PROVIDENCE, RI — It wasn't the kind of start the AHL Bruins wanted, but with eight games down, Providence's Black & Gold have struggled through the first few weeks of the season, standing at 3-5-0 and in fifth place in the Atlantic Division.
"There’s two schools of thought," began second-year Providence Head Coach Bruce Cassidy. "I believe we’re better than our record indicates, and I think the people that have seen us play would believe that statement. "
But Cassidy cited former New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Parcells, who often said, "You are what your record says you are."
"So, are we 3-5, or are we better than that?" asked Cassidy, rhetorically. "At the end of the day, the message we’re trying to send to the players is that it’s not acceptable.
"But we’ve done a lot of good things, and there’s been a lot of positives. With a break here or there, a save here or there, we’re easily .500, or maybe a game over."
There have been highlights, like the "Buzzsaw" line of Lane MacDermid, Christian Hanson and Bobby Robins, and their ability to bring a solid sandpaper game while contributing on the scoresheet.
Meanwhile, rookie goaltender Niklas Svedberg is 3-1-0 with a 2.01 goals against average and a .927 save percentage.
"He’s battled from day one; he’s got a great work ethic," said Cassidy. "Since he’s been in there, he’s been dynamite for us.
"The one game he lost, we got shutout, so he really had no chance in that one. But he’s been good. He’s let in some goals that he’d like to have back, but every goaltender does at this level.
"It’s how he responded after that that’s been the big difference for us," added the P-Bruins bench boss. "He doesn’t get down; he battles right back and tries to keep his team in the game. We were able to get a few leads for him, which has helped as well, and he didn’t give them up. Those are things that are good signs for us."
But Svedberg and the Buzzsaw line can't win games on their own and the P-Bruins need more than a hot goaltender and top-notch grinders to get over the .500 mark.
"The bottom line is we’re not [over .500]," said Cassidy, noting the whole team needs to be on the same page. "We’ve got to make sure we get that save, or make that play during the game, so we don’t have to rely on our goaltender to make a big save.
"I think Sunday you saw some of that," added Cassidy of Providence's 3-0 shutout win over the St. John's IceCaps. "We really had one breakdown in the second period where Svedberg had to make a big save on a breakaway.
"After that, we kind of bore down, got the two-goal lead, and then put it away in the third."
Boston Bruins Assistant General Manager Don Sweeney, who was in the stands on Wednesday to watch practice, is looking for his prospects to bring more consistency to their game.
"We were hoping and expecting — to be honest with you — coming out of the gate much stronger, and putting a few more wins on the board," said Sweeney. "We shot ourselves in the foot in a few games that inopportune mistakes and breakdowns across the board, every player, from the net on out, to guys in key situations making mistakes.
"We need to minimize those, and then go ahead and score some goals like we did on Sunday, and forecheck with the intent to create some scoring chances, and I think we’ll be fine.
"But we do need the consistency across the board," he said.
Cassidy is determined to help his charges change in the short run.
"We’ve always wanted to develop in a winning environment," said Cassidy. "It was disappointing early on with our record.
"But again, I see a lot of good things. I see a good group in there that’s willing to work, they’re coachable, they care about one another, they’re good teammates. We just haven’t made the play or two in some of these closer games we’ve needed to win.
"It’s forced us to be a little more accountable early on in the season," added Cassidy. "Maybe if those games had of went our way, we would have got loose at some point here. So itt’s forced us to bear down, understand the importance of winning early, and I think that will help us in the long run."