in town for free camps
1/13/2011 – Michigan 4, Ohio State 0 – 13-8-4, 7-6-4 CCHA Gongshow
1/15/2011 – Michigan 4, Ohio State 1 – 14-8-4, 8-6-4 CCHA Gongshow*
[sitebulletin: I'm going to be in a car driving for most of the day, unfortunately. I thought I would be able to avoid doing this during the posting day but it turns out I have to get back to town earlier than I thought I would. Apologies. Basketball game column can be ably summarized by searching for "temper tantrum" on youtube.]
*[This is not an endorsement of the CCHA's advertiser. But seriously folks, "CCHA Gongshow" is impossible to pass up now that I know they did it to themselves a year after they unsuccessfully attempted to keep their conference from imploding. We have a new leader in the Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment-memorial most craven naming-rights sellout competition.]
head up. you are feeling totally copacetic, man
I'm not saying that Jon Merrill's suspension was a deviously ingenious experiment designed to turn a large group of people into connoisseurs of the little nuances of defensive play. The only reason I'm not is because I can't think of a motive.
Because even if that connoisseurship is a side effect, it is real. In the second period yesterday, Merrill made a clearing attempt, got it blocked, got bashed by a forechecker, and then whipped a hard pass to Alex Guptill's tape in a situation where 90% of college defensemen start breathing into a paper bag or bawling for their mom. Billy Jaffe, one of the the uncommonly useful color guys for Sunday's game, exclaimed "that's the move!" afterwards, and I was like "YES THAT IS THE MOVE." Later they put up a replay of a pass that never got out of the defensive zone.
The thing that Merrill gives Michigan is breathing room. Sure, he's piling up assists at a PPG pace and whipped a breathtaking breakaway pass to Phil Di Giuseppe on Sunday. These are nice things. They are intermittent, though. What's constant is how a game feels when Merrill's on the ice: calm, spacious, steady. Smooth like Billy Dee Williams with his Colt .45.
Jon Merrill is the Billy Dee Williams of hockey. Forecheck hard and Merrill will take the hit with his head up and make the move. Back off and Merrill is capable of going tape to tape in small windows over long distances. Instantly Michigan switches from reacting to a forecheck to forcing the opponent to react to it.
I'm not an expert on hockey. I came to the game when I was ten and haven't put in the UFRing required to get me to the extremely-informed-amateur level I am with football. In hockey, that feel is all I've got. It's done a 180 since Michigan picked itself up after the Alaska series thanks first to the emergence of the Guptill-Wohlberg-Brown line as a true #1 scoring unit and now Merrill's return turning the second (first?) pairing from a third unit trying to cope into a major strength.
On Sunday, Michigan felt elite for the first time this season. They outshot a 14-4-3 team significantly, dominated time on attack, and hardly gave up an even strength scoring chance, let alone a goal. Moffatt and Treais flashed dirty dangles and walked in on Cal Heeter. Heeter got chased halfway through the game.
It was a throwback to times when Michigan won hockey games without requiring nuanced views as to why this might have happened. (See: last year.) They won because they bruised every inch of two different goalies and, with limited exceptions, spent the whole game in the offensive end doing fun things.
This isn't all Merrill—half of Michigan's 6-0-2 run has come with Merrill observing or playing at the WJC—but with him around it seems more plausible that Michigan's recent run is a sustainable one. The GLI was a near thing. Michigan was dominated by BC but snuck a late goal against the run of play, then played dead in the third; they scraped the MSU game in overtime thanks to a goal with under a minute left.
That felt like finding a shiny penny on the street. This weekend Michigan gave up zero even-strength goals en route to sweeping the #2 team in the country. With Merrill around it's possible they've invested in a mint.
Calm, Easy Breathing Bullets
About that #1 line. Yowza. I can't recall a big guy who's come in with a mid-round NHL draft pedigree who's performed at the level Guptill has. Max Pacioretty was a first-rounder, Aaron Palushaj a second-rounder, and both of those guys were only sort of big. Other mid-round power forward types seem drafted on the principle that they won't shrink even if they don't display any NHL level skills.
Not so Guptill. His goal in the first period Sunday was a pure snipe into the upper right corner of the net from a somewhat awkward angle, and his ability to dump and chase into the corner is actually effective because he's got the speed and board play to set up possession in the opponent's zone. Then the rest of the line cycles.
