Joseph Gravellese: We sort of saw it coming since about January -- Union was a team that bore a freakish resemblance to the powerful BC teams of years past that were just fundamentally solid and peaked at the right time. I think we both had BC making it to the Frozen Four and losing to Union in our brackets. That didn't make it suck any less, but it played out about as we expected.
Grant Salzano: Yes it did, though I suppose it does make it at least a *little* bit easier to know that we lost to the best team. Still... yes, very sucky.
We've talked for a while about how Union looked a lot like BC's best teams of the past. Deep. Lots of lines that can score. On a big run to end the season. It's like they are the 2010 Eagles.
Or probably more accurately, The 2010 Eagles *today*, since that would probably be an approximately correct age.
JG: Ha. I see what you did there.
And let's not forget that Brian Dumoulin and Tommy Cross were major linchpins of the 2012 championship team: solid defensemen who could also score. That's what Union had in Shayne Gostisbehere and Matt Bodie.
GS: One difference, though, is that their goalie did not impress. You felt like if BC could get a few more chances on net that they would be able to cash in. Minnesota was able to but Hobey Wilcox also picked the worst possible time to Sieve out, so.
Stevens left a ton of rebounds out there.
JG: I agree with that. Stevens seemed like the only weak link during the Frozen Four. He was giving up rebounds like nobody's business, but BC couldn't get enough quality shots on to make him pay. That has a lot to do with how well Union limited chances.
But we're not really here to just wax poetically about Union. For one final time, let's take a look back at BC's final game and talk about where it went awry.
There will be time (plenty of time) in the weeks to come for the typical postseason reflections: what were the team's ultimate weaknesses? was the season a success? etc.
But this week, let's sort of travel through last Thursday's game.
The first couple of shifts looked bad, and sort of gave you a feeling like things weren't going to go so well. Even the first line couldn't establish any zone time when they were out there for the first time.
But it only took until their second shift to make you wonder if maybe this would be yet another game where the opponent, good though they may be, simply cannot handle the GAH! line, when Johnny Gaudreau added yet another goal to his Hobey masterpiece season.
GS: Well, that goal definitely gave us some good feelings. We played pretty decently midway through the period but if memory serves, Union bookended the period with the advantage. We were pretty happy to come out with a 1-0 lead, but it didn't feel like we were playing well enough to hold on to that lead.
Sure enough that was the closest we'd come to winning.
JG: For sure. You knew BC would be in for a fight. But you had to feel pretty good about the first line getting on the board after all the talk all week about "can Union shut down the first line?" Hayes just made a strong move to the net, Stevens left a juicy rebound, and Gaudreau somehow got himself wide open to stuff it in. You figured there might be more to come from those guys.
But Union just got better and better, and the tidal wave that seemed to be building late in the first period erupted in the second.
What was interesting about Union's game tying goal was that right before that, BC had gotten the puck in behind the net, and went into a neutral zone trap. I remember turning to (I think) you and saying "they're trapping, let's see if it works."
Union broke through it like it was nothing, and then it was just great individual effort by Bodie to scorch home the tying goal.
When that puck hit the back of the net, I got a little bit of the "I feel like I saw that last year" feeling. I ceased feeling optimistic about the game, that's for sure.
GS: At that point (and actually through the 2-2 tie) the game felt a lot like the Lowell game to me.
A *lot* like the Lowell game, in particular when we gave up the lead to Union 2-1, I thought we were toast until we quickly tied it very much against the run of play.
JG: Union scoring again at the halfway point of the second period to make it 2-1 was the culmination of continued dominance by them. Of course, as though to troll us, the goal came right off the faceoff (you know, Union's weakness).
GS: Who knew that Union guy knew exactly what he was talking about? That really was Union's only weakness.
I mean, other than Stevens, but yeah.
JG: On that play, when they scored right off it, and things looked bleak. I mean bleak.
The next few shifts, you started to feel like they were going to get freight train'd.
JG: Then BC scored out of nowhere at 15:53 and you felt life. Santini's goal was very... Dumoulin-ish. It looked like his kind of fantastic shot and awareness of space.
