I did not make this headline up
With a thrilling comeback win over Michigan State yesterday, the Wolverine lacrosse team once again captured the CCLA Conference Championship and the #1 overall seed in the MCLA National Tournament.
Those who follow me on Twitter already know how frustrated I was during the CCLA championship game yesterday. Michigan was committing awful turnovers, the Spartans were getting easy chances (and converting some that weren't so easy), and it was a generally dismal game. Halfway through the third quarter, I didn't think Michigan had a chance to win.
Something funny happened, though: Michigan started playing like, well, Michigan. A three-goal deficit late in the third turned into a big Michigan rally. The momentum carried the team through the final quarter on the way to a 13-11 victory.
Tournament Offensive MVP Trevor Yealy notched three goals and freshman Thomas Paras (who I thought should have won the MVP award, given his two goals yesterday and eight-point effort against Miami) put in a pair, while Clark McIntyre had two goals with an assist. Both goaltenders played a half, with Mark Stone struggling through the first, and Andrew Fowler making a couple key saves to spark the team in the second half.
Credit goes to Michigan State as well. Their goalie, Dean Hall, was named the tournament's Defensive MVP, and deservedly so. When Michigan threatened throughout the first half, Hal managed to keep them off the board more often than not. He gave his team a chance to win, just as he did when Michigan and MIchigan State faced off just over a week ago.
Michigan State proved, if nothing else, that they belong on the same field with Michigan, which is good for Michigan in the long run. The Spartans absolutely deserved to make the MCLA Tournament field. Which brings me to...
At the conclusion of all the conference tournaments yesterday, the MCLA selection committee hammered out the field for the tournament to determine the national champion. I unfortunately didn't manage to get one last bracketology post up before the real bracket came out, but them's the ropes. Your field:
- Michigan (CCLA Champ)
- Colorado State (RMLC Champ)
- Arizona State (SLC Champ)
- Chapman (SLC)
- Minnesota-Duluth (UMLL Champ)
- Oregon (PNCLL Champ)
- Florida State (SELC)
- Brigham Young (RMLC)
- MIchigan State (CCLA)
- Simon Fraser (PNCLL)
- Colorado (RMLC)
- Florida (SELC Champ)
- Illinois (RMLC Champ)
- Cal Poly (WCLL Champ)
- Boston College (PCLL Champ)
- Texas State (LSA Champ)
Michigan is the #1 overall seed for the third consecutive year. They'll face off against #16-seed Texas State in the first round on Tuesday, May 11th in Denver, CO. Should they be fortunate enough to win that game, a second-round matchup against BYU or Michigan State (two of the Wolverines' biggest rivals) awaits. If they get through that game, which is no guarantee given the hard-fought nature of the wins over Michigan State this year, the semi-final and final games will be televised(!) on Fox College Sports.
I'll have a thorough preview of the Texas State Bobcats in the days leading up to the first-round game. Congratulations to the team on its conference championship, and Go Blue!
This Saturday the #1 ranked Michigan Lacrosse team will take on their instate rival at 7PM at East Grand Rapids High School as part of the Great Lakes Lacrosse Classic. Tickets are $6, and gates open at 5:30. Defending Division 2 state champions East Grand Rapids will take on Division 1 reigning champs Birmingham Brother Rice at 1PM as part of the festivities. For more, check out the EGR lacrosse page.
Michigan has an 19-1 record all-time against Michigan State. For the past four seasons, the Wolverines and Spartans have closed the regular season with the Great Lakes Lacrosse Classic, with the venue alternating between Grand Rapids and Birmingham each year.
In the 2006 regular season, #1 Michigan defeated #22 Michigan State 14-8 at Forest Hills Central High School in Grand Rapids. The Spartans would get their revenge in the CCLA tournament, however, coming away with an 11-10 win in which they were dominated in every aspect except the final score.
The 2007 season would bring a sweep of Michigan State, with a 14-6 victory at Birmingham Seaholm High School in the regular season and a 10-3 domination in the championship game of the CCLA tournament at Kings High School in Mason, Ohio. In that game, now-senior faceoff specialist David Reinhard won 5-of-6 draws, and Anthony Hrusovsky notched two goals and an assist. [Ed: full preview after the jump.]
