Providence Bruins Preview: Rematch of Playoff Upset

The loss of Zach Trotman in game two to a concussion was the result of a dirty hit because that's how you play Penguins hockey. - Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Florek, Fraser, and Lindblad return as the P-Bruins face the baby Pens for the first time since the second round upset last May.

We all know the familiar story of when the Boston Bruins blew a 3-0 series lead to the Philadelphia Flyers in the second round of the playoffs. Thankfully, they were redeemed one year later with a four game sweep of the Flyers en route to a Stanley Cup win.

And the Boston Bruins Stanley Cup Final rematch with the Chicago Blackhawks isn't the only 2013 playoff rematch that Bruins fans should pay attention to this weekend.

The Providence Bruins haven't had any opportunities for "redemption" yet against the team that did exactly the same thing to them in last year's AHL Calder Cup playoffs. After finishing the season as the best team in the league - the only team to top 100 points - on the strength of the AHL's best goaltender reward recipient Niklas Svedberg, the P-Bruins had a 3-0 series lead on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the second round of the playoffs. They lost in game seven.

Tonight is the first time the two teams will meet since the game seven upset. This upset wasn't quite as dramatic as the Flyers over Boston - the P-Bruins never scored a goal in the final game as they were shutout 5-0 by goaltender Brad Thiessen despite throwing 34 shots on net. Svedberg gave up four goals on 15 shots and was pulled in favor of Michael Hutchinson.

Revisiting the Upset

In the first round of last year's playoffs, Providence pulled off an upset of their own when they came back from a 2-0 series deficit to the Hershey Bears to win in game five (the first round in the AHL is a best-of-five). They lost top defenseman Matt Bartkowski as he was recalled to Boston upon the conclusion of the game five victory. Regardless, they were feeling good in the series against the Penguins as they jumped out to a 3-0 series lead.

Games 1-3

Game one was a blowout. Providence won 8-5, scoring eight goals on only 27 shots on net against goaltender Jeff Zatkoff. Svedberg wasn't stellar himself, giving up five goals on 30 shots, including a penalty shot. The special teams were a joke: the Penguins were 3-for-7 on the power play, and the P-Bruins were 2-for-4. They got scoring from their leaders all season: Chris Bourque, Jamie Tardif, Ryan Spooner, Carter Camper, and Craig Cunningham.

Game two was highly positive for Providence. Svedberg stole a game for once, allowing only two goals on 40 shots. Zatkoff continued to be awful, so he was pulled after allowing four goals on 13 shots. Brad Thiessen stopped all 16 shots he faced in the remaining two periods. Scoring came exclusively from the P-Bruins top line of Spooner, Bourque, and Tardif.

After game two, Torey Krug was recalled to Boston, further crippling the Providence defense. The P-Bruins also lost Zach Trotman in game two as a result of a dirty hit (I can't remember who exactly but I'm inclined to say it was a Sameulsson).

The Penguins also made a significant adjustment - Brad Thiessen was now the starting goaltender over Jeff Zatkoff. Game three was the closest of the series, requiring overtime to decide the victor after each team scored one goal through regulation. The Penguins out-shot Providence in the game, but Carter Camper scored the overtime winner just 31 seconds in to give the P-Bruins a 3-0 series lead.

Signs of difficulties began to show in game three. The Penguins figured out how to shut down the top line of Spooner, Bourque, and Tardif. The Penguins had the majority of possession and shots on net. Svedberg was really solid, but it would be his final steal of the season before the game four disaster.

Games 4-7: Damn you, Thiessen.

In game four, Camper scored the P-Bruins only goal in a 3-1 loss. Thiessen made 31 saves. The Penguins were able to score a power play goal. They were back in it in the series, 3-1. Game five remained in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, as the AHL has the 2-3-2 playoff format rather than the NHL's 2-2-1-1-1.

