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Loose pucks: Is Jamie Farr still around?

February 13, 2008

Three things we support wholeheartedly:
1. Having a clear picture of what Lowell needs to do.

For a while, Lowell was in this sort of nebulous comfort zone that it was afforded by its early-season success. The ‘Hawks were looking good and growing comfortable in that home ice slot, and perhaps a subconscious acceptance that the trend would continue seeped into the team’s psyche. Well, were that the case, it can’t be any longer.

That might not be a bad thing. Lowell could have accepted a loss here and there, and certainly we were as guilty as anyone in saying, “Oh a split with Providence is just fine for now. They’re still in good shape.” A mere month later, and Lowell’s season is in serious jeopardy. But at least they know what they have to do.

At least two points every weekend should be the goal. A sense of urgency on offense and better five-on-five defensive play will go a long way toward that (which is not to say that goaltending hasn’t been culpable in the atrocious results of late). Everything from here on out is a must-win. It’s certainly better than the team feeling like it can let off the gas a little. The idea is to barrel into the playoffs at full-steam and now Lowell has to do that.

2. The return of Mike Potacco.

Speaking of the offense, Potacco’s return sure can’t hurt. If he can rekindle his chemistry with Mark Roebothan and Scott Campbell, Lowell’s offense can get itself going again. As we’ve seen in the past, it’s almost impossible to win games when the opponent only has to worry about one line putting the puck in the net. With the recent ascendency of the Kory FaliteBen HolmstromPatrick Cey line, having the so-called CPR line firing on all cylinders again will certainly make life easier.

3. The power play.

As recently as last week we were decrying the pathetic state of Lowell’s attack with the man advantage. No more. Going 1 for 4 at Vermont and 2 for 5 against BU are certainly a stark contrast to the 0-fer showings of the previous three contests. Hopefully that trend will continue.

But that brings us to…

Two things we shake our heads at disapprovingly:
1. Five-on-five and the penalty kill.

Yeesh. Since the Minnesota-Duluth series, everything but the power play has been fairly abysmal. Remember when Lowell’s penalty kill was running at about 90 percent efficiency and was among the best in the country? Yeah, not so much now. Since the Bulldogs came to town, Lowell is running at just 80 percent (4 for 20) when down a man.

Sure, 80 percent isn’t terrible or anything, but here’s the problem: the only time giving up power play goals doesn’t matter is if you’re scoring five-on-five and up a man. Lowell’s power play, as we said, has been okay, but they’ve been absolutely eviscerated at even strength lately. Since that fateful Duluth series, Lowell has been outscored 12-4 at even strength.

Newsflash: The fact that Lowell has gone 1-4 in that stretch is the direct result of this. Less than a goal game five-on-five is hideous. If you can’t win five-on-five or have a successful penalty kill, you can’t win hockey games. Period.

2. Having to play Boston College after a game like that.

After Friday night’s thumping by BU, Lowell needed a bit of a pick-me-up. Playing the surging Boston College Eagles was likely not what the ‘Hawks were looking for.

Lowell, suddenly a team that can’t score, is playing an Eagle squad that has scored four or more goals in 12 of its last 16 games. Think about that. It’s not exactly a cure for the defensive woes Lowell’s been having.

You have to play the schedule you’re given and all that, but the ‘Hawks honestly couldn’t be playing BC at a worse time. This weekend could get ugly.

Stat of the Week

How’s this for consistency? BC’s 6-5 win in the Beanpot final was the first time all season that the Eagles have won when Nate Gerbe was held without a point. Their record when he goes pointless now stands at 1-3-5. That means they’re 14-3-2 when the pocket-sized puckhandling wizard makes the scoresheet. BC’s production when he doesn’t get a point is 23 goals in nine games, or 2.56 per (and remember this is buoyed by the six-goal performance the other night). With him, it’s 82 in 19, or 4.32 per.

So, uh, we guess all the River Hawks have to do is shut down Gerbe. Yeah, that’s all.

Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die!
Hopefully this Beanpot win by BC will give Lowell two advantages.

We know that Blaise MacDonald and his remarkably able staff are good enough to be able to identify whatever weaknesses the Eagles exposed on Monday night, and we certainly hope Lowell an exploit them.

But more to the point, we are praying that the opposite of last week’s debacle with BU is true. Where BU came in bloodthirsty and with a point to prove after its early Beanpot exit, we would love it if Jerry York‘s boys came into the weekend fat and happy.

Of course, we’d feel a lot better if Harvard had taken the Eagles to two or three more overtimes. Thanks for nothing, Crimson.

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