It was a wild ride that led the Providence Bruins deep into the Calder Cup playoffs and ended with a disappointing loss to the Philadelphia Phantoms in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The Bruins were on a tear, beating top-seeded Manchester Monarchs in six games and the Lowell Lock Monsters in five, and looked poised to continue their roll, until they stumbled upon Philly and the near impenetrable fortress that was Antero Niittymaki. The Bruins were the surprise team of the playoffs, not expected to go very far, but they were also a team with a lot of heart that battled to the end.
Providence did, however, walk away with plenty of positives from this post-season. Following the conference finals, many players rested at or near the top of the league with stats. Twenty-one-year-old netminder Hannu Toivonen continued his success in Providence and capped off his first playoff season with a 10-7 record, a .923 save percentaage and a 2.43 goals against average. He also finished leading the league with saves (505) and minutes played (1037:54). Forward Andy Hilbert, 24, added an impressive finale to what looked to be his strongest year as a pro. At the time of Providence’s elimination, he led the league with points (21), assists (14), shots taken (71) and power-play goals (5) in the team’s 17 playoff games.
Second-year pro Brad Boyes also had a successful post-season with 15 points, 55 shots, and four game-winning goals, including series-winning goals against Manchester and Lowell, as well as a game-winning overtime goal in Game 3 against the Phantoms.
Kevin Dallman, 23, finished tops among defenseman with 10 points, two of which were game winning goals in games one and five against the Monarchs. Also on defense, 23-year-old Andrew Alberts, who signed a tryout contract with the B’s following his final college season with BC, scored his first professional goal in Game 5 against Philly, and finished his first pro playoff experience with 5 points and 40 penalty minutes in 16 games. For the most part, 23-year-old winger Colton Orr kept the gloves on, but his presence was no less formidable. He scored his first postseason goal as a pro, and finished with a +1 rating and 44 penalty minutes.
Twenty-year-old Nate Thompson, a 2003 Bruins draft pick (6th round, 183rd overall) who joined the team for the playoffs following the end of the WHL season with the Seattle Thunderbirds, completed his professional debut with 1 point and a +1 rating in 11 games. Twenty-one-year-old second-year pro Milan Jurcina had 4 points and 30 penalty minutes in 17 games and put up a solid physical game for the Bruins, while 2000 draft pick Martin Samuelsson had 1 point and 6 penalty minutes in just ten games from the wing.
AHL playoff hockey brought some needed excitement to many Bruins fans and became a showcase for the talent that is ultimately the future of the organization. They may not have won it all, but many players may have increased their chances of finding a roster spot in Boston following what was, in the very least, a solid effort. In the end, one would think Boston brass have to like what they saw.
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