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Hockey Banter I: Catching Up On The Start Of The Season

Wow a Hockey Banter? Really? Really!

BC Athletics

Ed. Note: We want to make it clear to all our readers just what is going on in this article. This post is called a "Banter" where two of our writers converse in a free-form conversation and talk about BC athletics. In this case, we're talking about BC hockey.

In the below conversation, "JG" is referring to Joseph Gravellese, editor-in-chief of BC Interruption, and "GS" is referring to Grant Salzano, BC Interruption senior men's & women's hockey writer. Joseph is not speaking as a pretend Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Joseph Stalin, nor as Joseph-Mary's-Husband, and Grant is not speaking as a pretend Grant Hill, Amy Grant, nor as President Ulysses S. Grant.

"Joseph" and "Grant," entirely coincidentally, just happen to be the names of two of BC Interruption's writers.

With all confusion out of the way, we hope you enjoy today's Hockey Banter!

Joseph Gravellese: The men's hockey team is 9-1-0. The women's hockey team is 14-0-0. Are we excited yet?

Grant Salzano: Excited isn't the word. Mostly I'm relieved to have something to look forward to with the Giants ripping my guts out every weekend, BC football being bad, and BC basketball being in the sport of basketball.

JG: There are concerns, obviously. Should we just dive right into them and get the negatives out of the way? There aren't a ton, but we haven't done this in a while.

GS: We should, lest this turn into too much of a celebration. Because neither team is worthy of a preemptive duckboat parade.

JG: Right. So, Friday night. It wasn't really the best night for BC's defense. As we both mentioned in our writeups, that stretch where they couldn't get out of their own way against Michigan State looked awfully familiar.

GS: It did, and it was scarier because it was Thatcher Demko in goal, not the freshman Chris Birdsall like against New Brunswick.

It was a total lack of focus. I mean, Jesus, that 2 on 0...

JG: Yeah, that was bad. And the other thing that wasn't great was that Doherty looked a little rusty in his return (which I suppose is understandable coming off an injury). He and Santini were -2 and -3 respectively... ouch.

Their first goal allowed was kind of a fluke with that errant pass off the boards, but for the same defensive pair to twice give up goals on the shift immediately following a goal wasn't a good sign. On the bright side... I'm not really worried about either one of those guys. Casey Fitzgerald, who was a question mark coming in, continues to shine. He was a +4 and, remarkably, leads the team as a +15 this season. I know +/- is a limited stat but it demonstrates how reliable Fitzgerald has already been, slotting in next to Ian McCoshen on what you'd have to call the Eagles' top defensive pairing.

GS: Yeah it's interesting that you say "ouch" at Doherty and Santini being -2 and -3. Obviously the reason was because of multiple goals on the same shift...

But when you think about it, unlike last year, is there a guys who you wouldn't say "ouch" if they were negative? Couturier maybe? Just because he's a freshman.

Otherwise this has turned into an outstanding Blue (Line) Man Group.

JG: Well, yes, the defense has obviously been very good, helped in no doubt by Thatcher Demko playing out of his mind. But I think we saw a little crack in the armor a bit, and it needs to be acknowledged.

The other thing that's mildly worrisome is that in terms of possession, BC hasn't really dominated games since Bracco left, other than the UMass game. Shots-wise, Maine (x2) and Michigan State were all basically even.

No worries as long as you're putting the puck in the net more than the other team, but with UNH (worst possession team in the conference) and UConn (bad) coming up, I'd like to see some more territorial dominance.

GS: Yes, although Michigan State didn't start that way. It was mostly a bad second period shots-wise that evened things up. Not that it didn't happen -- but I'd almost chalk it up to lack of consistency rather than lack of possession dominance because that first period was brilliant out of BC.

JG: The first period was great. It kind of looked like BC was going to wipe them out. Then it took quite a turn.

Saturday is setting up to be really, really interesting. UNH is scoring goals at quite a clip, but they're very weak defensively. BC should be able to find the back of the net a few times, I think.

GS: I would think so. I've said this a bunch of times offline but might as well say it here -- the biggest difference between this year and last year is that last season we would be going into this game feeling like it was yet another toss up game. Out of this whole season, only Denver has felt like that.

It's not just because the schedule is soft. Last season every one of these "soft" games would have felt like tough, grind out win in a toss up game.

This year, these games (like against UNH) feel like "okay, we should take this one."

JG: This is true. Yeah, you're expecting BC to really rack up some wins as they continue to go through a soft part of the schedule. UNH, UConn, RIT... it wouldn't be a huge problem if BC dropped one of them given their strong record right now, but they really shouldn't on paper.

GS: We should backtrack a bit here. Given that this is our only Banter so far this year, more needs to be said about the aftermath of The Bracco Affair.

