Boston — The Northeastern Huskies will travel a short distance to face their foes in the Hockey East Quarterfinals, invading Agganis Arena for a series against the Boston University Terriers. All games this weekend will start at 7:00 pm.
Scouting the Terriers
The Terriers were the preseason All-Everything team, and over the course of the season looked both deserving of that praise and vastly overrated at other times. The Terriers finished the regular season 21-10-3, and in a three-way tie for the Hockey East Regular Season Title. Due to tiebreakers, they earned the second seed in the playoffs.
BU is led in scoring by freshman Clayton Keller, who was this writer’s preseason pick for Hockey East Player of the Year. While Keller has had a tremendous season, putting up 38 points (19 goals), he has not had quite the season worthy of that high an award. Nonetheless, he is still the catalyst for the Terriers’ offense, playing on both the powerplay and penalty kill while also being a constant threat at even strength. Bottling up Keller will be a tall task for the Huskies’ defensive corps; he had 4 points in the two games against the Huskies in November.
BU is similar to Northeastern in that their offense is very top-heavy. While they do not have any 40-point scorers, let alone the 50-point scorers the Huskies have, BU has two other players with 30+ points in Patrick Harper (34) and Bobo Carpenter (30). Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson is close with 28 points, and is a dangerous threat in the faceoff dot (59.5% winning percentage). Jordan Greenway is a physical specimen on the ice, stationed at the goal crease and along the goal line. It will be paramount that Northeastern’s defense clears him from in front of the goaltender to allow Ryan Ruck to see the puck all the way through.
BU also draws considerable offense from their defensemen- Bruins draftee Charlie McAvoy has 20 points on the season, while Predators draftee Dante Fabbro has 16 points and Flames drat pick Brandon Hickey has 14 points. All three get powerplay time, where their units are clicking at a 18.95% rate, 25th in the nation.
Scoring depth is an issue for BU just as much as it is for Northeastern. Outside of their Top Six, BU’s leading scorer is freshman Kieffer Bellows with 13 points, followed by senior Nick Roberto with 12 points. Compare that to Northeastern’s third line, which has Matt Filipe’s 20 points and Brendan Collier’s 13 points.
The hallmark of BU this season has been their defense. Freshman goaltender Jake Oettinger has been stellar, posting a .927 save percentage in 30 games, coupled with a 2.07 goals-against average. In his two games versus Northeastern, he allowed 4 goals in game 1 before shutting out the Huskies in game 2. As a team, BU is allowing 2.26 goals per game, the 11th best mark in the country. Their penalty kill is 86.2%, tied for 7th in the country.
Keys For Northeastern
1) Good team defense. BU knows the book on Ruck- force rebounds, get in his vision lanes, and make him uncomfortable. If BU succeeds at even two of those three things, the Terriers will win this series handily. Northeastern needs to continue its strong defensive play from the UConn series, clearing loose pucks in the crease to the corners, pushing screeners in front out of the way, and covering the backdoor of the net.
2) Convert on the powerplay. Northeastern has the second-best powerplay in the nation at 28.95%. BU has a tremendous penalty kill, so one of these will have to give. When BU takes penalties, Northeastern must convert, because goals are so hard to come by against this goaltender. Dave Quinn even said as much in his interview this week for USCHO.
3) Control the neutral zone. BU plays a game predicated on skill and speed. Controlling the neutral zone will prevent the Terriers from entering the offensive zone with speed, and slowing them down can give Northeastern’s defense a chance to get into proper position. We know that the Huskies’ defensemen are not the fleetest of foot, so any minor advantage to them will be critical in a tight series like this.
Davis (18-14-2): BU wins the series; NU 4-3; BU 5-1; BU 3-2
Downie (20-10-4): Northeastern wins series; NU 4-3, BU 5-2, NU 6-4.
Fallon (21-11-2): Northeastern wins the series; BU 5-4, NU 5-4, NU 6-3