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Friday thoughts: Gettin’ there

December 5, 2009

So far this morning we’ve seen a lot of talk that last night’s game was the latest in a string of poor efforts, and much has been made of Lowell’s only having scored four goals in the last three games. “Here we go again,” cried everyone.

We all remember last year. Six games, eight goals, six losses. It was indeed a bad time. And that certainly, in some ways, brings to mind this latest spate of games. We get that.

But at the same time, Lowell is showing signs of coming out of this run of poor play a lot sooner than it did last year, in which the only estimable effort came in the dying minutes of a loss to Providence, which was of course followed up by the wonderful, high-scoring overtime win at Boston College on NESN.

It’s no coincidence, either, that two of these three losses come from the only two real seats of frustration in Hockey East play: Schneider Arena and the Whittemore Center. For whatever reason, Lowell simply does not play well there and while that’s obviously unfortunate, it at least goes a little bit of the way toward explaining just what the problem is. It’s interesting to note that Lowell put 30 or more shots on net only twice in the entire six-game stretch last year, and have done so at both Providence and New Hampshire already. We think we see the problem.

Lowell’s shooting percentage through the first however-many games, in which it scored a whole hell of a lot of goals, was very very high. And as with Merrimack this year, there comes a point at which there’s a bit of regression toward the mean. It happens in every sport. No team can go around hanging ridiculous offensive totals on every opponent all year without at some point being forcefully pulled back toward normalcy. It happened to BU last year for a little while too, but the Terriers were fortunately deep at both offense and defense so when either side lacked, the other carried the water. Lowell, while still the best team in Hockey East, doesn’t have the luxury of two NHL-level players like Colin Wilson and Matt Gilroy. That’s just the way it is.

Lowell’s shooting percentage after the Merrimack game was, if we recall correctly, around 15 percent. That is exceedingly high, about 45 percent above league average of 10.88. And in these last three games, Lowell’s shooting percentage has dipped down to 11.7 percent. That is a sign, to us, that this slump is going to be over very soon. Lowell couldn’t go around scoring three goals or more per game forever and what this statistical correction roughly translates to is what some people would call “puck luck.” We’d all agree Lowell was absolutely soaking in it during the first 11 games. And now, for the last three games, it’s “suddenly” been in absentia. That’s how hockey at high levels works. That’s been borne out by the math of people better with numbers than us.

The good news is that with this turnaround is the perception that Lowell is now beginning to “work harder.” The last two games were notably listless, sure, but 30 shots is 30 shots, isn’t it? It shows that, on some level, Lowell is in these games (well, not the Maine debacle) and making things happen. We’ll concede that the failure to capitalize on this is frustrating, but again, understandable. The River Hawks carried play for at least two thirds of the game last night.

We hate this, “Oh no, Carter Hutton gave up two goals on 34 shots the sky is falling!” attitude. Does it bother us that Lowell only scored once against an hilariously bad defense and goaltender? Of course it does. Why wouldn’t it? One goal on 30 shots, especially when that one is more than a bit fluky, frustrates us to no end.

But we see the forest for the trees, and it’s not like they’ve come to Dunsinane just yet.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. stevo permalink
    December 5, 2009 7:14 pm

    So what your are saying is that Lowell has no NHL level players like BU had , and that is whats wrong woth them???

    • RHHB permalink
      December 5, 2009 7:18 pm

      no. we’re saying that BU had the benefit of an NHL-level player and incredible depth at both offense and defense and so if the terriers were struggling in one area in a game, it was unlikely that there’d be a struggle at the other end. they could win 6-5 or 1-0. lowell doesn’t have the top-end talent level to do that especially with goers still hurt.

      and beyond that, we’re saying it’s regression toward the mean goals-wise.

  2. stevo permalink
    December 5, 2009 11:01 pm

    maybe you should jsut say that Lowell sure aint BU.

  3. Matt permalink
    December 6, 2009 7:12 am

    You put waaaaaaaaaay too much emphasis on shot totals. Shots are all fine and good, but the real measure on how the team is playing is scoring chances. You can put 30 shots on net every game, but if they’re all coming from the point or bad angels, it’s a useless stat. You yourself even responded to a comment about shots at the Maine game with something to the effect of, “yeah, but look at these shots, they’re dump ins on net.”

    The whole “working harder” is a valid observation. If the team is skating with purpose and not getting beat to every puck, they’re going to create chances. Chances lead to goals, goals lead to wins. Not surprised that someone who knows so little about hockey would understand that.

    Also don’t know why you think scoring 3 goals/game is ridiculous. 6 teams in Hockey East are averaging over 3 a game in all games. Doesn’t seem like it’s crazy to think that this team shouldn’t be able to put up 3 a night.

    • RHHB permalink
      December 6, 2009 7:51 am

      bad angels? you mean like lucifer immediately after his rebellion against heaven?

      also, your comment shows a profound lack of understanding of the argument we’ve put forward.

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