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Hockey Banter, Week XII: BU WEEK!

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BC has a full lineup for the first time in months. How will this weekend shake out?

Emily Fahey, BC Heights

Joseph Gravellese: Another week in the books and three points on the board. Not bad, especially considering a) BC was about two minutes away from the semi-annual loss at Matthews Arena, and b) Northeastern had been pretty hot. Of course, the PWR being as tight as it is, even a three point weekend was not enough to move BC up. In fact, they slid down to #20. But they're still in the mix.

Grant Salzano: It's a deceptive drop. BC had been a small but measurable bit behind the rest of the bubble teams in RPI. Their weekend was pretty solid and has them pretty much right up behind a good chunk of them.

They're at the point now where a (however unlikely) sweep this weekend could theoretically put them on the right side of the bubble.

That's "could," not "would." I don't want a bunch of people coming out of the woodwork screaming at me if BC sweeps and moves up to 19th.

JG: And of course, that's possible too. First of all, the Pairwise is weird. Secondly, there are a lot of really good teams in that cluster right above BC.

GS: One of them, as fate would have it, is Merrimack.

JG: In a very Captain Obvious statement, I'll point out that BC is going to increase the number of wins they currently have against teams on the right side of the bubble (zero (0)) if they're going to crack the tournament field.

They have BU coming up on Friday, and Merrimack next Wednesday; they don't need to win both, but they definitely can't lose both. Winning one would be very nice.

GS: It's nice having BU first. If not Merrimack would be sharpied in as a loss for me as a "trap" game (even though Merrimack is decent) with the team possibly looking ahead to the BU game.

Then again, you have Maine right in the middle -- that could be the "trap" trap game, so to speak.

Anyway, BC has a full roster for the first time since before the last time we played BU. We talked a bit about potential lineup changes on the radio show Tuesday, but what's your final prediction on who sits?

JG: Uhh... I'm going to predict that Linell sits. Which is kind of too bad, as much of a whipping boy as he's been. He's actually been pretty solid as the #6 d-man.

GS: You mentioned not wanting to mess with the good chemistry the forwards have developed. That's a good point.

JG: In terms of who might come out if not Linell... Gaudreau didn't start the year in regular rotation. He and Linell are the only two other than perennial scratches Jeke and McMullen who ahve been healthy scratched this season.

But I'm not really down with removing him from the lineup. He's doing OK. He's even been a part of the power play and has made some nice plays.

GS: Would it shock you if they kept Linell on the blue line and sat, say, Savage?

JG: Well, that's another option. Savage has not been great this year. He's a -6 and has the same number of points (2) as Thatcher Demko.

Of course, at his best, Savage is a pretty solid defensive defenseman. He certainly has a higher ceiling than Linell. But I'd say Linell has been better than him so far this year.

GS: That -6 is last on the team by 3.

JG: Yeah, it's not good. Not that +/- is everything, but it's certainly not inaccurate when meshing it with the eye test.

Other forwards who you could theoretically see as being on a bubble:

Brendan Silk -- he's got speed and tools and I keep waiting for him to bust out and score goals, but it just hasn't happened and I don't think it will. He's played every game this year and has posted an 0-3--3 line.

Of course, he's playing like he knows this reality; he's been a great physical presence for BC recently. I'm sure the coaching staff appreciates that.

The other two low scorers are Michael Sit and Cam Spiro -- Sit... he's not sitting, he's been a good faceoff man for BC for years and a lineup fixture. At 51.2% he's the #2 faceoff man on the team right now.

Then there's the case of Cam Spiro, who... you know my feelings about this. He's been riding the pine a lot during his career, even though I think he has explosive speed and skill and if anything probably deserves some run on the power play.

It wouldn't totally stun me if he ended up the odd man out at some point, though. York has shown trust in Linell to play all over the ice throughout his four years.

But if I had to put money on who sits, I'd say Linell.

GS: Fair enough. I don't disagree with any of that.

Mostly, I'm just glad to have Santini back on the ice against BU.

JG: Yes. And with McCoshen's illness on Saturday, it's now been since Halloween Night against Denver that BC fielded a full lineup.

This is a pretty good part of the year to finally be at full strength.

GS: I'd say the team held strong while shorthanded, wouldn't you?

They skrong.

JG: For sure. When you look back at that four game stretch where things went awry, it looks a lot less terrible in retrospect than it did at the time.

Harvard, we thought of that as an embarrassing loss. Not so much.

UConn has made a habit of scalping ranked teams at home.

Denver was an OT loss, at Denver.

And BU was BU.

Obviously, you can only wax a turd so much. They lost four games in a row, and that just doesn't/shouldn't happen at BC. But it wasn't quite as horrid as it looked at the time.

And since then, they've done the job.

GS: The UConn game was pretty terrible, I don't care what anyone says.

