Tables Turned

by EDDIE PANNONE

PROVIDENCE — They looked like a team that couldn’t be stopped. After falling behind 2-0 in their first best of five series with the Hershey Bears, the Providence Bruins stormed back winning 3 straight games to take the series. The number one team in the AHL then took on the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins in round 2, going up 3 games to none versus them. As in any series where a team goes up 3-0, they looked like a team that was clicking on all cylinders. The first line of Ryan Spooner, Chris Bourque, and Jamie Tardif was producing as well as they ever had before, and Carter Camper was playing his best hockey of the season.

The want and desire of the Bruins could be felt by all in attendance as they dominated the Penguins not only on the scoreboard but physically as well. Bobby Robins started every game for the Bruins, and seemingly the first shift of every game featured a big hit that would energize the team and set the tone for the game. The goaltending of MVP Niklas Svedberg looked to be getting back to his all-star level after looking shaky at times in the playoffs. Literally everything that could go right was going right for Providence.

Then things went really, really, really, REALLY, wrong.

After letting up 8 goals then 4 goals, Brad Thiessen was called upon to replace Jeff Zatkoff in net. Despite losing in overtime in his first start, Thiessen played great allowing just 2 goals on 22 shots. The biggest factor that changed the series though was something out of the P-Bruins’ control: injuries. However they were not necessarily injuries to their own players. The Boston Bruins had injuries to defensemen Dennis Seidenberg and Wade Redden, forcing them to call up Providence’s best two defensemen Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski. They have produced well in the Stanley Cup playoffs, but at the same time made the P-Bruins run in the Calder Cup playoffs much more difficult.

The Penguins defeated Providence in their final two home games of the series, allowing just 1 goal in the two games. They played well with their backs against the wall, capitalizing on many of their chances and scoring a combined 7 goals. Once the series returned to the Dunk, Thiessen took control of the series. The Bruins were getting good looks in game 6, but none could find the back of the net. The third period saw Providence out-shoot the Penguins 20-2, yet no goals went past Thiessen. The Pens would score in OT to force a game 7.

Game 7 started out well again for the Bruins, getting good scoring chances and playing well. However, the first period was scoreless on both sides. The second period is where the Bruins fatally collapsed. The Penguins scored 4 goals in the period while the Bruins had no offensive rhythm. The Penguins capitalized on power plays and turnovers, while that want and desire for the Bruins seemed to disappear. Svedberg gave up weak goals, and the team looked tired and overmatched. There was a point down 2-0 that the Bruins hit the goal post multiple times, and that looked to demoralize them even more.

In the end it was a 5-0 win for WBS as a 3-0 series lead crumpled away for the Bruins. Boston fans have seen this before with the Red Sox comeback and Bruins collapse. The loss of Krug and Bartkowski proved to be too much to overcome, as the defense lacked after they left. Svedberg looked like he was gassed letting some easy goals go by, but he can’t be blamed entirely when his top two defensemen weren’t there. The team, who was at a size disadvantage to begin with, looked mentally and physically fatigued. It is a long season, for some the longest of their careers. That is a big factor down the stretch, and while it is no excuse for blowing a 3-0 lead it was something that was thought to happen eventually.

It isn’t the way anyone wants to end a season, but don’t let the end take away from the entire journey. It was a great season in Providence that saw some young talent rise up with veteran leadership. It will be interesting to see who returns next season, as this same group with a year under their belt could make a serious run at the Cup. Unfortunately, that most likely won’t be the case.

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