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The Providence Bruins and the Problem of the Manchester Monarchs: Recap and Preview

We're getting sick of the Monarchs already one month into the season. After a tough loss last night, they will play the first place team again for the fourth time this season.

It's Subban Time tonight in Manchester
It's Subban Time tonight in Manchester
Jamie Sabau

After a frustrating 5-4 loss to the Manchester Monarchs (7-1-1-2) on Friday night at home, the Providence Bruins (4-3-0-1) will be looking for redemption as they face off against the Monarchs again Saturday night in Manchester. Malcolm Subban, who came in for relief of Niklas Svedberg after Svedberg allowed four goals in the first 30 minutes of the game, will be looking for his first win of the season and first win as a pro.

Recap: Monarchs 5, Bruins 2

1st Period: Monarchs 2, Bruins 1

Each team went 2-for-4 on the power play on the night, but only Manchester managed to get even strength goals. The Monarchs opened the scoring 25 seconds into the game after Bobby Robins went off for roughing 14 seconds after the puck drop. The goal was Tanner Pearson's 6th of the year from Jordan Weal and Brandon Kozun.

With Manchester's top two scorers in Tyler Toffoli and Linden Vey called up to the Los Angeles Kings before the game, it seemed Providence might catch a break in the strong offense from the Monarchs, who they have already faced four times this season. The next top three scorers for Manchester, however, all had big nights to make up for the loss of the top two scorers. Providence had no one step up to fill in the similar role that is vacant with Ryan Spooner called up to the Boston Bruins (although, arguably, Koko is doing a hell of a job this season).

The early goal - and game, in fact - was a combination of what has become characteristic of Providence this season: slow starts, poor first periods, terrible penalty killing, and sloppy, out-of-sync play in all three zone. A sloppy first period seemed like it might end on a high note for Providence when Alexander Khokhlachev finally got his first goal of the season, a power play goal from Seth Griffith and Jared Knight with only 1:52 left in the first.

Instead of going to the locker room tied at 1-1, another colossal defensive breakdown and simply getting outworked by Manchester led to Jordan Weal's second of the season (from Vincent LoVerde and Nick Deslauries) with one second left on the clock. One friggin second.

Coach Butch Cassidy felt that goal spring-boarded the Monarchs going into the first intermission. Rather than being able to head into the locker room tied despite being vastly outplayed, "those last second goals upset everything, especially the way it happened. We were in their end, and down their end...and no one sort of takes charge. So that one hurt, but we got 40 minutes left to play hockey."

The fact that no one "took charge" when the Bruins were able to achieve sustained offensive zone time is one of the many problems this extremely young team continues to face. The attitude of the young team when they were unable to overcome the many strengths of the Monarchs in the first period is also an ongoing problem.

"They were better early, we made mistakes and they capitalized," Cassidy said of the Monarchs. "It's not easy to fore-check their defense, you gotta stick with it and that's part of the problem with a young team. They don't just accept the first 10 minutes. They say, 'oh, I'll try something else' and that's not the way it works in pro hockey."

2nd Period: Monarchs 4, Bruins 1

Things fell apart in the second period when the teams played 4-on-4 hockey with Robbie Czarnik and Tommy Cross serving coincidental roughing minors. Having given up two questionable goals in the first period (although not entirely his fault), the Niklas Svedberg factor was going to make or break the game. That's what he does - wins games for a team with a lot of defensive breakdowns. But not Friday night. He gave up another questionable goal to Eddie Nick Shore (his 2nd of the season from Tanner Pearson and Andrew Bodnarchuk) 3:02 into the 2nd period.

Down 3-1, Providence certainly wasn't out of the game. Until Tommy Cross took an interference penalty and the abysmal, 30th-ranked penalty kill of Providence once again failed. Human Garbage Andy Andreoff got his 1st of the season and Manchester's 4th of the night at 7:45 of the 2nd period (from Pearson and Kozun) on a very weak goal by Svedberg compounded by an ill-advised play the other way by Kevan Miller.

Miller took the opportunity for a shorthanded odd-man rush up the ice with Craig Cunningham. The pass never got through, and Cunningham got tangled up with the Manchester defender as the play rushed back towards the Providence net. Andreoff cashed in on the ensuing odd-man rush back the other way against the P-Bruins penalty killer.

This is when Svedberg was pulled.

Cassidy said after the game that Svedberg having an off-night was only part of the decision to pull him. "...part of it was to get the attention of the group. We gave up some two-on-one goals, we hung him out to dry. In the first period, I didn't think he was sharp either. If your goaltender's not sharp early, it'll cost you [especially] at home."

The opportunity created for Malcolm Subban was ideal for a rookie goaltender looking for his first win as a pro, and perhaps for Subban, it was "the perfect medicine." Subban did his duty of not letting the blowout get any worse - he didn't let any goals in for the rest of the game and played well in the shorts he faced, although few were high quality. Providence certainly had more pressure and shots on net in the second half of the game, but Martin Jones was the brick wall that Svedberg usually is.

