In two games against the Manchester Monarchs (8-1-1-2) this weekend, the Providence Bruins (4-4-0-2) were outscored 9-3 and only managed to score on the power play. It's safe to say the P-Bruins are sick of playing against the Monarchs, especially after the extraordinarily frustrating nature of this weekend's losses.
The game Friday was 5-2 loss that saw The Great Niklas Svedberg take a seat for the rest of the weekend at 7:45 of the second period. On Saturday, a late third period penalty shot and empty net goal sealed a 4-1 win for the Monarchs.
Ryan Spooner was of course sorely missed on recall with the Boston Bruins, but the Monarchs were missing their two top scorers both nights as well in Tyler Toffoli and Linden Vey, also on call up with the Los Angeles Kings.
Poor First Periods and Slow Starts
Providence didn't record on a shot on net against Manchester on Saturday until almost halfway through the first period, and with 6:11 left in the first, the shot clock read 17-1 in favor of the Monarchs. Providence also didn't earn an offensive zone faceoff until the 4:51 mark of the first period.
Combined, the shot totals between the two times over the weekend very much reflected the problem of poor first periods followed by second and third period surges. Manchester out-shot Providence 29-14, but proceeded to get out-shot by the Bruins 27-20 in second periods and 24-13 in third periods.
Fortunately, Malcolm Subban played well enough to keep Providence in the game despite the onslaught of opportunities from Manchester. That wasn't the story on Friday, when Svedberg gave up an uncharacteristically weak goal 25 seconds into the game. Subban kept the Monarchs to one goal in the opening period, which was scored at 9:14 of the opening frame on the power play.
The shock of Svedberg's crap performance on Friday night is hard to shake, but Subban played well the rest of the way, despite adding another loss to his winless record this season. In 89:58 over five periods in two nights, Subban made 40 shots on 43 saves. Hopefully it will help his confidence in the long run. The lack of goal support was the biggest problem for Subban on Saturday night.
That lack of goal scoring can be attributed to the outstanding (it truly pains me to say that) goaltending of Monarchs netminder Martin Jones, who made 62 saves on 65 shots over the weekend. He also made timely saves, and probably got into the heads of the Bruins. Also not helping the Bruins case against Jones was letting him see pucks clearly, and the defensive's inability to hit the net.
No Offense from the Defense
After Saturday night's loss, P-Bruins Coach Bruce Cassidy said that the lack of offensive help from the blue line was an ongoing problem and contributing factor to the teams struggle to score at even strength.
"We gotta start hitting the net when the puck goes up top to our defensemen. Plain and simple, we’re just missing the net way too often. The forwards that do go to the net and do the work, they don’t get rewarded...There’s not a lot of offense coming from the back end - maybe we got spoiled last year - but [the defense has] gotta start producing some and they gotta start contributing, so we’re having trouble scoring 5-on-5."
Another problem that was exploited by Manchester is the P-Bruins' 30th-ranked penalty kill, which yielded three power play goals to Manchester - the Monarchs were 3-for-6 on the power play for the weekend. Manchester also scored 4-on-4 once, twice on an empty net, and once on a penalty shot. They scored timely goals as well, including one in the final seconds of the first period on Friday, and two within the first three minutes of the middle frame when the games were still relatively close.
Both Friday and Saturday night saw Manchester open the scoring in the first period with a power play goal. Conversely, Providence had three power play goals as well - but they scored only those three power play goals and nothing more. Providence went 3-for-8 on the power play over the weekend, with Alexander Khokhlachev and Matt Fraser getting power play tallies on Friday and Seth Griffith getting one on Saturday.
Taking Away Some Positives
In Friday and Saturday's games, the play of two important young players in Seth Griffith and Jared Knight continued to make an impact. Griffith has seven points in seven games and Knight is finding his game after missing most of last year with injury. They were the only players for Providence to have multi-point weekends; Griffith with a goal and an assist and Knight with two assists.
"Some of the young guys have gone in...and taken the bull by the horns and he's finishing plays" Cassidy said of Griffith, adding that Knight is also part of the group of young players playing well. But other players aren't making such a positive impression. "So far, Lindblad and Camara, not as much. You never know what you’re gonna get with young guys and Koko is somewhere in between."
Matt Lindblad and Anthony Camara weren't on the radar much this weekend, and Khokhlachev is starting to find his game. Another young player that wasn't playing well enough was Ben Youds, who was healthy scratched on Saturday after Friday's loss in favor of Chris Casto.
After sitting out as a healthy scratch for a few weeks, Casto responded ideally. "The idea is to get them hungry," Cassidy said. "He was good for us."
Another player that stepped in and had a more positive contribution this time around was Rob Flick, who entered the lineup due to Alexander Fallstrom's illness.
Zach Trotman will probably continue to miss time with his hand in a cast, which reminds me that he is missed on the blue line quite a bit.
Ryan Spooner will be back next week (unless he gets called up again) so there's no predicting the lineup quite yet. We know Subban will play at least one game given the three games in three days schedule, but Svedberg is expected to rebound from his disaster on Friday. "Svedberg had a tough night [on Friday], but he’s our go-to guy," Cassidy said of the super awesome Swede. "We gotta get him back on track."
Moving Forward...Away from Manchester
"It seems like we're always playing Manchester," Cassidy said. When discussing the bad bounce that led to a penalty shot goal for Manchester late in the third period Saturday, Cassidy commented that "good teams make their own breaks. [Manchester] made their own breaks...they’re a good hockey club, they’ve beaten us four times, so we gotta...not see Manchester for a while."
Having played the league-leading Monarchs four times in ten games this season, Providence is looking to their first three-game weekend of the season next week. They will play the New York Rangers AHL affiliate the Hartford Wolf Pack (they were the Connecticut Whale last season) twice next weekend - at Hatrford on Friday and at home on Sunday. Providence will face off against Bruin-for-a-hot-second Aaron Johnson in Hartford, as he is their current leading scrorer.
Sandwiched between the Wolf Pack games is a Worcester Sharks game on Saturday. Providence will face off against the San Jose Sharks AHL affiliate Worcester Sharks in Worcester for the first time this season.