alternate headline: man does job
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.
Apologies for the lateness - transportation issues left me unable to publish the preview -t
|WHAT||Michigan v. Michigan State|
|WHERE||East Lansing, MI|
March 7th, 2010
|THE LINE||Michigan +10.5*|
|TELEVISION||CBS (Kevin Harlan, Dan Bonner)|
*Line provided by online sports betting site Sportsbetting.com.
When Last We Met
The Wolverines dropped a heartbreaker in front of a Maize-Out crowd as DeShawn Sims' alley-oop layup just missed the mark at the buzzer. Kalin Lucas's icy jumper with just a couple seconds left on the clock proved to be the game-winning basket, as the Wolverines fell to their rivals by a score of 57-56.
As has been the case much of the year, Michigan's defensive and offensive execution was very good, but the open shots just weren't finding the bottom of the basket. The Wolverines managed just 38.8 eFG%, while allowing the Spartans to make a hair over 51 eFG%.
Since Last We Met
It could be said (and perhaps this is the actual case) that the Wolverines just continued being a mediocre and inconsistent team following the loss at the hands of Sparty. On the other hand, I think it's at least a little bit true that they were demoralized coming off this game, and entered a mini-tailspin, disrupting the solid improvement they had been making in conference play.
Either way, Michigan has gone 4-5 since the State loss, with all four wins coming over Iowa and Minnesota, and losses coming in winnable games against Northwestern, Penn State, and Illinois, as well as in predictable blowouts against Wisconsin and Ohio State. If DeShawn Sims's shot had been just a half inch one way, this team probably has not just one more victory at this point, but probably more like three or four. As it stands, they're playing for their NIT lives.
Sparty, on the other end of the court, has gone through a rough patch of their own (compared to their standard, of course) since knocking off the Wolverines. A 5-4 stretch in conference play has eliminated their chance of winning the regular season conference title, after an 8-0 start. They still have a chance to share the conference crown with the Buckeyes if they can beat Michigan, though Ohio State holds the tie-breaker.
If you need an explanation of the stats, check out Ken Pomeroy.
|Michigan v. Michigan State: National Ranks|
|Category||Michigan Rank||State Rank||Advantage|
|Mich eFG% v. MSU Def eFG%||227||78||SS|
|Mich Def eFG% v. MSU eFG%||228||56||SS|
|Mich TO% v. MSU Def TO%||7||252||MMM|
|Mich Def TO% v. MSU TO%||45||199||MM|
|Mich OReb% v. MSU DReb%||286||17||SSS|
|Mich DReb% v. MSU OReb%||254||9||SSS|
|Mich FTR v. MSU Opp FTR||337||26||SSSS|
|Mich Opp FTR v. MSU FTR||10||229||MMM|
|Mich AdjO v. MSU AdjD||82||35||S|
|Mich AdjD v. MSU AdjO||50||29||S|
Difference of more than 10 places in the national rankings get a 1-letter advantage, more than 100 gets a 2-letter advantage, more than 200 gets a 3-letter advantage, etc.
Michigan is up against the numbers yet again, as they only have meaningful advantages in holding onto the ball and preventing the Spartans from doing so. Michigan State, on the other hand, has big advantages in shooting and rebounding.
If the Wolverines are to come away with the win, they'll have to use a similar gameplan to the one that knocked off Minnesota twice this season: win the turnover battle in a big way, and get hot from the field. Playing with discipline offensively will be a huge key, because mistakes are sure to snowball against a Tom Izzo team, especially one with such a talent gap over this Michigan squad.
Ken Pomeroy likes the Spartans by 8 points at home, giving them an 81% chance of getting the victory - and the tie for the Big Ten Title. Vegas thinks the Spartans should be about 10.5-point winners. Michigan has teased at times this year, but they've been just that - a tease. Michigan State probably emerges victorious by about 10 points.
1/29/2010 – Michigan 2-ish, Michigan State 3-ish – 14-12-1, 9-9-1-0 CCHA
1/30/2010 – Michigan 5, Michigan State 4 – 15-12-1, 10-9-1-0 CCHA
I feel kind of bad that when you google former CCHA referee Kevin Langseth's name the first three hits are:
- A post on this blog titled "People Better At Their Jobs Than Kevin Langseth" featuring Stephen A. Smith, Carrot Top, the FEMA director during Hurricane Katrina, William Henry Harrison and, most lethally, Nickelback.
- A duplicate of that post with some useless html doohickeys on the end.
- A duplicate of that post from the Notre Dame message board that reposts my RSS feed in full.
Thanks to me, Langseth is in need of some serious online brand management. Then I go back and click the link to the Yost Built post which I let stand as explanation and the red mist descends and all I remembered is mustachioed walrus incompetence and I shake my head. That post came in the aftermath of a game against Ohio State in which 1) an OSU player kicked a goal in* and 2) a goal that banked in off Louie Caporusso's chest was inexplicably disallowed by Langseth despite the fact that there was a senior official in an excellent spot to make a call. Michigan lost by a goal. It was the second important game that year—a game against Notre Dame was the first— in which Michigan had lost by a goal in a game where two blatantly incorrect decisions to allow or disallow goals had gone against them.
Langseth hasn't been seen around Yost this fall; I assume he decided having rabid bloggers seriously damage his online brand wasn't worth it and is now in the nascent stages of a lucrative career selling mustache grooming accessories. The senior official in an excellent spot was Matt Shegos.
