Number one star of this game, every game, and all future games
After dropping the first five games of the 12-game season series with the Manchester Monarchs, the Providence Bruins won game six by a score of 7-2 and game seven, which was last night in Manchester, by a score of 3-1. They were carried by the outstanding goaltending of Niklas Svedberg, who received a standing ovation when acknowledging his first star honors at the home of the rival Monarchs.
One of Svedberg's remarkable saves late in the third period that actually was much more amazing than you can tell from this angle.
Recap: Providence 3, Manchester 1
"He's just been unbelievable" - Monarchs announcer at the end of the game. In explaining what went wrong for Manchester he said "had the misfortune of facing a world class goaltender tonight in Niklas Svedberg."
Lines and D-Pairs
With only 11 forwards due to the last minute emergency recall to Nick Johnson on top of several injured forwards, the line combinations were a little different each shift, but were generally as follows:
The 10th and 11th forwards, Scott Campbell and Rob Flick, saw Cunningham and Cherniwchan for the most part rotating in at center for them.
On defense, with the 7th defensemen, Steve Spinell, rotating in, the pairings were as follows:
- Ben Youds - Joe Morrow
1st Period: Providence 0, Manchester 0
The first period got off to a slow start, but Manchester slowly started taking control. Providence killed one penalty in the first period after Tommy Cross went to the box late in the period for a hit to the head. Svedberg was solid early in the game and remained strong through the period, making saves such as the one below.
Monarchs goaltender Jean-Fracois Berube wasn't challenged nearly as often as Svedberg, but he too made a few great saves, namely this fantastic one on a shorthanded break by Andrew Cherniwchan:
Just as the buzzer sounded to end the period, Bobby Robins followed through on this check that lead to a minor scrum, which would be the biggest one of the game.
2nd Period: Providence 1, Manchester 1
Manchester game out strong and began to dominate. They beat Svedberg early on a flukey goal by Scott Sabourin. The wrist shot from the ppoint was his ninth of the season and assisted by Ian O'Connor and Vincent LoVerde at 2:45 of the second period.
Morrow took a puck to the throat in the second period. He reained down on the ice for a few minutes, immediately tended to by a trainer, but skated back to the bench with a little help. He remained on the bench and eventually was back in the game after a few minutes.
Providence again went on the penalty kill about halfway through the period when Ben Youds went off for holding. A solid penalty killing effort backstopped by several impressive saves by Svedberg killed off the penalty and kept it a one-goal game. He seemed determined not to let another goal get by him after Sabourin's goal.
Providence was able to tie it at 18:22 of the 2nd period when Zach Trotman got his 2nd of the year assisted by Seth Griffith and Rob Flick. The goal was similar to Sabourin's - a wrist shot from the point thrown on net, somehow beating the goaltender without it being clear if it was tipped or not. Regardless Trotman got credit for it.
3rd Period: Providence 3, Manchester 1
Manchester had 15 shots to Providence's 8, but it was the Bruins who got on the board to go ahead 2-1 after Nick Deslauriers boarded Justin Florek at 5:43 of the 3rd. 26 seconds into the power play, Griffith scored his 8th goal of the year from Florek and Joe Morrow.
Griffith's goal and subsequent faceplant
As the clock ticked and Manchester became more desparate, Svedberg made some more phenomenal saves.
After the Monarchs pulled goaltender Jean-Francois Berube with just over a minute to go, called a timeout to draw out a play, and took an offensive zone faceoff, Providence hung up until Cunningham hit the empty net with 33 seconds left in the game. Cunningham's 12th was assisted by Carter Camper - extending his point streak to six games - and Mike Moore.
Over the last few weeks, Providence has looked like a stronger club in some aspects despite losing key players like Spooner and Miller. When discussing the win after last night's game, Coach Bruce Cassidy felt that the team did what it needed to do to contain Manchester:
I think, for the most part, we kept it clean from the slot, which was our goal against this club. Most of the shots came from the outside. As long as we clear the rebounds and don’t give them second shots, we can live with that, because they got a lot of speedy forwards....Limit the real good chances, the power plays, the odd-man rushes. That’s where we got in trouble against [the Monarchs earlier in the season]. I thought for the most part we did that, but obviously Sveddy was terrific.
An example of Providence keeping the Monarchs to the perimeter can be seen in the GIF below, this case in the penalty kill. The movement of the slick forwards like Linden Vey through the slot result in penalty killers collapsing around him, forcing the shooters on the point or the half-boards to take the shot. They give up the shots, but they're from angles that Svedberg can make the saves on. Such as this one, where he makes a pretty good one:
In dealing with being short a forward, it was almost as if the fact that the players that have been taking advantage of guaranteed roster spots or extra ice time due to the recalls and injuries were prepared to do what they needed to do whether they were down one forward or not. The improvement in the team's overall game has been visible in the past few weeks, notably in the shutout victory over the Worcester Sharks last Friday.
...you try to just ask [the players] to do what they can do in terms of offense but away from the puck, they should be able to all contribute and be willing to pay the price to get the pucks out and have good sticks in d-zone. That’s been a work in progress. We were working on it for a month, a little bit about our structure, and we’re starting to turn the corner a little bit. We shutout Worcester, we were pretty good in Adirondack defensively. Springfield the other night even though we gave up four, two of them I thought were long shots that really weren’t real mistakes. We’re getting that part of it, and that’s the way it has to be. You put guys in the lineup. They’re pros. They need to do their part whether it’s one shift or twenty shifts a night [and find a way to contribute].
The injured players include Tyler Randell, Chris Casto, Matt Lindblad, and Alexander Khokhlachev. Alexander Fallstrom, who didn't make the trip last night, is expected to play this weekend. Coach Cassidy's updates on Casto and Koko both projected them to return to the lineup this week, mentioning that Koko saw a doctor that day (yesterday) and would be able to return in the next game. Lindblad isn't expected to return soon as he has not even started skating yet as he recovers from a lower body injury.
Between the injuries and the recalls, the team is in an interesting position because it both motivates players to work harder as well as gives them more ice time to show that increased intensity.
There’s two sides to that all the time. Your team obviously loses guys you rely on here [like Spooner and Miller] but you’re putting other guys in that are waiting for their chance and some of them have been here - Flick, for example - that would like more time. So you get a bit of both that way...The motivation to be the next guy called up in case there’s another injury keeps guys going. So it’s good when guys get called up, I really believe that. It’s tough when it happens all at once - the call ups and the injuries. That’s where, unfortunately, you get your guys called up [and then the injuries]...that’s the unfortunate part for us. At the end of the day, every team goes through it usually and ours is now.
They may soon be faced with losing another guy they rely on to recall in Niklas Svedberg. But having to earn that call up is clearly motivating Svedberg to bring his game to another level, like the level he was at last season when he was the best goalie in the AHL. Even the Monarchs announcer remarked during the broadcast that, in his opinion, Svedberg is clearly the better goalie than Chad Johnson, and they were baffled as to why the Boston Bruins didn't see this (although they conceded it involved factors such as salary cap restrictions).
So although what's driving Svedberg to steal games like he did last night is what ultimately will take him away from the team, that's the nature of the AHL, and when players are becoming better while they're down there, and ready to show what they've got when they get called up - that's how you do the farm system right. And the wins that Providence is able to pile up on top of that are an added bonus for us fans.