alternate headline: man does job
3/13/2010 – Michigan 5, Michigan State 1 – 22-17-1, 1-0 series
3/14/2010 – Michigan 5, Michigan State 3 – 23-17-1, 2-0 series
(Ariel Bond in the Daily)
"When I was in a barbershop quartet in Skokie, Illinois…"
The twist, if done properly, obliterates the thing you thought you were watching and replaces it with something completely different. This can redeem previously idiotic plot points, like Patrick Bateman charging down an apartment corridor, chainsaw blazing, without anyone noticing in American Psycho. Twists have enormous power. A really great one can launch an interminable directorial career even if no one ever likes another one of your movies again.
Michigan's 2009-10 season had a plot. After 37 games of erratic play, defensive breakdowns, soft goals, stopped shots, and the occasional monster performance that served only to get your hopes up so they could be suitably dashed later, we thought we were watching a movie titled "Death Wish III: You Thought Hockey Was Immune" or "500 Shots Of Bummer," for which latter I am deeply, deeply sorry.
Ah, but the twist. In the preview I mentioned that karma was busy with State's football team and had not yet attended to the Corey Tropp situation. I owe that fanciful concept an apology.
Tropp watched. He stepped on a puck in warmups and he watched Steve Kampfer and his teammates storm into Yost West, dominate on and off the ice, and forcefully boot Michigan State from the tourney bid it thought was guaranteed at midseason. After two periods, shots were 32-10. The only relevant scoring Michigan State had in the series came thanks to the generosity of Tristin Llewellyn and some iffy goaltending from a 5'6"-ish walkon.
Tropp and his entire team watched Michigan salute their students—who outnumbered Michigan State's—as they waited for no one to sing their alma mater. When the last of them headed off the ice, season over, a third of the arena gave them a "seeya." Karma has paid in full.
Never in the history of the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry has a comeuppance been so sudden, unexpected, and richly deserved. The road to 23-17-1 as been frustrating as hell, but as I raised my fist for the "hail" in the Yellow and Blue the season rearranged itself into a series of necessary evils. Tropp had to explode so his loss could be a crushing blow. Michigan had to lose to Bowling Green so the 2-7 matchup would be these two teams, and it would have to be at Munn for maximum pwnage.
Maybe not everything was necessary. Michigan didn't have to give it away late in nonconference games against BU and Wisconsin. If they hadn't Michigan would have probably punched their own ticket last weekend. As it is, they still have a mountain called Miami to climb before they can even play for a shot at the tourney. The frustration of this season is still real. But that's not what I'll remember it for anymore.
Because screw that guy in the ear, that's why. And screw the coach who thought a harsh conversation was sufficient punishment. Michigan has postgame video up and twenty seconds in someone walks up to the camera loudly declaring "THAT IS WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT." He passes the camera, and the back of his jersey reads "Kampfer."
He was the last guy off the ice. That's what I'll remember.
The sweep shot Michigan from 25th to 16Wth in the Pairwise and made the possibility of an at-large bid at least worth checking, but as of yet no one's put together a scenario in which Michigan splits at the Joe and manages to make the tourney.
Alabama-Huntsville winning the last CHA tournament moves the line to make to at least 14, and it will be 13 unless Cornell wins the ECAC, and it's really hard to move up by going .500, even against good competition. So Michigan will have to flip at least three comparisons. I don't see that happening. Sioux Sports has a new view where you can see the comparisons at a glance and it appears that Michigan has flipped all the comparisons they're going do. Actually going through the individual comparisons is blindingly painful: each common opponents category is a litany of missed opportunities. If Michigan wins two of the games they gave away—BU, BGSU, Ferris, UW, etc etc—over the course of the year they're probably a solid three seed.
That didn't happen, though, and it's win or go home.
- Finally the Big Ten Network comes through: Friday's game against Miami is at 8 and is on BTN HD.
- From time to time in Billy Sauer's first two years—when he was clocking with a season save percentage under .900—I felt panicked any time the opponent entered the zone, let alone put a harmless shot on net. That panic was orders of magnitude greater Saturday as Shawn Hunwick gamely tried to avoid blowing the above, awesome storyline in whatever way he could. That wander out of the net nearly killed me, and for large portions of the third he appeared to be throwing his glove out aimlessly.
