The Providence Bruins only have two games again this weekend, and unlike last week, we can expect to see Malcolm Subban in net for one of them. Tonight, Providence hosts the undefeated Springfield Falcons (Columbus Blue Jackets AHL affiliate). On Saturday, they P-Bruins travel to New Hampshire for the Manchester Monarchs (Los Angeles Kings affilaite) home opener. Hopefully they can return the favor when the Monarchs spoiled the Providence home opener one week ago today with a come-from-behind shootout victory.
Last season, the P-Bruins beat the Monarchs in the Manchester home opener, and it was awesome because Jordan Caron had a hat trick so I fully expect someone to get a hat trick for Providence tomorrow night.
Friday: Springfield Falcons (3-0-0-0) @ Providence Bruins (2-1-0-1), 7:05 pm
Springfield is undefeated so far this season (though they have only played in three games so far). Last season, Providence had a 6-3-0-1 record against the Falcons. Currently, the Falcons are 2nd in the Northeast Division and 4th in the Eastern Conference. Providence is 2nd in the Atlantic Division and 5th in the East.
Through three games, the Falcons are lead in scoring by defenseman Tim Erixon who has one goal and four assists for five points. Tied for second in scoring are Michael Chaput and Jake Hansen, who have two goals and one assist respectively. As was the case with Erixson, Chaput nearly made the Blue Jackets roster out of training camp, but was a late cut.
One particular Bruins killer last season was Jonathan Audy-Marchessault (who now just goes by Jonathan Marchessault) (which is a damn shame). He has just one goal and one assist thus far this season, but look out for him. A player that won't be playing tonight is team Captain Ryan Craig, who was called up by the Blue Jackets on Monday.
A significant difference in this year's Springfield team is the goaltending. Both goaltenders, Jeremy Smith and Mike McKenna, are competing for the starting position and are playing well (as much as one game can tell, anyway). I'm unsure of who is starting tonight, but either way, both goalies are undefeated. Smith is 2-0-0 with a 2.40 goals against average and .906 save percentage. McKenna is 1-0-0, allowing only one goal in his single appearance this season and earning a .952 save percentage in that game.
Regardless of who starts in net for Springfield, Malcolm Subban will be making his second start of the season tonight. The rest of the projected lineup:
Matt Fraser - Ryan Spooner - Nick Johnson
Alexander Khokhlachev - Carter Camper - Craig Cunningham
Jared Knight - Rob Flick - Seth Griffith
Justin Florek - Alexander Fallstrom - Tyler Randell
Tommy Cross - Kevan Miller
Joe Morrow - Mike Moore
David Warsofsky - Zach Trotman
Matt Lindblad remains out with a groin injury. Ben Youds, Chris Casto and Anthony Camara are the healthy scratches. Casto replaced Youds as the healthy scratch on defense last weekend, and although Youds played well, the return of Kevan Miller from a head injury (which I continue to interpret as concussion) sustained in the opening game of the season (courtesy of human garbage and recent Winnipeg Jets call-up Patrice Cormier) forces two healthy d-men to sit out.
Camara was scratched in favor of Seth Griffith last Saturday and had a great breakaway goal in his first professional game.
Saturday: Providence Bruins (2-1-0-1) @ Manchester Monarchs (3-0-01), 7pm
The Monarchs were a tough opponent last Friday, so it will be interesting to see how the P-Bruins prepare and respond on Saturday night. Each team has a shootout loss, with Providence's shootout loss coming at the hands of Manchester and Manchester's shootout loss coming at the hands of the Springfield Falcons. Manchester's 3-0 victory over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers last Saturday was their first regulation victory of the season. Congratulations on your amazing accomplishment.
Manchester is first in the Atlantic Division, and second in the Eastern Conference. Given that it's still so early, that may change by tomorrow since both the Monarchs and Providence are playing tonight before they face off tomorrow.
Martin Jones has started in all four games for the Monarchs. He has played well; he has a 3-0-0-1 record, 1.41 goals against average, and .951 save percentage. If he plays tomorrow, which I assume he will, he will go up against Niklas Svedberg. Both goalies are among the top in the AHL in total saves made this season. Jones is first with 117 saves and Svedberg is tied for third with 102 saves.
Expect Brandon Kozun, Linden Vey, and Tyler Toffoli to continue to be obnoxiously good. I think Spooner and Toffoli are interesting players to compare, given that they are both elite, fast forwards that should probably be playing on their respective NHL teams.
Despite only being four games deep into the season, the P-Bruins special teams are cause for concern. The power play has been bad. They currently rank 18th (14.3% success rate) in the AHL, which happens to be better than the Falcons (19th, 12.5%) and the Monarchs (5.6%), but still a problematic area.
The penalty kill has been the most disappointing thing of all. While Springfield ranks 3rd in the league (93.%) and Manchester is 4th (92.3%), Providence is dead last with a 63.6% kill rate. That is sad. It all goes back to the poor, sloppy defense (that goes for the defenseman and forwards in the defensive zone) that is a central issue right now.
Offensive and Defensive Struggles
Carter Camper needs to start scoring. He has zero points on the season. Cunningham, although he had a goal against Portland on Saturday, also needs to step it up. They have both been among Providence's top scorers the last two seasons, and without their contributions offensively, Spooner's line cannot carry the burden every game.
Since it's still so early and so many new players are on the team, the expectation is that they will get better as they play together more. Although the lines have been shaken up a bit, there should be a more consistent effort offensively. The problem is the abysmal defense displayed by the team in every single game. As Spooner can't shoulder the responsibility to score every game himself, Svedberg can't shoulder the responsibility to bail the defense out of incredibly poor decisions and bad puck possession every single game.
Of course, Svedberg probably could bail that defense out for a long time, maybe even enough games to get them into the playoffs. But I haven't seen anything positive out of the defense through four games, and that needs to change tonight.