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Hockey Banter, Week IV: Back On Track

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A solid win, and BC is back to .500

BC Athletics

Joseph Gravellese: Exhale.

Feel better? That's called a win. We hadn't experienced that winning feeling since The Great Lowell Epic of March 2014.

And yes, it feels good to see BC dominate and win, even if it is against an AHA opponent.

Grant Salzano: And a bad one, at that. A win is nice and it does get us on the right track. But it did about as much to make me feel good about the upcoming season as the loss to Lowell did. What DID make me feel better was seeing just how many teams are struggling to get going this year and how much of a mess the rankings are shaping out to be.

JG: It's fair not to be too impressed by one game at RIT, and I won't get carried away either, but there were certainly things that made me happy watching that game. I am going to throw a blanket "I know, it was RIT" disclaimer here, so I don't have to keep repeating it; know that it's there as I make my ensuing points.

BC showed a bit of that trademark explosiveness early in the second period, scoring three goals in less than four minutes to go up 4-0 and basically put the game away then and there. That was nice to see.

Additionally, while closing out periods strong can be a concern with a young team, BC closed out the first period with a great, momentum-grabbing moment, killing off an RIT power play with about two minutes left in the period then coming right back the other way to score a big goal going into the locker room.

I was also pleased to see that the defense limited opportunities, outshooting RIT 8-4 in the first period and 17-10 in the second. (The third was 13-9 RIT, but BC had clearly taken their foot off the gas at that point.)

Also, we scored a power play goal--and was it ever a BOMB by Ian McCoshen, just an effing rocket of a shot that we didn't see unleashed nearly enough last year. But if he has that in his arsenal, look out. I mean really, look out, goalies.

He was one of four defensemen to score a goal in the game. I think you can call that officially part of the blueprint at this point. The six d-men combined for 16 shots.

GS: Yeah, that's the blueprint alright. I wonder, do we have a way of seeing if any other successful teams have relied so much on their defense for scoring?

JG: Well, let's take a look at Union last year. /click

They had d-men who scored 39, 34, 16 and 11 points. That's pretty good. Though they weren't the only offensive factors--they had four very high scoring forwards, too. You know what, Union was just an absurdly good team last year. Probably not a good comparison.

GS: Well, what national champion is not "absurdly good"?

JG: Yale?

But really, BC could be breaking the mold here, you've got 4 NHL drafted defensemen, one who surely will be (Hanifin) plus Teddy Doherty, who I really like.

Here's a comparison to another absurdly good team--2009 BU. Gilroy, 37 points. Cohen, 32. Shattenkirk, 28. Warsofsky 23. I know, I don't want to talk about it either.

But they also had Colin Wilson, Brandon Yip, Nick wasn't just the blue line. But again, this is another team that is in the pantheon of best teams ever, so I'm not trying to make that comparison.

GS: I see what you're getting at though. Okay. So maybe it can work.

JG: Obviously, it can't just be on the blue line. But the blue line can augment an offensive attack that isn't necessarily deep.

You know what I did like, up front? Some serious spark from the Cangelosi/Fitzgerald/Sanford line. After doing little to nothing against UNB and UML (other than Fitzgerald's goal), they combined for 9 shots and all ended the game +2.

Sanford, though not necessarily jumping off the screen at anyone, quietly leads the team in assists, picking up three helpers on Saturday night.

The revamped third line of Spiro, Sit and Silk also had a decent night--none of them scored but they all ended +2 which is really all you're looking for from the bottom six at this point.

And then there was the fourth line, which, I know, beat a dead horse dot gif, but Straight, Linell and Smith were all -1 in a game BC won 6-2. Not good. Straight and Smith were also the penalty killing forwards on the ice when RIT scored their power play goal. This is a problem.

GS: It is a huge problem. It's weird not having anything resembling depth up front. It's really going to be a struggle.

But this is all part of a discussion we've had since the end of last year. It's nothing new. I don't think we anticipated perpetual negative +/- out of the 4th line though.

JG: I'm not even worried about getting 3+ lines that can score at this point. I just want them to be able to possess the puck and not put up big minus numbers. I'm worried it might just not happen, no matter what they do to configure the lines. This is a problem that mere mortal college hockey teams have to deal with annually, and after about 5 straight seasons in rarified air, BC looks mortal this year, albeit a very good mortal.

The discussion now, which is already happening on the message boards, is about Matt Gaudreau vs. Destry Straight for that final slot. But as we've seen in the last few years the staff is going to do what they want with personnel and sometimes it leaves us scratching our heads. But you have to trust the decisions they're making, given their track record; at the end of the day there's only so much you can do with the personnel you have (see: football WR).

GS: Well, whether we play Matty Gaudreau or Destry Straight isn't going to make or break the season at this point.

Here's a question I have for you--

Acknowledging that whatever Jerry York does is probably the right decision either way, would you prefer the staff mixes up the bottom few lines repeatedly to try and find lightning in a bottle, or would you rather they pick something and stick with it for a few months to see if chemistry will develop?

