he grew a beard
10/10/2013 – Michigan 3, Boston College 1 – 1-0
I once watched a YouTube video of Luke Moffatt scoring five goals in one game. He'd just committed to Michigan and was still playing AAA with Little Caesars or Honeybaked or whatever, and I was told that he was the best 15-year-old playing hockey in the world. I believed it, and Luke Moffatt believed it.
Every waking moment since has been something of a disappointment after that high, for both of us. For me, at least, that's a compartment. For Moffatt it's been his life. Moffatt's prospect status slid until he was a seventh—and last—round draft pick. At Michigan he trundled through seasons that were matched and surpassed by guys who never thought they were the best player on their team, let alone in the country: 5-8-13 as a freshman, 6-10-16 as a sophomore. Last year he was an idling third-liner who finished –8 as the team he probably thought he'd be leading to a national title and incidental Hobey Baker missed the tournament for the first time since evolution was a thing.
My buddy who grew up playing hockey and still knows way more about it than I do heaped derision on him: no check, no effort, no defense, no care. I thought that was a little unfair. But only a little. Luke Moffatt kind of symbolized everything that was wrong with last year's team.
Boston College is fast. Michigan was fast; Boston College is still. Michigan has little bursts of fast. Boston College lives on it, and whenever you see them live it jumps off the ice. Boston College is fast. Get your back turned at the wrong time and throw the puck the wrong way in your defensive zone and you are in for a harrowing minute and a half as they swarm you, talons out.
Michigan endured a few shifts like that, and when that happens the mind turns to old games in the tournament against these guys where Michigan was just able to keep up for a while before collapsing, exhausted, as soon as BC tied it. You know that one game I'm thinking about. The one with nine minutes without stoppages.
When I felt that coming on, Michigan lifted a stick. Boston College, which is fast, would be coming out of the defensive zone and then a Michigan guy would have the puck and not quite know what to do with himself. After the puck hit the corner, Michigan would pen Boston College in their zone for a change. I kind of expected this. I've been talking up Andrew Copp and JT Compher for six solid months now.
I did not expect my confirmation-bias riddled self to fist pump because Luke Moffatt was shouldering his way through to keep possession, finishing checks, and playing like the best goddamn 15-year-old on the planet, seven years later. Forget the two power-play snipes. Forget everything about them except Moffatt's comically exaggerated goal celebrations after. Those were Jean Claude Van Damme-level overacted. They were wrestling heel moves. Forget the snipes. Remember the reactions, and apply it to Luke Moffatt plundering through the offensive zone to acquire or re-acquire possession.
Why is Luke Moffatt on the second line next to the all-effort freshmen? Go to hell, that's why. Luke Moffatt is tired of being a guy who was a prospect. Luke Moffatt is tired of my buddy popping on message boards to trash his effort level. Luke Moffatt is tired of being a third liner. Luke Moffatt is done with that crap. Go to hell, says Luke Moffatt. He says it directly to me and my hissy fit last year. And I say yes, sir.
Luke Moffatt's going to get a major and game misconduct he deserves. And I'll say yes, sir.
After Moffatt buried the 3-1 goal, Michigan had a relatively easy time of seeing Boston College off the ice in the third period. They were desperate; they managed five shots. Michigan put the clamps down, as the clock ticked down and an odd feeling of security descended, last year momentarily seemed like a hazy dream. After that moment it was real, and still bleeding in front of you because Michigan had taken its stick and sliced it across the throat.
Afterwards, Michigan gathered at center ice as they always do. I always watch this. It feels different every time. This time, it was rocket-fueled resentment and a chin held high. We are not them, despite largely being them. That is not us. This is us.
They lifted their sticks as they had Boston College's, and announced their presence. This is not last year's team. An ice shavings-covered, slavering Luke Moffatt is plenty of evidence of that.
[After the JUMP: tracing the outlines of what happened at RIT, Coppwaii.]
MICHIGAN DROPS THE PUCK on Sunday in an exhibition against Waterloo to kick off their 2013-2014 hockey campaign; things get real serious real fast after that as BC comes in for the season opener proper on Thursday the 10th. While I can't go into as much detail as I do with football, a conveniently-timed bye week provides a window in which to properly preview hockey, something I'm not sure I've ever done.
say hello to your next two-year captain, Andrew Copp
The following is a fanciful line chart that will be wrong from day one in many respects, and even more wrong when Red runs his line through a blender four times. But you've got to try:
|LEFT WING||YR||CENTER||YR||RIGHT WING||YR|
|Alex Guptill||Jr.||Andrew Copp||So.||Boo Nieves||So.|
|Phil Di Giuseppe||Jr.||JT Compher||Fr.||Derek DeBlois||Sr.|
|Tyler Motte||Fr.||Travis Lynch||Jr.||Luke Moffatt||Sr.|
|Evan Allen||Fr.||Justin Selman||So.||Zach Hyman||Jr.|
ALSO: Andrew Sinelli (Jr), Alex Kile (Fr), Max Shuart (Fr)
I call him mini-Copp
CENTER. The theory here is that a year after Michigan struggled with leadership everywhere they will prioritize guys who give maximum effort on every shift and build the team around a core of hard-ass centers. Andrew Copp is obvious. Copp was handed the reins of the top line halfway through the season and almost singlehandedly turned the attitude of the team around. Copp worked his ass off, inspired Alex Guptill to great heights, and finished the year with something of a scoring flourish. He's still developing after a career as a high school quarterback made hockey a part-time pastime, and his freshman year was good enough to draw the attention of the NHL after being passed over a year ago. If Michigan can make good on the promise of their late season run this year and for the next few, Copp will go down like Ortmeyer or Hagelin.
