Saturday, March 26, 2016

Q&A with Lets Go DU Blog

Myself and the Let's Go DU blog have been exchanging minor chirps the last few days so it was time to hash out all our difference before the game tonight. Attached is the Q&A from each one of us to the other.

1. What has been the major reason behind Denver's second half dominant run?

I've had a number of conversations with Coach Montgomery and a few players about this and the answer seems to be the same. I'll paraphrase, but by and large, they've said, "It's been our commitment to each other on the ice. It doesn't matter who gets it done just so long as it gets done. There's no selfish play on this team." When you watch the Pioneers play, you notice that...and it becomes a problem at times when they choose to pass instead of shoot when they have an open lane. But more often than not, their strategy has worked since the New Year, so who am I to question it? The holiday break played a really big part in the Pios' dominant second half. Heading into the break, Denver had lost 4 straight games to North Dakota and St. Cloud State by a combined score of 20-5. They used the break to hit the reset button and get back to playing "relentless" Pioneer hockey, as Coach Montgomery likes to say. The added production by the Pacific Rim Line (Trevor Moore-Dylan Gambrell-Danton Heinen) has been a major factor as well. I honestly can't remember the last time at least one of those three didn't at least tally a point. Everything has kind of fallen into place for Denver in the second half.

2. Who outside of the first line and Will Butcher do you think can have an impact on the game and Terrier fans should keep an eye out for?

Watch for DU's 4th line ("C" Grant Arnold-Matt Marcinew-Jarid Lukosevicius). Last year, Denver's 4th line was known as the MASH Line because of their physical, energetic play. I like to look at this year's 4th line as MASH Line v2.0. No line will ever compare to the energy and physicality that last year's MASH line brought, but this year's line plays a similar role. Montgomery will often send that line out for the opening faceoff to get things going in DU's favor early. If it ever seems like things are starting to shift in BU's favor during this game, be sure to look at what players are on the ice for the Pioneers. It's likely you're going to see 39 (Arnold), 23 (Marcinew), and 14 (Lukosevicius) out there to kind of force things back into DU's favor. They don't always find the back of the net, but their energetic play often leads to a goal from another line.

3. How far into Jim Montgomery's head do you think BU is at this point? First , they ruin his perfect season as a player at Maine and now they are going to end an impressive coaching season for him?

HA! I'm sure seeing BU on the schedule doesn't exactly make Monty happy. I also believe that overtime loss on Halloween still bothers him. He said earlier this week that he felt Denver should have won that game in October. A few bad bounces cost the Pios that night. BU has certainly been a thorn in his side throughout his career, but knowing Montgomery, that only adds to his motivation.


4. Do you actually think that Hockey East isn't the best conference in the country?

It's not close. The NCHC is the best conference in college hockey. The nonconference domination speaks for itself and just look at day 1 of the NCAA Tournament: NCHC went 2-0 against one of the best teams in the conference and the hottest team in the country. HE is certainly the #2 conference in my mind, but top to bottom, the NCHC is head and shoulders better than every other conference.

5. What type of team do you think Denver matches up best with?

This is the toughest question to answer. I've seen Denver win against almost every type of team this year. They dominated a huge, slow Western Michigan team (ok, sure WMU isn't good), they skated a fast, talented North Dakota team out of the building, and they ground out a tough, physical, gritty series sweep of Minnesota-Duluth. I noticed that Denver was very able to adjust their playing style to whatever a given game dictated. Gun to my head, I HAVE to choose a type of team that Denver matches up best with, it'd be a team that focuses on gritty, physical play rather than fast-paced, high-octane play. DU generally has a speed advantage and that plays very well against slower, bigger teams.

6. Denver hasn't made a Frozen Four in a few years now (2005). Do you think the hockey gods dislike the Pioneers or is your program just bad now?

You're right. It's been more than a decade. By Denver's standards, that's FAR too long a drought. In fact, that was the reason 19-year head coach George Gwozdecky was fired three years ago. To answer your question, if it were one of the two, it'd be the hockey gods dislike of Denver. DU has the longest active streak of 20+ win seasons (15). They've just had a problem finding their way to the Frozen Four. Matt Carle, 2-time National Champion and Denver's only Hobey Baker Award winner, called his brother, David Carle an assistant with DU, and told him that this year's team is the best since the 2004-05 National Championship team, arguably the best team in Denver history. So if the drought is going to end, this is the year it's going to happen.

7. How many goals will BU win by?

Does a negative amount work here? Like BU will win by negative-2 or negative-3?

8. Will you root for BU after they knock out Denver?

If BU does indeed top DU, I'll root for the Terriers so long as they don't run into another NCHC team. If SCSU beats Ferris St, I'll be rooting for St. Cloud on Sunday if BU beats DU. Conference blood is thicker than water, in my opinion.

9. Do you stay loyal to the conference in the NCAA tournament or root against your conference rivals? I know I would never root for BC in a million years.


This is another tough one. Like I mentioned above, conference blood is thicker than water, but then again, it's still hard to root for teams like North Dakota. Possibly to the surprise of some people, DU-North Dakota is a pretty huge rivalry. They've met in 4 national title games and so many other NCAA Tournaments, so there's a lot of bad blood. I've grown to hate the Kelly green and black and they've grown to hate the Crimson and Gold. But surprisingly, through the regional rounds, I've found myself rooting for North Dakota as a member of the NCHC. Maybe it's because I'd like to see DU-North Dakota round 6 in the Frozen Four, but oddly enough, I was rooting for the Fighting Hawks over Northeastern today. Now, if you threw Colorado College into the tournament, I'd be rooting HARD against the Tigers. The good news is that day isn't coming anytime soon.