- I'm all for Hunwick as a concept but when your coach is calling you Rudy, there's not really any question about who the starting goalie is. Hogan (and Summers) "should have a chance to play" on Friday according to one of the assistants on WTKA, and while they're making noises about it being a tough call I will assume that Hunwick in net means Hogan is not ready to go.
I wonder how the guy who inexplicably knocked Langlais in the preview post by way of defending Tristin Llewellyn—who wasn't even mentioned—is going to justify that in the comments. It's the internet, after all. Changing your mind is not allowed. And this guy suggested that Eric Elmblad was a better option than Langlais, so he's not one of those people who is sane.
Llewellyn was in the box for all three Michigan State goals on Saturday, the first two of which came when Llewellyn ignored a loose puck he could clear out of the zone to drive some guy into the boards… on a penalty kill! Bler. The tripping call he took later was just a run-of-the-mill penalty anyone could have taken; the first was totally insane.
[Update! Llewellyn is +9 in the tournament! No one wants to play against him after he takes two penalties that make a laugher a tie game!]
- Over the past couple week's I've been talking myself into the idea that Michigan could be really good next year based on their goal differential (now 10th nationally), the relatively light losses Michigan should experience this offseason, and Michigan's still-killer recruiting class.
On that recruiting class, specifically the defense: Michigan loses Kampfer and Summers to graduation. They bring in John Merrill, Mac Bennett, and Kevin Clare. Merrill will be a first round pick in the upcoming NHL draft. Bennett was already drafted in the third round by the Canadiens. And Clare is a polished stay-at-home defenseman who will probably go sometime in the middle rounds. Michigan is going to be scratching two scholarship defensemen unless someone moves to forward. So… should Langlais move to forward? He's probably the best puckhandler on the team right now and if he can adapt to the forward spot I envision him setting up Caporusso for his lethal wrister plenty. At a generous 5'9" he doesn't have an NHL career that would screw up.
Would you rather scratch Rohrkemper or one of the freshmen defensemen/Llewellyn?
- Lebler is probably replaceable but that "probably" is a testament to how well he's played as a senior. When he came to Michigan he had, I believe, 14 points his final year of junior. He's mixed grinding boardwork, big hits, and the occasional impressive snipe to best that considerably the last two years. He's developed to the point where I'm a little worried about his departure when Michigan has the #2 pick in the OHL draft and Jacob Fallon coming in. He's a totally different player but I'd compare his career track to John Shouneyia, a guy who started slow and was never a star but developed into a very good college player by the end of his tenure.
- How about that Caporusso goal on Friday? I talked to like four people about it and everyone invoked Hensick. That's the kind of stuff that's been almost totally absent from not only Caporusso's game but that of the whole team. I still remember goals Hensick and Cammalleri and Comrie scored, and I'll remember Caporusso's cruise through the slot. Hopefully that, and the ridiculous tear he continues to be on, carries over into next season.
- …assuming that there is one. I don't think he's at a point where a team is going to scoop him up but it's vastly more possible now than it was midseason. He's a Senators draftee and went at the end of the third round in his draft year, FWIW.
- I missed this when it happened, but apparently someone printed up a long screed against Comley when he didn't dress a senior defenseman on Senior Night. Said defenseman, who hadn't played all year, immediately quit the team, and his girlfriend or a relative went all manifesto.
Charles Burks is a defensive end from Huntington Beach, California. Burks will be making the haul from CA to Ann Arbor this weekend for Michigan's Junior Day and Night of Champions. He currently holds an offer from Stanford, but hopes that Michigan extends one his way this weekend. Here's his highlight video, and what he had to say about Michigan.
TOM: Can we read anything into this visit? It’s pretty far to come all the way from California to Michigan.
CHARLES: I’ve always been an Ohio State fan, but I’ve always liked Michigan a lot, too. My dad is a big Michigan fan. They have the most wins out of any college, which is awesome. I’m definitely interested because of all the history and all the tradition. I’m interested because of all that, but I actually want to meet the coaches and see the campus. I want to get a feel for everything, and see how it is up close. Distance doesn’t matter to me, either, at all. I want to go where I can make an impact, and enjoy playing football. I just want to go to a school that can get me a good degree.
