Hartford Wolf Pack vs Providence Bruins series preview

Hartford Wolf Pack
Hartford Wolf Pack advance to face Providence Bruins (Photo: JJohn Mrakovcich, Hartford Wolf PackWolf Pack)

The journey for the Calder Cup continues as the Hartford Wolf Pack advanced to the Atlantic Division Semifinals last Friday in front of 5,745 at the XL Center.

In addition to the first playoff game in Connecticut’s capitol since 2015, the group also secured a series sweep against the Springfield Thunderbirds in a best-of- three.

The New York Rangers’ American Hockey League affiliate continues to buzz, finding ways to win in 8 of their last 10 regular-season games plus two straight playoff victories. The club is simply on a roll at the perfect time of year.

Looking ahead, the Wolf Pack will be facing the Providence Bruins in a best-of-five series beginning on Friday in Providence.

Wolf Pack series recap: Downing the Thunderbirds

Hartford Wolf Pack
Hartford Wolf Pack take on Springfield Thunderbirds (Photo: Hartford Wolf Pack / John Mrakovcich)

In game 1 against the Thunderbirds, Hartford dominated and won by a 6-1 margin at the MassMutual Center. The club essentially played lights out in all aspects of the game in addition to solving goalie Joel Hofer.

Rookie Dylan Garand and the defense played well, as Springfield registers just 2 shots in the first, followed by only 9 in the 2nd. Meanwhile the offense was clicking with 24 shots and converted on 4 of them.

Lauri Pajuniemi made a strong impact with 2 goals. Additional contributors were Zac Jones, Blake Hillman, Ryan Carpenter, and Ty Emberson. Garand also earned his first AHL playoff win by stopping 24 of 25 shots.

In game 2, the XL Center was rocking as the city was excited for their first playoff game in 8 years. They were loud and engaged as the Wolf Pack ended the playoff series with another dominant performance. Hartford secured a 7-1 victory to end the St. Louis Blues AHL affiliate’s season.

Once again, Hartford was clicking and were a step ahead of Springfield. The defense held the Thunderbirds to 9 shots in the first, followed by 3 and 8 in the final two periods.

Offensive contributions were were felt all around the roster, from the key cogs to depth players. Tanner Fritz, Wyatt Kalynuk, Ty Emberson, Bobby Trivigno, Blake Hillman, Anton Blidh, and Tim Gettinger recorded goals in this contest.

Hartford Wolf Pack vs Providence Bruins preview

Here’s the full series schedule:

  • Game 1: Fri, April 28th at Providence, 7:05 pm, Amica Mutual Pavillion
  • Game 2: Sat, April 29th at Providence, 7:05 pm, Amica Mutual Pavillion
  • Game 3: Wed, May 3rd vs Providence, 7 pm, XL Center
  • Game 4: Fri, May 5th vs Providence, 7 pm, XL Center*
  • Game 5: Sun, May 7th at Providence, 7:05 pm, Amica Mutual Pavillion*

*If needed

Regular Season Series Recap

Previewing this 5 game playoff series, Hartford will have another tough battle ahead of them as they face the first place Providence Bruins.

The Bruins secured a bye week and did not compete in the opening round thanks to securing first in the Eastern Conference. They are a well rested team for the playoffs as their last game was on April 16th. Of course, rust could be present in Game 1 and give Hartford an advantage.

Another positive is that the Wolf Pack competed well against the Bruins winning the season series with a 6-3-1 record. It’s noteworthy that all the losses were before the trade deadline with Hartford winning the last two games before the season ended.

The Wolf Pack are 3-2 at the XL Center against the Bruins. On the road at Amica Mutual Pavilion, Hartford compiled a 3-1-1 record.

Goaltending Preview

It is expected that Brandon Bussi will be in net against Hartford. In the season series, Bussi appeared in 1 game against the Wolf Pack recording an overtime loss on January 22nd. He finished the year with a record of 22-5-4, a 2.40 goals against average, and a .924 save percentage.