Meanwhile, Brown has suddenly leapt forward to consistent productivity after a couple years of flashes but not much else. This does not appear to be the line carrying him—remember that he spent big chunks of his first two years with Caporusso or Hagelin as his center. He's making nice passes and the availability of pucks in the area where his size matters gives him the opportunity to sweep in (admittedly soft) goals like he opened the scoring with last year.
Wohlberg remains Wohlberg: good shooter, fast guy, decent stickhandler. His goal Sunday was soft but showed off his assets pretty well. As a whole they seem to have an identity they lacked apart. They drive the net, dump unless it's obvious they shouldn't dump, cycle, and score.
Power play. It technically didn't score since Michigan's second on Friday was deposited a couple seconds after the penalty expired, but the spirit of the law declares it did. They have looked intermittently better since the holiday break gave them an opportunity to rejigger what they were doing. They were good against State in the GLI final, pretty awful against LSSU, and back to threatening against OSU.
Over the weekend they were moving the puck and getting shots on net that were not getting blocked above the faceoff circles. I'll take it. Eventually they'll get some puck luck.
Sinelli. Through the mist of hazy Sparks complaints I can see why Sinelli has taken a regular shift over not only Sparks but Rohrkemper, as he's a decently speedy guy who makes effort plays on the regular.
CCHA Gongshow. The league remains an incredibly tight sack of cats. By points Michigan surged into third with its weekend sweep; on winning percentage they are still fifth behind OSU, WMU, ND, and FSU. Notre Dame is third in winning percentage and sixth on points because they have two games in hand on everyone in front of them.
The 9th place team, Northern, is one game below .500 in conference and would easily make the tournament if the season ended today. It is a weird year.
BONUS: Michigan's goal differential is now the best in the league at +14. They've scored five more goals than their nearest competitor, OSU, and not even the relentlessly excellent defense of… wait for it… Western Michigan can get them past M. They're +13. Yes, I just said excellent defense and Western Michigan in the same sentence. No, I don't know why they held on to Jim Culhane for a decade. FWIW, OSU would still be tops in the league if they hadn't given up two empty-netters on Friday.
Pairwise. This is faintly ridiculous: after we spent most of the first half kissing our tourney streak goodbye, Michigan is now on the cusp of a one seed. They rank 5th. I can't give you the nitty gritty details because my favorite Pairwise site hasn't updated for yesterday's game yet. CHN's has and has Michigan fifth. This is not a fluke based on TUC or COP records that are liable to change with the win: Michigan's RPI is also fifth.
It's also not something liable to persist unless Michigan keeps winning. Michigan's flown up from out of the tourney to nearly a one seed in three weekends. They can drop back down just as fast.
There are still seven-ish CCHA teams in the tourney with MSU, Miami, and Denver tying for 15th. More realistically it would be six.
Have fun storming the castle. This looks less daunting what with the winning and all, but yeesh the final five weekends:
- @ Notre Dame
- @ MSU, MSU @ JLA
- @ BGSU
BGSU is not good; everyone else will be fighting tooth and nail for tourney positioning or a bid, period. ND is the toughest team statistically, FWIW. They have a +5 GD in conference; MSU is +4, Miami +1, and NMU –2. Sack of cats, I tell you.
Anything I can do you can do dumber. It's hard to see in this shot but lord, OSU's jerseys were goofy:
The zillion oversized Buckeye leaves were reminiscent of Ghost of Bo's legendary parody(?) football unis. Clean, simple lines are preferable. Even Michigan's jerseys could use a little cleaning up. OSU's were reminiscent of…
…yeah, you know it.
Official site recap has pictures and whatnot. Michigan Hockey Net describes the game as a "clinic." A few AP photos. Daily article quotes Wohlberg sounding somewhat badly translated from the Japanese:
“You saw after they scored their first goal, it was a big uprising for them. Then when we go out and we score two real quick, it’s a big push for us, and I think it emptied their spirits.”
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.