JG: Ehhh...neither, I think? I don't think they should expect to find lightning in a bottle. It's not going to happen, probably. But they also shouldn't just keep a line together for continuity's sake if it's a disaster.

Of course, now that I say this, i'm sure lightning in a bottle is just around the corner.

The only scenario by which I can see "lightning in a bottle" is if they drop one of the six NHL draft picks down to the third line, and shift someone with some offensive skills but less pedigree, like a Spiro or a Silk, up to the top six, and see if that works out.

But a) it probably won't and b) that doesn't fix the fourth line.

But maybe they get to the point where three lines are good enough that the fourth line doesn't see the ice much. They don't really have that right now--as much as the current third line is pretty good, I think, and won't hurt you, it's not a powerhouse.

GS: As much as I was pro-superline last year, I would really like to see the top 3 lines as even as possible this year, I think. Give you at least a consistent mild attack with the big threat coming from the blue line.

JG: And we'll see if that becomes something worth discussing. For now, I think you keep things as is with the top three lines, but maybe try Gaudreau on line four this weekend.

Speaking of this of the reasons why it was so big to win out at RIT was that now you have an opportunity to roll downhill a little bit. Colorado College and UMass are not good hockey teams. BC should beat both of them at home. You come home 0-2, that really puts a damper on things. But now you have a chance to jump out to 3-1, which definitely feels a lot better.

They really better not screw up against CC. First of all because my psyche wouldn't be happy with losing to CC again, but secondly because it's an opportunity to score what should be a fairly routine win that could be big in the PWR because of common opponent comparisons with NCHC teams.

GS: Spot on. I was going to bring that up. I kind of forget just how many bad teams there are in college hockey. We aren't going to play Lowell every week. Getting a little winning streak going will indeed be good for the team's confidence and, 10x more importantly because it's all about me and not about the team, for my psyche.

You summed up CC pretty well. If we lose to UMass we might as well hang it up.

JG: Boy, what a horror show at CC. 7 wins last season. This year they have a new coach. About the only positive thing you can say is that they didn't lose much from last year's roster, but they didn't have much to lose. Jaccob Slavin is a really good NHL prospect patrolling the blue line for them. Otherwise, there's not much there.

Their goaltending was atrocious last season with two goalies splitting time and both coming in under .900 sv%. They have two entirely new goalies this year, a freshman and a sophomore. And they're both under .900 sv% after four games. CC beat Alabama Huntsville in a pair of one goal wins to start the season, then got trucked by North Dakota twice.

I'd honestly be more panicked by losing to them than I would to UMass, since conference games are always going to be tough.

GS: Huntsville? Yikes.

JG: Yeah, not good, man. CC has circled the drain since that inexplicable blowout win over BC in 2011. Karmic justice, I guess.

GS: Sports are weird. Wonder if the NCHC is having buyer's remorse like I am with Notre Dame.

And also UConn.

Though it's hard to be regret something you never wanted in the first place. But I digress.

JG: Looking real quick at the conference storylines, there are two narratives I really want to see nipped in the bud this weekend but I fear they won't be.

The BU-is-back narrative, I hate to say, is not ridiculous.

I do think it's a little premature to rate them #1 in Hockey East after one win in a real game (against UMass) as our friends over at SBN College Hockey did this week.

But they certainly seem to have a lot of weapons, and that important factor in college sports, belief. The din is going to get overwhelming from the BU fansies in the media if BU sweeps Michigan and Michigan State at Agganis this weekend--which I think they will.

GS: Yeah, I've been worried about them. Hopefully they can get a little humble pie this weekend. It would make me feel better.

Ridiculous to have them in first though. Come on. They beat UMass.

JG: The other thing that's nauseating me right now is Merrimack being "undefeated" (okay, they really are undefeated, not "undefeated") with two one goal wins over Holy Cross and an OT win over UConn.

Remember how stupid things got when Merrimack started the season undefeated a few years ago? How many feel-good Merrimack stories there were? How they were rated #1? How people were talking about Dennehy-for-BC-coach or perhaps Dennehy-for-Pope?

It's going to get bad if they survive this weekend against Mercyhurst, which they very well may. And then they play Princeton next week.

Go Lakers, is all I have to say about that.

GS: The Merrimack story just makes me lol. They're BAD. The impending Merrimack "collapse" (if you can call it that after 3 games) is about as certain as a boulder is to collapse after being pushed off a cliff.


JG: Any other piping hot takes you want to dish out to the readership this week?

GS: Not really. Just a quick shout out for the women's team's *colossal* series against #5 Cornell. Could be a statement weekend.

JG: Oh yes. One of the biggest home series for them in a while, and a chance to solidify their PWR position. In the last few years the women's team seems to save their best efforts for their hardest opponents, so let's see if that trend holds over the weekend. I'm pretty excited for all the great hockey that will play out at Conte this weekend. Is it Friday yet?