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Hockey Banter, Week VI: HATE WEEK

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With a short week, we can't dwell on the Denver split for too long. UConn and BU are up next.

BC Athletics

Joseph Gravellese: It's amazing how much your perspective can change on things in an instant. Going into the weekend, I wanted BC to be competitive, to not give up many goals, and to, hopefully, come away with a split.

They did exactly that.

And yet, you can't help but feel like they came out of the weekend missing a colossal opportunity after giving up that goal in the final minute of OT to lose on Saturday night.

Grant Salzano: I feel exactly the same way. The first game was very good, they played really well and won with what was basically a blueprint for how they are going to win games--strong defense, great goaltending, and opportunistic scoring. They certainly deserved the win.

Saturday was tilted a little more in Denver's favor, but it was still a really even matchup. Throughout the overtime, all I could think of was "I'm not greedy, I'll be thrilled with a tie. Come on, sports gods, reward me for not being greedy. Let's go home with the tie."

And then just a brutal goal to give up. Not really any bad play on anyone's part, about 30 stick checks and the puck kept finding a DU stuck. But man, what a tough way to end the weekend.

JG: It was definitely tough to take, and a missed opportunity against a Denver team that was missing 3 players due to illness.

And oh yeah, BC was 0-for-9 on the power play. That was awful.

My disclaimer regarding the Saturday Denver game was that it was late and I was eye-weary while watching, but it certainly felt like we had a throwback to the static power play we saw against Lowell and Colorado College that stood around too much, lacked movement and cutting passes, and focused a little too much on setting up bombs from the point.

If you think back to the UMass game--which, granted, was against UMass--Gilmour scored those two PPG low in the faceoff dot by virtue of space that was created from cutting high-to-low passes. There just wasn't enough of that against Denver--the power play laid a goose egg for the weekend.

GS: I'm not really sure what to make of the power play except that I'm not all that concerned yet. We started out pretty awful last year too and developed into one of the best in the country.

Now, having said that, they've looked pretty bad. What I'm seeing, though, is just a struggle to get set up. Too much time spent picking up the puck in your own end and trying to break back into the offensive zone.

Once they've gotten set up, they've had their chances. It hasn't looked embarrassingly inept, just that by the time they get set up to do anything with it, they end up only having about 30 seconds of the man advantage to play with.

Then, when you're limited like that, you tend to take more shots just for the sake of getting a couple shots. You don't have the luxury of waiting until someone gets into a good position down low in front of their defender.

JG: The odd thing is that breaking the puck out of their defensive zone and carrying it in has been a strength 5-on-5. So maybe things get straightened out on the power play eventually.

One other thing that I think we have to talk about...

Let me preface this with three things.

1) Destry Straight scored on Saturday (yay!)
2) I am 100% in support of BC rolling all 4 lines and not overloading anyone's ice time at this point in the season, because it's a long year
3) Again, I was tired watching that game Saturday, and have not gotten a chance to watch it back

BUT

It feels like BC has a round peg/square hole problem with the fourth line that dates back to last year. The staff seems DETERMINED to use them as a "shutdown line," playing them to start games and at the end of periods, and in shifts after goals and special team situations. And they're not that. I feel like we've seen BC burnt by goals at the end of periods many times last year and in this young year. And I worry that their deployments are chosen in an attempt to fit them into a role they don't necessarily fit.

They were on the ice when Denver scored in OT on Saturday, which prompts this discussion.

If BC loses this game against UConn I may need to call in sick to work the next day.

GS: Square-peg-in-a-round-hole is a great analogy. But I guess my question is, who else do you put in that role? I guess you'd be mixing and matching among the players on the bottom two lines, because as it stands right now, the players on the top two lines are the only ones that have anything resembling an offense.

JG: Well to me, the best defense for BC right now is, as cliche as it is, a good offensive line. One that carries possession. If it's a critical defensive situation for BC right now, that's what I want to see: a line that possesses the puck. I have confindence in the speed and skill of the blueliners to cover for any mistakes.

But that doesn't fit the traditional playbook, and I feel like the staff is trying to force-feed a situation similar to great BC teams that have had "shutdown" style players.

