Hockey Banter, Week XIV: Johnny Comes Marching Home

Bruce Bennett

This week we rejoice over the return of Johnny Gaudreau, talk about The Slump, and gloat about the BC women's team's scorched-Earth tour of the Greater Ottawa Area.

Joseph Gravellese: It was a pretty good weekend to be a hockey fan of our particular rooting persuasions. Even though BC continued their little Slump Thing(TM) with a tie against Yale, they ultimately got a tie in a game in which they were vastly outplayed, and remained #1 in the all-important Pairwise Rankings.

Johnny Gaudreau was a global ambassador of the BC hockey brand, bringing pint-sized kickass to the world stage and helping the USA (USA! USA! USA!) win gold at World Juniors.

The BC women's team continued its outstanding run of success with two more wins, sweeping the always tough Clarkson-St. Lawrence road trip, and powering up to 3rd in the PWR.

AND THE NHL LOCKOUT IS OVER WOOOOOOOOO

Grant Salzano: Pint-sized kickass. I like it. Who woulda thought that being away from The Heights, Gaudreau would further solidify his Hobey status? If there was any evidence needed of how important he is to our success this year, how badly we played without him was certainly it.

We know that BC does this every year, but the Hobey voters don't need to know that.

JG: We DO know that BC does this every year. And as such, we're not worried yet. Right?... Or is everybody getting worried a crucial part of the three-act play?

GS: Last year, I was worried. Then I realized, as I do every year, that we always do this. But last years stretch lasted exceptionally deep into the season, I thought.

I also told myself last year that I wouldn't even bother getting upset when we started slumping, because no matter how badly it looks like we're playing (and honestly, we were playing horrific hockey midway through last season), we're going to turn it on and play lights out.

It's just GONNA happen. It's been happening literally every season since 2005-2006.

So, honestly, I won't be worried unless we're still playing like crap when the Beanpot rolls around.

JG: Even in 2009, when it was too late to really save the season, they still made a run.

What's preventing me from being worried -- or even being "Worried" in the token sense even though I know they'll improve -- is that we haven't seen BC with its full lineup in some time, and we know what a difference Gaudreau makes.

As Gaudreau went, so went the US FREAKING NATIONAL TEAM. So I'm guessing he has a similarly large impact on everyone around him at BC.

GS: The NHL Network guys were *all over him* during that tournament. Geez. Some of the stuff they were saying: "And look at who has the puck again! LOOK AT THE ARTISTRY FROM THIS YOUNG MAN!" Whoa.

Love it.

JG: And now we get to see him in the lineup with Straight back as well.

GS: I don't expect we'll see a whole lot out of Straight right out of the box. It'll be interesting to see what they do with the lineups at this point. Those high ankle sprains can sure linger.

JG: The Infamous Med School Matt compared Gaudreau to soccer's Lionel Messi at the game last Friday night, which is such a great comparison, not just because they're both short -- his point was that even though all the other players on Messi's Barcelona team are great, what he does, the space he creates for everyone else, allows them to play the way they do.

So we'll see how things change, especially since BC can't be overlooking this weekend's colossal series with UNH.

That being said... when's the last time a team came in to Conte and doubled up BC in shots? That was stunning to see Yale carry the play like that.

GS: Haven't we been getting outshot a lot this year? It sure feels that way. I don't think that's our game this year. Maybe we're more of a "take high-quality shots" team this season.

It is weird though. Yale is definitely an offensive power of a team though. It didn't really concern me all too much.

JG: I do feel like the schedule could conveniently be setting up for another one of those post-epic-fail bus rides after Saturday in UNH, with how well the Mildcats are playing. And then the schedule also has us conveniently playing LolMaine the next weekend, just in time to crank it up for the Beanpot.

GS: Found it -- BC has actually gotten outshot on the season, 517-512. Granted, we weren't before we played Yale... but there you go.

JG: That's interesting, because BC has been such a high-shot team for so long,... to what do you attribute that shift?

I'm thinking we might be seeing more shots against due to the young defensive corps, although you may be right that we're playing a little differently, style-wise.

GS: Lack of depth and lack of speed. When you're only rolling two real lines of offense it's hard to really rack up the shot totals.

The lack of speed is another thing that's bizarre... I don't think we have a single non-empty-net shorthanded goal this year, which as one of the posters on USCHO has pointed out elsewhere, is a sure sign of less speed. We don't have that threat of a breakout that we usually do.

I miss Kreider.

JG: That's a really good point. The top line obviously has great speed, but even our other big line is not overly fast. Hayes, Arnold and Straight aren't exactly going to be torching teams in transition. They're more of a pro-style cycling line.

GS: Exactly.

JG: So, what is your gut predicting for BC-UNH?

GS: I don't think we're out of the woods yet on this slump unfortunately. I think we'll be jazzed up for the home game with Gaudreaubey back, and I think we'll take that game, but I do not have a good feeling on the big ice at the Whit.

Minnesota really took it to us on their Olympic-sized sheet, and with the aforementioned lack of speed that would normally really benefit from the extra room... I think it may be a bit of a hindrance this time around. So I guess I'd call a 1-1 weekend.

I feel dirty. That's not my style.

JG: I'm going to say that this weekend could get ugly for us, especially up there.

The UNH fans are going to get all excited, and it's going to be adorable.

Then we start playing line etch-a-sketch next week.