Now here are the questions I answered
1. How has this BU team changed since the Pioneers and Terriers met on Halloween?

The Terriers have been fairly consistent throughout the season where they have not had any losing streak longer than two games. They let Northeastern go on the big losing and then winning streaks to barely make the tournament before getting curbstomped. The biggest difference since October is the development of the freshmen who BU now relies on heavily. Jordan Greenway is a monster power forward. DU fans will notice and dislike him within 5 minutes of puckdrop. JFK aka Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson is a great playmaker and plays in all situations. Captain Matt Grzelcyk also missed the first matchup with an ACL injury that he played on last NCAA tournament. He is a difference maker out on the ice. Elite passer and finds a way to get his shot through when he needs to. BU has a defensive corps that loves to move and shoot the puck and Grzelcyk is the leader of that.

2. What were your main takeaways from that Halloween game and what do you think you'll see again this weekend?

The Halloween game was a typical early season BU Denver game. High scoring and fun to watch. The main takeaway from that game was Ahti Oksanen scoring his first two goals of the year. He loves to shoot  more than anything else in his life. I don't know him personally but I'm quite confident in saying that. He leads the country in shots(189) by double digits and hadn't score before the DU game in October. He was due and the Pioneers suffered at his expense. As for the type of game I expect, I would say take the over if you are into that type of thing.


3. Who are the players on BU's roster that Denver fans should be watching for?

I  already hit on Greenway being a force down low and Grzelcyk who is a difference maker at the point but besides that I would say freshman dman Charlie McAvoy who plays with Grzelcyk. He is the biggest playmaker on the BU roster. He is the guy who makes an absurd pinch and has you going "wow that was like Eichel last year". Obviously, they play different positions and Eichel has a different level he can get to but they are similar in their patience with the puck and ability to make a play when they need to. The other guys to watch out for are senior forwards Matt Lane and Danny O'Regan. They simply find ways to score goals when they team needs to. O'Regan had the GWG against Yale in OT of the first round last year and Lane has his share of big time goals as well(BC in the HE semis his freshman year is the one that sticks out the most).

4. What has to go right for the Terriers to beat the Pioneers?

Nothing necessarily has to go right for the Terriers to win but they need to get above average goaltending like they have for the majority of the season. They don't need great goaltending but obviously goalie Sean Maguire has the ability to just go off and stop everything in site and then do the weirdest shit for the entirety of the game similar to banging the post in the Beanpot final that drove some fans nuts.The weirder Maguire is being during stoppages, the more he is on and the worst news for the Denver fans tonight.

5. After losing in the NCAA Championship Game last year to Providence, do you think this year's team has what it takes to win it all this year?

 Last year, former assistant BU assistant coach Steve Greeley(now the Rangers assistant director of player personnel) said to a group of fans that this year's BU team was different in last year's team in that they would not have that elite top line with (Eichel, Rodrigues and O'Regan) but they would have more scoring depth. He also said they would probably have more regular season losses but be ready to win by the NCAA tournament time.  I think this depth is BU's greatest advantage over Denver. BU has 8 20+ point scorers to Denver's 5. The biggest key for BU in the NCAA tournament both against Denver and beyond is to say out of the box. Their penalty kill isn't terrible numberwise(81.8%) but they definitely benefit from the game staying 5v5 no matter who the opponent is.

6. What are some things that you've liked and disliked about BU this year?

I liked everything about how they play their system and how strong they finish in the third period. They are a +15 in the third and +2 OT. I readily admit that +/- is a stupid stat to reference but I love a team that always finishes the game strong. Like I said, my concern is how tightly calls the game. If there are 0 penalties called, I am a big fan of BU's chances in an evens strength game. BU was a -57 in penalty minutes called this year to their opponents despite my best efforts to convince the refs that they were always incorrect. Normally, NCAA games are more loosely called than the regular season which definitely benefits BU. The less penalties called, the better for BU. I don't have anything especially negative to say about the 2016 NCAA champs.


7. There's a pretty serious discrepancy between BU's home and away record and BU has to travel further than DU does for this game. Do you think the fact that this game isn't played at Agganis Arena might affect the Terriers?

 BU was much better at home than on the road this year but I don't put much stock into that. Last year they were much better on the road. A majority of the team is the same so unless Jack Eichel, Cason Hohmann and Evan Rodrigues prefer to be on the road it doesn't really make sense. I think it is more of a matter of puck luck. Hockey is a weird game. Sometimes you get the bounces, sometimes you don't. Sometimes I scream at the refs and opposition until BU takes the lead and I have much better screaming access at Agganis than on the road.

8. Prediction?

I'll go with a 5-4 BU win matching October. Goals from Greenway, O'Regan, Oksanen, Bobo Carpenter, and Charlie McAvoy.

2 comments:

  1. I love the Bay State smack talk. That is what a team blog is all about. I get tired of reading articles that either do not have a POV or pretend to be neutral and are not. Good read!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for reading and glad you enjoyed it

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