2/19/2016 – Michigan 5, Ferris State 2 – 19-4-5
There was a particular shift on which Connor, Compher, and Motte buzzed around the offensive zone for a solid minute and forced a panicked icing. I don't remember when this was, because it was most of the game. I do remember starting to clap, as one does when there is an excellent shift, and nobody else noticed sufficiently to join in. In-game expectations had shifted for the remarkable to be routine, and that felt different.
Despite having the shiny record above, Michigan has only occasionally looked like a rampant old-timey Red team. Mostly they've outscored their mistakes. Even when they're outscoring their mistakes dramatically, there's enough of a rickety feel to things to forbode. Friday night's game against Ferris State was not that. The Bulldogs scraped out a couple of goals on their occasional forays out of their defensive zone. The rest of the time they curled up in a ball and said "not in the face," whereupon Michigan put it in the face.
Ferris came out trapping, which frustrated Michigan for maybe five or six minutes. They started getting through the neutral zone, they scored a couple times, and in the second period Ferris tried to amp up the pressure only to give up a couple of two-on-ones in the first five minutes. That ability to crack a defensive team and punish them when they go up-tempo is encouraging.
Steve Racine was not under siege. By halfway through the second period he looked downright disoriented at the lack of work, and he gave up a late, soft goal to his short side largely out of boredom. There was just one odd man rush created by a defenseman's operating system suddenly rebooting—Joe Cecconi was victimized on a breakaway that didn't get converted. Other than a couple of bad turnovers, Ferris created little. Michigan overwhelmed.
Still, I'm going to wait a minute here to see if there's anything consistent about this defensive performance. Michigan's coming off a 4-4 tie against 6-15-7 Wisconsin in which Racine got bombarded; they have a series against desperate Minnesota on Olympic ice this weekend*. Their Corsi** is 53%, which is 16th nationally. Michigan's top line looks highly capable of outperforming shooting percentage expectations over the long term, but… yeah. Poke at the underlying stats, which aren't even adjusted for a meh schedule, and Michigan looks like the thing that's been in front of your eyes.
On the other hand,
Points Per Game: GP G- A- P P/GM 1 Kyle Connor (WPG) Michigan 28 24-27-51 1.82 2 JT Compher (COL) Michigan 28 11-34-45 1.61 3 Tyler Motte (CHI) Michigan 28 28-16-44 1.57 4 Max French Bentley 26 18-22-40 1.54 5 Andrew Poturalski New Hampshire 32 22-26-48 1.50
This has also been in front of our eyes. So we've got that going for us.
*[Sort of: it's a Thursday-Friday series, possibly for TV. I'll take the oddity if it's actually on the teevee.]
**[Basic Corsi is your shots attempted divided by total shots attempted. It's one of those WHIP stats that is in fact stupidly easy to calculate and intuitive but makes old sportswriters go haywire.]
Pairwise check. Michigan remains sixth after the W. Let's go back to that Jim Dahl graph, which has not been updated for weekend results but is still useful:
The worst case scenario is now out of the question, leaving Michigan two wins from 100% in and one from 90% in. Unfortunately they have little upward mobility.
Meanwhile Penn State and Minnesota are the heart of the bubble right now at #15 and #16, respectively. Both teams will be going all-out in critical series against Michigan over the next couple weeks. PSU's split with OSU this weekend hurt them; they need to take 3 of 4 remaining regular season games to (probably) enter the BTT in a spot to get an at-large. Minnesota is in deep trouble despite a superficially okay spot right now. Their graph is still mostly on point since they had a bye last weekend:
5-1 most likely puts them at 16, still. They'd have a shot if they went 2-1 in the BTT but it's going to be tough for them to get an at-large.
It's pointless to look at this yet but if the season ended today Michigan would get bracketed with BC and shipped east, with UNO their likely first-round opponent.
Cutler Martin, forward? Tony Calderone missed the game for reasons I have not seen specified, so Michigan skated seven defensemen. This is not unusual; they've done it most of the year. What was unusual was that one of the defensemen took a regular shift on the fourth line. This was Cutler Martin, who would not have been my guess for the defender most likely to move. (That would be Sam Piazza, who is deft on the puck and not huge.)