Rookie Dylan Garand will continue to start for Hartford. The Rangers’ prospect competed in 5 games against Providence this season, compiling a 4-1 record against the Bruins. His only loss in the season series was on December 14th. Through 2 games in the playoffs, Garand is 2-0 with a 1.00 goals against average and a .956 save percentage.

Scouting the Opponent

Providence has a dynamic and potent forward group that is able to make a lot of noise. This season, 22 year-old rookie Georgii Merkulov, led the Bruins in points with 55 (24 goals, 31 assists). While Merkulov was quiet in the season series (1 goal, 1 assist), the forward is still a danger that Hartford must contend with. He’s a dynamic forward that has a knack for getting shots off and plays with speed. He was second in the AHL for rookie scoring.

Former Wolf Pack and Ranger Vinni Lettieri is known for offense and will be one to watch for Providence. The veteran spent 3 full seasons with Hartford early in his career before returning to the Atlantic Division this season. He can be a handful, as Hartford struggled to contain him during the regular season where he averaged 1.02 point per game (6GP: 4G, 3A). He’s also second in points for the Bruins with 23 goals and 26 assists for 49 points.

Looking deeper, there are 10 players with 30 and more points on the Bruins roster. As a result, they’ll be able to roll out four lines and will not have to worry about production.

On the defensive side, Hartford will be going against a couple of strong defensemen. Veteran Connor Carrick and prospect Jack Ahcan are good on the blue-line especially in the transition game.

Carrick has 6 goals and 38 assists for 44 points. Jack Ahcan has 5 goals and 31 assists for 36 points. Other defenders to watch out for is Josiah Didier, Anton Stralman.

Special Teams

Similar to Hartford’s power play, the Bruins have struggled throughout the season with the man advantage. The Bruins are ranked 26th in the AHL operating at 17.5%.

However, the penalty kill is a different story as the Bruins are ranked 8th in the league a man down, operating at 82.2%.

Hartford’s struggling power play will have a find way to convert on opportunities against two tough penalty kill units. Meanwhile, Hartford’s penalty kill can be inconsistent. Although, at the end of the regular season and first two games of the playoffs, they’ve been solid. Which was evident against Springfield.

Wolf Pack Notes

Tanner Fritz Leads the Way

After coming off from a career high in production during the regular season, Fritz continues to buzz for Hartford. Fritz is tied for 1st in points in the 1st round. In the 2 games played, Fritz collected 1 goal and 5 assists.

Bobby Trivigno Continues Consistency

After ending the season heating up offensively, Trivigno recorded 1 goal and 1 assist in the playoffs. The forward found a spark after being in and out of the lineup throughout the campaign. The prospect has grown and is further excelling in his depth role.

One Timers

  • Ty Emberson, Anton Blidh have 4 points in the first round.
  • Blake Hillman, Lauri Pajuniemi, Zac Jones, and Turner Elson has 3 points in the first round.
  • Ryan Carpenter, Tim Gettinger, Wyatt Kalynuk, Bobby Trivigno, and Will Lockwood has 2 points in the first round.
  • Will Cuylle recorded 1 point in the first round.

Injury Updates

Per Howlings, Matthew Robertson will remain out of the lineup due to his upper body injury. However, there is a chance he may return late in this round of the playoffs.

In addition, Matt Rempe is now listed day to day with an upper body injury.

Projected Lineup

The Wolf Pack have rolled with the same lineup in the last 2 games. Here how they shake out:




Game Coverage

Live game coverage will be featured on Twitter via Milliner06. For broadcast and radio, radio announcer Alex Thomas will have you covered on AHLTV and Mixlr. Broadcasts will begin at 6:50pm for each game.

Ricky Milliner is a Hartford Wolf Pack season ticket holder. While growing up, he discovered hockey by attending a... More about Ricky Milliner

Mentioned in this article:

More About: