The word "process" is often heard when discussing player development with NHL management figures.
Serving as the top incubator for that process is the American Hockey League, and Providence Bruins goaltender Zane McIntyre is a prime example. His first eight NHL games with the Boston Bruins served as another learning experience for the 24-year-old.
"I was able to re-evaluate afterward, decompress, and really sit back and think about the things that I need to work on or the things that I did fairly well," McIntyre said. "I think there were a lot of things that I was able to experience, and it definitely helped when I went back to the AHL and [for subsequent NHL recalls]."
Back in the AHL, the Boston prospect leads the league with a .931 save percentage, going 16-4-1 for Providence. McIntyre is also tied with Troy Grosenick of the San Jose Barracuda with a 2.03 goals-against average.
A sixth-round pick (No. 165) in the 2010 NHL Draft, McIntyre has packed a lot into his second pro season. He made his NHL debut with Boston in relief against the Minnesota Wild on Oct. 25, and has played eight NHL games, including three starts. He also made a quick detour to the ECHL with Atlanta for two games.
"I've been all over the map, to be honest," McIntyre said. "I think I've grown and matured throughout the process. It's just [a matter of] getting my bearings of where I'm at and from there just going out and playing hockey. So at the end of the day, wherever I'm at, I'm enjoying the sport I love and really get to take advantage of every single day."
Before turning pro, McIntyre played three seasons at the University of North Dakota. He was 29-10-3 with a 2.05 GAA and .929 save percentage in his third season, winning the Mike Richter Award as the top goaltender in college hockey. He was also a nominee for the Hobey Baker Award as the top collegiate player.
As an AHL rookie last season, McIntyre was 14-8-7 with a 2.68 GAA and .898 save percentage backing up fellow prospect Malcolm Subban.
Video: TOR@BOS: McIntyre turns away one-timer from Komarov
"Gaining that first year of pro hockey really helped in the sense of this year coming in and knowing that I can own the moment, own my game, and be successful out there," McIntyre said.
When Subban struggled at the start of this season, McIntyre stepped in to bail out Providence. He went 9-0-0 in December with a 1.65 GAA and .947 save percentage to win the CCM/AHL Goaltender of the Month award. That work helped move Providence into the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference.
Providence is on track for postseason play this spring, and that can be another experience for McIntyre to process. The Eastern Conference is packed with legitimate Calder Cup contenders.
"Every day you can take things and store them away, good and bad, and just develop and learn from those," McIntyre said.
San Jose had to wait until the final day of the regular season to clinch a playoff berth last season. The wait this season was much shorter as San Jose became the first AHL team to clinch a playoff berth after a 3-1 win against the Stockton Heat last Saturday.
San Jose leads the AHL with a .719 points percentage and is 38-13-2-4.
But another difficult test awaits with a visit to San Diego on Wednesday. San Diego is second in the Pacific Division. San Jose has the best road points percentage in the AHL at .672 and is 8-1-1-0 in its past 10 road games but has yet to win at San Diego this season.
San Jose has gone 19-2-1-1 in its past 23 games but has not been able to pull away from San Diego, which is three points behind San Jose and on a 24-4-1-1 roll.
No lead is safe in the AHL.
Two games with significant playoff implications ended with wild comebacks this past week.
On Saturday, the Toronto Marlies led the Binghamton Senators 4-1 entering the third period at home. Last in the North Division against a Toronto team fighting for playoff positioning, Binghamton scored seven third-period goals for an 8-4 win. Five of those goals came in a 6:11 span. Binghamton became the first team to score at least seven goals in a period since the Charlotte Checkers scored eight on Dec. 6, 2010. Toronto is two points out of first place in the North Division.
The St. John's IceCaps saw why the Lehigh Valley Phantoms are the top-scoring team in the AHL. Lehigh Valley (3.61 goals per game) scored four goals in a 19:16 span to overcome a 4-0 St. John's lead on Tuesday. Defenseman T.J. Brennan then scored 34 seconds into overtime to win the game and keep Lehigh Valley within three points of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for the Eastern Conference lead.
Hershey Bears forward Paul Carey was named the CCM/AHL Player of the Week award for the period ending Sunday. He had eight points (six goals, two assists) in three games, including a four-goal game against the Hartford Wolf Pack on Saturday.
Chicago Wolves forward Kenny Agostino leads the AHL in scoring with 75 points (21 goals, 54 assists). … Chicago teammate Wade Megan remains the AHL leader in goals (27). … San Jose forward Daniel O'Regan leads all rookies with 52 points (20 goals, 32 assists). Stockton forward Mark Jankowski has 24 goals, most among rookies. … Captain Tommy Cross played his 279th game with Providence last Saturday to become its all-time leader in games played. … Charlotte has won five consecutive games and is two points out of a playoff spot. … Chicago had its 13-game point streak ended Tuesday.
ON THE MOVE
Defensemen Brady Austin (Rochester) and Nelson Nogier (Manitoba Moose) each made his NHL debut this past week. Through Tuesday, 95 AHL players have played their first NHL game this season.