After a rocky start and a roller coaster season, the Providence Bruins clinched a last minute playoff spot, making this the 11th postseason appearance in the team’s 13-year existence. Their 90 point, 40-30-3-7 record placed them fourth in the Eastern division of the AHL.
Many minor league teams had some extra firepower with the addition of locked out NHLers to the roster, with the most notable in Providence being Patrice Bergeron, whose 61 points were certainly helpful. It was the prospects that ran the show, however, beginning with a top-notch goalie and a couple of heavy-hitting and high-scoring forwards.
Bruins top prospect Hannu Toivonen had a spectacular season, finishing 29-18-3 with a 2.05 goals against, .932 save percentage, and seven shutouts. Just a month shy of his 21st birthday and concluding his second year with Providence, the young goaltender has already seen an improvement in his stats from last year’s 15-16-4 record and 2.30 goals against. League-wide, he improved his standings from 17th to 7th amongst goaltenders in goals against average. Toivonen sat out 13 games following a knee injury and reconstructive surgery, but was able to recover quickly, and was back before expected. He demonstrates an excellent work ethic with maturity beyond his years and a quick butterfly style that‘s tough to score on. He was the Bruins first round pick, 29th overall, in 2002.
After a career best 79 points in 79 games this season, Andy Hilbert was voted most valuable player by his teammates and received the team’s leading scorer trophy. In addition to these honors, the 24-year-old made the AHL All-Star team, and managed to top franchise records in goals, assists, points and power play goals (101, 109, 210, 37 respectively). His point totals along with the 83 penalty minutes in 2004-05 point to a fearless and efficient scorer, and he’s certainly proven that he can do some damage. Though Hilbert has some experience in a short and rather unremarkable time with Boston, this year in Providence will serve him well in his road back the NHL. Hilbert was a Bruins second round pick, 37th overall, in the 2000 Entry Draft.
In his first full year with Providence, 6’1 195lb Brad Boyes accumulated 75 points in 80 regular season games. The 23-year-old finished second in the league with 20 power play goals and 11th overall in the league with scoring. Boyes is an all-around player who is not only adept at handling the puck, but he’s strong on the power play, faceoffs and in scoring. His consistency provides an anchor for his line, and though he’s not a prolific fighter, Boyes has demonstrated a willingness to stand up for himself. As he moves towards a spot in the NHL, he will have to continue to work on his skating, which has been an issue in the past, but Providence coach Scott Gordon has expressed confidence that Boyes is moving right along in this area and should have no problem making it to Boston. He was acquired by Boston through a trade with San Jose in 2004 and just completed his third season in the AHL.
Also on offense, Providence can count on right wing Colton Orr for a solid physical game. Since he’s been in Providence, the 23-year-old has been tearing up the ice. At 6’3 222 lbs Orr definitely has the size to succeed in the NHL and he’s gained a reputation for being a tough, hard-hitting player. Though his point totals are modest at seven points in 61 games, Orr’s talent as a scrapper has earned him 279 penalty minutes this season, the second highest on the team.
Prospect Martin Samuelsson finished his third season in Providence with 17 points in 64 games, a considerable improvement over last season. The 23-year-old was a first round pick in the 2000 Entry Draft.
Kevin Dallman, though considered small for a defenseman at 5’11, is a tough competitor and leaves little doubt about his abilities when he’s on the ice. He’s got speed and agility on his side, and has become a big part of the high ranked Providence power play. Offensively, he’s been quite successful. He had 34 points this year, compared to last year’s 29, and Dallman continually shows improvement in all areas. This was Dallman’s third season in Providence; he was signed by Boston as a free agent in 2002.
Milan Jurcina has size on his side, which combined with above average skating ability make him a difficult player to get past. At 6’4 235 lbs, the Providence defenseman is hard to miss, and dangerous to an opposing team’s offense. His size and strength are an obvious advantage, but what’s special about Jurcina is he makes good use of it. Jurcina continues to be a tough, physical presence for Providence, something he has improved upon steadily. He had 23 points on the season, and 92 penalty minutes. He was Boston’s seventh pick in the eighth round of the 2001 Entry Draft, and this was his second season in Providence.
BC defenseman Andrew Alberts signed a tryout contract at the beginning of April, and only had eight games to make an impact. He didn’t register any points, but quickly made himself a physical presence. Alberts was a Boston sixth round pick of the 2001 Entry Draft.
Providence will meet the Manchester Monarchs in the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs. Consistency has been a problem for Providence this year, which is something the team will have to put behind them if they hope to advance further in the playoffs.
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