1/29/2010 – Michigan 2-ish, Michigan State 3-ish – 14-12-1, 9-9-1-0 CCHA
1/30/2010 – Michigan 5, Michigan State 4 – 15-12-1, 10-9-1-0 CCHA
I feel kind of bad that when you google former CCHA referee Kevin Langseth's name the first three hits are:
- A post on this blog titled "People Better At Their Jobs Than Kevin Langseth" featuring Stephen A. Smith, Carrot Top, the FEMA director during Hurricane Katrina, William Henry Harrison and, most lethally, Nickelback.
- A duplicate of that post with some useless html doohickeys on the end.
- A duplicate of that post from the Notre Dame message board that reposts my RSS feed in full.
Thanks to me, Langseth is in need of some serious online brand management. Then I go back and click the link to the Yost Built post which I let stand as explanation and the red mist descends and all I remembered is mustachioed walrus incompetence and I shake my head. That post came in the aftermath of a game against Ohio State in which 1) an OSU player kicked a goal in* and 2) a goal that banked in off Louie Caporusso's chest was inexplicably disallowed by Langseth despite the fact that there was a senior official in an excellent spot to make a call. Michigan lost by a goal. It was the second important game that year—a game against Notre Dame was the first— in which Michigan had lost by a goal in a game where two blatantly incorrect decisions to allow or disallow goals had gone against them.
Langseth hasn't been seen around Yost this fall; I assume he decided having rabid bloggers seriously damage his online brand wasn't worth it and is now in the nascent stages of a lucrative career selling mustache grooming accessories. The senior official in an excellent spot was Matt Shegos.
So now Michigan has a man-advantage with just over two minutes to go and a chance to pull off a huge comeback on the road. Just after the penalty expired, Chris Brown was standing in the slot. The puck hit him and bounced down, through the legs of Drew Palmisano, and into the net. Like, straight through the legs of Palmisano. We're not talking pinballing. We're not talking the puck died between his legs but was still loose and someone jammed it in. It hit Chris Brown, bounced down, went right through Palmisano into the net.
Shegos somehow missed this and blew the play dead within milliseconds of the puck going underneath Palmisano. The whistle may not have gone until the puck was in the net (I'm not sure), but thanks to the most retarded rule in sports--the play is dead when it's dead in the referee's mind, not when he blows the whistle--you can't review it.
Son of a.
What's the story of the weekend when Michigan claws back from 3-0 down to tie and manages to blow its own 3-0 lead only to charge back with a season-rescuing win at Joe Louis? "Hey, maybe we can do this thing." What's the story now? Yost Built, let your graphic stylings roam free!
That's inescapable. Michigan split the weekend and ended up dropping a slot in the pairwise. If we're looking at RPI, as we usually do this far out, the #14 team has a 0.5385. Here's what they have to do to approach that:
Win seven and a half of nine.
I don't even know what to say. Shegos is clearly the best ref in the league. He still made a huge, game changing error that was so far beyond plausible that I'd rather have the rotating cast of drafted linesmen and guys I've never seen before—the pool Langseth was taken from—in charge.
*(Since this rule changes every two months and is different in every league across the continent, let me clarify how egregious this was: at this moment in history the NCAA rule on kicking the puck in was "anything that touches an offensive player's skate and goes into the net as a result is disallowed." Intent, kicking motions, all that stuff: irrelevant. Skate –> net –> disallowed.)
Holy God was Michigan bad on Friday. Even getting in a position to tie that game was a minor miracle after two and a half periods had yielded maybe three or four scoring chances and probably double or triple that number for Michigan State. It was the reverse of the Ferris weekend, where Michigan played an excellent game Friday and a totally gross one Saturday. The Saturday Ferris and Friday State games were identical down to the final-ish score and the late, ultimately unsuccessful (-ish) Michigan comeback.
Hogan's save percentage speaks for itself. I've been arguing with people about how much culpability Bryan Hogan has for Michigan's crappy record all year, and I think the soft shortie against Ferris and the fat rebounds he kicked out all weekend against State are evidence enough that the reason Hogan has a .902 save percentage—54th nationally of 77 qualifying goalies—is mostly that he's not playing well.
The other idea was that Michigan gives up a small quantity of high quality shots. That may have some truth to it, but every study that serious hockey bloggers have undertaken suggests that relative save percentage is a seriously meaningful way to compare goalies, and Hogan is not doing well in that.
