BostonBruins.com - Trent Whitfield
has been a key leader for the Providence Bruins since joining the Boston organization in 2009. But, the veteran centerman has yet to experience a postseason race with the Baby B's.
The Providence captain has had his fair share of experience in Black & Gold, being with Boston during the Stanley Cup Playoffs over the years, but the 35-year-old is now excited to help lead his B's down the path to the Calder Cup.
"The guys are excited. It's been one of those magical runs we've been on right now," said Whitfield, whose P-Bruins are undefeated in the month of April, having gone 6-0.
"Guys are really excited about going to the rink every day. I think that's a big part of success; if you're not excited about going to the rink at this time of year, you're not going to the playoffs or you're not going to go very far."
"I think right now, the guys are excited to get there, get on the ice; they're out early working on things, having fun, laughing, joking around. When it gets right down to it, we've got to work. 20 guys. Every night."
With injuries to the Boston roster, Providence saw a few key cogs join the big club, like defenseman Matt Bartkowski, who was playing top-pairing minutes before the call-up, and Jordan Caron.
Recently, Boston draft picks Alexander Fallstrom and Alexander Khokhlachev have joined the lineup, along with recently signed college free agents Matt Lindblad and Chris Casto (both signed to ATOs), along with Rob Flick, acquired in the trade with Chicago for Max Sauve.
"We've had a lot of different lineups in the last couple weeks and it just doesn't seem to matter who we put in there, we just seem to keep rolling," added Whitfield. "So, that's one the benefits we're going to have going in. We have a lot of guys hanging around right now that can step in and play, so that's another thing that motivates."
"They know that if they're not going to work hard, then we'll find someone else who will. The guys accepted that and we've just been able to roll like that all year long."
With three games remaining for Providence in the AHL regular season, their record stands at 47-21-0-5. It marks their best record since the 2007-08 season, when the P-Bruins went 55-18-3-4 and clinched the Atlantic Division.
And after three long seasons out of the playoff race, Providence is back in for the first time since 2008-09, when they made it all the way to the Conference Finals, before falling to Hershey four games to one.
"I think right around Christmas time and the New Year we started to find our game and the young guys starting finding their spot and where they fit in and how they can contribute the best," said Whitfield of the young, upcoming talent on the roster, like Ryan Spooner, goalie Niklas Svedberg, Torey Krug and Justin Florek, among others.
"These last two months, we've just been rolling. We've been able to put together a pretty good string, first overall in the league right now. We've just got one more weekend left to make sure we're sharp going into the playoffs, hopefully we can put a little run together."
The transitions for young prospects, whether it's from juniors, college, or overseas, is always an adjustment, but Whitfield said that once the rookies were able to find their game, it has only helped propel the team's success that much further.
"At the start of the year, they're feeling it out," Whitfield said, of the first-year pros, and often B's draft picks that work their way up to Providence. "They're coming from playing against kids to playing against 25 to 30-year-old men. It's a bit of and adjustment; guys are bigger, faster, stronger. They've got to find their place and how they can make their game work at this level."
"I think our young guys have really done a great job and our coaches have really done a great job, putting them in a place where they can be successful."
In Whitfield's eyes, the youngsters' success, given further proof by rookies Svedberg and Spooner being named to the AHL All-Rookie Team, has had a profound impact on their team.
"In this league, if your young kids don't come in and contribute, you're going to struggle," said Whitfield. "We've had that over the last couple years. You rely so much on youth in this league, the draft picks come and play a ton of minutes. If they're not having success, it's tough for the team."
"We've had a great group of young guys, and second-year guys have really picked up their game and taken it to a new level offensively," added the captain. "Having Svedberg in net has been huge lift for us, he's been unbelievable for us all year. No matter what level you're at, if you don't have good goaltending, it's kind of tough to have success."
"We've got Svedberg coming in here with what's going to be close to 40 wins at the end of the year - for a first year goaltender, that hasn't happened very often. Having a guy like Ryan Spooner, who has really stepped it up and taken our power play up to the top. Jamie Tardif stepped up with 30 goals; Torey Krug, on the back end, has had an unbelievable season as a first year defenseman."
"We've got lots of stories like that. We've got tons of grit and size and with Florek and Robbins and Hanson, guys like that leading us physically. It's just been, up and down our lineup, guys contributing."
With all of their moving parts, personalities, and roles, the P-Bruins are working together, having fun, and finding their groove at just the right time to make a postseason run, which for them, starts on Friday, April 26.
"It's just all kind of come together at this point and now the real season starts in the week and hopefully we're prepared for it."