Meanwhile, every scouting report on incoming freshman JT Compher goes out of its way to praise Compher's compete level and two-way play:
Compher's NTDP coach Don Granato summed it up pretty well in Compher's hometown newspaper: ""Anything intangible, as far as an attribute, that I’ve mentioned, he’s a 10."
The phrase "two-way forward" is often the polite cliche for a player with not a lot of offensive talent, but in Compher's case, it's not used in a derogatory fashion. Compher is one of the rare skilled players that exhibits the same effort and enthusiasm without the puck that he does with the puck. He's a tenacious, sometimes nasty, defender that makes life difficult for opponents. His compete level all over the ice is among the best in the draft.
Despite not having awesome size or speed, Compher led the NTDP in PPG last year. He is ready for a lot of responsibility, probably right now. Billy Powers isn't even being coy about it:
J.T. is a guy who really has a lot of tools. He’s being talked about a lot as a defensive, third-line forward type but there’s some offensive potential there as well, and we think that will flourish in college. We see him as a power play, penalty kill player right from the start, and he’ll manage a line as a center in our top six.
If you thought one Copp was rather nice, two Copps will be like heaven after suffering through last year.
[After THE JUMP: actual rather a lot of depth.]
3/23/2012 – Michigan 2, Cornell 3 (OT) – 24-13-3, 15-9-4 CCHA, season over
Shawn Hunwick first stepped on the ice for a 18-16-1 Michigan team that had seen its at-large NCAA hopes evaporate during a dismal road sweep at the hands of Nebraska-Omaha.
No one wanted him out there, but at least it didn't much matter. This year's team was in danger of missing the tournament in November and recovered to finish second in the Pairwise. Two years ago they had missed it, period, until they lost their starting goalie and inserted a guy who came to Michigan with no illusions he'd play.
That was the catalyst for a change in Michigan's fortunes. Involuntarily pulling Bryan Hogan was another outlet for the dread everyone was feeling at the near-certainty that Michigan would break its tourney streak. Those in the stands reacted by assuming that every shot at or in the general vicinity of the net would either go straight in (in the case of shots that needed no assistance) or be deflected into the dead center of a wide open goal (in the case of shots that were not already on net).
The team felt the same way. They responded by swarming into the slot in a great mass to sweep away the fat, glistening rebounds Hunwick seemed to give up on every shot, no matter how harmless. Their certainty that Hunwick would be overrun led to a 4-0 shutout.
The next night they'd finish the regular season by giving up five goals in an untelevised road loss. Did they relax? I don't know.
Michigan entered the playoffs the next weekend and went on a rampage. They continued to patrol their own slot with feverish intensity, and this translated into the "jump" hockey coaches and commentators are always using to define that ineffable quality a hockey team has when its passes are going tape to tape and the opponents keep finding inconveniently located defenders.
The jump lasted three games. They swept Lake State out of Yost, then bombed Michigan State 5-1 at Munn. The second night they leapt out to a two-goal lead and then bled it back. The first goal was just one of those things. Tristin Llewellyn took an insane elbowing penalty to put Michigan down two men and MSU passed it around until they got a slam dunk.
The second and third goals were the end of the ride. They were both power play goals—Llewellyn would watch State score from the box three times in three minutes—but they were pillowy soft ones. This was the moment at which it all came screeching to a halt and Hunwick was revealed as the walk-on he was. Michigan went to the locker room down 3-2 after one, certain that anything they let on net was going in. The jump had left Michigan's step.
Michigan State got one shot in the second period. It did not go in. That period was twenty minutes of battering a door until it hung by the barest sliver of a hinge. Three minutes into the the third, it gave way.
State managed 22 shots for the game but no more would get past Hunwick; Michigan tilted the ice decisively in the second, tied it, and finished the job in the third. The next weekend at the Joe, Michigan allowed 22 shots to Miami and 18 to Northern Michigan as they secured a streak-extending bid with the most rousing CCHA playoff run they'd had since the days when Michigan was looking up at the Lake States of the world.
They played like banshees. They died like Vikings. They did so because they didn't know what the hell was going to happen when someone threw a puck at the net.
Two years later, Shawn Hunwick is possibly the best Michigan goalie of all time and it's overtime because Michigan had a goal disallowed because Michigan always has a goal disallowed.
Michigan wins a faceoff and gets a shot off that is saved and caroms to Cornell. Cornell turns the play back against a third line of Luke Moffatt, Derek Deblois, and Travis Lynch. Moffatt is there to provide a third man back against the rush.
The defenders can't handle the rush that well and end up giving up a scary shot from a Cornell forward cutting left to right in front of the net. Hunwick's way out of the blue ice, because he's always way out of the blue ice because he's 5'6". He gets his right pad on the shot. He's 5'6". He has limited options when it comes to leg angles that kick pucks places. His choice here is between letting the thing into the net and kicking his leg as straight as he can so that there's no angle for the thing to go in. He's got a save percentage above .930. He's a Hobey Baker finalist. He kicks it out into the slot, like he did against Notre Dame, over and over again.
Moffatt's there, but in a bad position. His check is crappy, he doesn't tie the guy's stick up sufficiently, the guy puts it in the net, and Hunwick is over. All that's left for him to do is take the puck that was in the slot and is now in the net and hand it to Cornell. Deblois and Lynch are cruising into the defensive zone still. They don't look much like banshees, and they're not there in the slot. They're sophomores—juniors now—and don't remember what it was like when Shawn Hunwick was a 5'6" walk-on and not a Hobey Baker finalist.
