The Providence Bruins downed the Hershey Bears for their eighth consecutive win Wednesday night. Goaltender Zane McIntyre recorded his fifth consecutive victory in the 3-0 shutout win. The P-Bruins remain at the top of the American Hockey League’s Atlantic Division with the win, and sit four points clear of the second place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
Young Bruins Know How to Win
Winning has become the expectation for Providence fans, as the team has qualified for the playoffs the last five seasons. Could this be a positive sign for the Bruins organization as a whole? Chances are most fans will only check how key prospects are performing in the AHL, but winning at the minor league level has its benefits. Other organizations have shown that building a winning culture in the AHL leads to success at the next level. Young players learn winning habits, and arrive battle-tested for their NHL clubs.
Danton Heinen kicked into another gear for the Baby B’s playoff run, leading the team in scoring with a 9-9-18 line in 17 games. He has carried that momentum into the 2017-18 season, and currently leads all Bruins rookie forwards in scoring. Heinen’s smart play and ability to find himself in scoring positions around the net has helped him see increased playing time with Boston.
Jake DeBrusk was another key member of the P-Bruins run to the conference finals, and now finds himself occupying a top-six forward role in Boston. Sean Kuraly was pulled out of the AHL playoffs to join the big club. Bruins fans will remember Kuraly’s Game 5 heroics in the first round of the playoffs against Ottawa. The young Bruins center netted two goals, the second in overtime to keep Boston’s 2016-17 season alive. When both teams in the organization are playing winning hockey, it helps a player like Kuraly step into a playoff situation.
Current Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy helped start the winning trend in Providence. He coached the Baby B’s for five seasons. After missing the playoff his first season in 2011-12, Cassidy led Providence to the playoffs the next four seasons. The Bruins currently look smart for hiring Cassidy after Claude Julien’s firing. Cassidy has a young NHL roster, and the players that have come up through the Bruins system are guys that Cassidy has won with in the past.
The Benefits of Building A Winning Culture
Recent history has shown that building a winning culture in the minors has long-term benefits for NHL clubs. The Tampa Bay Lightning are currently winning the Presidents’ Trophy race, and many pieces of the current squad helped build a consistent, winning culture at the AHL level. The Norfolk Admirals won the Calder Cup in 2011-12. When the affiliation changed the next season, many of the same members of the Norfolk team went to the finals again as the Syracuse Crunch. Lightning head coach John Cooper was the coach of those teams, and players that learned to win under him are now playing important roles in Tampa Bay. In addition to this season’s run, the Lightning went to the 2014-15 Stanley Cup Final and appeared in the Eastern Conference Final again the following season.
Tyler Johnson was second on the team in goals for that Calder Cup winning team in Norfolk. He went on to lead the Lightning in playoff scoring under Cooper in their run to the 2015 Final. Since breaking into the league, Johnson has been a valuable member of the team. He’s frequently held a top-six forward role and been a power play regular for the Lightning. Ondrej Palat and Alex Killorn are two other members of those Norfolk and Syracuse teams that have gone on to be regulars for the Lightning.
The Lightning provided leadership for their young prospects early on in their professional careers. Mike Angelidis was the captain of those Norfolk and Syracuse teams. Angelidis didn’t light up the score sheet, but the veteran’s consistent effort and hard-nosed play set an example for the younger players. The Lightning have done an excellent job of developing a winning culture in the minors and surrounding star Steven Stamkos with proven winners.
Baby B’s gaining Important Experience
There are many parallels between recent success in Providence and how the Lightning have built on a winning AHL culture. Much like Jon Cooper, Bruce Cassidy was given the head coaching job in Boston after minor league success. Cassidy has familiarity with his young roster. The P-Bruins are building off a deep playoff run last season with a record of 17-6-2-0 to start 2017-18.
Some players have already graduated off last season’s roster, while prospects like Zach Senyshyn, Jakub Zboril, and Ryan Fitzgerald have stepped in to play a role in this season’s success. Part of the development of those young players is learning how to win, and another playoff run would only aid their development. The winning culture developed in Providence could be a sign of good things to come in Boston.
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.