Martin looked awkward, as you might expect. He did ring the post on a backhand during Michigan's period of frustrated dominance, and the fourth line only took a minus thanks to the soft goal towards the end. Michigan seems to not think much of Evan Allen, so Martin might keep that job if Piazza continues to stay in the lineup.
Plus/minus stuff. Not the most reliable way of determining anything but advanced stats in the college game are limited. So, your defensemen:
- Joe Cecconi, +16
- Nick Boka, +15
- Michael Downing, +15
- Nolan De Jong, +14
- Cutler Martin, +10
- Zach Werenski, +7
- Sam Piazza, +6 (in 12 games)
Not much to pick from there other than Werenski lagging the field. Plus/minus doesn't take Werenski's excellent power play skills into account; it does suggest that the occasional lack of awareness and/or effort you may have observed when Werenski doesn't have the puck is indeed a real thing.
The forwards are in clear tiers based on their lines, with the CCM line all +31 or better(!), the Nieves line +6 or +7, and the third line around even. The fourth liners are performing well; Dexter Dancs is +8 and Max Shuart +4. That probably has something to do with the fact that for most of the year the other guy on that line has often been a top-liner taking a double shift, but they've managed to make that pay off.
I've thought that the all-underclass third line was in fact the second line but the +/- numbers suggest that they're giving up a lot of chances in their own zone.
Downing has toned down the crazy. A big chunk of how I judge defensemen is how often I think "no arrrgh why" because of something they've done. Downing was approaching Tristin Llewellyn levels earlier this year, but after a disastrous MSU game in which he just about singlehandedly kept the Spartans in it he's settled down considerably. He's finally stopped rushing out at forwards for big hits that end up in a penalty or a two-on-one ceded.
In the absence of the WTF moments it becomes possible to appreciate the things that made Downing a potential first round pick until scouts picked up on the characteristic mental bobbles; his size, smoothness on the puck, and skating are an attractive package. I cannot be held responsible if this immediately causes a six-penalty, four-odd-man rush game.
De Jong had a very solid night. Nolan De Jong has occasionally seemed like a guy who can be a two-way defensemen, but those flashes have been erratic and not frequently repeated. De Jong may be putting things together, though. His ability to keep the puck and get it away from forecheckers was excellent in this game.
Marody back. I was worried that once mono was invoked as an explanation for Cooper Marody's absence that he might be gone long-term. He's still behind where he would be…
“(Cooper) feels good,” Berenson said. “He wants to play and he’s had a few practices now. It’s going to take him a little while to get caught up in terms of quickness and conditioning, but that’s why you have to play.”
…but he should be full go in a week or two here. Unfortunately, Calderon's absence was without explanation.
The meat of the schedule dumbness. Friday night's one-off non-conference game was the first competitive game at Yost since January 17th. The Big Ten schedule goes a month and a half with zero home conference games for Michigan. That should never, ever happen. This is when I want to be going to hockey games. But when your guy in charge of hockey doesn't know what hockey is, I guess that means you get nonsense like this year's conference schedule. There should never be conference bye weeks in the second half of the season.
A big thanks to our sponsors. The show is presented by UGP & Moe's and frankly would not be happening without them; Rishi and company have been on board here from almost the beginning. Shopping with them helps us and supports good dudes. Check out 100years.moe for the rich history of Michigan's oldest apparel store.
Ace doesn't know about gravitational waves. He does know about basketball. Michigan's win over Purdue was very strange. But it was a win. Caris return, Irvin going ham, Walton closing it out.
Gimmicky Top Five: Things The SEC Will Ban Next
starts at 24:30
This segment is frosty. Ace has never seen Hunt For Red October, which is just… that seems impossible to me.
Ace's Hockey Podcast
Starts at 36:29
The worst goal ever. Segue from there into general league competence stuff, of which there doesn't seem to be much. The team is the team is the team at this point.
"Across 110th Street"
THE USUAL LINKS
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.