Game five was a seriously frustrating game. Two power play goals from the Penguins sealed it early. Providence out-shot the Penguins 30-29, but Thiessen shut the door, giving the Pens a 4-0 victory. The Penguins had three power play goals. The game was getting dirty, and erupted towards the end. P-Bruins veteran Graham Mink was ejected for attempting to injure a player and suspended for the rest of the series.

Game six was a ridiculous steal by Thiessen yet again. The Penguins won 2-1 despite Providence out-shooting them by an incredible 47-18 margin. The overtime game-winning goal by the Pens was surely the series back-breaker. Game seven ended in an ugly fashion for Providence, with Svedberg getting pulled in a 5-0 loss.

The Penguins went on to the Eastern Conference Final and lost to the Syracuse Crunch. Providence would see the majority of it's veteran players depart during the off-season, including captain Trent Whitfield retiring.

Tonight's Rematch: Penguins @ P-Bruins, 7pm

This game is featured as the AHL's game of the week because it is the first rematch since the "historic comeback". It can be watched on AHL Live as usual. I would recommend it, because I expect Niklas Svedberg - among others - to be looking for some redemption. Svedberg will indeed get the start in net.

Beyond Svedberg, players that were part of the game seven upset last year that are still with Providence are Cunningham, Camper, Florek, David Warsofsky, Tommy Cross, Bobby Robins, Jared Knight, and Zach Trotman. Trotman should also be looking for a little redemption/revenge as he was unable to complete the series after he suffered a season-ending concussion in game two of the series when he was on the receiving end of a ridiculously dirty - yet unsuspended - high hit from some dirtbag on the Pens (I'm pretty sure it was a Samuelsson). The Penguins are dirty as hell.

Neither goaltenders from last year's playoff series are still with the baby Pens. Their current goaltenders are Eric Hartzell and Jeff Deslauriers. I'm sure they have a few players that were on the team last year, but I don't care to check it out any further.

Both Justin Florek and Matt Fraser are returning to the lineup after being sent back down from Boston. Matt Lindblad is also back in the lineup for the first time in a while after re-aggravating a groin injury.

Also worth noting is that Malcolm Subban is out with a foot injury, and since Adam Morrisson is also out long-term after hip surgery, and the Hartword Wolf Pack poached David LeNeveu, the P-Bruins went out to get another goalie. Jeff Jakaitis will back up Svedberg tonight and play either Saturday or Sunday.

Providence needs to improve upon last weekend's performance: they had only one goal in three games. They certainly will benefit from the returns of Fraser and Florek, but will need to do much more to keep up with an equally highly powered offensive from the Penguins.

How They Match Up

Providence is 10 points behind Manchester for first place in the Atlantic Division. The Penguins are also in second place in their devision, the East Division, and trail the Binghamton Senators by one point.

Penguins P-Bruins
Games Played 37 39
Record 22-11-1-3 20-13-1-5
Point Total 48 46
Point Percentage 64.9% 59.0%
Division Standing 2nd, East 2nd, Atlantic
Conference Standing 4th, Eastern 6th, Eastern
League Standing 8th 10th
Last Ten Games 6-3-0-1 6-4-0-0
Home/Away Away: 10-3-1-2 Home: 9-6-1-2
Shootout Record 1-3 6-5
Goals For 110 126
Goals Against 90 110
Differential +20 +16
Current Streak 2 wins 2 losses
Total PIM 825 647
PIM per game 22.3/game 16.6/game

Special Teams

Penguins P-Bruins
Power Play 26th, 14.8% (29-for-196) 5th, 21.3% (30-for-141)
PP Home/Away Away: 16.5% Home: 19.7%
Shorthanded GA 4 0
Shorthanded GF 7 2
Penalty Kill 10th, 84.2% 24th, 79.3%
PK Home/Away Away: 83.3% Home: 78.1%
Leader in PP Goals Tom Kostopoulos, 8 Matt Fraser, 6
Leader in PP Points Brendan Mikkelson, 15 Carter Camper, 13

Leaders

The Pens are missing top scorer Brian Gibbons to recall while the P-Bruins are getting back one of their top scorers in Matt Fraser who, despite only having played 23 of the team's 39 games, is still among the leader in many categories (as is Ryan Spooner, who may never return).