We talked about it in its own article when it happened, but we've played enough games now where we can see how quickly the team's identity has evolved without him.

JG: Yeah. Good point. They're not going to be a, you know, fire-bombing team without them. They don't roll three deep with filthy, NHL-style talent.

But they're still a good team all around, and The Bracco Affair seems to have further reinforced the team concept for those who remain.

GS: Yes. Are they a worse team without him? ...Maybe, but it depends on your definition of "worse." You might not have three lines of filthy NHL talent, but you have four lines of damn good "college" hockey players.

There's something to be said for having these talented guys who also are willing to grind. Might that make them a "better" sum of their parts come tournament time?

It might.

That might be a rosy view of things but you can't argue with the results and you definitely can't argue with the fire they've brought since he left.

JG: Well, yes. I think that Dudek has shown some growing pains the past few weeks, but he certainly has some skill. Same deal with Brown. They're freshmen who I think will be four year players who improve year over year, but are decent enough to get the job done right now. Jeke has slid in seamlessly on the fourth line wing and is really not on my list of concerns right now.

So far as the third line goes, I think any worries about them has been reduced by just how damn good Colin White is playing already.

Kid is a wizard. I know it's early to be talking like this or worried about this but he honestly looks like someone who will be pro ready on an accelerated timeframe.

GS: It will be exceptionally funny when -- not if -- White makes an NHL roster before #NotAGrinder Bracco does.

JG: Well, I wouldn't mind if that doesn't happen, if it means White is here for 3 years.

That was some kind of goal on Friday night, the 2nd of the game. Wowsers.

GS: And Matty Gaudreau seems to have fit in beautifully, chemistry wise, with White and Fitzgerald.

JG: He's doing pretty well in that spot. There will be growing pains but he won't be a liability there. He very quietly picked up a couple of assists on Friday.

I don't think we can count on Cangelosi and Calnan continuing to produce at the level they have so far, but I think we can count on them being at least somewhat good as long as Wood is on the line.

GS: Ah yes, Four Year, Two Hobey, Certified Wagon Miles Wood.

JG: On the flip side we obviously expect a little more out of the Sanford line. Should BC drop a couple games and Jerry feel the need to shake things up,don't be surprised to maybe see Wood slide in next to Tuch and Sanford. Just a hunch.

Hopefully Tuch's goal on Friday -- which was vintage Tuch -- is enough to signify that they're really going to crank it up now.

Any big topics we've missed? Oh, Hockey East is pretty Meh this year.

GS: I wouldn't worry about any particular line. There's a lot of depth there and if one line is getting stifled there are two other scoring lines that can easily be expected to fill the gap.

Hockey East is meh but is any conference not meh this year?

JG: I think the ECAC has a lot of good teams this year. I'd also take the top half of the Nacho, but the bottom is poor.

GS: Hockey East can reasonably hope for 4 teams in the tournament this year.

If that's meh I'll take it.

JG: Yeah I think BC, Lowell, PC and BU can probably be penciled in for March. Beyond that I can't really see anyone being in the picture. Notre Dame maybe.

BU is a little better than I thought they'd be. It's early but they seem to be doing alright. Still some questions between the pipes, I think.

O'Regan, Oksanen and Grylzlylzlzx are enough of a core there that they'll be in the conversation in Hockey East. Those guys haven't really missed a beat without Eichel. But I do see them as a cut behind Lowell & BC.

GS: So let's jump to the women a bit because they've had a similar hot start.

They are an interesting study because while they're undefeated, there's a sense that they aren't manhandling their opponents quite as much as they did last year, but at the same time they seem... better in a weird way?

What I mean by that is, they seem to have improved upon their biggest issues from last season, namely the power play, which will be much more important in games against good teams, but also in their general ability to get to the net rather than just throw pucks at it like they did toward the end of the season.

JG: Interesting you say that. I kind of feel like they're clearly not as good as they were last year, but that doesn't really matter.

They don't have to be as good as they were last year. Last year they were bludgeoning teams, but if they're a tick behind but better in big situations, that's all they need.

Additionally, their competition in the league is arguably worse (I guess Northeastern will make a case on Friday night as to whether that's wrong). And the Gophers probably aren't as good as they were last year.

So I feel a little better about this team's chances of winning the whole thing, even though I don't necessarily think they're at last year's peak.

GS: Yes it's true, and the power play is a big part of that. They're 2nd in the country in that stat. That's going to be key in those big games. So it's just as you said -- maybe they aren't bludgeoning the bad teams, but perhaps they just might be better against those good ones.

NU is going to be a great test. They are talented.

JG: That'll probably be the last really interesting game until January, so hopefully they pass this test.