The Horrible Horrible Power Play
For the third straight year Michigan's season ends 3-2 in overtime thanks in part to a disallowed goal. The rage factor on this one is lower than the other two because it came with 58 minutes to play, was not disallowed because the ref blew his whistle, and there's not enough rage to go around this year thanks to the power play.
Michigan's terrible awful power play entered the NCAA tournament 46th nationally and leaves it 48th, where they'll stay since everyone else around them is done for the year. Michigan spent half the
third second period up a man, almost three minutes of that time up two, and achieved a –1 goal differential in that time. That was the game right there. Michigan finished 0/7 on the power play, gave up a power play goal on one of Cornell's three opportunities, and conceded a shorthanded goal for the first time all year.
It's clear there's something wrong with the power play that can't be explained away by pointing to a lack of talent. Michigan hasn't had a power play you could actually call good in four years despite consistently putting up a lot of offense:
|YEAR||PP RK||Goals per G||Goal RK|
You can say '09-'10 is slightly above average, but that's all. Meanwhile Michigan continues to finish around the top ten in scoring despite not getting much production out of their power play. If their ability with a man advantage roughly corresponded with their 5x5 scoring this year* Michigan would have put up 13 extra power play goals and leapt into the top five in scoring.
It's hard to take the argument that Michigan just doesn't have the talent seriously when outfits like Bemidji State, Western Michigan, Northern Michigan, and Ferris State all finish 20+ spots ahead. Zero of those teams have NHL draft picks littering the roster, let alone a set of offensive defensemen like Merrill, Moffie, and Bennett.
This is a coaching issue. Watching Michigan cluelessly bat it back and forth from one covered guy to the other one on the five-on-three should make that clear. No one moves, no one has a plan, and the most common thing to do is fling a point shot into a defender's pads. Red is the king of all he perceives but this is a major problem that doesn't look like it's going away.
*[The #10 power play, North Dakota, converted at a 22% rate compared to Michigan's 14.6.]
The disallowed goal. I don't think Moffatt's impact changed the outcome of that play. The goalie was already sliding away from the puck and had no idea where it was. That said, Moffatt did impact the goalie in the crease, and it didn't look like his defender had anything to do with it. I don't think it's an outrageous injustice. It's very frustrating, of course, but if the ref screwed that up he more than made up for it with the avalanche of Cornell penalties Michigan could do nothing with.
The penalty shot was a terrible call, but at that point I think I preferred it to the alternative since Michigan was down, had a power play, and was playing a team without a ton of offensive skill.
Merrill: WTF? Also Moffie. The biggest reason Michigan lost other than its power play was the Merrill-Moffie pairing. Moffie initiated the sequence that led to the shorthanded goal with a suicide pass to Merrill; Merrill screwed it up at the line and the two-on-one started. Then Merrill took a swipe at the Cornell saucer pass with his stick instead of getting his body into the passing lane, leading to a slam dunk.
On the winner it was Merrill and Moffie who combined to let that rush turn into a dangerous shot; Merrill got too far outside and again out of the passing lane. Moffie also added a stupid crosschecking penalty seconds into Cornell's dubious major; it was Merrill who ended up giving up the (admittedly ludicrous) penalty shot.
Merrill has not played well over the last month. He was responsible for goals against Northern Michigan, Bowling Green, Western Michigan, and Cornell and hasn't been as superb with the puck as he usually is. I'm not sure what's going on there but he doesn't seem focused.
CCHA: not so much. The conference got almost half its membership into the tournament this year but saw four of its five teams flame out in the first round. Ferris State got past injury-riddled Denver and Cornell to make its first Frozen Four, and congrats to them.
Everyone else went out in game one. Takeaways from this:
- A conference where no one can score that was won by a team without an NHL draft pick on it is not that good at hockey.
- Non-conference games are hugely important because they are so sparse and provide the basis of comparisons between conferences.
That latter issue should evaporate after next year. Western college hockey will reform itself into three conferences from two and Michigan will have 14 nonconference games instead of six. Hopefully those aren't all home series against Bentley during football season.
A glance at next year. It's hard to predict without knowing the results of the NHL draft and whether Michigan will suffer early departures. A hypothetical no-defection defense corps looks pretty good:
That's light on sandpaper but should have no problems moving the puck. The only problem is that Michigan could lose the first three guys listed above. Bennett came in saying outright that he would not be a four-year player, Trouba is good enough to be signed immediately by an NHL club, and who knows what Merrill's attitude will be towards a hypothetical junior season after the rollercoaster he went through. Losing one guy is survivable. Two is worrying.
Michigan really needs a big leap forward from Serville. He's a lot younger than Chiasson, has a decent NHL draft pedigree, and seemed to be moving forward late in the year. If he can develop into a solid second-pairing type it'll be okay.
At forward, Red will put them through the blender but one man's rough guess:
- Moffatt-T. Lynch-PDG
- Random assortment including Rohrkemper, Sparks, Other Lynch, and freshmen Daniel Mile and Justin Selman
It's possible Nieves comes in and forces himself onto the top two lines but I'm guessing Red will go with a defense-oriented player over the freshman. Defections here are also possible, of course: Guptill, PDG, and Brown are all potential departures. People keep talking about PDG leaving but I'd be surprised if an NHL team is eager to sign him just now. His 26 points are good for a freshman but not Pacioretty good. The kind of guys who have left after one year have driven play more than PDG did.
