Hockey Banter, Week XXI: Many Questions, Not Much Time

via Walter Rossini

A tough loss against Lowell brought up more questions than we have answers, with the end of the regular season fast approaching.

Joseph Gravellese: An odd thing happened last night when I had my traditional post-game chat with my banter friend Grant. He went full NEGNAN. For, like, the first time ever.

Following BC's 4-2 loss to UMass-Lowell on Tuesday night... are you no longer in your usual position of expecting the "switch to flip" and everything to be okay?

Grant Salzano: I think I'm just getting anxious to see it happen more than expecting it not to. We're getting very close to "too late." Not yet, obviously, but it's fast approaching.

I said it like 4 or 5 times between Twitter after the game and the game recap yesterday morning, but I honestly think the reason we've totally stalled out is because of the disappearance of Gaudreau.

Now, fortunately, he also did this last year for a stretch before going all Nate Gerbe on everyone in the tournament. And he also did it in World Juniors.

So if anyone on the team has a switch to flip, it's him. Fortunately I really think that's all we're missing right now.

Defense hasn't really been a concern to me. And aside from Milner's brain fart vs. UNH, he's been his usual self.

A few people commented that it feels like this team really struggles to maintain possession and pressure while cycling in the offensive zone. I think that's something we've been seeing for quite some time now. That's a bit concerning but is something I think will eventually fix itself.

Wow, tl;dr... sorry.

JG: Absolutely. Gaudreau's slide has just about everything to do with where BC is at right now. It's not "too late." After all, all year long we've been saying the template for this team is 2008. That team didn't start its big run to the title until the very last game of the regular season, and was on the tournament bubble at this point.

I completely disagree about "not being concerned" about the defense. I mean, I don't even know what games you're watching if you're saying that. They're turning the puck all over the place, and he first pass out of the zone is often not very good. This has the most to do with possession/ shots stats.

I'm not NEGNAN about this season but I think at this point we've got what we're going to get out of most of these guys. I think we can obviously get more, down the stretch, out of Gaudreau. And he's the difference between an elite team, and a team that can grind out points against anyone.

Perfect example of this team grinding out points was Sunday against Merrimack.

GS: You're probably right about the defense, though I guess I just think lack of offensive possession is the primary issue. All of our losses lately have been close. It just feels like we're scoring two goals a game lately.

Thank God we won that Merrimack game or we'd probably be sitting as a 3 seed right now. As it is we're teetering on the precipice of that.

JG: It's hard to have offensive possession when you can't count on your defensemen to stop the other team and turn it up ice. Or to consistently keep the puck in the zone when you're attacking.

GS: Honestly I think I'm most concerned because of watching the rankings. We're one bad weekend -- really, one! -- from dropping into an NCAA tournament no-man's land and falling out of home ice for Hockey East.

JG: I know we tend to have a laser-focus on the PWR, and rightfully so, but HOLY CRAP the Hockey East standings.I mean, wow. The good news about this giant cluster -- 4 teams tied for first, Merrimack 1 point back in 5th, BU two points back in 6th -- is that we have winning records right now against all of those teams (except PC who is 0-0-1 against us).

Given the extreme likelihood of tiebreaker situations, th could be very important. Right now despite the four way tie we would be the 1 seed.

Which is nice, because the whole lurking possibility of playing BU in the Hockey East quarterfinals makes me want to vomit.

GS: It's nuts, right?? I can't remember anything like it. But tiebreakers won't mean a thing if we don't tie. We really can't afford to take anything less than 5 or 6 of 8 points in these last 4 games. I think that'd be enough to get us home ice, no?

JG: Almost certainly. I don't expect anyone to romp down the stretch. Does anyone have an easy schedule? With how competitive the league is, 5 or 6 of 8 might win us the regular season trophy.

Something The Kid was harping on last night as he stayed POSNAN -- Lowell is a damn good team, playing damn good hockey right now. Would not surprise me at all to see them in Pittsburgh.

They're a dark horse, sure, but they could certainly make it.

GS: UNH does have a pretty easy schedule. Four home games against UMass and, what, Vermont?

JG: You know what sucks, looking at the schedule? BU has the easiest remaining schedule. Two vs Vermont, two vs. NU. It would actually be pretty funny if they trolled so hard and won the regular season title. Especially since they'd probably still miss NCAAs without a HE tourney run.

