Theres nothing like an AHL matchup of the Boston Bruins and the New York Rangers top affiliates at the XL Center. Often the two same players who end up fighting in a Ranger Bruin game at the NHL level can be seen the next night in a rematch in Hartford at the AHL level. The crowd is often split and in more ways than one. It is absolutely true that the New York Rangers and the Boston Bruins are the two most popular active teams in the NHL. And they are also the most despised two NHL teams. You are either rooting for the Bruins because you like them or you hate the Rangers that much more. The inverse is the same for New York. That four way split makes for an interesting crowd response when these two meet and this Wednesday night was no different despite the smaller crowd of 2,472.
The Providence Bruins came into Hartford playing the best they have all season and Bruin fans were feeling good just a half minute into the contest. The Pack quickly found themselves down 1-0 just 31 seconds into the opening period. Luckily for Hartford Wolf Pack fans the worries of a long night faded away with the great play of the MOG line. Jayson Megna, Travis Oleksuk, and Brian Gibbons played great together in the first period. They accounted for two goals in a 46 second span. Gibbons put his 6th goal of the season in the net at 8:09 with a nice two pass feed from Oleksuk and Megna. Then at 8:55 defenseman Ryan Graves scored his 7th of the season in the same fashion again from Oleksuk and Megna. Both goals were scored by getting someone in front of the net and quickly.
The lead held until early in the second period and the two teams played in a dead tie until Wolf Pack forward Luke Adam scored at the 12:01 mark. The goal from Chris McCarthy and defenseman Matt Bodie was Adam’s 8th of the season, and the game winner. The Wolf Pack held on and beat Providence 3-2. It was the first regulation loss for the Bruins in 16 games. The Wolf Pack have had their number at the XL Center ever since the two teams met in the first round of the playoffs last season. The Bruins lost every game at the XL Center and they lost the last four regular season match ups in Hartford as well, four of the last five in over time.
It certainly could have gone the other way. The Bruins had plenty of chances but the consistently solid play of Wolf Pack goaltender Magnus Hellberg made it impossible for them to take the lead. The Pack continued their excellent penalty killing reputation by frustrating the Bruins power play unit. The Bruins failed to score on five opportunities. The Pack’s also continued their inefficiency on the power play, it is a problem that continually haunts them. They were 0-4 on the power play tonight and a fair portion of the minutes involved were spent defending their own end of the ice instead of putting pressure on the Bruins. The Pack are able to move the puck in the opposing zone but their choice of shot selection and their opportunities are not of the quality of a successful power play. The Pack power play is the worst in the league with a 10% success average. That means they’re only getting a goal once out of ten chances. You can’t get into the playoffs let alone make a run through it with a power play that is so ineffective.
There are 25 games left in the season and the Wolf Pack are five points out of a playoff spot. Do Hartford Hockey fans think they will make it? Don’t forget the season ends with four road games in Portland, Toronto and back to back games in St. Johns. Those are the games that usually end up with playoff indications.