The Calnan line was out there for the goal. Despite being on the ice for Union's first goal it's hard not to say they were BC's 2nd best line in the postseason.
JG: They made a few nice passes, including Calnan's feed to find Santini, and then boom... tie game. Truly out of nowhere.
GS: That shot was unreal. I didn't stop talking about it for the next 20 minutes, and deservedly so, what a frigging laserbeam that was.
GS: That Calnan-Gilmour-Gaudreau line played really, really well. They were definitely our second best line.
JG: That might end up being a line next year. I endorse that.
You know, unless Calnan goes to the Blackhawks.
GS: I have to say, it was pretty cool being able to watch the game from up high for the first time in a while. I didn't get to too many games this year and it's almost impossible to follow lines on the grainy Aggievision we have. I enjoyed calling out "top line" "Matt G's line" "Fitzy line" every time the skaters came out and enjoyed watching shift by shift.
It really gives you a different perspective on the game.
It's also much easier to follow from the end in the balcony.
JG: That's why I love being in section OO at Conte. I love the high perspective on the game, watching plays develop, seeing what the different lines are doing. I guess some people are able to pick up on that at the higher speed of being down low, but I definitely like the higher up perspective.
#CoolStoryBro, I know.
Anyway, yes, that line was good at creating chances, and they pulled that one out of nowhere. Then the second period ends, it's 2-2, and you're thinking... BC survived just being bossed in that period. And it's 2-2.
GS: Do we have to talk about the third period? Because it gives me the sads.
JG: Yeah, we do.
It started off so well.
GS: I think what was so disappointing was that it was their own mistakes that bit them in the ass. I'll give Union that first goal, it was a really, really nice goal, but then we couldn't get out of our own way in the comeback attempt. It was like they panicked. That's not BC's M.O.
JG: The first five minutes of the third period were the best BC played the entire game.
GS: Yes, I forgot about that. That definitely adds to the sting, too. 5 minutes of our best hockey and then a minute and half later Union gets one against the run of play, like our 2nd goal.
JG: The Calnan line had a good cycling shift. The first line did their thing. The Fitzgerald, Cangelosi, Brown line was on the attack, when at the 5 minute mark, Fitzgerald took that goddamn interference penalty. Always a killer to take a penalty in the offensive zone.
At the time, I thought it was a bad call, but watching it back, it was the right call. Just a frustrating penalty to accept.
GS: We were hoping for that Fitzgerald line to break out for the whole game and it never did come to pass. I mean, Fitzgerald did later score, but it was assisted by Gaudreau and Matheson.
Actually, looking back on it -- they put Fitzgerald out there with the top line as the extra attacker. Interesting.
JG: Yeah, that line was a bit of a disappontment down the stretch. Worth discussing when we look toward next year.
Unfortunately, the highlight of the game for that unit was the lowlight of taking the penalty. You can't give a team like Union chances like that. Forget it.
They scored because of course they did, and all of that work BC did to climb back into it -- and it felt like a steep climb even though they were just 2-1 down -- and it felt like they were right back in the hole again.
GS: It didn't truly feel like a lost game, though, until we failed on the 5 minute major.
JG: And was it ever a complete failure.
The passing on that power play was rough to watch. You have to give Union credit for their penalty killing and closing down space, but BC never really made the kind of high-low passes that can isolate defensemen and create little 2-on-1 situations. That's how BC is able to create such lethal opportunities on the PP. There was a lot of dithering around the perimeter looking for a point shot and maybe a rebound. Which isn't necessarily the worst thing, but it's not BC's strength, I don't think.
The coup de grace of the horriffically bad 5 minute major power play was giving up the backbreaking goal at the end of it.
GS: I feel so bad for Santini, man. Was that a case of a freshman showing that he's a freshman?
JG: A little bit of that, and a little bit of a really smart play by Sullivan to anticipate, strip, and take it to the net.
The real failure was not covering Vecchione. I mean, just, how does that happen?
GS: I guess just being too agressive? I'm pretty sure Vecchione wasn't the one coming out the box either.
Actually, you can kind of see what happens in the corner of the GIF.
