After a season of delays, seemingly hourly schedule changes, midseason updates to how the standings are calculated, and some pretty entertaining games, we’re somehow down to the last weekend of the regular season for the Boston College men’s hockey team. And thanks to their 15-4-1 record, the Eagles look like they’ll be making their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2016.
There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about a potential deep postseason run, but as we saw this past weekend, BC is certainly not invulnerable. So instead of taking a look back at the single game the Eagles played last weekend, let’s take a look forward and try to get a grasp on exactly how we feel with the end of the regular season right around the corner.
SCORING DEPTH HAS BEEN EXCELLENT...
On any given night, it feels like BC rolls out three lines that can lead the way. Eight of the nine forwards that make up the top three lines are averaging at least half a point per game, with on Casey Carreau (a recent addition to that third line) missing out on that mark. Eamon Powell and Drew Helleson are well clear of the same total while three different Eagles - Matt Boldy, Jack McBain, and Alex Newhook - are scoring at a point per game pace or better (as is Logan Hutsko, who will be out for the remainder of the season).
In terms of consistency throughout the lineup, that’s about as good as you can ask for from this Eagles team. There have been nights where each of the top three lines has looked the most dangerous or lead the team to a win. A few weekends ago, the top line of Boldy, Newhook, and Mike Hardman combined for five goals in a blowout win on a Friday night before Nikita Nesterenko and Jack McBain scored third period goals as the second line lead the way the following night. Meanwhile, it’s Marc McLaughlin on the third line leading the team in game winning goals.
There’s a lot of depth here and in the playoffs, that matters. Being able to confidently roll through your forward lines is a big advantage and one that BC will hopefully be able to take advantage of.
...BUT THERE’S NOT QUITE A DOMINANT LINE
Matt Boldy, Alex Newhook, and Mike Hardman have been good together, there’s no doubt about that. Since Newhook’s return from injury, the trio has gotten on the scoreboard in all but one of the seven games that they have played, including the five-goal outburst against UMass Lowell that was mentioned earlier. They’re the top line and when they’re really clicking, they’re as hard to stop as any line in the country.
With that said, doesn’t it kind of feel like there’s like 10 percent more that we could see from them? They aren’t going to score five goals every game, but it’s felt like they’ve only shown their true potential in flashes. Matt Boldy has two multi point games since January, he had six in that same time frame last season. Hardman has just three such games all season after having three in the month of February alone last year. Again, none of this is to say they’ve been bad. They’ve been good all season and they’ve been a good line since Newhook returned. There just feels like we get flashes of dominance over the course of a few shifts, or a period, or even a full game, but then they’re back to just being good. If BC is going to go far in the postseason, they’ll probably need this line to be more than good, at least a little bit more often.
GOALTENDING REMAINS A CLEAR STRENGTH
If you’ve followed the team for the last two seasons, this isn't much of a surprise, but Spencer Knight is a really good goalie, and really good goalies can carry a team in the postseason. Knight has a .937 save percentage, good for fifth in the nation and fourth among goalies with at least 10 games played. In 2016, when Thatcher Demko was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, he had a .935 save percentage.
The team in front of him plays a part in that number and the defense has certainly improved since the start of the season, but if you’re looking for one reason to feel good about BC’s chances in the Hockey East Tournament and beyond, Knight’s as good a place as any to start.
STILL LOOKING FOR THEIR ‘A’ GAME
This is another one that’s just kind of based on the eye test, but doesn’t it feel like BC just hasn’t played their best game more than a few times this season? They’re winning games and they’ve earned their 15-4-1 record, but there have been a lot of third periods that feel like they’ve been closer than they should be.
Take just the last two games that we’ve seen this team play. Their 3-0 win against Maine felt like one of the best games that they’ve played all season, outshooting the Black Bears 59-24 and completely dominating the game for the full 60 minutes. And then they followed it up with a bit of a dud against UMass this past weekend, getting ahead 2-0 but letting the Minutemen back in the game before getting completely dominated for the entirety of the third period and losing in overtime.
There have been times this season when BC has looked close to unbeatable. Their 9-0 win against Providence early in the season and their more recent 7-1 blowout of Lowell are the first examples that come to mind. But then you toss in a few kind of uninspiring performances against a not very good UNH team and bad blown lead against a pretty good but not great UConn team and you just wish that you saw the dominant team a bit more. It only takes one off game to end your season once the NCAA Tournament starts, and the Eagles have had their share of off nights to this point.
SPECIAL TEAMS - THE WILD CARD
I won’t spend too much time on this because it’s been something that I’ve talked about pretty much all season, but it’s worth repeating. The penalty kill has been excellent for most of the season (though UMass just had one of the most impressive 0-for-3 performances I can remember) and the penalty kill has been scoring more of late, but still looks like it could be better. BC has won a few games this season thanks in large part to their penalty kill and they’ve let some opportunities pass them by due to their struggles on the man advantage. If they can clean up the power play and keep rolling on the PK, that would be a massive boost in the weeks to come.
HOW DO YOU FEEL?
So that’s kind of where I am with this team with one weekend left in the regular season, but where are you? Is there anything that I missed or anything that I focused on that you don’t think is an issue? Feel free to let us know your thoughts with just one weekend left in the Hockey East regular season.