JG: I mean, it wasn't good.

GS: I did not enjoy it.

JG: But it wasn't "oh my god, how did this happen." I mean, UConn just handed *LOWELL* their very first league loss of the damn season.

Parity, man. Nothing is really shocking anymore. Except when UMass wins a game.

GS: Yeah I'm looking forward to our annual bracket pool. You're going to have 16 different guesses for possible champions.

JG: It's hard to pick. Let's look at the national picture for a second.

What's interesting is, Minnesota STate, on paper does look like a pretty clear #1 to me. They've done it pretty quietly. But they're chugging away up there.

They lead the nation in shot differential as well.

GS: Yeah, they've got a good lead in the Pairwise as well. But they're also Minnesota State.

JG: And they lead in scoring margin, too, on the strength of the nation's #1 ranked offense.

They are. I get that. But didn't we learn the lesson last year from Union to not assume the dominant team was going to be a brand name?

GS: Titles aren't won based on a name but still. Minnesota State, you know?

Minnesota State isn't dominant though. They're #1, but not they aren't blowing my mind like Union.

JG: Behind that, things get really interesting. One good example of how tight things are: BU, who, in addition to being in a pretty decent PWR spot (#8) is also still somehow getting #1 votes in the national poll, has the same number of wins (12) as BC.

Granted, that's cherry picked a bit, as they have four fewer losses and a few more ties. But still, interesting.

What was noteworthy to me was that their miracle tie against Wisconsin dropped them briefly to #10. If they had lost that game instead of tying it with 3 seconds left, they'd still be down in #10 right now even after winning game two. THey'd be in a spot where a loss to BC could make them sweat a little bit.

This is overly simple, since results don't happen in a bubble, but CHN's pairwise tool says a BC win over BU in isolation would lift BC to #17 and drop BU to #11 as it is.

GS: With how close things are, I'd certainly say BU would start to sweat a bit at that point. Last year even with BC as a 1 seed, we were only a couple losses away from being in the mess of teams that kept circling the bubble drain, so to speak.

JG: And of course, you've got Minnesota right there on the bubble now, which...wow, how did that happen?

GS: They are hurting. What is going on?

JG: I mean, Minnesota fans seem to think it's a mentality issue. I'm sure there's something to that. That team is LOADED.

We saw what they're capable of when they hung a touchdown on BC at Conte.

I guess losing to Northeastern is gonna be bad for your psyche.

The only team among the preseason favorites among power programs that looks really good right now is North Dakota. They shredded somehow-#2 Duluth in a game I watched on Saturday night.

GS: How weird are those polls, though. Can you ever remember this late in the season 5 different teams each having at least 4 first place votes?

JG: No. But I don't think there'd be this much dispute of the best team on paper right now wasn't Minnesota State. But they are. And as such, people are not going to buy in right now.

That said, it certainly goes to show that the door is open for any team that can make it in to the tournament. BC and Michigan are both sort of in that boat, where neither is powerful, but both have enough on paper that if they get in, they can certainly make a run.

GS: Alright let's circle back to this weekend and wrap it up.

Enough quantitative stuff. How do you feel?

JG: I feel pretty good. I still think BU is a better team than BC this year. BU wins a 7 game series. BU certainly wins a 3-game series where all the games are at Agganis, if that were to become a thing. But not super convincingly. BC's playing well, Demko is seeing all the pucks like they're Double Whoppers right now, and BU's been just spotty enough that I think BC pips them on Friday night.

Then BC plays Maine on Sunday at the Alfond, which, given the travel and whatnot, has the potential makings of a trap game. But Maine is pretty bad. So I'm saying... at least 3 points for BC this weekend. Sweep is possible.

GS: I feel really good. I'm not too worried about Maine. I will be after BU, obviously, but we'll have two days to think about that.

I think we're going to beat BU. I think they're a good team that's nothing special -- just like the rest of the top 15. We looked great against them earlier in the year, and so we'll be playing with both a full squad and some confidence.

You watch. This one's ours.

JG: I like it. I like the optimism.

GS: Wet Blanket Grant is nowhere to be found at the moment. Call back later.

JG: It's good to be feeling good. I just need to make sure to remind myself that it's OK to still feel good even if BC doesn't win on Friday. But damn, would it be nice to win on Friday.

Wet Blanket Grant. I like it. You should get Johnny Gaudreau's lawyers on that to trademark it for you. (TOPICAL!!!)

GS: I should probably ask Gaudreau to sign a Johnny Hockey shirt before it's illegal to own them. I'll also apologize for using his name to sell t-shirts.

JG: But only a little bit. I mean,it was for charity. Plus, it's totally OK to profit off a college athlete's name and likeness without them making money off of it. Because, you know, amateurism and academics.

GS: America.