Saturday’s script wasn’t completely different from that of several Kings games over the last five or six weeks in that the Monarchs certainly played well enough to capture two points but received no luck and had to fight from behind after allowing several opportunistic goals. After a sluggish opening 10 minutes, Manchester got their legs underneath them and began seeing the quality of their looks improve. The Bruins took a 1-0 lead late in the first period on a power play goal before the Monarchs tied the game in the second on a fine individual effort by Nic Deslauriers on a play in which he was assessed a high sticking double minor by tapping in a shot of his that had trickled past Niklas Svedberg. Speaking with reporters after the game, Mark Morris argued that Deslauriers’ stick ricocheted off the post and hit a Providence defender in the face after he had shoved Deslauriers to begin the sequence. As a result, Manchester couldn’t build on the momentum it had generated in tying the game. Though puck possession and zone time disproportionately favored the Monarchs over the final 40 minutes, the opportunistic Bruins scored from close range during a scrum in front of Jones late in the second period and built a two-goal lead during a gap in coverage when a glut of bodies gravitated towards the right wing boards as the puck was freed loose to Mike Moore, who outwaited Martin Jones and scored from a low angle. The goal came shortly after an attractive would-be game-tying Linden Vey three-on-two goal was disallowed when Niklas Svedberg slid across the crease and provided enough energy to shove a wriggling net off its moorings. Consistent pressure afforded Manchester several more quality looks, including one on a Tanner Pearson one-timer that was kicked out by Svedberg late in the game, but the final horn ended the comeback attempt in a home loss to a Providence team that was without its top scorer in Nick Johnson and its top defensive scorer in Joe Morrow, a quality blue line prospect acquired in the Tyler Seguin trade. The Monarchs were the better team in virtually every aspect of the game other than the final tally, though the Bruins deserved credit for providing bodies, tips and screens in front of Jones, who faced sporadic action and wasn’t really afforded an easy night in the crease.
Having seen Nic Deslauriers play in person, there’s certainly valid justification behind the hype and interested surrounding the converted defenseman who turns 23 years old in two weeks. He has clearly filled out; listed at 6-foot-1 and 230 pounds on the AHL site, his upper-body strength is apparent when speaking with him in person. On Saturday he was one of the best skaters on the ice, if not the best. In addition to posting a goal and an assist while registering six shots on goal, there’s an aggressive, fearless streak inherent in the way he plays. He was involved in the game’s first scrum and several ensuing scrums, and was a player, along with Andy Andreoff, who was more than willing to take a hit to make a play. He had skated opposite Tanner Pearson on the Linden Vey line while Tyler Toffoli had been in Los Angeles, and he responded very well with a move to Nick Shore’s line, where he skated opposite Zach O’Brien. He drives to the net, hits the net with regularity, and possesses power forward instincts that create match-up challenges for the opposition.
The Pearson-Vey-Toffoli line’s chemistry didn’t return immediately, though by the end of the game the trio had generated a handful of quality looks. The group produced one of the better earlier chances in the game when Pearson found Vey in the high slot, though the center’s shot off the pass was snapped high over the net. Svedberg also knocked the puck down with a fine glove save on a Pearson opportunity midway through the third period and turned aside his one-timer late in the game. There were second opportunities to be had on pucks that bounced off the Providence goalie, though it was a case of pucks and bodies not converging on the same spot at the same time.
Andrew Bodnarchuk did a good job of dictating the pace of the game and helped generate a heavy, aggressive push into the attacking end over the final two periods. A fine skater that was able to reach a high top speed on several occasions, the 25-year-old with five NHL games to his credit appeared as though he wouldn’t be out of place if given the opportunity to add to that total. He’s also an excellent follow on Twitter.