Saturday, November 26, 2011

This Date In Providence Bruins History: November 26

1999: Jay Henderson and Jeff Wells both score within the final four minutes of regulation, turning a 2-0 deficit into a 2-2 draw with the Worcester IceCats at the Providence Civic Center.

2003: Colton Orr and Kevin Dallman each splash their season-long goal-scoring droughts, spelling the difference in a 3-1 home win over the Springfield Falcons.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Pre-game Puckbag: P-Bruins @ Norfolk Admirals

Opening draw
Mired in a season-worst four-game winless streak, the Providence Bruins will vie to reverse their fortunes with a two-night stay in Norfolk, beginning Friday evening with a 7:05 puck-drop.

The host Admirals have already raided the Dunkin Donuts Center twice in as many scheduled visits, winning 4-2 and 3-0 decisions on Oct. 28 and Nov. 6, respectively.

With Wednesday night’s 4-3 falter to Hershey, the P-Bruins have dropped to 0-3-0 against East Division residents. They have three more matches with that division yet to come, including this weekend’s two-set with the Admirals and a home date with the Bears on Feb. 17.

Notable names
Admirals’ top gun Cory Conacher has been held pointless in only two of his first 18 outings and pitched in an assist in both of Norfolk’s visits to Providence earlier this autumn.

Rookie Carter Ashton’s scoring touch has slightly tapered off since he collected a goal-assist value pack against the P-Bruins on Nov. 6. In six games since then, he has chipped in a helper against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, logged another 1-1-2 night versus St. John’s and been held off the scoresheet four times. Nonetheless, he still leads the Admirals with 12 goals, is tied for first in the AHL in the same category and is third on their charts with 19 points on the year.

Ashton and defenseman Jeff Dimmen are tied for second among league rookies with 11 minor penalties apiece.

Winger Dana Tyrell was recalled to the parent Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday.

Goaltenders Jaroslav Janus and Dustin Tokarski continue to split the workload evenly for Norfolk. Last time out, Janus endured six goals on 26 shots in a 6-3 home loss to Charlotte on Wednesday, so look for Tokarski to guard the cage against the P-Bruins for at least Part I of this set.

The P-Bruins have not visited the Norfolk Scope since Feb. 27, 2009, Martin St. Pierre inserted the decider en route to a 3-2 victory. Andrew Bodnarchuk, Zach Hamill, Kirk MacDonald and assistant-turned-head coach Bruce Cassidy are the only Providence holdovers from that evening. The Providence roster that night also featured four current Boston staples in Johnny Boychuk, Brad Marchand, Adam McQuaid and Tuukka Rask.

In terms of winning percentage, the P-Bruins are second-worst in the Eastern Conference with a .429 success rate. Only the defending Calder Cup champion Binghamton Senators are faring worse with a .421 percentage.

Two nights after facing the league’s most potent home-ice power play in Hershey, the P-Bruins will face the No. 2 team in that category these next two nights. The Admirals have converted 10 of 36 opportunities at The Scope for a 27.8 percent success rate. Although, Norfolk is also the worst penalty-killing team at home with only 67.6 percent success.

This Date In Providence Bruins History: November 25

1994: One week after they ended a five-game losing skid at the expense of the Baby Habs, the P-Bruins throttle the Fredericton Canadiens once more, 8-2, to augment their winning streak to four games. Daniel Lacroix and Grigori Panteleev each log a multi-goal game in the Black Friday matinee that effectively replaces that of the parent Boston Bruins, who at the time are still in the midst of a lockout.

1995: Davis Payne splashes his 18-game goal-scoring drought with two strikes as part of a come-from-behind, 3-1 road victory over Adirondack.

