Hoke was top notch at this aspect of his job.
UM 1 MSU 0 EV 01:43 Downing (5) from Calderone (6) and Nieves (14)
Tony Calderone gets the puck via a stretch pass Boo Nieves makes from along the boards in Michigan’s defensive zone. The pass comes from the same spot Nieves wasn’t able to gain control of the puck last Friday (which subsequently led to a Spartans goal), so it’s nice to see him seal the puck and get it out of the zone this weekend. Calderone skates to the red line before walking it back up the boards in an effort to avoid the MSU defender.
Michigan State’s defenders have collapsed around the net, which is typical of their style. That’s not really a criticism; if you’re going to give up shots from the point and your goaltender is Jake Hildebrand you’re probably going to do alright. Calderone passes to the blur at the top of the screen cap. That blur is Downing, and it’s easy to see how much he’s able to put on the shot from the camera’s inability to focus on him.
It looks to me like the puck goes under the defenseman’s stick and beats Hildebrand on his blocker side in the little green square I’ve drawn on the screen cap. This isn’t a good goal for him to give up; despite having a defenseman in front of him in the screen cap he was able to track the puck and squared himself to the shot. That d-man in his view came in after the pass had been made to Downing and Hildebrand was starting to butterfly.
[After THE JUMP: Darth Vader makes an appearance, and it’s not in discussing MSU or Dave Brandon]
UM 0 MSU 1 EV 03:09 Haag from Cox
Brennan Serville shoots and misses, and the puck hits the boards and caroms around and out of the zone. Joe Louis Arena’s boards are known for being springy, and this is a good example of that as I don’t think the puck would come as far out of the zone in a different rink as it did.
Michigan is set up for an offensive chance, so they’re naturally behind when the puck enters the neutral zone. Michael Downing is back to defend and needs to work toward the middle of the ice to break up the impending 2-on-1.
I was critical of Downing diving on Twitter, but now that I’ve had the benefit of watching the play over and over again in slow motion I have to take that back. His job on a 2-on-1 is to take away the pass so that Nagelvoort can take the shooter, which is what he’s clearly attempting in the screen cap below. His dive fails because Cox delivers a perfect saucer pass over Downing’s stick. I used to try saucer passes in Ea Sports’ NHL series and was never able to execute one as well as this.
Nagelvoort has to adjust in this frame. His job has changed from taking the presumed shooter (Cox) to pushing laterally and covering the actual shooter (Haag).
Haag tries to hit the near-side corner. The puck hits Nagelvoort in the shoulder and is deflected up and into the corner of the net. Michigan’s goalies have terribly unlucky shoulders.
[After THE JUMP: Are teams allowed to go more than 20 minutes without scoring? I investigate]
|WHAT||Michigan (15-7, 7-1 B10)
MSU (9-11-2, 3-3-2 B10)
|WHERE||Joe Louis Arena,
|WHEN||7:30 pm ET, Friday|
|TIX||the box office will have lots|
|TV||Fox Sports Detroit|
I haven't done a hockey preview for a while because I've never had much to say other than "this guy has a lot of points and this guy is drafted," but I guess it's better than nothing.
Michigan State is in their Nth consecutive year of mediocrity or worse, their fourth under former CCHA commissioner and non-hockey-coach Tom Anastos. After an opening year a few games above .500, Anastos's teams have lingered in a territory above terrible but below average; this year they are still that at 9-11-2. They're coming off a sweep of a drastically undermanned Ohio State team, so they've got that going for them.
Anastos teams tend to be defensively responsible and hopelessly dull, and this year is no exception. State is 45th of 59 in scoring and 25th in defense. They stay out of the box, kill penalties well, and struggle on the power play. They have a couple guys with a modicum of skill and a bottom six that tries to grunt their way towards goals. They have a couple of high draft picks on the defensive end and play a conservative system that tries to shut down space in the neutral zone, so at least that hasn't changed.
This is a Ron Mason team without an NHL top line or, you know, Ron Mason.
THE GENTLEMEN OF NOTE
Matt Berry. The diminutive senior is State's most skilled player. He leads the team in points with 16 despite missing several games due to injury earlier this year and is the only MSU player on a PPG. He's in the little puck wizard mode.
Mackenzie MacEachern. MacEachern is a rare breed indeed, drafted in the third round out of Michigan high school hockey. Reminiscent of Justin Abdelkader minus the dumb penalties, MacEachern is the most physically imposing opposition forward.
Villiam Haag. Is named "Villiam Haag." (Try-hard Swede is also active defensively and has established a spot on the top line thanks to two-way play. Think Matt Rust.)
Junior Jake Hildebrand has seen every minute of MSU's season; his .918 save percentage is middling but significantly better than Michigan's platoon.
THE LAST TIME
Michigan won the GLI final 2-1 with Zach Hyman and Andrew Copp scoring; Michigan was actually outshot 29-32. MSU was missing Berry; Michigan was down their four WJC participants (Werenski, Larkin, Compher, Motte). They skated seven defensemen in that game, in fact.
Michigan has played itself into an at-large bid for the tournament and must keep winning to stay there. The Big Ten offers no favors to Michigan's schedule strength.
