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Hockey Banter, Week XV: Pot Half Full

After a week's hiatus, the Banter is back with all its hockey goodness.

Emily Fahey, BC Heights Sports

Joseph Gravellese: Boston College is now 20-4-3 after Monday night's win. 20-4-3. Wow. I knew this year's team would be good, but I didn't see this coming.

That said, great talent comes with great expectations, and I found myself worried on Monday night that it was BC's fourth straight win that wasn't necessarily impressive, from a performance standpoint... at least compared to some of the previous games. We got so used to 5+ goals a game that it's become worrying when the offense isn't blistering their opponents.

But then I started thinking about it another way.

Thatcher Demko has been anointed the starting goalie for five games now, following Billett being in net for the 6-4 win over BU at home a few weeks back.

In those five games, BC goals allowed: 2, 1, 2, 0, 1.

And aside from an outlier at Penn State (35), in those games they allowed respectable-to-excellent shot totals of 30, 28, 25, 20.

I don't think it's a coincidence that BC seems to be a little more defense-focused since the freshman was anointed the #1 goalie. I don't doubt there has been a renewed emphasis on taking care of their own end.

On Monday night, BC seemed to be a little less aggressive on the forecheck than we've seen maybe in other games throughout the year. In the defensive end, even Gaudreau -- usually notably drifting at the top of the faceoff circles waiting to break when the team is pinned in their own zone -- got back and broke up two plays defensively that I noticed.

The offense will be there, with the talent BC has on the team. But building a championship-caliber defense is a big part of the equation. And having Thatcher Demko be a bonafide #1 star in each of the past two games certainly doesn't hurt.

Grant Salzano: You're right in that the wins feel less impressive when we aren't scoring 5 goals, but you hit the nail on the head. They are impressing in other areas.

And that's not to say we are done with 5+ goal outbursts. The offense is there. And they are explosive. It's a neat little situation where we are starting to feel like we can lock down, but also cut them loose if we need to.

JG: For sure. And it should be noted that the team is clearly a better offensive force when Ian McCoshen is in the lineup -- not to mention with Danny Linell at forward.

GS: Yes, I was a bit nervous without having McCoshen. He's not Brian Dumoulin, but he's got the skill set to get there. He's been, probably, our most consistent defenseman.

JG: Agreed. It concerned me to see he had an "undisclosed injury." But at least it's been reported as lower body, ruling out concussion problems. And as far as we know, it's still more of a day-to-day thing.

As for the overall defense, remember when we were excited about BC moving from 19th to 13th in just two weeks time in goals allowed per game?

Yeah, the Eagles are now 5th. 2.19.

And you have to say, Thatcher Demko has contributed quite a bit to that by virtue of his size alone, making stops seemingly in every game with his shoulder that most goalies aren't going to make.

Add in his complete skill set, and he's been a serious #1 these past few weeks... like York knew what was coming when he anointed him the starter.

GS: It's been crazy. It seemed, at least to me, that in the games where he alternated with Billett, that he would look a little rusty. Turns out all he needed was consistent starts I guess.

You're not kidding about his size. The end of the BU game was a prime example. What a perfect tip BU made to almost tie the game. That's a goal on any other goalie. But instead of us freaking out over BU tying it, we're talking about Gaudreau's empty netter without a care in the world.

I'm surprised how little talk there's been about that save. We could be having a totally different conversation right now.

JG: Yeah, absolutely. Demko was the reason why BC had a margin of error to work with for most of the game. He didn't "steal" the game, but he definitely was a main factor in winning it.

As for general Beanpot reactions... I know I dumped on Harvard pretty extensively after BC laid waste to them in their own rink in November, but I'm going to do it again.

That turd they dropped on the Garden ice on Monday was probably one of the worst performances in a Beanpot game I've ever seen, if not the worst. And in fashion typical of their team in recent years they went down without playing with much pride, but they definitely were more than willing to throw elbows, knees, etc., with a player tossed for an ugly knee-on-knee hit late in the game.

How do you just show up and be so goddamn bad in a Beanpot game? I don't want to hear about the difficulty of getting talent to Harvard. The Crimson skated 8 NHL draft picks on Monday night, compared to Northeastern's 4.

That team is a disaster. Even though I'm not a Harvard fan, I find it sad to watch, and hope Ted Donato is finally shown the door after this season.

That said, let's wish them well on Monday at 4:30 in what's becoming the traditional Harvard-BU consolation tilt.

GS: Yeah that game was pretty bad. You hit all the points, really. What more is there to say? It's obviously not a recruiting issue -- and it's not like their biggest rival didn't just win the national title or anything.

There must be so much apathy towards the program for seemingly no one to care enough to make a change.

