The nutty Michigan coverage isn't so much about Harbaugh as it is a signal to the Big Ten that Fox wants to party.
HARBAUGH HARBAUGH HARBAUGH HARBAUGH.
There. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s break down a mid-season tournament win that featured an impressive victory over Michigan Tech and about what you’d expect against Michigan State.
Michigan v. Michigan Tech 12/28/14
UM 1 MTU 0 EV 06:28 Martin (2) from Hyman (11) and De Jong (4)
Hyman has the puck along the boards, and that causes Sturos (#7) to come down and make a futile attempt to take away the passing lane. He’s far too late, and Hyman easily gets a cross-ice pass off to Martin. The pass gets Tech’s defense skating, as no one’s covering Martin. In fact, no one’s really in position to do so, either. You can see that they have a box-plus-one, and the one is the aforementioned Sturos, who’s now on the wrong side of the ice.
Martin’s shot is going to end up going over the blocker of Tech’s Jamie Phillips, and it’s something that can best be described as a seeing-eye shot. If you look at the black box in front of the goalie, there’s not even a Michigan player in front to screen. This is a shot that just beats the goaltender; I don’t think the Tech defenders acted as screeners either.
UM 1 MTU 1 EV 10:28 Gould from Petan and Kero
Tech moves the puck down the boards and into the corner. Michigan has Downing in front, and he’s smart to not jump in and help but instead stay in front of the net. As you can see, there’s a Tech skater who’s unaccounted for who’s going to play an important part in just a moment, one which will necessitate a defender in front.
Kero (#10) makes an incredible pass from the corner to the trailing man in the faceoff circle. Petan gets the puck and fakes a shot, which causes Downing to drop to a knee in an attempt to block. Petan’s shot fake is superb, and the pass to Gould is perfect. I really can’t blame Downing for trying to block here, because he had about a tenth of a second to decide whether it was a shot or a pass and Petan executed flawlessly.
Racine tries to push across the crease to square with Gould, and in doing so he opens up the five-hole. Gould’s shot is low and just barely clips Racine’s right leg pad, deflecting down and in.
[More after THE JUMP]
Boston College 1 UM 0 EV 05:44 Doherty from Gilmour and Tuch
Teddy Doherty carries into BC’s offensive zone, and as he does this he starts to look to his right. Downing is back to defend and reads the tilt of Doherty’s head; he’s thinking pass and wants to take that away.
The thing is Doherty’s looking at no one. There’s not a BC teammate there for him to pass to, so he’s either going to shoot, turn it back and walk up the boards, or take it behind the net. You can see in the screencap that he’s going to shoot it. He’s loading up his shot, and Nagelvoort has a clear read on it.
Sometimes you lose a one-on-one battle. Sometimes a forward loses it along the boards. Sometimes a defenseman loses it in the neutral zone. Sometimes a goaltender loses it against a shooter. They all can be dangerous, but has as immediate an aftermath as a goaltender losing to a shooter. Nagelvoort butterflies and Doherty puts his shot in the perfect spot; it hits the top corner over the nearside shoulder.
It looks like this is Nagelvoort’s fault. In a way, it is. At the same time, he’s the last line of defense in what should be just that: a line. Downing is concerned with a backdoor cutter and plays the pass, which is textbook. The issue is that there isn’t a guy cutting that way. If he steps up to take Doherty he may not be able to put a body on him in time, but he takes away space from Doherty that he really shouldn’t have. Maybe this causes Doherty to choose one of the aforementioned options (skating it back up the boards or behind the net). My point is that a goal given up is not often solely one person’s fault, and there’s more than meets the eye here.
Boston College 2 UM 0 EV 07:42 McCoshen from Spiro and Gaudreau
Downing manages to pin Spiro along the boards, which is good. He manages to get a pass off into the slot, which is decidedly less good. Nothing terribl3 is necessarily going to come from this, but when you pin a guy along the boards the hope is that you tie the puck up along with it.
