I did not make this headline up
Friday, March 6, 2015
Penn State 6 Michigan 4
PSU 1 UM 0 EV 03:13 Scheid from Richard and Conway
Penn State chips the puck in and chases. Zach Werenski loses a battle along the boards behind the net, leaving Scheid with the puck. As he takes off up the boards Kevin Lohan skates behind the net to cover.
Dylan Richard starts skating to the net while Scheid turns behind him. It isn’t quite a pick, but it (apparently) is enough of a diversion to wreak havoc.
Lohan makes an intelligent coverage switch to cover Richard. Scheid shoots, however, and beats Racine five-hole. This kind of goal (read: soft) is the reason no one has been able to win the starting role. It’s the goaltender problem in microcosm.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest]
3/6/2015 – Michigan 4, Penn State 6 – 19-12, 11-6 Big Ten
3/7/2015 – Michigan 3, Penn State 4 – 19-13, 11-7 Big Ten
twilight (not that twilight) [Patrick Barron]
A few years back I wrote something about a pivotal series against Miami that felt both correct and histrionic simultaneously. Michigan was swept 4-2 and 3-0, dumb penalties piled up like Lions mistakes with the Suh contract, and it felt like there was something gone from the program:
So this is definitely an overreaction: that kind of felt like the beginning of the end of the Red Berenson era. I know what the instant reaction to that thought is because I had it too, but after I recoiled at the thing it sat there leering and never scoring any goals it appeared to mean. It's still there. It's horned and pitchforked. It's eating all my cheese dip. I hate it. It knows this, does not care, and refuses to leave.
Michigan proceeded to advance to the national championship game, so I may have pulled the trigger slightly early. But that feeling turned out to be correct, give or take a year. The next year one-seed Michigan was unceremoniously bounced from the tourney by Cornell in the first round; they have not been back since.
Their absence has grown more dispiriting and infuriating as it's lengthened. When Michigan started their slippery slope, they finished seventh in the CCHA only to storm through the tourney, beating #1 Miami on the way, before falling to those same Redhawks when every Michigan fan's "rule most likely to lead to homicide"—a goal waved off because the referee can't see the puck—came to fruition in overtime.
A couple years later they turned around a dismal season about halfway through, reaching the CCHA finals. There they found a very good Notre Dame team that beat them comprehensively in terms of attack time and chances, with the usual vagaries of hockey holding Michigan in it.
Last year all they had to do was beat Penn State, nascent, fledgling Penn State, in the Big Ten tournament to all but guarantee themselves an at-large berth. They lost in two overtimes to a team that was 8-25-2 on the year, allowing 65 shots—44 in regulation. This year they approached Happy Valley in first place in the league, an at-large bid within their grasp, and they blew it. They were down 3-0 and 4-2 in games they'd lose, and this is now their situation:
Gross weekend. Per http://t.co/9RVMXcI80e, chances of making tourney now 25%, 1% without winning B1G Tournament. Just 45% to get a bye.
— Yost Built (@YostBuilt) March 8, 2015
On the one hand you can't be surprised. Michigan has been playing with fire with sloppy goaltending and guys wandering through the slot unchecked all year. It's tough to get points when you give up five goals per game.
On the other… how the hell did we get here? Michigan had a 22-year (22 year!) tourney streak during which it was mostly impervious to these sorts of wobbles. We should be grateful for that. Minnesota, BC, North Dakota—every one of these programs had a year or three in which they were inexplicably bad. Michigan avoided that for an astoundingly long period of time.
No longer, and there's a pretty easy proximate cause to point to:
|YEAR||M RECORD||M TOURNEY||MEL||TECH RECORD||TECH TOURNEY|
|2015||19-13||must win BTT||Tech||26-8-2||#5 PWR|
Mel Pearson left for Michigan Tech after the 2010-11 season and immediately made them competitive; this year they're damn good. The above chart probably sells it short since it only goes back four years before the change. That middling year from the Huskies is a major outlier amongst even more seasons with 4, 5, 6 wins. Meanwhile, Michigan was rampant.
Even when Michigan beat Tech in the GLI, they were under siege for most of it, getting outshot 41-21. The series in Houghton was simply not competitive. Michigan was at ful strength; goals were 10-3 Tech. The inverse of that used to be the expectation for a Michigan versus Tech series.
Berenson's contract has one more year on it, and when it was signed he said it was almost certainly his last. I can't see any way that's not the case, and if Hackett has the stones to make a change now (I cannot believe I am saying this…) it might be time. In another situation with an unclear candidate pool, the argument for waiting would be stronger. With Pearson available and acting out the best-case scenario for Tech hockey, if you can get it done now that's a move you have to make.
Maybe Michigan wins the Big Ten tourney; maybe they outscore their mistakes for a bit in the tournament. The direction the arrow is pointing is clear enough even in that hypothetical scenario.
|WHAT||Michigan (19-11, 11-5 B10)
PSU (16-12-4, 8-7-1 B10)
|WHERE||Pegula Ice Arena,
State College PA
|WHEN||7 PM Friday
3 PM Saturday
|TV||BTN plus (ie: no)|
[@ right: Bill Rapai]
It says something that Penn State's farm-fresh program has become instantly competitive in the Big Ten. Half of that is Penn State, which is regularly selling out and has an attractive hockey-specific arena to offer.