The biggest change will be in net, where NTDP goalie Jared Rutledge replaces Hunwick with Junior A vagabond Steve Racine backing him up. Rutledge's Pointstreak page is a little scary—a drop in games and performance from year to year—but the embarrassingly primitive spreadsheet the NTDP uses to track its stats shows that over the course of the year Rutledge has a .902 versus teammate (and Ohio State commit) Collin Olson's .893. NTDP save percentages can be pretty ugly since a big chunk of their games are against college teams, so that's fine. Rutledge is a small, aggressive, technically-sound goalie who sounds a lot like Hunwick.
BONUS SPREADSHEETIN': Michigan's 3 NTDP U17 commits are #1, #4, and #5 in scoring on their team. JT Compher is the guy at #1 and has played 7-8 fewer games than the rest of the team. He's the only guy with a PPG. Tyler Motte is neck and neck with Miami commit Anthony Louis and UNH commit Tyler Kelleher for #2; Evan Allen is a half-dozen points back of that group. With those three guys and Bryson Cianfrone, a Canadian Junior A player who was projected as a first round OHL draft pick before committing to Michigan, Michigan looks like they'll have a dynamite 2013 class. Pending defections, of course, Always pending defections.
Brief Big Ten Tournament note. No column on it; I wasn't feeling massively invested because I had to miss the second half of the Minnesota game to go to Yost and watched it after I knew the outcome, then Ohio State came out and was all like "today we will play like a team with two lottery picks on it." Once that happened and Burke got annihilated by Craft it was clear this was going to be an ugly old-style loss, which fine. Michigan is not on the level of national contender… yet.
If anything the tourney just reinforced my feeling that this team did fantastically to pick up a Big Ten title split and now that there's a banner in hand the rest of this is house money. After beating OHIO*, that is. Losing to a 13 seed would leave a sour taste. Everything else is gravy-coated candy.
I'll leave the garment rending about how we're not competing for a one-seed for the next couple years.
Side note: now do we believe that Craft is a totally awesome defender? Yes? Okay.
*[SBN MAC blog Hustle Belt refers to the Bobcats as "OHIO" for reasons that are unknown but very probably related to their stunning upset of Georgetown as a 14 seed two years ago.
Since giving them the all-caps treatment is a term of respect that doubles as diss of plain ol' Ohio, this blog will refer to the Bobcats as OHIO from now on.]
Dave Brandon approves. Michigan-ND 1978 was like Michigan-MSU 2012 in two ways: one team looked totally ridiculous and lost 28-14.
The two games were different because one team didn't look ridiculous and Ufer was going ape in '78.
This game also provides ammunition for both sides of the maize/yellow debate. It's clear that UM's maize is much lighter than the yellow ND is wearing; it's also unattractively blinding.
Also ridiculous. I wish I'd found this before I posted on hockey's tourney streak today, as it really hammers home how remarkable it is:
Let me put that in perspective- of ALL of the teams that have won a National Championship in Hockey the last 21 seasons, here's the tournament appearances:
Boston U- 15
North Dakota- 14
Michigan State- 14
Boston College- 13
Lake State- 6
Northern Michigan- 5
Inside that, the longest streak is 9, shared by Maine, Michigan State, and North Dakota, but North Dakota will extend that to 10 this year. At least should.
Unless there's a power lurking outside this list—and I don't think there is—every other team has missed the NCAAs at least six times during the streak.
Help next year. Hockey's got blue chips on the blue line and at forward in their next recruiting class. Boo Nieves is the forward, and he sounds a little like Carl Hagelin:
Matt Herr thought he had seen it all after taking over as coach at the Kent School in Connecticut following a productive collegiate and professional playing career.
That's before he was introduced to 6-foot-3, 184-pound center Cristoval "Boo" Nieves last season.
"I don't know how he skates so freaking fast for his size," Herr told NHL.com. "He's one of the best skaters I've seen this year. I think he can jump into the American Hockey League and play right now and you wouldn't even blink." …
"He just explodes off the mark and has agility, balance and quickness to break loose from traffic," Eggleston said. "He also has the physical strength to plow through checks along the wall and bring the puck with him. He sees the ice very well, is a very smart and creative playmaker and captains the team ... he's a very good team player."
Herr then compares him to Joe Thornton, which… like… probably not. Here's hoping, though. If Michigan doesn't suffer any departures at forward I'm guessing that AJ Treais slides up to the top line next year between Brown and Guptill; Nieves should center the second line with PDG and… Moffatt? That sounds pretty good to me.
If they can keep defections on defense down to one they'd be skating something like Trouba-Merrill/Bennett, Moffie-Chiasson, Clare/Serville-Carrick. Depth is a bit scary there but kids develop; Serville especially seems like an offseason in a weight program will do him good.
Help the Mathlete. He needs some crowd-sourcing to fill in holes in his recruiting database. Your reward is good feelings and some interesting posts.
That's the ticket. Kyle Meinke tries to make us all feel better about going up against that Alabama defense:
"There ain't no one who can learn that defense in under a year," outgoing free safety Mark Barron said last month at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. "We played in a very difficult defense, first of all. We did a lot of different schemes.
"I really don’t believe anyone can learn that defense in under a year."
Score! Please score.