Michigan State has no hope of an at-large bid. At this point Anastos has to be on the verge of losing his job if anyone in East Lansing still realizes the hockey team exists. It's been four years of mediocrity with no light at the end of the tunnel and a retiring Red Berenson is kicking MSU's ass on the recruiting trail.
It's time for Michigan State to get a real coach and start winning some games—crappy MSU was fun for a while but I'm over it. If Anastos wants to keep his job winning against Michigan is the best way to do it.
THE GUY WHO HASN'T CHANGED
Kampfer-assaulter Andrew Conboy was just dropped by his ECHL team for cross-checking a dude in the teeth. Stop hiring this man, hockey teams.
Hockey predictions are dumb, but whatever: Michigan is still vulnerable to turnovers and WTF defensive play but if this was an even game last time they should have a major advantage now that they've got four of their six best players back in the lineup versus just Berry for MSU. Stay out of the box and get solid goaltending and this train should keep rolling.
Friday, January 23rd, 2015
UW 1 UM 0 PPG 02:48 LaBate from Dougherty and Schulze
Michigan starts in a box on the penalty kill when Andrew Copp comes up high to attack the puck near the point. Wisconsin passes the puck down the boards and then back up to the blue line, and as Copp turns he runs into what is essentially a pick being set by Grant Besse. When Copp came up high someone else (Tyler Motte) should have moved over to cover the opposite side of the ice. He doesn’t, and Michigan ends up having three of their four defenders smushed together.
The pass gets through because of Motte’s error, but he isn’t the only one who makes a mistake here. Kevin Lohan needs to be lower in order to eliminate the backdoor player and step up and tie up the guy in the center of the crease if need be.
Leave the middle of the ice undefended and it’s not surprising what happens next. Zach Werenski hesitates and it looks like he’s trying to take away both the pass and shot, and the result is that he takes away neither. Dougherty passes to LaBate for an easy tap in.
[After THE JUMP: Michigan scores with Enthusiasm Unknown to Mankind]
69 minutes. Nice.
That could have gone worse. The strange split in Derrick Walton's jumping. MAAR/Dawkins flashes, realistic expectations, why rejecting moral victories is for the men in the arena and we can go ahead and accept them.
FIIIIIIREWAGON. Hobey talk, Pairwise talk. Ace expounds at length. Ladies, please don't drive off the road. Can we please decide on how to pronounce JT Compher's last name?
We welcome in Steve Lorenz of Wolverine 247. Steve is very good at talking about recruiting and horrible at marketing himself. Commits! And guys we think are going to commit in the near future!
"Across 110th Street"
"Here Comes The Sun," M. Ward
"Future Husbands Past Lives," White Sea
THE USUAL LINKS
Back in the day I had a brief period as an Edmonton Oilers fan. (Long story short: never had much of a Red Wings connection since I grew up in pre-Avs Colorado and Edmonton had Mike Comrie.) This was at the point where they had one of the most bizarrely popular players in the league, Georges Laraque.
The French-Canadian was more province than man, kept on the team to grind on the fourth line and facepunch people. He had one more skill than that, though. If provided the puck along the boards in the offensive zone, he could keep it there indefinitely.
This had almost no utility. Laraque couldn't do much of anything once he had established possession. He was too slow to threaten to take the puck off the boards himself and not skilled enough to pick out his teammates. Even so it was a thing to see: Laraque fending off increasingly enormous piles of opposition players as the arena got more and more fevered about something that would never, ever lead to a goal. In this it was like his fighting, there to entertain in a way totally orthogonal to the stated goal of hockey.
When Zach Hyman started doing this at the outset of last season, it had a Laraquian feel to it. He was stuck on three points a third of the way through the year and no amount of cheerleading from this space made a difference. At that point Hyman was a guy who had a great season as an overager in junior but had done nothing to suggest he was going to replicate that through 60% of his career at Michigan.
And then he started walking into the slot.
Michigan's weekend was a rote walkover introduced by a penalty-induced hangover. I've been on both sides of games like Friday where the ice tilts towards the losing team and no lead seems safe, and by the time Michigan scored to pull within 1 late in the second period that game felt like a Michigan win.
The way it transpired is quickly becoming familiar. Hyman walked off the wall again, flicking the puck to the far side of a goalie worried about a wrap-around attempt. Then Michigan marauded through the slot for the go-ahead goal and the double-tap to make sure Wisconsin's zombie upset bid was well and truly dead. They'd solved prominent goaltending issues by removing them from the relevant section of the game. An empty-netter felt appropriate as an extra-point exclamation mark.
Saturday's game was over two minutes in when Michigan had scored twice and chased Joel Rumpel to the bench in world-record time. By the time Michigan scored to go up 5-0 early in the second period they were barely celebrating. After two periods shots were 37-9.
Even Wisconsin's frustrated after-the-play Standard Hockey Goonery felt obligatory. It takes a remarkable mental state to shove someone without meaning anything by it, but by the third period Wisconsin was doing it solely by reflex, thinking about what they would watch on Netflix after the game.
