To help preview this weekend's colossal BC vs. BU hockey series, Matt Dresens of The BU Hockey Blog answered some of our questions about the Terriers. You can read Matt's work at his site or on Twitter. Thanks again to Matt for joining us.
1. Things have gone well for BU over the past few games after a so so start to the season. What has changed for the Terriers since the Quinnipiac game?
Matt: I think they have finally picked up some consistent goaltending from Sean Maguire. He was brilliant in the Quinnipiac game and really held BU in the Harvard game when the team was getting dominated and outshot 26-3. Also, BU has found an offensive well, so to speak. Since the QU game they have scored 4+ goals. Getting that consistent goaltending and offensive flare they have shown in the last few games has helped a lot. In addition, everyone is healthy. The Harvard game was the first game all year BU had a full lineup.
2. Despite the loss of Jack Eichel, BU remains one of the top teams offensively. What has allowed BU to be such a good team offensively?
Matt: This one is a tough question, but I think it has a lot to do with depth and the ability of some of the freshman who have come in and stepped right into big time rolls. Jakob Forsback Karlsson, Ryan Cloonan and Jordan Greenway all have seen time on the first line this year. JFK has slid in nicely on the power play as a setup man, much like Eichel was a year ago. Greenway is an absolute moose in the corner and along the wall. The way he protects the puck with his size is quite remarkable. Getting back to the question though, Matt Lane has really excelled this year. He has 10 goals and 6 assists in 20 games this year. Last year, he had 18 points in double the amount of games. Obviously, having Grzelcyk back makes this a totally different team, but having those freshman step in and play well right away, along with the offensive production from some second tier guys on last year's squad really has helped make up for the Eichel departure.
3. In terms of goals allowed, BU is middle of the pack. Is this mostly due to defense, goaltending, or some combination of the two? How do you carve up the pie there?
Matt: Another tough one... But I think it really has to do with a combination of the two. There have been nights that the defense has been strong and the goaltending was, not so much and vise versa. In terms of splitting the pie here, I'd probably go 60/40 with the defense. The goaltending just hasn't been consistent enough over the whole year. BU also has the second scoring offense in the conference and sometimes your best defense is your offense.
4. Which players have exceeded expectations for BU so far this year? Who's been disappointing?
Matt: I think I covered the exceeding expectations in the question above, but quickly it's Matt Lane and its not even close. As for a disappointment, the one that really stands out is John MacLoud. He was a huge part of the defense last year and this season he has been a healthy scratch more than once. He has just two points on the year, but that's really not his game. There was a play in the first Vermont game in early December where he just got burned on the outside and it directly led to a goal. He has had some tough turnovers in the slot, too. The only other guy who comes to mind here is Robbie Baillargeon. I really thought coming into this year that he would take off. He led the team in scoring his freshman year. Yes, that team was terrible, but I expected more out of him this year. That's not to say he hasn't played well, but it would be nice to see him get going. It would be yet another boost to the offense. Hopefully, his goal vs UMass on Saturday is a step in that direction.
5. How good do you think this year's BU team can ultimately be? Can they win major hardware?
Matt: Honestly, I don't know. Clearly they have shown they can play (and beat) the best the teams in the county.They also lost some games to bad teams (Merrimack and UConn come to mind). Granted they didn't have Grzelcyk for those two games, but then again they beat Qpac in Hamdon without Hickey, Grzelcyk and Oksanen got hurt in the first period, so really I don't know. BU teams generally play better in the second half of the year. I think the Beanpot (don't know if we are calling that "major hardware") is certainly a possibility. Hockey East is going to be tough no matter how you look at it. They currently sit in fourth, but have played two more games than fifth place Providence. Getting in the top four would be ideal. I fully expect them to make the Garden but it will not be nearly the cake walk it was last year in the first round. I do expect them to (if they don't win the HE tournament) get an at large bid to the NCAA tournament. There I could see them going to Tampa, no doubt. I also could see them lose in the first round. I think that has a lot to do with where they play and who they face. Again, they have shown they can play with anyone in the nation, it just depends on what BU team shows up on any given night. Consistency in all phases of the game (I sound like Belichick here) is going to be key down the stretch.
6. Any predictions for how things play out this weekend?
Matt: I'll keep this one short. I think BU gets at least two points. I would be very surprised if either team sweeps the series.
Matt Dresens blogs about BU Hockey over at The BU Hockey Blog. He is also an occasional contributor to Eastern Bias.