BostonBruins.com — Despite a loss on Wednesday, at 32 points the Providence Bruins (32 GP, 16-12-2) find themselves within spitting distance of the Worcester Sharks (37 pts, 31 GP, 17-11-3) and the Portland Pirates (40 pts, 19-11-2) in the battle for the top spots in their division.
"They're a really skilled team, but I think if we play them hard, get our forecheck going, it creates a lot of problems for them," said Providence forward Justin Florek earlier this week of the Pirates. "If we can do that, and play down in their zone, it will make the game a lot easier for us."
But even with a 49-31 shooting advantage, Providence wasn't able to top Portland on Wednesday, and dropped a 2-1 decision to their division-leading rivals. However, the good news for the P-Bruins is that they continue to make waves in the AHL's Atlantic Division, owning a 6-4-0 record in their last 10 games.
"First and foremost, on offense. We’ve found a way to score some more goals," said Boston Bruins Assistant General Manager Don Sweeney. "Offensively, we struggled in the early part of the year, and our power play in particular wasn’t off to a great start, but now we’ve not only scored a few more goals, but more timely offense in games, and that has provided the team some confidence."
"Our team is committed defensively, and our coaches do a great job in preparing our team so that we don’t give up a lot of chances against, we have a solid goals against average, which is a testament to our goaltending, and that’s another area [of improvement]."
Right now, Providence stands 10th in GAA at 2.74, and team defense has been helped by having two goaltenders clicking. In December, Michael Hutchinson was 4-2-0, with a 2.11 GAA and a .923 SV%, while Niklas Svedberg has been excellent in his first North American season with a 12-6-1 record, a 2.48 SV%, and a .920 SV%.
"[Hutchinson] has sort of found his game, and has been a nice compliment to the season so far that [Svedberg] has had," said Sweeney, who was looking for a similar turnaround elsewhere.
"Overall, I think our team has gained a lot more confidence and started to find some chemistry," said Sweeney. "We battled through some injuries, we he had some other guys step forward in play in some roles that they might not have had the opportunities, which is another good thing about the balance and the depth of your organization."
And with a home game tonight against Portland, and another on Sunday versus the Springfield Falcons, the P-Bruins have a chance to make an impact in the standings.
"This weekend coming up, starting…against Portland, and obviously Springfield — head-to-head, Divisional matchups, you’re not going to escape them in the AHL," said Sweeney. "Hopefully we can continue to move forward, and realize that points are precious. You continue to jockey for position, and thankfully we’re jockeying for the top part of our Division rather than the bottom part right now."
Florek agreed, acknowledging the importance of the slate of games.
"It will be a great test for us," said Florek. "We’ve been on kind of a streak here so we just have to keep that going. We have to look at these…games as a big test for us.
"It’s not going to get easier from here, so we’ll see where we measure up right now, and just take it from there."