More meta UFR stuff. Biological fun fact: because of Chris Chelios, Mike Comrie, and my loose affiliation with the Wings due to a childhood spent in then hockey-free Colorado, I migrated my NHL fandom to the Edmonton Oilers a while back. How's that working out? Just fantastic, thanks.
One of the compensations of following the sort of team that would sign 70-year-old Nikolai Khabibulin to a four-year deal without giving him a physical is that the blogging community around the team is spectacularly good. I've read Lowetide and MC79 for years and have just stumbled on the SBNation Oilers blog. It has a post called "Groupthink, Confirmation Bias, Hockey Fans And Microstats." I put in in the feed reader three times.
Anyway, here's UFR motivation in a nutshell:
In the world of sports fans, confirmation biases abound. It's impossible for individual fans to record, catalog, process, analyze and interpret the results of hundreds of independent events occurring constantly throughout a game, but it's much easier to pick out those events and sequences of events that support their conclusions. Any hockey fan that has sat silently shaking their head while the crowd piles on an undeserving player recognizes this immediately. It's a powerful psychological force, especially in a setting like sports. Fans can confirm their biases for themselves and immediately fall back on thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of fellow fans to confirm what they already know.
It seems that the Michigan fan's groupthink these days has been pretty accurate. Most of the people who have come in for internet horsewhippings have subsequently fluttered in and out of the lineup (Mike Williams, JT Floyd, Obi Ezeh, Jonas Mouton, Dorrestein/Huyge platoon) or been moved to less terrifying spots for their athleticism (Kovacs). Even so, it's nice to have UFRs around for when it's unjustified, like when Steve Breaston was getting killed for dropping about the same number of balls as any other receiver on the team.
And yes, I will UFR the Ohio State game, probably about a week after spring practice finishes up.
Right, I forgot about the pablum. So Da'Sean Butler suffered an ugly ACL tear in his Final Four game against Duke and then had that uncomfortable moment with Huggins.
But before that he said a bunch of nice things about Beilein:
"Everybody has to buy in, and you have to get the right people," Butler said, referring to Beilein's offense, which requires discipline and precise shooting. "You've got to get the absolute right people for that system, because if you have even one person that doesn't understand or doesn't care to understand, a cancer on the team of some sort, then it can throw everything off, honestly.
"The system works. That's the best system I've ever been part of in my life as far as just running an offense. It suited me so well. I think everybody kind of gets into, you've got to get all these five-star and whatever recruits, and for him, you just need to find the right players who can obviously make shots, but who will work hard. And if you find that right group, and not like prima donnas, it could be a very good system."
I guess that's nice but I bet the "whole lot of nothing" quote Butler dropped a few days ago resulted in a sharp thwack on the head and a reminder to never say anything that could be construed as not wildly positive. On the other hand, Huggins is still running Beilein's 1-3-1 regularly. That does seem meaningful.
Might be time for another "eeee" tag. Yes, more David Brandon hype ahoy:
“I don’t put a disproportionate amount of emphasis on any one year, but clearly this year was a year we hoped for better and certainly lost a little bit of momentum in terms of our improvement,” Brandon said. “But that doesn’t detract from my belief that going forward we can regain that momentum, and our program is going to get bigger and better and stronger when we get those practice facilities in, and we do some things that will afford us to be able to recruit a little more aggressively. It’s going to help both those programs a lot."
He manages to strike a balance between acknowledging things have been disappointing and offer public support of his coaches in response to the machine-gunned "when can we fire this guy?" questions he appears to field 24/7.
That comes from an article that focuses on the future of the basketball program with a couple of Brandon quotes that give an indication of what the U has planned for Crisler:
“We need wider concourses, we need more restrooms, we need better amenities in terms of food service and service opportunities for our fans,” Brandon said. “We need to re-seat the bowl, think differently about the kind of seating that we use and probably put in some kind of club-seating opportunities to give special experiences to people who are willing to take advantage of those.
“Probably come up with a different game plan as to where we put the media and just how we professionalize that arena.”
