2/5/2016 – Michigan 2, MSU 3(OT) – 16-4-4, 7-2-2 Big Ten
2/6/2016 – Michigan 4, MSU 1 – 17-4-4, 8-2-2 Big Ten
Hey. I don't really have a column this week that's not the thing I keep saying about this rickety deathwagon of a team. This is that take again. I'm sorry, but both teams crested 40 shots in Friday night's game. There's only one take to have.
Let's drill down from the weekend series to a smaller bit of it wherein the crux of our hope and frustration with this bonkers hockey team is made clear: Michigan came out on Saturday and blew MSU's doors off. They only got one goal but outshot the opposition 20-3. It's hockey, it happens, this is why one-game neutral site single elimination is dumb, etc.
The next period was spent in a rearguard action against one of the worst teams in the country; MSU got off something like 13 of the first 14 shots and finished the period 17-8 to the good. That fairly reflected the play on the ice.
The scoring not so much. Michigan extended its lead when the rampant top line scored a goal worthy of the eventual all-Michigan Hobey finalist trio, because that's how they do. Then Michigan scored a couple more times and like fine okay let's just ignore the bit when they just about fell off the surfboard.
It's tougher to do that when the previous night was an actual loss against the aforementioned very bad team, and not even one where luck had much to do with it. MSU played Michigan dead even for much of the weekend. This is our concern, dude. Michigan's performance did not feel any more like a "throw out the records" rivalry performance any more than Michigan ending up down multiple goals in back-to-back games against Wisconsin did. It's just who they are.
After three years out of the tourney I'll take it, and because it's a weird year in college hockey (Quinnipiac is your #1 overall seed if the season ended today) and the playoff format remains a one-game free-for-all we might as well get back in with a team straight out of the 1980s. It's hard to see anyone stopping Michigan; it's equally hard to see them stopping anyone. At least there will be fireworks along the way.
This weekend amply demonstrated my fears going into the Big Ten schedule: Michigan slid two spots after the Friday loss and went nowhere despite geting the road bump after the Saturday win. MSU is RPI quicksand that only allows you to go down. Michigan is mercifully done with them, at least.
Anyway: Michigan is sixth. They are secure barring a complete collapse (ie, < .500) down the stretch. The remaining schedule is reasonable. There are four games against the league's top half and four against the bottom half with an odd one-off against Ferris thrown in the mix.
It's all but impossible to predict the way things shake out this far away from the end of the season but if Michigan drops 2-3 games they probably stay a 2. The one seed doesn't matter much since Michigan is far away from grabbing #1 or #2* and the (somewhat) easier road through an Atlantic Hockey or weak autobid opponent. Meanwhile as per usual the committee barely has a Midwest regional; it's in Cincinnati this year.
*[The gap between Michigan and Quinnipiac is about as big as the gap between Michigan and the bubble.]
As per usual I can't tell you why Michigan is so bad on defense. The lineup shuffling induced by Cooper Marody coming down with mono didn't help, as it stuck Selman out there as a center when he'd played wing for most of the year. But that's a minor thing that does not explain why Michigan likes only one thing as much as scoring, and that's leaving guys wide open in the slot.
Is what it is ever since Mel left.
The second line. The second line is Warren-Marody-Calderone, at least when Marody is healthy. That's why Dancs went to the Nieves line and Selman filled in for Marody. Michigan did miss Marody quite a bit, I think.
Downing playing better. Yes, he did dive to take away a passing lane and ended up disrupting Racine on one of MSU's goals over the weekend. Yes, there was a 2-on-0 on which he shot. Even so he was much more settled than he has been recently. When he's not taking five-minute penalties or offering up free odd-man rushes with low upside decisions you can see why he was a hyped draft prospect. He's big and smooth with the puck.
I'm not expecting him to suddenly be Mark Mitera; some level of error is a guarantee with him. It is nice to see him go most of a game without doing something that causes me to write and delete tweets.