JG: Well, that apathy is reflected in the total lack of Harvard fans in the stands at the Beanpot. As much as we joke now about Harvard folks being too smart, too busy, too cool etc. to care about the Beanpot, you only need to rewind about 15 years to see plenty of Harvard fans in the stands at those games. Harvard is packing the house for their basketball program, so it's not like the student and alumni base there won't support a successful team.

But years and years of being both bad and hard to root for has shattered any semblance of a hockey culture at that school. Sort of a reverse-BC situation with hoops.

GS: Pretty much exactly. And you're starting to see the same thing at BU in hockey, somehow.

JG: The situation isn't quite so dire there, but yeah, more of this will take its toll. Though since they don't have any other sports over there to throw their support to I guess the hockey team's decline is just going to drive up BU student participation in the campus's other pastimes, like techno clubbing, and whatever else goes on down there.

As for the Huskies... we'll get into them in more detail before Monday's game, but they certainly did not disappoint, the way they are historically wont to do on the first Monday in February. They didn't face much in the way of real opposition -- they could have pitched tents in front of the net and roasted marshmallows with how little resistance they faced -- but they took care of business.

What I did notice, just anecdotally, from sitting down low behind the net and watching NU in person on Monday, was thinking, "wow, that's a good player," quite a few times. You begin to realize that they do have quite a few weapons offensively. Roy, Saucerman, Szmatula, Pimm.... Ferriero has had a rough career there, but he's still got skill. I definitely don't doubt their offensive bona fides.

I still think the blue line is a house of cards and Witt can't possibly keep up a .940+ save percentage.

But I've been wrong about that all year, so.

GS: Yeah we're starting to leave the realm of small sample sizes with them, aren't we? Maybe they'll come back to earth a bit, but as you pointed out, there's talent there.

Imagine if they had Gaudreau and Gillies and whoever else they've lost.

We say it all the time... But yeesh.

JG: I have no problem with Northeastern being good. I like Northeastern. I just don't want to live in a world where their team is THAT stacked. So I'm gonna just forget about that one.

But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves... we'll dive deeply into the final over the weekend and have posts up Monday morning.

Next up for the Eagles: Merrimack. Finally, a home game!

GS: And against a bad team, hooray! Maybe we'll pad some stats.

Always nice to play Mack not at their crappy arena.

JG: It certainly seems like the perfect game for offensive liftoff to pair with the new lockdown defense. Let's hope for a full and healthy lineup. BC managed to smother the life out of the Mack at their own rink, so they should be able to handle this one.

As an aside, it's definitely helpful for BC in the long run to have all of these challenging away and neutral-site games, but as a season ticket holder, it's been lame to only have this be the fourth home game since the new year... and there are only two more after this one. Oh well.

GS: Speaking of padding stats -- I know you give me a lot of grief about being so "rah rah" about Gaudreau, but do we have any idea what the point steak record is?

He has to AT LEAST be getting close to the *program* record. Even in games where he is bottled up a bit by his opponent he is still making things happen.

Did you catch that move he made about halfway through the Beanpot? Good God, if he had scored, the roof would have come off the Garden.

JG: I don't give grief about being rah-rah about Gaudreau. I give grief over obsessing over the Hobey.

But yeah, let's hire a BCI intern to look that record up. Or hope that one of our loyal readers has that information.

He could probably play with a nine-iron the rest of the year and win the Hobey.

GS: You think I obsess about the Hobey, but I just think it would be a big deal for the program to get another winner. It's been a while. You didn't say people were "obsessing" over the Heisman when Andre was a candidate.

JG: Winning the Hobey is not a big deal for the program when it regularly wins team trophies without even noticing it. (Oh, what's this? Three Rivers Classic? Throw it on the pile.) Heisman would have been a game-changer for the football program.

You're not dumb, though, so you know that.

That's not to say I'm not rooting hard for him to win the Hobey. I just wasn't bothered when he didn't last year, and won't be tracking the stats of those close to him obsessively to update the Hobey board. Though to make my life easier, nobody's close to him.

GS: I don't agree that it's not a big deal just because we win. You also aren't dumb enough to think that the Three Rivers Classic is more important than the Hobey, so let's nip the hyperbole in the bud.

You didn't think people were "obsessing" over Andre44Heisman...

JG: Come on. Andre Williams' Heisman nomination was a signal to potential recruits that "look, you can come to BC and become an elite player and a pro prospect." Is there any hockey recruit in the country that doubts that?

Is there any hockey recruit in the country who needs Johnny Gaudreau to win the Hobey Baker to signify that this is the place to come if you want to dominate college hockey? All you have to do is turn on NBCSN or NHL Network pretty much any night of the week.

That's why it's not as big of a deal.

GS: I guess I just don't agree that our team success belittles its value to the program.

But we can disagree. I still like you, kind of.

JG: Well that's good.

We'll be back Monday morning to get ready for the Beanpot final.

In the meantime, let's hope for another win on Friday. As always, ENJOY!

GS: Hopefully this time next week we'll have another trophy for the pile.