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What do we know about BC and BU after their first meeting of the season?

11.09.13 at 12:18 am ET
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Because it’€™s such a great rivalry, Boston College vs. Boston University will always be seen as a measuring stick. The Eagles and Terriers had both played good teams prior to Friday night’€™s showdown at Agganis Arena, and we already knew quite a bit about both squads. But BC-BU just feels different, so now seems like the perfect time to take a look at where both teams stand.

For this post, it’€™s pretty convenient that Friday’€™s game — a 5-1 Eagles win — confirmed a lot of what we already suspected about these teams. Most importantly, it confirmed that BC (5-2-1, 3-0-0 Hockey East) is simply a much better team than BU (4-5-0, 2-2-0 HEA) right now.

The Eagles dominated the first period, outshooting BU 16-5 en route to a 2-0 lead at the first intermission. The Terriers played better in the second, outshooting BC in the frame and providing the home fans a little bit of hope heading into the third. But then the Eagles completely took over again. They outshot BU 16-6 in the frame and put the game well out of reach before the period was half over.

The most impressive (or mind-numbing if you’€™re a BU fan) aspect of the game was the insane discrepancy in 5-on-5 play. We don’€™t get exact 5-on-5 stats in college hockey, but what we do know is that eight of BC’€™s 40 shots on goal came on the power play, while that number was 17 of 23 for BU. So do the math. That means shots on goal in non-power play situations were 32-6 in favor of the Eagles. Furthermore, BU’€™s only goal came on the power play, while BC did not score on any of its man advantages. So the Eagles outscored the Terriers 5-0 in even-strength play.

That’€™s ridiculous. Unheard of, really. Sure, you might see that kind of dominance against some stumblebum Atlantic Hockey team, but not against your archrival. Not against a ranked team.

While this was the most glaring example of it, struggling to possess the puck is nothing new for the Terriers. They’€™re now being outshot by more than 10 shots per game, the worst mark in Hockey East by nearly six shots and the ninth worst mark in the entire country. It doesn’€™t take a hockey mastermind to figure out that if your opponents consistently have that many more chances than you, you’€™re going to struggle.

‘€œWe had zone time [early on]. We just never got a puck to the net,’€ said BU coach David Quinn. ‘€œI thought it got too easy for them in our end. I just thought our d-zone coverage’€¦ a lot of puck-watching, a lot of turn-aways. Against a team like that, you’€™re going to pay. And we paid.’€

Quinn later expanded on the offensive-zone struggles as well.

‘€œWe find a way to fire it into pads. We miss the net. You’€™ve got to be paying attention before the puck comes to you and be ready to shoot it. That’€™s just a mentality. If you’€™re staring the play down and just paying attention to what’€™s going on around the puck and you’€™re not aware of the people around you, you’€™re not going to create any offense. ‘€¦ We’€™re not there yet.’€

When you listen to Quinn, it’€™s easy to see that he knows what he’€™s talking about. He knows what his team’€™s problems are, and he’€™s obviously doing everything he can to try to fix them. The guess here is that eventually the Terriers will improve at both ends of the ice. But until they do, they’€™ll continue to struggle against really good teams like BC.

Here are a couple other things we had confirmed Friday night:

Johnny Gaudreau is an absolutely ridiculous player

OK, we’€™ve known this for a while. Gaudreau has been a great player since he arrived at BC two years ago. He put up 44 points in 44 games as a freshman, including 26 in the Eagles’€™ final 18 games. He closed out that run by deking a Ferris State defender out of his pants and flipping a backhander into the top corner to seal a national championship. Gaudreau then opened last season with a 12-game point streak and went on to post 51 points in 35 games, earning him a spot in the Hobey Hat Trick.

And now it looks like Gaudreau could be poised for his best season yet. He has at least a point in all but one game so far, and he already has four multi-point games. On Friday night, he was directly responsible for each of BC’€™s first three goals, setting up the first, scoring the second and setting up the third.

But even more impressive than the numbers themselves is the way Gaudreau gets them. He sees the game so much more clearly than anyone else on the ice, and the result is one scoring chance after another where the defense (and goalie) is left dazed and confused, beaten before they even realize what’€™s happening.

On his first assist Friday, Gaudreau grabbed the puck at the right point, and before the BU defense had a chance to get set, he had already threaded a pass through the seam right to Austin Cangelosi in front of the net. His goal came at the end of an absolutely dominant shift, one in which he set up at least three quality scoring chances for teammates before forcing a turnover in front and burying a chance of his own.

