...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
PLAYOFF TIME IS HOCKEY BEAR TIME
HOCKEYBEAR IS GO
|WHAT||BGSU vs Michigan
Miami/WMU vs Michigan
|WHERE||Joe Louis Arena
|WHEN||8:05 PM Fri
|THE LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
|TELEVISION||Friday: FSD Plus
Saturday: FSD (final only)
DeSalvo has been DeMolishing opponent defenses. HA!
When Michigan got only a split from Bowling Green on the final week of the regular season, that was annoying and ominous. The rest of the league didn't think it was ominous for them. They were wrong.
In the first round Bowling Green bussed up to Marquette and probably ended Northern Michigan's season by winning a series against a team that had swept them just three weeks earlier. It was no fluke, either: BG was about on par with Northern in shots in their 5-3 win Saturday and won 4-1 Sunday to clinch the series.
They took on league champ Ferris State the next weekend. Again, their opponent had swept them just three weeks previous. Total goals were 9-2. Again they won the series in three games. This one was a bit of a fluke. Both wins were in OT; on Friday FSU outshot the Falcons 56-34. BGSU fell behind 3-0 on Sunday before launching a stirring comeback. New hero Dan DeSalvo—who didn't even play against Michigan—added his 8th, 9th, and 10th goals of the CCHA playoffs as part of a natural hat trick that took BGSU from 3-1 down to 4-3 up, and through.
Unfortunately I was out of town for the untelevised BG series and can't offer any in-person evaluations to help refine the existing Puck Preview. That post spent a lot of time pointing out that BGSU was the worst team in the league by a good margin and apologizing for any jinxes this might stir up. From reports from people who were there it did seem like Michigan gave the Friday BGSU game away with a series of deflating turnovers late. Saturday Michigan endured nine penalty kills and still outshot BGSU 49-22. They couldn't score until five minutes had elapsed in the third.
That's about right: Michigan should bomb the BGSU net and win; if they get sloppy or enjoy a parade to the box DeSalvo might be able to make them pay.
Czarnik (yes that Czarnik) and Smith are Miami's goal engine
Sniper Reilly Smith (27-16-43) is one of three CCHA Hobey Baker finalists with MSU defenseman Torey Krug and Michigan's Shawn Hunwick. Two of those players were unanimous All-CCHA first team picks. The other is Hunwick. #gongshow
Anyway: Miami took it on the chin from Michigan in early February (Puck Preview), getting swept 4-1, 3-0 at Yost. At that juncture the Redhawks were outside of the NCAA tournament. Eight straight wins later they are playing for a one-seed at the Joe. Miami hasn't given up more than one goal in a game since the Michigan series, and while two of those games were against UAH the other six were against tourney aspirants, ND, OSU, and MSU. They are rolling. In the three series against serious opposition they've outscored their opponents 25-3.
Miami yanked Cody Reichard after the first period of their Friday game in Yost and has rode Connor Knapp since. He's played 8 of the last 9 games; the exception was a gimme against UAH. Knapp will get both games at the Joe unless he implodes. Since he's got a .943 on the year, don't bet on that.
Miami's finally playing like they were expected to at the start of the year; all due respect to Western Michigan but it will be a surprise if the Redhawks aren't in the final.
Michigan edged Western for the #2 seed in the CCHA tourney on a tiebreaker, one that became more important than expected when Ferris got bounced. Over the course of the season, Michigan has proven itself on a slightly higher level than the Broncos. Michigan had a +25 goal differential in CCHA play; Western was +11. WMU made up for it by winning all their league shootouts. Michigan won just one.
Michigan hasn't played Western since their awful November. Michigan got a split at Yost, losing 3-2 on Friday when Dane Walters scored with under a minute left. Michigan outshot WMU 36-25. The next night Michigan went into the third tied again; Bennett and Treais scored to put it away. The shot differential was flipped.
That was WMU's first loss of the year. While they cooled off after their hot start, they still find themselves tenuously in the tournament. They're 15th at the moment and will play themselves in or out over the course of the weekend. Getting swept is probably doom and a split is hair-splitting time.
