Hockey Banter, Week VIII, Part I: Apparently UNH Is Pretty Good

Chip Griffin

In Part I this week, we look back at Merrimack, count our blessings, and talk about how UNH appears to be an elite team.

Grant Salzano: Fresh off my long weekend of moving into my new house (yay me), we get to take a look at the past weekend in which BC improved their record in games that they trail by 3 goals to a decent 2-0-0. LOL WUT?

Joseph Gravellese: Ha. Didn't even think of that. It was concerning to see BC come out so flat against Merrimack, but it's probably unrealistic to expect the A game every time out at this point. That the Eagles have comebackability (is that a word? it is now) is definitely a good sign. As soon as they pushed down on the accelerator Merrimack was toast.

It's not a habit you want to get in to when the good teams start coming up on the schedule, but hey, it made Friday's game a thriller, so there's that.

GS:: I take every game-opening stretch of "flat" play with a grain of salt. What you're seeing is, I think, something a little different.

BC is the number one team in the country, and as such, every team comes into the game like it's their "Super Bowl" (or, in the case of Hockey East programs, one of their three "Supers Bowl"). So what we see if teams coming into the games totally amp'd up and throwing their best hockey at the Eagles.

BC, I think, plays... let's call it 'solid' hockey -- it may look like 'laying back' or 'flat' -- and weathers the storm until the other team's adrenaline wears out. Then BC is able to go into full-on attack mode on their tired-out prey.

Our incredible third periods are a dual result of the other teams being totally gassed after throwing us their best hockey, and us having some left in the tank after riding out the intense first couple periods. Not to mention the fact that we're more able to go on the attack once the opponent's original surge wanes.

JG:: That's a reasonable theory. I'm not sure I agree with the notion that BC is "weathering it" intentionally before going into attack mode. But I'd agree that other teams will fade later in the game for that reason.

GS: I wouldn't so much say that the laying back is 'intentional.' When you're facing a team that's really coming at you, sometimes you just have to bide your time before you can strike. Think Muhammad Ali taking punches from Foreman before unleashing the fury.

JG:: The bummer of the week was news that Destry Straight went down after the BU game with a high ankle sprain. What sucks about that is it's totally unpredictable how long it will take to recover. There's no way of knowing for sure (for any Pats fans out there, that's the same injury Aaron Hernandez suffered. And we still have no idea if he's 100%).

Straight was really solidifying his spot as a top six forward after looking a little overmatched at the start of his freshman year. He has the tools to be a really good player here, and we will miss him. Quinn Smith performed admirably slotted onto the second line.

GS:: We're fortunate (relatively speaking) that it's so early in the year. He'll be back not only in time to get back into the lineup for crunch time, but also get fully up to speed before Trophy Season. Agree though, rough to lose him, and with depth up front as our biggest weakness right now, we can't really afford to lose much more.

I, as you said early this week, blame BU.

JG:: Is depth up front really our biggest weakness? I mean, it probably is, because Matheson and Doherty look like old pros already. But it feels weird to say that about a BC team.

You're right, though. Beyond the top five forwards, offensive production is a question mark.

GS:: I think it has to be. Defense is a strength, which is AWESOME and unexpected. Goaltending is obviously there. Top lines are even more obviously there.

JG:: And having Parker Milner will cover for any growing pains on the defensive end.

GS:: It's amazing how things have fallen into place this year for us, isn't it? Obviously it's early, but imagine if Kevin Hayes and Stephen Whitney haven't made the patented BC Jump(TM), if Doherty and Matheson weren't what we have now, and if Milner had reverted to his 2011 form.

As they say though, Chance Favors The Prepared. It's not luck that these all worked out.

JG:: There's plenty of time for Doherty and Matheson to hit walls, of course, as the season heats up. And goaltending can come and go, despite my full faith in Milner. But I'm very confident that we will see this sustained strength from Hayes and Whitney.

Whitney, Gaudreau and Mullane are all top-8 in Hockey East scoring, by the way. And they seem to be developing better chemistry week after week.

Steve Whitney actually had two breakaway chances that he missed on last week before he banged home the winner. He is going to have big numbers by the end of the season.

GS:: I've been calling Whitney to be the next big jump since that breakaway goal in the 5-2 home win against BU a couple years back.

You can back me up on this.

Granted he wasn't the *next* one... but he certainly is showing what I'd hoped we'd see.

JG:: UNH looks Damn Good.

By the way.

I'm pretty glad that we don't play them until January. Something to get really excited about and look forward to.

GS:: Yeah, that's a little worrisome. The SB Nation college hockey blog put out a Power Rankings post that they thought would generate some 'controversy,' with UNH at the top. But I think a completely rational argument can be made that they are better than BC right now. DeSmith is LOLing at opponents. And they have a significantly better strength of schedule than us thus far.

But it's been so long since UNH was a contender that I think we're forgetting the annual postseason collapse and worrying too much.

JG:: Strength of schedule which will only improve with a pair of MUST SEE games this weekend @ Colorado College (Friday) and @ Denver (Saturday).

UNH's defense being #1 in the league at this point is probably not something anyone would have predicted.

GS:: I need to watch that Denver/UNH game. Like whoa.

Go Wildcats. Big time.

JG:: Should make for a nice nightcap after the BC-Dartmouth game at 4 PM. Definitely. It would be GREAT for Hockey East's pairwise ranking for UNH to have a big weekend.

Plus it would be fun to have them be legit again, really.

GS:: "Fun" is the right word I think.

It's always a nice little bonus to laugh at their playoff failures as well, of course. I've missed that.

JG:: Obviously it's nice when Merrimack, Lowell, et. al. find some success but... it was a lot of fun to see a classic BC-Maine matchup in the Hockey East final in '10 and '12 at the Garden. Same deal with UNH. Can you BELIEVE That we haven't played them at the Garden since that 3OT game in 2008?

GS:: Has it really been that long?

JG:: That seems un-possible.

GS:: Boy that game was great. So great, in fact, that we won it twice.

JG:: Yes indeed.

Elsewhere around Hockey East: Northeastern still hasn't won a game since beating us, for those keeping score at home. Lowell may have found a moment of catharsis, finally, in drubbing UMass-Amherst 8-2 on Sunday.

GS:: Not unimpressive, since I think the Minutemen had been emerging as the #4 team in the conference. But I think we're going to see the favorite for that final home spot shuffle around quite a bit from week to week for a while.

JG:: I've still got my money on Lowell, they'll come around.

GS:: Agree.

Stop by tomorrow where we make some predictions and check in on the women's team.

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