Ferreal, all Michigan Hobey finalist list. The top ten in PPG:
Points Per Game: GP G- A- P P/GM 1 Kyle Connor (WPG) Michigan 25 20-24-44 1.76 2 Jimmy Vesey (NSH) Harvard 22 18-17-35 1.59 3 Andrew Poturalski New Hampshire 28 21-23-44 1.57 4 Max French Bentley 25 18-21-39 1.56 Tyler Motte (CHI) Michigan 25 25-14-39 1.56 6 JT Compher (COL) Michigan 25 10-28-38 1.52 7 Tyler Kelleher New Hampshire 28 7-33-40 1.43 Zac Lynch Robert Morris 28 20-20-40 1.43 9 Colin White (OTT) Boston College 25 16-19-35 1.40 Jake Guentzel (PIT) Omaha 25 12-23-35 1.40
That is and continues to be absolutely bonkers. Michigan has never done that, even when they were pairing Hesick and Porter.
Where did Piazza go? He got scratched this weekend despite Marody's absence, and right after his best moment of the season. Best I can figure is Michigan didn't want to double-shift on the fourth line with Marody out of the lineup and he got the axe. If Downing is having a pleasant phase I'm hard pressed to say who should sit amongst the six guys who did play in favor of Piazza; the optics there are still weird.
1 hour 2 minutes
Nebrasketball is defeated, as was Minnesotaketball. The vagaries of shooting. Zak Irvin, all-around player. Derrick Walton, strange player. Andrew Donnal, serviceable. We play with forces we do not understand and barely come out unscathed.
ACE'S HOCKEY PODCAST
Starts at 19:38. U18 scouting reports from yours truly. Some schedule talk.
INSIDE THE CROOKED BLUE LINE WITH STEVE LORENZ
Starts at 31:41. This segment got outdated somewhat more quickly than we thought it would with three guys dropping between taping and publishing.
"Across 110th Street"
uh... some other stuff
THE USUAL LINKS
Harbaugh hates recruiting. Check the timestamp.
— Jay Harbaugh (@JayHarbaugh) January 19, 2016
— Jeremy Crabtree (@jeremycrabtree) January 14, 2016
There is nothing that has a winner and a loser that Jim Harbaugh hates.
Funny money. OSU announced a huge Nike contract that was a ton more than Michigan in the same way that NFL contracts have a huge headline number but are actually something less remarkable under the hood. The OSU edge is in apparel awarded, which the Buckeyes padded out for the shiny number. The actual details:
- Both schools have a 15-year deal; Michigan has an opt-out after 11.
- Michigan gets 12 million upfront; OSU gets 20.
- OSU gets 3.44 million for the first 11 years and 4.44 for the last four.
- M gets 4.82 million for the first ten years, 5.32 in 11, and 5.82 for the last four.
- Total dough: Michigan, 88.8 million. Ohio State, 75.6 million.
OSU gets more upfront but inflation isn't sufficient to make up the deficit, especially since Michigan has an opt-out four years earlier. So OSU's "biggest ever contract" actually delivers 13 million fewer dollars than Michigan's. But OSU gets more Nike volleyballs so they've got that going for them.
Thanks, guys. Michigan lands a couple guys on CBS's list of the best players to pass on the NFL draft this year:
Jake Butt, Michigan TE: Butt had a chance to jump up in a weak tight end class in the NFL Draft but chose to return for his senior season instead. Michigan's passing game could see a boost next season with Houston transfer John O'Korn getting a shot at starters reps after sitting out which would mean even better numbers (and more draft film) for Butt heading into 2017.
Jourdan Lewis, Michigan CB: Lewis and King will be the easy picks for preseason All-Big Ten in 2016 and likely be compared through the season as the Thorpe Award narrows its list for next year. Lewis was also an All-Big Ten and All-American pick this year and leads what has suddenly become a stacked secondary in Ann Arbor.
Desmond King and Dan Feeney also make the list, which is bereft of Buckeyes.
That one play to Hill in the BYU game. James Light breaks down the "T-delay" passing concept, which Michigan pulled out for a big first down against BYU and again in the bowl game:
The Patriots run a version of it as well; the idea is to sell yourself as a blocker before releasing. Light also has some defensive resources I'm trying to figure out.
