Providence, RI: The Providence Bruins stumbled out of the gate in their season opening weekend. After two preseason games where they looked cohesive and organized, the Bruins fell into disarray when the games mattered. Head coach Jay Leach summed up the team’s performance as “deer in the headlights”.
Game 1: PVD Bruins (0-0-0) @ HFD Wolfpack (0-0-0)
Nuts and Bolts:
Hartford Chases McIntyre in First Period:
The trouble started early for the Providence Bruins as they opened the weekend. Not even ten minutes into the game and a failed clear by the Providence Bruins gave the Wolf Pack ample possession by the blue line. Tim Gettinger and Chris Bigras held the puck away from Providence’s Zach Senyshyn pressuring at the blue line. Gettinger and Bigras played pattycake with the puck opening the Providence skaters up for a long bomb by Gettinger. That puck had eyes, and went far post and in past McIntyre.
Half a minute later, the Bruins’ Austin Fyten spilled Gabriel Fontaine setting up a Wolf Pack powerplay. Harford’s Peter Holland and John Gilmour worked the puck around the perimeter of the offensive zone. Gilmour fed Cole Schneider behind the Hartford net who banked the puck off McIntyre’s skate and into the net.
The bleeding finally stopped after Harford added insult to injury: Providence’s Peter Cehlarik drew a slashing call committed by Lias Andersson of the Wolf Pack. In the ensuing powerplay, Hartford opted to pressure the puck carrier. The gamble worked, as Providence’s Mark McNeill flung the puck up over the glass. Hartford’s Steven Fogarty won the resulting draw in the Neutral Zone, with teammate Chris Bigras carrying the puck in. Bigras proceeded to walk the entire Providence Bruins’ defensive scheme and embarrass McIntyre blocker side. Leach opted to pull McIntyre and send Dan Vladar in relief.
The Providence Bruins Resurgence:
Backed by the promising Vladar, Providence traded chances with Hartford in the second period but neither team found the back of the net. Providence denied Hartford goaltender Marek Mazanec’s bid for a shutout midway through the third.
With Emil Johansson in the box for a slash, the Bruins won a faceoff in their own end, and cleared the puck. Austin Fyten pressured the Wolf Pack who had dropped back to recollect the puck. Fyten blocked the Wolf Pack’s Libor Hajek in making a D-to-D pass, and settled the puck down for a slot wrister. The shot surprised Mazanec, beating him high stick side.
Fellow newcomer Mark McNeill closed the score to 3-2 during a Providence powerplay later in the third period. 2017 Bruins first round draft pick Urho Vaakanainen begun the sequence. Vaakanainen scooped a loose puck, sliding it to Fitzgerald at the half-boards. Fitzgerald immediately snapped a pass to McNeill below the goal line. As McNeill passed, likely aiming for a blue-line point blast, the pass redirected off a Wolf Pack skate into the back of the Hartford net.
The Providence bid to tie the game fell short, however. With a minute and change left in the third period, Jay Leach pulled his goaltender. His gamble failed, as Hartford broke through Providence’s six skaters for an empty net goal to seal the game. Providence dropped its season opener by the final score of 4-2.
Game 2: PVD Bruins (0-1-0) vs. LAV Rocket (0-0-0)
Nuts and Bolts:
Failure to Launch:
Despite the heavy forecheck of the Laval Rocket, the Providence Bruins built a two goal lead only 21 seconds into the third period. The Bruins excited their home crowd early, with a first period goal off the stick of Mark McNeill. Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson begun the sequence, swooping the puck below the Laval goal line behind the net. He dished off to Cameron Hughes by the right-wing half boards. Hughes took the puck from the faceoff circle, up to the blue line, where he snapped a long shot down the throat, toward the net. McNeill was set up in the slot, and redirected the puck past rookie goaltender Charlie Lindgren.
Providence looked poised to atone for their season opening gaffe as defenseman Jeremy Lauzon put the Bruins up by a pair early in the third. As the Rocket attempted to break out of their zone, Mark McNeill blocked the outlet pass. Cameron Hughes picked up the loose puck, rotating it back to Lauzon who one-timed it high glove side on Lindgren.
Lauzon’s tally energized the Laval Rocket squad. Less than five minutes after the Providence goal, former P-Bruin Kenny Agostino skated into the attacking zone. He dropped a pass to teammate Michael Chaput who rocketed a shot to corner on Vladar. Laval begun their comeback.
With ten minutes later, Laval received a gift. While working the puck around the offensive zone, Michael McCaron took a pass from behind the net from teammate Hunter Shinkaruk. Mccaron found Byron Froese in the high slot, who redirected the pass on Vladar. The puck pinballed around Vladar’s gear before trickling into the back of the net.
Finally, with a minute remaining, the game seemed headed to overtime. The Rocket had other plans, as a shot from Byron Froese took a wild carom off Vladar’s pads. Brett Kulak picked the active puck off the half-boards and blasted a seeing-eye shot that bead Vladar top corner, same place as the first goal against beat him. With the final 40 seconds, the Bruins failed to muster an equalizer and fell to 0-2-0 on the young season.
Plus: + recent addition Mark McNeill has made a name for himself, going 3-1-4 in 2 games. He leads all Providence Bruins in scoring through the first weekend.
+ Jeremy Lauzon expressed his desire to contribute offensively, and proved that with a howitzer from the blue line Saturday night.
+ Urho Vaakanainen is every bit the player we saw in preseason with the Boston Bruins. He already has 2 assists, and looks composed playing in the smaller North American ice surface.
+ Despite digging an early hole, the Bruins pulled to within a tying goal Friday.
+ Dan Vladar continues his excellent, upward trajectory, with almost a 100 minute shutout streak between the end of the first period Friday, to the third period Saturday.
Minus: – Providence begun their season disorganized and dysfunctional, allowing 3 goals in ten minutes on the road in Hartford.
– Zane McIntyre began his season with a .700 SV% stopping only 7 of 10 shots before being pulled Friday night in Hartford.
– Providence gave up a shorthanded goal Friday night, as well as coming up empty on 5 of 6 powerplay opportunities. They continued this powerless-play trend into Saturday night, as the Laval penalty kill held Providence special teams off the score sheet.
– Providence seemed to have no answer to the heavy forecheck of Laval, who punished them early and often along the boards and in open ice.
-Despite Vladar’s excellent play, he still has room for improvement. He was beat high glove twice in almost the same spot from the same shot.