GS: Well, it is what it is I guess. It's still wicked early, so there's plenty of time to figure out how to fit these pegs into their roles. But I will say this--overall, the defense was superb this weekend. So, baby steps.

Now we look ahead to Hate Week.

JG: We do. And one game at a time. It's easy to overlook Wednesday night given that we are staring at #3 vs #5 on national TV on Friday night.

But we can't overlook it. That's one of those games BC has to win, but it's a potential trap game on a Wednesday night between two huge games, against a team that has punched above its weight and will be playing motivated.

GS: I'm sure not overlooking it. If BC loses this game against UConn I may need to call in sick to work the next day, because my coworkers are not going to let me hear the end of it.

I can't imagine BC is overlooking the game either. They do not want to be the first decent Hockey East team to lose to UConn.

JG: I really expect BC to take care of business there. They should get plenty of shots. Rob Nichols has been very good for UConn, so that's going to be an obstacle. But BC should have chances.

The story for BC this year really is about if they can win the games they should win.

Two factors we should touch on:

Michael Sit left Saturday's game and was seen on campus in a cast on Monday, which, not good. But Matt Gaudreau, I have confidence he can slot into that unit with Sit and Spiro and do a good job.

The other thing is the revelation that Thatcher Demko plans on getting hip surgery in the offseason, according to various message board reports.

That's...troubling, but Demko has looked damn good this year, so.

BC's defensemen like to jump in and join the rush, and Jesus Chreichel can really punish you for that. Just ask Providence.

GS: I don't think the Demko hip thing is really new, so that doesn't worry me too much. He has definitely looked excellent.

Losing Sit is pretty crappy though. As if we have guys to spare anywhere on this team. But like you I am hopeful that Matt Gaudreau can step into that role.

As for the BU game, since this Banter technically covers both games--let's just say I am kind of glad I am unable to go to that game. I don't have a good feeling.

JG: Agreed with all of the above. Demko's health concerns go back to the NHL Draft.

And yeah, I am on the pessimism train for that BU game. BU is always really good at Conte. The last time BU had a marginally good team, 2011-12, was the year they stuffed BC at Conte twice with two early season blowout wins.

It looks like they have even more than a just decent team this year, with the way they really outplayed Providence in that weekend split last weekend. And they will have that motivation factor, given that BC has really had the upper hand in this series lately. And I'm not sure the matchup is really a favorable one--BC's defensemen like to jump in and join the rush, and Jesus Chreichel can really punish you for that--just ask Providence.

So that could be a tough one.

GS: Yeah, all signs point to Friday night not being enjoyable. So we'll probably drop 8 on them, because hockey. Also, given that God is technically in charge of BC, does that make BC Jesus Chreichel's daddy?

JG: I don't really want to think about that too much.

What I do want to think about: BC women being #1 in the polls. SICK.

GS: JOY AND BLISS.

It's early and polls don't matter and whatever but man, personally, for me, as a fan, it's been a long time coming to see BC as the team everyone is aiming for.

JG: Long way to go this season, and ultimately this only ratchets up the pressure to go the National Championship Game this year. Anything less is a disappointment. BUT...nice moment for BC, definitely. They have earned that ranking thus far, by laying waste to their opponents.

GS: Absolutely. It's really exciting. Here's hoping they can go on a nice run and hold on to that ranking for a while. Now there's no excuse. Anything less than winning it all this year will be a colossal disappointment.

JG: Ooof, I wouldn't go that far. With the tournament being out west, I'd say losing in the final to Minnesota or Wisconsin would hurt, but wouldn't be a colossal disappointment.

But falling short of the final again would be. But I think they'll at least get into that game.

GS: We shall see. Lots of hockey to be played, but they have certainly put themselves in a good position. If they can come through this weekend unblemished without 5 of their best players (currently with Team USA for the Four Nations Cup), they might go on a pretty long run with a couple weekends against weak opponents coming up.

JG: Indeed.

Well, on to UConn. I will be a broken record on this, but: this is what it's all about for BC this year, winning the games they're supposed to win. So get it done.

GS: They'd better.