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BC-UConn: Post-Mortem Thoughts

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Some thoughts on last night's 1-0 defeat at the XL Center

First and foremost, congratulations to Coach Mike Cavanaugh on an early program-defining victory. All BC fans owe Cav a debt of gratitude for his contributions to many great teams at Boston College. We all knew that one day, Cav would leave BC to take the reins of his own program, but it was a long running question as to where he would go. There were some opportunities he didn't pursue, and some top-end programs who probably wouldn't have considered him due to a lack of head coaching experience. My understanding (and someone correct me if I'm wrong) is that he was in the mix for the Northeastern opening a few years ago and would have taken that gig if offered, but NU decided they wanted to go with an alum. (How's that working out for you?) UConn presented a good opportunity for Cavanaugh to essentially build a program from scratch, and with some resources at his disposal and with his championship pedigree we all know he's going to do a great job.

Continuing on that point, UConn was definitely a well-coached team last night. They didn't really make any mistakes. BC's shot-on-goal advantage in the final two periods was, as Grant said, a little misleading, because UConn limited BC to very few "Grade A" chances. The Huskies also did a pretty good job maintaining possession of their own in the attacking zone, especially in the first period. And when BC did get opportunities to bring the puck up through the neutral zone UConn was often able to disrupt them and prevent the Eagles from getting much of a head of steam.

While I thought BC would win last night, I definitely figured Evan Richardson would score for UConn. You could kind of see that one coming. I don't know the full story of what the deal was between Richardson and the coaching staff here, but there was obviously some sort of disconnect. And to me, Richardson definitely belonged higher on the depth chart than BC had him while he was here. While we didn't see much of Richardson at BC, he came with some pedigree and clearly has a lot of talent. Not only did he score, he was really one of UConn's most noticeable players in terms of speed and skill. We could have used him on the roster this year, I think. But that's neither here nor there--congrats to him on getting his opportunity and seizing it so far.

One of the reasons why I say BC could have used a guy like Richardson is that we saw again that BC's forwards are pretty good but just not too deep, and they could definitely use more speed and creativity. It is never my intention to pile on a BC player so I'm sorry if it seems like I'm doing that, but: some of the lower-line forwards for BC, we've all kind of accepted their limitations and understand what we are going to get out of them, and that's OK. You don't need 3 or 4 ridiculous scoring lines to win games. However, it seems like the staff is not on board with accepting Straight as one of those players with lower expectations. He continues to play significant minutes on the power play and on the penalty kill, and he slid up onto a wing last night with Chris Calnan and Adam Gilmour, as Tuch was moved into a line with Fitzgerald and Sanford with Cangelosi dropped down to a lower line. Straight has the size and the tools to be a good player but it's never quite connected for him here, other than when he played on a line with Chris Kreider, which, well, yeah. I am not sure if it's going to click for him this year. Maybe it will, and the staff seems determined to force it into happening. Sort of a square peg, round hole situation to me. Maybe I'll be wrong and he'll go on an offensive tear--he contributed to the attack tonight, with three shots on goal, as well as a missed shot right in front of the net that maybe goes in with a better bounce. We'll see. But it's something that's concerned me.

Noah Hanifin is a special skater and he stood out as maybe the fastest player on the ice. He's also gifted at carrying the puck, although you wish a little more came out of some of his rushes. I'm sure goals and points will rack up for him with time. There were some groans from the BC contingent last night as not only Hanifin but also Matheson and I think McCoshen had plays where they carried the puck in deep looking to create offense but weren't able to pull the trigger on a shot or a pass--most notably, a Hanifin rush in the third period where he skated the puck in from the point, all the way around the net, and then back out to the blue line again and ultimately out of the zone where BC had to regroup. However, I give UConn credit on that as it looks like they really shut down all the passing lanes. In theory a move like that is supposed to draw in a defender and create an opening for a pass to a wide open player, but UConn wasn't buying it.

Thatcher Demko was brilliant again when called upon. I don't have too much more to add to that. He's been a true #1 in every sense so far this year and will keep BC in a lot of games even if the offense struggles.

I know that "don't take penalties" is sort of the hockey hot take equivalent of saying "don't turn the ball over in football," because, well, duh. But it's not so much just the penalties BC's taking that worries me as much as it is when and how they take them. Sadly Hockey East's cool stat filter tool does not track what percentage of penalties taken are offensive zone penalties, but anecdotally, it seems like a lot. BC also took two penalties that negated power plays of their own. BC didn't play an awful game last night (though they certainly were not great), and made very few mistakes and gave up few great chances 5-on-5. However, when you dig yourself a hole by taking the game's first two penalties you're asking for trouble against a team hungry for an upset.

The power play...ouch. 0-for-6 again. And seemingly devoid of ideas, really. Now I'll grant that this team's strength is defensemen who can shoot and carry the puck, so you want to feed them and hope they get shots on net or shots that can get tipped out front. But I feel like they've settled a little too much into that rhythm, and we haven't seen enough high to low passing to exploit the space you have when you have a man advantage. Particularly on BC's brief 5-on-3, the eagerness to feed the puck to the point, I wasn't necessarily a fan of.

Naturally, I was thinking "oh God, Eichel is going to do horrible things to us on Friday night" as that game wound down last night, but hey, you never know, maybe they'll come out firing on Friday night, because sports are weird.