Click here to read the first part of the midseason roundtable from last week.
5. What has been or has the potential to be the team's biggest weakness in the second half?
JG: I think we've seen some cracks in the defensive armor in the last few weeks, and that's going to be something to keep an eye on. This is probably true of most teams but when BC gets penned in deep they're really in trouble. They're good at retaining possession most of the time but not good at recovering once they get to scrambling.
LB: They're lucky to have a good penalty kill, that's for sure.
I agree with Joe that the D is starting to show some cracks. If they can keep out of the penalty box and work on not getting frantic on defense, they'll be in good shape.
GS: I agree with Joe - it's the cracks in the armor we've seen from the defense. Not to say they've been struggling - all of Notre Dame's goals came from distance with all but one coming from the blue line, which means BC is still doing a really, really job of protecting the slot in front of Demko, but the scoring defense has nonetheless regressed and it's a bit worrisome.
AB: I don't mind the fights, but that is probably a product of the hockey environment that I came of age in (Philadelphia hockey). I share Joe's concerns with the defense. The Eagles really struggled to get the puck out against Notre Dame, so that is something they need to look at.
6. Which game (other than the Beanpot) are you most looking forward to in the second half?
JG: January 9 at Providence has the potential to be a "rubber match" of a possible three game series if all goes to plan. Whoever wins that scrap will have the target on their back down the stretch - not just in Hockey East, but probably nationally.
LB: Probably the away BU game. Those are always fun (when we win).
GS: The home game against BU. There's a very real chance that that game is #JY1K, which would be as good as it gets. Against BU and at home in front of what will be a totally packed house... oh yes.
AB: Has anyone said the home-and-home against Merrimack yet? In all seriousness, I'll say the game in late January against Notre Dame on the road. Notre Dame has, in my opinion, played the most pesky game against BC of the year. BC is going to need to improve how they match up defensively, because Notre Dame played a very solid offensive game against them.
7. Who do you see as the top national title contenders right now? Would you put BC in that mix?
JG: Despite QU's loss to BU on Saturday, I kind of think the national champion is going to come out of the ECAC this season, and I see QU as at the head of that pack (obviously). The ECAC has a lot of good teams right now. Cornell is legit - it should be interesting when they clash with PC. Harvard is very, very good. Yale, SLU and even RPI are all possible tournament teams. The top half of the league is very solid and it's pretty decent all the way to the bottom (Union is right near the bottom right now). So I see those top ECAC teams as the teams to beat.
BC is definitely in the mix - obviously along with Providence. Lowell has had a rough couple of weeks but I think they'll be in the mix in the end.
Michigan is the only really good team in the B1G. I can't see the WCHA or AHC being a factor (sorry NG). There are some legit teams in the NCHC but I can't get the memory out of my head of two of their best teams rolling in to the Frozen Four and getting utterly smoked by a pair of Hockey East teams.
LB: Realistically do I see BC winning it all as of right now? Probably not, but they'll make it into the tourney and hopefully prove me wrong.
QU and PC have both been good, so they're definitely top challengers. I don't really have anything to add to this that isn't obvious based on rankings.
GS: I am really surprised at how good Providence looks. I expected them to fall back to around 15th or so where they were last year, but instead they've come out totally on fire and are playing like their run to the title was less of a "good run" and more of what the team is actually made of. And without Gillies!
Quinnipiac also looks great again, but they don't scare me like they did a couple years ago.
BC is obviously in the conversation, but at this point there are probably ten teams with a legitimate argument for being a championship-caliber team, and identifying a "top" contender has become something of a fool's errand.
AB: Is there any possible way that I can get out of saying Qunnipiac? Pretty please? Fine. Quinnipaic is a contender. I also like PC as a contender, and, you know what, throw No. Dak in there too. I do also consider BC to be a contender. When you have a solid scoring team alongside one of the best goalies in college hockey, any title conversation needs to include BC. Plain and simple. The defense will get better.
8. At this point, we're able to set some expectations, now that we have months to work off of. What performance level would make you satisfied with the season?
JG: They've got to make it to the Garden for Hockey East semifinals (which can't be taken for granted anymore, obviously), bare minimum. They should also be a 1- or 2-seed in the NCAA tournament. From there, in order for it to feel successful, they're going to need to either win a postseason trophy or make the Frozen Four. The bar is set pretty high now after this first half.
I don't really factor the Beanpot in to this calculus unless they do something really stupid like finish 4th by losing to NU in the consolation game. Beanpot will be wide open this year and Harvard might be the scariest team in it. Glad that game's at 5 PM, nice work.
LB: I want the Beanpot. Win the Beanpot, make it to the HE finals, and get to the Frozen Four and I will feel like this season was a success. But I won't be HAPPY, because I want BC to win everything always.
GS: This year needs to be the return of BC's ability to take a talented team and galvanize them for a playoff run. It used to be that getting to the Garden for Hockey East plus a Frozen Four appearance were what you expected from BC. I think the team's talent level is at that point again, and if we get to the point where we're happy with anything less than that, then it will start to feel like we aren't BC anymore.
That's not to say we won't be disappointed with losing in the Frozen Four and won't be disappointed with losing in the regionals, but there's a certain level of accomplishment that we would view as "successful" with this level of talent, and it will have felt like a waste of that talent without making it to the final weekend.
AB: The Beanpot, despite its competitiveness this year, needs to be BC's by the end of the tournament. In terms of the conference tournament and the national tournament, at a minimum there need to be two semifinal finishes. This team is too good not to make it to the Garden and to Amalie Arena.