AHL Primer III: Flames to meet Bruins
By: Aaron McCracken
May 4, 2001
Like an annoying kid brother or a mosquito in late May, the Providence Bruins are a hockey team that won't seem to go away. They haven't been pretty and they haven't been dominant, but they won when they needed to and in the process have knocked off the defending champions and the top regular season team. The Bruins are making their 3rd consecutive trip to the semi-finals despite being outscored by the opposition in the playoffs and having faced elimination in five separate games (they've won them all).
Conversely, the Flames have made their two series win look easy. The swept the Portland Pirates, and disposed of the Quebec Citadelles in five games. They've easily been the most dominating team in the AHL postseason and have had a number of individual play a key role in their success. Sergei Varlamov is riding an eight game point streak and has scored in seven postseason games. Derrick Walser has had back-to-back game winning goals. And Martin Brochu, the subject of some criticism during the season, has played his strongest hockey of the year.
The Flames are the favorite in this series and they need to take control early. They have the guns to score several goals per game and the defense that can shut down the league's best snipers. If Saint John plays their system and continues to bombard opposing goaltenders with shots, they should easily win this series.
Providence will look to goaltender John Grahame, a Calder Cup winner two years ago, for leadership in this series. The Bruins are happy to be the underdog once again, and seem to thrive on adversity and lack of respect. Providence will try to win this game in the trenches and drag out the series as long as possible.
The first two games (Friday and Sunday night) should be a good indication of how this series will play out.
Saint John Flames vs. Providence Bruins Series Facts
Game #1 Friday, May 4 @ Saint John - 7:30 PM
Radio: The Buzz 550 am in Providence will broadcast all games via the Internet at http://www.provbruins.com/bc.htm. 94.1 in Saint John will broadcast all games locally.
Records: Saint John (44-24-7-5, 100 points) vs. Providence (35-31-10-4, 84 points). The Flames are 7-1 in the playoffs, while the Bruins are 7-5.
Overtime Records: Saint John (4-5-4), Providence (6-4-10). Each team has won two overtime games in the playoffs.
Season Series: Providence won the season series 3 games to 1.
Playoff History: The Flames went to the Calder Cup final three years ago. Two years ago, they lost the Division final to Fredericton, and last season, they were swept by Lowell in the 1st round. The Bruins won the Calder Cup two seasons ago, and went to the Semi-finals last season.
Head to Head History: This is the first playoff series between the two teams.
Forward 1: Murray - Varlamov - Botterill
Forward 2: Tkaczuk - Roche - Begin
Forward 3: Betts - Clark - Fata
Forward 4: Doull - Royer
Defense 1: Walser - Martin
Defense 2: Scoville - Montador
Defense 3: Dupont - Mrozik
Reserves: St. Croix, Dewar, Russell, Szuper (Goalie), Sabourin (Goalie).
Injured: Morgan (facial laceration, day to day), Elomo (broken nose, out), Corupe (Groin, out).
Forward 1: Manlow / Nickulas / Ferraro
Forward 2: Savage / Brown / Goren
Forward 3: Mathieu / Hulst / Hulbig
Forward 4: Karlin / Abrahamson / Huml
Defense 1: Girard / Hollinger
Defense 2: Smith / Boynton
Defense 3: Kolarik / McCambridge
Injured: Eric Nickulas has been playing hurt and is probable for tonight. Shawn Bates (groin, day-to-day) is out, while Cameron Mann is on recall to Boston and must clear waivers to join Providence.
By the Numbers
Providence: The Bruins are 6-1 in one-goal playoff games and have won both of their overtime contests. Both series have gone the distance, but Providence has won the final game on the road twice, and have won all five games when facing elimination. Their power play is a horrid 7.4%, while their penalty kill is an average 82.8%
AHL Playoff Update
Exactly one of my 2nd round picks was correct. Fortunately, it was the Flames! Hershey, who barely scraped into the playoffs, manhandled Norfolk. They will face Wilkes-Barre, who beat Philadelphia in six games.
The Bruins have knocked off the defending champions and the regular season champions, although it hasn't been an easy post-season so far. If the well-rested and confident Flames can exert themselves early, I think they'll win in six games (winning all three at home, and once in Providence). If the Flames struggle early after their extended rest, I think the Bruins will continue their Cinderella story and knock off the Flames in seven.
Aaron McCracken is a freelance writer from New Brunswick. He covers the Saint John Flames for Calgary Puck / Fire on Ice. He can be reached at email@example.com .