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Hockey Banter, Week II, Part 2: The Defense

Wrapping up our last pre-season hockey Banter with a look at the blue line and in goal.

BC Athletics

Joseph Gravellese: When talking about BC hockey's forwards, we said that there weren't a lot of "known knowns." Even the best forwards on the team are being asked to do things they haven't done yet at BC. That isn't the case on the blue line, and that's why defense and goaltending is expected to be a strength for the Eagles this year.

Steve Santini, Ian McCoshen, and Mike Matheson have been starters and standouts since their arrivals at BC. Matheson has had his moments where he's made people crazy either by taking penalties or by putting himself into a bad position, but there's no denying that he's one of the best defensive NHL prospects in college hockey, and a potent puck-moving threat.

And then there's Santini, who added a much needed physical element to BC's game last year. But he's about more than monstrous hits, he's a very good and intelligent defenseman capable of contributing on offense and defense.

Grant Salzano: Yeah, there's a lot to like back on the blue line. Not the least of which is, like a lot of the he forwards, is the size. I mean, look at 17 year old Noah Hanifin. He's 17??

JG: Yes, indeed. I was going to get to him last, but let's just go ahead and move along to him now. It's probably going to take him a while to really get up to speed with the college game, since he is, after all, 17.

But...he's projected as a potential top 5 draft pick next year. Kid is supremely talented. And, yes, big. And a good skater.

Even without Hanifin being a superstar player, this blue line was likely to produce a number of guys who could chip in offensively, but add in Hanifin and the D could become a real weapon for BC, similar to what Union had last year.

GS: Having the blue line like that really opens up a lot of things. There's obviously the direct result of them creating offense on their own. But having so much talent will allow those forwards in bigger rolls to have the confidence that if they screw up, they have talent behind them to pick up the pieces. And of course, they'll make Demko look even better.

JG: Demko is going to be a key piece in this team's success. Hot sports takes, I know. But because BC has a number of defensemen who love to join the rush, it's naturally going to lead to opposing teams getting breakaway opportunities, as we saw happen with alarming frequency against UNB.

That's where having an elite goaltender comes in.

Muse had his proverbial money at BC by coming up big on those opportunities, giving his team free reign to keep launching forward.

GS: True. And you're right, Muse seemed to really come up big on breakaways. Hopefully the blue line tightens up though because I don't want our season riding on Demko being able to come up big stopping three breakaways per game.

JG: Well, yes, this is right, and I suspect it will look better than it did in the second period against New Brunswick, when most of the breakdowns happened. As concerned as I was about some of the breakdowns at the end of the day, BC only gave up 24 shots.

Given how good our blue line should be at possessing the puck, I would like to think we'll see opponents kept below 30 shots with some regularity.

GS: I'm looking forward to seeing what we'll get out of the vets, too. McCoshen feels like a senior but he's only a sophomore. He needs to cut down on the penalties, though.

I'm still wrapping my head around this new-look team. It is very weird.

JG: Yes, it is. It's going to take a good month or so before we can really assess the team's personality.

GS: That's part of why I didn't know what to take from the UNB game.

JG: There's talent there, though. Lots of talent all over the ice. And there's potential. With the number of "what ifs," there's reason to think BC can do even better than our early expectations.

But the mystery of it all makes this one of the most fascinating seasons in recent memory. Who knows what to expect on Friday night in Lowell? But that's what makes it fun.

GS: Absolutely. I'm looking forward to hopefully being more optimistic.

I don't like uncertainty, man.

When did you become the optimist of this duo?

JG: I wouldn't say I'm an "optimist," but I like to pride myself on looking at things in a fair minded and realistic way. Almost every year, regardless of who's left or who's come in, BC has had players rise to the occasion and put the team in contention. So I'm not going to worry unless I see a reason to worry.

On that note, do me a favor and don't blow a gasket if they lose to Lowell on Friday, okay?

GS: I will be more likely to be doom and gloom than to pop a blood vessel. But if we win, NATIONAL CHAMPS, BABY!

I am a BC fan, after all.

JG: That's going to be a tough environment on Friday night, with 7,000+ people crammed into the stadium, "the blue out," their hilarious/adorable banner raising ceremony, etc. Presumably they must have destroyed whoever they played in their home opener last year...

(checks the schedule)

...Sacred Heart.

ha ha ha

GS: HA. I forgot about that.

So that's all for our last pre-season banter. Hockey is Go. See you back here next week.