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Loose pucks: Spit it out

October 16, 2012

Three things that are great:
1) Doug Carr is still Doug Carr.

As poorly as Lowell generally played last week in generating chances on goal, at least it’s comforting to know that Doug Carr hasn’t abandoned us. The number of dicy rebounds he gave up on Vermont shots were few and far between, and could be counted on one hand at the absolute maximum. The goal he conceded was a tough ask for any goalie, though maybe he’d like it back, but no matter how good your goaltender is (and Carr is the best in the league), you have to score more than once to give yourself a chance to win. It is comforting to know, though, that Carr can make a one-goal effort merely a frustrating draw instead of an infuriating loss.

2) At least Lowell didn’t lose.

Speaking of which, Lowell very clearly played poorly enough to lose. The penalty kill, like Carr, was top-notch in turning aside nearly all of the Catamounts’ shots before they even got to Carr (they managed just eight shots in 8:37 of power play time, and most of them didn’t trouble Lowell’s goaltender), and the defense was more or less solid, though at times worrying. However, the offense, despite its 39 shots on goal, just didn’t have it, and this was particularly true of the power play. Vermont’s penalty killing last season was putrid, and somehow Lowell, in its 4:42 of power play tie, managed just one shot on goal. Not good enough, and if Vermont were a better-than-bad team, it would have won. But it didn’t, so there’s that.

3) The newcomers.

With all of this having been said, and ignoring the Joe Houk five-minute major, there was a lot to like about the contributions of the team’s new players in Friday’s game. Obviously Michael Fallon had the first point of his career with the primary assist on Lowell’s only goal, but kids like Ryan McGrath, Dima Sinitsyn and Michael Colantone had good-to-strong performances as well, and that, too, is something to build on for next week and the rest of the season.

Two things that are anything but:
1) Giving up points at home.

As far as we can tell, though only seven of the 10 teams in Hockey East have played so far this season, and only three have hosted games, Lowell is the only one to concede points in its home building. Northeastern took care of both Merrimack and BC, BU put down Providence. Those wins are more impressive, too, than it would have been for Lowell to beat Vermont, so the loss of even one point at home stings just a little bit more.

2) Too many penalties.

After Lowell racked up 16 penalty minutes in the exhibition, we said that we understood the issue. Canadian exhibition games are usually ugly messes, so it’s tough to get too hung up on things, even if Lowell’s PIM count nearly matched that of the former CHL thugs on Toronto’s roster (18-16 in favor of the visitors). But for Lowell to then go out and give up five power plays — two of them again, overlapping for a full minor — to Vermont’s two is just not acceptable. Lowell, with its speed and skill, should have been able to draw more penalties out of Vermont, no matter how much complaining about the refs some River Hawk boosters want to spend their week doing. It’s really that simple. Good teams draw more penalties than bad ones, period. And Lowell didn’t do that. That’s why it tied, and its power play is why it barely deserved to do that much.

Stat of the Week
As you might imagine, Lowell doesn’t often start its season with a tie. In fact, in the entire history of the program, that’s only happened four times. The first came in 1988-89, in a 4-4 home draw against RPI. The next came nearly two decades later, in 2006-07 when the River Hawks went to Duluth and tied the Bulldogs 3-3. The very next year, they opened the season at Amherst and emerged with a 2-all stalemate. The latest was obviously this past weekend’s 1-1 sister-kissing session against Vermont at Tsongas Center.

The good news is that conceding points in home draws is rare for Lowell. The bad news is what these seasons generally devolve into. Both 1988-89 and 2006-07 were eight-win seasons, and 2007-08 saw the River Hawks double that total to 16, but still finish below .500. Of course, if this Lowell team were to finish anywhere near 16 wins this time around, we might put ourselves on suicide watch, and obviously this kind of thing is in no way predictive. But settling for ties out of the gate should apparently, in general, be considered a not-good thing.

Are you excited?
It’s our understanding that more than a few Lowell fans will be on hand in Colorado, and if you go, please be so kind as to email us your in-person observations at However, we will warn that any messages complaining about officiating will be deleted, and the thoughts contained therein dismissed as bunk. Personally, we can’t wait to pay like $20 to watch two bad, low-resolution feeds this weekend.

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