Ursine Battle of Destiny Begins Tonight

Steph Vail

The Providence Bruins and the Hershey Bears begin their first round best-of-five AHL Calder Cup playoff series tonight.

Bruins versus Bears! You know it's funny. The Providence/Hershey series features a number of items that seem to be nothing short of destiny, like it was written in the stars - specifically those stars that make up that weird bear constellation (ursa major? ursa minor?).

  • The last time the P-Bruins made the playoffs was 2008-09, when they went to the conference finals and lost to the Hershey Bears. In other words, the last team the Bruins played in the playoffs was the Bears.
  • The last time the Providence Bruins lost a regular season game before riding a 9-game winning streak into the playoffs was against the Hershey Bears, when they lost 3-2 in Hershey.
  • The P-Bruins are the AHL affiliate of the Boston Bruins (obviously), while the Hershey Bears are the AHL affiliate of the Washington Capitals. Remember that time they met in the first round of the NHL playoffs last season? Me neither. That never happened. The Capitals certainly did not "win" this "series" in "game" "seven" "overtime", nor did "Holtby" "steal" any "games". Okay I'm sick of talking about this...
  • The Bears have a strong team almost every year. Since the 2005-06 season, they have won 3 Calder Cup championships and made at least one other appearance in the finals, including 2 in a row in 2009 and 2010. (Guess who was the MVP in 2010? Just guess. I'll wait.)
  • They are pretty popular in their own right. They have the highest attendance on the AHL and have been around as long as any other team in the AHL. They take a lot of pride in their history as they are a ~storied franchise~ with a long history that includes the most Calder Cup champions of any team. Do you see what I'm getting at here? THEY ARE THE MONTREAL CANADIENS OF THE AHL. And a Bruins team by rule must face a Habs-like team in the first round of the playoffs to earn a championship.
  • Did you guess that MVP question yet? Here's a hint: it's Chris Bourque. Yup. Then they traded him to Boston over the summer for a back of pucks and a half-eaten chocolate bar. (What? That was a human? Oh Zach Hamill...can't believe we got Chris Bourque for you.)
  • Chris Bourque won three Calder Cups with Hershey - the only player to ever do so with the team.
  • Bourque is one of three former Bears that are now with the Bruins. They were all influential and popular in Hershey. Graham Mink is one of those players - signed to a tryout contract halfway through this season because he was unemployed and the P-Bruins were plagued with injuries and desperately needed a forward for a few games, he had an immediate positive impact that prompted the team to sign him to an actual contract. Mink was the 2nd leading playoff scorer for Hershey in 2009 when they knocked the Bruins out in the 3rd round. He scored two GWG in that series (jerk), including an overtime goal.
  • The third is Christian Hanson. Oh Christian Hanson! He was on Hershey last year, but he signed in Providence as a UFA. And he rules. So, thanks again Hershey. That's 3 players that upgraded to the superior ursine. Good life decisions.
  • The Hershey Bears mascot is named "Coco" which makes sense given they were founded by the Hershey guy and are in Hershey and all that but I challenge that with this: Providence has a superior Koko (Alex Khokhlachev), and he is our representative of adorable Russians, who basically know how to fight bears with their bare hands anyway. I assume Game 3 in Hershey will begin with the two fighting at center ice.
Okay let's get to some sort of real preview. Providence, the #1 seed in the East and in the league and in the world.

Let's look at some numbers because I don't know that much about Hershey and the AHL doesn't really provide that many statistics.

Scoring
  • Hershey's Jeff Taffe was one of the highest scorers overall in the league. He was tied for 1st in assists (53) and 2nd in points (71), 1st in power play assists (21), 3rd in power play points (27), Taffe hit his 500th career point during the final week of the season. Candy name irony is not going overlooked.
  • Jamie Tardif tied for 5th in goals (30) and 4th in power play goals (13).
  • Ryan Spooner led in rookie scoring: 57 points (1st), 40 assists (1st). He was named to the All-Rookie Team.
  • Torey Krug finished with 45 points, which set the record for Providence rookie defenseman scoring, and was 4th in the league among defensemen. He had 13 goals.
  • The highest scoring defenseman for Hershey was Tomas Kundratek, who had 16 goals - 2nd most in the AHL among defenseman. Rookie defenseman Cameron Schilling was tied for 1st in the league among defenseman GWG scorers with 4.
Ass-kicking
  • Bobby Robins had the most penalty minutes in the league (316), major penalties (36), and minor penalties (51).
Goaltending - Niklas Svedberg

As if we need a reminder about all his accomplishments this season, but I'm gonna do it anyway because we can never have enough reminders of how awesome this Swedish fellow is.
  • He won the award for Outstanding Goaltender in the AHL in his rookie season this year, was named to the All-Rookie Team, First All-Star Team, and was the starting goaltender for the East in the All-Star game.
  • He also was awarded the Providence team awards for best rookie and MVP.
  • He tied the club record for most wins by a goalie in a season with 37 wins, trying John Grahame's record from the last season Providence won the Calder Cup in 1998-99. Svedberg's record was 37-9-2. That's some seriously awesome shit. I LOVE THIS GUY.
  • This little AHL weekly release has some dandy numbers: Svedberg went 25-2-1 in his last 28 starts and 13-0-1 in his last 14 starts at home in Providence.
  • He went 3-for-3 in penalty shots this season, and was 8-2 in shootouts.
  • 37-8-2, 6 shutouts, 2.17 GAA, .925 sv%.
For Hershey, they will go with rookie goaltender Philipp Grubauer. Here are his numbers:
  • 15-9-2, 2 shutouts, 2.25 GAA, .919 sv%.
Team Stats
  • Power Play: Hershey - 11th (18.0%); Providence - 8th (18.5%)
  • Penalty Kill: Hershey - 10th (84.2%); Providence - 5th (85.7%)
  • Home record: Hershey - 18-15-3-2; Providence - 26-9-0-3
  • Away record: Hershey - 18-16-0-4; Providence - 24-12-0-2
  • When scoring first: Hershey - 27-11-2-3; Providence - 37-8- 0-3
  • Goals for/Goals against: Hershey - 204 GF, 196 GA; Providence - 222 GF; 183 GA
  • Goals against per game: Hershey 5th lowest average (2.58); Providence 2nd lowest average (2.41)
  • Shots per game: Providence 2nd highest average shots per game (33.62); Hershey ranked 30th (26.42)
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