Luke Toporowski barrels to the net past Hartford’s Zac Jones on Friday. Toporowski scored Providence’s only goal of the weekend on Saturday. (Photo courtesy of Providence Bruins)
The Providence Bruins dug themselves a hole in their two playoff games this weekend. As a result, their season will be on the line Wednesday night in Hartford.
Because they finished first in the Atlantic Division, the P-Bruins earned a bye in the opening round of the Calder Cup playoffs. In hindsight, that didn’t help them.
After 12 days between games, Providence wasn’t sharp and was outplayed by the Hartford Wolf Pack in a 1-0 loss in Game 1 of their best-of-five Atlantic Division semifinal at home on Friday. The P-Bruins were better on Saturday, but lost, 2-1.
Now the series moves to Connecticut for a win-or-go-home game on Wednesday. The fourth game, if necessary, will be at the XL Center on Friday.
“Definitely a much better willingness to play the right way (than in Game 1), but not enough, obviously,” coach Ryan Mougenel said after Saturday’s loss. “We need everybody going and I don’t know if we had everybody going. But there were some real good things we can build off of and build some momentum and that’s what we’ve got to do now.”
Providence is certainly capable of winning on the road. In fact, they were better on the road than at home during the regular season with a record of 24-9-3 for a .708 points percentage, second in the league behind Calgary’s .750.
“I think it says a lot about our team, a team that can play well on the road. The one thing we’ve had, we’ve had great bounce back. It says a lot about the guys in the room. There’s guys with tons of pride. They don’t want their season to end, they want to extend it,” Mougenel said.
“Kudos to Hartford. They’re doing a good job playing above us and that’s testament that they know we’re fast. We have to do a better job playing behind them, creating anxiety with our feet. You just can’t have three or four guys, we’ve got to do it by committee. We’ve got strong belief and that’s what it’s about.”
Here’s the good, bad and ugly.
— Brandon Bussi played very well in both games, stopping 57 of 60 shots. He denied Tanner Fritz twice on shorthanded breakaways on Friday. “I just wish we could give him some run support,” said Mougenel.
— Luke Toporowski scored Providence’s only goal of the weekend, a bar-down rip on his former Kamloops teammate Dylan Garand on Saturday night. He posted a team-high total of six shots in the two games.
— The penalty kill was a perfect 5 for 5 on Friday and Saturday.
— Mike Callahan came to Brandon Bussi’s defense and fought 6-foot-6 Tim Gettinger after Gettinger ran over Bussi.
— The power play went 0 for 4 in the two games.
— Providence had only 14 shots in Friday night’s 1-0 loss. Hartford’s Dylan Garand will never have an easier shutout.
— One goal in two games is not going to take you far in the postseason or any other time.
— Going back to last season, in Providence’s last four playoff games, in 264:39 of play, they’ve scored only three goals.
— Injured: Trevor Kuntar