The Broncos have something of a tough time scoring. Chase Balisy is their leading scorer with 12-22-34 and they've got three more guys with double-digit goals. I really liked senior captain Greg Squires's magic midget game when I saw them live but he's only got 6-11-17 on the year. Sparks-esque, that. Past their top line-ish WMU has guys a lot like Michigan's lower lines. Danny DeKeyser won the defensive defenseman of the year award in the league, FWIW.
Michigan Vs Those Guys
Tonight it's simple: keep it five on five, don't throw it up your own middle, and bomb their goalie until something goes in.
Tomorrow Michigan will get a stiff test from whoever comes through. I've tried to write something useful here and keep coming up with "play good at hockey you guys!!!" My brain has started its postseason hockey meltdown. I apologize. You have no idea what I'm talking about because of the same phenomenon.
The Big Picture
If you would like to be the committee go ahead: you are the committee. Sioux Sports has added up every single one of the 1.1 million scenarios still on the table and comes away with these facts under the (obviously faulty) assumption that all games are coinflips:
- If Michigan wins the league they have a 75% chance to be the #2 overall seed and a 25% chance to be the #3 overall seed
- If Michigan is swept at the Joe they still have a >50% chance to be the #2 overall seed, a 33% chance to be #3, and an 11% chance to be the 4. In just under 4% of outcomes in this coinflip-based scenario, Michigan loses their one seed.
Sounds good to me. Caveat: since Michigan's bad scenarios are ones in which teams just under them do well in their conference tourneys against lesser opponents, you should be more pessimistic than that… in the event of a sweep, anyway.
In my YATC fiddling I came up with one of the worst-case Michigan scenarios that dropped them to #5. Flipping one game with a worst-case split (beat non-TUC BGSU, lose to TUC) got them back to #3. A win tonight and I think Michigan has #2 or #3 locked down.
The win-all scenario is so clean because only one team matters: Duluth. If UMD wins the WCHA they'll pass Michigan for #2. If they don't, Michigan will hold on to their current spot. Does that matter? Probably not. I assume the committee will send the Bulldogs to Minneapolis despite the presence of the Gophers for attendance purposes, leaving Michigan in a near-empty building in Green Bay. (NCAA Hockey: we hate money, fans, and atmosphere!)
Things get messier in the event Michigan does not win the league, but there's a consolation prize: a lot of YATC brackets with Miami as CCHA champion feature them as the #4 overall seed with WMU and MSU as #4s. This was the scenario that led to Michigan's matchup against the Atlantic Hockey champion a few years back. That is a better draw despite The Hockey Horror making us hold our breath until a point where the game is comfortably in hand (if that ever comes).
CenterIce provides a game preview.
|WHAT||Michigan at Bowling Green|
|WHERE||BGSU Ice Arena|
|LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
|TV||None. Radio 1050 WTKA.|
Record. 9-20-5 overall, 4-18-4 Gongshow. Bowling Green is by far the worst program in the league. They've given up more goals than any CCHA team (82—3.2 per game) and score way, way fewer than any other (36, a full 25 fewer than Notre Dame, the second-most impotent team in the league). I find this depressing. BG deserves better.
But they don't have better. BG does have a 5-2-1 nonconference record against UConn, UAH, Cansisus, and Bemidji. They've held up the conference's banner in the nonconference.
Previous meetings. None.
Dangermen. Well… I mean, it's tough to pick one out. Freshman Ryan Carpenter and sophomore Camden Wojtala have 20 and 18 points respectively; they have 10 and 9 in 26 CCHA games. Freshman Adam Berkle also has 10 in conference. So they don't have an 0.5 PPG scorer in conference play. There aren't any. This is not a jinx.
Defense. None of BG's defensemen do anything notable on the scoresheet; they all get nailed on plus minus. This is not a jinx.
Goalie. Junior Andrew Hammond is the only guy. He's got a .896 in 34 games; his backup has seen about a single game's worth of time. I assume Hammond's poor save percentage is an effect of poor defensive play in front of him; I can't plausibly claim that I have expertise in this area.
