These are the three things I think I learned this week.
1. I wonder if some defensemen give too much space to Jack Eichel.
Not always. Not even most of the time. But too often.
Eichel seems to be a player that you have to play a “tight gap” defense against. You have to stay in his face and give him no space with which to wheel and deal.
The instinct to back off a fast, supremely skilled forward is understandable, especially considering how effortlessly Eichel can accelerate. Blink and he’s at full speed.
But opposing defensemen are going to have to fight that back-off instinct and consistently stay in his face or risk winding up on the wrong end of highlight reels.
Yes, I know. Easier said than done.
2. There’s another terrific rookie in the league and his name is Brett Seney.
Not, he’s not Eichel. No one is.
But Merrimack’s Brett Seney is a terrific freshman, second only to the BU phenom in overall Hockey East points and goals by freshmen.
He’s scored six goals and totaled 15 points. He’s quick and possesses a deadly wrist shot.
His sixth goal of the season, ripped top shelf after flying up his off wing, staked Merrimack to a 1-0 lead against BU on Friday night. Although the Warriors had to settle for a tie, it amounted to an important point since BU took the home half of the weekend series.
3. Despite the shutout on Saturday, I’m concerned about Notre Dame’s defense.
When you think of Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson, you think of suffocating team defense. His Lake Superior State teams won national championships using that blueprint. Last year, the Irish finished second in team defense in their inaugural Hockey East season. (Massachusetts-Lowell was first.)
Prior to Saturday’s shutout of Massachusetts, however, the Irish had allowed five goals in each of the last two games and at least two goals over their last 11. Two goals isn’t bad, of course, but when that’s the best result during a reasonably long stretch and you allow five goals three times and four goals twice, you’ve got defensive problems.
Even including the shutout, the Irish rank ninth in team defense. Perhaps Saturday’s shutout is a sign of better things to come. It had better if the Irish are going to have a successful season.