The Boston College Eagles travel down Commonwealth Avenue on Friday night for the season's first BC-BU clash at Agganis Arena. Scott McLaughlin, who covers the Bruins and Hockey East for WEEI.com, chatted with us to preview the matchup. In a former life, McLaughlin was the team's beat writer at the BU Daily Free Press, so he certainly continues to have a lot of familiarity with the Terriers. To the Q&A!
1. Strictly speaking about on-ice style, have you noticed any particular differences between how BU plays this year under Quinn vs. previous seasons under Parker? Do you think there's a specific system that Quinn wants to implement at BU?
-Scott McLaughlin: I don't think there have been any huge changes. Quinn has tweaked the defense a little, which isn't a surprise considering that's his area of expertise, but nothing crazy. Quinn's biggest thing is probably stressing discipline. He preaches four or fewer penalties per game, and he's benched guys who have taken penalties in the offensive zone. When was the last time you saw a BU team have the second-fewest penalties in the league?
2. Including off-ice considerations, how do you think the BU hockey community is feeling about Quinn as of now? It certainly seemed like there was a lot of positivity about the hire at the time it was made.
Scott McLaughlin: I think there's still a lot of positivity. I think most BU fans understood that this team might struggle a little early on, so there shouldn't be any big surprises in the results. On top of that, Quinn is a very likable guy, and one the fanbase has a lot of faith in based on his time as an associate head coach.
3. BU's not off to a very good start right now. What do you think have been the biggest factors in their slow start so far? Do you think there's an issue of adjusting to a new coach, or do you think this is just a fair reflection of where the team's talent level is at right now?
Scott McLaughlin: I don't know if it's so much the talent level, because there's a pretty good amount of talent, but I think the record pretty accurately reflects where this team is right now. They've shown they can beat good teams, but they're struggling to play their best on a consistent basis.
I think a lot of that is just how many young guys they're trying to break in. Of course, BC has just as many young guys playing, but BC's freshman class is off the charts and has been able to contribute right away. BU's young players are performing more how you'd expect young players to perform in their first month of D-I play.
Beyond just being young, though, BU is also getting badly outshot so far this season. They're being outshot by nearly 10 shots a game, which is the worst in Hockey East by a lot. They need to do a better job possessing the puck, and the hope is obviously that it'll come as the chemistry up front improves.
4. The last time BC and BU played --- it certainly feels like a long time ago --- was in the Hockey East semifinals back in March. BC got off to a blistering start in that game but completely collapsed as BU rolled to the win. Can you recall what you think some of the biggest factors were in that game, which was certainly somewhat of a minor upset?
Scott McLaughlin: Where to start? Sean Maguire really kept BU in the game early on when BC was dominating play. In the second period, it seemed to finally click on the BU bench that, "Hey, if we don't wake up, this is Coach Parker's last game." BC had an uncharacteristic number of turnovers and breakdowns that gave BU some great chances. BC took too many penalties and then couldn't kill them off. Parker Milner didn't play well at all. It was really a perfect storm of bad things for the Eagles, and BU made them pay.
5. Over the past 7-8 years, BC and BU are just about .500 against one another at most venues (Conte, TD Garden, Fenway Park, DCU Center), but the Eagles have dominated at Agganis Arena, with only three losses all time at the House that Jack Built. Do you think there's any particular reason for this?
Scott McLaughlin: I don't. It's one of those weird things for which there's just no logical explanation. I remember there was a good stretch of a few years where UNH dominated at Agganis and BU dominated at the Whit. Same sort of thing -- no one could ever really explain it.
6. Broadening the scope of the conversation a bit, do you think we can accurately separate Hockey East's teams into tiers at this point? There's certainly been a lot of topsy-turviness so far.
Scott McLaughlin: There has been, which makes it really hard to figure out tiers. Providence and BU were on different tiers going into the weekend, but they split. Same with Vermont and Notre Dame. Lowell and UNH seemed to be pretty close, yet Lowell swept. But if I had to create some loose tiers, I'd have PC, Notre Dame, BC and Lowell on Tier 1; Northeastern and BU on Tier 2; everyone else on Tier 3.
7. What are the keys to Friday night's game? Do you have a prediction?
Scott McLaughlin: For BU, as I touched on earlier, the key is generating some prolonged offensive possessions. One-and-dones aren't going to cut it against a BC team that can be lethal in transition. For the Eagles, just play their game. They're the better team, so if I had to make a prediction, I'd say 4-2 BC.
8. When BC and BU meet in February at the Beanpot, where do you predict the teams will sit in the conference standings/national rankings?
Scott McLaughlin: BC should be competing for the top spot in Hockey East, and I'd imagine they'll be in or close to the top five nationally. I'd guess BU will be a little below that -- probably fifth to seventh in Hockey East, somewhere around 15th nationally.