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Loose pucks: Take it easy, buddy

January 29, 2013

Three things that made us throw our hands in the air:
1) S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y night.

We said it in the game recap but that was an all-time classic Lowell game for so many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that the River Hawks actually won. It was so good, in fact, that we’re willing to overlook the generally poor play that plagued the team for most of the weekend. Just when things looked their darkest on Saturday, that old axiom about that kind of thing coming right before the dawn proved very true indeed.

2) A clearer passage now.

Back on Dec. 4, we had a bit in Loose Pucks about Lowell’s hard and long path to a potential home ice spot based on the previous performances in a 10-team Hockey East. The average fourth-place team since Vermont joined up has roughly 29 points from 27 games, and at the time, Lowell had played nine league games and won just five points from them. That meant that Lowell had to run to a winning percentage of .750 against Hockey East opponents to earn the 24 points necessary to more or less effectively guarantee themselves a home ice spot. Since we wrote that post, Lowell obviously hasn’t lost to anyone, let alone a team in the league. Seven of the team’s last 11 games were against Hockey East opponents, and Lowell took 13 of a possible 14 points from them all, and now stand with 18 for the season. Therefore, mathematically, if we’re still setting the qualification threshold at 29 points, give or take, that means Lowell needs 11 points from its final 11 games to make the cut. Going 6-5-0 gets them to 30 points, and that would put them in a great position, obviously. Lowell’s remaining games are against the fifth-place team in the league right now three times, the seventh, fourth- and third-place teams twice, and the 10th- and first-place teams once each. It’s very conceivable that barring calamity, this team wins six of its next 11. So why not go do that?

3) Never give up, never surrender.

Saturday was the kind of comeback you see from a team about once a decade on the outside, and coupled with the ‘Hawks erasing the two-goal deficit to earn a draw on Friday, well, that tells us two things. First, it’s going to be difficult, if not impossible, to wait for that kind of third-period resilience out of any team again. And second, this team has no quit in it, which one imagines comes from the fact that they hadn’t lost in nine games headed into the weekend. If this was the team of, say, two months ago, we’d guess they’d have folded up tents after the early third-period goals both nights. But not now. Not any more.

Two things about which we’d rather not care:
1) Doug Carr.

We have to preface this by saying that last year obviously made us big fans of Carr’s work, but at the same time, the last two weeks have been very difficult to watch, and frankly he hasn’t really helped himself all season. Even if not compared with the insane numbers he put up last year, his Hockey East stats of 3.15/.885 wouldn’t be nearly good enough by any metric, and giving up seven goals on 33 shots in just under five periods of hockey (a .788 save percentage) doesn’t cut it, particularly against an offensively inept team like Northeastern; this won’t fly against pretty much anyone else, and you can’t count on third-period comebacks like this to bail you out every week. We hope that this isn’t a correction to the mean, and that last year’s run of success was not a crazy fluke. We hope this isn’t who Carr is as a goaltender. But he needs to show us a lot more, because right now, all we’re doing is hoping Connor Hellebuyck is back healthy as soon as humanly possible.

2) That’s it.

It’s really hard to have any more complaints after a weekend like that. Ah, maybe we didn’t wanna see Lowell give up a point to the crummy Northeastern Huskies, but that’s splitting hairs.

Stat of the Week
Both Lowell games went to overtime this weekend, and that in itself is a pretty rare feat for the River Hawks (it happened just four times in the last 10 seasons, with the most recent coming two years ago against Niagara and RIT). But moreover, this was also the third out of the last four Lowell games against Northeastern to go to overtime. Lowell took five of the six points in them, but that’s neither here nor there except a funny thing to laugh at Northeastern about.

So we sat down for a second and thought good and hard about the last time Lowell played a team into overtime with that kind of frequency. We came up with two answers. The first is the more obvious of the two: From Oct. 28, 2006 to Jan. 12, 2008, Lowell and Providence played six times, and rather famously, five of those games went to overtime. Of those six games, Lowell won just once, and tied twice. Apart from the loss in regulation, it also lost in overtime twice. That was a really brutal stretch for Lowell by any measure.

The other frequent overtime opponent, very weirdly, was UConn. Lowell played the Huskies twice last year, and both games needed an extra period to clear up. Obviously UConn took the first one in that brutal game in the awful, freezing rink in Nashua, while Lowell took the second in that brutal game in the awful, freezing rink in Storrs. If you had tried to tell us that Lowell’s most regular overtime opponents in the last 10 years were Providence, Northeastern and UConn, well, we might not have believed you.

Check your calendars
Everything in Hockey East is about to get incredibly real. By the time Friday rolls around, it’ll be February, and Lowell only has 11 Hockey East games left on the schedule, to be played over six weekends, against six opponents, and seven of those games are away from Tsongas Center. This is what they played for all season. This is when it gets fun.

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