Emphasis mine. That sort of talk would be an anethma about Michigan Stadium—though it is basically undergoing the same process—but is welcome in reference to Crisler, which is what you'd get if you took Joe Louis Arena and turned off half the lights. If Brandon can fulfill his goal of having the broadcaster who declared Crisler one of the worst in the country return to eat crow*, Michigan's facilities renovations will be essentially complete. The last thing to do would be another Yost renovation that brought in video boards and some other things.
*(This has to be Bilas, right? I imagine this happened during one of his many defenses of Tommy Amaker.)
This was a Malcolm in the Middle plot. MVictors has detailed Michigan's tumultuous 1909 on his blog and in HTTV, and now we have a postscript thanks to mgouser and extremely unusual person Alaska Hokie. Michigan QB Joy Miller was the Demar Dorsey of his day, except with academic laziness (the classes: he had none) substituting for juvenile robberies. He was eventually booted from the team and ended up cleaning pots for a horrible woman in Alaska. Or something close to that:
QUARTER BACK LOSES HIS MIND
Famous Football Player on the Wolverine Team is Located at Walla Walla Working as Laborer.
HIS MIND IS TOTAL BLANK
Disappeared Months Ago From His Home and All Trace of Him Has Up to the Present Been Lost.
WALLA WALLA, March 19.—James Miller, the famous quarterback of the Michigan team last year, who has been missing from his home for several months, was located in this city yesterday working as a laborer. His mind is a total blank and he is quite unable to recognize his friends. He was elected to the captaincy of the Wolverine team for next season.
The end. It was Washington, but same difference.
Man-for-man, his isn't the most talented offense in the conference, but given the close-to-the-sweatervest approach at Ohio State and widespread inexperience at Penn State, I'd put my money on MSU leading the conference in scoring at a little over 30 points per game. Just like last year, though, part of that will be out of necessity, to overcome the growing pains of a pair of new and/or ineffective cornerbacks, specifically, and a back seven in general that just doesn't have the horses to seriously contend for the conference title or one of the floating BCS slots. Assuming the offensive line holds up, though, the passing game will have a few eye-popping afternoons, and a Gator or Outback Bowl bid likely awaits after a borderline top-25 finish in the neighborhood of 8-4.
That is not within a game or two of .500, which will be its undoing. Spartan .500 gravity is one of the universe's most powerful forces.
Etc.: Devin Gardner is walking around campus in a sling. He's still practicing, though. Canadian hockey writer/broadcaster person Bob McKenzie sent his son to St. Lawrence to play college hockey. The younger McKenzie has just played out his eligibility, causing the elder to post on his experience with college hockey. Browser-crippling version of Inside Michigan Football #3 up.
At least there's that. Darren Everson has a great piece on Michigan's recent malaise and the hockey team's bounce-back that won't have much news for anyone who's lived through this year but is a great summary if you need to explain why you're sitting in the bathtub clutching yourself to someone who's not a Michigan fan.
Mary Sue Coleman shows up at the end to provide a throwaway quote, prompting a complaint from Dave Birkett about her tendency to show up in the WSJ but turn down local requests. This is probably because the WSJ asks her questions like "Do you like to win?" and local papers are more likely to ask eleven questions in a row about the threat Demar Dorsey poses to local schoolchildren. You must lie in the bed you have made.
Give me back that filet of goalie. Give me that goalie. If you've been watching the NCAA tournament you, like me, must have the bizarre Filet o' Fish jingle stuck in your head. There is but one thing as persistent this day:
Shawn Hunwick had a decision to make:
Go to Albion and become the school's first goaltender, or ...
Walk-on at Michigan. [ed: this story manages to spread one sentence over three(!) paragraphs, which must be a record.]
For the few moments the blinding television lights remained locked in on him, Shawn Hunwick played it cool.
In almost three years at Michigan, Hunwick played exactly 18 minutes of college hockey. But he never complained, never skipped, and never asked for playing time. He just kept his mouth shut, and did his job.
There is also an article from [NEWSPAPER REDACTED]. It covers exactly the same ground as the 37 other articles about Shawn Hunwick. Give me that fish.