Trey Burke is childhood friends with everyone on an Ohio D-I roster. OHIO backup PG and lightning bolt Stevie Taylor has played with and against Trey Burke for big chunks of his career. UMHoops has the story and the requisite adorable picture:
Um… check with the basketball team. Michigan's hockey team has adopted a mantra that should be familiar to anyone who followed Michigan basketball's NCAA drought-breaking team of a few years back:
The No. 4 Michigan hockey team emerged from its locker room before Saturday’s game against Notre Dame wearing shirts with the team motto, “Burn the Boats,” prominently displayed.
Hey! I remember that! Isn't that…
“(Sophomore forward Luke) Moffatt brought it up this year,” said sophomore forward Derek DeBlois last month. “It has to do with the Vikings. When they would go to fight, they would burn their boats. No retreat, you just kind of lay all your chips on the table and fight until you win.”
…NOT ABOUT VIKINGS AT ALL. It's actually a famous event in the Spanish conquest of everything when they were discovering the new world, which is why the basketball team's version of the slogan was in Spanish. [Ed-S: actually...] Come on. Vikings. I've never heard about anything so ridicul—
SHOULDN'T HAVE TALKED ISH ABOUT VIKIIIIINGS AIEEEE—
Etc: James Rogers interviewed. Michigan Tech goalie coach and former Michigan goalie Steve Shields profiled. MEL PEARSON UPDATE: Tech reaches the Final Five for the first time in five years. Tech is two games away from .500 on the year. Carty on Draymond Green and Zack Novak. Ohio's PG in a bikini.
2/11/2011 – Michigan 3, OSU 2 – 18-9-4, 15-7-1 CCHA
2/12/2011 – Michigan 2, OSU 1 – 19-9-4, 16-7-1 CCHA
As with the basketball team, no grand soaring narrative bits as the hockey team did what it needed to do against Ohio State. They did in in the way they had to do it if they were going to do it. They further established themselves as a pretty good team that's obviously not great. They're going to have to deflect their way to glory.
On Friday an elderly gentleman sitting next to my friend said "there's just something missing with this team" out of nowhere—he was bothered—and my friend said "scorers" and that led to a conversation about all the various ways in which scorers are fun to have. I didn't participate. I sat there and thought "AAARGH" as Michigan almost scored on a dozen cross-crease passes. I've gone from missing TJ Hensick to missing Andy Hilbert to missing Brandon Kaleniecki, and now I'm missing all of them. Michigan can't score on two on ones, one-timers, or pucks that skitter a foot from the goalmouth*. At the same time their defense is probably the deepest and best Red's ever had. Watching them play is persistently odd, which is why old Midwesterners break with the strong and silent bit to complain to people they don't know.
The line revamp was interesting. Vaughn, Rust, and Glendening got the start on Friday, which was odd until it became clear that Red was matching that line against the Alberts/Somma line that provides the bulk of OSU's offense. That left Hagelin/Caporusso/Brown and Moffatt/Treais/Wohlberg against weaker competition. I'd say that's getting the bulk of Michigan's scoring away from top lines and allowing them to be more offensive minded, but Scooter scored his tenth of the year on Friday. So I can't. That's the idea, though.
It seemed to work for the Wohlberg line. All those guys have some skill and Moffatt and Treais seem to be taking steps forward as the season progresses. Treais is now doing a couple of noticeably skillful things per game and Moffatt has had at least one shift in the last four games where I thought to myself "that's a really good shift"; they were the only two to come out of the Miami weekend with any credit. Moffatt opened the scoring in the 2-1 win Saturday, with Treais getting the first assist, and if Michigan can keep them out there against third lines they should outscore on the regular.
Hagelin and Caporusso were a little awkward but got goals even if they rode up a defenseman's stick or were unscreened shots that went five-hole or… well… you know the drill by now. A lot of Michigan's goals are weird bounces of the puck. They win by getting more opportunities at weird bounces against teams that can't break down their D.
So it goes. Three series left (including the playoffs), two against bad to very bad opponents, two at home, a tourney bid all but assured—feels like biding time until Michigan gets an opportunity to reprise their phoenix act from last year.
*[For those who don't remember Kaleniecki, imagine a 5'9" Thomas Holmstrom. This about sums it up:
I'm not sure he ever scored a goal from more than three feet, but despite that he always hit double digits by the end of the year. The definition of a mucker. Also he scored this very silly goal.]
With a couple weeks left in the regular season it's now feasible to look at the PWR with an eye towards its final incarnation. This is where I'd go into the individual comparisons and fish out which were gone and which were flippable but mfan_in_ohio has already done so.
The upshot: Michigan's only lost three comparisons irrevocably and has at least a slim shot at the rest. Realistically, comparisons against BC, Denver, and a few others are longshots dependent on a precise set of results Michigan has no control over. The reasonable best-case scenario is to move up from 9th to 6th or 7th, snagging a two-seed and removing any chance Michigan would play North Dakota or some other high-power WCHA team in the first round.
This year's a weird one as far as desired seedings go. Yale and Union are doing very well nationally—even schedule-obsessed KRACH likes them—but the ECAC hasn't had a national contender in a decade and I'm not sure how I'd feel if Michigan ended up eighth and got bracketed with Union with (presumably) Yale to follow. I don't think I'd like it much. Even if Yale is playing weak competition they're the top scoring team in the country by a half goal and are outscoring opponents by 2.12 goals per game. That's a lot of goals per game. A schedule argument only goes so far when KRACH likes you without even considering the fact that you're not just beating teams, you're bludgeoning them.