1998: The P-Bruins garner national airtime on both CNN and ESPN2 when they sculpt a whopping 10-1 lead in the first period and pace themselves to a 14-2 victory in Syracuse. Randy Robitaille sets a franchise record with five goals on the night and adds two assists to join Landon Wilson in the exclusive seven-point club. Andre Savage and Cameron Mann insert two goals of their own in the record-setting first period with Mann’s stick going to the Hockey Hall of Fame after he scores the team’s 10th goal.

2005: The P-Bruins play their fourth consecutive overtime game and win their third straight with a 5-4 decision against Portland at The Dunk. Fueled by the multipoint efforts of Ben Guite (goal, assist), Jason MacDonald (goal, assist), Tyler Redenbach (two assists) and Jonathan Sigalet (two assists), the Bs delete 1-0, 3-1 and 4-2 deficits before Ben Walter converts in sudden-death.

2009: Seven different point-getters pace the P-Bruins past the defending champion Hershey Bears, 4-1, at the Giant Center.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

This Date In Providence Bruins History: November 24

2000: Peter Vandermeer and Eric Nickulas both score in a fight-filled, 2-1 home win over Hartford.

2002: Andrew Raycroft’s 26-save shutout highlights a 4-0 whitewash of the Albany River Rats at The Dunk.

2007: The P-Bruins improve to 14-2-1 on the year with a 5-4 shootout win at Worcester’s DCU Center. David Krejci is one of four Providence skaters to record two points in regulation, then the first of three straight―along with Matt Hendricks and Brett Skinner―to connect in the shootout.

2010: With a 2-1 overtime win at Bridgeport, finalized by Jamie Arniel’s third sudden-death strike of the season, the P-Bruins improve to 6-0-1 in their last seven road games.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Pre-game Puckbag: P-Bruins @ Hershey Bears

Opening draw
Wednesday night’s renewal of the Ultimate Ursine battle will pit conflicting endeavors to snap out of a winless funk as the Providence Bruins, on the heels of a one-point-in-three-game weekend, visit the Hershey Bears, who have lost their last four overall and last two in a shootout.

Hershey is presently running away with the league’s most lethal power-play brigade with a 30.1 percent success rate. On home ice, the Bears have converted 16 out of 42 man-up invitations for an average of 38.1 percent.

The Bears’ penalty killing at the Giant Center is irreproachable in its own right, allowing only three goals on 35 scenarios for a 91.4 percent survival rate.

The Bears have multiple games in hand on the majority of their cohabitants, meaning they are technically tied with the Adirondack Phantoms for the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference with a .594 winning percentage.

Wednesday’s first period could be a telling indicator as to the ultimate upshot of the game. The Bears have scored 23 goals in the opening frame, second in the league to St. John’s (24), whereas the P-Bruins have accrued an AHL-worst minus-12 differential in the first 20 minutes.

Notable names
Former P-Bruin Keith Aucoin is in a three-way for third on the AHL leaderboard with 21 points and is second only to Peoria’s TJ Hensick with 17 assists.

Decorated Calder Cup hero Chris Bourque and newly acquired veteran Jacob Micflikier also rank within the top 10 producers among active AHLers, brandishing 9-11-20 and 8-11-19 transcripts, respectively.

Six of Bourque’s goals, nine of Aucoin’s helpers and 12 of Micflikier’s points have come on the power play. Defenseman Patrick McNeill has pitched in a jutting eight assists with a man-advantage himself.

Andrew Carroll is tied with a familiar Providence foe, Richard Clune of Manchester, for the league lead with eight major penalties.

Goaltender Dany Sabourin, who transferred to Hershey last year after spending 2009-10 in the Bruins’ system, has made 30 appearances with the Bears, but has yet to face Providence. He will, however, reportedly get the nod on Wednesday.

The Bears have had five games stretch beyond regulation, but have settled for the single point every time, authorizing three sudden-death strikes and bowing in two shootouts. Out of eight total shootout attempts, only Micflikier has hit the back of the net for Hershey.

