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Weekend preview: Or get off the pot

January 8, 2010

The No. 14 Lowell River Hawks (11-7-1, 5-4-1 HE) vs. the New Hampshire Wildcats (8-7-3, 8-2-2 HE) and the Northeastern Huskies (6-8-1, 4-7-1 HE)

7 p.m. Friday at Whittemore Center, Durham, N.H.
4/7 p.m. Saturday at Matthews Arena, Boston, Mass.

Lowell is fifth in Hockey East with 11 points from 10 games, UNH is first in Hockey East with 18 points from 12 games, and Northeastern is seventh in Hockey East with nine points from 12 games.

Last three games
Lowell — 1-2 vs. Northeastern, 3-0 vs. Holy Cross, 2-3 vs. Princeton
UNH — 2-5 vs. Cornell, 4-3 at Providence, 5-2 at Vermont
Northeastern — 2-1 vs. Lowell, 7-0 vs. Dartmouth, 1-5 at Maine

Prior meetings
Lowell trails UNH 30-51-14 and leads Northeastern 52-35-7 all-time.

Season series
Lowell beat Northeastern 3-1 on Oct. 24 in a Hockey East league game behind goals from Riley Wetmore, David Vallorani and Paul Worthington. Carter Hutton made 24 saves in the win. It lost last Sunday night to Northeastern 2-1 thanks to a lack of discipline and a lack of offense.

Lowell has split with UNH in their two meetings this season, taking the first game 6-3 in Lowell but losing in Durham for the one millionth consecutive game, 2-1.

Top scorers
Lowell:
Nick Schaus — 17 GP, 4-15-19 (10 GP, 3-10-13 HE)
David Vallorani — 19, 7-10-17 (10, 4-6-10)
Kory Falite — 19, 10-6-16 (10, 4-2-6)
Paul Worthington — 19, 8-7-15 (10, 6-4-10)
Scott Campbell — 19, 6-9-15 (10, 2-4-6)

New Hampshire:
Bobby Butler — 18 GP, 13-11-24 (12 GP, 10-9-19 HE)
Blake Kessel — 17, 5-13-18 (12, 3-10-13)
Paul Thompson — 18, 8-9-17 (12, 7-8-15)
Peter LeBlanc — 18, 6-9-15 (12, 5-5-10)
Phil DeSimone — 18, 3-10-13 (12, 3-10-13)

Northeastern:
Kyle Kraemer — 17 GP, 6-7-13 (12 GP, 5-4-9 HE)
Garrett Vermeersch — 16, 5-7-12 (11, 4-3-7)
Wade MacLeod — 16, 5-7-12 (11, 5-2-7)
Alex Tuckerman — 16, 4-6-10 (12, 2-3-5)
Jake Newton — 17, 4-6-10 (12, 1-4-5)

Goaltending
Lowell:
Carter Hutton (6-5-0) — 11 GP, 657:27 minutes, 1.92 GAA/.934 sv% (5 GP, 300:36 minutes, 2.79 GAA/.914 sv% HE)
Nevin Hamilton (5-2-1) — 8, 481:53, 2.61/.911 (5, 303:01, 2.77/.910 HE)

New Hampshire:
Brian Foster (7-7-3) — 17 GP, 1,000:04 minutes, 3.48 GAA/.893 sv% (11 GP, 671:18, 2.86 GAA/.904 sv% HE)

Northeastern:
Chris Rawlings (5-7-1) — 15 GP, 870:01 minutes, 2.76 GAA/.917 sv% (10 GP, 570:58, 3.15 GAA/.906 sv% HE)
Bryan Mountain (1-1-0) — 4, 151:08, 1.99/.906 (same)

Team stats
Lowell:
Overall (19 games) — 62 goals for (3.26/gm), 43 goals against (2.26/gm). Power play 22/91 (24.2%, 1 SHGA), penalty kill 68/82 (82.9%, 1 SHGF)
Hockey East (10 games) — 34 goals for (3.40/gm), 29 goal against (2.90/gm). Power play 13/50 (26.0%, 1 SHGA), penalty kill 34/44 (77.3%, 0 SHGF)

New Hampshire:
Overall (18 games) — 59 goals for (3.28/gm), 64 goals against (3.56/gm). Power play 12/79 (15.2%, 1 SHGA), penalty kill 57/75 (76.0%, 3 SHGF)
HE (12 games) — 46 goals for (3.83/gm), 35 goals against (2.92/gm). Power play 9/47 (19.1%, 0 SHGA), penalty kill 34/49 (69.4%, 2 SHGF)

Northeastern:
Overall (17 games) — 34 goals for (2.27/gm), 46 goals against (2.71/gm). Power play 20/111 (18.0%, 1 SHGA), penalty kill 61/82 (74.4%, 2 SHGF)
HE (12 games) — 25 goals for (2.08/gm), 36 goals against (3.00/gm). Power play 5/33 (15.2%, 2 SHGA), penalty kill 46/63 (73.0%, 1 SHGF)

Outlook

The prior two weekend series, we said, we must-win games. Lowell was appreciably better than the competition it faced in Princeton, Holy Cross, and either Dartmouth or Northeastern. The stats bore that much out. And yet here we are with Lowell having taken four points from as many games against, let’s face it, opponents whose inferiority to Lowell range from “vast” to “slight.”

