Joseph Gravellese: After what feels like an eternity, hockey's back at Conte Forum for one last weekend on the Heights... and a lot of us got what we wished for, with Northeastern falling to Merrimack and UVM instead coming to BC. Can the Catamounts make us regret it?
Grant Salzano: Of course they can. Hockey East is wide open, it seems. Even UMass managed to beat Notre Dame once (eventually), so you have to bring it to win it.
JG: And if you recall, I thought BC didn't really bring it on that Friday night when they lost to Vermont last month. They played much better the next night and put up a crooked number.
GS: Perfect example.
JG: Realistically, BC should be able to score on Vermont. After a scorching start to the season Mike Santaguida has been pedestrian in net since the new year. He's #66 in the nation in save percentage during that span.
There are 59 teams.
GS: Oh my God... Hahaha
At first I thought you were being hyperbolic, but, nope.
JG: That's pretty much your single #HotTake but accurate analysis on Vermont's first half vs. second half. Which is the real Santaguida and which is a fluke? It's hard to say, but I thought he looked shaky against BC and the Eagles could have put up a big score on the Friday night with a little puck luck and more energy.
GS: I thought that too, actually, thinking back. It felt like there were a lot of rebounds there for the taking the few times we could get the puck on net.
That reminds me -- didn't UMass outshoot Notre Dame in at least two of these games this weekend? That makes me feel less good about our shot totals against them.
JG: They did. But Notre Dame completely smoked UMass on Sunday. And are now 5-3-1 down the stretch against PC, BU, BC, and UMass. Not world-on-fire but decent.
They look, to me, like a team that would be borderline NCAA if they had their ish together from the get go, sort of like NU. And BC looked better than them on the weekend. So I'm still taking a lot of positives from that series.
GS: It turns out it's a good thing we didn't get UNH, I think. They are playing really well.
JG: Well, they're playing okay, and I think they'll be competitive against Providence, but from a pure degree of difficulty standpoint, I'd rather play UNH than UVM. However, the benefit of facing UVM here is that it could be a big benefit in pairwise terms.
BC is locked in a very tight battle with Providence for positioning, currently #10 to PC's #9, with Denver not too far ahead at #8. This seeding battle could be instrumental in determining who stays east in the NCAA's. Given UVM's relative PWR strength compared to UNH, BC has an opportunity to pass PC with a strong weekend.
GS: I believe you ran the numbers and in a vacuum, we pass Providence if we and PC both sweep, correct?
JG: Correct, although by .0003, so that could easily flip with the way other results impact RPI. But still, the opportunity is there, certainly, and that could be critical.
Two bits of news out of practice this week, by the way -- one surprising, one unsurprising.
The completely unsurprising news, which we all sort of saw coming for about two months, is that Chris Calnan has been practicing with the "second line" (or whatever you want to call it) alongside Ryan Fitzgerald and Austin Cangelosi; Destry Straight has moved in to Calnan's spot with Sit and Smith.
This was the obvious move. Sanford, Gilmour and Tuch have become BC's most dominant line; loading up this one and hoping to catch fire with a second big scoring line is probably the way to go here down the stretch.
The more surprising news came on the injury front. After he reportedly suffered a broken pelvis, I assumed Danny Linell was done for the year, but he was apparently back on the ice at practice this week. Brendan Silk was still out with lingering concussion symptoms; it's scary that he's been out this long with that injury so let's hope for the best there.
According to The Kid, though, Doherty was still lining up on fourth(/third) line wing with Spiro and Gaudreau -- so either Linell is not game-ready yet, or perhaps he'll slot in as the sparsely-used 6th D-man.
GS: Wow, that is crazy about Linell. Good for him. My guess is he probably isn't ready for games yet but with another couple weeks, he could be a nice depth piece for the stretch run.
Of course I'll probably be wrong and he'll play.
Concussions are scary, man. When was the last time Silk played?
JG: I think right before the Beanpot.
GS: That's... Less time than that statement normally means.
Still. Lame. Hopefully he's doing well.
JG: Yeah, that's the first priority. And priority #2 would be getting another depth piece back in the lineup.
With the lineup they have now, though, I think they can do a little damage. I'm excited for this playoff run. If they make it to the Garden for Hockey East semifinals it's a solid step up from where things looked in November.
GS: Oh, absolutely. They have a run in them. Here's to being along for the ride.