Persons of note. I don't think Chris Brown's at the point where he could pull a Pacioretty and leave just as he turned into a ninja, but I am a little concerned the NHL will look at his corner-friendly frame and willingness to take a beating in front of the net and scoop him up before his time. Except—hey—he's a Coyotes draft pick. The 'Yotes are either cheap or patient or wise or all three and have left their last three Michigan draft picks in school for all four years. That might not be a huge surprise with Kevin Porter or Chad Kolarik, both mid-round picks, but Chris Summers was a first-rounder. First round picks who play four years at Michigan are rare indeed.
Anyway, the reason to fret is that Brown's been the most effective freshman forward on the team in a way unfamiliar to Michigan fans: by being huge and ornery. The last Wolverine to score so many dirty crease goals was Brandon Kaleniecki. Kaleniecki was a highly effective player over the course of his career at Michigan despite not having the talent Brown does—Kal was never drafted and never made it out of the ECHL post-college—and a huge version of him seems like a nice player to have around for four years. He's already displayed more scoring touch than Eric Nystrom ever did, if only because he'll put his nose in wherever it needs to go and is handy with a deflection.
Summers, meanwhile, finally put his speed to good use on a rush that got AJ Treais an easy tip-in goal. I don't think he's lived up to expectations as a senior captain—he's been good, but seems far short of the All-American level you'd expect a senior first-round pick would reach.
Weekly Oh My God, Are We Going To Miss The Tourney update was actually covered above in the midst of near-weekly If I Was As Bad As My Job As CCHA Referees Are I Would Be Drew Sharp rant: Michigan's split with Michigan State did zero for them. They are basically where they were before the Ferris State series with four fewer opportunities to drag themselves out of the muck.
This week: must sweep BGSU in the weird split series and a win over Wisconsin would be a huge help.
Sitebulletin. By "back" I meant loosely back, obviously. I am still not back in Ann Arbor and the resulting social obligations make the writing a difficult thing to carve out time for. I will be in a car for a big chunk of prime posting time tomorrow so Thursday will be the first day I'll have an opportunity to have a normal obsessive day.
In the meantime…
GLI tonight! And it's not on TV! The steady erosion of college hockey's profile in the metro Detroit area continued unabated. The only GLI game that will be on TV this year is the final. So you might as well go if you're in the area. Yost Built has ten things about RPI, Michigan's opening opponent. The Engineers—woot—are a .500 ECAC team that has a couple nice wins but has also lost six of its last eight. Michigan should be (slightly) favored.
Something unprecedented is going down today, by the way: Michigan is actually getting helped out by the World Junior Championships. For the first time since I've followed college hockey Michigan has its entire roster and plays a team that is missing someone, as RPI freshman Jerry D'Amigo is on the USA team. Pounding Michigan forward Chris Brown is not, and he seems peeved.
Michigan Tech has resumed being utterly terrible (3-14) after a few decent years, so State is the likely opponent should Michigan make the final. The News also has a preview.
It could happen. Seriously. Because you are an American in good standing who did not go to USC, you want to see the Trojans get the wrong end of the NCAA's jabbin' stick for the litany of transgressions ranging from Reggie Bush to OJ Mayo to Joe McKnight. The NCAA already folded its Mayo investigation into the Bush one and may have just caught a major break in that case:
A state appellate court affirmed Monday that an ongoing lawsuit against Reggie Bush (pictured above) does not have to go to confidential arbitration, opening the way for attorneys to question Bush and USC Coach Pete Carroll about whether the running back received improper benefits while playing for the Trojans.
Michigan got hammered on the Ed Martin stuff when the feds got involved because of Martin's gambling stuff; here Reggie Bush will be deposed about something he probably doesn't care much about. (Carroll will probably play dumb no matter the consequences.) May Bush become a Webber-level pariah to the six USC fans that still care about the Trojans when they go .500 after the NCAA finds a lack of institutional control.
Yes, yes, I know I shouldn't get your hopes up. Or mine.
New name. With Ben Cronin looking increasingly like a very large and slow butler to a creepy family and two center-type people graduating this year, Michigan find itself in serious need of an actual post player going forward. Blake McLimans and Evan Smotrcyz are true Beilein fours, 6'9"-6'10" wing forwards who are 1-3-1 nightmares and can play post defense on a power forward in a crunch. They are not centers. That leaves freshman Jordan Morgan, who's redshirting, as the only reasonable option next year if Cronin's questionable health does not improve.