TOM: What coach is recruiting you? What have you guys talked about so far?
CHARLES: I’ve just gotten a lot of letters, and all of them have said Coach Rodriguez. The one about the junior day came from him, too.
TOM: Where does your interest in Michigan come from, besides your Dad?
CHARLES: It comes from my dad, but also everything that Michigan has to offer football wise. Michigan will always be one of those schools that will always have a great program. They’re consistently good. The past couple seasons don’t bother me, because I know they’re on the upside. They’re rebuilding, and they’re going to be good before you know it.
TOM: What other schools have offered you, and who’s been in contact with you so far?
CHARLES: Schools that have been in contact with me are ASU, Michigan of course, Kansas, Oregon State, and my first offer was from Stanford two weeks ago.
TOM: Are you going to any camps this summer? What other visits do you hope to make?
CHARLES: I’m going to all the major combines; the Under Armor, Rivals, and Scout. I’ll be at pretty much all of the bigger ones. As far as camps; I’ve considered Oregon State and Kansas. I might go to a couple, but I might go to the USC because they’re local.
TOM: Do you have a top list yet?
CHARLES: I’m kind of trying to feel everything out. As of right now, Stanford, Michigan, and Ohio State are the top three. If I had a top five, it would be UCLA, and Oregon State, too.
TOM: You said you were an Ohio State fan growing up. If they offer, is that it for you? Are you going to jump at it, or is it not like that?
CHARLES: My interest in MIchigan is higher right now, because I haven’t heard from Ohio State. I’m a fan of them, but I won’t just jump at an offer. I’m going to take my time, and see where I feel most comfortable. Just because I’m a fan doesn’t mean that’s the best fit for me. I went to Ohio State last year for a wrestling camp, so I want to see how Michigan is, and how I feel there. Who knows, maybe after this visit Michigan will be my leader, we’ll see.
TOM: You play defensive end right now. Do you play any other positions?
CHARLES: I play tight end, as well. I’m starting to work out at outside linebacker, too. I’m 6’1 and I weigh 230, and my 40 time is 4.6 or 4.7. Last time I ran it, I ran a 4.6.
TOM: What sets you apart from the competition? What are you going to be working on?
CHARLES: I had 14 sacks in 10 games, which is one sack shy of our school record, so I almost broke that. I broke my fibula, though, so I only played 10 games. I’m real quick off the edge. I’m going to try to work on the fundamentals a lot, too. I don’t want to get caught up with tackles, too much. I’m also going to try to adjust to my new position of linebacker.
TOM: What are you looking for out of this visit? What’s an ideal visit look like for you?
CHARLES: Just meeting the coaching staff, feeling comfortable, meeting the players, and feeling comfortable with them. I want to see how the coaching staff runs the program. Ideally, I’d love to get an offer from Michigan.
[Editor's note: due to a super screw up on my part, I neglected to post this until after Michigan's first game, a 12-8 win over Ball State.]
I'm trying out a new game set for tournaments. I think I'll try and use something similar for weekend series (previous version). I'm open for suggestions on how to present the information consistently. For now, game set comes before a jump if on the front page, and details come afterward.
|Matt Miller (0-2, 4.80 ERA)||vs||Brothers (0-0, 8.64 ERA)|
|Notes: 16-1 All Time Record, Last win(s) in 2009, both ends of a 7 inning double header. Also beat them at Coastal Carolina in 2008|
|Burgoon or Brosnahan||vs||Ross (0-0, 5.19 ERA)|
|Notes: 0-0, first meeting|
|Oaks, Burgoon, or Brosnahan||vs||Birmingham 2-0, 1.23 ERA)|
|Notes: 2-1, Split a pair in a similar tournament in 2008, W 4-1 and L 11-9. This is Coastal's home field. Audio is Coastal's.|
|Oaks, Burgoon, or Brosnahan||vs||TB|
|Notes: That split from 2008 was on this field both games. Audio is Coastal's.|
Long preview after the jump.