Meanwhile at the Shrine Game. Graham Glasgow is leaping off the page to multiple observers.
C Graham Glasgow (Michigan) was the most impresive OL today for the East Team. Great size, strong at point of attack, gets to 2nd level.
— NFL Draft Blitz (@NFLDraftBlitz) January 19, 2016
Graham Glasgow/Michigan continues his domination. Destroying everything and everyone today.
— Tony Pauline (@TonyPauline) January 19, 2016
Another element to Graham Glasgow's game; not just controlling opponents on line but just made a great block five yards out on the 2nd level
— Tony Pauline (@TonyPauline) January 19, 2016
Meanwhile he was Mike Mayock's main takeaway early:
"He was the guy who really stood out to me," Mayock said. "It's a strong year for centers, but he looks like an NFL starter. Very strong. He could compete at the Senior Bowl."
Seniors Ryan Kelly of Alabama and Nick Martin of Notre Dame are considered the top two centers in this year's draft, followed by another 7-8 with draftable grades. Glasgow now should be firmly in that latter category, and could move up to mid-round status as the draft process continues
Would it be gauche of me to point out that this is another mark in the "UFR is useful and I am not an idiot" column? It would be? Aw, hamburgers.
OSU fallout. Michigan got off rather light:
Suspended: Cutler Martin gets three games and Dexter Dancs gets two games, including Thursday's exhibition, for fight vs. OSU.
— Michael Spath (@Spath_Wolverine) January 19, 2016
With the NTDP game next that means Martin will be back after the Penn State series and Dancs will only miss one game.
1980 seniors. Via Dr. Sap:
Smooth move. USA Hockey left Kyle Connor off the WJC team for… reasons. Chris Dilks notes that those were probably not good reasons:
3. Kyle Connor has played eight games since being snubbed by the US World Junior and has scored 20 points. The rest of the Big Ten might be even madder that he didn't get picked than I am. Connor is now tied for the national lead in goals scored with 18 and tied for second in points with 36. His linemate Tyler Motte is also at 18 goals and tied atop the leaderboard in goal-scoring.
He has various other takes from Michigan-OSU and the rest of college hockey in that post.
Midterm hockey rankings. Midterm ratings from the CSB indicate most of Michigan's incoming hockey class should get drafted:
U-M commits in NHLCentral Scouting's mid-term rankings: Luce (No.54), Lockwood (No.69), Johnson (No.97), Pastujov (No.100), Sanchez (No.135)
— George Sipple (@GeorgeSipple) January 19, 2016
As always, Central Scouting splits North American and European skaters so multiply by 1.5 to get an approximate draft slot. Luce would be a third rounder, Lockwood in the fourth or fifth, and so on.
In addition to those guys Michigan also brings in D Luke Martin, who will not be eligible for the NHL draft until 2017. He is projected as a first round pick, and depending on who you listen to possibly a top ten pick.
One thing to watch: Michigan brings in a whopping eight skaters next year despite having just two seniors (and goalie Steve Racine). While a couple of NHL departures are likely (Werenski is all but foreordained at this point), Michigan is going to have to push some guys back to 2017 or carry a big roster next year. One player (Lukas Samuelsson) has not been announced by Michigan is a walk-on; everyone else is signed to at least some money.
Michigan has a big fish coming in the next year when Michael Pastujov, the younger brother of Nick listed above, arrives. This random NHL mock draft site has him going 4th overall. The NTDP appears to be absolutely loaded, BTW, with six of the top 15 picks in that admittedly speculative mock draft.
Jabrill is okay. Would recruit again.
Of course. The ACC and SEC are trying to ban satellite camps because… they in fact have no reason to do so, they just want to. I'd like to point you to this article from last summer where I gently explain to an Alabama fan that satellite camps are good for prospects as if he cares about that.
Next up, I explain to Penn State fans why making gay jokes about Jim Harbaugh in-home visits is a bad look.
