BostonBruins.com — Eleven games into the Providence Bruins 2012 season, the team’s record stood at a disappointing 4-6-1. The message from the players and coaches was that the team was better than its slow start. But high expectations in practice and a talented locker room alone wouldn’t keep the P-Bruins elevated aspirations within reach.
But fast-forward through the team’s next 11 games. The timely goals the P-Bruins were missing have been found. The team’s veterans and skilled youth players are finding their way onto the score sheet. And an 8-2-1 stretch has the P-Bruins in second place in the Atlantic Division, a point behind Worcester with a game in hand.
That drastic improvement hasn't been lost on the B's bench boss in Boston, who has been a regular at the Dunk this season.
"It’s pretty obvious if you follow the team that they’re playing much better now as a team," said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien at the team’s annual Holliday Toy Shopping Event. "At the beginning of the year, there wasn’t that spunk or that energy that they’re showing right now, and that happens.
"Some teams go through it in the middle of the year, some teams go through it at the beginning, some teams go through it at the end."
Speaking to that, Providence's recent run of success (earning 17 of its last 22 possible points) may not have come as a complete shock to the P-Bruins, who kept saying it was only a matter of time before hard practices with Providence and Boston Bruins coaching staff translated into victories.
"They’re starting to get in sync, and you can tell now the way they’re playing that they’re a pretty excited group, and they’re determined to win," Julien continued. "They’ve picked up 11 of their last 12 points, and everything I’ve seen they’ve played well. It’s not just one player; it’s the whole team."
And while success may be paramount to development, which is still the name-of-the-game for the Bruins AHL affiliate, seeing the B’s high-end prospects effectively navigate the American League also had the Boston Bruins head coach pleased.
"The good players are still good players for us," Julien said. "Chris Bourque has really picked up his game; I think he’s been really good.
"[Ryan] Spooner is coming along. Jordan [Caron] is doing a great job going to the front of the net and being more physical, and being on top of the puck more.
"So all the things we’ve asked him to do, he’s doing well."
Providence’s turnaround has been fueled by not a single catalyst, but, as Julien pointed out, increased contributions up-and-down the lineup.
Torey Krug scored his first professional goal—a game-winner—in a one-goal victory last weekend. The aforementioned Bourque and Spooner are one-two among point-getters for the P-Bruins. And Jamie Tardif, one of the team’s veterans, leads the squad in goals, and is a top-20 scorer in the AHL.
But what’s really helped Providence through its recent success, and has been an anchor for the team throughout the entire season, has been the play in its own zone.
"The back end; I think their defense is really good as a whole," Julien said. "I can’t just talk about one guy because everybody has really played well in that position.
“Goaltending — [Niklas] Svedberg has been outstanding in my mind. I see a goaltender from training camp to now that is a different goaltender.
"He’s played well enough that he’s kept them in some games early on when they had slow starts."
Through the team’s first 11 games of the season, Providence averaged 1.8 goals scored per game. In its next 11, that number increased to 2.7. But all the while, Providence's defensive corps did not crack, as the P-Bruins own blue line weathered the storm and kept the team in games when the offense was not there.
Now, with the scoring picking up, and the defense and goaltending continuing its stellar level of play, Providence is firing on all cylinders, and hoping to make its winning ways something of a blueprint, and not an aberration.
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