The players or coaches in the locker room certainly looked defeated, but to their credit, none of them would make excuses or try to blame the four consecutive losses on the absence of three key defensemen.
Matt Bartkowski was called up to the parent club following Providence's first round series victory over the Hershey Bears. Torey Krug was brought up following the second game of the Eastern Conference Semifinal series against Wilkes-Barre. And to make matters worse for Providence, fellow defenseman Zach Trotman was out of the lineup with a head injury following a vicious hit.
A dejected Providence coach Bruce Cassidy said that despite his team's failure to move on to the conference finals, he still realized the importance of other parts of his job such as moving players on to the big time.
"We're here to develop in a winning environment. We did some of that this year. We're not going to be the last man standing unfortunately, but there will be a lot of other teams who won't be either. We're proud of our accomplishments here, developing talent and winning games, but we needed to win one more," said Cassidy.
Cassidy, a blue liner in his playing days, said he was more than pleased to see the success of his two defensemen.
"If the Boston Bruins win the Stanley Cup and Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski have played a role in that which they already have, that is fantastic. I take a lot of pride in that part of the game. I'm not a young man anymore. I'm getting up there. To see these kids do well, especially defensemen, a position I played, I enjoy watching them go up. That's part of the job description for us."
Boston Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli, along with Assistant GM Don Sweeney and Director of Player Development Scott Bradley, have molded Providence into a farm team that can win hockey games, but also help players move on to the next level. Sweeney is at the majority of Providence home games and keeps a close tab on how the talent is progressing.
Obviously, the players, coaches and fans of each American Hockey League team want to win hockey games and ultimately raise the Calder Cup as the champion of the league. However, a very significant role of AHL franchises is to develop the parent clubs' players. Portland Pirates coach Ray Edwards put it best, following his team's ouster in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs. "It's important for an organization to grow your young players," said Edwards.
The boo birds were out in full force Wednesday night when Providence goaltender Niklas Svedberg allowed three goals on three consecutive shots in the latter parts of the second period. However, fans must realize he was a major reason the Providence Bruins had more points than any other team in the AHL during the regular season. Many speculate he will be brought up next year to replace Boston backup Anton Khudobin who will be shipped elsewhere via a trade.
It was obvious from comments made by some of the players how much they respected Cassidy as a coach. The former Washington Capitals coach might not be with Providence forever, but he is certainly a factor in maintaining the philosophy of developing talent in a winning environment.