Hockey East First Round Predictions

Hockey East Playoffs begin tonight. All I can think is, 'Playoffs already?' My heart is still getting over the Baby Pens last post-season run to the finals. I'm ready for the heart attacks to begin again starting tonight when BU takes on Maine at Agganis Arena. Here's a look at the HE match-ups going on:

#1 BU vs. #8 Maine

BU is number one in the nation. Of course this means absolutely nothing in the post-season. I've seen the underdog succeed many, many times in all different leagues. The last time these two teams played each other they skated to a tie. So anything can happen. On paper, BU should win this no problem. But paper = BS. That's why play-offs are so fun.

BU has to do a few things. One thing I've been on them about all year is penalties. They take too many. I know they have an awesome PK unit (three shorthanded goals in the Beanpot? What?), but eventually that stuff will catch up with you. So discipline is one. Second thing: Kieran Millan has to be on. He has been excellent in the majority of his starts this year, but there were certainly a few times where nerves may have gotten to him. When he's on, he's on.

As for Maine, if they can find a way to shut down BU's offense (and defense), they'll have a much better shot at stealing a game. Other teams have done it this year.

Some quotes from the coaches that I think are 100% truth:

“There’s nobody in this league, and I mean nobody in this league, that is capable of beating anybody in this league by thinking they’re going to win on talent. We have a lot of talent, but we’re not going to win on talent. The question is, will we come with effort, intensity, focus, and good decision making? If we have that, we’ll be a good team. We may not win but we’ll be a real difficult team to play against. Maine has got enough talent to beat us.” -- BU's Jack Parker

“It is a new season and a fresh start on Friday and anything can happen if we work hard and stay focused. Crazy things do tend to happen in the playoffs and that is going to be our mindset.” -- Maine's Tim Whitehead.

Prediction: Sorry. Since BU is my team, I can't make a prediction. I'm superstitious when it comes to playoffs hahaha. No, seriously.

#2 Northeastern vs. #7 UMass

Northeastern has without a doubt been one of the most fun teams to watch this year. Just ask all their fans who came out of the woodwork just in time for a winning season (low blow, I know. Couldn't resist). Anyway, NU is a team that works hard and wins games. I've enjoyed watching them. They hung on to first place in HE until the very last second.

Key stat: UMass is the only team besides BU that Northeastern did not win a series against. So this is definitely something to watch.

UMass is one of those teams in HE (just like UMass Lowell) who can steal one right from under your feet. I never underestimate them.

Northeastern's anchor is goaltender Brad Thiessen. I've raved about this kid since his freshman year. He is a really, really good goaltender. I think NU owes him a lot for this season's success.

Prediction: Wouldn't it be something if UMass took this one? Why not. If UMass wins the first game, they take this series 2-1.

#3 UNH vs. #6 BC

This could go either way. BC has been struggling quite a bit this year. They remind me of BU last year but reversed: BC had a decent first half and a bad second half (reminder: last year bad a poor first half and a good second half). It hurts any team when you lose a guy like Nathan Gerbe. They could also have that cursed championship hangover that most teams (except the Detroit Red Wings who are just awesome every year) get.

Prediction: UNH managed to beat BU this year. James vanRiemsdyk is a beast. UNH wins this one. I just don't think BC has the confidence to pull it out.

#4 Vermont vs. #5 Umass-Lowell

Anything can happen here. Seriously. Vermont beat BU twice this season in a series that stung a lot, and I have never took UMass-Lowell lightly. Ever.

If Vermont gets out-willed by UMass-Lowell, UML wins. Other than that, I'd say the Catamounts (whatever that is) take this in two games.

Hockey East is always one of the best divisions in NCAA Division I hockey. All the match-ups will be good games to watch. They'll be broadcast on the B2 Networks for $8 a game. Check one out.



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