The Ursine Battle of Destiny ended in a befitting dramatic fashion on Wednesday night. The Providence Bruins proved themselves to "be the better bear" - a slogan that Bobby Robins came up with before game three. The P-Bruins didn't lose a game after Robins put that slogan on the board in the locker room.
In game five, Providence won 3-2 with goals from Justin Florek, Jordan Caron, and Jamie Tardif. Everything about this game reflected the intensity of the whole series, with the battle coming down to the very final seconds of the third period of game five. Over the course of the five games, the growth of the Providence team could clearly be seen in each successive game.
After a disaster game one, Providence suffered a heartbreaking overtime loss in game two. Facing elimination, they went to Hershey and dominated game three, pulled an amazing victory in game four, and finally finished the comeback in game five. Every player down the roster played an important role, but the development of the rookies throughout the series was especially rewarding to watch. Even guys like Caron and Matt Bartkowski, who have experienced Stanley Cup playoff runs as Black Aces, played important minutes and responded with better play.
I'd just like to say this one last time: suck it Hershey. Man that feels good.
Anyway, now Providence will face the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (PICK ONE CITY, COME ON) Penguins in the second round.
Good news!!! This is not a best of five series! It's best of seven!
Bad news!!! Even though Providence has home ice advantage, they do not play 2-2-1-1-1 like the NHL. The AHL plays the 2-3-2 format, meaning the first two games will be in Providence, then the next three straight will be in whatever city (Wilkes-Barre? Scranton? Where the hell do they play? I have no idea) the baby Pens play in. If necessary. games six and seven will be back in Providence.
More bad news!!! Game one is Friday night, aka the same night as Boston/Toronto game five.
Good news!!! Game two is Saturday night. Boston does not play that night, so there is no excuse not to watch!
The Baby Pens finished the season fifth in the Eastern conference. They bounced divisional-rivals Binghamton Senators in three games in round one. They also come from the same division as the Hershey Bears - and this division is stacked, which explains why the P-Bruins had such a difficult time with an eighth seen in the Bears. Four out of five teams in this division made the playoffs. The team that won this division, the Syracuse Crunch, is the affiliate of the Tampa Bay Lightning and before switching locations over the summer, they were the roster that made up the Calder Cup-winning Norfolk Admirals last year.
Even though the baby Pens didn't win their division doesn't mean they aren't a threat. Syracuse is a great team and Providence actually didn't even play them once this season despite being in the same conference. (SERIOUSLY, WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOUR SCHEDULING, AHL?) They're actually an annoyingly good team, much like their NHL affiliate.
Here's some key points to keep in mind coming into the series:
- All Penguins teams are the enemy.
- In the regular season, these teams met only twice, both in March, when Providence was steamrolling every team. Providence won both games: 2-0 and 3-2 in a shootout.
- The baby Pens were the only team to give up fewer goals in the regular season than Providence. Their goaltender, Jeff Zatkoff, is actually probably better than Marc Andre-Fleury.
- It's worth noting that our back-up Michael Hutchinson shutout this team.
- The baby Pens also had the top-ranked penalty kill in the AHL in the regular season. The P-Bruins were fifth.
- Providence had by far the better power play in the regular season (eighth-best to the Pens 22nd rank).
- Carter Camper is second in playoff scoring with eight points (5 goals, 3 assists). Chris Bourque ranks second on the P-Bruins with six points. No Penguins player has more than three points, although they only played three games in the first round, and five different players are tied with three points.