Passes in hockey are fast. You’re smart. You already knew that. It’s not completely unusual for a TV camera to snap forwards or backwards to keep up with the play, and that’s what happens here. One thing I’ve learned, though, is that you are in a world of trouble when the camera doesn’t have time to focus before the shot is off. That’s what happens here. Oy.
That screen cap looks worse than it is (maybe). There’s a strategy that teams use where the defense collapses around the goaltender, with the idea being that you’ll be able to pick up netfront opposition and clear the puck if there are rebounds. The downside to that strategy is this: a guy gets an undisturbed shot attempt that the goaltender can’t get a good read on, whether it’s because he’s being screened (see below) or whether he just can’t adjust quickly.
[After THE JUMP: I screencapped something that looks like hyperspace so that might be worth your time]
Michigan 0 OSU 1 EV 10:09 Johnson from Niddery and Stork
Ohio State catches Michigan in transition. Niddery has the puck in the neutral zone and banks it off the boards. Serville is too slow stabbing at it, and the puck gets past him to Johnson. Downing is the lone defenseman back who can make a play.
You can see from the above screencap that Johnson skates the puck out as wide as possible. He’s trying to draw Downing to him and open up space in front of the net because he sees he has a trailing teammate charging the net hard. Downing doesn’t bite, or at least he doesn’t bite entirely. He starts to dive to take away the pass.
Regardless of what happens with this shot Michigan’s not in a good position. It just so happens that the shot it perfect, so the danger of a rebound or a redirection in front is moot. This is obviously a bad goal for Nagelvoort to give up from that sharp of an angle, but he made some otherwise spectacular saves in the first period. Johnson’s shot hits the farside post and deflects up and in for the goal.
Michigan 1 OSU 1 EV 12:49 Hyman (7) from Larkin (11) and Serville (2)
Larkin carries the puck wide, and the defenseman picks him up and moves wide with him. Behind Larkin Hyman skates toward the middle of the ice, giving Larkin someone to center the puck to if the defender over-commits.
Larkin skates just a couple more strides before he drop passes to Hyman. Larkin actually could have held the puck a few more strides, as the defender is still in a position to make a play on the puck. Hyman makes a smart play, seeing that the defender is near enough to him that he’ll have to release the puck immediately to avoid the defender’s stick. You can see from the screencap below that he’s already loading up to shoot, and the puck’s been on his blade for a fraction of a second.
Frye stops Hyman’s shot, but he is unable to glove the puck or absorb the shot. The puck is deflected and goes up and over him.
Larkin has continued his skating arc from the outside of the zone to the inside, and he’s at the side of the net by the time the puck goes up in the air. His positioning pays off, as he bats down the deflection for Michigan’s first goal.
[After THE JUMP: a five-minute-long Christmas miracle]
Hey. How are you? Been a while, huh? If you’ve never read one of these before, the purpose of this post is to break down every goal of each Wolverine hockey game. Reading left to right, there’s the score followed by whether the goal was at even strength or on the power play. After that there’s the time of the goal and the players awarded points on the play. In parentheses is their season point total.
Michigan swept RPI last weekend, and though they still have a lot of things to work on defensively a number of guys who have offensive upside finally turned upside into production. Long story short: a Michigan team not coached by John Beilein had a good weekend. Let’s enjoy that.
Friday, November 28
UM 1 RPI O EV 15:55 Kile (6) from Larkin (9) and Hyman (8)
Hyman carries the puck up the boards. Kile moves laterally from left to right, and eventually peels off his defender to head toward the net. The defender at the top of the circle does a nice job of taking away the passing lane to Kile, but taking away one passing lane opens up another (highlighted through the faceoff circle).
Being able to draw a line through three of your five defenders means someone is blitheringly wide open. Oh, look. Alex Kile is blitheringly wide open. Larkin has the puck in front of the net thanks to the passing lane created in the first screen shot. All he has to do is find a way to thread it through the mass of defenders to Kile.
Which he does perfectly. You can see that the goalie has to sprawl out to his left to try and get anything on the puck. This is because Larkin was so close to the crease that not only did he have to stay square to him but he had to hit the ice and go into his butterfly to take away the five hole. It takes extra time to move across the crease once you’ve hit the ice, and the goalie can’t recover in time to stop Kile’s shot.
