It was one step forward, one step back for the Providence Bruins over the weekend.
They snapped a frustrating offensive dry spell in a 4-3 win at home against Charlotte on Friday night, then lost in Bridgeport, 6-4, on Saturday night, after jumping out to a 4-2 lead.
“We did not defend the right way. It was tough to watch. The forwards were good. (Oskar) Steen and his line were outstanding. (Chris) Wagner was really good. (There were) a lot of good things,” said coach Ryan Mougenel.
“It’s never as bad as you think, but it definitely felt that bad when we were on the bench. It’s been awhile since we’ve gone through that … not being able to defend. But it’s fixable, which is the good news.”
The P-Bruins finished the weekend in seventh place in the eight-team Atlantic Division, but it’s very early and the teams ahead of them are well within reach.
Here’s the good, bad and ugly.
— It’s alive! The offense, that is. The P-Bruins scored eight goals on the weekend after putting the puck in the net just seven times in their previous five games. Hey, it’s a start.
— Oskar Steen, just back from Boston, gave Providence a huge lift with two goals and a pair of assists in Bridgeport. The first score was a well-executed rush on which Brady Lyle entered the zone and passed to Jesper Froden, who dished to Steen for a one-timer. Steen leads the team in scoring with 3-3-6 in four games.
— After going without a point in his first five games, Jesper Froden broke out with two goals on Friday and two assists on Saturday. Jakub Lauko grabbed the puck for Froden after he scored his first AHL goal.
— John Moore had a strong weekend, scoring his first goal on Saturday on a power play, with help from Chris Wagner and Zach Senyshyn creating traffic in front, and adding two assists.
— Jakub Lauko displayed his electric speed in scoring his first goal of the season against Charlotte.
— Joona Koppanen tallied his first goal of the season, taking a pass from Jack Ahcan and overpowering Charlotte goalie Christopher Gibson with a wicked wrister.
— The power play, which had been struggling, scored three times on seven chances in the two games.
— After playing very well on Friday night, Kyle Keyser gave up four goals on the first 10 shots he faced on Saturday. The blame wasn’t all his, to be sure. He was victimized by some shoddy D-zone coverage and poor puck management in front of him.
— Tough break for Brady Lyle in Bridgeport. He blew a tire in the defensive zone, Simon Holmstrom grabbed the puck and seconds later it was in the net for the third goal for the Islanders.
— Cameron Hughes was on the ice for four Islanders goals and Jakub Lauko for three on Saturday.
— The P-Bruins face a difficult road trip this weekend, with games at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Friday and Hershey on Saturday.
— The P-Bruins led 4-2 26 minutes into Saturday’s game, then gave up four straight goals in losing, 6-4.
— Injured: Josiah Didier, Troy Grosenick, Nick Wolff, Victor Berglund
No doubt about it, the second weekend of the season was a tough one for the Providence Bruins.
They earned a point in a 2-1 overtime loss in Utica on Friday night, but that was as good as it got. They returned home and lost, 4-0, to Laval on Saturday and 4-1 to Springfield on Sunday.
Obviously, you aren’t going to win many games when you score two goals in nine periods, plus a couple of minutes of OT. Sunday was particularly frustrating as Providence fired 40 shots on net but scored just once, on a five-on-three power play.
“We haven’t been capitalizing. Outchancing a team doesn’t necessarily guarantee you’re winning the game. We’ve got to find a better way to get ahead and then put our foot down and close teams out,’’ said coach Ryan Mougenel.
Here’s the good, bad and ugly.
— Kyle Keyser played well in both of his starts with 29 saves on Friday and 28 on Sunday.
— Oskar Steen showed off his quick hands in scoring his first goal of the season against Utica. He was set up by Cameron Hughes.
— Jakub Lauko made a nice pass to Jack Ahcan, who scored Providence’s only goal on Sunday.
— In his first fight of the season, Ian McKinnon won a clear decision over Michael Pezzetta of Laval on Saturday.
— Referees Patrick Hanrahan and Mason Riley got the call wrong when they allowed Utica’s first goal on Friday. It was deflected into the net with a high stick.
— In the same game, Jakub Lauko was whistled for holding by Hanrahan after he got tied up with a Comets player. Terrible call.
