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Loose pucks: Don’t be mad at him

March 20, 2013

Three things that are movin’:
1) On to the next one.

Beating Maine was nice and easy and in retrospect, given all the history lessons we had to sit through in the past week, whether they were about the meetings earlier this season or the 20-something years of defeats the Black Bears have handed the Chiefs and River Hawks in their respective histories, it was even more enjoyable. And as we said the other day in the Ham n Egger of the Weak, seeing Lowell give Joey Diamond’s career a big green needle was extra special, and something for which all Hockey East fans should be lining up to thank the ‘Hawks. It’s nice to see any Big Four team in such shambles, and with UNH having missed out on the Garden in each of the last two seasons, this is something to which we could certainly grow accustomed. Maine sucks, Lowell rules. That’s how it is now.

2) Playing Providence.

Yes, all the top seeds advanced to the Garden, which is fine by us because at this point we’re officially not worried about what any teams bring to the table to match up against Lowell. Least of all Providence. We said it before and we’ll say it again: This is a thoroughly mediocre team backstopped by one freshman phenom, matched up 180 feet across the ice from someone who might just be exactly as good as he is, if not better. We’ll reiterate that Jon Gillies is Hockey East’s player of the year but one extra month of Connor Hellebuyck playing like he has from December on — say, the one he missed due to injury, when Lowell had naught but crap teams on the docket — and there would be a very legitimate discussion as to who deserved what. We don’t see the Friars doing much to trouble Lowell on Friday, just as they didn’t do much to trouble Lowell at any point this season, despite that one loss. Anything can obviously happen in one game, but if there’s any question as to which team is best out of these two (and there shouldn’t be), we’ll refer you to the Stat of the Week below.

3) Lowell is in.

It seems that the two wins over Maine were indeed enough to catapult Lowell definitively into the NCAA tournament for the second straight year. Now all the River Hawks are playing for (besides that trophy they so richly deserve) is seeding. That feels very nice indeed.

Two things that aren’t getting us anywhere:
1) Playing Providence.

As we said last week about Maine, all you’re going to be subjected to this week is how much these teams are becoming very legitimate rivals and all that crap. It’s going to be nauseating, but that’s life. In the end, it’s a small price to pay to see the River Hawks get revenge for the last playoff meeting between these teams. It’s difficult to see Lowell held off the scoreboard again.

2) The inevitable awards screwjobs we’ll see on Thursday.

You know Lowell and its players are about to get cheated. You just know it.

Stat of the Week
With Lowell playing Providence on Friday, it will be the 10th meeting between these two teams in the last two seasons, which is obviously a lot in the grand scheme of things for Hockey East. It’s very rare indeed that such a thing happens, especially for teams that don’t compete in the Beanpot (it’s also about to become even rarer when Notre Dame joins the league next season). But that thing we said above about how much better Lowell is than Providence? Let’s take a closer look at that.

Let’s just start with the basic facts that in the last nine meetings Providence has won four times to Lowell’s five, but have lost, on aggregate, 21-17. Neither team impresses in this way, as Lowell’s 2.33 goals per game is hardly anything to write home about, but it’s certainly much better than the Friars’ pathetic 1.89.

But you’d expect Lowell to have that many more goals in a nine-game series (in which both teams have just one empty-net goal apiece), given how regularly they outshoot the Friars, and the amount by which they do so when it happens. In fact, though the River Hawks have only outshot the Friars in five of those games — though with shockingly little correlation to wins and losses; Lowell is only 3-2 when doing so — the overall differential is 304-273, or 33.78-30.33 per game, a difference of more than 10 percent.

And those who say there’s still not much to separate these clubs obviously hasn’t had a peek at the special teams numbers. Lowell has scored eight power play goals in these games, on 39 opportunities, for a percentage of 20.5, which is slightly better than what the team has done against everyone else in that time (60/316 for 18.99 percent). Providence, on the other hand, is just 2 of 32 on the man advantage, good for 6.25 percent, and amazingly far below the team’s otherwise still-subpar 47/292 for 16.1 percent. Lowell’s penalty kill and power play are phenomenal against the Friars, meaning that it works opposite the other way. The ‘Hawks kill 93.75 percent of all Providence power plays, and ensure their own PK is a shambolic 79.5 percent.

So it’s going to come down to an issue of which team takes the most penalties, well, go ahead and pencil in Providence. Over the last nine meetings, they average 4.33 penalties resulting in power plays per game, compared to 3.56 for Lowell. And that’s including the obvious statistical outlier in which Lowell was assessed 10 penalties to Providence’s six last Saturday as the league brazenly attempted to hand the game and the regular season championship to the Friars. That one game accounted for nearly one-third of all Lowell penalties taken in the last nine contests, and skews things horribly (another five of those were called the night before, meaning that Lowell either got really dirty all of a sudden two weekends ago, or some serious chicanery was under way). And despite that, Lowell also has a shorthanded goal in these nine meetings, dropping PC’s power play net to one goal on 32 chances. Why even bother with it?

We have no doubt that Lowell will be handed yet another rash of wholly undue penalties on Friday, in a callous attempt to bounce the best team in the league, but statistically, all that is going to matter not much at all.

Here’s one more positive just for you
We saw on Twitter yesterday that Lowell had, as of early Tuesday afternoon, already sold every single one of its allotment of tickets for the Garden, meaning that there will be a large and vocal contingent in attendance on Friday. Compared with the crowds we saw on TV down at Providence, if there’s more than a dozen students who make the trip up we’ll be shocked. Further evidence Lowell is the best.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Rich permalink
    March 20, 2013 11:49 am

    And I hope Lowell fans completely empty out of the garden after the Lowell game so there can be a nice empty corner of a garden, a sort of middle finger for getting the shaft once again

  2. bill smith permalink
    March 20, 2013 8:14 pm

    “We’ll reiterate that Jon Gillies is Hockey East’s player of the year but one extra month of Connor Hellebuyck playing like he has from December on — say, the one he missed due to injury, when Lowell had naught but crap teams on the docket — and there would be a very legitimate discussion as to who deserved what.”

    You said Gillies was League MVP and Rookie of the Year, now Hockey Easy Player of the year? And all because Hellebuyck was injured for a few games?

    Excuses Excuses. It’s becoming clear to you that you made a mistake in Knighting Gillies over your own Lowell Backstopper Hellebuyck. If you would have posted they tied for Player of the year, MVP and Rookie of the year then maybe I’d cut you some slack.

    One month off doesn’t really change the stats. They both played more than the 45% Hockey East requires for Goalie Stats to count. Both played great. Both are great goalies. Both have helped take their team farther than they would have been without them. Both should share the award….though if stats do mean something than its a different story.

    At least the Pro Ambitions Hockey Unanimously thought so. And so did Stop It goaltending.

    • RHHB permalink
      March 21, 2013 3:36 am

      We don’t know exactly how stupid you are to not get the concept that it wasn’t the month off Hellebuyck took off because of injury, but rather the fact that he didn’t play for the first two months of the season, that made us give Gillies the nod. Hellebuyck played an even 50 percent of Lowell’s overall minutes, and 45.1 in Hockey East. Gillies was at 90.4 and 95.5 percent. Get a clue.

      • Rich permalink
        March 21, 2013 4:11 am

        I don’t say this often, because they don’t usually deserve it. But today, props to Hockey East for recognizing that there were two great freshman goaltenders this year, and naming them both to the all rookie team. They don’t often get it right, but in this case they did

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