Eliminate Tony Calderone's five minute major and this weekend wasn't a hockey series. It was a reason that Michigan should be forced to wear body cams when on duty.
Hyman's surged into serious Hobey Baker contention in a way I don't think I've ever seen a Michigan player do so. Previous dominant Hobey types have mostly been the little puck wizards that felt like Michigan's birthright for most of the 90s and aughts. Brendan Morrison was an NHL-sized version of those guys, Kevin Porter a gentleman who scored buckets of goals without being dominant in any particular facet of the game.
All of these guys reached the point where you look for them to hit the ice because they are generating chances every shift. Most of them did so by having the puck on a string. A guy like Hyman, who is so physically dominant he creates most of his chances off the cycle, is a new thing.
He's a good metaphor for the team as a whole: eventually overwhelming. Michigan shoves line after line at you—they have eight guys on or within a couple points of a PPG, and that doesn't count NHL Draft second-rounders Boo Nieves and JT Compher. Every time they go for a line change someone you don't want to see is coming over the boards.
They do have to get their act together on defense. The goalies' flagging save percentages are not entirely their regression. Michigan's giving up grade A scoring chances with alarming regularity. Not so much this weekend, but Wisconsin is truly, bogglingly bad.
Even so at this point you have to wonder if they can outscore anyone. The 80s called, offering their hockey again. All aboard the firewagon.
Michigan's sweep did count for something, as they moved up about four tenths of a point despite Lowell and Minnesota (teams that give them quality win points) having bad weekends. Wisconsin has a solid SOS (4th in RPI terms) and that helps them remain somewhat relevant. Then the road multiplier kicks in.
That four tenths of a point corresponded to a whopping five-spot move in RPI/PWR because the teams immediately in front of Michigan had horrible weekends, with three getting swept and a fourth taking just one point.
Michigan is now solidly in the tournament but vulnerable to backsliding. They're barely a point above the 16 slot which is guaranteed doom.
Suggestion: keep winning. Michigan has 12 games left in the regular season and probably has to go 8-4, maybe 9-3 to feel secure entering the Big Ten Tournament. Given the way they've been playing and the way the rest of the Big Ten has, that's not too tall an order.
Pile 'em in. Michigan has surged to an enormous lead in scoring offense, a full six tenths of a goal past #2 Robert Morris. Last year's leading offense, BC, was at 4.1 GPG; Michigan is at 4.4. BC got their piles of goals thanks to 80-point Hobey winner Johnny Gadreau.
PPGs. Those eight(!) guys at or a couple points away from a PPG: Hyman, Larkin, Copp, and Motte are past that pace. Kile and Werenski are one and two points short, respectively. And after a five-point weekend featuring a Friday hat trick, Justin Selman is at 5-6-11 in just 11 games.
This goal was rightfully disallowed. Kile got a little bumped here but yeah:
I wasn't expecting that to stand after one replay.
Goalie issues. The BTN announcers made a great deal about Michigan's goalie issues this year, which I thought was pretty simplistic given the sheer number of grade-A chances they'd faced but then both goalies gave up horrendous goals on Friday and now that I'm poking at the numbers… yeah. Nagelvoort is 50th of 80 qualifying goalies on CollegeHockeyStats and Racine is 74th.
These things can turn around quickly—Racine was horrible the first half of his freshman year and put up a .920 the rest of the way—because you need a pile of shots before save percentage becomes statistically meaningful. Michigan's going to have to hope someone steps forward as we approach the stretch run. It's Nagelvoort's turn for a while, it seems.
Selman? Selman's been one of my argh-play-him-more favorites. Sometimes these work out (Hyman), sometimes not so much (Lindsay Sparks), but a five point weekend on the wing of Selman and Larkin probably buys him a few more weekends as the third wheel there. Selman brings a net-driving presence on a line that generates a lot of chaos and rebounds, and he seems like a good fit there.
Already prepping to pump Selman as next year's upperclass breakout forward, which has been an annual tradition (Rohlfs, Scooter) until recently.
Larkin. Hyman is carrying that line and has been all season but Larkin is obviously contributing, and he's contributing on a higher level since the GLI break, where he was one of the best forwards on the WJC team. Larkin reminds me a bit of Max Pacioretty, who wasn't particularly noticeable during the first half of his only year at Michigan but absolutely blew up in the second half. Larkin's adding some flair to his game now that he's comfortable with college and his line.
Sinelli on defense? Michigan listed Andrew Sinelli as a defender this weekend, leading to weird things like a box score featuring "XD" as a position for Nolan De Jong. Michigan rotated through its centers for extra shifts on the fourth line—when those guys are Compher, Copp, and Larkin that's not a bad idea—and played with what they were going to do on the back end.
I liked Sinelli as a defender last year. I actually thought he was a top four guy for them. He's not great shakes as a forward with the puck but for a defenseman he's very capable in that department, and while he's small he was generally in the right spot. That would be a large improvement for Michigan's defensive corps.
I'd keep an eye on that going forward, especially since Michigan is going to plug Lynch back into that fourth line center spot when he gets back. Given the Michigan offense a solid senior like Sinelli might be preferable to a guy who has more upside but offers up more WTF moments.