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Terriers Lack Bite

Matt Dewkett

With 11 NHL Draft picks and another projected first rounder in 2018, Boston University should not be below .500 on the season.

However, through 10 games, that’s just where the Terriers find themselves with a record of 4-5-1 after Saturday’s 4-1 loss at the hands of crosstown rival Northeastern.

Digging deeper into the schedule, the results are even more concerning. BU’s four wins and tie have come against opponents with a combined record of 19-24-3. Compare that with the team’s opponents in the five losses who have a combined record of 26-13-3. BU has only beaten one team, Providence, that currently stands above .500.

David Quinn’s team had gone 7-0-1 against Northeastern since a 6-5 loss on Feb. 27, 2016. To say BU had the number of its crosstown rival would be an understatement. On Saturday night at Agganis Arena, it was the Huskies who took it to the Terriers.

Bobby Hampton and Nolan Stevens staked NU to a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes. Stevens would add two more goals to complete the hat trick in the second period. It wasn’t just the three-goal margin of victory. BU was completely manhandled at even strength in the first period. The shot chart showed just one quality chance for BU while Northeastern had a myriad of opportunities in high quality scoring areas.

Possession Woes

According to College Hockey News, BU’s even strength Corsi is 48.4, which ranks in the bottom half of the country. What makes that number so baffling is David Quinn has trotted out six NHL Draft picks on the blue line most nights. In total, BU has seven NHL Draft picks among its defensemen. A majority of those pro prospects are more known for their ability to skate well and move the puck.

One area of concern stuck out against Northeastern and Denver the previous weekend. BU struggled to break the puck out cleanly against the aggressive forecheck of the Huskies and Pioneers.

39 teams are allowing less shots on goal per game than Boston University. While sophomore Jake Oettinger’s .913 save percentage might be underwhelming on paper, it’s clear that if not for the Dallas Stars prospect, the Terriers would likely be in a deeper hole than they are. He made 31 saves, including 15 in the first period, of Friday’s 2-0 shutout victory over Providence.

Lack of Offensive Depth

While Quinn has experimented with line changes early in the season, the top five forwards on paper are Brady Tkachuk, Patrick Harper, Jordan Greenway, Bobo Carpenter and Shane Bowers. Those five account for 37 points while the other 10 forwards that have dressed combine for a total of just eight points. Only two of those eight points came without help from the top five forwards.

Not only are the bottom six forwards not contributing offensively, the third and fourth lines have been a liability defensively. In the team’s 6-3 loss against Minnesota State, the game changed late in the first period thanks to an egregious turnover by a fourth liner. While the validity of plus/minus numbers can be debated, four bottom six forwards are among the team’s worst five in that category.

Youth in Key Positions

Boston University is the youngest team in Division I with an average age of 20.3. While that isn’t an excuse as the Terriers could recruit older players if they chose, it’s a part of the puzzle in explaining the team’s struggles.

More than just the team’s average age, it’s where some of the youth stands in the lineup. Carpenter is the only key contributor up front who is old enough to legally buy a beer. Greenway is 20 while Harper, Bowers and Tkachuk are 18 and 19 years-old.

On defense, three regulars are just 18 years-old. The team’s top two defenders are 19 while captain Brandon Hickey is the only mainstay on the blue line who could be considered a veteran.

While his age hasn’t hampered his ability to be one of the top goaltenders in college hockey, Oettinger is still just 18 years-old.

Not all Negative

While a three-goal loss at home to drop the preseason number two team in the country to below .500 will bring out all the naysayers, there was a positive to take away from the weekend.

Greenway, the team’s mammoth forward who can dominate games physically, played arguably two of the better games of the season against the Friars and Huskies. He scored the team’s lone goal Saturday and registered four shots on goal both night. He drove the net and was able to protect pucks below the dots.

If he plays the way he did over the weekend more consistently, the points will follow.