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Friday thoughts: We’ll take it

October 23, 2010

Lowell showed us a lot of things in that game.

First, it showed us that Doug Carr is still a not-ready-for-primetime player.

Second, it showed us that these freshmen are very, very good.

Third, it showed us that Alex Beaudry is, indeed, very, very overrated.

And finally, it showed us that this team has more resilience that we thought.

But let’s work backwards from there.

These River Hawks trailed on two different occasions early in the game, and many of the goals they allowed should have been demoralizing (prime example: the giveaway by Maury Edwards, a senior and former All-American, mind you, that led to Providence’s second goal was perhaps the most egregiously bad play we’ve seen a Lowell defenseman make in years). But, somehow, they weren’t. A freshman-laden Lowell team came back from down 1-0 and 3-1, and then scored a game-winner in overtime after allowing a gutpunch equalizer, against a squad that, while obviously not very good, should have had it strangled and buried in the backyard at least 25 minutes prior.

But to address the root cause of Providence’s poor result tonight: Alex Beaudry was just awful. To put it terribly bluntly, if you’re supposed to be in the conversation for Best Goalie In The League, you’re not supposed to get outdueled by Doug Carr. It’s not that he gave up five goals on 44 shots, and it’s not that Providence’s defense was particularly bad. But it’s just that the goals he gave up were ug-ly. First goal he got beat pretty clean by Joe Pendenza, but he probably should have had it. You don’t want to get beat shortside over your shoulder when you’ve got the post. Second goal was the result of a big rebound, the first of several tonight that would eventually cost him another GA. Third goal was another softie on a rebound that he really should’ve controlled. Fourth he got a piece of and trickled behind him. Fifth he way overplayed the puck carrier and gave Riley Wetmore about 16 square feet of net to shoot at. Even beyond that, he went 118 rounds with the puck, Gentleman Jim Corbett style, and he came out rather the worse for wear. He couldn’t get his glove to close on anything, he couldn’t keep his rebounds in places that weren’t terribly dangerous and he was often flummoxed by Lowell’s ability to get it cross-ice in a serious hurry.

But it’s worth noting that, apart from the game-winner, every Lowell goal tonight was pumped in by a rookie, and most were the result of hard work and determination, which is a hell of a good sign. On Pendenza’s first of two in his Hockey East debut, he simply turned on the through the neutral zone, got a corner on a defender and leaned back into the slot, squeezing it over Beaudry’s right should. Hard work right there. On the first of Derek Arnold’s career, the freshman went hard to the net to follow a Mike Budd shot, and found himself the recipient of a juicy puck sitting alone in the crease, and popped it home despite being tackled by a defender. The second Pendenza goal was not unlike Arnold’s either. The first goal of Ruhwedel’s career was nice enough: a good hard shot that Beaudry got a piece of but still snuck over the line. And Wetmore’s was actually the result of a brilliant little play by Josh Holmstrom, in on the forecheck, to get it back across the crease and catch Beaudry going side-to-side as inexpertly as he did the rest of the night.

In fact, the freshman scored four goals tonight and picked up the only assist on a goal that wasn’t scored by a freshman. That’s great news, as is the fact that 4-4-8 of Lowell’s 5-8-13 tonight were from freshmen. And while certainly you’d like to see the seniors and juniors doing more than picking up a couple assists here and there, as opposed to driving the scoring, you’ll also take whatever scoring you can get, particularly with a team that’s, well, like this one.

Actually, let’s really address that point further. By anyone’s reasonable estimation, the best and most productive player on this team right now, Chad Ruhwedel, is a freshman, and a defenseman. You see him out there a lot, not only setting up goals like a madman, but also making precocious plays well beyond his experience level. We pointed out earlier this week that he was the first freshman defenseman to compile three points in one game, and now he’s the first in considerably longer (not that we’ll be looking it up) to score three points in two games, let alone two straight. But it’s still enough to leave one asking, “Whither the leadership?” The only time anyone notices Edwards these days is when he’s making some egregious mistake, and that’s sadly become a far more frequent occurrence than we’re comfortable with. The same could be said, on occasion, of Scott Campbell who seems to alternate between good shifts and genuinely bad ones with no rhyme or reason. In fact, we’re going to tell you who we think the best Lowell senior has been this year, and you’d better prepare yourself for a serious shock: it’s Mike Budd. His play tonight was, at times, inspired, and we didn’t once find ourselves ruing the day he ever chose to come to Lowell, as we so often have in the past. In fact, two of our favorite scapegoats in recent years, Budd and Pat Cey, have been absolute revelations this year.

But the team still needs work, obviously. Lots of little mistakes taking place, particularly with the puck (though Providence skaters were somewhat frequently finding themselves in acres of space in some of the more dire defensive moments). We’re going to be griping about the Edwards giveaway that led to Providence’s second goal for quite awhile, but Jason De Luca’s decision to shovel it back to him — well, back toward him… it never got particularly close — was puzzling to say the least. Other times saw Lowell make one errant pass after another, and in important moments, such as the transition or on odd-man rushes in the offensive zone. But we suppose we’ve begun to nitpick.

So let’s just address the Carr Situation and call it a night.

We are not goalies. We don’t know much about what goes into being a goalie. And with that said, even we know that Doug Carr has a hole in his game the size of the Chicxulub crater. He has gotten beat low to his stick side at least four times this year that we’ve seen. Remember how much we complained about his positioning on Maine’s first goal two weeks ago? The Friars’ first was almost exactly the same. And it wasn’t the first to sneak by him along the ice on that side. If he has any plans to be a successful goaltender, he needs to stop overplaying that angle. This isn’t Junior A any more, kid. These guys are men, and they’re good hockey players. Give them a couple inches to shoot at and they’ll fill the hole. The same is true of Carr’s rebound control, insofar as it leaves a lot to be desired. While those are the only two problems we’ve been able to identify, those are two huge problems, aren’t they? We have very little opinion of Marc Boulanger one way or the other, but if Carr is the best netminder Lowell has on the roster, then this team isn’t going to get very far.

All that being said, however, he is now 125:36 removed from not only that embarrassing 20-minute performance in Maine, but also from his last loss. And even if he’s got problems, at least they aren’t costing the team any games.

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