Berenson's locked Hunwick in an electrical closet since the CCHA finals in a desperate attempt to keep his head on straight. We'll see if it works. Hunwick finds the electrical closet roomy, by the way, and thinks it's an honor to be in an electrical closet at Michigan.
Meanwhile, Louie Caporusso on avoiding that Air Force thing again:
But according to Caporusso, the formula for avoiding an early exit like last year is simply “shooting the puck on net with a purpose.”
“If we give him a lot of confidence and start building him up in our head, then it’s only going to make it harder on us,” Caporusso said. “I find if you brainwash yourself to believe that they don’t have a good goalie, you’re better off putting the puck in the net.”
The final countdown. Center Jon Horford just signed on, replacing Ben Cronin's wonky hip with a rail-thin post with some touch near the basket and good passing skills.
I don't want to steal too much of UMHoops's thunder as Michigan approaches what will be a critical couple weeks for the basketball program, but a high level overview: Michigan has two scholarships open and they may fill both of those slots despite the jam that would cause in the class of 2011. The candidates:
- Mount Pleasant SF Trey Zeigler. Ziegler is similar to Manny Harris, but higher rated on average. He is down to a top five of Michigan, Central, State, Arizona State, and UCLA. Complicating factor: his father is the head coach at Central Michigan. Zeigler could sign up to help his dad, whose job security is shaky.
- Detroit Denby SF Isaiah Sykes. Sykes can't shoot but he can get to the rack at will and is in the 6'5" range with long arms and a feverish desire to rebound. He has no offers after a high school career that saw three transfers; he didn't even play the first half of this season.
Michigan will obviously take Zeigler if they can get him. Sykes is the wildcard. Beilein's been to a number of his games recently, spurring both UMHoops and AnnArbor.com to get video and scouting reports on the guy. If Zeigler ends up going elsewhere—the tenuous conventional wisdom is that it's probably CMU or M—I can't imagine Beilein won't offer Sykes and end up with him.
Would Michigan take Sykes if it got Zeigler, though? Maybe. Michigan could free up another scholarship in 2011 for a post if they did not offer Laval Lucas-Perry a fifth year, and it's possible they wouldn't have to do that if someone transferred because of a lack of playing time in the aftermath of Zeigler, Sykes, Hardaway, and Smotrycz (who will push Novak from the four to the two and three) arriving. If I was Beilein I'd make my decision on Sykes independent of Zeigler.
The spring signing period starts in two weeks.
And fin. There was some hubbub in the comments when Michigan State reinstated a number of players who participated in the PREWB. Included were BJ Cunningham and Mark Dell, the highest profile participants not immediately booted. This set Dantonio up for a buffeting.
Why I can't figure. State has lost eight(!) players as a result of the PREWB, and six of them hadn't had previous run-ins with the law. This is not like Glenn Winston's reinstatement. None of the guys who are back on the team got any jail time; just about every program in the country would have done the same thing.
You can hammer Dantonio for two things here: letting Winston back on the team after months in jail after an unprovoked attack on a pair of innocent bystanders, lying about Roderick Jenrette's freshman year suspension. The actual handling of the aftermath here seems appropriate. Both guys who played in the Alamo Bowl, by the way, are gone. That wasn't on Dantonio.
While we're on Michigan State: they've got a goofily named quasi linebacker on their depth chart too. They've got a "STAR" listed and might be moving to a 3-4, or some other defense with three dedicated down lineman and an array of hybrids.
Happy trails. The Blue Gray Sky is packing it in. This site's relationship with those guys fell off a cliff after we did an article exchange before the '05 M-ND game. Mine was a description of my experience after the painful 2002 loss, after which a young child came up to me and literally said "good game, mister" as if I had fallen into Pleasantville. I added in some stuff about Notre Dame's program not being very good, which was basically true, and how this made Michigan's rivalry with them frustrating because they did things like lose two of three to Ty Willingham.
Theirs deployed "Skunkbears" and actually featured these two sentences:
Yost was but the first in a litany of men of low character to hold the reins at UM. ... Gary Moeller was frustrated that he couldn't pick Notre Dame up, drink it, and then drive into a ditch.
