Other than that, there was plenty of puck movement when the troika was on St. John’s property, but not a whole lot of initiative on and around Aebischer’s porch. The most striking example was late in a scoreless opening frame, when they buzzed around the zone for the final minute and kept it going long enough for Josh Hennessy’s line to pick it up without any stoppages or clearances.

In all that time, none of them did anything to make Aebischer exert anything other than his brain and his eyes.

But in the young phases of the third period, now with a 2-2 deadlock at hand, MacKinnon simultaneously broke into the shooting gallery and broke the tie. Not to mention, he tuned the mesh for the first time since inserting a game-winner during his late-season amateur tryout last spring.

And not unlike Carter Camper and Chaput before him, MacKinnon converted by attacking within whispering distance of Aebischer. Following MacDonald to the invisible dividing line between the slot and the crease, he was there to vacuum Chaput’s pass from the far lane, presumably intended for MacDonald, but a tad too forceful to hit that target.

With the biscuit in his clutch, MacKinnon promptly thrust a backhander into a gaping goal-mouth, making it 3-2 in favor of Providence with 15:50 to spare in regulation.

By day’s end, the P-Bruins had walked off with a 4-3 overtime win and Chaput, MacDonald and MacKinnon had been credited with two stabs apiece. They alone combined for four of the team’s 10 third-period shots.

As a whole, Providence had anywhere between one and four SOG apiece from 17 out of 18 skaters in Sunday’s contest.

With the continued corporeal absence of Max Sauve, Jamie Tardif and Trent Whitfield and the chronic contributing absence of Hennessy and Jamie Arniel, such a balanced attack is nothing short of what head coach Bruce Cassidy should request.

For the rookie MacKinnon and his two AHL veteran linemates, Sunday’s third period and the weekend in general underscored a timely perk-up.

With a goal in each of three games plus the primary assist on MacKinnon’s strike, Chaput had his most productive three-day marathon since amassing a 1-3-4 log for the Albany River Rats Dec. 4-6, 2009. MacDonald still lacks a firsthand strike since March 27 of last season, but has pitched in two assists out of three games for two weekends in a row and now has five on the year for second-most on the team.

And MacKinnon splashed a season-long, eight-game point drought with an assist on Zach Hamill’s equalizer at 12:02 of the third period at Bridgeport on Saturday. He followed that up with his go-ahead goal in Sunday’s closing frame and finished the weekend with two straight two-shot, plus-1 transcripts.

MacKinnon, who suited up for opening night and every game since opening weekend, mustered only four stabs over his first five outings, with no more than one on a single night. In his last five appearances, he has landed 11 shots on net.

MacKinnon’s gradual thaw is one of the more telling personifications of the P-Bruins’ strike force approaching the elusive habit of charging up qualitative and quantitative shot bushels. Prior to their visit to Bridgeport, they had logged more than 30 shots only once in nine games, that being a 35-shot output in a two-way salvo against Worcester on Oct. 21.

Against the Sound Tigers and IceCaps, they compiled 34 bids on back-to-back days.

Key P-Bruins Team Statistics (Through Games of Oct. 30)

Special Teams
Power Play: 5-for-43 (11.6 percent)
Penalty Kill: 39-for-48 (81.3 percent)
Combined Special Teams: 44-for-91 (48.3 percent)
Shorthanded Goals For: 1
Shorthanded Goals Against: 2

Situational Records
When Scoring First: 4-1-0
When Opponents Score First: 1-4-1
When Leading After 1: 2-1-0
When Leading After 2: 1-0-0
When Trailing After 1: 1-3-0
When Trailing After 2: 1-4-0
When Tied After 1: 2-1-1
When Tied After 2: 3-1-1

Goals For-Goals Against in 1st period: 7-11
Goals For-Goals Against in 2nd period: 8-14
Goals For-Goals Against in 3rd period: 10-11
Shots For-Shots Against in 1st period: 112-132
Shots For-Shots Against in 2nd period: 87-128
Shots For-Shots Against in 3rd period: 97-114
Shots For-Shots Against in Overtime: 4-10

Penalty Breakdown
Minors: 54 (one double-minor)
Majors: 6
Misconducts: 0
Opposing Minors: 51 (one double-minor)
Opposing Majors: 6
Opposing Misconducts: 0

This Date In Providence Bruins History: October 31

1996: A 6-3 road win over the Fredericton Canadiens snaps the P-Bruins’ four-game losing streak.

