Three Things I Think: Hockey East, Jan. 28

Posted by: Joe Meloni

The Hockey East playoff picture became increasingly muddled over the weekend. With Maine heading to Conte Forum, most, including myself, expected at least one team, Maine, to end the weekend more or less eliminated from playoff content. The Black Bears unexpected sweep of BC changed all of that.

Last week, I wrote a piece discussing the term “upset” and it’s validity for regular-season games in Hockey East. Now, it was certainly strange to see Maine take two wins from BC, and this result satisfies every criteria for an “upset.” But the real point is that a 27-game schedule is going to produce some unlikely results that, while interesting, don’t change too much. Personally, I like to save the term and the general idea of meaningful wins from lesser teams for the postseason. Any championship team is going to lose games. No team has ever made it through a Hockey East schedule undefeated, and I’d have no problem suggesting it will never happen; especially given the general improvement of the bottom half of the league in the last decade.

Maine’s wins were important for the club in its battle for a playoff spot. They weren’t, however, as damaging for BC as they were important for Maine. The Eagles are still in first place in the league. Even if they lose out on the top spot by the end of the regular season, there’s little difference between being a first seed and a fourth seed once the quarterfinals end. Last weekend’s losses to Maine hurt BC most in the Eagles’ race for a favorable seed in the NCAA tournament, but they still have time to fix that as well.

BC has a litany of problems to correct in these next few weeks. History suggests they’ll figure out in time to amaze us all in the postseason. Maine, however, needed some wins to save its season. The Black Bears got them, and the next few weeks will be even better because of it.

Review whatever coaches want reviewed

Saturday night, Boston University and Providence played to a 3-3 tie at Agganis Arena. The draw gave BU three of four points from its weekend series with the Friars and five out of six total from the clubs’ three games this season. The third goal BU scored in the game was initially waved off due to a player in the crease. Now, officials reviewed the play and awarded BU a goal because the player was held in the crease by a Providence player. It was the right call, and PC coach Nate Leaman agreed with the decision after the game. However, Leaman was rightfully upset about a play in the first period.

A shot from a Providence player was saved by Matt O’Connor. The puck came loose and wound up in the net just as an official blew the whistle. Leaman asked the officials for a review, but they declined. The coach was rightfully annoyed with the decision. From the vantage point I had that night, I saw the play and heard the whistle. There’s little doubt in my mind that the play isn’t overturned upon review. But I fail to see the harm in taking an extra look.

In other sports, coaches have the option of asking for certain number of reviews per play, while hockey typically relies on its officials to review the plays they think warrant another examination. They maintain the right to deny a coach’s request, and some think this is good if only to prevent people from frivolously demanding plays be reviewed to rest their players or suck some momentum out of team. Perhaps, I’m being naive, but Leaman had every right to ask for a second look, and I don’t understand why an official wouldn’t give into his request. The ruling on the ice was that the whistle ended the play.¬†Even if it’s the wrong call in the sense that the whistle didn’t come until the puck had already crossed the line, whistling the play dead or the intent to do so negates anything that occurs afterward. But why not make sure? Look at the play and make certain that the puck crossed the line only after the whistle came. Having video replay available at all times was a good step for college hockey. Why not use it whenever a coach think it’s necessary?

BU needs to make some adjustments, fast

BU coach Jack Parker has made it known he hasn’t happy with the play of defensemen to this point in the second half. Aside from Garrett Noonan’s reprehensible spearing disqualification two weekends ago, which resulted in his absence last weekend, the Terriers D have struggled heavily in starting rushes, an area they excelled in for most of the first half. The Terriers have as much offensive talent on the blue line as any team in the country. The group as a whole, however, has failed to adjust to new looks opposing forecheckers have giving them since returning from the holiday break.

Countless turnovers off rushes and a declining power play have led to struggles against teams the Terriers should beat without much issue. Similarly, games against better opponents have become losses when they could have been wins because of these struggles. Parker said on Saturday that the issues aren’t just due to poor play from his defensemen. The Terriers’ puck management has been dismal throughout the lineup in the second half. Teams have given BU a new look to negate a strength of their lineup. However, the club hasn’t adjusted to this point, and they’re giving up easily avoidable goals as a result.

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