Also interesting is that the top scoring defenseman for each team have the exact same numbers - Joe Morrow for Providence and Brendan Mikkelson for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The same can be said for the team's top defensemen in many other categories (one example shown below is plus/minus). These appear to be two similarly built teams, although lately only one of them has been successful offensively.

Penguins P-Bruins
Goals

1. Tom Kostopoulos, 14

2. Harry Zolnierczyk, 12

3. Tom Kuhnhackl, 8

1. Matt Fraser, 16

2. Nick Johnson, 14

3. Craig Cunningham, 13

Assists

1. Brendan Mikkelson, 19

2. Nick Drazenovic, 13

3. Scott Harrington, 12

1. Carter Camper, 21

2. Joe Morrow, 19

3. David Warsofsky, 17

Points

1. Tom Kostopoulos, 24

2. Brendan Mikkelson, 22

3. Harry Zolnierczyk, 21

1. Carter Camper, 29

2. Nick Johnson, 26

3. Craig Cunningham, 24

Defense: Goals Brendan Mikkelson, Simon Despres, Brian Dumoulin, 3 Joe Morrow, Zach Trotman, Tommy Cross, 3
Defense: Assists Brendan Mikkelson, 19 Joe Morrow, 19
Defense: Points Brendan Mikkelson, 22 Joe Morrow, 22
Rookie Leaders Scott Harrington, 2-12-14 Alexander Khokhlachev, 7-15-22
PIM Leaders Pierre-Luc Letournea-Leblond (137 PIM) Bobby Robins (135 PIM)
+/- Leaders Simon Despres, +13 David Warsofsky, +13


Goaltenders

Who will start for the Penguins is unknown to me at this moment. Jeff Deslauriers has played the last three games, and 27 overall on the season, as opposed to Eric Hartzell, who has 10 games on the season.

Deslauriers has played 1555:38 in those 27 games. He is 16-9-2 with one shutout. His goals against average is 2.28 and his save percentage is 0.906. Hartzell has better numbers in his smaller sample size: 524:03 in his 10 games played has yielded a 5-2-1 record with two shutouts, a 1.95 GAA, and 0.921 save%.

Svedberg will be playing in his 26th game tonight. In 25 games this season, or 1416:22 of ice time, Svedberg has a record of 14-7-3 with two shutouts. He has a 2.67 GAA and 0.912 save%. He is coming off of one win and one loss last weekend: a shutout, shootout victory on Friday and a loss to Manchester on Sunday (farewell forever, Martin Jones).

Game Notes

Some other various notes and numbers show how close these two teams are in many ways.

Penguins P-Bruins
Leading After 1 10-0-0-0 10-2-0-2
Tied After 1 9-3-0-1 7-1-1-3
Trailing After 1 3-8-1-2 3-10-0-0
Leading After 2 12-0-0-0 13-0-1-3
Tied After 2 5-1-0-2 6-2-0-1
Trailing After 2 5-10-1-1 1-11-0-1
Out-Shooting Opponent 10-8-1-1 11-7-1-2
Getting Out-Shot by Opponent 10-2-0-2 7-5-0-3
1-Goal Games 7-5-1-3 10-6-1-5
1-Goal Games 7-4-0-0 1-2-0-0
1-Goal Games 8-1-0-0 5-4-0-0

P-Bruins Weekend

Providence will face the Penguins tonight as well as Sunday afternoon at 3pm in Providence, again. They will face another tough team on Saturday night in the Springfield Falcons, who are currently the best team in the AHL. Saturday night's game in Springfield begins at 7pm.

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