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Hockey Banter, Week VII: Back On Track

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The losing streak is over -- will a winning streak take its place?

BC Athletics

Joseph Gravellese: That's what a BC win feels like. It feels good, even though I wasn't able to see a single second of the game, since our friends over at Michigan State haven't gotten with the 21st century and put their games online.

So, most of my #HotTakes this week are going to have to be from digging through the box score and reading anecdotal accounts rather than going by observation. Oh well.

Just nice to see the losing streak end.

Grant Salzano: It is. Things were getting a little worrisome there. Losing to UConn and BU back to back kind of beat me into a depression tizzy. Then Harvard. Harvard? Good God.

Michigan State isn't very good. They're pretty close to UMass bad. So while it's nice to see BC come away with a win, finally, it's a bit off-putting to see us only win by 1 against a meh opponent.

JG: Now as it is I'm a little bit less panicky about losing to Harvard than I was at the time. Harvard's not bad. Of course, I go and watch their game against Yale on Saturday night and they lose, but yeah.

Definitely can't get too excited about beating Michigan State. But as I've said, the real key games are the ones they absolutely should win.

Both of this week's games—UMass-Amherst and Maine—fit that description. So let's hope to see more Demko excellence and another round of balanced scoring.

GS: Is Maine a game we absolutely should win? That seems like a pretty bold statement, whether Maine is on the road or not.

JG: I think so. Take a look at what Maine has done this year. They have three wins: two one-goal wins vs. UMass and one vs. Alaska-Anchorage, all at home.

I will grant that their three game losing streak has been a brutal stretch—UVM, UVM, BU. But they haven't even particularly impressed at home this year. Getting swept by Union looks worse now than it did when it happened, for instance.

Maine has two goalies right now, both of whom have over a 3.00 GAA and under .900 SV%. They're 9th in team offense, 10th in team defense. They're just not very good. The Alfond factor would scare me, but BC should win this one at home.

GS: Well, here's hoping. Our schedule has been pretty soft so we're going to have to win these games. If we lose one I might start to think an NCAA tournament berth just isn't in the cards for us.

As it stands, I worry that the UConn loss might be the difference.

JG: Well, that's the situation BC's in right now. Got to pick up these kinds of wins because you know games like Minnesota and BU are going to be struggles.

Oh, you shut your mouth, that would be horrible.

GS: Just sayin'. I said bubble from before the season even started and you thought I was crazy.

JG: I didn't think you were crazy, I just disagreed with you. So far, your fears have been generally shown to be pretty accurate, but it is early.

It should be noted that nobody could have predicted this power play funk, and that the BC offense would look a lot less terrible if the power play was clicking even at all.

GS: Ain't that the truth.

JG: BC's averaging 3 goals per game right now, which is not bad, though padded by thouse routs of awful RIT and CC.

Imagine if the power play was converting at all?

GS: Well, it's not, and it's going to have to turn around mighty quick. We are approaching 60 minutes—a full hockey game—of not being able to score a goal while having more players on the ice than our opponent.

JG: The power play is at 10.6% right now. Even if the power play were at 15.6-16.6% you're talking about another 7-8 goals in 10 games. Huge difference.

Yeah, and it will be interesting to see in person this weekend what kind of changes were made to the power play. BC only had one opportunity last weekend and it was negated by taking a penalty during the power play, so it's hard to judge based off that.

I'm curious to see if BC does change up the system or personnel. Late in the Harvard game we did see Matt Gaudreau actually get some power play time, for instance.

GS: I don't know what the solution is. I think generally the issue has been that we can't set up quickly enough to take advantage of the time. We need guys to start winning faceoffs.

JG: I'm not sure I agree with that. Obviously we don't have a breakdown for what their faceoff percentage is during power plays but BC's .496 faceoff percentage, while not good, isn't so atrocious that it's the explanation for all the power play problems.

I think it's moreso just not good passing and also not enough movement on the power play. Also, I want to see Mike Matheson take over these power plays and make things happen. He's really going to need to be the engine that makes the power play go, and in some respects, that makes the team go, for better or for worse.

They seemed to have two things figured out from early power play goals—Calnan at the faceoff circle, where he scored two against UMA, and McCoshen with the bomb from the point against RIT. But nobody else has really stepped into a role on the power play, you know? We haven't seen anyone establish themselves as a net front presence who's going to tip shots, or someone to go operate behind the net like Gaudreau used to do (though there's probably not anyone who can do that on this team, not nearly as well anyway).

One other thing a Brilliant Reader pointed out after the Harvard game—and I apologize for forgetting his name—when Harvard dumped the puck out of the zone on BC power plays last week, Harvard would go send two forecheckers in after BC and they couldn't handle it.

That would have been unheard of with the speed and the passing skill of recent teams. They would have roasted a team that sent two forecheckers shorthanded.

But they weren't able to handle that well and it led to not nearly enough zone time. There's no real reason for a team to respect BC's speed right now. They're not a particularly fast team, so they're going to need an approach tailored to that reality.

GS: I noticed against BU as well, that they were pressuring us getting out of our own end just a little bit and it's been forcing us into a bind. I think there were 3 times in the BU game that we made a screwy pass as a result of defensive zone pressure and it almost ended up in the net.

They looked wayyy too tentative coming out, trying to be too careful.

JG: Well, that part comes down to confidence. I do think that at the end of the day, there's no questioning that BC has the talent to have a potent PP. Enough talent to be a deep, title-contending team? Maybe not. But when you can roll out 5 NHL draft picks as a power play unit, they should be putting the puck in the net at more than a 10% clip, and they eventually will.

GS: Mathematically speaking, I can just about guarantee it will turn around eventually.

JG: One last thing I want to mention, we talked about Gaudreau getting playing time on the power play against Harvard—good for him getting two goals in two games since being put back into the lineup. Honestly there's always been the risk that people were going to overrated him or hold him to too high expectations due to his brother but I really think he's been quite good during his limited time in the lineup and for now I think he's earned his spot in there week in and week out unless something changes.

GS: Yep, I agree. He looked good dating back to last year and it's nice to see him getting well-deserved ice time.

Final thought from me:

I've been saying it for a bit now, but my big concern is the Pairwise hole we've already dug. In the last we've had our late season swoon before hitting our stride and going into the playoffs hot. This is looking a little too much like 2009 Part 2: Electric Boogaloo where we got hot, but couldn't quite recover from the hole we had dug. Oh, and BU looks really good again, and it makes me sad.

JG: Yeah, they do look really good. You know, we're going to do our Hockey East Power Rankings tomorrow on Eastern Bias so I'm gonna ask you for yours right now. Here's where I'm at, I think:

BU, Lowell, Vermont, BC, PC, the Mack, Notre Dame, UNH, Maine, UConn, UMass, Northeastern.

To which I'll add, woof, I don't think much of teams 6-12. Nor do I really think all that much of 4 & 5 yet. Down year, I think. Also, eff BU, man.

GS: Give me BU, Lowell, UVM, Notre Dame, PC, Mack, BC, UNH, Maine, UConn, UMass, Northeastern.

JG: Sounds good. Alright, we're moving on. Same bat time, same bat channel next week.