So… yeah, Michigan can give two more scholarships in 2010 if they want and with Casey Prather off the board and Trey Zeigler getting attention from schools like Duke it might be time to look at some new folk. One of them is Jon Horford, the younger brother of current Atlanta Hawk Al Horford. The elder Horford was briefly a Tommy Amaker commit before heading to Florida and becoming the third pick in the NBA draft. The internets were (and are still) rife with payoff rumors in the aftermath of that recruitment, but the younger Horford is a much less highly sought recruit.
He's been having an excellent senior year, though, and UMHoops says that he's maintaining a leader similar to the one his brother had earlier:
Regarding his recruitment, it appears that Jon still has one school on top ($): Michigan. Michigan seems ready to take a big man (Horford) as well as Zeigler in the class of 2010 if they both want to come. Looking at the roster composition right now, it’s hard to fault a decision like this.
Michigan may also pick up Jordan Dumars after he transfers from South Florida; presumably this would be as a walk-on since the elder Dumars may have a couple of nickels to rub together. Michigan isn't in a position to offer a scholarship to a kid like Dumars, who was a two-star recruit who barely cracked 10 PPG as a senior in high school.
Donation machine. Braylon Edwards may never shed the dropsies he had at Michigan but he does shed money in fantastic and productive ways:
The Wolverines' former star wide receiver and '04 team MVP is three years into a five-year funding plan that amounts to $500,000 in endowed scholarships at his alma mater -- $80,000 annually for the football program and a pair of $10,000 academic scholarships for bright and needy students from inner-city Detroit.
That article is all about athletic endowments and wanders away from Michigan after discussing Edwards's donation and the 130 athletic scholarships that are covered by the endowment. Only three other football players have provided enough in the way of donations to cover a scholarship: James Hall, Curtis Greer, and Jim Mandich. That list seems short. Surely Tom Brady can afford the scratch now, right?
Now the only thing is getting someone to wear the #1 so Edwards's scholarship can be tangibly used. Roy Roundtree?
Etc.: TSN asked the blog folks to post about their defining moments of the decade. Mine, unfortunately, is The Horror. I did make a totally awesome comparison to Lord of the Rings, though. Andy Staples digs deeper into the Trail photos for another excellent article. Dave Kindred writes unreasonably nice things about me. The WLA hates faulty recruiting math just as much as I do.
Michigan lacks that one pure dirty scorer. There's no Cammalleri or Comrie or Hensick on this team, nor is there a senior duo like Kolarik and Porter. The best player on the team is probably Carl Hagelin, a guy who dumps in his share of goals but gets them via dint of hard work and speed more than stickhandling through a phone booth and roofing it in close. Caporusso (right) is probably going to end up being the top scorer, and while he's talented he seems a step down from the Hobey types mentioned above. His main skills are getting himself open in dangerous positions and a deadly accurate close-range wrister that allows him to take advantage of the opportunities he gets from there.
The best guys in terms of stickhandling might actually be a pair of defensemen. According to the Daily, Berenson would like to get his freewheeling defense corps more involved in the offense this year. Yost saw signs of that last weekend,with both Langlais and Burlon putting on the pirate hats and sallying forth into the offensive zone. Langlais's ability to zip through traffic and set up the power play was reminiscent of the last guy to wear #7—Hensick—at certain points, and he was clearly looking to yo-ho-ho into the offensive zone when the opportunity presented itself. I've probably made this comparison before, but Langlais is a near clone of Eric Werner, another undersized swashbuckling defenseman who thrilled Yost with his offensive abilities.
Burlon, meanwhile, isn't quite as flashy but is ultra-composed on the puck and has an excellent shot. With those two in the lineup, Michigan will probably deploy two defenders on the top power play unit for the first time in a very long while. BONUS: the offensive dropoff from those two to Kampfer and Summers isn't particularly steep, either. What Michigan lacks in pure death scoring from the forwards they can probably make up for with defensive contributions.