Wednesday will mark the P-Bruins second straight meeting with one of Hall of Fame Boston blueliner Ray Bourque's sons. Ryan Bourque is a rookie with the Connecticut Whale, who pilfered a 3-2 shootout decision at the Dunkin Donuts Center on Sunday.

The P-Bruins will host Hershey in the teams’ only other encounter this season on Feb. 17.

This Date In Providence Bruins History: November 23

1994: Mike Bodnarchuk draws a 2-2 knot midway through the third period and Jeff Serowik breaks it with 6:17 to spare en route to a 3-2 home win over the newfangled Syracuse Crunch. With the NHL lockout still in session, the game is nationally televised on ESPN2.

2001: Five different goal-scorers fuel a 5-2 home win over Springfield, putting the P-Bruins above the .500 mark for the first time since their season opener.

2002: Tim Thomas bolsters a 5-2 win at Manchester’s Verizon Wireless Arena, halting 41 out of 43 Monarchs’ shots.

2005: Defenseman Jonathan Sigalet scores in overtime to beat the host Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, 2-1.

2007: Seven individual point-getters pace the P-Bruins to a 3-2 home win over Portland.

2008: Martin St. Pierre (goal, assist), Brad Marchand (playmaker hat trick) and three other multipoint performers pilot the P-Bruins past the Hartford Wolf Pack, 6-3.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Providence Bruins First Quarter Report Card

As the Providence Bruins rolled over the one-quarter mark of their 76-game schedule this past weekend, at least 75 percent of their forwards can be branded “underachievers.” They have held only 16 leads in a span of 20 games, expanding only two of those to a multi-goal advantage and blowing 11 of them altogether. The race for the distinction of the team’s plus-minus leader looks about as competitive as the old Celebrity Jeopardy! parodies from “Saturday Night Live.”

Still, with their record two games below .500, the P-Bruins have had a few flickers of gratification, rewarding the modest handful of consistent (or very nearly consistent) performers.

Those forlorn bastions of brightness, along with all that needs extra grooming for the next four-plus months and 56 games, are addressed in the following position-by-position evaluation.

Offense: D
Even with the revolving door to the wounded ward, the Providence strike force ought to have aggregated more than 44 regulation goals at the 20-game mark. Various injuries to Stefan Chaput, Josh Hennessy, Max Sauve, Jamie Tardif and Trent Whitfield ought not to preclude the likes of Jamie Arniel, Kirk MacDonald and Lane MacDermid from stepping up and furthering their own development.

As it happens, the veteran linemates Hennessy and Tardif have missed two and four games, respectively. Chaput, ostensibly a checking-liner, has missed nine. Yet all three of them have as many goals to their individual credit as Arniel, MacDonald and MacDermid have combined.

The offense’s longest-tenured member, Zach Hamill, and rookie Carter Camper have been the closest to consistent. And maybe they would be cultivating points every weekend if their supporting cast joined in a little more and cut down on all of the five-, six- or seven-shot periods.

Defense: C-minus/D-plus
Most of the time, this blue line brigade looks like one with only a single player―Andrew Bodnarchuk―who has played at least two full professional seasons. Professional sophomores Matt Bartkowski and Colby Cohen could both stand to step up, especially the peerlessly sizeable Cohen, with his 215-pound build.

In another ironic twist, Cohen’s fellow BU Terrier alum, David Warsofsky, is one of the few plus points. The 5-foot-9, 170-pound has recently taken more involvement in the attacking zone and reaped rewards for it with four assists in his last three games.

And ever since the team’s collective sleepskating start in the first three games, Warsfosky has improved his plus-minus rating to even, which ties his with fellow rookie Kevan Miller for second-best on the Providence defense.

Surprise, surprise, Bodnarchuk is No. 1 with a plus-1. Not exactly something to flatter himself about.

Goaltending: B-plus
Anton Khudobin leads the league with eight losses, though that owes at least partially to the fact that he is second in the way of minutes-played with 930:17. That also explains, in part, why he leads all AHL stoppers with 498 saves.

Khudobin has doubtlessly been the spine of the Spoked-Ps, salvaging many of the points they have earned in regulation, overtime and shootout decisions alike. However, he has not been infallible, exiting two of his 16 starts (Oct. 14 and Nov. 18) early upon authorizing five goals.

In his three start-to-finish appearances so far, backup Michael Hutchinson has looked like somebody who has yet to dispel the aftereffects of an early October injury. Each time, he has allowed three goals and lost.

Special Teams: D-minus/F
The P-Bruins boast the league’s penultimate power play with an 11.8 percent conversion rate overall. Only the San Antonio Rampage have fared worse with 8.6 percent success.

More troublingly, Providence is decisively less proficient with the extra man on home ice, converting five out of 50 opportunities in its first 13 twirls at the Dunkin Donuts Center. And on the road, a 4-for-26 success rate still places them at No. 21 in the 30-team circuit.

On the other side of the spectrum, the Bruins are in the middle of the AHL’s penalty-killing pack. But at home, on the road and overall, respectively, the opposition’s power play is still 8.5, 2.5 and 7.5 percentage points better.

If they can build upon Tardif’s recent four-goal weekend going forward, maybe that will change.

This Date In Providence Bruins History: November 22

1996: Rob Tallas’ 45 saves bolster a 4-2 home win over the Adirondack Red Wings.

1997: A four-goal third period amounts to a come-from-behind, 5-3 win over the Beast of New Haven and snaps the P-Bruins six-game winless streak.

2002: Pat Leahy and Martin Samuelsson both connect to snap a team power-play scoring drought as part of a 3-2 win over Springfield at The Dunk.

2003: After a 2-0 advantage devolves into a 3-2 deficit, defenseman Peter Metcalf gives the P-Bruins a point with a power-play equalizer at 15:56 of the third period, finalizing a 3-3 tie at the Hartford Civic Center.

2009: The P-Bruins trail the Manchester Monarchs, 3-1, at the end of one period and 4-2 through the second intermission. But after rugged defenseman Adam McQuaid scores twice to cut the deficits to 3-2 and 4-3, Kirk MacDonald draws a 4-4 knot at 8:34 of the third period. Then, with 48 seconds left in regulation, McQuaid and Brad Marchand set up Andrew Bodnarchuk for the go-ahead strike en route to a 5-4 win at The Dunk.

Monday, November 21, 2011

This Date In Providence Bruins History: November 21

2001: After spilling a 3-1 lead and then yielding a 4-3 deficit in the closing minutes of regulation, the P-Bruins rally for a 4-4 tie with the visiting Portland Pirates as Andy Hilbert connects for the equalizer.

2003: Less than three minutes after the Hartford Wolf Pack draw a 1-1 knot, veteran Ted Donato restores the lead with 3:08 left in regulation and stamps a 2-1 victory at The Dunk.

2007: Matt Hendricks assists on two goals, including the game-winner, in a 3-2 victory at Hartford.

2008: The P-Bruins delete a pair of one-goal deficits in regulation before Kevin Regan stops all five shootout attempts while Peter Schaefer converts to beat the visiting Portland Pirates, 3-2.

2010: Jeremy Reich scores the eventual winner while Steven Kampfer has a hand in the other three Providence goals to knock off the Manchester Monarchs, 4-1, at Verizon Wireless Arena.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

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

Swift summation
The Providence Bruins brought a new meaning to delayed penalty upon themselves Sunday afternoon at the Dunkin Donuts Center.

A rare, long-held 2-0 lead over the Connecticut Whale withstood a second period that saw the Bruins take five minor penalties as opposed to only two by Connecticut. But the P-Bruins were patently spent in the third period, for after Connecticut rolled up a light 15-12 edge in the shooting gallery through 40 minutes, the visitors went on a 19-shot sugar rush and deleted their 2-0 deficit.

