Failure is success if we learn from it. - Malcolm S. Forbes
Sitting at 1-2 for the first time since, well, a time that shouldn't be remembered, Syracuse has a tremendous share of learning ahead of it. If the Orange has any chance at clipping the wings of the soaring Johns Hopkins Blue Jays (3-0) this weekend, becoming academic at the offensive end of the field is an absoulte necessity.
At this point in the early season, Syracuse is averaging 9 goals per game. While not a paltry number to scoff at, it stands in stark contrast to the 13+ goals per game Desko's unit was dropping on the opposition last season. While not a newsflash of any sorts, playing without Mike Powell has had a noticeable residual effect.
Entering the season, it was expected that the offense's learning curve would be pronounced considering only Brian Crockett was returning on attack. However, it was unexpected that the teams young guns would have so much trouble converting in settled situations. Syracuse has always been infested with finishers around the cage. Those finishers, this season, it seems have been on hiatus.
Mike Leveille has been a mild disappoint at this juncture of the season, accumulating a mere 3 points (3G, 0A). Jarrett Park, a former New York State Player of the Year, following the suit of Leveille has only contributed 2 points to the struggling offense (1G, 1A). If the Orange has any chance of sliding by Hopkins, Leveille, Park, and the underrated Greg Rommel (5G, 1A) must convert when given the opportunity. Hopkins is yielding a mere 5.67 goals to their opposition, which means that Syracuse will be under the gun to push the ball past Jesse Schwartzman.
What this team may need is a shot in the arm in offensive style. A return to the Run 'n Gun of the Roy Simmons, Jr. era. With so much youth running on offense this season, playing a settled game of offense may be asking too much of this group. Getting the ball up and down the field in an attempt to create some unsettled situations may allow that strangling Hopkins close defense to loosen up. Any chance at getting some free looks at the cage will ultimately be a great advantage for Syracuse.
Not terrible. Not terrific.
That's been the story of the Syracuse defense all season long. The senior unit of the rebuilding Orange has had its share of shining moments. It's a shame that those moments have been buttressed with stretches of stone-cold, boneheaded play. Giving up 8.5 goals per game is not acceptable for a unit that is laden with seasoned veterans. If this pace keeps up, Syracuse could walk the trail that Virginia traversed last season.
Hopkins trots out offensive machines left and right. Kyle Harrison (4G, 5A), Greg Peyser (6G, 1A), and Kyle Barrie (3G, 2A) are as potent a triumverate as anyone in the country. Throw in Jake Byrne and Peter LeSueur and the Jays are as unstoppable as they come. Harrison is one of the great creators with the ball in his cross, and will surely give fits to Ditzell, Panarelli, and Company.
Whether or not SU employs a zone or a man defense is really unimportant. Hopkins is going to score, and they are going to score often. What is important is the implementation of a proper slide package to keep Hopkins from dodging out of the inverted offense. The Blue Jays are attempting about 13 more shots on goal than their opponent, and if Syracuse can jar the ball loose and corral some groundballs via some vicious slides, Pietramala's crew will be infinitely less effective.
Hopkins is 39-3 in its last 42 regular season contests.
Hopkins is outworking their opponents to a 81-57 advantage in groundballs; Syracuse is losing the groundball game 114-99.
Syracuse is winning 55% of face-offs; Hopkins is taking them at a 65% clip.
Prediction: Hopkins - 17 Syracuse - 7
This is not the matchup Syracuse needs at this point in the season. Hopkins has looked weary through the early season, but a trip to the Dome should wake up the Jays. JHU is probably the most talented team in the country, and despite their inability to win a national championship (last victory: 1987), are always destroyers during the regular season.
The question is not how Syracuse performs in this game. Rather, it's going to be how they pull themselves together at 1-3 to head to Princeton the following week to take on a sputterring Tiger squad.