As the second half of the 2017-2018 AHL season begins, the Providence Bruins currently sit second in the Atlantic Division with a 21-8-3 record and 45 points. The team that went on a surprise run to the Eastern Conference Final last season picked up right where they left off.
Providence flew out of the gates in October, finishing the opening month with a 6-2-0 record. The P-Bruins had a little slip in November, going 4-3-2 while also getting blown out twice.
However, they turned the tides in a hurry in December. They began the month with a seven-game win streak and went 11-2-1 overall to finish off 2017 on a high note.
The record itself shows that Providence is having a fine season, but when you mix in the fact that several young players are developing in Providence this year, it makes the success of the first three months a little bit sweeter.
With that said, the next four months are going to be a grind and the P-Bruins have a lot of first-year players who have not experienced the drudgery of late-season play. Providence has high hopes for the playoffs, so it’s mightily important for them to stay on the roll they are currently on.
It’s fair to ask the question of whether or not the P-Bruins can keep up the pace from now until the end of the season, but yours truly thinks a late-season dip is highly unlikely.
The P-Bruins have a lot of quality veterans on the roster, some of whom experienced last season’s playoff run. Furthermore, it may very well end up being the young players who lead the team into the postseason.
Austin Czarnik and Kenny Agostino, who have 28 and 23 points, respectively, have led much of the offense thus far. Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson isn’t far behind with 20 points of his own. Zach Senyshyn has come alive lately with 16 points. The offense will just keep coming once Peter Cehlarik suits up again, and the recent designation of Anders Bjork will help as well.
It’s not just the young stars producing. Jordan Szwarz has ten goals and 19 points, and has performed well on the penalty-kill (Szwarz has missed some time recently with an upper-body injury, however). Colby Cave has 16 points. Colton Hargrove and Anton Blidh both have 14 points.
Matt Beleskey, who has appeared in six games with Providence since being waived by Boston, has two goals and a fight to his name. Right now, it’s unknown how long he’ll be in the AHL, but either way, he can serve a good role on this P-Bruins team.
On the back end, Tommy Cross has done a really good job leading a young defense core. Whether you like him or not, he’s an AHL veteran, a good leader, and a fan favorite at the Dunk. He’s a perfect fit when paired with a young defenseman who is still learning the ropes.
Jakub Zboril has quietly been having a good year in the AHL as well and is currently second among rookie defensemen with a plus-17 rating. Jeremy Lauzon was off to a really good start, but has been sidelined with an upper-body injury since November 22. These are two guys Bruins fans should be excited about.
The goaltending has been very good as well. Zane McIntyre (11-6-3), is having a good season, but a couple bad outings in December saw his goals against average raise to 3.01 and his save percentage dip to .897. However, for the most part, McIntyre has been strong between the pipes.
Jordan Binnington, who has been with Providence since the start of the season on a loan from St. Louis, has been sensational with a 9-1-2 record and a league best 1.59 goals against average. He is second in the league with a .938 save percentage. Binnington even dropped the gloves with Phoenix Copley of Hershey in what ended up being a little goalie tilt.
Copley drops the gloves. Not many punches thrown. pic.twitter.com/bFZ4snGb3o— Sin Bin Bears (@SinBinBears) December 17, 2017
It wasn’t the most grueling fight, but it got the crowd going, which is always nice.
Ultimately, the mix of veterans and young players has been incredibly beneficial to the P-Bruins this season. The young guys are learning from the older players, and vice versa. There is a strong bond among the players in Providence.
The P-Bruins are one of the best teams in the AHL and are loaded with talent. Also, much like their NHL affiliate, the P-Bruins are a complete team with four reliable lines, three strong defense pairs, and two quality goaltenders. They have the pieces to continue rolling during the second half of the season.
The excitement about this P-Bruins squad is 100% warranted. We’ll see if it pays off come spring time.