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Hockey Banter XXI: Not Dead Yet

BC's win over Harvard was crucial and gives BC a little bit of a safety net heading to Notre Dame

BC Heights

Joseph Gravellese: It's not overstating it or being overly dramatic to say that the Eagles rescued their season in the early evening on Monday in front of a smattering of fans at TD Garden.

I know you didn't get to see the game, but boy, did it feel after the second period like it just wasn't happening, and BC was destined to limp in to South Bend on the outside looking in. That would have been a recipe for disaster.

10 measly shots in the first two periods. 10! against Harvard! Granted, Harvard isn't terrible, but still...

And then, out of nowhere, BC found their game. It wasn't too unlike the Lowell game, but with a better result.

Grant Salzano: Well, it's hard to get anything going when you are spending the whole period in the box. I realize that only partially explains having two shots in the second period, but from what I was able to gather from the radio feed, it was like a revolving door.

JG: Well, I wouldn't say it was a stampede. They did give up a number of chances the other way. But BC looked a lot better in the third period (except on the power play, which looked pretty woeful aside from the first period goal, which I did not see).

But it was better. And it all started, really, with a great shift by the line of Spiro, Gaudreau and Doherty which culminated in the game-tying goal.

GS: From what I heard -- again, by radio, because what the hell at there not being video of a D1 hockey game being played in an NHL arena -- it was a tremendous turnaround. By the way it was described, BC whiffed on about three certain goals before the fourth line finally cashed in.

JG: I wouldn't say BC whiffed. Michalek played well and really earned that Eberly trophy. But yeah.

And I'm not gonna call them the fourth line. Right now, they are definitely BC's third best line.

Unfortunately, and this is just anecdotal as I don't think is really accurately tracking shot attempts against, but it really feels like that 27-18-11 line spends an awful lot of time pinned in its own end.

GS: Funny because it seemed like Quinn Smith had a decent night according to the radio guys.

JG: Well, he hustles. He plays with his hair on fire and his effort is always appreciated. But they just don't generate much.

GS: I know this is like the fourth time I'm mentioning this in my first four paragraphs but how do the other schools who usually play in the consolation deal with there being no video?

JG: Uh, well, they usually don't give a crap.

It's pretty rare that the Beanpot consolation means much of anyhing. This was a rare occurrence. And the Beanpot getting postponed only shone a bigger spotlight on how big this game was, in the season's final week.

GS: It'll be interesting next year when the consolation is moved to a campus site in favor of the women's final.


JG: Also, you could make a pretty compelling argument that most BC fans didn't care either. There weren't many BC fans present. Casual fans probably had no idea the game meant anything. Most of the random non-school-affiliated people around me were asking if the game even counted in the standings.

Of course, casual fans aren't streaming games anyway, but yeah.

GS: Well at least this weekend we get two games in HD on national TV.

JG: We do! And well timed. These are big games (though less big than Monday's! Yes, finally, I feel comfortable saying the next game is NOT the biggest of the year).

GS: But yes, still big. We were comfortably above the bubble toward the end of our hot streak. I don't think we're quite back there yet, but win on Friday and I suspect we'll be IN.

JG: Yeah, barring some sort of crazy catastrophe. And a lot of autobids.

A BC split keeps them 9th in a vaccuum. It could drop them a little bit depending on what happens.

A split also, crucially, locks up a quarterfinal place and a first round bye.

GS: Want to hear something crazy?

JG: Yes.

GS: Since BC's big win over Michigan, the top 3 in GRaNT:

1) North Dakota
2) Northeastern
3) Boston College

BU is actually 10th in that stretch, despite being #1 over the full season.

JG: Remind our readers what GRaNT is.

GS: You can read in more detail here, but essentially it uses each team's rating to determine everyone else's rating, and then repeats until the ratings don't change when you plug them back in.

It works similarly to KRACH, except it assigns a value of zero to every loss, which means that what you do in your wins matters more than what you do in your losses. How good are you? Not how bad can you be.

JG: Your whole theory behind GRaNT is that it's supposed to show a team's ceiling, I guess. But it's funny, because I don't necessarily think "high ceiling" is what I think of when I think BC. I think they sort of are what they are and can grind one out against anyone.

GS: I don't so much think "ceiling" is a good way of putting it -- but it does suggest that BC has shown strength in its games against good opponents.

But we have said lately that BC sure seems to have a "switch." It's just they haven't kept it on "GO" for entire games.

JG: They have. After a long stretch where they really were only beating bad teams, they had the Michigan win, they had the BU win, they had the Providence win, they beat a decent Harvard team -- they've won some hard-fought games against good teams.

GS: And don't forget the Northeastern win, which in the second half is looking like a good quality W, too.

So that's a very good sign heading into the tournament.

JG: Well, I'm not sure they can keep it on "Go" mode. If they can, that could be trouble for other teams down the stretch. But I'm not sure they have the gas in the tank to have the switch "on" for 60 minutes a game right now, especially not with the team a little dinged up.

I think BC's pretty dependent on matchups, ice time, etc. They're gonna start getting really specific about matching lines and double shifting in the coming weeks.

You may have noticed that Noah Hanifin is starting to play Zdeno Chara minutes, especially with Doherty moved up to forward.

GS: I have noticed, and frankly that's probably a big reason BC has looked so good lately.

JG: I know we've said this a lot lately, but man, Hanifin is a beast. I think he might already be our best defenseman.

GS: As much as Eichel has changed BU so fundamentally, so has Hanifin for us from the blue line as he's developed into the second half.

JG: They've been using him a lot more on the penalty kill, too, which still hasn't been great, but it's been less horrid.

So we'll see how the lines and matchups start to shake out. Hopefully they can get Silk back. And then I think you get to a point where you need to run with the horses you have, load up two lines, and play them a lot in single elimination games.

I do think BC can skate with BU, and if they can skate with BU, they can skate with anyone out east. But what's going to unglue them against a BU is that they are going to take 7 penalties and BU is going to score 4 power play goals.

GS: The penalties are maddening. I'm not really sure what they can do about it but that really will be their undoing, particularly now that the power play seems to have found its stride.

They have a nice little team here with a lot to like, but there's only so much you can do playing shorthanded.

JG: One of three things is going to have to change before that theoretical matchup (not that BU is the only team that could punish them, but they're the most glaring):

1) Take fewer penalties. Which I'm just not sure is something that can happen with this team. They're very physical, they're young and make mistakes, and they're not particularly fast.

2) Start killing penalties at a clip they did in recent years.

3) Generate more offense such that spotting teams a pair of power play goals and a ton of zone time thanks to being shorthanded puts them less behind the 8 ball.

GS: Very succinctly put.

JG: Granted, #3 is kind of a hot take. "Score more goals!" But they really just don't generate a lot of sustained offense, even 5 on 5. It's not that kind of team. They grind games out.

So we'll see what of those things can improve. I also like what someone posted on USCHO -- that maybe Hanifin should just start going end to end and shooting it every time he gathers the puck in his own zone and generates speed through the neutral zone.

Once he gets a head of steam, there really isn't anyone who can slow him down.

GS: Well, why not. YOLO.

JG: Yep. Well, we owe the Cod Irish after last year's garbage, so let's go stick it to 'em, eh Eagles?