For Subban, though, this could be an important piece in helping him gain his confidence as a pro. "...his first two games, we got behind, [but] tonight he comes in and there's not a lot of pressure on him," Cassidy said. Although the team can't exactly go home feeling good about the loss, Subban can certainly take something positive away as an individual. "...he can feel good about himself a little bit more...he did his job, so he goes home tonight...and feel good about his game. And he should."

Providence also responded to the fourth goal with a lot of aggression. Three fights broke out afterwards: Monarchs defenseman and a big guy in Andrew Campbell versus Matt Fraser, who I'm pretty sure is not a fighter at all, ever. That bout was hardly a fight, but it was a good effort by Fraser to try to turn momentum, to try to do something.

The next fight, which came two seconds later, was one of the most intense fights I've seen in Providence. New captain Mike Moore, sporting the 'C' for the first time this season, dropped the gloves with Scott Sabourin. Many punches were thrown, with Moore seemingly getting a lot of blows in early, but took a turn for the worse when Sabourin surprised him with a strong left hook. Moore had to go off for stitches, but returned to the game.

"He's the captain, and that's what Mike Moore's gonna do and win, lose, or draw he's gonna come back out and he's gonna play hard," Cassidy said after the game. "And that's the kind of message we wanted...'hey, you may get the better of us from time to time but...we're gonna show up and play hard and battle, and we did that in the 2nd, and it started with Mike Moore and Fraser and Miller. They're veteran guys and we appreciate that."

Two minutes after Moore's fight, a third fight broke out between Human Garbage Andreoff and Kevan Miller. It was a good effort by Miller to get something going at a point in the 2nd period where Providence had just failed to convert on a power play.

3rd period: Monarchs 5, Bruins 2

Providence got a late power play in the second period and were unable to convert before the second intermission but came out for the third period on a much better note. Manchester was shorthanded due to their second delay of game penalty of the night and 32 seconds into the third period, a fantastic pass from Joe Morrow to Matt Fraser in the slot beat Jones before he even realized the pass was made. It was a great play. It was Fraser's sixth of the season from Morrow and Nick Johnson.

Unfortunately, that's where the scoring ended for Providence. The Khokhlachev line in particular had some fantastic chances, but Jones made timely saves and I hate him for it.

Brandon Kozun sealed the victory for the Monarchs with his 2nd of the season, an empty net goal from Weal and Deslauries at 18:55 of the 3rd. The effort by the Bruins with Subban pulled in the final minutes was poorly coordinated, and guys that needed to step up like Carter Camper continued to disappoint.

Postgame Thoughts

With Ryan Spooner hopefully on a one-way ticket to Boston (he is sorely missed, but let's face it - he deserved to be in the NHL from the start of the season), Providence is suddenly looking weak up the middle. Camper filled in for Spooner as center on the top line, but continues to struggle to win face offs, control the puck, and basically can't fulfill any other of his many, important duties.

Beyond Camper, Cassidy acknowledged the fact that the remaining three centers last night re all rookies in Koko, Alexander Fallstrom, and Matt Lindblad. The myriad problems of a team as starkly young as Providence is right now don't necessarily fall on one player, but it certainly is taking it's toll.

Fallstrom, who didn't have an outstanding game because of what turned out to be an illness unknown to Coach Cassidy before the game, will sit out tonight in Manchester.

The biggest thing that needs to change going into the game tonight is the Providence Bruins ability to be prepared from the very first second of the game. In regards to the lack of preparedness and resulting poor first periods, Cassidy had this to say: "We gotta address that as a whole. That's my responsibility to make sure the players are ready to play. Having said that, they're pros and they are men. [It's their responsibility as well] to be prepared when the puck drops, but that's an issue that we need to correct and that we will."

Preview: Providence @ Manchester, 7pm Saturday - Canadian Heritage Night!

Subban will get the start tonight for Providence. He hasn't won a game yet and until last night, was responsible for the only two regulation losses Providence had. He has a good opportunity tonight to build off of successfully keeping the Monarchs off the board for the second half of the game in relief of Svedberg. But he will need a lot of help from a team that's otherwise looking a little ragged right now.

Other line-up changes will include scratching Fallstrom for the aforementioned illness. He will sit in favor of Rob Flick, who has been a healthy scratch. This may be a potential plus because it somewhat addresses the problem of all rookies down the middle. Flick plays center and is in his third season in the AHL. Hopefully it will allow Lindblad to move up and play on a more offensive minded line.

Zach Trotman is still out with a hand injury. Ben Youds, who had a few strong games but started to look very tentative and lacking confidence on the blueline last night, will get the healthy scratch in favor of Chris Casto, who has not played in a few weeks.

I'll be bringing you live game coverage while you all watch the Boston Bruins and New York Islanders game. See you at 7pm.