Non-bullets and stuff
For the record. This is my 12th year at Yost and while I haven't been to every game I've been to the vast bulk. I've never seen a three-for-three night at Score-O before. Can anyone recall the last time that happened?
Conference race. Michigan is a point behind ND after they swept Bowling Green. Miami took four points from WMU and is tied with M but both of those teams will spend their games in hand. Despite being a point back Michigan should feel they've got a good chance. This weekend Michigan gets Western at home; ND gets Ferris on the road; the next weekend Michigan gets Northern on the road as ND plays a home and home with Western.
Where did they come from? Usually opposing fans are limited to the parents section and maybe a pocket or two in the endzone. That was the case Friday, but on Saturday there were lots of OSU fans—probably more visiting fans than I've seen since MSU was in its Mason heyday. Where did they come from? Why did they only show up Saturday? Should I carry around a voice recorder just in case this happens again so I have proof of the things that come out of their mouths?
Aggressive. OSU's coach was very aggressive when it came to pulling his goalie. Both nights Heeter left with about two minutes left and stayed out the rest of the game; OSU didn't score but didn't get scored on either. I've been bugging my buddy about this for much of the year when opponents get an opportunity: if you're down one and you get a power play with 3 minutes left or whatever, shouldn't you pull the goalie?
Pateryn: erratic. Greg Pateryn is probably driving the coaches crazy, as he's alternating Llewellyn-like aggression at the blue line that gives up odd-man rushes with great passes and backchecks.
Brown: scores. Also guh. I wasn't sure Brown's major was a good call but Yost Built had the benefit of replay and said it was "obvious," so okay. In the immediate postgame Red said he hadn't seen it but had "heard it was a legitimate major penalty in college. You can’t do that." Also, the night before I thought Brown was definitely getting the gate for his other boarding/charging/general naughtiness, so if that played into the refs decision that's understandable.
Chris Brown: please stop doing this. The naughtiness, not the scoring.
Yost Built covers the weekend in depth and raises an excellent point:
I'm starting to think that you could make a damn fine case for Shawn Hunwick as the first team All-CCHA goalie. He's third in wins, despite playing 7 fewer games than Pat Nagle and three fewer than Mike Johnson. He's second in GAA to Connor Knapp, second in save percentage to Will Yanakeff (who has only played in 9 games), and tied for first in shutouts. I could see giving it to Nagle as he's put up killer numbers and has barely gotten two goals per game of support, but Hunwick has been really fantastic for the Wolverines after a slow start (and it's not like we've given him a ton of goals lately either).
That's amazing. Red said Hunwick was the starter point blank before the weekend and after saving 55 of 58 shots he's done nothing to change that.
Sophomore Robbie Czarnik, sort of. Czarnik signed with Plymouth approximately a third of the way through the season. In the twelve games he played he had a 3-3-6 and was +1. Michigan was actually just 5-7 with him; they were 21-11-1 without him.
Senior Brian Lebler. Lebler (playing daddy right) was the latest in Michigan's parade of seniors who improved radically in their final year at Michigan, racking up 14-10-24 in 42 games while providing the proverbial physical presence. He combined with freshmen AJ Treais and Chris Brown during the second half of the year on an effective third line.
Senior Anthony Ciraulo. Walk-on Ciraulo skated in seven games, picking up one assist.
Various Flight Risks. Now begins Michigan's annual watch for NHL departures silly or justified. First, allow me to pick up a clover as I pound every bit of furniture in the vicinity. Ah, there. Now: Michigan shouldn't lose anyone this offseason. Kevin Lynch, David Wohlberg, and Ben Winnett haven't played at a level that would see an NHL team jump on them. Chris Brown is a Coyotes draft pick; the 'Yotes have let their last three Michigan prospects play four years. They're also owned by the league and cheap. If they can let Brown develop free of charge, they will.
Then there are the three juniors. Carl Hagelin is an academic All-American from Sweden. He's likely to want his degree. Matt Rust and Louie Caporusso. Louie Caporusso was a third round pick of the Senators and may be a guy an NHL team would look to sign after his blazing finish, but Mike Spath of the Wolverine was asserting that Caporusso was likely to stay even before the Senators swooped in on UNH free agent Bobby Butler, another smallish offensive forward and one the Senators have put directly on their NHL roster. This makes it more unlikely Ottawa will press hard for Caporusso to sign and reduces their ability to sell a potential NHL opening.
All three flight risk juniors have unambiguously stated they will be back, so… yeah. Michigan Hockey Summer happened midseason this year.
Moffatt's rise and fall has been documented on this blog in a series of increasingly puzzled steps as he plummeted from the #2 overall pick in the WHL draft and a certain NHL first-round pick to 95th in the latest CSB rankings. What happened? You've got me. Some hints can be found on this USHL scouting blog:
Behind Zucker, Moffatt was the most visible offensive threat among the 2010 eligibles. Moffatt had the knack of being in the right spots and had several opportunities to create offense. However, once he had the puck, he did not always make the right play. He forced a few bad angle shots from the boards that were easily turned aside and transitioned by Ohio State. On those occasions, Moffatt had more time to survey the play and wait for support. Moffatt is a kid who will benefit from the coaching at Michigan and should play out his eligibility.
Insert Dean Lombardi joke here.
There's not much to say in Moffatt's favor, unfortunately. He's been healthy. He's been heavily scouted. He had a couple of okay years with the NTDP, but did not play anything like the star he was supposed to be. At the latest U18 World Championships, Moffatt finished with one goal and one assist on a USA team that won the title and scored buckets of goals along the way. No one even mentioned him as a disappointment.
