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Loose pucks: The Showcase Showdown

March 11, 2008

Three good things:
1) “Playoff hockey.”

Two words that are certainly music to our ears. There is nothing better in the entire universe than playoff hockey. The intensity, the emotion, the drama – all unmatched by any playoff in any sport. In hockey, more than any other sport, a game-changing event can happen in a flash. There are no challenge flags, no changing pitchers for a righty-righty matchup, no endless string of timeouts. There’s just a whistle and, five seconds later, a puck drop. It’s that simple.

This is win or go home. This is the biggest game of the season. This is where you want to be.

2) Jeremy Dehner.

Enough cannot possibly be said about everything this kid brings to the River Hawks. He’s arguably the best defenseman in the league (this is not hyperbole) as a sophomore and his versatility is astounding.

Want Dehner to lead the rush? Not a problem. Want him to shut down the top line of every team in Hockey East? No sweat. Want him to take on any forward in the league one-on-one? Easy. Want him to play 30 minutes a night? You got it.

When Dehner’s on the ice, it’s almost impossible to worry, and that’s a great feeling as fans. It must be even better for a goalie because he defines “ice water in the veins.” To know that anything can happen and you have a coldblooded, even-keeled workhorse out there for literally half of every game is outstanding.

Lowell hasn’t had that kind of defenseman (one that steadies an entire team) for a few years now. We are thankful every day the Wisconsin inexplicably passed on this kid. He’s a rock.

3) A good showing in Orono.

We’re getting there. Despite two losses and a 6-2 loss on aggregate, Lowell at least showed more life than they have in the past. Given how last year went against Maine, if we’d have told you Lowell would outplay Maine at Alfond for two straight games, you’d be fine with it, especially if we could have also guaranteed a split of the season series.

Sometimes games aren’t all about the final scoreline. This was ground gained in the greater battle. With Maine graduating eight seniors, including almost all of their best players, and Ben Bishop‘s jump to the pro ranks, you’ve got to like Lowell’s chances at Alfond next year.

Two baaaaaaaad things:
1) Stupid Alfond Arena.

The sooner they implode that place, the better. (Feel free to insert your own joke about how Tim Whitehead is already starting that ball rolling).

2) Playing BU in the playoffs.

For what seems like the millionth time in a row, Lowell draws the hottest team in the league coming into the best-of-three series. Doesn’t seem fair.

Starting with their 6-2 win over Lowell on Feb. 8, The Terriers have been nearly unstoppable. Their form over that span: W, W, W, W, W, W, W, L, W, W. Four of those wins, by the way, have been shutouts. Three have been blowouts. Two have been in overtime. Four have been by one goal. Not only is BU winning, it’s doing so in many different ways.

That doesn’t bode well for UML, which has been playing reasonably well (but not winning) for the last month or so. If Lowell doesn’t bring its “A+” game, and basically doesn’t play flawless hockey for two or three games, these red-hot Terriers could put a severe hurting on Lowell.

This is not to say, however, that BU is not prone to the occasional brainfart. That one L in between all the Ws was a 5-1 thumping by UMass of all teams. It seems pretty inexplicable to us.

Stat of the Week
If Hockey East wants to exhibit a wide-open game, they couldn’t have picked a better matchup to air on NESN than BU-UML. The two teams have met three times this year (though never back-to-back, oddly) and posted for scores of 7-4, 4-3, and 6-2.

That’s 26 combined goals in three games, an average of 8.67 per. Neither team played in a higher-scoring series in league play this year. BU, for all its offensive pop, only gets close by virtue of a 24-goal series against UVM (9-2 games will get you there). Lowell’s next highest-scoring series was with BC, when the teams combined for 20 goals.

I bid $1
Just as a final thought on the regular season, we have to say that this was a good one. Lowell went 3-4-2 in eight Hockey East season series (compared to 2-5-1 last year), so this team, with one senior and three juniors, is making big strides. Next year, we think we might be so bold as to expect better than a .500 record in league.

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