It was kind of like punching your brother in the arm and getting a baseball bat to the head in return. Suffice it to say there were no more article exchanges.
Even so, BGS was one of the first blogs to materialize out of the ether and when they weren't dredging up apocryphal stories about people who have been dead for 70 years, they were drafting incredibly research-heavy pieces I was jealous of. It must have been nice to have a blog with eight or so contributors; one of them could just hole up for months and come out with a precise breakdown of formations organized by down and distance. I can't find that in particular, but I did find their "Four Plays" series, which was a 2006 version of Picture Pages on steroids. They were good. They were Notre Dame fans who posted on ND Nation, but they were also good.
Etc.: Dennis Dodd says "if there were ever a coach to root for, it's Rich Rod." Is that a good thing?
3/13/2010 – Michigan 5, Michigan State 1 – 22-17-1, 1-0 series
3/14/2010 – Michigan 5, Michigan State 3 – 23-17-1, 2-0 series
(Ariel Bond in the Daily)
"When I was in a barbershop quartet in Skokie, Illinois…"
The twist, if done properly, obliterates the thing you thought you were watching and replaces it with something completely different. This can redeem previously idiotic plot points, like Patrick Bateman charging down an apartment corridor, chainsaw blazing, without anyone noticing in American Psycho. Twists have enormous power. A really great one can launch an interminable directorial career even if no one ever likes another one of your movies again.
Michigan's 2009-10 season had a plot. After 37 games of erratic play, defensive breakdowns, soft goals, stopped shots, and the occasional monster performance that served only to get your hopes up so they could be suitably dashed later, we thought we were watching a movie titled "Death Wish III: You Thought Hockey Was Immune" or "500 Shots Of Bummer," for which latter I am deeply, deeply sorry.
Ah, but the twist. In the preview I mentioned that karma was busy with State's football team and had not yet attended to the Corey Tropp situation. I owe that fanciful concept an apology.
Tropp watched. He stepped on a puck in warmups and he watched Steve Kampfer and his teammates storm into Yost West, dominate on and off the ice, and forcefully boot Michigan State from the tourney bid it thought was guaranteed at midseason. After two periods, shots were 32-10. The only relevant scoring Michigan State had in the series came thanks to the generosity of Tristin Llewellyn and some iffy goaltending from a 5'6"-ish walkon.
Tropp and his entire team watched Michigan salute their students—who outnumbered Michigan State's—as they waited for no one to sing their alma mater. When the last of them headed off the ice, season over, a third of the arena gave them a "seeya." Karma has paid in full.
Never in the history of the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry has a comeuppance been so sudden, unexpected, and richly deserved. The road to 23-17-1 as been frustrating as hell, but as I raised my fist for the "hail" in the Yellow and Blue the season rearranged itself into a series of necessary evils. Tropp had to explode so his loss could be a crushing blow. Michigan had to lose to Bowling Green so the 2-7 matchup would be these two teams, and it would have to be at Munn for maximum pwnage.
Maybe not everything was necessary. Michigan didn't have to give it away late in nonconference games against BU and Wisconsin. If they hadn't Michigan would have probably punched their own ticket last weekend. As it is, they still have a mountain called Miami to climb before they can even play for a shot at the tourney. The frustration of this season is still real. But that's not what I'll remember it for anymore.
Because screw that guy in the ear, that's why. And screw the coach who thought a harsh conversation was sufficient punishment. Michigan has postgame video up and twenty seconds in someone walks up to the camera loudly declaring "THAT IS WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT." He passes the camera, and the back of his jersey reads "Kampfer."
He was the last guy off the ice. That's what I'll remember.
The sweep shot Michigan from 25th to 16Wth in the Pairwise and made the possibility of an at-large bid at least worth checking, but as of yet no one's put together a scenario in which Michigan splits at the Joe and manages to make the tourney.