All that said, we're talking about a fall from uber-hype to moderate hype. Moffatt is not Tristin Llewellyn, who committed to Michigan incredibly early as a potential first-rounder and didn't even get drafted. He'll go somewhere in the second to fourth rounds of the draft; Michigan's had plenty of stars who have fared worse. Carl Hagelin, for one, was a sixth-rounder. Moffatt will come in battle-tested and should have a shot at earning a spot on a scoring line.
Jacob Fallon, Indiana Ice/USNTDP.
Fallon's also been falling, but for reasons other than his talent level after getting booted from the NTDP midseason for the ever-popular undisclosed violation of team rules. He'd been serving a suspension that almost got him kicked off the team before that—rumored to be a drinking incident, FWIW—and had only six games to his name before he moved to the USHL's Indiana Ice. In 24 games since the move, Fallon has a 1-8-9 line and is minus six. He's done nothing on the ice this year; off the ice he's raised a bunch of questions.
So… yeah, it's a little weird that Fallon was invited to the NHL combine (Moffatt wasn't), was 50th in the Central Scouting midterm ratings (he fell a bit in the final edition, but not much) and is picking up positive scouting reports as recently as April 1st:
First off, Fallon is quick. He can burn defensemen outside, and if he has a teammate with him, the chances are, they're going to score. Fallon has great hands with which he can make crisp, tape-to-tape passes that set up his teammates with great chances to score. His speed, mixed with his ability to make great passes, draws comparisons to Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane. So, he is definitely highly regarded in the NHL community. Fallon doesn't have the best shot, which can bring his value down, and his below average size, 5'10"/180, also brings his draft value down a bit also. But you really can't argue with his raw ability, it's just that he has developing to do as he gets older and plays in college. He will be a great player someday, he just needs to develop his great potential and he'll be in the NHL someday.
Here's a February report from a different source:
Fallon seems to play and look bigger than 5’10 180. He’s a powerful skater with good balance and he uses his edges well. He is also very strong on the puck whether he is handling it in traffic or if he needs to make a hard pass or dump-in. Fallon played well without the puck and was a very responsible player in all 3 zones as well as a physical presence. At times, he seemed tentative in getting to open ice in the neutral zone….possibly a result of becoming acclimated to his new team. When he had the puck, Fallon possessed another gear and was able to take the puck hard into the zone while protecting it. Fallon certainly looks like a hockey player and stands out with strong techniques in all facets of his game and a player who does the little things well. Whether or not his offensive skills develop will dictate Fallon’s role as a second liner or third liner in college and beyond.
On the other hand, Fallon falls to 37th on College Hockey 247's top 50 list—not bad, but a big dip from being the 50th best skater in North America to the 36th best* headed to college—and WCH trashed Fallon's midterm CSB ranking, declaring he'd be lucky to get drafted at all.
Fallon did have a productive year with the U17s in 2008-09, scoring 15-23-38 in 55 games. He'll probably kick around the second and third lines as a freshman.
*(One goalie, Cornell-bound Andy Iles, is ranked ahead of Fallon.)
Hypothetical 2011 Accelerant. Michigan has three forwards committed for the class of 2011: Lucas Lessio, Derek Deblois, and Alex Guptill. With Czarnik's departure there is a potential opening for one of those guys to end up in the class of 2010. Given the depth chart it's not a necessity; it is a possibility. If it's anyone it will likely be Guptill. There's no buzz around Deblois leaving early. Cedar Rapids play-by-play guy James Stachowiak provides an inside look:
There has not been any talk around here lately about his plans for next year. The way that he has been used it seems as though he is being groomed as a team leader for Cedar Rapids next year. He and Mac Bennett are the only first year guys that the RoughRiders coach has included on his "leadership group".
He has also spent the majority of the season playing on the Riders top line. This line happens to have the teams two leading scoring forwards and many of Derek's points have come either feeding them or cleaning up rebound goals. Derek has not been used much on the powerplay during the second half of the season but has become a very valuable asset on the penalty kill. He has very good speed as most RoughRider forwards do and plays very smart on the kill.
As I said, there has not been much talk about plans for next year with the team getting ready for the playoffs, one thing that may or may not sway a decision is that DeBlois and Bennett are very good friends and have been for a long time, in fact, i believe they have always been on the same team growing up and now in Cedar Rapids, if there's a chance to do that at Michigan next year, it might be enough to convince Derek to move on, however, that is just speculation. I think that he would benefit from another season in the USHL where he is a top scoring option.
Lessio is a 2011 draftee and seems content at St. Mike's. Guptill, on the other hand, is a guy who will get drafted this year, has good size guy, and is currently toiling in Canadian Junior A. If anyone comes early, it will be him.
The left wing here is a guess. The top line is Hagelin, Rust, random assortment of wingers who will change at Red's whim and possibly stop rotating wildly the second half of the season. If Luke Moffatt had torn up the USHL like his hype suggested he would, I would have guessed he goes here by sheer dint of talent. If it turns out he's Brett Hull with crappy linemates he'll probably end up on Hagelin's wing, cackling.
That does not seem in the cards. The tentative guess here is that Chris Brown improves enough from year one to year two to displace Kevin Lynch from his spot on the top line. Brown didn't actually score much more than Lynch at even strength (six and five goals, respectively) but Brown brings a physical element that should help Rust and Hagelin's dangerous cycling and provide either or both targets for goalmouth passes.
