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Weekend preview: Kind of a big deal

February 21, 2013

The Lowell River Hawks (16-9-2, 10-8-2 Hockey East) vs. the Boston University Terriers (14-12-2, 11-7-2 Hockey East)

7:30 p.m. Friday at Agganis Arena, Boston, Mass.
7 p.m. Saturday at Tsongas Center, Lowell, Mass.

Lowell is sixth in Hockey East with 22 points from 20 games, and BU is tied for fourth with 24 points from 20 games.

Last three games
Lowell  — 3-2 vs. Amherst, 6-3 at Amherst, 3-4 (ot) at Maine.
BU — 5-4 (ot) at Maine, 3-3 (ot) at Maine, 4-7 vs. Harvard.

Prior meetings
Lowell trails BU 21-68-8, all-time.

Season series
Lowell snuck by BU 4-3 at Agganis Arena around this time last month on the back of a monster performance from Derek Arnold.

Top scorers
Joe Pendenza — 27 GP, 10-14-24 (20 GP, 7-12-19 HE)
Scott Wilson — 27, 8-15-23 (20, 6-13-19)
Derek Arnold — 27, 8-12-20 (20, 8-7-15)
Riley Wetmore — 27, 12-6-18 (20, 10-5-15)
Josh Holmstrom — 27, 7-10-17 (20, 6-5-11)

Cason Hohmann — 28 GP, 8-20-28 (20 GP, 6-16-22 HE)
Danny O’Regan — 28, 12-14-26 (20, 7-12-19)
Wade Megan — 27, 14-10-24 (20, 10-8-18)
Evan Rodrigues — 27, 9-14-23 (19, 8-12-20)
Matt Nieto — 28, 9-13-22 (20, 6-9-15)

Doug Carr (8-8-2) — 19 GP, 1,052:29, 2.79 GAA/.897 sv% (15 GP, 863:12, 3.06 GAA/.889 sv% HE)
Connor Hellebuyck (8-1-0) — 10, 549:26, 1.75/.936 (6, 319:12, 1.69/.937)

Matt O’Connor (7-7-2) — 17 GP, 991:27, 2.90 GAA/.910 sv% (13 GP, 749:36, 2.48 GAA/.923 sv% HE)
Sean Maguire (7-5-0) — 12, 695:39, 3.02/.905 (8, 455:14, 3.16/.906)

Team stats
Overall (27 games) — 83 goals for (3.07/gm), 67 goals against (2.48/gm). Power play 23/130 (17.7, 4 SHGA), penalty kill 85/102 (83.3%, 5 SHGF)
Hockey East (20 games) — 60 goals for (3.00/gm), 55 goals against (2.75/gm). Power play 18/105 (17.1%, 3 SHGA), penalty kill 65/80 (81.2%, 4 SHGF)

Overall (28 games) — 86 goals for (3.07/gm), 87 goals against (3.11/gm). Power play 21/126 (16.7%, 5 SHGA), penalty kill 113/138 (81.9%, 4 SHGF)
Hockey East (20 games) — 62 goals for (3.10/gm), 57 goals against (2.85/gm). Power play 17/89 (19.1%, 4 SHGA), penalty kill 86/104 (82.7%, 3 SHGF)

Another weekend, another two games from which Lowell needs four points. Getting them against BU is obviously going to be tougher than it was to get them from Amherst, because BU, unlike Amherst, isn’t an embarrassing 30-car pileup of a team. At least, not in the way that Amherst is. BU has suspended, kicked out and suffered the losses of more players in the last calendar year than Vermont did from 2007 to present, and that in and of itself is a massively impressive and almost inconceivable accomplishment.

And that leaves BU in rather a bad position. It wasn’t until last weekend’s surprise comeback against Maine that the Terriers recorded a win in the month of February, and taking three points from the Black Bears on the road was seemingly important for a team that finished fourth in its own dumb tournament for the second time in three years.

Simply put, BU really hasn’t been any good at all since about New Year’s. For one thing, they only have four wins and two ties in 13 games since then. Going 4-7-2 down the back half of the season is no way to be playing, nor is the hideous team defense in any way a welcome sight for Jack Parker.

For one thing, they’ve allowed two goals or fewer just three times since then, and conceded a total of — oh god! — 52 goals in their last 13. Fifty-two in thirteen. Four a night on average. We thought Lowell had defensive problems with Connor Hellebuyck out. BU would kill for the performances Doug Carr and the defense turned in the last few weeks. Since the Terriers’ woeful performance in the Denver holiday tournament, neither Sean Maguire nor Matt O’Connor has really been The Guy for BU, and it’s not for lack of chances to seize the job from their inept counterparts.

In that time, Maguire has a 3.67 GAA and .892 save percentage in seven games. O’Connor’s looking at an even worse 4.04/.872 line in six appearances, none of which he’s won.

The vaunted BU offense, though, has more or less kept on humming, scoring 41 times in those 13 games, or 3.15 a night. If you’re even half decent at defending, more than three goals per game gets you a whole lot of wins, but obviously BU isn’t half decent at being half decent at being half decent at defending. They’re one-eighth decent at it, at best.

Of course, there’s also no telling whether last week’s performances, which were good but not necessarily up to the stellar quality we’ve come to expect from Connor Hellebuyck, were more a consequence of him shaking off the rust of having not played in a few weeks, or the start of some regression to the mean, however little. The good news is that even in his worst performances, Hellebuyck hasn’t looked anywhere near as bad as these stiffs on BU, and even if he is, the odds that the Lowell offense can be as good as the Terriers’ remains somewhat high.

While we would prefer Lowell not try to get into a shootout with a team as skilled as BU in general, it perhaps wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, and the odds that Hellebuyck won’t be bad this weekend remain high based on what we already know (though what we know is itself the result of a ludicrously small sample size).

Again, taking the majority of points against the Terriers this weekend is obviously crucial. Making up the ground in the standings against a team that seems to be slipping slowly into an Amherstian oblivion of poor performances and hopelessness is vital for a team with some seriously tough matchups ahead. We don’t think it’s necessarily a good position to consider BU to be the easiest games of the seven remaining on the schedule, but it is unfortunately the position in which Lowell finds itself. Tough luck. Beat BU.

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