[After THE JUMP: We got moooooooore goals]
Does anyone ever check anything? No? Okay. This exists.
— David Adrian (@davidcadrian) November 12, 2014
Michigan needs to have a twitter feed in which they ask everyone if this thing they're about to do is a bad idea.
Speaking of things that exist without being checked that should not exist. Oh man the takes coming out of the Free Press after Frank Clark's dismissal are super super hot:
The Free Press must have a logic puzzle as part of their hiring process. Anyone who figures it out fails.
This, by the way, this is a great example of the pointless moralizing I was talking about. Seidel doesn't give damn about whether Michigan officially dismissed Clark on Sunday or Monday, he's just complaining to show off how impressively ethical he is. Barry Petchesky just had an excellent piece on how the NFL is using Adrian Peterson to repair The Brand:
3. This is a pure PR play on the part of the NFL, and it's almost too cynical to be believed. The league had been reeling from widespread criticism of its eagerness to co-opt the legal process and its inability to sensitively or sensibly handle morality. Peterson—a black-and-white villain—was a blessing. Maybe a bad man, maybe a man who did bad things, he's a relatively uncomplicated figure, and the NFL was thrilled to have someone to position itself against. The NFL clambered over Peterson to regain the moral high ground it never actually deserved, and is using that platform to shout out, "We are strongly against the beating of children." This is the safest and most defensible position in the world. What we're seeing is the return of the soldiers-and-puppies-and-Pinktober NFL, barely months after the Ray Rice fiasco exposed that as a thin facade. There has been no meaningful change. The league is still beyond reproach, because it cares about the children.
Seidel roundly condemns domestic violence to create the appearance he's a rad dude; the only person served by his column is himself.
Fan appreciation day. At least they're trying. Michigan's announced a bunch of minor fan perks for the Maryland game, including some concession concessions and apparel discounts for season ticket holders. They're also allowing field access. That access is slated to start 30-45 minutes after a 3:30 game that looks likely to feature freezing rain—ain't nobody staying for that.
We've got photos of other stuff. We've been branching out our photos into non-revenue sports. Here's a SOON shot from volleyball's outing against Minnesota:
As always, mgoblog photos are Creative Commons licensed so you can use them. Just credit the photographer and link back.
Exit Will Muschamp. Florida axed him yesterday, and man the parallels here are eerie: Muschamp had a weird, horseshoe-flavored 11-2 year (his second; Hoke's first) before seemingly excellent recruiting collapsed in a pile of offensive ineptitude too intense to be believed. QBs in Gainesville and Ann Arbor disintegrated into quivering interception machines before our eyes; the defenses generally stood tall despite extremely adverse conditions; both teams mutated football never-before-seen piles of suck, despair, and hilarity.
Today they had a press conference in which Muschamp handled himself ably and everyone swore up and down he was the best dude. Earlier this year Spencer and I had an IM conversation about swapping coaches, and it turns out that's beside the point: Muschamp and Hoke are the same dude.
3. There is no limit to the variations of failure here. Muschamp was blown out at home on Homecoming by Mizzou, 42-13, and sniped by a late field goal, completing a 30-27 home collapse against LSU. Alabama could have scored 60 on the Gators, but got bored and politely declined the option in a 42-21 road humiliation. When Florida lined up for a late punt against South Carolina after the Gamecocks had already blocked a game-clinching field goal, the kick was blocked before the ball was ever snapped. Don't ever tell anyone you can't block a ball with your mind; Florida did it, and then handed it to South Carolina with a smile. The confidence in delivering losses was the only constant Florida had left, something it got down to some time after the worst loss in program history: a home defeat by Georgia Southern in 2013.
Did you forget that happened, the low point of lows for an entire era? He did that. Will Muschamp's signature loss of signature losses is him misspelling the word "fart" in spray paint across "The Birth of Venus." It's an atrocity almost admirable in its accidental, perfect malice. For the record, I think Will would spell it "p-h-a-r-t," because that's the funniest possible misspelling of the word.