1997: The P-Bruins pay their first visit to the Hartford Civic Center, where they lose a 4-2 decision to the Wolf Pack.

1998: Upon finishing a home-and-home sweep over the Beast of New Haven, the P-Bruins pull their record back to the .500 mark at 4-4-1, where they had not been since winning the season opener against Springfield.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Post-game Puckbag: P-Bruins 4, IceCaps 3 (OT)

Swift summation
Andrew Bodnarchuk was one of only two participating skaters without a single shot on goal after 60 minutes. What’s more, the veteran of 216 Providence Bruins games―second among active players only to Zach Hamill―had only one game-winning goal in his protracted tenure, that one coming Nov. 22, 2009 against Manchester.

But in Sunday’s bite-sized bonus round, the popular stay-at-home defenseman defied nearly all of the norms. He went out of his way to approach the porch of the St. John’s IceCaps net, where he and Carter Camper’s pass converged and his shot tuned the mesh for a 4-3 sudden-death victory before 3,939 at the Dunkin Donuts Center.

Within the final two minutes of a scoreless opening frame, the P-Bruins went on a five-shot sugar rush and drew a carry-over power play with a tripping penalty to St. John’s blueliner Paul Postma with 5.2 seconds to spare. On that advantage, their third unanswered, Colby Cohen set up Lane MacDermid on a neutral zone regroup and MacDermid found Camper for a top-shelf conversion at 1:25 of the second period.

The IceCaps retorted with their own power-play strike at 10:49 when Spencer Machacek, who had whiffed on a previous try seconds earlier, poked in Jason Jaffray’s rebound. Two face-offs later, Garth Murray won an offensive-zone draw pack to point patroller Mark Flood, whose shot brushed a screening Kevin Clark’s stick and past Anton Khudobin’s trapper, usurping the lead for St. John’s.

But amidst killing their own third straight infraction, the P-Bruins made a no-nonsense shorthanded threat in the depths of the IceCaps zone with Calle Ridderwall and Stefan Chaput leading the charge. Two seconds after Hamill’s jailbreak, the grind culminated with Chaput drawing a 2-2 knot at the 14:07 mark.

Providence pressed for four unanswered shots to commence the third period. The last two of those were off the twig of Kyle MacKinnon, who tucked in his own rebound to renew the lead at 4:10.

But in the 12th minute, the Caps crashed the cage to draw a 3-3 knot. Former P-Bruin Marco Rosa’s shot found the twig of Carl Klingberg, who in turn found Aaron Gagnon churning in to polish off another equalizer.

P-Bruins pluses
With the primary assist on MacKinnon’s goal to go with his own firsthand strike, Chaput had his first multipoint outing as a P-Bruin.

After his stick quieted for only one registered stab in his previous three appearances, Lane MacDermid already had a season-high four SOG by the second intermission. He also had his second assist in as many nights with his set-up on Camper’s strike.

Craig Cunningham was the author of two stimulating second-period scoring chances, challenging IceCaps’ stopper David Aebischer in both the sixth and tenth minute.

Bruins blights
Defenseman Matt Bartkowski was on the ice for both of St. John’s even-strength goals and was in the penalty box for the visitors’ power-play strike.

Twice in regulation, a heavily leaned-upon P-Bruin cost his team two shorthanded minutes when he took a tripping penalty on a spontaneous IceCaps rush after a swarm was broken up in the offensive zone. The culprits in question were Hamill and Jamie Arniel, at 12:05 of the second and 6:31 of the third period, respectively.