Etc.: Jedd Fisch gets extended two years. His cost was artificially low because he was on a buyout from the Jaguars; this should help keep him around a while. Passing game made huge progress this year.
Partridge on his promotion. Basketball sets a home and home with Cinci the next two years. Walk-on tryouts are on the 23rd. Kenpom on one of the ways RPI is broken. Kiper says Willie Henry could be a first-rounder. Corn Nation on Lawrence Phillips.
1 hour 22 minutes
Maryland win is major key for tournament standing, and was acquired without Levert. Helpside defense meh. Duncan diversifying. DJ Wilson flashed a little something against Iowa. Walton's up and down D.
ACE'S HOCKEY PODCAST
#chaoshockey is fun until it's not fun and then it's fun again. Cutler Martin did a bad thing. Tourney standing. I continue pounding the "Dan Dickerson should do Michigan PBP" drum.
INSIDE THE CROOKED BLUE LINE WITH STEVE LORENZ
We manage to get through a segment with Steve without talking about darts. Instead we run down LITERALLY EVERY TARGET MICHIGAN HAS LEFT ON ITS BOARD WOOOOO.
"Across 110th Street"
"Hi, Hey There, Hello", the Mowglis
"Say Hello," Jay-Z
THE USUAL LINKS
1/15/2016 – Michigan 5, Ohio State 5 (OT) – 13-3-4, 4-1-2 Big Ten
1/18/2016 – Michigan 8, Ohio State 6 – 14-3-4, 5-1-2 Big Ten
I can't do better describing the alternating waves of euphoria and loathing this hockey season imposes on the fan than this guy who asked a question on twitter:
@mgoblog if this were football would Michigan be Baylor or Indiana?
— Grant Williams (@g_williams_1999) January 18, 2016
I was feeling pretty Indiana as Michigan looked set to drop Sunday's game. Three minutes later I was feeling pretty Baylor as 3-5 turned into 6-5.
The scoreline is everything. If you're up this is one of the most electric Michigan offenses since Brendan Morrison. If you're down this is just another late Berenson team that waddles around wasting its talent with mind-bending defensive breakdowns. Last weekend was a high-amplitude sine wave oscillating from one state to the other.
In the aftermath of an okay weekend we can see that both things are true. Michigan's top line of Motte-Compher-Connor is putting up numbers Michigan hasn't seen since Red's hair was actually red. Connor (18-18-36) is second nationally in PPG. Compher (7-25-32) is fifth. Motte (18-10-28) is tied for thirteenth. Motte and Connor are tied for the national lead in goals per game. If this keeps up someone is going to have to dig through the history books to see where those guys stack up.
Meanwhile someone tweeted out that it was "incredible" that Steve Racine had only given up five goals, and was entirely correct.
— Jeremy Parks (@j_mitchell47) January 17, 2016
That is one period! One period of hockey on skates and everything! Michigan skates five NHL draft picks on defense! Steve Racine has a .906 save percentage and he's kind of a hero!
Michigan was outshot 27-16 in that second period, fell behind by two goals, and proceeded to not allow Ohio State a shot until they had run off four consecutive goals in the first ten minutes of the third. So I dunno man.
So far they've managed to make it work, and as the season progresses their schedule looks less and less like an albatross. Each game Dartmouth wins both helps Michigan's tourney chances and slightly reframes how impressive Michigan's record is. With everything going right—about which more later—Michigan has a very good record against a reasonable schedule. Their RPI SOS is 20th and the rest of the season is split 50/50 between good teams and bad.
They're probably going to make it. Unless they don't. During the second intermission last night I was sure they weren't. I mean, anything can happen at any time. But they've built themselves a buffer here, and seem to be outracing their mistakes. Big Twelve Hockey is now a thing, and it lives in Ann Arbor.
Get in and anything can happen. This used to be a curse; now it feels like hope. Michigan switches between behemoth and bust multiple times a weekend. Indiana or Baylor? Ask again later.