UNH has Maine next weekend, following two vs UMass this weekend.

GS: Yeah Lowell is a really good team. I have nothing but good things to say about those guys. They play good, clean hockey and have even eschewed their usual Craptastic style this year. All kinds of respect for that team right now.

BU isn't winning Hockey East. NU has been their achilles heel all year. Hilariously.

It would be funny but EFF THAT.

JG: Lowell was fun to watch last year, too. The System was more of a Blaise McDonald thing.

I know BU won't win, but it would be pretty funny. Not that you ever want to see BU win anything. But given the complete anti-Parker Meltdown happening in BUFanLand, it would be funny.

If you're like me and one of your favorite things about sports is enjoying the theatre of the occasional absurd moment... that would be up there.

Editor's Note: The Banter was conducted prior to the killer news that Hayes would be out for the season. We'll leave this section in for the sake of continuity, but, seriously, **GODDAMN IT** -gs

By the way, before we shift gears, it should be said that Kevin Hayes looked good out there before he got hurt last night. We really need him healthy and ready to contribute this weekend. Always something.

GS: He looked great. Played very hard and made some nice plays. We definitely need our full compliment of The Big Five to go anywhere. I really, really hope that injury is nothing serious enough for him to miss time, even though it appears he is questionable for Friday.

JG: Oy. Yep.

Bottom line, what are we looking at when we wake up on Suinday?

GS: SWEEP!

JG: We CAN'T lose another home game, right? We just can't. We only have the one home win in 2013, which is crazy. I'm going to be optimistic and say we take three points, with a tie Friday and a win Saturday, and find ourselves in second place on Sunday.

I'd be okay with that heading into the final weekend at UVM. There's no way to screw up a final weekend at UVM, right? AWW...AWWWWWWWWWWWWWW

GS: Did you just make a women's hockey reference without issuing a NAFFFF Alert warning??

JG: Yes, yes I did.

GS: I'm feeling optimistic for no reason at all. I dreamt BC would lose to Lowell 4-2, believe it or not. Swear to God. I didn't want to say anything. You know my history for correct absurd sports prediction dreams (John Andretti winning a NASCAR race says hello).

But anyway -- I think we sweep. Apropos of nothing. GAUDREAU WILL RETURN, DAMN IT! IT MUST HAPPEN!

I'll be okay.

JG: You're a weird dude, did you know that?

GS: So I've been told.

JG: Anyway...

The women's team's Trophy Season is in full swing, as they have their ceremonial Hockey East "quarterfinalol" controlled scrimmage against Maine Friday night at 7 PM at Conte.

The problem you're looking at right now is, we're 0-for-2 in trophy season after dropping a point at UVM and missing out on a share of the Hockey East regular season title. Being Champions of Connecticut at the Nutmeg Classic nonwithstanding... now there's some pressure here. You can't have your Best Year Ever and not win a trophy.

Northeastern is hot right now and BU has Poutine which makes them dangerous in every game. It's not going to be easy. But I do expect BC to win this thing.

The Bracket is:

1) BU 8) UConn

2) BC 7) Maine

3) NU 6) UVM

4) PC 5) UNH

GS: I can't imagine any of these top teams losing here... even PC is playing pretty well lately (they've given us a scare twice). And UNH doesn't have the benefit of playing on Lake Whit.

JG: Agreed. The biggest hurdle for BC I think is Northeastern. I have a funny feeling that if we get a crack at BU, the Eagles are going to put on their best "EFF YOU" face and show the women's Hockey East world who the better team is.

Look at me , getting all POSNAN with Grant-style logic.

GS: I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever that BC will -- what's the least inappropriate thing I can say here? -- absolutely POSTERIZE the Terriers given the chance.

However I think we're going to see a BC-PC final. That's my prediction.

JG: I'd be cool with that. Too bad it's in freaking Hyannis again. (?)

GS: ALL OF THE QUESTION MARKS. I still haven't heard a good reason for this tournament to be in effing HYANNIS. WTFingF.

JG: This time next week we'll be previewing the final regular-season weekend of men's hockey play. Which is kind of depressing, if you think about it. So I won't think about it too much. Enjoy senior night, folks. Happy birthday to Section OO's own Maureen.

And Go Eagles.

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