The unprecedented 6-0 throttling the Providence Bruins sustained Sunday via the St. John’s IceCaps is less surprising than the fact that it took more than 40 minutes to noticeably break out on the scoreboard.
The most indicative, if not only indicative stat as to the host IceCaps’ early dominance was the three unanswered penalties the Bruins took in the first 15:27 of game action. Add the fact that two of those were for delay of game, an infraction that is typically assessed for desperately spooning the puck out of play from one’s own end.
Torey Krug’s high-sticking minor at 4:47 effectively shed first blood when the Caps nailed the icebreaker with a power-play goal before the Bruins’ 12-7 shooting disadvantage was inflated, in part, by two more St. John’s man-up swarms.
Not much of a follow-up on a win or a way to set the tone for a weekend sweep.
Yet through that and the subsequent stanza, netminder Niklas Svedberg kept Providence within hooking distance, confining the Caps to two goals on 23 shots.
One period later, though, Svedberg authorized as many goals as he ordinarily allows over a six-period span. Two more St. John’s power-play tallies bookended an 11-and-a-half-minute tempest that swelled the deficit from 2-0 to 6-0.
All the while, the P-Bruins pelted Eddie Pasquale in vain at the other end.
Perhaps most tellingly, each contesting strike force discharged a game high in the shooting gallery in the closing frame, Providence running a football-like 17-14 advantage. Each party was equally energized in wake of the preceding periods, but the discrepancy in confidence translated overwhelmingly to the only statistic that really matters.
One goaltender and his group of Praetorian guards were poised to put the opposition away. The other squad was in a self-induced panic that started costing them in the first minute when Bobby Robins was whistled for roughing, then watched the start of the salvo that put the game out of reach from the box.
Spooner entered Sunday’s action on the heels of heavily influencing Saturday’s 3-2 shootout triumph on the same site versus the same adversary. He had deposited a breakaway goal in regulation, nearly buried an overtime clincher and then was the only successful shootout skater out of five to each side.
Barely 20 hours after he finished that up, his Sunday performance yielded nothing but empty calories. His lack of support for Svedberg, along with the rest of his teammates, spread the infectious hot hand-cooling bug to the Swedish stopper.
It is, of course, easy enough to point to the ongoing absence of Jared Knight and Trent Whitfield, the lack of Max Sauve for the last two weeks and the fact that Carter Camper was out of commission for the Bruins’ excursion to Newfoundland.
But Spooner and Chris Bourque, who landed five shots on Sunday, each had plenty to build on from Saturday and thus plenty to pilot a path to recompense those losses in the lineup—nothing doing.
In addition, Jordan Caron, presumably a would-be Boston staple if not for the NHL lockout, has yet to tally a goal through 10 games this month. His overall pointless skid extended to four over the weekend when none of his five shots Saturday or two Sunday went through.
Veteran Jamie Tardif, too, had an opportunity to snap out of a mini-slump and tally a timely icebreaker less than two minutes after the IceCaps had augmented their lead to 2-0. Instead, with 13:07 gone in the first period, he was found guilty of hooking mere seconds after his fleeting bid was denied and St. John’s had taken the rebound on a prompt counterattack.
Even before that, after the three aforementioned penalties to Providence, the whistles had started blowing in the other direction. The result was ultimately 7:06 of unanswered power-play time for the Bruins in a span of 11:35.
That stretch, which began with 2:41 left in the first and ended with 10:54 gone in the middle frame, featured a pair of protracted five-on-three segments lasting 90 and 84 seconds, respectively.
Yet, 20 seconds after Julian Melchiori’s jailbreak restored full strength, Derek Whitmore converted Spencer Machacek’s feed to give St. John’s the multi-goal lead at the 11:14 mark.
By day’s end, the P-Bruins had gone 0-for-9 on the power play in the two-game series while killing only six out of 10 penalties. Dating back to the previous Sunday’s 6-2 meltdown against Bridgeport, Providence is 0-for-15 with the man-advantage and 8-for-14 on the kill.
All of that squanders the radiance of the previous six games, when Providence outscored its opponents, 5-2 on special teams, killed every penalty in five of those contests and went 4-1-1 in the standings.
It has also amounted to two straight missed opportunities to finally climb over the .500 fence and out of the Atlantic Division cellar.