Monday, February 13, 2012

Bruins Puckbag: An Assortment of Observations on Boston and Providence

Unless he is back in the organization for an unheard-of fifth season and spends a substantial amount of that season in Providence, Andrew Bodnarchuk’s inadvertent endeavor to become the P-Bruins’ all-time career games-played leader was terminated with Monday’s recall to Boston. The 23-year-old blueliner needed to suit up for all but one of the remaining games on the schedule to reach 279 and surpass Jay Henderson at the top of that list, but will inevitably miss a few so long as he is going along on Boston’s upcoming road trip.

The timing of Bodnarchuk’s promotion to the parent club, only the second of his four-year career and first since April 2010, makes this author wonder if general manager Peter Chiarelli is hoping to dangle another trade deadline commodity.

It is certainly surprising that the P-Bruins drew their greatest crowd of the season (11,235) to a Sunday afternoon game, namely this past Sunday versus Albany. But if it was going to occur at any point, it is no shock it happened on the Sunday after the Super Bowl and one of the few remaining weekends before spring training and March Madness pick up.

The two crowds from both weekend games allowed Providence to pole-vault from fifth to second on the AHL’s attendance leaderboard within three days. But there’s no catching the top dog from Hershey, whose average audience eclipses that of the Bruins by 2,352.

With 53 games behind and as many as 29 still ahead, Patrice Bergeron has already equated his power-play scoring totals of 3-8-11 from 80 appearances in the 2010-11 regular season.

One reason the Bruins can reassert themselves with a win over the New York Rangers Tuesday night: The Rangers’ divisional cohabitants from Philadelphia have now dropped five out of five meetings with the first-place Blueshirts.

Providence has not tallied a shorthanded goal since Zach Hamill inserted the team’s only strike in a 4-1 loss to Connecticut Dec. 2. And as a team, Bruce Cassidy’s pupils have as many shorthanded points (six) as former P-Bruin Keith Aucoin and Chris Bourque have each singlehandedly collected as members of the Hershey Bears this season.

Captain Trent Whitfield’s unsuccessful penalty shot against Albany Sunday afternoon was the first such play awarded to a P-Bruin since none other than Whitfield was stoned by Worcester’s Harri Sateri on March 18 of last season. The last P-Bruin to capitalize on a free one-on-one was Brian McGrattan, now the Nashville Predators’ resident enforcer, precisely one year ago today against Connecticut’s Dov Grumet-Morris.

Bergeron, Joe Corvo, Chris Kelly, Dennis Seidenberg and Shawn Thornton are the five remaining Bruins who have seen action in every game up to this point. Kelly has dressed for all 82 games in a regular season three previous occasions with the Ottawa Senators (2005-06, 2006-07 and 2008-09) while Corvo did the same with last year’s Carolina Hurricanes.

Meanwhile, on the farm, Craig Cunningham is the lone P-Bruin to have dressed for all 51 games to date.

Benoit Pouliot started his first season in Boston with an eight-game production drought. If he fails to put his name to the scoresheet against the Rangers Tuesday night, he will match that season-high skid. This coming after he had surged to charge up 6-9-15 totals in 25 games between Nov. 26 and Jan. 22.

It might just serve the common good if re-concussed forward Nathan Horton were simply shelved for the balance of this season, giving him eight-plus months between now and the next training camp to thoroughly recover. Bergeron from four years ago and Marc Savard from two seasons all but represent the two extremes on the historical barometer.