Are we going to recap it? No. I'm pretty sure Tim is methodically hammering nails into anything small and fluffy he can find. We're going to dig out something that hasn't been seen around these parts in a year or two. It is the Dead To Me board. It has two new additions, the second of which is relevant.
Well played, 2009-10. Well played.
Here's a kitten:
We'll see you next week. Jesus.
|WHAT||Michigan @ Michigan State
CCHA Second Round
|WHERE||East Lansing, Michigan|
March 12th/13th, 2010
7:05 PM EST March 14th
|THE LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
|TELEVISION||Friday & Saturday: Comcast Local|
Record. I'm pretty sure that frequent commenter Spartan Dan put together a killer weekend preview at The Only Colors simply to shame me—it's even got this site's usual "you want this WCHA series to go this way because of the marginal effect it will have on our pairwise comparisons" section—and shame me it has done. It has also done a significant amount of the legwork, though, so we'll call it even.
Anyway: 19-11-6, 14-8-6 CCHA. Second place. Goal differential of +0.67 per game overall and +0.32 in conference. Bizarrely, Michigan's goal differential is considerably better in both instances (+0.85 and +0.5, respectively) despite being the seventh seed here. What's going on? Dan has a great chart that helps explain things:
Right away you can see more spread in Michigan's goal results. State scores three a lot, zero almost never, and six relatively rarely. Their goal curve somewhat approximates a normal distribution. Michigan has nights of wild success and nights like… well, you could name a dozen at this point. This dovetails nicely with a post I threw on mgolicious recently about a new method for reducing the error in baseball's Pythagoran prediction schemes*. It's kind of obvious:
Your actual win total doesn't just depend on runs scored and allowed -- it also depends on the consistency of each. If your scoring is less consistent than average, you should outperform [ed: I don't think this is good phrasing.] Pythagoras in terms of wins. For instance, if you score exactly the same number of runs as you allow, you should wind up a .500 team. But if you win more blowouts than average -- by scores of 15-2 and 16-6, for instance -- you'll finish at less than .500, because you've "wasted" your runs when you don't need them. And if you *lose* more blowouts than average, you'll win *more* games than 50 percent, because your opponents are "wasting" their runs.
A team that scores zero goals half the time and eight goals the rest of the time is going have the best goal differential in the world and be .500.
it's a little tough to parse this pattern out, but try to just consider the TUC games (blue and green). There the pattern is even more stark: State still scores three a ton, with one the next most popular and some other scattered numbers. Michigan's mode is two—ick—and the goal scoring is much more distributed. TUC teams are the top half of the schedule and more likely to score goals against you: here is the gap between Michigan's goal differential and its record.
Is this luck or something wrong with the team? Dan makes a case for the latter based on Michigan's style of offense this year ("chuck it at the net and see what happens") and I agree with him. The posterboy for this effect is Louie Caporusso, who has been on a tear of late against iffy goaltending and poor defensive teams but was totally stymied against the meat of the schedule. Michigan as a whole seems like TJ Hensick trying to make it in pro hockey: too good for the AHL (usually) but not good enough for the show.
This is a long and complicated way of saying that I wouldn't put as much into the goal differential as you might otherwise. I think it bodes well for Michigan next year, but maybe not this weekend.
*(For those less likely to have a collection of German board games: Bill James took a look at the numbers and found out that run differential was a better predictor of next year's record than last year's record. This finding is generally applicable and definitely applies to hockey. It's a major reason I think the hockey team will bounce back to its usual terrifying self next year. There's no place like home… no place like home… no place…)
Dangermen. Insert default complaint about Corey Tropp… no, insert a new one: it is totally ridiculous that the only punishment Corey Tropp received was missing the remainder of a season in which State had already checked out for good anyway. Michigan State had such deep respect for the idea that Corey Tropp should sit out games that they tried to stash him in the USHL so he wouldn't get rusty and only backed off that plan when someone in compliance said it would affect his eligibility. Rick Comley has permanently lost my respect, and the way this incident has played out makes me long for the day when Michigan can tell the league to GTFO and join a Big Ten hockey conference.
But anyway. Karma is busy with the Spartan football team at the moment and has ignored the above, so Tropp is Michigan State's leading scorer with a 20-22-42 line. Derek Grant has 11-18-31 and Andrew Rowe a 15-11-26, from there there's a significant dropoff. Expect Hagelin to get the Tropp line whenever they can manage it.
