Three things we learned about Bruins prospects
Three things we learned Saturday about Bruins prospects
By JOE HAGGERTY
PROVIDENCE -- The Providence Bruins' season ended Saturday in a double-overtime loss to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, but it was an informative night regarding some of the young players the parent Boston Bruins are keeping an eye on. Here's some of what we learned . . .
Stop with the 'Trade Tuukka' talk
The Bruins fan base might want to quiet some of the “Trade Tuukka” fervor for a while, given what we saw on Saturday night. Zane McIntyre got the start for the P-Bruins in a big spot with Providence down 0-2 in the best-of-five series, and the young netminder didn’t respond with a confident, signature performance. Instead he understandably looked like a rookie going through the AHL playoff experience for the first time, and that put the P-Bruins behind the 8-ball in a big way. McIntyre allowed a rebound goal just 35 seconds into the game, and was pulled after allowing a soft, crushing fourth goal on a Tim Erixon wrist shot from inside the blue line that was tucked inside the far post. In all McIntyre allowed four goals on 13 shots. The playoff game finished off a shaky debut season for McIntyre, who had a .898 save percentage and 2.68 goals against average in 31 games for the P-Bruins this season. Beyond McIntyre, Malcolm Subban was never able to return from a serious injury (fractured larynx) injury, though he was practicing at the end of the AHL season. So there are no goaltending answers beyond Rask at this point within the organization, and there would be a gaping hole if the Finnish netminder was moved in the hubristic notion he could be easily replaced.
Austin Czarnik looks ready for prime time
The skilled, determined center certainly looked like he could step up next season after striking for the P-Bruins first goal in the second period, and the game-tying goal in the third period. He was Providence's best player all night and showed great finish on both scores with one-time blasts from the left face-off circle and the high slot. It could be enticing to really explore moving Ryan Spooner in the right deal for a young defensemen if the Bruins believe Czarnik could hold down a third-line center role in Boston next season. The way he stepped up in a pressure-packed elimination game really speaks to the big heart beating inside his undersized hockey body, and perhaps having some of the makings of the type of big-game player the B’s desperately need. He finished with two goals, three points, a plus-1 and five shots on net Saturday, after showing some real flashes at the end of a 20-goal, 61-point rookie campaign in the AHL. Alex Khokhlachev picked up assists on both of Czarnik’s goals, and the first in particular was a sweet one, but the Russian forward also continues to look like he already has one foot out the door of the organization. There were some rough turnovers in crunch time, and one of the most lackadaisical delay of game penalties you’ll ever see in double-overtime when he flipped a puck up over the glass.
Brandon Carlo could make the jump
It was unfortunate that Danton Heinen was a healthy scratch in the elimination game against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton so we couldn’t get a good look at him, but Brandon Carlo did play for the P-Bruins. The 6-foot-5 defenseman clearly has some maturing to do physically while growing into that big frame, but Carlo looked very comfortable under a great deal of AHL playoff pressure. There were some turnovers and some missed passes, but the 19-year-old also looked calm under fire, executed a lot of good tape-to-tape passes out of the zone, and wasn’t on the ice for a single goal against. It will be interesting to see what happens with Carlo in training camp. He could theoretically return to the Tri-City Americans for his fourth season of junior hockey as an overage player who turns 20 early in the season. But he could play in the AHL, or jump all the way to Boston if he shows enough in training for a team that could desperately use a big, right-shot defenseman. There’s a real chance that Carlo steps in and becomes a stay-at-home bottom pairing defensemen if he shows he’s ready, and helps start an overhaul of the B’s back end that really needs to happen.
The one other thing to take from Saturday night’s AHL playoff game at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center: The AHL product at its heightened best makes you realize how domesticated the NHL game is getting. The chippy action behind the plays that the refs never see, or don't see clearly and don’t call penalties on; the scrums that take place after just about every whistle; the few penalties called regardless of the level of violent face-washing and the back-and-forth action . . . it all made for a highly entertaining hockey game. So much of what happened on Saturday night between Providence and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton would have been whistled for ticky-tack penalties at the NHL level, and it really would have taken away from a fun viewing experience for hardcore hockey fans. Both teams were able to play that way without throwing any vicious head shots or cheap shots too and there was just a single fight, so that should quiet down the pacifist hockey faction out there as well.
PLUSSES FROM THE NIGHT
-- Austin Czarnik, with the two goals scored and the biggest offensive flourish for Providence all night with two big shots from the scoring areas on the ice. Czarnik looked very much like a player who could be ready for the next level. The big performance in an elimination game showed me something about what makes him tick as well.
-- Frank Vatrano didn’t get on the board, but he did finish with a ridiculous 12 shots on net, including a lot of chances later in the game to finish things off for Providence. He would have been a much bigger story in this particular game if he could have cracked the score sheet, but Vatrano once again showed he’s dominant at this level without even scoring a point.
-- Tommy Cross had a goal, two points and seven shots on net along with a plus-1 rating, and played his usual hearty, physical style. Cross was a little sleepy along with the rest of the team very early in the game, but he was also a giant part of the comeback in the third period that pushed things into overtime.
MINUSES FROM THE NIGHT
-- Zane McIntyre didn’t get any help from the defenders in front of him, but he showed a lot of rookie jitters in an AHL playoff appearance as a first-year player. The final goal allowed to Tim Erixon on a long-distance shot after Providence had scored was a really bad one to give up, and prompted coach Bruce Cassidy to pull him from the game after the second period. It was the right call, as Jeremy Smith was on point until allowing the game-winner in double overtime.
-- A quiet night for Brian Ferlin, who finished with a minus-2 and just one shot on net while not factoring into much of anything in a positive way.