— Providence’s power play is 26th in the league at 9.5 percent.
— After arriving home from Utica at 2:30 a.m. on Saturday, the P-Bruins faced a Laval squad that was rested and ready after not playing on Friday night.
— Providence had a three on one in OT on Friday, but failed to capitalize.
— They were outshot, 16-3, in the first 25 minutes in Utica.
— Through six games, only six players have goals to their name and two of them — Jack Studnicka and Oskar Steen — are on recall to Boston. No one has more than one goal.
— With 7 goals on 170 shots, the P-Bruins are scoring on 4.1 percent of their shots.
— Injured: Josiah Didier, Troy Grosenick, Victor Berglund, J.D. Greenway
With a shootout win at home followed by a shootout loss on the road, the Providence Bruins kicked off the 2021-22 season over the weekend by taking three out of four points.
The P-Bruins edged Bridgeport, 2-1, on Saturday, then lost to Hartford, 4-3, on Sunday.
After a year in which the P-Bruins played home games in Marlboro, Mass., with no fans, it was great to have people back in the Dunkin’ Donuts Center on Saturday night.
On Sunday, new coach Ryan Mougenal was pleased with the way his team came from behind in the third period to earn a point.
“I think we learned a lot today. It showed a lot of who we were. We’re exciting to watch, that’s for sure. We made some high-end plays with a little bit of risk mixed in there, but I’ll tell you this: it’s a great bunch to be around, they’re a lot of fun. I like our team a lot. If we play like that this year, we’ll be in real good shape,’’ he said.
Here’s the good, bad and ugly.
— It was a strong weekend for Kyle Keyser. He came off the bench after Troy Grosenick left Saturday night’s game with a lower-body injury and stopped all 19 shots he faced, then denied both Bridgeport shootout attempts. He made a spectacular glove save on Austin Czarnik of the Islanders in the third period. On Sunday, he made some huge stops in the third period as the P-Bruins came from behind to force overtime and earn a point. He also stopped five straight attempts in the shootout before the Wolf Pack finally put a puck behind him.
— The line of Jakub Lauko, Jack Studnicka and Chris Wagner was effective in both games. Wagner recorded four shots in each game and banged in the tying goal on a third-period power play on Sunday. Studnicka scored in the shootout on Saturday, then added a goal and an assist on Sunday. Lauko recorded two assists on Sunday and came to the defense of Studnicka after an elbow by Hartford’s Anthony Bitetto.
— A pair of Atlantic Division title banners were unfurled at The Dunk on Saturday.
— In addition to Studnicka and Wagner, Tyler Lewington on Saturday and Sammy Asselin on Sunday recorded their first goals of the season.
— Jesper Froden buried the winner in the shootout on Saturday.
— Providence gave up a shorthanded goal to Johnny Brodzinski of Hartford in the second period on Sunday.
— The P-Bruins allowed 16 shots in the first period against Bridgeport.
— Injured: Josiah Didier, Troy Grosenick, J.D. Greenway, Victor Berglund
Some of the names have changed, as they do every year in the American Hockey League, but all indications are that the Providence Bruins again will be a strong team in the Atlantic Division this season.
No surprise there, as the P-Bruins have finished at the top of the division for the last two seasons. With fans back in the stands for the first time in a year and a half, a pair of championship banners will be unfurled before the home opener on Saturday night.
One big change is behind the bench as Ryan Mougenel moves up to head coach after Jay Leach departed for the Seattle Kraken.
The departure of general manager John Ferguson Jr. is also a major development, as he moved on to the Arizona Coyotes as assistant GM. Ferguson’s duties will be covered by Evan Gold, Boston’s assistant general manager and director of legal affairs, and Jamie Langenbrunner, director of player development and player personnel adviser.
“The team will play with the same structure. I do think that ability to move pucks north to the forwards, that needs to be part of the emphasis as well,’’ Gold said.
“I’m excited that, hopefully, everything shakes out where every night we should have pretty good goaltending, the ability to defend and hopefully put some goals in.’’
Here’s how the 2021-22 P-Bruins look:
Providence has a strong, deep group up front with the potential to put up some good offensive numbers.
