Loose pucks: All according to plan
Three things that keep it going:
1) We’re up to nine.
It’s getting harder and harder to argue with results these days. As we said after Saturday’s game, Lowell didn’t even play particularly well and still won. If this was, say, two months ago, the Terriers would have flattened Lowell on an off night, but it’s not two months ago any more. This is a deeply confident River Hawk squad at seeming the height of its powers. Even when things go badly, as they did in the third period and also at the tail ends of a few periods against Providence, they’re not so bad. That’s the kind of thing to which we can grow very accustomed very quickly.
2) Another stretch of winnable games.
And to that end, one of the things we’ve heard as a continual knock against our dear River Hawks is that in this nine-game winning streak, Lowell has played approximately one good team, and that was BU. A fair enough criticism, in our book, but hey, you can only play the games they put in front of you. If the Clarkson wins had come between the BC and UNH series, would that somehow not have been two wins added to the season total? Anyway, the point is that yes, Lowell played eight not-so-good or even outright bad teams, then BU, and beat all of ‘em. And now we’re looking at a series against Northeastern, then games at Merrimack and Maine. All winnable, especially for a team playing this well. While we wouldn’t be surprised to see some sort of correction to the mean — even the most winnable games sometimes don’t get won after you’ve picked up nine Ws in a row — we also think it’s very conceivable that this run keeps rolling.
3) Chad Ruhwedel is officially back and everyone is scared now.
Let’s leave aside the fact that Scott Wilson has like eight points in his last four games and focus on the real revolution that brought this team to the fore in Hockey East. Let’s instead keep in mind that Chad Ruhwedel has once again rounded into form as inarguably the best all-around defenseman in all of Hockey East. As Ruhwedel goes, so go the River Hawks, and he now has nine points in the last eight games, including five — count ‘em: five! — goals. We weep for what he’s going to do to Northeastern this weekend. Well, that’s not true. We titter with anticipation and delight.
Two things that ain’t so hot:
1) Letting things get out of hand.
As referenced above, Lowell hasn’t exactly cruised through these last two games, but they were admittedly against teams that are not quite so bad as, say, Vermont. Nonetheless — and perhaps this is a function of having sat through the first 12 or so games of the season and reacting reflexively — we don’t like to see the River Hawks get pushed around for any stretch. That was certainly the case at the end of the first and third periods against Providence, when the Friars poured on the pressure, and most of the third period against BU as well, when only their dumb penalties seemed to stand in their way. Not that we’re arguing with the results in any way, and maybe it’s good to be reminded that this team isn’t invincible, but there definitely needs to be some tightening up. “Coachable moments,” as they say.
2) Wondering about peaking too early.
A thought that occurred to us this week: This is a nice run back to respectability but it kind of speaks to how deep the hole Lowell dug for itself really was that after nine consecutive wins, five of which were against Hockey East opponents, the River Hawks still sit just sixth in the conference. Now, again, you can only play the games in front of you, and we’d rather the team obviously keep winning, rather than drop one for the simple sake of doing so, but we’re not totally convinced this isn’t a little bit of lightning in a bottle. Can the winning (though not necessarily the streak itself) keep going? With the schedule the rest of the way, of course it can. But whether it will is, obviously, up for debate.
Stat of the Week
So now Lowell has nine wins in a row. Much has been made of the last time that happened being the time Lowell should have qualified for the NCAA tournament, and probably would have too were it not for the confluence of four evils factors (the Olympics stealing Lowell’s three best players, the tournament only expanding to 16 teams the following year, the MAAC autobid, and WCHA refs indisputably screwing the River Hawks out of what should have been a Denver Cup win), way back in the 2001-02 season. So what we thought we would do the perfectly reasonable thing and compare this nine-game run to the only other one in the school’s Division 1 history in a number of ways.
01-02: 24 (2.67/game)
12-13: 34 (3.78)
01-02: 6 (0.67 (yes, really))
12-13: 14 (1.56)
01-02: 289 (32.11)
12-13: 281 (31.22)
01-02: 199 (22.11)
12-13: 248 (27.56)
Games Being Outshot
01-02: 5/32 (15.6 percent)
12-13: 12/51 (23.5 percent)
01-02: 25/28 (89.3 percent)
12-13: 29/30 (96.7 percent)
01-02: 6 (again, really)
During that first nine-game run, Lowell also played four Hockey East opponents, outscoring them 8-4 behind a pair of shutouts to start the run (sound familiar?), compared to Lowell’s facing five league opponents this time around and outscoring them 16-9. In 2001-02, Lowell’s power play went 4/19 (21.1 percent) compared to this year’s 8/33 (24.2 percent). The first team’s PK was 14/16 (87.5 percent) versus this team’s 15/16 (93.8 percent).
Do you remember?
Let’s look back very quickly and laugh about last season. Northeastern’s fans swore up and down ahead of that weekend series, which Lowell swept, that a) Anthony Bitteto was better than Chad Ruhwedel, b) Ludwig Karlsson was better than Scott Wilson, c) Chris Rawlings was better than Doug Carr, d) Northeastern’s defense was better than Lowell’s, and e) Northeastern was better than Lowell overall. Including those two meetings, Lowell has since gone 25-14-2, compared to Northeastern’s 12-18-4. That’s not a good look for the Huskies at all.