Defense and goalie and whatnot. Drew Palmisano has developed into one of the country's best goalies—something you could see coming as he split time with Jeff Lerg last year—and has a .922 save percentage.
Earlier in the year I suggested that Michigan State's extremely young defensive corps might be an exploitable achilles heel, but I just looked at the year next to their name and not their birthdates. None of these guys is straight out of high school and some of them can already drink. (Drink legally, that is. These are hockey players.) "Freshman" Zach Josepher is a few months away from turning 22! So nevermind on that.
The key guy on the Spartan D is Jeff Petry, a second-round pick of the Oilers who had a terrible year last year beyond just having crappy teammates but has bounced back to be both the Spartans' best offensive defenseman—22 assists—and most reliable defender. Josepher and fellow freshman-type object Torey Krug (actually younger than 20) are the next two guys on the depth chart. Krug is a smallish puck mover, Josepher more of a defensive sort.
Michigan, meanwhile, is still rolling out pint-sized walk-on Shawn Hunwick. This is good for the profile-seeking newspaper writers of Southeastern Michigan, but maybe not so good for Michigan's chances this weekend. Both of the goals Lake State scored on Friday were super soft and I'm sure everyone else is as creeped out by how often he jumps at pucks as I am. On the other hand, the two Friday goals were the only on the weekend and Hunwick did make a couple of grade A stops on Saturday to preserve his shutout.
While it's not a foregone conclusion that Hunwick is outperformed, it's pretty likely.
As a bonus, senior captain Chris Summers is out. Lee Moffie draws into the lineup, and this might mean bad things defensively. It just goes to show that I don't know everything (or even much) about hockey that I thought he was killing it when this was going down:
But after he dressed in 13 consecutive games, Moffie was pulled for his defensive lapses. In the final five games of that stretch in late January, Moffie had a plus/minus rating of minus-five. He has played in just four of the last ten games.
“I’ve known from the start that the defense is my thing that will keep me out of the lineup, they made that pretty clear,” Moffie said. “I’m an offensive defenseman, if I’m not producing and I’m out there for goals, I’m not really worth a lot to this team.”
His defensive issues must be a lot more subtle than Llewellyn's tendency to pick up dumb penalties and get caught up ice.
Special teams. Your power plays per game stat:
|PP For / G||5.6||5.7|
|PP Ag / G||5.1||5.4|
Michigan's specialty units are more effective than State's. Michigan's penalty kill is borking along at a 87.6 rate. Michigan State is in the middle of the pack (20th) at 83.2. On the flip side, neither team is much good on the powerplay. Michigan is 29th, State 34th. That's basically a wash.
Since Michigan State has a better ratio of PPs for and against, this section is basically even.
Michigan Vs Those Guys
Play like an underdog. Michigan's been playing a tighter, simpler game with Hunwick in net and the results have been fewer scary turnovers and few grade A opportunities. Michigan State is a step up from Hunwick's first four games, which were against 9th place Notre Dame and 10th place Lake State and will actually be able to generate scoring chances of their own. Michigan should play a conservative game in the hopes of protecting Hunwick.
Clone Carl Hagelin and put him on three lines.
Figure out why you are so inconsistent, especially against TUC opponents, and fix that season-long issue in a week. What? It could happen.
The Big Picture
The Pairwise still doesn't matter for Michigan. They're 25th right now: it's CCHA championship or bust. That requires winning this weekend and against Miami unless Ohio State pulls off the upset of the year in the CCHA, with Ferris State or Alaska or someone else the last hurdle. The pulse still remains faint.
On the other hand, the Pairwise implications of this series are huge for Michigan State. They sit 12th. With Bemidji State comfortably in the top eight, there is only one auto-bid that is definitely getting handed out. You could get in with a PWR as low as 15, but to be safe you'd like to get to 14 or, better, 13. If Michigan State loses this series they will take two TUC losses against zero or one wins. Depending on the results of other series, this could knock them out of the tournament entirely.
Michigan's playing for its life in this series and doesn't need anything else to motivate, but that's a nice little bonus.