Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Q&A with the Northeastern Hockey Blog

In preparation of Quinnipiac's two game series against Northeastern this coming weekend at historic Matthews Arena in Boston, Massachusetts we get a glimpse of the Huskies play early in the season from our friends over at the Northeastern Hockey Blog who were gracious to give some time to have a Q&A. You can follow the Northeastern Hockey Blog on Twitter @NUHockeyBlog.


Jonathan Singer: How would assess Northeastern's play three games into the season?

NU Hockey Blog: Northeastern's opening weekend versus Sacred Heart was what we expected- pummeling a vastly inferior team. Both of Northeastern's goalies got a game that weekend, and freshman Cayden Primeau pitched a shutout in his first career start which is exactly what Husky fans have been waiting to see since the day he committed. Against RIT (which I'll address in your next question), the team appeared to underestimate their opponent and fall into a 3-0 hole early in the second period, but the offense, which is as potent as any in the nation, roared back to score 3 goals in roughly 30 minutes of action, proving that they can score really at any time during the game.

Special teams has been underwhelming- this was a power-play unit that scored at a clip approaching 30% last season, and while Sacred Heart couldn't slow them down, going only 1 for 8 against RIT has caused some concern. I expect the power-play success to come at some point, while I hope for more success on the penalty kill as they are currently at 76.9% and over the last few years have routinely been the low-80's. RIT scored a power play goal on them and probably should have tallied more than one. For this team to be as successful as people think they can be, the penalty kill needs to tighten up.

Jonathan Singer: Is there any concern with the fact that the team looked great the first weekend and pulled a 180 against a weak RIT team the following week struggling to just get a tie?

NU Hockey Blog: My concern is more about Northeastern underrating an opponent and thinking they could skate by on talent alone rather than their performance. And let's be real, dominating Sacred Heart is not exactly headline-worthy news. Against RIT, they put up nearly 50 shots on net and vastly out-possessed an RIT team that historically is a good possession team. I actually did not watch the game, but listening to comments about it, only one of RIT's three goals was labeled "soft," which makes me less concerned about Primeau. The defense still is at fault for not maintaining coverage or cleaning up the rebounds and loose pucks in front of him, so that is a concern. But the offense's ability to pot three goals in about 25 minutes of play was a great example of how quick Northeastern can turn the scoreboard back in their favor.

Jonathan Singer: Northeastern has an impressive group of forwards in Sikura, Gaudette, Solow, Filipe and Stevens. Would you say that this is the strength of the Huskies?

NU Hockey Blog: Absolutely. Northeastern's stable of forwards are talented enough to skate with any offense in the nation. There is a strong chance that this team could be a top five offense this season. After losing John Stevens and Zach Aston-Reese, it should have been almost unthinkable that the offense could get even better. But a healthy Nolan Stevens and Grant Jozefek, coupled with growth from Matt Filipe and immediate contributions from Zach Solow (2017 USA Hockey Junior Player of the Year), all in addition to Hobey Baker nominees Dylan Sikura and Adam Gaudette? This forward stable is going to be a nightmare for opposing goal-tenders all season. And that's not even mentioning two transfers who should be eligible for the second half.

Jonathan Singer: The Northeastern defense looks to have some solid talent. Would you look at this is one of the strengths of this team or this is something that might be a bit of a weakness this year?

NU Hockey Blog: The defense returns all six starters from last year, and have a ton of offensive potential that supports the forward corps. Garret Cockerill and Jeremy Davies are the two most active puck movers, with Davies being faster and a better skater. Defensively, however, there are question marks. I worry about their gap control, their speed as a unit, and their ability to stop the rush through the neutral zone. We saw multiple times against RIT where they would get blown past, enabling odd-man rushes by the Tigers. I think defense is the biggest weakness for the Huskies. They will never be a lock-down unit like we see in Lowell and Providence, among other places; heck I wouldn't even say they should be expected to be up to Quinnipiac's standards. But this depth from 1-6 is the best that the Huskies have produced in a long time, and their experience together and individual talents give me hope for improvement over the course of the season.

Jonathan Singer: I really like Cayden Primeau as a prospect and it was stunning to see him fall to the 7th round. Is it time for the Huskies to just hand the reins full time to Primeau who has more upside and ability than junior Ryan Ruck?

NU Hockey Blog: Eventually, yes, I expect Primeau to force Madigan's hand and take the job from Ruck. In the next couple weeks, however, I am expecting the goalies to split time, just as Primeau gets more acclimated to the college hockey game. This weekend in particular I expect a split where I hope for Primeau on Friday which may indicate he is first on the depth chart. His draft fall was shocking from our prospective too, but not totally unsurprising as he struggled in the USHL last year while trying to play through injury. Assuming that was the only mark against him, and it certainly looks that way through his first few games at this level, he has nowhere to go but up.

Jonathan Singer: What are your thoughts on this weekends series against Quinnipiac? Is there anything about the Huskies that should concern Quinnipiac?

NU Hockey Blog: It's a big measuring stick for the Huskies. The Bobcats are easily the best team that Northeastern will have faced so far this season, and these games open a buzzsaw stretch where the Huskies will play four weekends in a row against teams who should compete for the NCAA Tournament. I think a split is reasonable to expect for these teams, given Quinnipiac's offensive struggles and Northeastern's suspect defense. The face-off dot will be an interesting battle to keep an eye on, as both teams seem to struggle equally in that regard. A breakout weekend by either team on draws could be a sign of better things to come in the future.

Jonathan Singer: I have been very impressed with the job Jim Madigan has done with no prior heading coaching experience along with not having been behind a bench in 18 years prior to taking over. Are you surprised at what he has been able to accomplish in a short time there?

NU Hockey Blog: Jim Madigan is the most passionate man I have ever seen walk across Northeastern's campus. He is Husky through and through, and has been a tireless worker since arriving on campus. While he may have his in-game flaws, he has the full confidence of the coaching staff and the players, and he and his assistants have filled the pipeline with legitimate top-tier Hockey East talent, including developing a handful of NHL players and soon-to-be NHL players at a program where that was once just a dream. I grant that Madigan will never be considered one of the best tactical minds in college hockey, but he has been the perfect man for the Northeastern job, and that is exactly what we want and need.

Jonathan Singer is a 2004 Quinnipiac alum. You can follow him on Twitter @QHockeyBlog.

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