Special teams. Your power plays per game:
|PP For / G||4.3||3.7|
|PP Ag / G||4.9||4.2|
I wouldn't expect much of a difference between power plays for and against; Michigan has gone into series against opponents way more likely to take penalties than they are the past few weekends and seen a Wolverine parade to the box on crosschecks that are actually legal hits not involving the stick at all and so forth and so on. Gongshow is gonna gongshow.
When teams are on special teams, it will be advantage Michigan. Bowling Green is 55th in power play efficiency at 9.5 percent; while they're a lot better at killing power plays (25th; 82.5%) their lack of firepower overwhelms everything else. Michigan is up to… uh… 40th on the power play.
Michigan vs Those Guys
Don't let them score via horrendous turnover. There were a number against Northern and few other scoring opportunities that were not catching the third pairing in its own zone. BG doesn't appear to generate many scoring chances on its own; if they don't win a game it will likely be a totally gross thing off forechecking.
Don't give up a softie. This is pretty insulting to the Falcons, but seriously they're averaging just over a goal per game in the Gongshow.
That's all I've got. BGSU's been playing pretty well lately but it's about bounces going against M. Either that or some guy doing something he's never done before. You can blame me when the jinx comes home.
The Big Picture
If Michigan sweeps and Ferris gets swept M will share the regular season title. While the former isn't farfetched the latter is given how well the Bulldogs have been playing in the second half of the season. Since it will take a BG sweep to prevent Michigan from getting a second-round home series we can move on to the Pairwise barring Mayan-type events.
As far as the Pairwise goes, a sweep sees Michigan tread water. They'd probably drop a spot or two in that case just because some teams within a hair's breadth of them will sweep better teams. Less than a sweep is worse but actually not awful. They've basically salted away all Gongshow comparisons and the RPI is the only thing that will make a difference with Ferris. BGSU is nowhere near TUC status and won't affect that category, so the RPI is it.
3/11/2011 – Michigan 5, Bowling Green 1 – 24-9-4
3/12/2011 – Michigan 4, Bowling Green 1 – 25-9-4, CCHA semifinalists
Michigan did what would have been extremely hard for them not to do by dispatching Bowling Green easily. It's business time. Let's jump right to the bullets that aren't:
MFan in Ohio's usual breakdown awaits. Miami's sweep of a better opponent and some other jostling sees the Redhawks move up into a tie for Michigan's fourth spot. Usually one-on-one ties are broken with the comparison and Michigan holds that despite getting swept by the Redhawks earlier this year, so Michigan is still nominally in possession of that last one seed.
- Union was swept out of the ECAC playoffs by Colgate and won't be a threat; their RPI went from fourth to eighth and they've got no more games.
- Denver swept Mankato and remains a threat but now they're in the meat of the WCHA playoffs. They get Bemidji State or UMD followed by probably North Dakota—you want UND to win that hypothetical matchup big time. By sweeping the Screaming Eagles Denver obliterated their own TUC record and now can't pass Michigan unless M loses.
- UNO was swept by Bemidji State and went from threatening to take Michigan's comparison to hanging on to the last three seed. They're not a threat.
- Notre Dame beat LSSU in three games, which hurts them to the point where they can't pass Michigan even with a head to head win.
It's pretty simple now. Michigan gets a one seed if they win the CCHA or if they split at the Joe and two other things happen: Not Denver wins the WCHA and Not Miami wins the CCHA. Root for anyone against Denver and you really want Notre Dame to take the first semifinal on Friday; if it's a Michigan-ND CCHA final and Denver's knocked out by whoever in the WCHA playoffs the one seed could be locked up before the final.
Dirty. Thanks to reader Peter Saul you can relive Scooter's toe drag goal from Friday in gorgeous HD:
Just BG caveats apply but quick name Michigan's best forward not named Hagelin now that Wohlberg's out. Scooter, right?
Speaking of gurrrrgh. Losing David Wohlberg for the season is a heavy blow. With Llewellyn and Fallon gone—in Fallon's case temporarily—and Wohlberg and Caporusso out, Kevin Clare was the only healthy scratch on Saturday. Caporusso is supposed to be back this weekend but his health is going to be a big question. Michigan's going to need him to be his usual moderately effective self.
