It's almost laughable how far the Providence Bruins finished ahead of the pack when all was said and done at the end of the 2012-2013 AHL regular season.
105 points - the only team to hit 100 points. Last year, the only team to hit 100 points won the Calder Cup Championship.
They finished with a record of 50-21-0-5. 50 wins - by far the best in the league. Closest to that is Springfield's 45. It helps that Providence finished the season on a 9-game winning streak.
They were great at home and on the road. At The Dunk (which I perpetually am mistyping as The Drunk), they were 26-9-0-3. The only team with a better home record in the league was the Toronto Marlies with a slightly better 26-8-1-3.
Providence was dominant on the road, too, with a 24-12-0-2 record. Only the Syracuse Crunch (24-10-2-2) and Texas Stars (25-9-3-1) were better.
The P-Bruins finished with the 8th ranked power play in the AHL and 5th best penalty kill. Special teams were a huge improvement and reason for success.
Obviously this was all made possible by perfect goalie and probably part-time model Niklas Svedberg, who literally won ALL THE AWARDS in ceremonies before the game yesterday. He was recognized for his league accomplishments (First All-Star Team, All-Rookie Team, Player of the Month of March, the holy goalie grail Baz Bastien Award) as well as given 2 team awards (best rookie and MVP). He then posed for this adorable picture.
Svedberg is a huge part of the reason a run to the playoffs was possible - coming seemingly out of the blue to give them a chance to win every night and eventually tying John Grahame's club record for most wins in a season with 37 before taking the last 2 games of the season off. Let's not, however, forget the fantastic seasons the rest of the team had.
The embarrassment of riches that is the current P-Bruins rookies had perfect years, and they were surrounded by a supporting staff of veteran teammates having great years as well.
Ryan Spooner and Torey Krug will likely spend the next season in Boston along with Svedberg, so take a moment to admire the great things they did this season.
Spooner closed the regular season yesterday with his first professional hat trick. He scored the third goal of the hat trick to break a 3-3 tie with 21 seconds left in the game. He can turn it on basically at will and win games whenever he decides he wants to flip that switch.
He finished the season as the top scoring rookie in the league and top scorer for the P-Bruins. He had 17 goals and 40 assists, including 8 power play goals and 14 power play assists, and was a team second-best +14 (Tommy Cross finishing with the best +/- on the team is kind of a freak accident).
Spooner played in 59 of 76 games, and keep in mind, it took him - like the rest of the team - a little while to hit his stride this season. And when he did hit his peak, he was called up to Boston for a few games, then missed a few more games with a phantom injury that I believe is called in the medical world "I want to sit in the press box with my best friend Jared Knight."
Torey Krug shattered the Providence record for scoring by a rookie defenseman this season (okay, he beat it by 8 points). He had 13 goals and 32 assists, including 5 power play goals and 15 power play assists. He was awarded the Providence club award for best defenseman. I am awarding him the Stanley Cup of Chowder club award for being awesome, with fists of fury. He will fight you if you piss him off, even if he is on the small side and you just wanna pinch his cheeks.
I love that about him, and it is representative of the team as a whole this year - they were, in comparison, much smaller than we expect our Bruins teams to be. Seriously, I cannot stress enough how short they are on average. But they played with grit, and wouldn't get pushed around. They had guys like Bobby Robins (who I will get to in a second) to fill those roles of standing up for his teammates, but it never fell solely on his shoulders to police the ice.
Everyone had each other's backs and they played tough - they played Bruins hockey. And they showed the fan base how good they were at doing it by beating the Big Bruins at their own game way back when in the Black and Gold scrimmage - a true highlight of the season for the P-Bruins. They were proud of that hard-earned victory, and they say "you're welcome" for lighting a fire under Boston's ass prior to the season opener.
Even at the AHL level, Bruins hockey is thrilling. And full of talent. Chris Bourque's recent return to the lineup is a reminder of what an amazing accomplishment the team's success without him has been. With him back in the lineup, the team is infinitely better, as seen in simple stats like, oh, I don't know, 4 assists yesterday (every Providence goal).
It's a shame it didn't work out in Boston, but I feel pretty great about having him for a Calder Cup run. He won the playoff MVP award with Hershey 3 years ago (HERSHEY! OH HERSHEY I CANNOT WAIT! First round preview of THE URSINE BATTLE OF DESTINY™ [credit to Sarah for that] coming Wednesday) and even if he will never be an NHL star, he is flat out one of the best players in the AHL. I have no qualms about watching him dish to Spooner (pun intended) all playoff season long.
Providence's top goal scorers ended up being Jamie Tardif (30 goals) and Craig Cunningham (25 goals; Cunningham also was given the 3 Stars award in yesterday's pre-game ceremony). Along with Spooner and Krug, the P-Bruins had nine 10+ goal scorers: Bourque (10), Carter Camper (10), Christian Hanson (12), Graham Mink (10), Jordan Caron (NEIIGHH..i mean 11), Kyle MacKinnon (13), and Justin Florek (11). Four players recorded hat tricks this year, beginning with Jordan Caron all the way back in October, then Jamie Tardif, Craig Cunningham, and capped off with Spooner's beauty yesterday.
If you don't like fancy fun scoring, I know you like straight up badassery.
So look to that wonderful man throwing his fists of fury, punching his way right into our hearts. Bobby Robins was awarded both the Community Service award and Fan Appreciation award. Not much else needs to be said about him. The fans love him, and he loves the fans. He loves getting everyone fired up. He loves getting fired up. He loves his teammates. He loves his cat. He loves Bruins hockey - he is Bruins hockey.
Evenly distributed scoring. Clutch goaltending. Grit. Depth. Hallmarks of Bruins success in the past are all ripe right here in Providence, the site of the Bruins future. And the playoffs start for the first time in four years next Friday, so get excited. Now!