In the subsequent shootout, rookie Carl Hagelin buried a backhander in the bottom half of the sixth round, snapping a 1-1 tie and handing Providence a vinegary 3-2 final before an audience of 4,721.

In an otherwise uneventful first period, the P-Bruins drew first blood by converting the afternoon’s first power play at 3:18. Persistence paid for point patrolling specialist Carter Camper, who after repeated failed attempts absorbed a feed from Josh Hennessy and launched another stab that dinked off of Jamie Tardif’s twig and through the roof of the Connecticut cage.

When Tardif repeated his act at 1:27 of the second, converting a carry-over power play, Providence had its first multi-goal lead since its first win of the season back on Oct. 15 in Springfield.

A mere 24 seconds later, though, intermittent flurries of penalties kicked in, slightly in favor of the Whale. Beginning with Ryan Button at 1:51 and ending with Jamie Arniel at 19:17, five individual P-Bruins made unaccompanied trips to the sin bin.

That amounted to a cumulative 8:33 of shorthanded time all within the middle frame, including 70 seconds of 5-on-3 and not counting the 77 seconds of Arniel’s slashing sentence that spilled over into the third.

But the Whale could not hatch the goose-egg in any of that time and the P-Bruins did not permit any tests of goaltender Anton Khudobin through the first four minutes of the third period.

From there on in, however, Connecticut erupted for a 19-3 run in the shooting gallery. Along the way, the Whale smuggled in the two requisite goals to force overtime via Brendan Bell and Jordan Owens.

P-Bruins pluses
Tardif nailed his third and fourth 5-on-4 goal in a span of three days after he had endured a six-game goal-less skid over the previous two weekends. During that personal drought, the Providence power play brigade had gone barren in 20 straight opportunities, plus its first three tries against Springfield on Friday. Starting with Tardif’s strike that night, the power play has now converted four of its last nine chances.

Khudobin cannot be faulted much after his workload swelled so much in the latter 15-plus minutes of regulation. Throughout that as well as the precipitating penalty-killing motif of the middle frame, Khudobin’s poise generally translated smoothly to the stats sheet and scoreboard as he foiled every Connecticut power play and at least salvaged a precious point.

Tardif’s linemate Hennessy extended his own point-getting streak and was sharp at the face-off dot most of the time, especially on both sides of the special teams’ spectrum.

Bruins blights
A full barrel of blame can be doled out in equal portions strictly amongst all of the penalty takers, whose lack of discipline was ultimately the silent turning point in this one. Ryan Button, Colby Cohen, Matt Bartkowski, Craig Cunningham and Jamie Arniel all variously taxed their teammates in that second period.

As a consequence, in a penalty-free closing frame, 10 different Providence skaters brooked a minus-1 rating as Connecticut lashed its way back. Perhaps fittingly, all five of the aforementioned were among those on the ice for either Whale goal.

With the exception of Cohen, the red-handed five joined forwards Kyle MacKinnon and Kirk MacDonald in not only losing a plus/minus point, but also failing to land any of the P-Bruins’ 20 shots on goal in 65 minutes of action.

Whale notes
Bell, who earned a secondary assist on Owens’ equalizer, was on the ice for all four regulation goals and was the only Connecticut skater to garner a plus-2 rating.

In addition, Bell led all participants with eight shots on goal. That doubled up the output of the closest runners-up as Connecticut’s Carl Hagelin and Blake Parlett each registered four stabs, as did the P-Bruins’ Camper.

Goaltender Cameron Talbot stopped 15 regulation shots, three more in overtime and five out of six in the one-on-ones to claim his second shootout victory of the season.

Rookie defenseman Marc Cantin, summoned back from ECHL Reading earlier in the day after an 11-day reassignment, put in his first AHL appearance since Oct. 30.

Arniel scored the P-Bruins only shootout goal with a bar-down conversion in the third round. That temporarily offered some hope in response to John Mitchell’s opening round strike for Connecticut.

Pre-game Puckbag: P-Bruins vs. Connecticut Whale

Opening draw
The Providence Bruins will try to avert their first empty three-game weekend of the 2011-12 campaign in Part I of a 10-game season series with the Connecticut Whale at the Dunkin Donuts Center Sunday afternoon.

The Whale were idle on Saturday and were thus inevitably bound to lose their one-point edge for first place of the Northeast Division with Bridgeport facing Springfield. (The Falcons prevailed, 4-1, to usurp the division lead.)

After a 5-1-2 start, the Whale have seen things grow more congested, as evidenced by the Pangaea-like compression in their division as well as their own recent results on the ice. Connecticut is 3-3-1 in its last seven outings, with all three wins coming in overtime or a shootout and all three regulation losses at the hands of the St. John’s IceCaps.

Notable names
Rookie Carl Hagelin is riding a six-game production streak and has inserted a goal in each of his last four outings. Overall, he is tied for the Whale team lead with John Mitchell for the team lead with an identical output of seven goals and 12 assists.

Winger Aaron Voros, who since 2004 has appeared in 251 AHL and 162 NHL games, joined Connecticut this past Tuesday on a professional tryout. He has yet to suit up for extramural action this season.

Since coming down from the parent New York Rangers, blueliner Tim Erixon has put in six appearances and charged up a 1-4-5 scoring log. Erixon enters Sunday’s contest on a three-game point streak, including most recently two helpers in a 3-2 overtime win over Bridgeport on Friday.

Overall, Connecticut has been involved in more shootouts than any other AHL team, upholding a 3-2 record in that scenario.

The Whale are led in the one-on-one department by Mitchell, who is 2-for-5 in his shootout attempts, Brendan Bell (2-for-3) and Mats Zuccarello (a perfect 2-for-2, and he was 2-for-6 throughout last year). For the P-Bruins, Jamie Arniel is 2-for-3 while Zach Hamill, Carter Camper and Josh Hennessy have each converted one shootout try.

The Whale will help to both usher in and end the P-Bruins’ longest hiatus from home ice (12 days) to date this season. After Sunday’s bout, Providence will hit the road for a Thanksgiving Eve visit to Hershey followed by a two-night stay in Norfolk. From there, the Bruins will return home a week from Friday, Dec. 2, to confront Connecticut at The Dunk yet again.

This Date In Providence Bruins History: November 20

1992: Glen Murray’s overtime goal beats the visiting Springfield Indians and elevates the P-Bruins to a 10-10-1 record, marking the first time the new franchise hits the .500 mark in its young history.

1998: Jim Carey charges up a 31-save shutout while Landon Wilson comes up an assist shy of the Gordie Howe Hat Trick in a 3-0 home win over the expansion Lowell Lock Monsters. With that, the P-Bruins improve their winning streak to a franchise-best seven games. Prior to the streak, they had a sub-.500 transcript at 4-5-1.

1999: Peter Ferraro assists on both Providence goals, including Sean Pronger’s overtime strike in a 2-1 win over the Lowell Lock Monsters at Tsongas Arena.

2004: Andy Hilbert scores the eventual winner and assists on each of Patrice Bergeron and Brad Boyes’ two strikes in a 7-1 romp of the host Portland Pirates.

2005: Alexander Suglobov’s hat trick accounts all of the Albany River Rats offense while the P-Bruins cultivate three strikes of their own to force a shootout. The one-on-one period runs for 12 rounds, culminating in Eric Healey’s game-winner to give Providence the extra point in a 4-3 decision at The Dunk.

2009: Kirk MacDonald breaks a 2-2 tie only 34 seconds after the Springfield Falcons had forged it with 14:35 remaining in regulation. Guillame Lefebvre and Jamie Arniel tack on the insurance for a 5-2 home victory.