Alabama-Huntsville winning the last CHA tournament moves the line to make to at least 14, and it will be 13 unless Cornell wins the ECAC, and it's really hard to move up by going .500, even against good competition. So Michigan will have to flip at least three comparisons. I don't see that happening. Sioux Sports has a new view where you can see the comparisons at a glance and it appears that Michigan has flipped all the comparisons they're going do. Actually going through the individual comparisons is blindingly painful: each common opponents category is a litany of missed opportunities. If Michigan wins two of the games they gave away—BU, BGSU, Ferris, UW, etc etc—over the course of the year they're probably a solid three seed.
That didn't happen, though, and it's win or go home.
- Finally the Big Ten Network comes through: Friday's game against Miami is at 8 and is on BTN HD.
- From time to time in Billy Sauer's first two years—when he was clocking with a season save percentage under .900—I felt panicked any time the opponent entered the zone, let alone put a harmless shot on net. That panic was orders of magnitude greater Saturday as Shawn Hunwick gamely tried to avoid blowing the above, awesome storyline in whatever way he could. That wander out of the net nearly killed me, and for large portions of the third he appeared to be throwing his glove out aimlessly.
- I'm all for Hunwick as a concept but when your coach is calling you Rudy, there's not really any question about who the starting goalie is. Hogan (and Summers) "should have a chance to play" on Friday according to one of the assistants on WTKA, and while they're making noises about it being a tough call I will assume that Hunwick in net means Hogan is not ready to go.
I wonder how the guy who inexplicably knocked Langlais in the preview post by way of defending Tristin Llewellyn—who wasn't even mentioned—is going to justify that in the comments. It's the internet, after all. Changing your mind is not allowed. And this guy suggested that Eric Elmblad was a better option than Langlais, so he's not one of those people who is sane.
Llewellyn was in the box for all three Michigan State goals on Saturday, the first two of which came when Llewellyn ignored a loose puck he could clear out of the zone to drive some guy into the boards… on a penalty kill! Bler. The tripping call he took later was just a run-of-the-mill penalty anyone could have taken; the first was totally insane.
[Update! Llewellyn is +9 in the tournament! No one wants to play against him after he takes two penalties that make a laugher a tie game!]
- Over the past couple week's I've been talking myself into the idea that Michigan could be really good next year based on their goal differential (now 10th nationally), the relatively light losses Michigan should experience this offseason, and Michigan's still-killer recruiting class.
On that recruiting class, specifically the defense: Michigan loses Kampfer and Summers to graduation. They bring in John Merrill, Mac Bennett, and Kevin Clare. Merrill will be a first round pick in the upcoming NHL draft. Bennett was already drafted in the third round by the Canadiens. And Clare is a polished stay-at-home defenseman who will probably go sometime in the middle rounds. Michigan is going to be scratching two scholarship defensemen unless someone moves to forward. So… should Langlais move to forward? He's probably the best puckhandler on the team right now and if he can adapt to the forward spot I envision him setting up Caporusso for his lethal wrister plenty. At a generous 5'9" he doesn't have an NHL career that would screw up.
Would you rather scratch Rohrkemper or one of the freshmen defensemen/Llewellyn?
- Lebler is probably replaceable but that "probably" is a testament to how well he's played as a senior. When he came to Michigan he had, I believe, 14 points his final year of junior. He's mixed grinding boardwork, big hits, and the occasional impressive snipe to best that considerably the last two years. He's developed to the point where I'm a little worried about his departure when Michigan has the #2 pick in the OHL draft and Jacob Fallon coming in. He's a totally different player but I'd compare his career track to John Shouneyia, a guy who started slow and was never a star but developed into a very good college player by the end of his tenure.
- How about that Caporusso goal on Friday? I talked to like four people about it and everyone invoked Hensick. That's the kind of stuff that's been almost totally absent from not only Caporusso's game but that of the whole team. I still remember goals Hensick and Cammalleri and Comrie scored, and I'll remember Caporusso's cruise through the slot. Hopefully that, and the ridiculous tear he continues to be on, carries over into next season.
- …assuming that there is one. I don't think he's at a point where a team is going to scoop him up but it's vastly more possible now than it was midseason. He's a Senators draftee and went at the end of the third round in his draft year, FWIW.
