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Hockey East Observations: Who Was Overrated? Who Was Underrated?

Dax Lauwers and his Northeastern teammates are off to an 0-4 start.
Dax Lauwers and his Northeastern teammates are off to an 0-4 start.
Matt Dewkett

Now that every team in Hockey East has played at least four games there is a pretty good feel for how teams are looking this early in the season. A question that will undoubtedly begin to pop up is which teams were overrated and which were underrated?

Let's start with teams that were underrated in the preseason. The coaches pegged Vermont into the eighth position while the media had the Catamounts in a tie for seventh with Notre Dame in their respective preseason polls. This writer had UVM fifth in his ballot for the media poll, but it's very possible many of us undervalued the team from Burlington.

UVM is 4-0 overall and 2-0 in conference including a road win at Northeastern. Many teams over the years have gotten off to a hot start before fizzling out, but a strong defense and solid goaltending will keep UVM in the upper half of the standings all season long.

Michael Paliotta might be the best defenseman in Hockey East this season. The defense will be even better at pushing the play up ice with junior transfer Alexx Privitera and the addition of Ori Abramson when he becomes eligible for the second semester.

Boston University is 3-0 and the scarlet and white are feeling pretty good after a two-win weekend against Big Ten foes Michigan State and Michigan. The Terriers are clearly a much more talented team with significantly more depth in 2014-15. The media bought into the hype, but the coaches were a little more skeptical.

What pitfalls could the Terriers face down the line? Depth up front is better, but David Quinn's team is still thin on defense. When freshman John MacLeod was forced to miss the Michigan game, the Terriers inserted sophomore T.J. Ryan, but he saw very little ice time. As improved as the defense is and it's been written about here in previous columns, it is still a blue line that will dress four rookies, a sophomore and a junior on most nights.

With that said, BU was significantly underrated by the coaches in the preseason. At worst the Terriers finish third.

Raise your hand if you had Northeastern starting off at 0-4. Put those hands down because we know you didn't. The Huskies were pegged fourth by both the coaches and media, but things haven't gone as planned so far on St. Botolph Street.

What should be most concerning to Huskies fans is the two conference losses both came on the vaunted home ice at Matthews to teams picked lower in the preseason. Less concerning should be two road losses at preseason ECAC favorite Colgate.

No one in their right mind thought Clay Witt would keep the numbers of a season ago, but injury or not, it would have been hard to fathom NU goaltenders posting a combined .882 save percentage through four games.

Possibly more concerning is the two combined points posted by Mike Szmatula and Kevin Roy. The offense will get on track, but the defense and goaltending will be the downfall of the Huskies all season long. It's just not a blue line corps that can withstand a full season of the grind in Hockey East.

Providence is 1-2-1 after trips to Columbus to face Ohio State and Grand Forks to do battle with North Dakota. It might not seem like a record that a top five team nationally in the preseason should have after four games, but Nate Leaman's team has had to deal with some unexpected injuries in the first month of the season.

A lot of people look at the statistics and see Jon Gillies with a .882 save percentage. That number alone is certainly shocking, but having seen highlights of the Friars' trip to North Dakota, the defense let the Calgary Flames prospect out to dry on several of the goals.

Gillies' numbers will get better and the Friars will get healthy. Let's remember, despite a loaded junior class, this is still a young Providence team that Leaman is building into a national contender. Things will be just fine on Huxley Avenue. There's no need to panic.

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Jeff Cox covers college, junior and high school hockey, NCAA recruiting and NHL Draft prospects. Follow him on Twitter @JeffCoxSports.