Break your nose six times next week and it will be a perfect comparison. Chris Brown's recent scoring run has taken him to nine goals, tied with Treais—on a run of his own—and Caporusso for fourth on the team behind Hagelin, Wohlberg, and Scooter Dominance. He's done this mostly by being a the big ugly net presence that he was supposed to be when he got drafted in the second round, and he's developing quite a knack for deflections* a la Ryan Smyth. He coolly directed a Merrill point shot into the net this weekend, for one. Of late it's usually Brown who is the source of "ohhhhh" moments when a defenseman's shot goes close after changing direction.
*[deflections FOR GLORY!]
Which one of you should be a forward next year? Mac Bennett or Lee Moffie: fight. Moffie now has six goals in 26 games. If he'd played as much as Caporusso he'd have eight, one fewer than Louie. His first on Saturday was a shorthanded bomb that caught the iron as it went in; his second was another lethal shot from distance. Meanwhile Bennett continues to lead any rush he can.
With Michigan bringing in a couple of guys who can fill in the sixth defenseman spot, if they don't lose anyone early it might be time to Scooterize one or the other. As far as the rest of this year goes, the reason Michigan is competing for the last one seed without seeming to be that good at scoring is that the defensemen are just insane. Merrill has seven goals, Moffie six, Burlon five, and the other three guys combine for seven. I'm not sure how that ranks nationally but I've scanned almost every CCHA team's roster for preview posts at this point and I can tell you that Michigan has probably doubled up the second-best D in the league in points.
I'm going to name a caffeinated alcoholic drink after you. Just Bowling Green caveats apply, but Lindsay Sparks, yo. Two goals and an assist on the weekend, one of them a display of impressive speed on the breakaway. Even if the big leap in competition level this weekend will make it hard to replicate that performance I'm still pretty excited to see Sparks-Treais-Moffatt hit the ice. They've been effective against third and fourth lines and since Michigan gets last change all weekend Michigan can shelter them from guys like Andy Miele.
Please bury me with it. With Michigan's depth already stretched to the breaking point it's time to adopt the same strategy deployed in the tourney last year: stop rolling the fourth line. Michigan should retrieve Lynch from it, put Winnett back down there, and put that fourth line out there once or twice a period with Winnett giving occasional people a rest when they need it.
I'd put Scooter on Hagelin's wing and reform the checking-plus-Scooter-domination line as Rust-Lynch-Glendening, give them the job of shutting down top lines, and get Vaughn some of Hagelin's playmaking ability to better further his utter dominance of opponents. I don't think Red will break up combinations that seem to be working well but Vaughn is Michigan's second-best forward right now and it seems like a bit of a waste to have him out there with people other than Hagelin.
I confess that I'm mystified by how much run Winnett has gotten over the course of his career. He spent three ineffective season on the point on the power play, including plenty of time this year, despite never getting off a checking line. This year literally every defenseman on the roster has more points than him except Kevin Clare and his 0-1-1 in 12 games. I'm sure he's a dutiful checker and good defensive player but at least Lynch has shown something other than that in his career thus far.
Go time. Is now. Don't expect much out of me on Friday. With the clear relevance of the other semi and Michigan's tourney game I'm probably going to head down to Detroit to catch the Michigan game, then head over to the Joe for the double-header.
PLAYOFF TIME IS HOCKEY BEAR TIME
|WHAT||Bowling Green @ Michigan|
|WHERE||Yost Ice Arena
Ann Arbor, MI
|WHEN||7:35 PM Fri/Sat
7:35 PM Sun if necessary
|THE LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
|TELEVISION||Friday: Comcast Local
Saturday: Comcast Local
Record. 10-25-4, 3-21-4 CCHA. That CCHA record does not include last weekend's shocking upset of Northern Michigan. Despite getting outscored 41-87 over the course of the conference season the Falcons managed to squeeze out a 2-0 and 2-1 wins—the second in double OT—to pull out a series win after getting smacked 6-3 in the opener. Those wins were Bowling Green's first since January 29th.
So… yeah, Bowling Green is not good. Their –46 conference goal differential is almost two goals a game to the bad. They had better luck in the nonconference thanks to three games against Alabama-Huntsville—they're actually +4 against teams outside of the conference.
