Eastern Conferfence Semifinals Series Preview: Penguins vs. Providence

Thursday, May 8, 2014
Photo credit: @ItsJacki.
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins continue their quest in the 2014 Calder Cup Playoffs with an Eastern Conference Semifinals rematch against the Providence Bruins, starting tomorrow night with Game One in Wilkes-Barre. 

Last season the Penguins did the unthinkable in coming back from a 3-0 series deficit to Providence en route to a Game Seven on the road, becoming the first team in AHL history to accomplish the 3-0 comeback with wins on the road in Games Six and Seven.

While there aren't many guys on either side that were a part of the history-making series in this year's 2nd round match up, everyone knows about it. Much like the Binghamton series, for the Penguins it's a defensive test against a young, talented group of up-and-coming Bruins forwards. Can the Bruins avenge last year's playoff collapse? Will the Penguins defense be able to contain the Bruins' offensively-minded forwards? The best-of-seven series will ultimately answer both of those questions

I'll be live from Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza this weekend for Games 1 and 2 with all the latest in-game updates and post game recaps/analysis right here at Highland Park Hockey - The Town & Country Gazette's source for daily American Hockey League coverage. I also plan on making the trek up to Rhode Island for Games 3-5, but will have live in-game updates and full coverage of the entire series.

You can also follow along on Twitter: @H_P_Hockey.

Eastern Conference Semifinals Schedule

Friday 5/9 - Game 1: Providence @ Penguins at 7:05 p.m. ET
Saturday 5/10 - Game 2: Providence @ Penguins at 7:05 p.m. ET
Wednesday 5/14 - Game 3: Penguins @ Providence at 7:05 p.m. ET 
Friday 5/16 - Game 4: Penguins @ Providence at 7:05 p.m. ET 
Saturday  5/17 - *Game 5: Penguins @ Providence at 7:05 p.m. ET 
Monday 5/19 - *Game 6: Providence @ Penguins at 7:05 p.m. ET 
Wednesday 5/21 - *Game 7: Providence @ Penguins at 7:05 p.m. ET 
* = if necessary

KNOW YOUR OPPONENT: Providence Bruins - 7th seed, Eastern Conference

Regular Season Stats

40-25-2-9, Third Place - Atlantic Division

Leading Scorers: Alexander Khokhlachev (21G, 36A), Seth Griffith (20G, 30A), Craig Cunningham (25G-22A)

Season series: Penguins went 1-2-0-1 vs PBruins in the regular season.

Penguins Connection

Defenseman Joseph Morrow (6G-23A in 56GP this season) was Pittsburgh's first round draft pick in 2011 (23rd overall) and spent the first 57 games of his rookie season with the AHL Penguins before being moved at the trade deadline to the Dallas Stars organization last year. Morrow was dealt again over the summer, finding a new home with the Boston Bruins organization this season.

Forward Nick Johnson (18G-24A in 51GP this season) was in the Penguins organization from 2007-2011, appearing in 169 regular season games for the AHL Pens, while also suiting up 26 games in the Calder Cup Playoffs as a member of the Pens. Johnson was in the Phoenix Coyotes organization last season and played against WBS while with the Portland Pirates at the tail end of last season.

A position-by-position breakdown of the Penguins/Bruins series after the jump.


PBruins - Niklas Svedberg (2-2, 2.05 GAA, .923 SV%, 0 SO) and Malcolm Subban (1-0, 4.29 GAA, .878 SV%, 0 SO)

Penguins - Peter Mannino (3-1, 2.02 GAA, .915 SV%, 0 SO)

Peter Mannino played in net for all four games of the  Penguins first round series vs. Binghamton, three of which went into overtime. The Pens play tight defensively, but Mannino was forced into making several big saves throughout the first round and came up big more times than not against the highest scoring AHL team in the regular season.

Niklas Svedberg started the first three games of the Bruins' first round series vs. Springfield, going 1-2 before the Bruins quickly turned to rookie prospect Malcolm Subban in Game Four. Subban played well in Game Four, stopping 31 of 34 and picking up the win, but was pulled 9:56 into Game Five after allowing two goals on seven shots. Svedberg finished Game Five and got the Bruins into the second round, stopping 20 of 21 shots in the win.