Why did that even happen? For all the rivalry stuff that gets tossed around, OSU games aren't unusually chippy most of the time. The 8-6 series finisher was exceptionally clean throughout, largely because everybody was too busy scoring to hit people. Then all hell breaks loose in the aftermath, including an ugly incident where Cutler Martin punched a defenseless guy on the ice in full view of the world:
— Bill Rapai (@BRapai) January 18, 2016
I can't imagine Martin is going to be available for an important Penn State series after that. There was a bunch of other extracurriculars that might ensnare another player or two as well. All of it came seemingly out of nowhere.
I don't know what to make of the defense. When you're as bad as Michigan was this weekend it's not anything that is traceable to one player, or even the defense corps as a whole. Michigan has breakdowns all game every game from wingers, centers, and defensemen. I kind of thought things were getting fixed during the MSU series, but that was probably just MSU being very bad at hockey.
I do wish we'd held on to Andrew Copp. In retrospect Larkin was never going to stick around since he's an NHL all-star. Copp also went direct to the NHL but has 4 points in 41 games; his defensive abilities would be very welcome on this team.
OSU does not feel like a bad team. The contrast between OSU and MSU couldn't have been greater despite their similar records. Michigan spent half of the Friday game unable to get a clean zone exit because of the OSU forecheck. The Buckeyes are also super aggressive on penalty kills. They made a lot of mistakes in an attempt to control the game; contrast that with MSU's incredibly passive style. One of those styles has upside.
For big stretches of both games OSU took the game to Michigan; Michigan fought back and tilted the ice the other way after settling down and devising adjustments to what OSU was doing. The Buckeyes are very young this year; if they finish the year as strongly as they've played over the last month they could be a team to keep an eye on next year.
Man, Dan Dickerson is good. I'm not really a baseball person but I've heard bits and pieces of Tigers games for years because I'm often tuned to WTKA. Dickerson is their play by play guy, and while he's good it doesn't leap out at you because baseball is a slow, leisurely sport. Dickerson comes off as a very professional but standard baseball guy.
Hearing him do the games this weekend was a revelation. He was outstanding at a completely different variety of sport, one with a ton of things happening one after the other.
Here is a thought: Michigan needs a real play by play guy. Jim Brandstatter is a miscast color guy and I think everyone knows it; Michigan should add Dickerson to the booth. September might be tough but making it work would be good for everyone.
I thought Manny Legace was also good. He does the thing that goalies (in any sport) do where they focus a bit too much on the guy between the pipes, but he had a lot of interesting technical hockey things he related intelligibly.
A shootout doesn't matter to the pairwise so Michigan gets a win and a tie out of the weekend. Michigan slides up to 7th in the rankings. I am pleasantly surprised by this. I thought it would be tough for Michigan to move up much unless they had good weekends against PSU and Minnesota.
Why is this less grim than I was projecting early in the season?
- OSU won its tourney. Wins over BC and Cornell (8-0!) are inexplicable. They also give OSU a huge boost. Whereas before they were hanging out in MSU territory in RPI they're 38th now, ie, worth beating.
- BU has done well. They're 12th in RPI, which give Michigan a quality win bump in addition to helping them out with SOS.
- So has Dartmouth. They've won 5 of 6 and are just inside the top 20.
- Robert Morris is beating up on Atlantic Hockey. They're 21st in RPI, just a hair away from the quality win bump, and should continue that—they have a +32 goal differential in conference.
- The Big Ten is heavily stratified. Both PSU and Minnesota are in the top twenty while OSU, MSU, and Wisconsin cannot buy wins against the top of the league. This helps all three teams with at-large hopes thanks to QWB.
Everything that could go right for Michigan's RPI has over the past few weeks, which has moved Michigan off the bubble despite not having opponents who provide much traction.
Rooting interests remain obvious: for PSU and Minnesota and all of Michigan's nonconference opponents. You should double down on hating MSU—not that you have a problem with that—because they are so low in RPI that soon wins against them will not even count in Michigan's calculations, at which point MSU losses boost the rest of the Big Ten while not impacting M.