Friday, March 26, 2010

game preview: Johns Hopkins

Some of the cool kids these days are wondering if Hopkins lacrosse just isn't Hopkins lacrosse this year. Will we blow them out? Will Hopkins miss the tournament? Interesting questions all, because this is the first year in God only knows how long (it's never happened in the length of time that the UVA official site has in its schedule archives) that Hopkins has entered this game with three losses already on their plate. They're "only" ranked 12th - another low for quite some time, because I also couldn't tell you when's the last time they came in not ranked in single digits - which is definitely not up to Hopkins' standards.

Plus, one of those losses was a blowout loss to Hofstra in which starting goalie Michael Gvozden got yoinked for giving up three quick goals. Stephen Burke replaced him and took the loss by not really playing any better. Hopkins lost 14-6, and while Hofstra's a pretty good team, they're 6th-ranked now largely on the strength of that win, having not really got another signature game on their schedule.

Hopkins also lost an OT game to Princeton and dropped one to Syracuse too, but anyone can lose to Princeton and Syracuse, it's easy. I wouldn't take too much from that. The moral really is that Hopkins is still Hopkins. The stats back me up here. You look up and down the stat sheet and there's no glaring weakness that suddenly showed up this year. Ground balls, faceoffs, EMO %, turnovers, shooting %, clear %....if you're looking on the stat sheet to find why Hopkins is struggling a little bit, you'll find nothing. And Gvozden, despite the Hofstra fiasco, is actually playing a lot better this year. Adam Ghitelman makes us shake our heads sometimes, but Gvozden's save percentage last year was .503. This year he's tacked 60 percentage points on to that for a way-more-respectable .564. If he was playing like he did last year, it'd mean an extra seven goals (one per game), and maybe another loss since they only beat Siena 8-7.

So that's not the problem. Hopkins is scoring a little less often than they did last year, and the loss of senior attackman and leading 2009 point-getter Chris Boland has a lot to do with that. Boland had 46 points last year and 28 goals, but he was suspended for three games to start the season, played in two games, and then tore every tearable thing in his knee two and a half weeks ago against UMBC. Steven Boyle has stepped up big-time for Hopkins with 21 goals already - as many as he had last year in twice as many games. But teams have been able to slow down Kyle Wharton, who led the Blue Jays with 34 goals last year and is a full goal per game off that pace this year.

Even so, this is a game you never never never never take for granted, especially if Hopkins is still pissed about the way they went out of the tournament last year. (You don't think the same thing didn't have anything to do with why we beat Cornell by 8 earlier, do you?) That'll only be mentioned in the JHU locker room four or five hundred times by faceoff time.

However. Our own team has reached Just Play Your Game status. As in, play your game, take care of business, and everything will be fine. There's nothing scary about this Hopkins team except the Hopkins name. More than likely it'll be close enough to be interesting, but if this season's win streak is going to end sometime, I don't think it'll be tomorrow.

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