- I missed this when it happened, but apparently someone printed up a long screed against Comley when he didn't dress a senior defenseman on Senior Night. Said defenseman, who hadn't played all year, immediately quit the team, and his girlfriend or a relative went all manifesto.
|WHAT||Michigan @ Michigan State
CCHA Second Round
|WHERE||East Lansing, Michigan|
March 12th/13th, 2010
7:05 PM EST March 14th
|THE LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
|TELEVISION||Friday & Saturday: Comcast Local|
Record. I'm pretty sure that frequent commenter Spartan Dan put together a killer weekend preview at The Only Colors simply to shame me—it's even got this site's usual "you want this WCHA series to go this way because of the marginal effect it will have on our pairwise comparisons" section—and shame me it has done. It has also done a significant amount of the legwork, though, so we'll call it even.
Anyway: 19-11-6, 14-8-6 CCHA. Second place. Goal differential of +0.67 per game overall and +0.32 in conference. Bizarrely, Michigan's goal differential is considerably better in both instances (+0.85 and +0.5, respectively) despite being the seventh seed here. What's going on? Dan has a great chart that helps explain things:
Right away you can see more spread in Michigan's goal results. State scores three a lot, zero almost never, and six relatively rarely. Their goal curve somewhat approximates a normal distribution. Michigan has nights of wild success and nights like… well, you could name a dozen at this point. This dovetails nicely with a post I threw on mgolicious recently about a new method for reducing the error in baseball's Pythagoran prediction schemes*. It's kind of obvious:
Your actual win total doesn't just depend on runs scored and allowed -- it also depends on the consistency of each. If your scoring is less consistent than average, you should outperform [ed: I don't think this is good phrasing.] Pythagoras in terms of wins. For instance, if you score exactly the same number of runs as you allow, you should wind up a .500 team. But if you win more blowouts than average -- by scores of 15-2 and 16-6, for instance -- you'll finish at less than .500, because you've "wasted" your runs when you don't need them. And if you *lose* more blowouts than average, you'll win *more* games than 50 percent, because your opponents are "wasting" their runs.
A team that scores zero goals half the time and eight goals the rest of the time is going have the best goal differential in the world and be .500.
it's a little tough to parse this pattern out, but try to just consider the TUC games (blue and green). There the pattern is even more stark: State still scores three a ton, with one the next most popular and some other scattered numbers. Michigan's mode is two—ick—and the goal scoring is much more distributed. TUC teams are the top half of the schedule and more likely to score goals against you: here is the gap between Michigan's goal differential and its record.
Is this luck or something wrong with the team? Dan makes a case for the latter based on Michigan's style of offense this year ("chuck it at the net and see what happens") and I agree with him. The posterboy for this effect is Louie Caporusso, who has been on a tear of late against iffy goaltending and poor defensive teams but was totally stymied against the meat of the schedule. Michigan as a whole seems like TJ Hensick trying to make it in pro hockey: too good for the AHL (usually) but not good enough for the show.
This is a long and complicated way of saying that I wouldn't put as much into the goal differential as you might otherwise. I think it bodes well for Michigan next year, but maybe not this weekend.
*(For those less likely to have a collection of German board games: Bill James took a look at the numbers and found out that run differential was a better predictor of next year's record than last year's record. This finding is generally applicable and definitely applies to hockey. It's a major reason I think the hockey team will bounce back to its usual terrifying self next year. There's no place like home… no place like home… no place…)
Dangermen. Insert default complaint about Corey Tropp… no, insert a new one: it is totally ridiculous that the only punishment Corey Tropp received was missing the remainder of a season in which State had already checked out for good anyway. Michigan State had such deep respect for the idea that Corey Tropp should sit out games that they tried to stash him in the USHL so he wouldn't get rusty and only backed off that plan when someone in compliance said it would affect his eligibility. Rick Comley has permanently lost my respect, and the way this incident has played out makes me long for the day when Michigan can tell the league to GTFO and join a Big Ten hockey conference.
But anyway. Karma is busy with the Spartan football team at the moment and has ignored the above, so Tropp is Michigan State's leading scorer with a 20-22-42 line. Derek Grant has 11-18-31 and Andrew Rowe a 15-11-26, from there there's a significant dropoff. Expect Hagelin to get the Tropp line whenever they can manage it.
