The Providence Bruins have been red-hot over the last three weeks. After a slow start, the P-Bruins are 8-1-3 in their last 12 games. Providence dominated the defending Calder Cup champion Toronto Marlies 5-0 Wednesday night. While the Marlies may not have the same team as last year, the P-Bruins have reeled of some impressive wins. More importantly, there are positive signs they will be able to sustain recent success.
P-Bruins Pushing the Pace
The run started with the likes of Jan Kovar and Ryan Donato up front for the P-Bruins. With Kovar’s tryout over and Donato recalled to Boston, the forward group has continued to produce. Anders Bjork was sent down to Providence with Donato’s recall, and he brings a skill set that highlights what’s made the P-Bruins successful.
Bjork’s arrival brings NHL-speed to a lineup that’s been using pace to overwhelm opposing teams. The P-Bruins were seemingly first to the puck on every chance Wednesday, whether it was getting to the puck first on a forecheck or a loose rebound. Bjork contributes a lot in terms of puck pressure, and Boston fans will hope to see more of his quick-release as long as he’s in Providence. A creative player, he’s been hesitant at times to shoot the puck in Boston.
Bjork has been teamed up with Jordan Szwarz and Ryan Fitzgerald to form one of the fastest lines to suit up in black and gold this season. Fitzgerald has been a driving force behind the surge. The winger, in his second full professional season, has shown steady improvement in his game.
Fitzgerald has led the P-Bruins throughout the hot streak with 5 goals, 10 assists, and 15 points in the last 12 games. Playing with either Donato or Bjork, along with Szwarz’s return to the lineup has obviously helped his production, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Fitzgerald has been more patient with the puck this season. The improved decision making and perhaps the pro-game slowing down for him has led to assists in bunches.
Fitzgerald also provides another speedy winger for Szwarz. The top-line has propelled the team to wins with Szwarz and Fitzgerald the consistent pieces. Giving a smart, veteran center like Szwarz a pair of fast and skilled wingers presents a tough matchup.
Positive Signs for Run to Continue
There’s speed to burn below the top line up front. Center Cameron Hughes has been been paired with Zach Senyshyn on his wing. While the third spot has rotated, the duo is difficult to play against. Senyshyn’s straight-line speed sets him apart at the AHL level. His quickness has been repeated as the selling point for Senyshyn’s first-round draft position, but other aspects of his game continue to improve.
Senyshyn chipped in two goals against the Marlies to give him seven on the year. Those numbers may not jump off the page in his second AHL season, but Senyshyn appears more willing to drive to the front of the net this season. His first goal in Toronto was a tap-in off a Peter Cehlarik pass, simply from beating his man to the goal.
The most encouraging part of the P-Bruins 8-1-3 run is they’ve beat some quality opponents. For a team that was sitting seventh in the Atlantic Division when the run started, they’ve taken three out of four points from the division-leading Charlotte Checkers. The P-Bruins avenged their one loss during the hot streak by hanging six goals on a talented Lehigh Valley Phantoms team.
Currently sitting one point behind Springfield for a playoff spot, the wins against teams above them are starting to yield results in the standings. With young players like Fitzgerald, Hughes, and Senyshyn becoming more consistent, it looks like a sustainable run. Sure, they won’t keep playing at the current pace they’ve been on, but signs point to the P-Bruins remaining closer to their current form than the team that started the season.
There’s still work to be done, but the team keeps rolling despite having a makeshift blue line. Currently, the forwards are picking up the slack by pressuring opposing teams. It’s a big “if” in the AHL, but if the P-Bruins are able to get back to full strength the outlook for the season looks much brighter than it did a month ago. Rookies and second year players are developing and continue to be key pieces as an undermanned team continues to climb the standings.
A life-long follower of the game of hockey. Communications experience with the AHL’S Portland Pirates, and a former coach at the college club level. Covering the Providence Bruins and prospects.