Joseph Gravellese: So, around this time last week, you had to be feeling pretty good about BC hockey. They were coming off the historic Beanpot fourpeat. But more importantly than that, it looked like they had finally found line combinations that worked, and made BC a tougher, deeper team to play against.
Then, Kevin Hayes got suspended. Now, I'm not Kevin Hayes' mother, so I don't really know or care what he did. What I do know is that whatever he did, it was pretty bad timing. All of a sudden that chemistry and those good feelings stemming from the undefeated record after York switched the lines goes poof.
Scoring depth - an issue all year - seems like an even more dire concern. And BC suddenly has to deal with this adversity and play two games against two of the top teams in Hockey East.
The loss to Merrimack didn't bother me too much. We always lose in that stupid MDC rink. And anyone who expected BC to run the table again was being extremely unrealistic (there's a reason why last year's team was one for the record books).
But the overall weekend BC had has me very concerned. Sunday's overall performance against UNH was very good - not great, but very good - but there were just enough concerning elements to make me worry: defensive breakdowns aplenty, poor performance out of the gate in the third period, and shaky goaltending (something that's rarely a problem for BC this time of year).
So the net result of the Hayes deal, the Merrimack loss, and the UNH tie, have me very on edge going into this weekend, especially since I expect the game at Merrimack to be another really difficult one.
Now it seems like Hayes might be back before too much longer, but he won't be back this weekend. One way or the other... I'm not on the panic button, but I'm nervous.
Grant Salzano: I didn't see the Merrimack game, which is probably a good thing as I would have probably been a lot more annoyed than I should have. I was too busy watching SLU take down Quinnipiac. But nonetheless I was pretty frustrated with that loss.
Hell, I would have been frustrated with the tie. But you're right, that arena sucks for road teams, so whatever.
The UNH game reminded me a lot of one or both of the Maine games we lost last year. If you look back through the recaps from last year, we played great and showed flashes. There were good signs despite the sweep.
This loss felt like that. It brought is back down to earth (and man did this tie ever feel like a loss) but I thought this was a goaltending non-win.
Honestly I have to give Milner a pass. It's been a long time since BC didn't win a game because of goaltending.
JG: I'm not at the point where I'm upset with Milner or blaming Milner, per se. What does concern me is that we saw two things we don't usually see in crunch time: BC let a team up off the mat in a big game, and goaltending not be rock-solid post-Beanpot. I know we're spoiled to expect that to consistently be the case. But still.
One thing I'm really making sure to try to do is look at the whole macro college hockey picture and not get lost looking at BC results in a vaccuum. Obviously we're all thinking Frozen Four when we talk about "does BC have the horses this year?" and every week it seems like another top 10 team has a WTF loss.
GS: It happens. I'm not that concerned to be honest. It's the results that concern me and falling into the thick of teams mid-pack. We're in danger of falling not just out of a 1 seed but a 2 as well.
JG: Of course, if it shakes out that we're a 2-seed in an east regional, I'm pretty okay with that. All that being said...It's obviously not surprising that you're more POSNAN about the UNH game than me. So tell me more about why you specifically thought there were good signs there.
GS: It's nuts how much parity there is. Nuts. Quinnipiac is probably going to flame out. If the Gophers hadn't annihilated us I wouldn't even think all that highly of Minnesota to be honest. Miami is going to Miami... Honestly, from the 1 seeds down through the 4 seeds, the team that wins the title is going to be the one that's hot enough to win 4 straight. I don't think there's a "best team" this year.
JG: I do think that on paper, Minnesota is the Best Team pretty convincingly.
GS: And maybe that's why I'm still so optimistic -- we ALWAYS get hot at the right time. This year is especially important that we do so because of how bunched together everyone is.
JG: Well we certainly know BC is capable of going on such a streak.
GS: As for the UNH game... we had so much more sustained offensive pressure. It seems like that had been missing. Also, the odd man rushes are returning, another hallmark of successful BC.
