Friday thoughts: The hard truth
Rule of thumb: If you allow two shorthanded goals in a hockey game, you will typically lose that hockey game. And you will have deserved it.
The difference in this game was Lowell’s play in the first period. After scoring 22 seconds into the game, the River Hawks conceded the next three goals, all within 11:03 (including a BU goal just 40 seconds after Ben Holmstrom’s and the latter two coming shorthanded) and the game was pretty much over even though it had another 49 minutes to go.
It was just another dismal effort in a season that is becoming increasingly characterized by them.
After Lowell went down two goals, there wasn’t much in the way of opportunities to get the game back under control. Shots after the first period were 13-5 and that number makes it look better for the River Hawks than it actually was. In the second period, though, the effort was considerably better, and also helped quite a bit by BU sending a parade of players to the penalty box which resulted in four power plays for Lowell, one of which it scored on to bring to the score to 3-2 less than halfway through.
But as so often happens, Lowell did alarmingly little with its opportunities and after Scott Campbell’s goal, only produced three more shots in 4:08 of power play.
This is now officially a team in crisis. Just six wins since Nov. 24 and no end to the freefall in sight. They’ve scored just 41 goals since Nov. 24, and that’s just 2.56 per game. Worse, that 2.56 is buoyed considerably by three games in which Lowell scored five or six goals, and two of those three were still just one-goal wins.
Insofar as this was the season in which everyone had high expectations, and insofar as Lowell has not just not-lived up to them, but actively refused to do anything since late November to show us why we thought this team would be good in the first place, we can’t imagine a team in which we could be more disappointed. This was a team that was ranked No. 3 in the country about two and a half months ago, and now we’re sitting here hoping that the ninth-place team in Hockey East doesn’t bring the hammer down tonight and finish off a weekend sweep of the ‘Hawks that will send them spiraling deeper into the basement.
This team certainly has the talent to commandeer any game in which it plays — take the middle portion of last night’s game, full of giant hits and momentum-turning neutral-zone play as a ferinstance. That was the Lowell team we thought we’d see from October to April, the one that was bossing around a BU side that had dominated the opening 15 minutes or so and doing it with relative ease. But the problem was this: it still had no offensive output to show for the high-quality play.
Lowell is a team that is probably dead in the water. We don’t believe that there’s any team in Hockey East it cannot beat with near-nonchalance if it puts its mind to it, but we also don’t believe this is a team capable of winning enough playoff games in a row (at least three, you see) to do any damage in a Hockey East tournament, at least damage enough to squeak into the NCAAs without someone noticing and throwing Lowell out on principle.
Lowell was, at one point, 8-2-1. Just try to think back to those days. The semi-recent encouraging win against BC aside, does this team in any way resemble that one? In fact, does this team even inspire confidence that it will hand Merrimack a loss tonight? The answer to both questions is obviously “no.”
And it was the latter team that showed up in what should have been a desperate third period. It was, appropriately enough, outshot 11-2.
Words cannot express the depths of our heartbreak at the prospect of seeing this team slouch impotently towards this season’s finish line, all its promise unfulfilled.