It looks as though Svedberg will be the starter moving forward, but I'd imagine he's on a short leash with the highly touted Subban right behind him. Both goalies played well in the regular season, but primarily against weaker competition in the Atlantic Division. Both goaltenders have also struggled in the postseason and there could certainly be a confidence issue the Penguins can exploit if they can score early in games to start the series.

Edge: Penguins. The Bruins goaltenders weren't overly impressive in the first round and can't be too confident coming into Wilkes-Barre knowing Anton Zlobin and Jayson Megna are back for the Penguins to add to an already deep roster.



Chris Casto - Mike Moore
David Warsofsky - Zach Trotman
Joe Morrow - Blake Parlett


Reid McNeill - Simon Despres 
Scott Harrington - Brendan Mikkelson
Brian Dumoulin - Barry Goers

Much like the Penguins, the Bruins have a solid shutdown pairing in Casto and Moore and guys that can move the puck and create offense in Trotman, Warsofsky and Morrow. Ex-Penguin Morrow looks to show the Penguins organization what they're missing out on having traded the defenseman at last year's trading deadline.

The Penguins pairings remained the same through the four games in the first round, though the undersized Goers has been targeted with some big hits. Brian Dumoulin has been the Penguins best defenseman thus far, while Scott Harrington and Reid McNeill continue to be reliable defenseman like they have for most of the season.
Edge: Even, but if Samuelsson returns for Game Three Wednesday night and can be the same player he was before the injury, the scale tips towards the Penguins.


The Bruins boast talented rookies Seth Griffith and Alexander Khokhlachev, but also have former Penguin Nick Johnson as well as ex-Springfield forward Craig Cunningham and the always dangerous Ryan Spooner. The Bruins lost Matt Fraser, who was called up to Boston Thursday morning, but got Justin Florek back for Game One tomorrow night. The Bruins forward core is mostly young, but also mostly talented.

The Penguins have been led by their veterans, namely the duo of Andrew Ebbett/Chuck Kobasew and captain Tom Kostopoulos. The unsung heroes of the first round up front for the Penguins have been Adam Payerl, Zach Sill, Dominik Uher and Carter Rowney. Ebbett's status for Game One isn't 100% clear, but with the return of Anton Zlobin from injury and Jayson Megna from Pittsburgh, this is the deepest forward core the AHL Penguins have seen all year.

Edge: Penguins. The Bruins have high-end offensive talent and great young players, but the Penguins have the depth, grit and experience needed to ware down those young Bruins forwards much like the Pens did with an equally dangerous (or perhaps more) Binghamton forward unit in the first round.

Key Matchups

Obvious, but special teams is a huge factor. Neither team was good on the penalty kill in the first round and the Penguins power play struggled for the most part in their four games. The team that gets their power play going (if any) will have a definite advantage.

Another thing to watch for is the Bruins goaltender. Between Svedberg and Subban, neither was playing particularly well last round and the Penguins would be wise to test whoever is in net early and often.

Much like last round for the Penguins, can they stop their opponents top guns? McNeill, Despres, Dumoulin and Harrington need to be on top of their game against the plethora of talented forwards the Bruins have.


The Penguins are a team built for the playoffs. They play solid defensively and don't allow too many quality chances, for the most part. Their bend but don't break style of defense allows them to stay in low scoring games when their offense has trouble generating goals. They're led by a solid group of veterans and have a decent combination of size, speed, skill and grit throughout their lineup.

The Bruins squeaked into the playoffs on the final weekend of the regular season but were able to knock off a good Springfield team in an exciting Game Five to get to this point. While only a few have remained on the roster from last year's epic collapse, the mantra in the locker room seems to be that is hasn't been completely forgotten. If taken lightly, they have the skill up front and the offense from the blue line to score goals in a hurry.

Ultimately, I think the defense and experience wins out over the offense and youth (Providence likely dressing seven rookies tomorrow night). Penguins in five games.


jmizz said...

I like your bold prediction Tony! I'll be in Pro. next Fri., tickets purchased!

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