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Friday thoughts: Teams under consideration

January 30, 2010

So the rumor we heard early in the week is true: Jeremy Dehner sustained a broken hand at some point last weekend and is out anywhere from day-to-day (as reported by the WUML broadcast) to 2-3 weeks (word around the rink and all that).

Now there’s good news and bad news here. The good news is that the defense didn’t suffer too greatly in Dehner’s absence but did understandably look a bit worsened by it, as any team would. The bad news is that the offense was utter, utter dross, so much so that if he really is out for the longer end of the prognoses, then Lowell is dead in the water.

There was talk on the radio in an interview with Dehner that ran during the first intermission that “The Fans*” were very high on the team after last weekend’s four points from games against BC and Merrimack, and while not necessarily true we understand the broader point. The the issue taken up in the interview was that after two crap results against Amherst Lowell fans were understandably down on the team and that really, there had been no great disparity in quality of play and thus we should be happy that the team was playing well.

*(Your pals at TIIL, who have apparently taken on de facto spokesmen status for “the fans” in both the eyes of the radio broadcast team and outlets, official or otherwise, that cover other Hockey East teams or indeed the league at large.)

Any points from Amherst in that weekend series would have been better than none obviously, even ignoring the fact that Lowell coughed up a season series to a team with which it would likely compete for a home ice spot. But okay, let’s follow the tracks of this ridiculous logic to its ridiculous conclusion: say Lowell “efforts” itself silly for the remainder of the season, and indeed the next two or three Dehnerless weeks. If the result will be taking a point from every game (on average, as this interview suggests would be acceptable if the effort is there) for the remainder of the season, then it will end the year with 28 league points. For the last 25 years or so, it has taken about 30-32 points to win home ice. So our point, we guess, is that trying hard matters zero. Our long-held belief and oft-stated belief is that this season was never one in which we could make ourselves feel better with moral victories and “we’ll get ’em next time” talk. This is win or go home because this team is going to really struggle next season, and thus in this, Lowell’s “go-for-it” year, we demand results from all games. How is this unreasonable?

Although, now that we’ve typed that all out, we suppose the preceding few paragraphs were all written in vain because the game Lowell had tonight was simply a bad effort from everyone save for two notable players. We’ll name them now: Carter Hutton and Maury Edwards.

Obviously Hutton made a number of great saves, none that were highway robbery or anything, but solid enough and timely enough that they warrant mentioning. Of course, when the defense allows 35 shots on goal, it’s not outrageous to assume at least a few of those shots were of high quality. Had Hutton not been in net, replaced with some league-average goalie, perhaps, this would have looked a hell of a lot worse than 2-1.

As for Edwards, obviously he had the lone River Hawks goal and that in itself is, we suppose, praiseworthy. But we also thought he featured well all game with an increased role due to Dehner’s absence. He wasn’t on the ice for any goals against, we didn’t notice that he was too careless with the puck, and he even let fly a couple of Maury Edwards-quality attempts toward net, one of which was saved and the other obviously found paydirt.

The rest of the team was more or less unwatchable though. Any calm this team exhibited in the defensive zone against BC evaporated the second Northeastern was able to work any sort of cycle for more than eight seconds. Clearing attempts were handled with ease by every defenseman and any River Hawk with the puck only had roughly a 40 percent chance of actually doing anything positive with it. If the defense can be credited with something, and there’s not much for which they can be, then it’s that there were a good number of shots held to the perimeter and that the score could have been a lot worse. Of course, it was lack of resoluteness around the net that led directly to Northeastern’s goal, and a brutally bad picked-off pass attempt that led to their second, so all those shots being held to the perimeter can take a walk as far as we’re concerned.

The same was true of Lowell’s work in the offensive zone, which lacked any of the flair and creativity, or simple raw determination, we saw in the early stages against Merrimack or even this same Northeastern team. Second-chance plays? Non-existent. Board presence? Spectral. There were only a few points in the first and third periods in which we actually felt like Lowell would score. The rest of the game was just a hodgepodge of ineffectual and feckless dump-ins.

But the worst part about the night was, without question, the transition. To call Lowell’s offensive transitions calamitous would be to undersell the very definition of the word itself. Simply put, we cannot remember a single rush that ended with a legitimate scoring chance, and most were turned back with ease. This was, perhaps, due to the team’s being buried in its own defensive zone for shifts at a time and thus when the time for a transition arrived, the line was gassed and forced to dump the puck in to facilitate line changes.

Are the River Hawks really this bad without Jeremy Dehner? Does his presence really have that much of a calming placebo effect on his teammates that they would devolve from the group that easily outworked Boston College, a far better side than Northeastern, into this gibbering mess of nerves and turnovers? Northeastern couldn’t give this game away to Lowell, which wanted no part of the lead tonight (not scoring until early in the third and allowing the game-winner 3:01 after the equalizer is a fair indicator of this, no?). Try as it might to fritter away scoring chances and give Lowell third-period power plays, the River Hawks would not be dissuaded from their disastrous course.

We guess our point is this: talking about playing well is fine until you don’t do it, at which point it becomes a real problem. Lowell has now lost 10 games this year, half have been to teams that are currently .500 or below (BU, NU twice, Princeton and Providence). Win just 60 percent of those games, and Lowell is looking at 17 wins, and probably an extra four league points. Lowell is also better than pretty much every team to which it lost, apart from UNH.

We pray that this game is not indicative of the type of play we can expect for the remainder of Jeremy Dehner’s injury. If it is, we’d just as soon fast forward through the next two or three weeks of dreadful losses.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. stevo permalink
    January 30, 2010 3:15 pm

    Yah forth 2-1 loss of the season (only first in the no-dehner era) I cant wait till nest year when we won’t hve him at all, we won’t win one game next year.

  2. Doug permalink
    January 31, 2010 9:43 am

    Leaving the game I found myself saying “It wasn’t a *bad* game but it was far from a good one.”. What the River Hawks really seemed to lack was enough instances of just storming the net. It’s what won the last game at NU.

    I think part of the problem comes from poor line changes. All too often in the past weeks, I see a lone River Hawk entering the offensive zone as everyone moves to or from the bench, leaving him without anyone to pass to or ready to pick up a rebound. The one goal Lowell got this weekend was because someone was ready to grab the rebound and fired at a HUGE opening.

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