Providence Bruins

Apr 17, 2018


Providence, RI – The Providence Bruins and Lehigh Valley Phantoms will meet each other in the 2018 Calder Cup Playoffs in what promises to be one of the most exciting first round match-ups in the AHL. The Phantoms are the top seed in the Atlantic Division while the P-Bruins are the fourth seed, and the Phantoms took the regular season series between the teams with a record of 4-2-0-0. This will be the first time the Phantoms and Bruins meet in the postseason since 2005 when Patrice Bergeron and current head coach Jay Leach suited up for Providence. The Phantoms, who won the series in six games, featured future Boston Bruins Stanley Cup Champion Dennis Seidenberg.

This year’s version of the Phantoms is led by the 2017-18 AHL MVP Phil Varone, who had 70 points in 74 games to finish second in the league in scoring. The veteran playmaker posted career highs in each scoring category and will be near impossible to shut down for the entirety of this series. Varone, who scored three goals and two assists in six games against Providence this season, has gone back-to-back games without a point only three times all season. Greg Carey has been on the receiving end of many Varone assists as he leads the Phantoms with 31 goals on the season. That was good for fourth in the league, and the line mates have formed one of the top scoring duos in the AHL. Carey scored four goals against Providence this season, so containing this line will go a long way to helping Providence advance.

Getting off to a fast start will also be important for Providence in both of the upcoming games and within the series in general. In each of the team’s six meetings this season, the team that scored first went on to win the game. The Phantoms were 30-4-3-3 when scoring first during the season while the P-Bruins were 33-8-1-1. With the first two games at home, it is also important for Providence to get off to a strong start in the series as they are taking on a team with the best home record in the AHL. Lehigh Valley had a league-best of 27 wins at the PPL Center and finished the regular season winning their final seven games at home. The P-Bruins know first-hand how hard it is to win in Allentown, as they were 0-3 there this season with two shutout loses.

While Lehigh Valley boasts the current MVP, Providence counters with last year’s winner of the award who has feasted on them this season. Kenny Agostino had a goal and five assists for six points in five games against Lehigh Valley this season. Agostino has consistently been a top-six forward for the team in his first season in Providence, spending most of his time with Peter Cehlarik when healthy. Cehlarik, who had two goals and five points with a team best plus-six rating against the Phantoms, is questionable due injury. This leaves Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson as an intriguing player to watch this series. The rookie has spent most of the year centering Agostino, but has missed five of the six meetings against the Phantoms this season. Now healthy again, he could make an immediate scoring impact that Lehigh Valley has yet to see.

Of course, Providence’s offense will be led by their top line of Ryan Fitzgerald, Jordan Szwarz and Austin Czarnik. Czarnik, the team’s MVP, led the club in all scoring categories and was nothing short of dominant this season. Combined, the three of them are among the top four scorers on the team and are first, second and third in goals scored. When they are cooking, this line has arguable been the best in the AHL all season and has the potential to take Providence far into the postseason. The Phantoms have done a decent job holding them in check during the six meetings this season, but no team can hold them down too long and the P-Bruins will need to have a big series in order to advance.

In net, both teams offer a pair of star goalies capable of taking a team deep in the playoffs. The duo of Zane McIntyre and Jordan Binnington has been strong all season and are among the top of the AHL leader boards in many important categories. Binnington was second in GAA at 2.02 and fourth in save percentage at 92.6% while McIntyre led the AHL with seven shutouts, was fourth with 26 and fifth with 2,734 minutes played. Lehigh Valley counters with Dustin Tokarski and Alex Lyon, a combination that has given Providence trouble all season. Lyon only played one game against the P-Bruins this season, but stopped 30 of 32 shots and shut them out until the final two minutes of the game. He was recalled to the NHL shortly after that start and spent most of February and March with the Flyers, missing the last five meetings between Lehigh Valley and Providence. Tokarski has been tough to solve in Lehigh Valley, as he allowed five goals in his one start at the Dunk but shutout Providence twice in the PPL Center.

This best-of-five series kicks off Friday and Saturday at the Dunkin Donuts Center with games one and two. The series the shifts to Lehigh Valley for game three Friday, April 27. If necessary, game four will be Saturday, April 28 and game five will be Monday, April 30. All game times will be 7:05pm.

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The Providence Bruins are the American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Boston Bruins, playing their home games at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, RI. Spanning more than 25 years, the Boston/Providence affiliation is one of the longest and most successful player development partnerships in professional hockey history.

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