January was a rough month for the Baby Bruins. After a December to remember where they went 11-2-1, Providence stumbled out of the gate in the new calendar year. Over 4 weekends, the club managed an unremarkable, pedestrian 5-6-1 record. This despite receiving top end talent Anders Bjork, one well used Matt Beleskey aiming to rebuild himself after a fall from NHL grace, and Peter Cehlarik returned from an injury during a road trip with the Boston club.
In a strange reversal of fortune, Jordan Binnington dropped several contests after being named to the AHL all-star game. His cohort in net, Zane McIntyre has had a strong resurgence, especially lately posting two consecutive shutouts against division-leading Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins. McIntyre almost had a third consecutive victory against the Penguins, however dropped a hotly contested shootout decision in this most recent weekend.
Austin Czarnik was another brightly shining star in an otherwise dimly lit January. He has dished the puck masterfully on a power play that has found new life after a dismal start. Czarnik’s 2 goals, 10 assists earned him a callup at the conclusion of the February 2nd game against the Hartford Wolf Pack in which Czarnik potted 2 goals, one of which was the overtime game-winner.
On the Blue Line, Jérémy Lauzon returned from a concussion January 19th and looks like he hasn’t missed a step since his injury. Despite not showing up on the stat sheet at all, his gap control and aggressive play style are welcome additions, as shut-down AHL journeyman Chris Breen has missed several games after taking a skate across the leg in early January. The best story to come out of the month is by far the evolution of Jakub Zboril from major junior newcomer to versatile defenseman. Zboril has routinely been tasked with top defense pair minutes alongside Providence Captain Tommy Cross. His role on the powerplay now includes left-wing duties, a move that has helped their powerplay percentage increase to 15.7%, or 11th in the conference; while that may not seem like much, in perspective, they were much closer to the bottom of that statistic in the first half of the year. Zboril has been one of many catalysts for this surge in powerplay success, and his playmaking has his fingerprints in the score sheet. January not only saw Zboril with a modest 3 assists, but after hitting several posts in November and December, he tallied his first professional goal January 26th against the Hershey Bears.
Opponents of Zachary Senyshyn would take one look at January and immediately anoint him a bust and Don Sweeney a fraud for picking the young speedster over certain other draft picks that shall not be named. Senyshyn has been fighting a cold streak, reduction in minutes, and lately an injury. He snapped all three with a clutch game winning goal against the pesky Bridgeport Sound Tigers, helping to secure the club’s first win against the Islanders affiliate since early December. He is on the upswing, while Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson has been fighting a cold streak of his own. His last point came by way of a goal January 24th against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms that put the Bruins within a goal of tying the score to send the game to overtime.
Last but not least, defenseman Emil Johansson has been a quiet but effective shutdown blueliner. As is the case with Carlo in the big club, the less you hear about him, the more effective he has been. He won’t wow you with his performance, but he helps keep the puck moving back toward the opponent’s end of the ice.
Honorable mention to Jordan Szwarz who has been the team’s most consistent, reliable scorer, as well as a recent addition to the Boston system in the most recent offseason.