If they could play every game outdoors, the Providence Bruins would be in great shape.
Providence rallied to force overtime, and Max Sauve scored the only goal in the shootout to beat Connecticut 5-4 in an outdoor American Hockey League game last Saturday at Rentschler Field in East Hartford.
Unfortunately for Providence, that was one of just two wins the Bruins have had in their last 11 games. They worked extra hard this week with three straight games going to shootouts, winning two, but remain stuck in sixth place in the AHL’s Atlantic Division.
They’re just five points behind fourth-place Worcester but are actually much further out of a playoff spot. In the AHL, the fifth-place team from one division in the conference can bump the fourth-place team in the other division for the final playoff spot if it has more points. Norfolk currently sits in fifth in the East Division with 66 points, 11 points ahead of Providence.
The likelihood of Boston’s prospects getting any playoff experience in the AHL this season might be dim, but there’s still plenty of talent down on the farm. Here’s a look at how the Top 10 Prospects in the system stack up this week now that everyone is back indoors.
1 Last week: No. 11. Ryan Spooner, C Spooner is showing no signs of slowing down, adding three more assists in two games this week. Two of those helpers came in a 4-3 win over Ottawa on Monday. Spooner now has 11 points in eight games this month and 31-34-65 totals in 52 games overall this season.
2 Last week: No. 32. Jared Knight, C/RW It was quite a week for Knight, who racked up seven points in his last three games as his OHL club in London won three straight. He collected three assists in a 7-3 win at Barrie, had two goals, including the game-winner, in a 3-2 victory against Windsor and chipped in two helpers in a 4-2 win vs. Saginaw. For the season, Knight now has 24-38-62 totals and 37 penalty minutes in 58 games.
3 Last week: No. 23. Jordan Caron, LW/RW
After a goal last Friday in a 4-3 shootout win against Portland, Caron was held without a point as Providence dropped three straight. Caron has 7-11-18 totals in 32 games in the AHL this season, but is also a minus-9. The future is bright for the 2009 first-round pick, but there’s still work to be done before he’s ready for the top-nine role in Boston the Bruins envision him claiming in the not-too-distant future.
4 Last week: No. 44. Zach Hamill, C
Hamill did a little bit of everything this week, with two goals, two assists and his first professional fight. It wasn’t much of a tilt against Bridgeport’s Robin Figren. Hamill didn’t even appear to get his gloves off or throw a punch, despite getting charged with a fighting major, but the hit that sparked the scrap was pretty nice. Hamill, who also scored in the shootout win against Portland, now has 5-27-32 totals and is a plus-5 with 35 PIMs in 49 games.
5 Last week: No. 55. Matt Bartkowski, D
Bartkowski had a pair of assists in a 4-3 shootout loss against Worcester, but otherwise was quiet this past week. He had no other points in three games, managing just two shots and was a minus-4. He’s a minus-16 on the season with 5-14-19 totals in 49 games in Providence. He got in a couple games with the big club earlier this season, but with Boston acquiring Tomas Kaberle and looking at Shane Hnidy in a tryout this week, Bartkowski is falling further and further down the defensive depth chart, at least in the short term.
6 Last week: No. 76. Craig Cunningham, C
The points keep coming for Cunningham, who had a goal and an assist in each of the three games he played this week. Portland won all three as well, with the Winterhawks sitting in first place in the WHL’s Western Conference and having already clinched a playoff spot with a 41-16-0-3 record. Cunningham is tied for seventh in the WHL scoring race with 24-53-77 totals to go with 44 PIMs and a plus-16 in 59 games.
7 Last week: No. 67. Max Sauv, C/LW
Sauve managed a goal and an assist in four games, but still has not done much this month, with just four points in his last 14 games. He did have the only goal in the shootout win outdoors in Connecticut but was unsuccessful in attempts against Portland and Worcester. He has 14-7-21 totals in 40 games with Providence this season.
8 Last week: No. 88. Jamie Arniel, C
Arniel took well to playing outdoors, as he had a goal and two assists in Saturday’s 4-3 win over the Whale at Rentschler Field, forcing overtime with the tying goal at 13:52 of the third. He didn’t score in that shootout, but did convert in the shootouts against Portland and Worcester. Arniel still leads Providence with 16-36 totals and 192 shots in 58 games.
9 Last week: No. 109. Boris Valabik, D The other piece of last week’s four-player deal that brought Rich Peverley to Boston and sent Mark Stuart and Blake Wheeler to Atlanta, Valabik made his presence felt in Providence quickly with an assist and nine penalty minutes in his third game with the Baby B’s. Valabik helped set up David Ling for Providence’s only goal in a 4-1 loss at Bridgeport on Wednesday. The 6-foot-7, 255-pound blueliner did give the Bruins something to celebrate with a win in his bout with Jean Bourbeau. Valabik, the 10th overall pick in 2004, has 0-10-10 totals and 176 PIMs in 52 games between Chicago and Providence this season.
10 Last week: No. 910. Ryan Button, D
Button didn’t have a point in three games this week but was a plus-3 on Wednesday as Seattle kept its slim playoff hopes alive in the WHL with a 5-1 win at Spokane. The Thunderbirds are still in last place in the Western Conference, five points out of the final playoff spot with 12 games left in the regular season. Button, who has 3-26-29 totals and 43 PIMs in 57 games, has never qualified for the postseason after spending his first three-plus seasons in the WHL with Prince Albert, which is currently in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.