Speaking of Arniel, his team-leading shot total is now up to 33. Yet the team’s reigning top gun award winner has still put only one of those in the net.

IceCaps notes
All three of St. John’s scorers―Machacek, Clark and Gagnon―hatched a goose-egg in their goal column.

Postma racked up six penalty minutes, the first four for a high-sticking double-minor at 5:42 of the first period. That matched Kirk MacDonald’s own infraction and sentence at the 3:06 mark, ultimately amounting to 84 seconds of 4-on-4.

Rosa led all participants with six registered stabs.

Cohen, whom the IceCaps held shotless in their opening night encounter, has since landed at least one shot on goal in each of 10 games. He finished the day with two helpers.

Bodnarchuk, Chaput, Hamill and Kevan Miller all finished the day with a plus-2 rating.

Khudobin’s 40 saves matched an overall season-high set against Worcester last weekend and exceeded a 60-minute season-high set against Norfolk this past Friday.

Providence defenseman David Warsofsky was the only skater with no shots on goal by the end of Sunday’s contest.

Pre-game Puckbag: P-Bruins vs. St. John's IceCaps

Opening draw
The bipolar Providence Bruins, whose wins and losses have come in crowds over the first 10 games of the season, will try to buck their second skid in a Sunday matinee home date with the St. John’s IceCaps.

The long-distance divisional rivals will lend a little symmetry to each other’s October slates, St. John’s having previously reaped a 4-1 victory from the Dunkin Donuts Center on opening night.

Since that meeting, the Caps have yet to relinquish full or partial control of the top seed in the Atlantic circuit. Although, given that the 4-0-0-2 Worcester Sharks have three games in hand on the IceCaps and four on the P-Bruins, Sunday’s game might as well be a battle for second place. Unless the Sharks crash on their sugar rush, Worcester is setting a tone as the real team to beat.

Notable names
After charging up a goal-assist value pack in their opening night victory at The Dunk, IceCaps’ defenseman Paul Postma had a momentary cold spell, going pointless in four straight outings. Since then, though, he has thawed back out for a 1-4-5 log over the last three games.

Captain Jason Jaffray, who inserted a shorthanded goal against the P-Bruins in their previous confrontation, had a hand in all three St. John’s goals as part of a 4-3 overtime loss at Springfield Saturday night. In addition, he tied teammate Marco Rosa for a game-high six shots on net and took two of the game’s six penalties.

Goaltender Peter Mannino was called up to the parent Winnipeg Jets Saturday while center Aaron Gagnon came down from The Show on Friday. Mannino and colleague David Aebischer have an identical 2-2-0 AHL record while stand-in Edward Pasquale has won his lone AHL start, a 28-save effort that helped thrash the Portland Pirates, 5-1, in Newfoundland last Tuesday.

St. John’s defensemen Travis Ramsey and Postma are the only IceCaps regulars to have not taken any penalties yet this season. Kyle MacKinnon, who garnered his first point Saturday in the form of an assist at Bridgeport, is the only Providence regular with the same spotless disciplinary record.

The P-Bruins and IceCaps will only meet twice more this regular season when they play a back-to-back, midweek set a Mile One Centre Feb. 7-8.

This Date In Providence Bruins History: October 30

1992: Five power play goals spell the difference in a 9-3 home victory over the Capital District Islanders. Jozef Stumpel stands out with a hat trick and four assists on the night.

1994: Brett Harkins, Guy Larose and Daniel Lacroix all beat Saint John Flames goaltender Dwayne Roloson within the final 10 minutes of regulation to delete a 4-1 deficit and stamp a 4-4 tie at the Civic Center.

1998: With a power-play goal, a shortie and a shutout, the P-Bruins garner their 200th all-time win by nicking the visiting Beast of New Haven, 3-0.

2002: For the first time in over five years, the P-Bruins pay a visit to the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena, where they top the newly established Binghamton Senators, 6-4.