Josh Brown is the student voice of the Northeastern Huskies for WRBB, Northeastern student radio. You can find hockey writing from Josh at USCHO and hoops coverage at College Hoops Daily, and follow Josh on Twitter at @Josh_Brown31. Josh took some time to talk about the Huskies with us in the run-up to this weekend's series between BC and NU.
1. Northeastern started the season with that long, awful losing streak, but has come on strong since Thanksgiving, posting a 6-2-1 record since picking up their first win of the season. Is this the "real" Northeastern that we're seeing in recent weeks? Or is the reality somewhere in the middle of this and the early struggles?
Josh Brown: That's exactly it. This Northeastern team as of late that beat both Minnesota and Providence in a matter of two weeks is playing exactly like a Jim Madigan-coached team. They start off the season slow, get hot in the middle part of the schedule, upset a team or two, but as the season wears on should come back to reality. Look, this is not a bad team. They were predicted to finish fourth in the conference and returned a ton from last year's 19-win team. At the end of the day this team is going to go as far as Clay Witt takes them, which when push comes to shove was a middle of the pack team in Hockey East last season.
2. What has changed about Northeastern's play from the beginning of the season until now? Or is it just a matter of the puck finding the back of the net?
Josh Brown: First and foremost getting Clay Witt back. During that 0-8-1 start, Witt was out for six games due to an upper-body injury. He's come back and is looking like the Clay Witt of last year. Northeastern got a couple bad bounces here and there but that's a result of not getting anything at the net. If you don't get shots on net you're not going to score. Coach Madigan has really started to cement what the lines are going to be and I think the guys are starting to build more and more chemistry as the season progresses and the offensive numbers reflect that.
3. On paper, the Huskies look to have a team loaded with high-end skill. On the ice, do they look to open it up into a track meet? Or would you expect them to play more defensively against BC?
Josh Brown: Just looking at the history (with the exception of the 7-6 Beanpot Championship marathon a few years back) these teams have a tendency of playing defensive oriented games. [ED -- Don't forget, the ensuing weekend, BC played NU and the two teams tied 7-7! That was a wild week.] Northeastern, surprisingly, has not used their speed to their advantage as much as one might expect. I don't see that changing at all this weekend. Northeastern and BC both need league points right now so I have a hunch both will be playing very conservatively and let the game come to them.
4. Even in the recent victories, Northeastern pretty regularly gets outshot. The trend isn't as stark as it was last year, but it's still noteworthy on paper. Do you attribute this to Madigan's preferred style of play, or is it a talent issue on the back end?
Josh Brown: I think it's a little of both. Since last season the motto on shots for Madigan has been "quality, not quantity." Northeastern is very confident with Clay Witt which kind of dictates their style of play. They let teams get a lot of shots in on him from far out in hopes of a long rebound and a break the other way. In the same breath talent is definitely an issue as well, and losing Josh Manson to the NHL has only hurt that more. Northeastern's defenseman have trouble staying in front of the opposing team's skaters and that results in a lot of shots on net. I think that's something BC will look to exploit all weekend.
5. What areas do you see as either overperforming or underperforming for NU so far this season? i.e., what might we expect to change as we get down the stretch?
Josh Brown: Northeastern has had an awful time defensively letting the opposing team get right in front of the net. Last weekend against St. Lawrence, the Saints danced around in the slot all weekend and had grade A opportunities as a result. I'm not sure if that is something that will change, but it needs to. Also the Huskies have been playing a lot of dump and chase hockey early on this season. That dosen't really suit their style in my opinion. I'd much rather them bring the puck into the offensive zone, set up their offense and move the puck around. Northeastern is a very good passing team and they don't exploit it enough.
6. Where do you think BC and Northeastern end up at the end of the season? Could we see both back at TD Garden again in March after the Beanpot meeting in February?
Josh Brown: BC is BC. They're going to be there when it's all said and done. Could they continue to struggle and have an early exit? Sure. But here at Northeastern radio when we are predicting games on the air we have a long-standing tradition of never picking against BC. A bad year talent-wise for them is a good year for anyone else. I think once they start to gel they'll be right in the thick of it. Northeastern, although I don't expect them to make a return trip to the Garden after the Beanpot, certainly could. It's all about consistency. If Northeastern plays up to their potential the whole second half of the season they'll have as good a chance as anyone. If they don't (which we are accustomed to) then it will be another disappointing trophyless season on Huntington Ave.
Thanks again to Josh for answering our questions. You can tune in to WRBB at 104.9 FM if your'e in the NU area, or listen online at WRBBRadio.org.