P-Bruins ready to roll with young talent

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P-Bruins ready to roll with young talent

PROVIDENCE While the Boston Bruins should have begun their season on Thursday night along with three other games across the league, the Providence Bruins will kick their 21st AHL season off at the Dunkin Donuts Center on Friday night. The Manchester Monarchs will take on the P-Bruins within the friendly confines of their Rhode Island backyard, and local hockey fans will get their first glimpse of favored son Chris Bourque in a Bs sweater.

It will also feature much better AHL competition with proven NHL commodities like Jeff Skinner, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Cory Hodgson mixed in with the normal AHL hodgepodge of veterans and rookies. But despite the rise in talent level across the league due to the lockout, Providence still expects to claw back into the postseason after missing out last year.

Our expectations are high in terms of winning. This season were very young, but were anticipating greater success with wins and losses to start things off this season. Were expecting those young players to build on some of the success that they had last year, said Providence coach Bruce Cassidy. Until the puck drops youre never quite sure where you stand, but thats our expectation level. Getting back into the playoffs is our goal, and once youre in then you can from there.

Cassidy pointed to Bourque as one difference-making player thats going to liven up their power play, and infuse plenty of offense into an attack that was lacking far too often over the last few years.

Bourque is a guy that knows how to run a power play, said Cassidy. Weve added some very good power play personnel, and lets see what weve got to open the year.

Life is moving along for the Bruins coaching staff, front office, and the Providence roster of players after they made their final cuts on Thursday a group of roster moves that included shipping former Boston College defenseman Tommy Cross to the ECHLs South Carolina StingRays. Providence will instead up their AHL season with familiar faces like Bourque, Ryan Spooner, Jared Knight, Torey Krug, Jordan Caron and Matt Bartkowski ready to fill in the gap left by the locked out NHL players.

Thats too much to ask of them, obviously, but its the role being thrust upon them over the next few months while the NHL and NHLPA attempt to bridge the billion dollar gap in CBA negotiations. The P-Bruins should, at the very least, be a more enjoyable product to watch on the ice with more highly skilled players, and the playoffs are within their reach after they were reduced to a barren hockey wasteland last winter.

Weve got some young guys and some veterans. I think weve got more talent than we did last year, said Caron. Weve got some size. Were looking forward to having a good season, making the playoffs and having a good run.

Its been five months since I last played in a game, so itll be a bit different. But Im excited to get it started and have a good season.

The P-Bruins start their excellent AHL odyssey Friday night as the only show in town until the NHL gets its affairs in order and begins their regular season at a point unknown on the hockey calendar.

Morning Skate: Sidney Crosby has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation

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Morning Skate: Sidney Crosby has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while wishing everybody a safe and relaxing Memorial Day weekend. 

*Apparently Nashville Predators head coach Peter Laviolette has yet to try Nashville’s hot chicken despite his time behind the Preds bench. It’s okay, I have yet to try it either in my handful of visits to Music City. 

*Good stuff from PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Brough. Apparently it wasn’t so easy to make Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed when it came time for director Doug Liman to cut Swingers together

*Sidney Crosby cares about the history and the issues of the game, and has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation despite the hate that always comes with such responsibility. 

*Puck Daddy examines Crosby’s performance in the playoffs, and the odds of him winning another Conn Smythe Trophy. 

*The Penguins have made it to the Stanley Cup Final without Kris Letang for their playoff run, and that’s an amazing accomplishment. 

*Erik Karlsson said that he will be tending to his injured foot next week, and expects a full recovery for next season after a brilliant run with his Ottawa Senators

*Larry Brooks again rails against the Stanley Cup playoff structure and it’s relation to an “absurd regular season.” Say what you will, but the fact the Penguins are there for a second straight season shoots down some of the absurdity stuff in my mind. The best team from the East is where they should be and they did it without Kris Letang to boot. 

*Chicago Blackhawks prospect Alex Debrincat is confident his abilities will translate to the NHL despite his size after taking home honors as the best player in junior hockey this season. 

*For something completely different: Apparently there’s a hard core comic book geek gripe that “The Flash” is burning through bad guys too quickly. This would make sense if they couldn’t revisit these bad guys at any point, but they absolutely can go back to a big bad like Grodd anytime they want. 

Playoff run ends for Providence Bruins, but some promising signs

Playoff run ends for Providence Bruins, but some promising signs

It was the longest run that the P-Bruins have had in a few years and another unmistakable sign that the future is brightening for the Black and Gold, but the Bruins AHL affiliate has ended their playoff push in the Calder Cup semi-finals. 

The Providence Bruins fell by a 3-1 score to the Syracuse Crunch on Saturday night to lose to the Crunch in five games when the best-of-seven series was set to return to Providence this coming week. The P-Bruins had vanquished the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins and Hershey Bears in the first two rounds of the Calder Cup playoffs before finally exiting against Syracuse. 

Though it’s over, it’s clear some of the Bruins prospects made a nice step forward over the second half of the AHL season and then into the Calder Cup playoffs. With the Calder Cup Finals yet to start, B’s forward prospect Danton Heinen stands as the second-leading playoff scorer in the entire AHL with nine goals and 18 points in 17 playoff games after really struggling in the first half of his first pro season while bouncing back and forth between the NHL and the AHL. 

This could bode well for the skilled Heinen and his hopes to make the leap to the NHL in the near future after a stellar collegiate career at the University of Denver. AHL journeymen-types Wayne Simpson and Jordan Szwarz were the next two top scorers for the P-Bruins in the playoff run, but Jake DeBrusk had a strong playoff season as well while popping in six goals in 17 games. DeBrusk led all Providence players with his 54 shots on net in the 17-game playoff run for Providence, and he headlined a group that included B’s prospects Ryan Fitzgerald, Zach Senyshyn, Matt Grzelcyk, Peter Cehlarik (who succumbed to shoulder surgery during the playoffs), Emil Johansson and Robbie O’Gara all getting some vital playoff experience. 

Both Heinen and DeBrusk will be strong candidates for jobs on the wing with the Boston big club when training camp opens in the fall after strong showings in the postseason. 

On the goaltending side, Zane McIntyre was solid for the P-Bruins at times while in 16 of their 17 playoff games with a .906 save percentage. But it was Malcolm Subban that was playing at the very end of the playoff run for Providence and featured a sterling .937 save percentage in the four AHL playoff games that he appeared in this spring after an up-and-down regular season. McIntyre had an .857 save percentage and 4.37 goals against average in the final series against Syracuse, and looked a little spent like many of the other P-Bruins players once they’d unexpectedly made it to the third round of the AHL postseason.  

The only unfortunate part of Providence’s run is that newly signed youngsters Charlie McAvoy and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson couldn’t be a part of it after signing and then appearing in NHL games following a cut-off date for AHL playoff rosters. Both missed on an experience that could have been very conducive for their professional development, and uncovered a wrinkle in the NHL/AHL transaction process that really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for a developmental league.