BU Feeling Special Again
by Scott McLaughlin/CHN Writer
NEW YORK The Boston University Terriers knew they would get better results if they just gave a more consistent effort. They have done that recently and are now riding a four-game winning streak as a result, coming off a thrilling overtime win over Cornell at Madison Square Garden.
Aside from the win-loss column, that increased effort is most noticeable on special teams.
Through their first eight games, the Terriers were converting on just 11.1 percent of their power plays and killing only 80.3 percent of their penalties. Not so coincidentally, they had a 3-4-1 record in those eight games. During their current four-game run, though, the Terriers have a 35.7-percent man advantage and 94.4-percent kill.
"It's more effort than anything else," said junior forward Ross Gaudet when asked about the special teams turnaround. "Just our effort and getting comfortable. I think everyone understands the systems and how we're supposed to play, and we're really executing well."
The struggles on the power play were nothing new for the Terriers. They finished last season at 14.9 percent, and the only reason the number was even that high was because they converted at a 21.7-percent clip over the final 10 games after hovering around 11 or 12 percent for most of the season.
The same problems that plagued the man advantage last year popped up again at the start of this season. Guys weren't moving their feet enough. Passes weren't crisp enough. There weren't enough shots getting through to the net, and there weren't enough bodies in front when they were.
Those are all effort problems more than anything else, and they have all been fixed for the time being.
"I think we're moving the puck better," said BU coach Jack Parker. "In general, our power play has looked much better in practice. ... We're trying to let them know that we only want you to do a few things — move without the puck, pass the puck hard and deliver it to the net. Move the puck either by skating with it or passing it quickly, and then get it to the net."
The early-season problems on the power play were disappointing for BU, but they weren't totally surprising given how last year went. What was surprising, though, was the struggling penalty kill. The Terriers led Hockey East with an 86.6-percent kill last season, and there was no reason to think there would be any drop this year given that they only lost two everyday players.
"I was wondering if and when we'd get on track," Parker said of the PK. "Before the season started, I thought we'd be the best team in the league killing penalties... but we struggled the start of the year. Now all of a sudden, it's back again. I think a big reason for that is Kieran Millan. He's playing like Kieran Millan right now."
Millan started the year with a sub-par .883 save percentage in his first seven starts, but he has turned things around lately and posted a sparkling .974 mark in his last three. Of course, he has benefitted from an improved team defense in front of him. The Terriers are turning the puck over less, backchecking harder and blocking more shots, all of which make Millan's job much easier.
The Terriers' numbers during this winning streak (35.7-percent PP, 94.4-percent PK, .974 save percentage by Millan) are unsustainable in all probability, but it's the effort that is more important than the numbers. The effort is sustainable, and if it's here to stay, BU will be in good shape.