With reports that Dan Mullen won't be of interest, my main regret about Florida pulling the trigger early is that Spencer got the jump on the one-sentence summation of the last four years:
11. In conclusion: RIP, Big Dumb Will Muschamp Football. In the end, you were too dumb to live and too ugly to mourn.
May Spencer find his Christmas tree stocked with Air Raid coaches, and may Will Muschamp migrate northwards to be Jim Harbaugh's DC.
Now everything will be fixed forever. The NCAA has taken the first and most important step towards being an organization that creates good in this world:
Rounds of 64 and 32 will return to being called the first and second rounds in 2016: pic.twitter.com/IO1NJH9mss
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) November 17, 2014
Long national nightmare, etc.
Hockey stuff. I haven't said too much about the hockey team yet; I don't usually during football season because of time constraints and just the fact that I'm not that good at figuring out hockey even now and need some time to get my head around. I'm not much closer after Michigan's meh sweep of American International. Center Ice:
The problems started when the defensive pairings were changed again. The blueline predictably looked disjointed, pinching at the wrong times, getting caught out of position and allowing the Yellow Jackets to get countless odd man rushes on Zach Nagelvoort.
Michigan suffocated AIC by pressuring in the offensive zone for the majority of both games, but when the Yellow Jackets countered they easily found quality scoring chances. When the defense had their way on Saturday cutting down mistakes, Nagelvoort wasn't able to keep the puck out of the net and the Yellow Jackets were able to not just stay in the game, but put Michigan on the ropes early.
AIC is usually so bad that anyone within shouting distance of the tournament sees wins against them excised from their RPI because counting those games would actually lower it. These games were essentially exhibitions against a team much worse than the U18s, and Michigan duly dominated attack time and SOG.
I don't take much positive from it, though. On Friday AIC had three separate 3-on-1s and a half-dozen other odd-man rushes besides; on Saturday they played Michigan almost even through two periods. I'm at a loss to explain Michigan's play. They have piles of talent, certainly enough to scrape through if their back end was making moderate mistakes occasionally instead of enormous ones frequently. That's not the case, and then the offense has lacked incisiveness against anyone better than AIC since… since TJ Hensick left? It's been a long time since Michigan's had a guy like him.
So I don't know. Michigan is really behind the eight ball here, already, playing in a crappy conference with a 2-5 record in games that will actually matter when it's time to find tourney participants. Would Red hang on for that last year when Tech is 10-0(!) and headed for their best season since the 1980s, thus paving the way for Pearson to come back? I don't know, but that's what I'm thinking about now… not getting back to the tourney this year.
At least they're finally fixing the ice infrastructure? Yost's ice has been iffy for years.
Speaking of hockey. Arizona State(?!) announces they will add a D-I program. Like Penn State, they make the leap from ACHA power. ASU is a weird program to make the leap; there are no West Coast programs. The three Colorado outfits are the only schools even vaguely close. Even so I'd guess the NCHC snaps them up. Arizona State brings a bigger athletic profile than most of their members.
This is one of the benefits of the Big Ten's formation, by the way. That reorganized the western programs into three conferences instead of two. After CHA folded, programs that were considering hockey had a dubious future as an independent. Now there are spots for another dozen teams, as long as some of them are in the Big Ten.
Buffalo might be next, with Penn State benefactor and new Bills owner Terry Pegula potentially fronting the capital.
You used to know how to do this. Michigan scheduled a home hockey game for a football Saturday. That game is at 3:30. The hockey game is at 7:30. Remind me why I have season tickets again? Is it because I'm dumb? It feels like that's the reason.
Michigan never used to do this. Instead they would have the occasional Sunday matinee. New athletic director please save us. And stop running the ARE YOU FAN ENOUGH commercial for the hockey game the previous athletic director yanked out of our season ticket packages.
Etc.: Ray Taylor's baby has impeccable timing. Approximately 3k unsold seats for Maryland. Michigan catches another personnel break as freshman Maryland WR Juwann Winifree is suspended for Saturday. Old photos. Justin Meram gets a call-up to the Iraq national team. Dilly bar details.