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Boston College Hockey’s Problem So Far? It’s Been Offensive

Eagles struggling to generate chances early

2016 Beanpot Tournament - Championship Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images

Three games is not enough time to make a long-term judgement on the strengths and weaknesses of a hockey team. But the struggle for BC in their opening games this season has been a simple one: scoring goals. Through three games, the Eagles have four non-empty net goals - 1, 2, and 1. That’s not going to cut it.

Coming in to the season, with the Eagles returning three of their top scorers from last year but having to replace their goalie and practically their entire blue line, one might have suspected their biggest issue would be leaking in a lot of goals at their own end early. So far, that hasn’t been the case; the Eagles have given up just two goals per game, and the defense and goatending have looked pretty good.

So why is BC struggling to score?

The easiest answer sort of doubles as good news, because it’s not likely to last: Colin White and Ryan Fitzgerald haven’t found liftoff yet. Their line has yet to find the scoresheet, at even strength or on the power play, with Austin Cangelosi (x3), David Cotton and JD Dudek accounting for BC’s goals so far.

White leads the team in shots on goal with 10, and it’s surely only a matter of time until he gets on the board. Fitzgerald’s start has been a little slower (6 shots) but he’s not really a long-term concern either.

What is a concern is finding the right complementary piece to go with them and round out the first line. Matt Gaudreau has been a very good third/fourth line player over the course of his BC career, but playing with White and Fitzgerald is a big step. JD Dudek might get another crack at it, especially after scoring on Friday. Graham McPhee seemed like a possible candidate in the exhibition game, but he’s been silent in the first three regular season contests.

Carrying over from the first unit’s even strength issues is BC’s struggle on the power play. BC is 0-for-17 with the man advantage - especially problematic right now when referees are so whistle-happy. (Not helping their cause? Allowing four power play goals in the other direction.)

In general, BC’s shot generation has been not-terrible, averaging 30 on net per game - around mid-pack. They’d probably be closer to the top third in shots on goal if the power play wasn’t completely sputtering, generating just ~2.3 shot attempts per time on the man advantage.

But a lot of the guys BC does have who are putting in good shifts and getting off shots aren’t sharpshooters; you’re simply not going to see the Eagles put up an astronomical shooting percentage this year the way they’ve done in the past. Julius Mattila is a good example of a guy who hustles all over the ice and creates a ton of chances (tied for 2nd on the team with 9 shots) but is not really a finisher.

For BC to be clinical, they’re going to need Colin White and Ryan Fitzgerald to heat up. Today seems like as good a day as any.