Previous meetings. Michigan swept 4-1 and 4-2 in early October. Shots were 33-18 in the first but 20-18 in the second.
Dangermen. BGSU is dead last in goals per game at 1.85. So as you can imagine, there aren't a whole lot of names that jump off the stat sheet for BGSU. Jordan Samuels-Thomas is their leading scorer with 9-12-21; he's also their only draft pick. IIRC, he's a black guy with dreads so if you find yourself inexplicably fond of him people will understand. Chances at a "Denard's better" chant are pegged at 50-50.
Freshman Brett Mohler has 7-10-17 and then there's a few more guys with 15 or so. BGSU gets nothing from its defense; top scorer has nine points and one goal.
Defense and goalie and whatnot. BGSU has split the season between senior Nick Eno and sophomore Andrew Hammond. Hammond has more games and a vastly better save percentage (.885 vs .918). He started all three games last weekend despite getting pulled midway through the Friday game, so it's safe to say he'll be the guy in net this weekend.
BGSU is considerably better at keeping the puck out of their own net than they are at putting into their opponents', but they're still not that good. They're 34th, giving up 2.92 goals per game. BGSU is, like, you, now, the kind of team you would expect to have three conference wins.
Special teams. Power plays per game:
|PP For / G||4.5||4.1|
|PP Ag / G||4.9||4.4|
Whatever, as per usual. I should probably stop tracking this fairly useless stat. One point to emphasize how unusual this edition of Michigan hockey is: they're 36th(!) nationally in penalty minutes after years of hanging out in the top ten, punching people.
As far as results when on special teams, Michigan maintains its persistent mediocrity (33rd) and BGSU is no better at scoring with an extra guy than they are at even strength (56th). Both teams are meh at killing penalties (25th and 29th).
Michigan Vs Those Guys
Be vaguely interested. Score three and this Bowling Green team is done. Michigan should dominate this game, but you could say that about a dozen games this season that they didn't, including the second game against the Falcons way back in October. You'd think they'd be on for the playoffs, last place opponent or no.
Clear rebounds. BGSU isn't going to have a ton of grade A chances. They'll throw pucks at the net and hope to get bounces. They might. Shawn Hunwick's so small he can't kick pucks out to the corner regularly, resulting in a wide array of pucks in that sit in the slot to terrify/tantalize. Last year's playoff run featured Michigan zooming into their own slot to bat these away; if they're going to replicate their performance that's going to be a bellwether.
Don't lose. Very very bad things happen if they do.
The Big Picture
Michigan has locked up a tourney spot with their strong finish and is playing for seeding. If they somehow manage to lose this series their RPI will implode, falling into the 10-12 range, and they'll be facing an uphill trudge as a three seed. Losing one will probably be enough to chuck Michigan out of the last one-seed, at least temporarily. Paradoxically, since BGSU is not a TUC losing to them is actually not as bad as losing to a team that's totally mediocre.
If they can make up the RPI damage at the Joe they could withstand a loss, but I'm pretty sure that's unrealistic given how RPIs can implode even when you're losing to good teams. So… Michigan can't do anything but tread water this weekend. Root against Denver, Denver, and Denver. Also UNO.
Bubblin'. Last night wasn't of huge import on the bubble. Events of note:
- Nebraska and Notre Dame died.
- Providence flirted with disaster before pulling it out against DePaul.
- Texas A&M gacked it up against Texas Tech.
- Oklahoma State did not against Iowa State.
A&M was only vaguely on the bubble before and isn't in trouble; Bracketology 101 has them a ten seed, and Lunardi has them a nine. So don't get your hopes up there. Oklahoma State has also clinched a bid now.
Today, there is one vastly important game—Michigan versus Iowa—that will either render all of the who-wins-who-loses a sideshow or make it life and death. That's at 2:30 on ESPN2.
Then there is a horde of other stuff as all the big conferences swing into action. Your new favorite team in bold:
- Providence takes on Louisville at noon (ESPN). Providence needs a win over UL or they're done.
