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Hockey Banter, Week XIII: Regrouping

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The unbeaten streak is over, but BC gets a chance to start a new one tonight against Merrimack.

Arthur Bailin, BC Heights

Joseph Gravellese: So I think the end result of last weekend is that we are sort of back to where we started from before it began. But I think that starting point was pretty decent. And further evidence was given for the team's semi-solid position by their ability to finally pick up a win against a highly ranked team when they took down BU.

Grant Salzano: That's a good way to look at it. I think somehow our huge hole is still fresh in everyone's mind and one loss after the unbeaten streak sent a lot of people right back into doom and gloom.

But you're exactly right: we're pretty much right where we started.

JG: I'm not really sure people are back to doom and gloom. I haven't seen much of that. I have seen some hard-headed pragmatism; the path to the tournament is not easy for this team, and is going to require posting a good record against good teams, something they haven't done yet.

But it's not inconceivable. The team has improved in just about every facet of its game from the beginning of the season.

GS: Well, I saw some doom and gloom. Not much, and it was short-lived while people kind of worked through their feelings, but there was some.

I know we're used to being in the top 4 or so where one loss feels like a massive setback, but it's important to remember too: around the bubble, teams lose one out of every few games.

But like you said, the important thing here is that the team has definitely improved. If we'd been playing like this all year we would probably be hovering around 10th. Plus, like we've been saying, with no one breaking away from the pack as really "scary," that could well be enough to give you a hell of a run should we make it.

JG: That's exactly right. I take away from this weekend two general hot takes. Both of these are going to be re-hashes for you if you've listened to Eastern Bias; my apologies.

1) BC and BU have taken disparate paths to get there, but they've landed approximately at a level we expected both of them to be at at the beginning of the season. BU no longer looks like world-beaters. They look like a tournament team with some strengths but some vulnerabilities as well.

I figured on them as a bubble team. Their hot start will probably keep them above the cut line all year, but they will need to earn it.

BC looks like a pretty good team, with an above-average offense, good defense and excellent goaltending. I figured they would be a bubble team, and set themselves up a 3-4 seed (say, 10th-14th in the PWR).

Their early hole means they're going to need to keep clawing to get to that point, but I do feel like they're on their way there.

2) I said in November that I had optimism for BC because I thought that even as the team started to string together wins and dig out of their losing streak, there were things they were doing that were not up to their potential.

The team defense could easily have been much better than its atrocious start in terms of goals per game. Tuch, Calnan, Gilmour, and Sanford could all become legitimate top-6 forwards that any Hockey East team would want. And the POWER PLAY would be pretty decent instead of historically bad.

All of those things happened. And so now I think we're at a point where this is what we get from this BC team. I don't think they're going to get much better than we've seen, but what we've seen is pretty decent.

I don't think this team has a 19-game winning streak in them, nor do I think they will get hot at the end of the year and just start plowing teams and putting up 5-6 goals a game.

I do think they can and should maintain their level of performance in December-January—limiting teams' chances, grinding out goals, scoring on the power play, attacking with some semblance of depth, and winning most of their games, even if it's in a different style from what we're used to.

If you're looking for Bombs Away BC, flip over to the women's team.

Those are my Hot Takes.

GS: Ha. Yes, well, the women are plenty 'bombs away' for both teams I think.

All great points.

JG: We were missing Cangelosi on Sunday, by the way.

Let's hope he's OK and ready to go.

GS: I have a question for you: I'm trying to decide how annoyed i should be over the team's loss against Maine.

It was obviously a trap game, but what do you think is the biggest thing we can attribute the loss to? How much of it do you think came from a lack of focus after BU, especially as a young team, versus a long road trip on short rest, versus a good effort coming up short, versus just our style of play being conducive to just dropping a random game every now and again?

Because we really haven't lost to too many "bad" teams.

JG: I think you can just attribute it to the fact that it's hockey.

I don't think they played poorly, really. I don't think hockey is the kind of sport where you can pin things down to explanations of X lost this game or Y won that game. I mean, everyone knows that, so it's sort of a cop out.

But I mean...BC actually came out and played great in the first period, sort of belying the "lack of focus" idea. They buzzed the Maine net and Romeo came up big. They even looked good on a couple PPs but couldn't cash in.

Maine kid ripped off a real nice shot to break the deadlock. Getting the first goal always changes things.

GS: That's very true. It felt like a much different game after that.

Well, like I said on Twitter after the game: Pairwise-wise, beating BU and losing to Maine is actually better than the other way around.

JG: Anyway, they need to get back on the horse because Merrimack is paradoxically a team that (a) can provide some PWR benefit with a win but (b) still doesn't really look like a juggernaut, you know?

Every year there seems to be at least one Hockey East team that is toward the back of the league standings but manages to be in the NCAA tournament structure in the PWR. Merrimack is it this year.

GS: Yes, and as Merrimack is one of the teams we're battling with for a bubble spot, a win would (HOT TAKE ALERT) go a long way.

Had you told me we would have gone 2-1 against BU-Maine-Mack, I certainly would have taken it.

Now we just have to do it.

JG: Yep, it's all there on the table for them.

We touched on this last week, by the way, but I think there's one area where you could see BC continue to get better and that's in the area of a certain Mr. Hanifin.

He had another two just outstanding games over the weekend. He's starting to look like a guy who can provide...game control. #TalkinBouttheNoles

GS: How could he possibly get *better*?

JG: I think his game can be more consistent (whose couldn't?) and polished. But we're seeing the freakish talent come out more often now.

Flashes of it have appeared all year, but he's starting to really dominate on the power play especially.

GS: He really has been as advertised.

JG: He's 18 years old and the youngest kid playing college hockey. So he's going to get better probably at a faster rate than even the other young players.

GS: Let me be the first to emphatically state that he is not ready and really needs another 3 years or so to develop here at the college level.

JG: That could be a scary proposition for teams in March. Though it could also be a scary proposition for BC after the NHL Draft. Let's hope a team without immediate needs trades up to be #3.

Yeah, we were heading in the same direction there.

I'm not sure he's going to be NHL Ready in the fall, but he might be Training Camp Ready/compete for a spot ready, and that might be enough.

We'll see.

Hanifin joins a pretty extensive list of current and future BC guys on the new NHL Central SCouting rankings.

GS: Alright, let's wrap things up. Ready for tonight?

JG: Yep. Gotta defend the home ice. Students are back. Let's see how they show up on a Wednesday night. Let's get the atmosphere going again for the team in the second half.

GS: I will have my NESN up and ready and the GIF machine a'giffing.