Three Things I Think Hockey East: Week 3

Posted by: Joe Meloni

Boston College may want to avoid anymore trips to Minnesota for a while. The Eagles have been¬†embarrassed in two of their last three games at Mariucci. There’s no real shame in losing to the Gophers, and BC will, of course, be just fine moving forward. Some clear issues are there, just as there were a year ago. “Just fine” for BC means, the Eagles will still compete for championships, but it’s pretty clear they aren’t the type of favorite they’ve been recently.

Talent is everywhere on the Eagles’ roster. Aside from the clear best player in the country in Johnny Gaudreau, BC’s top six, defensive unit and goaltending corps each has as much talent as any. It hasn’t come together just yet, and the Eagles missed two huge chances to boost their Pairwise standing with losses at Michigan and to the Gophers.

BU should probably control the puck at some point

There are times when massive shot differences are a product of the score. There are times when massive shot differences are a product of gulfs in talent. Other times, well, it’s not quite clear what the reason is. For Boston University, it’s that third one. A 3-2-0 start isn’t the worst reality for the Terriers at this point, but there have been some troubling trends.

Through five games, BU is being outshot, on average, by more than 11 shots per game. Shot charts haven’t been pretty thus far. The Terriers block a lot of shots, and that’s a good sign in some regards. It also means opponents have the puck. With a young defensive corps, that’s not exactly a great sign for the Terriers. Two of BU’s three wins came when they were outshot by 15 or more shots. With so few attempts on goal, it’s hard not to look at those two wins as a product of puck luck and truly brilliant goaltending. Those things are all well and good, but relying on luck and uncommonly great goaltending isn’t a great formula.

Up front, BU is as young as anyone. A majority of these issues in possession are likely borne from poor play up front that should correct itself as lines take shape and young players mature. However it happens, though, BU needs it to happen soon.

Providence needs Jon Gillies to be great, but others are contributing

There’s no question that Jon Gillies is the best goaltender in Hockey East. There may not be a team in the country that relies on one player so heavily. As Nate Leaman said on Saturday night, though, PC is not a one-man show. At different points in the win and draw with Miami at Schneider Arena on Friday and Saturday, some of Leaman’s other weapons revealed themselves.

Sophomore forward Mark Jankowski looked for more comfortable on the ice than he did as a freshman. The highlight reel goal he scored Saturday night was truly amazing. It was his play without the puck that demonstrated his maturity, though. He still isn’t where he needs to be just yet, especially defensively, but he’s plainly a smarter player than he was at this time last year.

Others, including defenseman Steven Shamanski and center Ross Mauermann, are the type of players that make Providence more than just an average team with a great goaltender. The Friars have the potential to win Hockey East and advance in the NCAA Tournament. They still look like they have  bit more holes than the other contenders, and less raw talent available to cover those holes, but they also have the wildcard in Gillies that can steal games when needed. In general, the 2013-14 season is going to be an interesting one as far as the Friars are concerned.

Leaman has made them relevant faster than most expected, and he may very well lead them to championships faster than most expected.

Vermont may have two pretty good goaltenders

Vermont has only played three games to this point. Freshman Mike Santaguida has started each of those games in goal and played pretty well in all of them. Sophomore Brody Hoffman, who impressed as the season went on last year, has returned to practice after suffering an injury in the preseason, but he wasn’t game ready just yet.

Against Penn State on Saturday, Santaguida made 31 saves on 33 shots after stopping 62 on 67 in two games at North Dakota opening weekend. A .912 save percentage and 2.92 save percentage aren’t jaw-dropping numbers, but they’re fairly impressive for a freshman goaltender at any rate. Hoffman will likely get some time when he’s healthy, but having two reliable goalies is important for any team. As UVM can attest already, injuries happen, and healthy goalies that can stop pucks can be the difference when those bumps mount.

Good goaltending isn’t going to solve all of the problems UVM’s experienced in the last few years — scoring is still an issue. It’s a good start, though.

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