Defense and goalie and whatnot. Drew Palmisano has developed into one of the country's best goalies—something you could see coming as he split time with Jeff Lerg last year—and has a .922 save percentage.
Earlier in the year I suggested that Michigan State's extremely young defensive corps might be an exploitable achilles heel, but I just looked at the year next to their name and not their birthdates. None of these guys is straight out of high school and some of them can already drink. (Drink legally, that is. These are hockey players.) "Freshman" Zach Josepher is a few months away from turning 22! So nevermind on that.
The key guy on the Spartan D is Jeff Petry, a second-round pick of the Oilers who had a terrible year last year beyond just having crappy teammates but has bounced back to be both the Spartans' best offensive defenseman—22 assists—and most reliable defender. Josepher and fellow freshman-type object Torey Krug (actually younger than 20) are the next two guys on the depth chart. Krug is a smallish puck mover, Josepher more of a defensive sort.
Michigan, meanwhile, is still rolling out pint-sized walk-on Shawn Hunwick. This is good for the profile-seeking newspaper writers of Southeastern Michigan, but maybe not so good for Michigan's chances this weekend. Both of the goals Lake State scored on Friday were super soft and I'm sure everyone else is as creeped out by how often he jumps at pucks as I am. On the other hand, the two Friday goals were the only on the weekend and Hunwick did make a couple of grade A stops on Saturday to preserve his shutout.
While it's not a foregone conclusion that Hunwick is outperformed, it's pretty likely.
As a bonus, senior captain Chris Summers is out. Lee Moffie draws into the lineup, and this might mean bad things defensively. It just goes to show that I don't know everything (or even much) about hockey that I thought he was killing it when this was going down:
But after he dressed in 13 consecutive games, Moffie was pulled for his defensive lapses. In the final five games of that stretch in late January, Moffie had a plus/minus rating of minus-five. He has played in just four of the last ten games.
“I’ve known from the start that the defense is my thing that will keep me out of the lineup, they made that pretty clear,” Moffie said. “I’m an offensive defenseman, if I’m not producing and I’m out there for goals, I’m not really worth a lot to this team.”
His defensive issues must be a lot more subtle than Llewellyn's tendency to pick up dumb penalties and get caught up ice.
Special teams. Your power plays per game stat:
|PP For / G||5.6||5.7|
|PP Ag / G||5.1||5.4|
Michigan's specialty units are more effective than State's. Michigan's penalty kill is borking along at a 87.6 rate. Michigan State is in the middle of the pack (20th) at 83.2. On the flip side, neither team is much good on the powerplay. Michigan is 29th, State 34th. That's basically a wash.
Since Michigan State has a better ratio of PPs for and against, this section is basically even.
Michigan Vs Those Guys
Play like an underdog. Michigan's been playing a tighter, simpler game with Hunwick in net and the results have been fewer scary turnovers and few grade A opportunities. Michigan State is a step up from Hunwick's first four games, which were against 9th place Notre Dame and 10th place Lake State and will actually be able to generate scoring chances of their own. Michigan should play a conservative game in the hopes of protecting Hunwick.
Clone Carl Hagelin and put him on three lines.
Figure out why you are so inconsistent, especially against TUC opponents, and fix that season-long issue in a week. What? It could happen.
The Big Picture
The Pairwise still doesn't matter for Michigan. They're 25th right now: it's CCHA championship or bust. That requires winning this weekend and against Miami unless Ohio State pulls off the upset of the year in the CCHA, with Ferris State or Alaska or someone else the last hurdle. The pulse still remains faint.
On the other hand, the Pairwise implications of this series are huge for Michigan State. They sit 12th. With Bemidji State comfortably in the top eight, there is only one auto-bid that is definitely getting handed out. You could get in with a PWR as low as 15, but to be safe you'd like to get to 14 or, better, 13. If Michigan State loses this series they will take two TUC losses against zero or one wins. Depending on the results of other series, this could knock them out of the tournament entirely.
Michigan's playing for its life in this series and doesn't need anything else to motivate, but that's a nice little bonus.