On the bottom right there, whoever that is for BC, is trying to start the rush up ice.
Sullivan takes the puck *right* as whoever that was turned his back and went up ice. He had no chance.
Also, both MacLeod and Santini go after Sullivan into the corner.
Those two things in combination are what caused the epic fail.
JG: Yes, exactly. That's a big mistake by the defensemen, there. Isaac MacLeod is a drafted player and he probably has pro hockey ahead of him with his size and his tools but he had some lowlight reel moments against Union these last two years, sorry to say.
And I mean, I agree with you on feeling bad for Santini, he was so good all year. But that was just a moment of collapse. And like great teams do, Union pounced. And that was that.
The end of the game basically played out like the end of a basketball game. It was frustrating, and teasing, and agonizing, and ultimately disappointing.
GS: Yes. The crazy part was Gaudreau had a chance for a half-court heave that actually had a shot.
JG: Yes, he did. I mean, it was a pretty good chance, too.
GS: You wonder, with 2 more seconds to play with... he might actually have scored.
JG: Exactly. He had to rush the shot because of how little time was left.
In fact, given how lethal and creative he is in space, if he had another 2 seconds, I'd say there's an outstanding chance he would have scored.
GS: Had he scored I would have personally walked him to the Calgary Flames charter jet before overtime even began.
And bought him a fancy $200 fountain pen with which to sign his name.
JG: Yeah, it would have been about the craziest moment ever. But it was really just never to be.
JG: All you can do is tip your cap and call Union your daddy. BC did a lot of admirable things in that game. Thatcher Demko was excellent and really kept BC in it in the 2nd. The first line mostly did its thing. The Calnan line created some good pressure. Santini had that great goal. The team kept battling and never gave up (though they did seem to play tight).
But the team they were playing was better, stronger, and more disciplined. We're not used to seeing that at tournament time, but that's what happened. Not even the most delusional western yahoo could say Union wasn't deservingly the best team in the country.
GS: Oh yes they can.
They are wrong, but you underestimate western yahoos.
JG: Ha, good point. I probably spoke a little too broadly there. Plenty of Gopher fans tweeting that the refs screwed the Gophers because of Eastern Bias /smashes tree through a car windshield.
But I mean, other than those people.
GS: Hey, they have their "0.6" shirts. I'm sure that'll help them get over the loss.
JG: I give them an A+ on the 0.6 shirts.
GS: Quick turnaround, that's for sure.
JG: To sort of crystallize this a bit:
I don't necessarily think Union's forwards were better than BC's this year, or on the night. A little deeper, sure, but accounting for the advantage of BC's first line, I'd call that about even. And Demko I think gave BC the edge between the pipes.
But Union bossed BC and everyone else on the blue line.
Their defensemen were just rock solid. BC's were not. That was the difference. Next year, BC's returning veterans will all be on the blue line, plus the top recruit in Noah Hanifin. So they will have to be the strength of the team, the way the blue line was the strength of Union's team this year; we'll see if they have it in them. We'll also see if Matheson returns. He's a phenomenal talent, but his performance in the Union game didn't look like someone who's ready to play in the NHL.
GS: Not to mention the strength between the pipes. Do you get the feeling that Demko could be primed to bust out as a nationally elite goaltender early on? Because I do.
You worry about about the forwards but there is too much talent coming in. Plus we had a pretty sizable gap on 2nd place in scoring. We won't be #1 in scoring next year but we'll be toward the top. I agree that D will be what we hang out hat on. If we can get a superstar in the class of forwards, well, brilliant.
JG: I do, too. He wasn't freshman-year-Hellebuyck, but he's also significantly younger. I definitely think he's on the verge.
I like that optimistic note to end on.
GS: Me too. Good year. We'll let it simmer before we discuss just how good it really was.
JG: Like the series finale of "The West Wing," when President Barlet is looking out the window of the plane flying him home to New Hampshire when his Presidency is over, and his wife asks him "what are you thinking about?"
And he looks out the window and says, "Tomorrow."
Yes, 8 year old pop cultural references that nobody else cares about. Just sign us to a contract now, Grantland.
GS: That's deep, man.