GS: UNH is good but they aren't exactly at the top of their game right now. They were one of the hottest teams in the country but since beating Denver (in the midst of DU's huge winless streak, by the way) they have gone 2-2-0, with their only wins being an ugly OT win over lowly Bemidji, and a win over RPI.

JG: Their overall team defense has been very good, though. And ours, not so much. Hence, I give them the edge at this point, in this particular week.

GS: I think we're a better team than they are right now, even while we're slumping, now that Gaudreau is back. If only because they haven't been playing that great either (and didn't just get the best player in the country back on their top line).

JG: On to a different topic: What a fantastic run for the US at World Juniors. It was fitting timing for the NHL to get its act together on Sunday, because the outpouring of support and excitement over the US gold showed how anxious American hockey fans are to watch the sport and get excited about it. Two BC angles to discuss:

1) Does Gaudreau's explosive tournament make him more likely to leave after this year?
2) I was thinking of the freshman class this year and thinking next year could be the first World Junior in several years without a BC player on the US team. (Silk gets mentioned sometimes, but only as a fringey guy.)

And then I remembered Demko and McCoshen and Santini and Cangelosi as candidates. And probably some others. Lolz. Sorry everyone.

GS: Gaudreau going pro really scares me because suddenly I think it's an option. According to a source (not a great one [who do you think I am, The Kid?], but a source nonetheless), it's apparently on his mind and he's been going back and forth about it, in a way.

JG: I know it's ridiculous and it's human nature to think about his future, but I like to think he's focusing on this year and then will let the offseason play out as it may.

GS: There are two things here that make me think, in the end, he'll take a third year:

a) He is small, and I really think (hope, really) that despite his incredible skill, the size thing is going to keep him down another year.

Also, does he really want to take his prime "gettin it" years to CALGARY? [Obligatory Brent-Musburger-hitting-on-McCarron's-girlfriend reference here]

JG: I see what you did there. Pop culture reference!

GS: b) I like to believe that Jerry really cares about taking guys who will commit to staying in the program three years. You always hear the players talking about "buying into what Jerry's selling," and there hasn't been a single game-changing player who has decided to leave the Heights before his third season, at least in my time around the sport.

I think that might be exactly what they mean by "what Jerry is selling."

JG: Well, let's hope you're right about that. I think that sample size giveth and sample size taketh. A few games in to the tournament people were talking about how it showed he wasn't ready to make the jump to higher competition.

I doubt good scouts are going to reassess where they stand on him as an NHL prospect or what kind of dollar figure they'll throw at him this summer just on the grounds of the WJC.

So there's that.

This is largely unrelated, but LOL Canada.

GS:

Green_participant_ribbon_medium

Eh.

The BC women's team couldn't be have a more different middle-of-the-season than the men at the moment. Currently on our longest winning streak and unbeaten streak in program history, and riding high at #3 in the nation. HELLO.

JG: And a chance for the good times to continue to RollTide tonight at #9 Northeastern. I'll be in attendance for that one and I'm really looking forward to seeing the team play live for the first time in a while. They're really firing on all gears right now, with key points coming from all the scoring lines AND from the blue line (Blake Bolden scored the game winner in OT against St. Lawrence).

Plus, as we kind of figured, Boyles showed #1-goalie timbre by playing and winning both of those games.

GS: I think this goalie debate is finally over, thankfully. After the big weekend, we need her in net from here on.

BC handed #2 Clarkson the kind of beatdown that can shatter a season. The Golden Knights were seemingly left in an existential funk not knowing whether or not to continue to even field a team, losing the next night to Good-But-Not-Spectacular Northeastern and plummeting from #2 to #6 in the Pairwise.

The BC men have made a habit of doing that to some teams. Cool to see the women do it.

JG: It was a pretty comprehensive scorched-earth tour of the Greater Ottawa Area. It's a good thing BC's foes had only a few miles to travel to get some universal healthcare because they probably needed it from all the rubbernecking caused by BC blowing past them.

Allegedly two of Clarkson's best players were playing for the Canadian national team in something called the Maaco Cup or whatever, but I'm pretty sure they were just ducking BC. I don't blame them, I'd rather be in the Maaco Cup too.

GS: Uh oh. Better Get Maaco.

(I got paid for that reference)

(No I didn't)

JG: In all seriousness...tonight is Business Time for BC. If they're a serious top 3/4 team, they dispatch NU and set their target on Cornell Sunday.

GS: Ah Cornell. What a game that should be. One of the best teams in the sport the last several years.

I'm excited.

JG: Me too. Big, big test.

Minnesota men just finished off Notre Dame. Are we worried about Minnesota yet? When did they decide to go all Minnesota women on everyone?

GS: Hopefully now that the lockout is over some of Minnesota's women's players will take the opportunity to jump to the pros.

But I digress. I hadn't realized the despite their #1 ranking, the Gophers were sitting like 6th in the Pairwise with Notre Dame ahead of them. As it turns out, that's a big Gopher win for BC, because it drags down another top Pairwise team a little further behind us.

I'm not worried about Minnesota. They did have a very high billing at the beginning of the season before falling flat on their face, but they aren't going to just run roughshod over the rest of the season.

They're good, but nothing to Minnesota Women's Hockey about.

JG: Fair enough.

Alright, that just about wraps another week up. It's not quite Crunch Time yet, but you can almost feel it in the air. Go Eagles.

GS: Here's to another big weekend for the women to the men turning the Slump(TM) around.

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