Freshmen. Bullets on the new kids:
- Everyone's been calling AJ Treais a less dynamic version of TJ Hensick and that was borne out. In Hensick's debut as a Michigan player he zipped all over the ice and lit a pair of exhibition opponents up for something like five points; Treais didn't quite get that and he wasn't as dynamic but displayed hints of that kind of ability. He'll probably be stuck on the third line this year, but second power-play unit time awaits and he could hit 20 points.
- Chris Brown is a big, physical dude who needs polish. He tried the old trick where you get position on the defender and then ride in front of him across the net for a scoring chance, but instead of going across the net he went directly into the back of it. He was a second-round pick, but that's way less exciting for the college team in question when you're 6'2"; NHL guys go for size over immediate impact with regularity. Brown was good about putting the body on folks and had some flashes of offensive competence; tough to tell this early but a Ryznar or a Nystrom might be a good comparable.
- Kevin Lynch didn't do much I observed. Judgement withheld.
- I didn't notice Lee Moffie much, either, except for a few instances where he showed good poise with the puck. Another Kampfer? He's a bit bigger. He'll probably see a fair amount of healthy scratches this year, as he's the seventh defenseman.
- The two walk-ons, Jeff Rohkemper and Lindsay Sparks, didn't do a whole lot. I liked Sparks better, he seems quick and eminently capable of being an annoyance on the forecheck. He had some pop in junior, too.
Lines? The official hockey twitter threw out the following lines for Sunday's game against Windsor:
- Wohlberg, Caporusso, Czarnik
- Lebler, Treais, Winnett
- Hagelin, Lynch, Brown
- Rohrkemper, Ciraulo, Vaughan
During the season, Rust will draw into the lineup somewhere, bumping someone on the top three lines onto the fourth. Before the weekend I would have assumed this was a lock to be Lebler, but Lebler looked surprisingly good for a guy who's mostly been an end-of-roster grinder thus far.
The fourth line will be whoever the top-nine refugee is plus a blender of Glendening, Ciraulo, Vaughn, Sparks, and Rohrkemper. I'm betting on Glendening to play most of the games and everyone else to rotate, drawing in when injuries and whatnot happen.
That is a lot of depth. The nominal second line here is really the third line; a top line like that above backed up with something like Hagelin/Rust/Brown and a third line of Winnett/Lynch/Treais is a lot of scoring depth, and that's not even considering the defense, which was scratching an NHL draft pick last year and is currently Summers-Kampfer-Langlais-Burlon-Llewellyn-Pateryn. I am confident in all of those guys, though I'm not a big fan of Llewellyn's tendency towards unnecessary roughing penalties, and then you've got a scholarship kid on the bench. In all places except goal, this is the deepest Michigan team in a while.
The Blues Brothers. Okay. Okay: seriously. Okay. Remember that one guy who was really, really into Kid A in college and whenever you'd go over to his room, Kid A would be on and at first it was cool and then eventually you just dreaded it because God who wants to listen to Kid A again? I, sadly, am at that point with "Can't Turn You Loose." Ever since Jack Johnson left and Superfan sold out and there was no alpha dancing dog, the second period dancing thing has been a chaotic mess**. Then at the end of the season two years ago the entire student section started dancing, which would have made for a really cool end-of-year tradition. Instead, it happens every second period and then the students demand more and the band is playing "Can't Turn You Loose" for like ten minutes straight.
Sure, everybody loves Kid A*. But sometimes it's a little too much, proto-emo kid. You make me want to go hang out with that guy who's always watching The Breakfast Club and mouthing the lines.
*(Except me. Never got the whole Radiohead thing.)
**(In the long long ago, there was just one guy who danced. Usually it was Superfan. When Superfan was not there it fell to either 1) guy in a ridiculous costume or 2) most humorously fat guy in the section. Then Jack Johnson came along and his dad did it to the delight of all other than Jack Johnson; after Johnson left about eight different people tried to take the mantle, one of whom was just a complete failure and would not listen to reason, thus causing the long descent into Unapproved Behavior. The unwritten law, now discarded, of Can't Turn You Loose is this order:
- Jack Johnson Sr
- Frankenberry costume or penguin costume guy.
- Other humorously attired student.
- Guys dressed up like Blues Brothers
- Biggest, most ungainly guy in the section is drafted.
At no point should anyone who has ever worked for WOLV dance. YES I TAKE THIS VERY SERIOUSLY.)