And finally, we looked good against a top team. Beating up on NU and Harvard is nice, but it's just generally reassuring to see we can still dominate a game against a good team.
Dominate in stretches, anyway. It obviously wasn't a perfect game.
JG: I wouldn't describe BC as dominant for any stretch. Though they were certainly better than UNH. As I wrote in the recap: UNH's first two goals were flukes and the last two both came while BC came out flat to start the third.
GS: In any case -- the result was frustrating but the gameplay wasn't, for the most part.
JG: I am very concerned about how much we were running around in our own end in the third period and for parts of overtime. Unfortunately, Matheson is the only defenseman who I really have a ton of confidence in right now. The rest have been just okay - good at times, meh at others.
The best Matheson Moment of the game, to me, was when UNH came in on a partial break and Matheson simply steered him off the puck and took the guy out of the play without going into a WWE Chokeslam, which we've seen many times.
It's incredible, the leap Matheson has made since his injury.
GS: The overtime was really two overtimes. We played great on the first 3 minutes or so, then badly in the last 2. It was weird.
And yeah Matheson is a game changer for us. And the growth of his game has been incredible.
So now we have another game up at Lawler this weekend. Yeah we usually lose up there. Any reason to expect a different result this time around?
JG: NEGNAN time! Nope. I don't see it changing. Merrimack is On A Roll (TM) and we never win up there. Unfortunately, I'm predicting another L. We will beat Lowell in front of 1,500 people at home next Tuesday, though.
GS: Fair enough. I'm predicting a tie. MEDIUMNAN! But yeah Lowell, we'll handle those guys.
It would be nice to see us get some kind of home winning streak going.
JG: It would. I made a sort of quippy remark going into the first home game of 2013 about how sad it was that it wasn't 2012 anymore, since we went undefeated at Conte in 2012. Pretty sure we are 1-3-2 at home in calendar year 2013. Ow.
Hopefully BC gets a nice victory on Sunday to get the good feelings flowing again.
Thanks to the unhelpfulness of UNH, who got pasted by BU 6-0 on Wednesday night, the BC women remain on a collision course with a coin flip with BU to determine the #1 seed in the Hockey East playoffs. Lame.
GS: It is lame. But fortunately it just doesn't matter playing against UConn or Maine in the first round. It's not possible to lose to one of those teams. And who knows, maybe it'll work out where the #2 seeds ends up getting a more favorable opponent in the semis anyway.
I'd hate to have to play Northeastern right now. They're on quite a roll.
JG: Well it certainly looks a though Northeastern will finish third, in which case winning the coin flip becomes a little more important. But whatever. At this point I don't even care if we win the Hockey East tournament or not. We are pretty well locked into being top 4 barring a catastrophe. This season's success level will be determined by defending home ice in the NCAA quarterfinals.
That's the baseline... then if they win in that national semifinal, it's an amazing year.
There's no way either BC or BU slip up this weekend, right?
GS: Definitely not. This is going to be a tie.
Have to agree though. Personally I think BC is a firm 2nd best team in the country, and if we do end up #2 and opposite Minnesota in the bracket, getting to the NCAA final has to be the benchmark for a successful year. Then, of course, let the chips fall where they may against the Gophers.
But you already know how I feel about that game. #BiggestPOSNANever
I do care about winning the Hockey East tournament though. That's a pretty legit piece of hardware. They need to catch up to the men. We don't want to turn into the women's hockey version on UNH.
JG: Good point. How funny would it be, after all those years of UNH bragging about their Women's Hockey East dominance, if BC won a national title while UNH remains without one? No Hardware 2.0. hehehe. Of course, we're a big Miracle away from that happening, but it's fun to think about.
Any other thoughts on the wide world of college hockey this week?
GS: Hopefully we see Kevin Hayes back soon. We can't win a national title down a man and need him back. That's all from me.
JG: Sounds about right. Lame that there's only one game on Sunday, but at least it's on CBS Sports Network. I don't know how they manage to get TV equipment into Lawler Arena, but it spares me even the slightest temptation of making that trip, so. Thanks CBS.