Less than a month into the 2019-2020 regular season and the Boston College men’s hockey team is already well into their Hockey East schedule. A loss on Friday night to New Hampshire brought the Eagles losing streak to four straight games before a solid bounce back performance against Providence righted the ship on Saturday. Here are some final thoughts on the weekend games and the first seven games as a whole.
SATURDAY NIGHT A BIG RESULT
Let’s be clear, a loss on Saturday wasn’t going to mean the early end of BC’s season. There would still have been plenty of time to turn things around even with a 2-5 start with the schedule, in theory, getting a bit easier in the coming weeks. And really, calling a season over on November 2 would probably have been unfair unless BC was winless and looking totally inept, which they have not.
But with that said...that felt like a pretty big win, right? BC played a good game on the road against a team that had beaten them the week before and really outplayed Providence for the bulk of the game before putting their 3-1 lead at risk with a major penalty in the last few minutes. The Eagles gutted out the result on the penalty kill, letting in one goal to cut their lead in half, but ultimately getting the job done.
It’s not a season saving win just like it wouldn’t have been a season ending loss, but 3-4 with a 1-2 record in conference just sounds a whole lot better than 2-5, 0-3. BC has spent a lot of time in past seasons chasing teams ahead of them, and while they’re still looking up at a lot of teams, the climb isn’t quite as daunting as it could have been.
DEFENSE KIND OF FINE...
Coming into the season, the defense was viewed as a cause for concern. Casey Fitzgerald and Michael Kim were gone and the big minutes they had played now had to be allotted to players who struggled even in more minor roles. And as always, it’s hard to ask freshmen to come in and solve all the problems.
And yet...they’ve mostly been ok. Maybe not great, but certainly not as problematic as they could have been, especially considering the baptism by fire they faced with the early part of the schedule.
Here’s the defense in some numbers: they’ve let up 21 goals in 7 games. 3 goals a game is a bit up from the past few seasons, but not astronomically so. But of those 21, only 9 have come at even strength. Nine have come while BC was shorthanded, one when they were on the power play, and two while BC has had an empty net. And while those goals count all the same, BC is basically giving up less than a goal and a half per game while at even strength. There’s things that can be cleaned up in their own zone and as we’ve discussed, the PK either needs to stay off the ice or just get better, but less than a goal and a half per game at 5-on-5? I’d have taken that a month ago.
...BUT MAN, THAT OFFENSE
BC’s power play had a nice (hopefully) breakout game on Saturday, scoring two goals after some nice puck movement and getting some bodies in front of the net. But man, it’s still not really clicking the way we hoped it would.
BC has 17 goals in 7 games this year, tied for second worse with UConn in Hockey East (Vemont has NINE in six games). And that’s with their shooting percentage being up almost a full percentage point on last season (7.7 percent vs 8.6 percent). Some of that will probably get better (Matt Boldy probably won’t shoot 4 percent all year, Logan Hutsko has missed four of the seven games), but scoring has been an issue for BC for a few years now, and the first part of the season hasn’t done much inspire hope that things will change.
FEELINGS SO FAR
Somehow we’re already around 20 percent done with the 2019-2020 season, even though it feels like it just started yesterday. There was some optimism around this team when the season got underway and a quick 2-0 start only buoyed that. Four straight losses after that had us losing our collective minds before Saturday’s win, so now, where exactly are we?
I’ll say that I still stand by my comment from our preseason round-table that I have no idea what I think about this team. I think the pieces are there for this team to make some noise and do some damage this season, but to this point, the pieces haven’t quite fit together the way that I (and others) hoped they would. At the same time, they’ve absolutely looked like a better team than last season, and if they get a lucky bounce or two against UNH, maybe they’re 4-3 and we’re all feeling good again. It’s been a tough team to get a read on to this point.
BC has a home-and-home series with UConn coming up this weekend before playing two in Vermont against a Catamounts team that is really struggling thus far. Personally, anything less than three wins in those four games is going to have me leaning quite a bit more in the direction of legitimate concern.