Just like the first line, you can pencil in Caporusso and Wohlberg as inviolable components of the second line and pick a name out of a hat when it comes to the third guy. My tentative guess is that whatever faults exist in Moffatt's game he's still likely to be a decently high pick in this year's NHL draft and that talent will translate quickly enough for him to find a place here.
Or something? The bottom six forwards are up in the air. With the addition of Fallon there will be at least one extra body next year, which will push the 49 total games from Ciraulo, Sparks, and Rohrkemper into the press box. The six players left are:
- AJ Treais, a tiny skilled center who needs more strength and speed to become an impact player.
- Fallon, who was discussed above.
- Kevin Lynch, who spent a large chunk of last year as the other guy on the Hagelin-Rust line and was a second-round pick.
- Luke Glendening, who was the other guy on the Wohlberg-Caporusso line and wore an A as a sophomore.
- Ben Winnett, a senior who was the point guy on the PP last year.
Only Scooter is a lock to be a fourth-liner. He established himself a reliable forechecker and penalty killer but with a 2-4-6 in 35 games and a 4.5% shooting percentage he is unlikely to work his way onto a scoring line. The other guys could end up anywhere from the top line to the fourth. As you can see above, I'm guessing the offensive talent of Fallon and Treais will outweigh the seniority of the fourth line.
Winnett was the fourth-liner who Red had the most faith in. Until Glendening took his spot, he moonlighted on the second and third lines; he also spent most of the year driving me crazy on the point on the power play. Hopefully Michigan manages to find someone else at that spot. Winnett still brings a modicum of skill and size the other guys hovering around the end of the roster don't.
Glendening spent most of last year on the second line after Czarnik left and Winnett failed to make a leap forward; dropping him to the fourth line might be excessively harsh but it's hard to see how he doesn't fall out of the top six with Moffatt and Fallon arriving.
Rotating Cast Of Scratches
There's actually an interesting guy at the tail end of the roster: Lindsay Sparks. Sparks lost his role on the fourth line to Jeff Rohrkemper at the end of the year, but for a brief stretch in the middle of the season when Michigan was really struggling he brought a little pop to the lineup. Once he stopped getting on the scoresheet his deficiencies in size and defense couldn't justify his place in the lineup, but he ended with a 4-4-8 in 23 games without much playing time. During his time on the ice he showed better dangles than anyone else on the roster; he's got way higher upside than any of the other guys around here and will be a guy to watch early next season. He might have the skill to play himself into the lineup.
Rohrkemper didn't do much in his 19 games; he's a guy at the end of the lineup who will draw in when injury or the World Juniors deplete the roster.
Will a previously obscure player have a Lebler-like breakout? Over the past few years, Michigan's seen a number of players make significant leaps forward after two or three years in the program. Brian Lebler went from 8 to 16 to 24 points. Travis Turnbull went from 17 points as a sophomore to 27 and 28 as a senior. David Rohlfs spent a productive season on TJ Hensick's wing, going from 2-10-12 to 17-17-34. Jed Ortmeyer went from 24 and 21 points as to 38 and 34.
These leaps tend to come from big, grinding forwards who get to hang out on the wing of Michigan Offensive Star Du Jour. (Lebler's advancement is all the more impressive for being almost entirely self-generated.) Michigan doesn't have a Hensick or Cammalleri next year—Caporusso needs more help to generate his offense than any of those guys—but Carl Hagelin threatens to become a Hobey candidate and led the team with 31 assists. Hagelin ended the year on a playmaking tear with 16 assists in his last 18 games, Michigan could decide to lift Kevin Lynch, who had just 6-10-16 as a freshman and endured a 7.6% shooting percentage, for a player more likely to convert the opportunities a rampant Hagelin leaves in his wake.
The two guys who could potentially benefit from this are not exactly obscure. The player on the roster with the closest resemblance to a coke machine is Chris Brown, whose freshman year ended with a 13-15-28 line and seven power play goals, most of them on deflections and dirty crease mucking. If he can improve his skating enough to stay in the same zone as Hagelin and Rust, he could make a PPG-or-better living on tap-ins. The lumbering senior on the roster is Ben Winnett, who came to Michigan as one of those guys who lit up the BCHL but hasn't gotten off checking lines in three years at M. Red likes to put promising kids in high pressure positions, so I'm guessing we'll see Brown get the call on the Wing of Free Points.
Which Caporusso? Louie Caporusso spent the first half of his junior season on a tear. Over the next year he played like a nondescript third-liner, not a upperclass third-round pick. Then he blew up again. Which one is it? If Michigan's going to continue playing like they did during their run to the NCAA tournament Caporusso is going to have to produce. Not at the level he has during either of his tears—Michigan's forward corps should be way better since they only lose Lebler and add two potential top six guys plus a year of experience for everyone on the team—but he can't revert to the form he showed in his lost year.
Will a skilled midget make a leap? No one is going to mistake AJ Treais or Lindsay Sparks for Mike Comrie, but both flea-sized freshmen had their moments last year. As they adjust to bigger, stronger competition one or the other could turn into a solid playmaking center. In Sparks' case that wouldn't have much impact five on five but he showed enough last year to suggest he might be a useful power play specialist.
Treais, on the other hand, is likely to be the third-line center and could have some skilled wingers like Moffatt, Fallon, and possibly Glendening or Lynch. A dropoff from one of the top two lines could be covered by the third line emerging into the sort of unit that obliterates iffy third pairings in the CCHA.
How awesome is Carl Hagelin going to be? So awesome.