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AHL Notebook: Providence making big impact in Calder Cup Playoffs

Bruins affiliate succeeding with balance of winning, player development

by Patrick Williams / Correspondent

Providence, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Boston Bruins, has continued its impressive run through the Calder Cup Playoffs.

After eliminating regular-season champion Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (Pittsburgh Penguins) in the first round, Providence is making another push against their second-round opponent, Hershey (Washington Capitals).

Providence split its first two games at Hershey. Providence won Game 1 3-1 on Saturday and led Game 2 on Sunday 2-1 with 2:30 left in the third period when Hershey defenseman Christian Djoos scored to tie the game. Hershey won 3-2 in overtime. The series moves to Providence for Games 3-5 starting Thursday.

Despite finishing with 96 points, sixth-most in the AHL, Providence finished fourth in the Atlantic Division.

Providence has continued its history of winning while producing talent for the Bruins. This season forwards Peter Cehlarik, Danton Heinen, Anton Blidh and Noel Acciari, and defenseman Charlie McAvoy spent time with the Bruins.

On-ice success is linked with successful player development, according to John Ferguson, Bruins executive director of player personnel and Providence general manager.

"[The goal] is to develop NHL players in a competitive, successful environment," he said. "There is no mutual exclusivity between winning and development. They go hand in hand. Frankly one helps the other. You can't do one without the other, and you can't win without development."

Providence coach Kevin Dean is in his first season after spending nine seasons as an AHL assistant coach and has drawn positive reviews for his work.

"Kevin had a really good base of knowledge of these players, having been [Bruins coach] Bruce Cassidy's assistant for five years [with Providence]," Ferguson said. "He paid his dues, earned his way up, and has done a tremendous job."

Dean has a well-balanced mix of players that can grind opponents down by blending speed, defensive diligence and the ability to counterstrike offensively.

"When we play our best hockey we're hard on the puck and make the simple, little plays that in the big picture add up," Providence goaltender Zane McIntyre said.

McIntyre continues to lead the push with a 2.22 goals-against average and .933 save percentage in seven games.

"He is a very diligent worker on and off the ice," Ferguson said of McIntyre. "Not just studying opponents but his own technique, working with our goalie coach [Bob Essensa], working in the weight room with our trainers. That diligent, professional approach is paying dividends for him. He has made a substantial step forward."

Dean said he knows Hershey gained momentum from its come-from-behind Game 2 win.

"Like I said going into overtime, we're one shot away from going up 2-0," he said after Game 2. "That's pretty good. We ended up getting out 1-1.

"I've liked our game. I think we've got to create a little more offense, both off the rush and in the offensive zone. But I think defensively we were playing pretty stout."

Here is a breakdown of each of the other three second-round series:



Syracuse Crunch (1) vs Toronto Marlies (2)


Toronto was 1:56 away from facing a 3-0 Syracuse series lead Tuesday. Trailing 3-2 late in the third period at home in Game 3, Toronto scored three goals in 33 seconds for a 5-3 win. Toronto has 10 goals in the past two games. Syracuse has a 2-1 series lead going into Game 4 at Toronto on Wednesday before the series returns to Syracuse for Game 5 on Saturday. Syracuse captain Erik Condra has eight points (four goals, four assists) in seven playoff games. Teammate Bryon Froese also has eight points (three goals, five assists) in seven games and scored in Game 3; six of his points (two goals, four assists) have come against his former Toronto teammates.



Chicago Wolves (1) vs Grand Rapids Griffins (2)


Chicago won the Central Division and tied for the second-most points in the AHL (101). However, Chicago is facing elimination at home when the series resumes with Game 5 on Saturday; Grand Rapids leads the series 3-1. Chicago has forwards Ivan Barbashev and Zach Sanford along with defenseman Jordan Schmaltz on loan from the St. Louis Blues. Those additions have helped to compensate for the loss of forward Wade Megan, who led the AHL with 33 goals in the regular season but has missed the past two games because of an undisclosed injury. Grand Rapids forward Mitch Callahan had a hat trick in a 6-3 win in Game 4 and rookie forward Evgeny Svechnikov had three assists. forward Eric Tangradi has five assists in his past three games.



San Jose Barracuda (1) vs San Diego Gulls (2)


This series resumes Wednesday tied 1-1. San Diego hosts Games 3-5 and has won seven consecutive games against San Diego at home. San Jose chased San Diego veteran goaltender Jhonas Enroth in a 5-1 home win in Game 2. San Jose forward Ryan Carpenter leads the AHL with six playoff goals and his 10 points tie him with Chicago forward Kenny Agostino for the playoff lead. After going 1-for-22 on the power play in the first round against Stockton, the San Jose power play is 3-for-8 against San Diego. San Jose goaltender Troy Grosenick, who won the Baz Bastien Memorial Award as the top AHL goaltender and was a first-team AHL all-star, has a 2.39 GAA and .910 save percentage in seven playoff games.

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