Once again, we take a look around the world of the Hockey East playoffs. We'll once again do so with the help of a brilliant Bill Simmons piece known as the "levels of losing, " so we can identify why exactly a team lost.
Boston University 6, Merrimack 2
8:11 into the first period, Merrimack scored to take a 1-0 lead. Over the next 1:33 seconds, BU fans probably held their breath. Then Robbie Baillargeon scored on the power play to tie the game at 1-1. It was still tied at that score after the first period, but I'm sure Terrier fans breathed easier with the score knotted up knowing they had outshot the Warriors, 18-4
Four goals in 11 minutes later, and this game was over.
The Terriers rolled thanks to their top line. Evan Rodrigues scored a goal and three assists, and Jack Eichel scored two goals and an assist. Baillargeon skated as an extra forward (BU only dressed five defense), and he finished with 1-1-2 stats. The Terriers had a 38-15 shot advantage through two periods and rolled to a 46-19 differential. Merrimack had 11 penalties.
Level of Losing: Level XIV - The Alpha Dog
Why? Eichel and Rodrigues. If you were a BU fan, you REALLY wanted to see this team come out and steamroll Merrimack. If you're the top seed, the last thing you want to do is let the 11th seeded team come in and gain any traction or momentum. It's one of those things where you need to stamp out all hope before it ever begins.
When a team loses via the Alpha Dog, it's completely devastating, but there's a solace to take that superior talent made the difference in the end - it just wasn't on your team. It's the same feeling any of us had back in the day when you watched Larry Bird run out of a tunnel and you realized you weren't losing that game on his watch.
Merrimack got creamed, but at least they can take solace that BU just was flat out better. They're unlikely to win on Saturday based on how they played on Friday, but then again, this is the playoffs and the Terriers reminded them they should just be happy to be where they are.
UMass-Lowell 5, Notre Dame 0
The River Hawks scored in the first two minutes of both the first and second periods, going up 5-0 in the first 22 minutes of game play. Notre Dame never recovered, nor should they have as UML steamrolled them.
Level of Loss: Level IX - The Full-Fledged Butt Kicking
Why? It really just wasn't Notre Dame's day. UML came out flying, and the Irish totally botched the game by giving up early goals. By the time the game hit the five minute mark of the second period, some irrational Notre Dame fan who actually believes their football team is worthy of its preseason top 10 ranking probably thought, "Well if we get a penalty and score on the power play and then get another one before the 10 minute mark of the period, we're only down 5-2 with half of a game left to play!"
But then again, if you watched Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish had the complete deer in the headlights look, and by the third period, even the UML fans probably wanted the game to end. This level is referred to as the "three-hour torture session." That's about right because let's be honest - blowout games are usually empty arena games by the end. That's okay, though, since I'd rather get absolutely throttled and know it's over early than have my guts ripped out in a sudden death overtime loss.
Speaking of which...
New Hampshire 2, Providence 1 (OT)
UNH has now won eight in a row and nine of their last ten. Consider me considering them for this to be the year if they can keep this rolling.
The Friars outshot the Wildcats by a 46-27 margin, including an ungodly 20-7 differential in the second period. Through two periods, PC outshot UNH 30-17...but the score was 0-0. They continued the onslaught but went to overtime tied at 2-1. Providence essentially threw the kitchen sink at UNH, only it didn't work.
Grayson Downing scored 5:18 into overtime.
Level of Losing: Level VIII - The "This Can't Be Happening"
Why? If you were a PC fan, you watched that game wondering when you were going to score next. Your offense dominated in a big way, yet you weren't winning. In fact, you weren't even scoring. You threw the kitchen sink at your opponent, and those no-good, lousy jerks just didn't go away. Up 1-0, giving up a power play goal late in the third period to tie the game, PC fans probably sat back with a hint of worry thinking, "They're like a rash."
When the game went to overtime, though, you had a full 15 minutes to think about the fact that all UNH had to do was score one mistake goal and you'd be a game away from elimination. That's when the feeling becomes a pit in your stomach, creeping all the way into your soul as the game went on. Five minutes into the overtime, UNH scored, and as you're watching the Wildcats pile off the bench and start celebrating, there's one thought that ran through your head -
"This can't be happening."