Friday, April 09, 2010
If someone had told me that 17 total goals would be scored in the two semi-final games, I'd nod and say "Sounds about right for college hockey." But 8-1 and 7-1 blowouts were quite unexpected.
WISCONSIN 8, RIT 1
Cinderella's carriage turned back into a pumpkin, and she also forgot to take her birth control pills (can't wait to use that one next March for basketball). Wisconsin was not lulled into a false sense of security, and gave an all out effort. RIT, on the other hand, seemed overwhelmed. Their Regional round success happened so quickly, they never had time to take it all in. But a 2 week layover, and having strange people from beyond I-490 writing blog posts about you probably influenced the Tigers' lackluster play. They had poor fundamentals, and made atypical mistakes with and without the puck. They needed a perfect game, knew they needed it, and forced themselves into mistakes. Nevertheless, they should be proud. They beat a pair of stacked teams in Denver and UNH, and got to play on a huge stage.
Wisconsin looks utterly lethal.
BC 7, MIAMI (OH) 1
While a blowout could be expected in the opening game, this was an absolute shocker. Miami had the best team GAA in the country, an anemic 1.84. Their two goalies were #1 and #2 in the nation in GAA. They haven't allowed 7 goals in a game since October of 2004.
Against speedy BC, one strategy is to keep the play along the boards. Force BC into a physical contest along the walls, a series of one-on-one battles. But it can be a double-edged sword. If you fail to keep them pinned against the glass, there's tons of open ice in the middle for them to maneuvre. And that's where BC's first 3 scores came from, all from wide open forwards standing in a 4' x 4' area atop the high slot. A goalie change kept Miami in the game for a bit, but BC wore them out, counter-attacked, and simply couldn't miss.
Miami managed only 18 shots on net, and BC goalie Jon Muse improved his NCAA tournament record to a staggering 7-0.
This will be the 10th ever appearance for BC in the National Championship Game, the 7th under Jerry York, the 7th in 13 years, and the 4th in 5 years. But Wisconsin is no stranger to the big game either, the Badgers beat BC in the 2006 final, and have 6 titles of their own.
This is going to be an exciting clash. Jerry York's Eagles are fast and efficient with the puck. They play solid defensive hockey, draw penalties, and rely on steady goaltending. Wisconsin is more balanced, and more physical. But Miami and other victims of BC have shown what being overly physical can result in.
I believe in Jerry York, and a 4-3 Eagles win, but it's an extremely close call. Saturday, 7pm, ESPN. Don't miss it.
With the season-long ineptitude of the offense, and with the absence of Stuart and Seidenberg, there are three Bruins who have to bear a heavy load carrying this team into the postseason: Rask, Chara, and Wideman. And all three came through last night.
Rask continued his stifling dominance of Buffalo. The only goal he allowed was on an open ice breakaway. He made several point-blank stops that demonstrated his poise, awareness, and positioning. In a Bruins/Sabres postseason match-up, Rask is the Bruins' Ace in the hole.
Chara is the only Bruin who had a career year last season, to continue that success into this campaign. He had another fantastic night at the blue-line, despite being his face being encased in the full mask to protect his recently broken nose. Chara had 30:20 of ice time. That's astonishing. Remember, he'll need post-season surgery, and also played a few games for Slovakia.
Dennis Wideman got some boos early on. But I'll defend his giveaway that sprung Derek Roy for Buffalo's opening goal. It was a foolish play, but I'll give credit to Wideman for taking a chance and trying to help out his team's struggling offense. It was dumb to give the puck up with a scorer like Roy in the area, but I'll give Wideman an A for aggressiveness.
And thank God for Miroslav Satan.
The Bruins treated this like a playoff game and won. Albeit against a Buffalo team that treated this as a pre-playoff warm-up (no Vanek, no Miller). The important thing is, the Bruins now control their own destiny. A win Saturday (or Sunday), just 2 points, and the B's make the playoffs. In fact they're currently 6th, thanks to Carolina crushing Montreal 5-2. Here are the standings:
Team - Games Remaining - Points
6. BOSTON - 2 - 87 points
7. Montreal - 1 - 87 points
8. Philadelphia - 2 - 86 points
9. NY Rangers - 2 - 84 points
The Rangers and Flyers play each tonight. If the Rangers lose in regulation, the Bruins clinch a spot. If the Bruins win both their games this weekend, they secure the 6th seed.
Bruins host Carolina Saturday afternoon, then play in Washington Sunday afternoon.
AP Photo/Charles Krupa