The other half is the worrisome state of the league.
Things seemed a bit more worrisome three weeks ago, when Penn State was 7-2-1 in the Big Ten and had vague at-large hopes. Since they've been in a tailspin, losing five of their last six.
THE GENTLEMEN OF NOTE
Taylor Holstrom, Casey Bailey, and David Goodwin. Addressed as a group because they are a group. Penn State has a very legit top line. You can see it in the plus-minus: these guys range from +12 to +14; there's a second-ish line that's just above even, and then you get into minuses.
Bailey leads PSU in scoring with a 21-16-37 line. 1) that production has continued in the Big Ten (10-10-20), and 2) a lot of that production is even strength, with just 4 PP goals.
Holstrom is the setup man with a 7-22-33 line.
Goodwin is a highly productive third wheel at 13-16-29.
PSU has another three or four guys who are somewhat productive depending on whether you're looking at the season as a whole or just the Big Ten. Scoring threat drops off relatively swiftly after that.
Michigan would be advised to try to line-match the Copp line against the Penn State gunners, but that'll be more difficult on the road.
All three Penn State goalies have seen significant time this year. Over the last month the competition has narrowed to juniors Matthew Skoff and PJ Musico. Musico has a solid .923 save percentage but has struggled somewhat lately; Skoff is at .905. Despite that disparity, Skoff has seen twice as much time as Musico.
Skoff and Musico both gave up five goals last weekend to Ohio State, so your guess is as good as any. Whoever gets the Friday start will see playing time Saturday contingent on his performance.
THE SPECIAL TEAMS
Penn State's power play is effective at 22%; their penalty kill is weak at 80%. Similar to Michigan except slightly worse in both categories.
THE LAST TIME
PSU and Michigan split a series at Yost back in November. Penn State scraped out a frustrating-for-M 3-2 win in a game they got outshot 40-28. The next night Michigan bombed 'em 8-1 in a game where shots were a lot closer. Hockey is weird.
Michigan has a three point (ie: one game) lead on Minnesota for the Big Ten title, with MSU and PSU lurking around .500 further back. A sweep guarantees Michigan a piece of the title if they get at least a split from the MSU home and home finale; drop points, as Michigan has been wont to do of late, and they'll be relying on Meh Minnesota to help 'em out. (They've done that, splitting their last two series.)
Even more importantly, Michigan is the definition of a bubble team in the pairwise. They have four games left against .500-ish teams, and three are on the road—going 3-1 in this stretch should see them enter the Big Ten Tourney with a good shot at an at-large bid even if they don't get the auto. Anything worse and things start to look dicey.
If Michigan does end up hunting an auto-bid they would very much like to do so from one of the bye spots in the Big Ten tournament. Two games in two days is much easier than three in three.
Penn State's got a decent record but they've got a very bad SOS number so they're definitely on the outside looking in when it comes to an at-large. They are five points back of second place in the league and the second bye, so that's likely their goal.
If Michigan can keep the top line contained with the Copp line and use Hyman and Larkin to strike at the relatively soft underbelly of the Penn State roster… they could still be undone by randos unchecked in the slot and bad goaltending. But this does look like a relatively good matchup for Michigan: a team that's been scuffling that doesn't punish mistakes much save for the guys everyone needs to be alert for.
Here's hoping they can get 1-0-1 or better.
[I hope I get to overuse this screen cap by the time the season ends]
Friday, February 27, 2015
Michigan 3 Wisconsin 0
Michigan 1 Wisconsin 0 PPG 01:35 Hyman (19) from Nieves (17) and Werenski (15)
Boo Nieves sets a screen for Zach Werenski, who is skating toward the blue line. Werenski draws a defender high; Nieves stays stationary. Werenski passes to Nieves before the defender can make a play on the puck, and Nieves takes off for the net unscathed.
Nieves makes a simple pass to Zach Hyman.
Hyman is looking to the opposite faceoff circle, but the puck never gets there. It hits the leg of the netfront defenseman and is deflected into the top corner.
You may remember me from such emoticons as ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
[After THE JUMP: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ redux]
play this man in all kinds of weather [Bryan Fuller]
Autobench bitchin'. 1-3-1 after halftime not a great move. Would still give Beilein all my food. In praise of Spike. Center position down the road. Dawkins offer lack confusion part sixteen. Chatman! Life!
Back in it. Margin of error very slim now. Werenski a terror on both ends, no matter who's defending. Goalie business.
GIMMICKY SPRING PRACTICE SECTION
TOP FIVES! Our top five most secure and least secure projected starters. You'll never guess what our least secure spot is. (You have never seen football and are naming positions in cricket.)
"Across 110th Street"
"King of the Road," (spectacularly drunk) REM
"Wabash Cannonball," Townes Van Zandt
"Hercules," Aaron Neville