- Northwestern vs Minnesota, noon (BTN). Northwestern's at-large hopes are very, very faint and a Minnesota loss would stick them behind Michigan permanently.
- Xavier vs St Louis, noon. The A-10 is in serious danger of coughing up an autobid to a team that wouldn't otherwise be in the field, so you're rooting for Dayton and Xavier whenever they play.
- Arizona State vs Arizona, 3PM (FSN). Arizona's resume is almost identical to Michigan's; if they lose they're probably behind M no matter what.
- Texas vs Kansas State, 3PM (ESPN360). Kansas State has vague at-large hopes that must be put to the sword.
- Indiana vs Penn State, 5PM (ESPN2). Penn State's chances for a bid would evaporate if Indiana managed to beat them.
- Utah State vs Fresno State, 5:30 PM. Utah State might have an at-large case if they don't pick up the WAC autobid.
- Duquense vs Rhode Island, 6:30 PM. Rhode Island needs to get to the A-10 final for an at-large, probably.
- NC State vs Maryland, 7PM (ESPN2). Maryland has fringe hopes with a run in the ACC tourney.
- Virginia vs Boston College, 9PM (ESPN360). BC would put itself in danger with a loss to the awful Cavs.
Miami and Virginia Tech square off, too, but the outcome of that game doesn't matter, you just want whoever wins to lose to UNC in the next round. San Diego State and UNLV also play; I can't figure out which one is preferable. There are a variety of other games like Memphis-Tulane and Utah-TCU where you want tourney locks to win.
As to Iowa. Michigan, of course, blew a four-point last-minute lead thanks to a couple of questionable calls. In overtime Manny Harris sat and Iowa was unconscious and that was that. And they were missing their point guard. And most of their big post guy.
Since then Iowa hung in but lost to MSU, lost to Northwestern, came up two points short of killing Ohio State's tourney bid and mortally wounded Penn State's with a 75-67 victory in double overtime. They finished the conference season 5-13 with three of those wins in overtime. This is not a good opponent we're going up against, but that didn't help much last time.
This time around Michigan has one big advantage: it's on a neutral court. Cyrus Tate, who missed both of Michigan's games against Iowa this year*, is back; starting point guard Jeff Petersen "might get some floor time" but is doubtful. With the way Jake Kelly has been playing of late Petersen's absence doesn't seem that important.
*(Tate did play a few minutes at the end of the game in Iowa City.)
I doubt this is applicable generally since newspapers generally do some investigative journalism in the news department as opposed to the virtually none that happens in sports*, but, man, are web-based properties murdering, burying, and putting up "do not disturb" signs when it comes to the in-depth stuff. Yahoo's latest is a fantastic story on the intersection of agents, AAU coaches, and Kevin Love that has a ton of interesting quotes from both sides of the aisle—former Duke PG and spectacular motorcycle crash victim Jay Williams features, as does love—none of which top this blunt assessment from Love:
“If I was going with an agent,” said Kevin Love, “why would I ever go with a guy who, no offense, but he crashed a motorcycle into a tree. I’m not going to go with a guy that’s reckless.”
Oh, snap. The rest of the article his highly recommended, with Love and Williams calling out Love's AAU coach and the cool quarter-million he banked for his "nonprofit" by setting up a meeting.
*(Except, of course, for the Ann Arbor News and their academics investigation. Of all the programs to get raked over the coals by their local paper, eh? Not, like, you know, Memphis or USC. Michigan. I would freakin' love for every program in the country to have their books gone over so minutely.)
BGSU goodbye? BGSU is facing a massive university-wide budget shortfall of between 6 to 10 million dollars, about $750,000 of which is the athletic department's fault. As a result, BGSU hockey has an uncertain future. The school president already killed Kent State's program at her last job and hockey is an expensive thing to run.
But the hockey team is BGSU's most prominent sport, and the only one in which they can claim a national title. Killing it because it's marginally more expensive would be a shame even if it was responsible for spawning Ron Mason's boring death hockey. It would also eliminate the easiest road trip in the CCHA for Michigan fans, and losing a school with a national title would be terribly embarrassing for the sport in general. About the only entity that might be happy with BGSU's demise is Alabama-Huntsville.