And now, with Lowell entering the heart of its overall schedule by descending into a gauntlet of nothing but Hockey East play  for the season’s remainder, while looking at a slim deficit in points behind the fourth and final home ice spot but holding at least one game in hand on all but three teams in the conference, the time has come for it to begin to live up to the mountains of hype and preemptive praise heaped upon it.

By almost any statistical metric through which you care to view the situation, Lowell is probably the outright best team in Hockey East. It is tops in team defense by a healthy margin as there’s nearly a half-goal difference between Lowell’s goals allowed per game and the second-best team. Its power play is third-best in the league. Its penalty kill is second. It is the only team to be in the top three in all three categories.

But the problem, then, is offense. Lowell is sixth in the league in team offense, a full .48 goals per game behind league leader Maine (wait.. Maine?). And that has been the River Hawks’ problem this year. It’s excellent at pretty much everything except five-on-five hockey.

As you may or may not be aware, the most recent statistical studies of hockey show that even-strength goals are the greatest predictor of team success, relative to the standings, that exists. For example, UNH, which is tops in league play, has an even-strength goal differential of plus-15 in Hockey East games. No one else is even close to that total. The next closest team is BC at plus-8, and then there’s another huge dropoff to Lowell at plus-3.

We’ve composed some charts to this effect, which show both ESGD and ESGD/GP and is sorted by the latter. (Sorry, by the way, that WordPress hates tables so much. That’s the one disadvantage of this platform compared to Blogger.)

OV
Team GP GF GA PPGF PPGA SHGF SHGA ESGF ESGA ESGD ESGD/GP
Lowell 19 62 43 22 14 1 1 39 28 11 0.58
BC 17 60 48 20 11 1 2 39 35 4 0.24
Vermont 18 54 55 13 18 1 1 40 36 4 0.22
UM-Amherst 18 63 55 22 15 1 2 40 38 2 0.11
Providence 17 41 46 10 14 0 2 31 30 1 0.06
Maine 19 71 58 34 22 4 3 33 33 0 0.00
Merrimack 17 57 59 20 17 0 3 37 39 -2 -0.12
UNH 18 59 64 12 18 3 0 44 46 -2 -0.11
Northeastern 17 43 46 20 21 2 1 21 24 -3 -0.18
BU 17 51 59 21 18 5 0 25 41 -16 -0.94
HE
Team GP GF GA PPGF PPGA SHGF SHGA ESGF ESGA ESGD ESGD/GP
UNH 12 46 35 9 15 2 0 35 20 15 1.25
BC 12 43 30 14 8 0 1 29 21 8 0.67
Lowell 10 34 29 13 10 0 1 21 18 3 0.30
Maine 12 40 31 18 13 3 1 19 17 2 0.17
Merrimack 10 35 36 13 11 0 2 22 23 -1 -0.10
Vermont 11 27 38 6 14 1 1 20 23 -3 -0.27
Northeastern 12 25 36 11 17 1 1 13 18 -5 -0.42
UM-Amherst 11 37 35 16 9 1 1 20 25 -5 -0.45
BU 12 36 41 14 15 2 0 20 26 -6 -0.50
Providence 10 19 31 8 10 0 2 11 19 -8 -0.80

See? Apart from a few anomalies (Amherst outperforming its ESGD through its league-best power play and fewer games played depressing where Lowell and Merrimack should be), that’s pretty much exactly the Hockey East table as it stands right now. It’s also interesting that UNH, which is plus-15 in-league as we said, is so bad out-of-conference that it’s still a minus-2 overall, meaning that it’s minus-17 in just six out of conference games at even strength, and that certainly accounts for its winless OOC record.

So the point is that Lowell needs to start scoring five-on-five like now. It has had a relatively easy conference schedule so far (apart, obviously, from two games against UNH) and one each against Maine and Merrimack. Too many games far so with one or no ES goals. And while having a strong power play is obviously beneficial, one cannot count on that to win too many games. Amherst, as we’ve seen recently, is quickly learning that the hard way.

Lowell needs to reverse this trend, starting this weekend. This is absolutely the most important weekend of the season to date.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. spanky permalink
    January 8, 2010 5:03 am

    I always love a good chart

  2. January 8, 2010 4:35 pm

    Nice number crunching.

  3. January 8, 2010 5:03 pm

    Need to start off the second half of HE play with smart play … and hell, it would be nice to start playing when the puck drops at the beginning of the game as well.

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