After sneaking into the playoffs on the final day of the 2012-2013 AHL regular season, the Hershey Bears (36-31-3-6) face a huge task against the first seed in the Eastern Conference. The Providence Bruins (50-21-0-5) are set to host the Hershey Bears in the best of five, first round affair, as they hope to begin their march to the Calder Cup.
The Bruins are led by numerous young talented skaters that could make an impact with the Boston Bruins in the near future. Providence is led by forward Ryan Spooner who leads Providence with 57 points and .97 points per game, along with Carter Camper and Craig Cunningham who totaled 47 and 46 points during the regular season respectively.
The Bruins are a highly physical team with big forwards that like to bang bodies in the corners, and is something fans of both teams should keep their eyes on the entire series. Hershey will also face former teammates from last season, featuring forwards Chris Bourque (38 points), Christian Hanson (29 points) and Graham Mink (18 points).
With the midseason additions of puck moving defenseman Chay Genoway (25 points, plus 14) and Capitals prospect Nate Schmidt (eight games, four points), Hershey has the far superior defense heading into the first round. Their blue-line features NHL ready defensemen including Tomas Kundratek and Dmitry Orlov along with solid stay at home AHL defensemen like Cameron Schilling and Patrick Wellar. Defenseman Patrick McNeill isn’t making the trip to Providence for the first two games, due to Hershey’s left side heavy defensive core.
Young Goalie Matchup
Both Providence and Hershey feature two of the best NHL goalie prospects currently playing in the American Hockey League, featuring Niklas Svedberg (37-8-2) for the Bruins and Philipp Grubauer between the pipes for the Chocolate and White.
Svedberg posted an outstanding 2.17 goals against average and .925 save percentage along with four shutouts and Grubauer rerecorded a 2.25 goals against average with two shutouts and a solid .919 save percentage.
Game 1 – Fri., Apr. 26 – Hershey at Providence, 7:05
Game 2 – Sun., Apr. 28 – Hershey at Providence, 3:05
Game 3 – Sat., May 4 – Providence at Hershey, 7:00
*Game 4 – Sun., May 5 – Providence at Hershey, 5:00
*Game 5 – Wed., May 8 – Hershey at Providence, 7:05
Prediction: Bruins in four
While Hershey has continued to progress mainly to some key additions late in the season, Providence is far too talented to fall as the number one seed. Hershey goalie Philipp Grubauer will have to come up large in this five game set to keep the Bears alive in the second round.