Other band note. Major plus points for playing Temptation—all of Temptation—and Hawaiian War Chant in the first intermission. The You Can't Have One Without The Other duo is criminally underused across all Michigan sports and should be implemented whenever and wherever possible. Hopefully they continue that all season.
Minor ding: probably shouldn't play the Victors right before the team comes out, because then you're just going to have to play the Victors again.
2011 Recruitin'. High-end forward commit Lucas Lessio's playing at St. Mike's—the program that provided Cogliano, Caporusso, and Burlon to Michigan—in the OPJHL, but saw his OHL rights traded to another team that might have a better shot at him. The Wolverine's Bob Miller points out an interview with Lessio conducted after that trade. He's not headed for the OHL:
"I just love it there; I fell in love with it when I went to watch a game three years ago," said Lessio. "My heart's been set there probably ever since." …
"I try not to see these two seasons as an opportunity to relax knowing where I will be in two years," Lessio informed. "I always try to work hard at everything I do because if you work hard, even in practice, that's how you'll get better. Working hard should be your number one priority and then the rest of the things will fall into place so that's my number one priority when I go out there every game."
Rest of the article is worth a read; apparently Lessio just pulled out a version of this baby:
Miller also suggests that Austin Czarnik, the Michigan State decommit and last year's NTDP U-17 points leader, could be headed to an arena near you in the not particularly near future:
Heard this evening that a certain forward may who recently de-committed from wearing green and white may just wind up wearing maize and blue in the end. Cough...Austin Czarnik...cough. Info was second hand, but from a knowledgeable source.
Czarnik is one of those 5'8" puck wizards Michigan has a rich history of deploying to entertaining effect, and would be a great pickup to go with Lessio in the burgeoning 2011 class.
Coyotes second-rounder Chris Brown came in for some goalie-running praise yesterday, and today there's an Arizona Republic article that expands on the Michigan-Phoenix connection. The most newsworthy item comes towards the end, where the 'Yotes GM and Brown discuss their mutual plan for his development:
Maloney admits he would "stunned" if Brown spends four years at the collegiate level. …
"He needs some time, I hope it's sooner rather than later, but I'm hesitant to say because none of us can predict what's going to happen, but I don't see him - his game, his drive, I think is more suited to pro hockey than college hockey.
"But it's certainly not going to hurt to give him the practice time the next couple of years, and at one of the best programs in the nation, which is good."
So… two and out, in Phoenix's estimation. For his part, Brown says he's planning on four years… "right now." His quote doesn't sound like a guy who will be around in 2012, though:
The ultimate goal is obviously to get to the Phoenix Coyotes and the NHL, play year by year, talk to the coaching staff on both sides and see what happens," he said.
We are warned, not that a second-rounder leaving after two years is a surprise.
Elsewhere, Canadiens draftee Mac Bennett impressed:
The biggest surprise of scrimmage day was Mac Bennett. The 17-year-old high school player looked extremely comfortable on the ice, with poise to match his older peers.
"I'm pretty calm with the puck. I wasn't expecting to be as calm with it as I was here," said Bennett.
Timmins agrees, saying "Mac looks like he's been here for a couple of development camps. He has a lot of poise and ability for his young age."
I'm still a little jittery about Bennett and the CHL—not because I have any information or anything, just general paranoia. Feeding the paranoia is this article, which I missed when it came out right after the NHL draft:
If Charlie Henry has his way, Michigan recruit Mac Bennett will never play in Ann Arbor. … Henry feels that the young defencemen will develop faster if he skips college and plays for the Gatineau Olympiques of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
"He has really good offensive skills, but he needs to improve on defence and he can do it with us," said Henry, who is general manager of the Olympiques.
Trevor Timmins, the Canadiens' director of player personnel, said he wouldn't presume to tell a player where he should go, but he did concede that the talent level in the Quebec league is higher.
At least it's the Q, which is something of a shambles relative to the OHL and doesn't have nearly the level of success at recruiting Americans away from collegiate commitments that a few OHL teams do. But if anyone's going to get behind the highly questionable idea that the overall difficulty of playing in the Q is equivalent to college hockey—where the vast bulk of the players are also undrafted but happen to be three or four years older—it's the Canadiens. I'll breathe easier once Bennett is safely in Cedar Rapids.
(HT: Yost Built.)