1. BC has played well the past two weeks. What is the difference between now and their midseason swoon?
Mook Williams: Goaltending, skating, and offensive philosophy.
John Muse is smelling the postseason, and that raw scent turns him into a monster between the pipes. This guy plays for clutch games, and probably can't even fake it during the middle of the season. Everything about Muse looks better recently, from his positioning to his reflexes. Muse is sharp right now, and of course a sharp goaltender will make a world of difference for any hockey team.
BC is skating like they should be. There is a lot of power in those strides, and they are beating defenders at a much higher rate than during the midseason doldrums. THIS is what we have all come to expect from BC teams, year in and year out. Watching them move up and down the ice last week, oftentimes right past UNH defenders, was a thing of beauty.
And maybe going hand-in-hand with the boost to their skating comes an improved and more practical offensive philosophy. Guys are getting into the slot more, getting in front of the goalie, and not trying to make the fancy play. There appears to be less cycling and more aggressive lines taken straight to the net. Now cycling typically is a trademark of a good Jerry York team, but perhaps this year the coaching staff realized that it wouldn't work with this group of players, and have simplified things. I watched this team generate about seven odd-man rushes in the third period against UNH in Game 1 of that short series. Although they converted none of these rushes, the fact that they kept generating them, and kept focusing on getting to the slot and the net, was very impressive. I'm excited to see this brand of hockey against BU.
2. BC is 0-2-1 against BU this year and only scored 3 goals total in the games. Was there anything positive to take away from the earlier meetings?
MW: There wasn't anything positive, and I mean absolutely ZILCH, to take away from the third game. BU completely dominated BC in every way.
As for the 1-1 tie . . . that outcome could have been a lot worse for BC were it not for the play of John Muse, who had a fantastic game that night. He showed that night that if he's on, he can equalize all that impressive talent and size coming off the BU bench.
The 3-1 BU win on BC ice was capped off with a BU empty net goal, so the game was a lot tighter than some may assume. The game featured tight checking and conservative play, and lots of iron hits by BC. Shot totals were kept low, and the ultimate game winning goal was scored on a penalty shot by Chris Connolly. This game may be the best indicator of what we can expect on Friday night. BC needs to turn the hit posts and crossbars into goals if they want to win, as BU doesn't yield many great scoring opportunities.
3. What is the key to this weekend?
MW: John Muse is the most important player on the ice for BC. BU is so talented, that you KNOW that Muse is going to have to make some great stops to keep BC in the game. In front of Muse, BC's blueliners need to maintain the grit and physicality that they displayed against UNH. I saw a much edgier BC defense corps (Petrecki excluded, that man always lives on the edge out there) against UNH, with guys like Anthony Aiello liberally applying lumber to the Wildcats whenever they got near Muse. This nasty attitude needs to continue, provided that the BC Dmen keep everything between the waist and the shoulders.
And finally, keep the simplified offense going. Drive and cut to the net every chance you have, and get as many pucks on BU goale Kieran Millan as possible. Make him feel the pressure of being in the Hockey East tournament semifinals, a place where Muse has already thrived.
Getting on the board early is always important, but WOW will it do wonders for the Eagles on Friday night if they can get there. Getting the lead on BU will take BU out of its conversative defensive shell, which can often be tough to crack. BU normally gets away with this type of play because they have enough talent up front to get the job done without any gambling.
Something hardcore BC hockey fans are wishing for but will never receive: GET THE FORWARDS OFF THE POINT ON THE POWERPLAY. As a BC hockey observer, I just don't feel comfortable with those guys out there. It opens us up to dangerous shorthanded opportunities (UNH scored 2 shorties in Game 1 last week), and I do not think that the forwards on the point give BC that much more of an advantage then having defensemen play there. But, alas, this adjustment will never happen.
4. What is your prediction?
MW: BU wins 3-2 in OT and ends BC's season. But hey, BC may just be on another magic run right now, so this prediction is not made with much confidence. I think this game will make the Hockey East slogan "Great Hockey, Guaranteed" completely on point. Keep in mind that BC has its whole season to play for (it ends with a loss), but BU already has a #1 NCAA tournament seed locked up. With a BC win, they might be in the tournament even with a loss on Saturday night (although many other games will have to break in a certain way for this to happen). IF BC wins this game and the following one on Saturday night, you can book them for the Frozen Four in Washington DC. No one will be able to stop that kind of momentum. Drop the puck.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Guest Hockey Blogger: Mook gets us ready for BC-BU
Mook's back and he's got some opinions on BC's huge weekend against BU. A good showing can get us off the NCAA bubble. Here are his answers to my questions.