It was a big weekend for the Providence Bruins, taking all of a possible six points. The Baby B’s needed overtime in all three contests to push their win streak to seven. Three games in three nights is an unfortunate reality of AHL scheduling, and to come away with three wins says a lot about the team’s resolve in the early season. The Bruins now find themselves at the top of the AHL’s Atlantic Division with a record of 16-6-2-0. Consistency in the lineup, contributing veterans, and improved goaltending have all factored into the P-Bruins recent run of success.
Veterans Leading The Way
Jordan Szwarz is on pace for a career year in the American League after his 10-game stint in Boston. Szwarz provided the late-game heroics in the first two contests of the weekend, tying Friday night’s game against the Hartford Wolf Pack and sinking the Utica Comets with the overtime winner Saturday. Sunday was reigning American Hockey League MVP Kenny Agostino’s turn to net the overtime winner, scoring 26 seconds into the extra frame. The AHL is a developmental league, but teams usually like to find the right mix of veterans and prospects.
Szwarz is only 26 but has played in 324 regular season games in the AHL. His consistency and numbers have gone up each season as he’s become more comfortable in the league. Agostino was also given a chance to play for the injury-riddled Boston Bruins this season, and his return to Providence gives the P-Bruins a proven AHL scorer. Agostino comes to Providence a year after winning the league’s MVP award, posting a 24-59-83 stat line with the Chicago Wolves in 65 games. Josh Hennessy returned to Providence after five seasons in Europe. He gives head coach Jay Leach a versatile veteran option at forward, something the team desperately needed during all of the early season call-ups.
Consistency In Net Sparks Streak
Zane McIntyre struggled to start the year after taking a step forward in 2016-17. The 2010 sixth-round pick of the Bruins stopped 33 of 36 shots to secure the win Friday against Hartford. After a rough outing in which he allowed eight goals against Charlotte on Nov. 25, McIntyre has won each of his last four starts. During that span, the P-Bruins netminder has posted a 2.20 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage. A more consistent lineup may have benefited McIntyre the most.
Speaking of consistency, Jordan Binnington has given the P-Bruins a calming presence in net all season. Acquiring Binnington on loan from the St. Louis Blues raised questions at first, as it bumped Bruins’ draft pick Daniel Vladar to the ECHL. Binnington has done the most with every opportunity he’s been given this season, though – he’s only appeared in eight games, but has a 6-1-1 record, 1.84 GAA, and .933 SV%. The Blues didn’t have room for Binnington, and he has come to Providence motivated.
To stay on top of the division, the P-Bruins will need continued consistency from their goaltending duo. Zane McIntyre is still performing well below his 2016-17 season, and will need to keep improving to stay ahead of Vladar on the organizational depth chart.
Less Turnover, More Wins
As is typically the case with an AHL team, the P-Bruins were a victim of injuries at the NHL level. The team managed to stay above .500 through October and November despite an alarming number of call-ups. Injuries to Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and the prolonged absence of David Backes meant a lot of P-Bruins were given looks by the big club.
In addition to Szwarz and Agostino, Austin Czarnik was also missing for six games with the Bruins. Czarnik currently leads the P-Bruins in scoring as he continues his development in his third pro season. It’s good to see a young player like Czarnik given the opportunity to contribute to the big club, but there’s no doubt his presence combined with the veteran forwards have helped steady the ship in Providence over the last seven games.
Organizational depth appears to be strong. Despite the injuries, both Boston and Providence sit in a playoff spot. Young players Jacob-Forsbacka Karlsson, Ryan Fitzgerald, and Zach Senyshyn have been unaffected by the roster shuffling and are putting together nice rookie seasons. The P-Bruins may look back on the early part of this season as one that tested their character. They found ways to win much like the big club, and have come out on the other side of the adversity with a seven-game win streak.