On his second assist, he picked up the puck in the slot, but couldn’€™t quite get the shot he wanted. So he ducked hard behind the net — a move that 99 times out of 100 signals a wraparound attempt — but instead of carrying the puck to the other side of the net, he made a quick behind-the-back pass to Bill Arnold on the doorstep. BU goalie Matt O’€™Connor played the percentages, and by the time he realized Gaudreau no longer had the puck, it was already in the back of the net.

‘€œI think he’€™s the only player I’€™ve ever played with that would know to not shoot that,’€ Arnold said. ‘€œKind of on a mini breakaway there, take it behind the net, curl, throw it back out. It was a wide-open net. It was the easiest goal you’€™re ever going to score. Just a tremendous play by him. Just in terms of playing with him, every shift he’€™s on the ice’€¦ he could go 1-on-3 and score a goal. He’€™s dangerous from everywhere. It’€™s a ton of fun to play with him, and I’€™m really fortunate I’€™m getting that opportunity this year.’€

As you can imagine, it is not a ton of fun to play against the 5-foot-8 Gaudreau.

‘€œIf you go to him and you don’€™t have 100-percent intent to play the body, you’€™re going to pay a price. We certainly paid a price tonight,” Quinn said. “For a guy his size, he’€™s amazing at protecting the puck. He does an unbelievable job of just turning his body, having his back to the play, and having the ability to know what’€™s going on behind him. He’€™s very, very dangerous every time he has the puck. If you don’€™t get to him quickly and you don’€™t play through him, you’€™re going to suffer.’€

David Quinn is not Jack Parker

Given that Quinn played for Parker and then coached under him, it was easy to assume Quinn would be a lot like Parker. And in some ways, he is. Quinn said as much when he took the job, citing all the things he’€™s learned from Parker over the years.

But a month into his first season as BU’€™s head coach, it’€™s clear that Quinn is also different from Parker in some pretty significant ways. For starters, he has virtually zero tolerance for undisciplined play. He preaches four penalties or fewer per game, and on multiple occasions this season, he has benched players who have taken penalties in the offensive zone. On Friday, Sam Kurker was a healthy scratch because of an offensive-zone penalty he took last weekend.

Under Parker, the Terriers struggled with penalties. Part of that was that he wanted to play a more physical style, and part of it was that it took him longer to reach a breaking point when it came to guys taking too many penalties. From 2008 through 2013, BU took at least 15 penalty minutes per game and finished in the top four in the league in that category every year. So far this season, the Terriers are averaging just 10.4 penalty minutes per game, good for 10th in the league.

Another difference between Quinn and Parker presented itself Friday night. In his opening statement at the postgame press conference, Quinn blamed himself for the loss as much as anyone else, saying he didn’€™t do a good enough job getting the team ready for BC. He expanded on that in his answer to a follow-up question.

‘€œJust too many instances during the course of the night where I didn’€™t think I had the right people on the ice,’€ Quinn said. ‘€œI blame myself for a couple of goals. It’€™s frustrating. I just didn’€™t feel good about giving ourselves a great chance to win tonight. I certainly have to be better. I have to do a better job coaching this team, that’€™s for sure.’€

Anyone who followed some of Parker’€™s postgame press conferences will recall that he wasn’€™t always so quick to blame himself. Now, contrary to what some people would have you believe, Parker did blame himself at times. I saw it. My perception of the ‘€œthrowing players under the bus’€ reputation that he got was that Parker was just honest, sometimes brutally so.

If he thought a loss was on the players, he wasn’€™t going to hesitate to say so. You can argue whether that was good or bad, whether it got players down or if it was something they needed to hear, but that’€™s how he did it. And given everything Parker accomplished in his 40 years behind BU’€™s bench, it’€™s pretty hard to argue against his methods.

Quinn, however, is not using those same methods, at least not as it relates to this topic. Even when he talks about the players he’€™s benched, he does so in a forward-looking manner, stressing that the player in question is an important player moving forward and that he’€™ll have plenty of chances to redeem himself.

The Terriers as a whole will look to redeem themselves next Friday when they travel to Maine. The Eagles still have another game this weekend, as they host Army on Sunday.

Read More: BC hockey, bu hockey, David Quinn, Johnny Gaudreau
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