“Depth will be a strength of the group. Through the middle of the ice we’ve got a lot of versatility, some two-position players, so (Mougenel) will have good options in terms of lineup construction,’’ said Gold.
At the top of the lineup, Cameron Hughes and newcomer Steven Fogarty are proven AHL players. Ball-of-energy Jakub Lauko could be poised for a breakout season and maybe his first NHL callup if he can stay healthy. Sammy Asselin, who earned his first NHL contract over the summer, is a versatile forward with a nonstop motor.
Jack Studnicka and Chris Wagner arrived from Boston this week and figure to provide a boost for as long as they are here.
Jesper Froden, a 27-year-old winger from Sweden, had an eye-opening training camp with Boston and should be a nice fit in the top six.
Pesky Oskar Steen has shown steady improvement in his first two years in Providence and will look to build on that in year three.
Zach Senyshyn, coming off a couple of strong preseason games, looks to be primed for a big year in his fifth pro season.
Ian McKinnon, who made his mark with some memorable fights last season, will answer the bell when needed.
Curtis Hall, Matt Filipe, Joona Koppanen, Alex-Olivier Voyer and hulking newcomer Justin Brazeau, who scored 61 goals in 68 games in the OHL in 2018-19, round out the forward group.
The back end should be strong.
“We’ve got a mix of mix of mobility and puck moving as well as some stoutness in (Tyler) Lewington, (Jack) Dougherty and (Nick) Wolff,’’ said Gold.
Jack Ahcan and Brady Lyle, both of whom have strong offensive components in their games, had good rookie seasons in 202-21 and will look to take another step in their second year.
Urho Vaakanainen, Boston’s first rounder in 2017, enters his fourth year with the P-Bruins.
“Urho’s now at a point in his career where we’re going to rely on him to be the man. It’s time for him to embrace that. I think he’s willing to do that,” said Mougenel. “We want his game tight, good and mean and all of the things he does well every day. It’s just about the consistency of it. Once he has that consistency, we probably won’t see him again.
“There’s a place for him up there. It’s up to him now.”
Veterans Aaron Ness, Lewington and Dougherty have hundreds of games of AHL experience.
“Some guys are getting acclimated, like (Ness and Lewington) have never played probably such an aggressive line rush against, squash and slide. They’ll be excellent as time goes on and they get a little more familiar with it,’’ said Mougenel.
“A guy like Ness is huge in the development of Jack Ahcan. He’s an elite defenseman at this level. Jack’s got a lot of maturity to him, too, which is crazy when you’re that young. Aaron’s a great guy for Jack to lean on, a great peer for him. Lyle, same thing, he can learn a lot from Lewington. He’s got that stiffness, that hardness.’’
Wolff, who plays a physical, defense-first game, is back for a second season.
Andrew Peski provides depth.
Josiah Didier, Victor Berglund and J.D. Greenway start the season on the injured list.
Providence received some of the very best goaltending in the league over the last couple of years from Jeremy Swayman, Dan Vladar and Max Lagace.
Taking over the net this season will be veteran Troy Grosenick and 22-year-old Kyle Keyser.
The 32-year-old Grosenick has a proven track record in the AHL, while Keyser heads into his first full season in the league.
“The growth in Kyle Keyser has been a big thing. He probably didn’t get off to the start that he wanted (in his pro career), but there’s a lot of progression there. He can learn a lot from a guy like Grossie. I was there (in Worcester) when he was a rookie and the growth he’s had as a pro and a person is exceptional,’’ said Mougenel.
“The consistency part is big. Especially in the American Hockey League sometimes you need that strong goaltending component just because there are mistakes and it’s nice to have a goalie there that can bail you out. That’s one thing that Keyser understands. It’s taken him some time to get there and I feel like his game’s in a pretty good place right now, but those are two guys that will push each other.
“For now, Grossie’s probably the guy we’ll lean on for that consistency early on, but that’s not written in stone either.”
The P-Bruins certainly look to have the makings of a playoff team, if not a contender for another division title, depending on how good their goaltending is. They’ll play with structure, as Providence teams have done over the years, and they have the potential for a more balanced attack than they’ve had in recent seasons. After playing without fans in Marlboro last season, look for the good times to roll again at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.