PROVIDENCE – The Providence Bruins won two out of three over the weekend and the way they did it – at least in the two shutout victories at home – left coach Jay Leach feeling pretty good about his team as it prepares for the final three games before the all-star break.
Zane McIntyre’s airtight goaltending and strong team defense were the perfect formula in shutout wins over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Springfield.
“We’ve been playing these games for the last two weeks now against teams that are rested and we’re playing back to backs. We challenged (the players on Sunday) and they did a great job. We might have given up a couple of chances here and there, but I thought we were really sound, really determined,’’ Leach said.
He isn’t concerned about scoring only 5 goals in 3 games.
“I’d like to think we are getting chances that are just not going in. Friday night, that kid (Anthony Peters of the Penguins) made a bunch of saves. (Sunday), this kid (Sam Montembeault of the Thunderbirds) made a bunch of saves. Logic and history does tell that (goals will) start to come in bunches. Right now, for whatever reason, it’s a bit of a challenge for us,’’ Leach said.
“It is an opportunity, when it does go like that, for us to tighten up and play the way we want to play, identify the team we want to be. I think you could argue that the two games here, Friday and Sunday, we saw some of our identity, with regards to our puck management and the way we want to defend and forecheck and do those things. What we’re trying to do is get that identity and then hopefully the goals will fall.’’
The pro hockey education of Zach Senyshyn continues.
Riding a streak of 13 games without a goal, the rookie first-round draft pick was a healthy scratch on Sunday.
But don’t think of it as punishment.
“What I said to him was there’s going to be times throughout the season, as a young kid, it’s not a bad thing to just watch a game. We talked before the game and we looked at some video to kind of identify where we think he’s at. He’s got plenty of good material,’’ Leach said after Sunday’s game.
“We’re taking the day to kind of hit the reset button and get focused on Wednesday’s game. That can be done because we have so many extra bodies. It wasn’t his best game on Saturday night, but on Friday night he was pretty good.
“I said to him, ‘Does he really need to come out, is it that drastic?’ It’s really not. But it is an opportunity for a young kid to sit back for a day on a three-in-three and just focus on what he is and what he can be for this team. We’ll go into (practice on) Tuesday with that focus.’’
Leach lauded the recent play of McIntyre, the AHL’s Player of the Week, who looks to be getting closer to the form he showed last season as a second-team All-Star.
“He looks big, confident. Goaltending is so challenging. You make a mistake and there’s no one else back there. Mentally, you have to be so strong. He’s fought through some stuff this year and he’s looked terrific the last two starts, that’s for sure,’’ Leach said.
Lots of positives
Leach had nice things to say about a number of his players.
“Kenny (Agostino) was really, really good. A lot of energy, on pucks and doing really nice things. (Jeremy Lauzon) was good both games (he played). Emil (Johansson) was good both games. (Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson) was really good (Sunday),’’ he said.
“(Anders Bjork), I really liked his game (on Sunday). He was a little more straightforward, simplified it a little bit, getting above pucks. All these guys are learning. (Jordan Szwarz) was consistently good. Peter Cehlarik was much better (Sunday). (Chris) Breen was excellent. Very physical.
“Colby Cave, the first two games of the weekend, was our best forward. (Sunday), I thought he looked a little frustrated in the first, but it was a really good weekend for him. (Ryan Fitzgerald) had a good weekend.’’