Friday, March 25, 2011

game preview: Johns Hopkins

Date/Time: Sat., March 26; 2:00


History against the Jays: 28-54-1

Last matchup: UVA 15, JHU 6; 3/23/10; Charlottesville

Last game: UVA 14, OSU 11 (3/19); Syracuse 5, JHU 4 (3/19)

Opposing blogs: none

Best UVA rivalry outside the ACC in any sport? Probably between this and Syracuse, and this one has the benefit of proximity, recruiting overlap, a much longer history, and a trophy. Hopkins got the Michigan State Honorary Invite to the NCAA tournament last year, reserved for severely bubblicious teams with royalty in their names, and then proceeded to be the victims of the worst thrashing in the whole tournament aside from UVA's 18-4 demolition of autovite Mount St. Mary's. They avoided the 18-4 fate by losing 18-5. This year they're much better, and will eventually be legitimately tournamenty, if not quite at the level a Hop fan would be hoping for.


- Score....somehow. I've been on record saying UVA needs to play much better team offense in order to be a real threat to win the national title. It so happens that Hopkins has the best scoring defense in the country right now, and I've been going back and forth in my head as to whether that means we need the team offense to win this, or whether the best way to get past that kind of stingy defense is just go athlete-on-athlete and may the best man win. So yes, this is a cop-out bullet. But I lean toward the former. Sure, UVA also has the best scoring offense in the country, but MSM and VMI are skewing the numbers a bit. 12 goals a game without those two included isn't too shabby either, but still - it ceases to be #1 by quite a long shot.

- Stay disciplined on defense. Penalties this year haven't been a huge problem, but - and maybe this is just confirmation bias speaking - they all seem to come at the absolute worst of possible times. Hopkins can be shut right down by a decent defense; Princeton held them to three goals and Syracuse to four. Princeton's 1-4 this year but not for lack of defense. Adam Ghitelman's played well in net and the defense hasn't disappointed this season. It's not suffocating but it's good enough. Don't give the Hop too many extra-man chances and they probably won't be scoring much.


- Faceoff boogeyman. Good showings in the past two games doesn't mean this problem has gone away. Hopkins has won fully two-thirds of their faceoffs this year - including 10-of-14 against Syracuse and 8-of-15 against Princeton so this isn't a result of crappy competition - so this is a terrific test. I will exhale a little bit on the faceoffs if we can even win 45%. But the only way Hopkins gets into double digits on the scoreboard is by killing it at the faceoff X, especially on unsettled breakaways.

- Pierce Bassett stands on his head. Which he's been doing all year. Part of the reason Hopkins has such a great scoring defense is because Bassett has an astounding .683 save percentage in net. His insertion into the lineup during our game last year was the turning point in Hopkins's season, and he's establishing himself as worthy of the title "fucking damn good." Even the best-laid offensive plans can be stopped by a hot goaltender, and our individual style means not a lot of shots are of the kind that's unstoppable because they're within five yards.


UVA hasn't failed to score double digits in any game this year, but what with Bassett, Hopkins's eminently stoppable offense, and our faceoff misery combined with their faceoff prowess, there's a terrific chance neither team will reach 10 goals. I'll go ahead and say Hopkins almost definitely doesn't, and it's at least 50/50 we don't either. Due to the likely defensive struggle, this is one of JHU's best chances in years at breaking the six-game win streak we have against them. In the end, the UVA athleticism will probably be too much for Hopkins and we'll see a seventh straight win in the series - but by no stretch of anyone's imagination will it be easy or anything but close.

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