So now Michigan has a man-advantage with just over two minutes to go and a chance to pull off a huge comeback on the road. Just after the penalty expired, Chris Brown was standing in the slot. The puck hit him and bounced down, through the legs of Drew Palmisano, and into the net. Like, straight through the legs of Palmisano. We're not talking pinballing. We're not talking the puck died between his legs but was still loose and someone jammed it in. It hit Chris Brown, bounced down, went right through Palmisano into the net.
Shegos somehow missed this and blew the play dead within milliseconds of the puck going underneath Palmisano. The whistle may not have gone until the puck was in the net (I'm not sure), but thanks to the most retarded rule in sports--the play is dead when it's dead in the referee's mind, not when he blows the whistle--you can't review it.
Son of a.
What's the story of the weekend when Michigan claws back from 3-0 down to tie and manages to blow its own 3-0 lead only to charge back with a season-rescuing win at Joe Louis? "Hey, maybe we can do this thing." What's the story now? Yost Built, let your graphic stylings roam free!
That's inescapable. Michigan split the weekend and ended up dropping a slot in the pairwise. If we're looking at RPI, as we usually do this far out, the #14 team has a 0.5385. Here's what they have to do to approach that:
Win seven and a half of nine.
I don't even know what to say. Shegos is clearly the best ref in the league. He still made a huge, game changing error that was so far beyond plausible that I'd rather have the rotating cast of drafted linesmen and guys I've never seen before—the pool Langseth was taken from—in charge.
*(Since this rule changes every two months and is different in every league across the continent, let me clarify how egregious this was: at this moment in history the NCAA rule on kicking the puck in was "anything that touches an offensive player's skate and goes into the net as a result is disallowed." Intent, kicking motions, all that stuff: irrelevant. Skate –> net –> disallowed.)
Holy God was Michigan bad on Friday. Even getting in a position to tie that game was a minor miracle after two and a half periods had yielded maybe three or four scoring chances and probably double or triple that number for Michigan State. It was the reverse of the Ferris weekend, where Michigan played an excellent game Friday and a totally gross one Saturday. The Saturday Ferris and Friday State games were identical down to the final-ish score and the late, ultimately unsuccessful (-ish) Michigan comeback.
Hogan's save percentage speaks for itself. I've been arguing with people about how much culpability Bryan Hogan has for Michigan's crappy record all year, and I think the soft shortie against Ferris and the fat rebounds he kicked out all weekend against State are evidence enough that the reason Hogan has a .902 save percentage—54th nationally of 77 qualifying goalies—is mostly that he's not playing well.
The other idea was that Michigan gives up a small quantity of high quality shots. That may have some truth to it, but every study that serious hockey bloggers have undertaken suggests that relative save percentage is a seriously meaningful way to compare goalies, and Hogan is not doing well in that.
Persons of note. I don't think Chris Brown's at the point where he could pull a Pacioretty and leave just as he turned into a ninja, but I am a little concerned the NHL will look at his corner-friendly frame and willingness to take a beating in front of the net and scoop him up before his time. Except—hey—he's a Coyotes draft pick. The 'Yotes are either cheap or patient or wise or all three and have left their last three Michigan draft picks in school for all four years. That might not be a huge surprise with Kevin Porter or Chad Kolarik, both mid-round picks, but Chris Summers was a first-rounder. First round picks who play four years at Michigan are rare indeed.
Anyway, the reason to fret is that Brown's been the most effective freshman forward on the team in a way unfamiliar to Michigan fans: by being huge and ornery. The last Wolverine to score so many dirty crease goals was Brandon Kaleniecki. Kaleniecki was a highly effective player over the course of his career at Michigan despite not having the talent Brown does—Kal was never drafted and never made it out of the ECHL post-college—and a huge version of him seems like a nice player to have around for four years. He's already displayed more scoring touch than Eric Nystrom ever did, if only because he'll put his nose in wherever it needs to go and is handy with a deflection.
Summers, meanwhile, finally put his speed to good use on a rush that got AJ Treais an easy tip-in goal. I don't think he's lived up to expectations as a senior captain—he's been good, but seems far short of the All-American level you'd expect a senior first-round pick would reach.
Weekly Oh My God, Are We Going To Miss The Tourney update was actually covered above in the midst of near-weekly If I Was As Bad As My Job As CCHA Referees Are I Would Be Drew Sharp rant: Michigan's split with Michigan State did zero for them. They are basically where they were before the Ferris State series with four fewer opportunities to drag themselves out of the muck.
This week: must sweep BGSU in the weird split series and a win over Wisconsin would be a huge help.
|WHAT||Michigan v. Michigan State|
|WHERE||Friday @ Munn Ice Arena
Saturday @ Joe Louis Arena
|WHEN||Friday @ 7:05PM EST
Saturday @ 7:35PM EST
January 29/30, 2010
|THE LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
|TELEVISION||Friday on Big Ten Network
Saturday on FSD (HD!)
Record. 16-8-4, 11-5-4-1 CCHA. #13 PWR. #11 KRACH. Currently second place with 38 points. Michigan is ten points back in seventh, but has two games in hand. 18th in PWR, 16th KRACH.
The Spartans have done most of their damage against weaker opponents. Outside of the previous series with Michigan, the Spartans are 1-6-3 against teams under consideration—the top 25 in RPI. The first two teams out right now are CCHA teams MSU is 2-1-1 against, though. In any case, Michigan State has been decidedly mediocre against quality competition and lethal against 1) bad teams and 2) Michigan. KRACH has their schedule strength 23rd; Michigan is 17th.
State's been streaky. Their recent streak is the bad sort, as they've gone 1-2-2 in their last five and now find themselves squarely on the NCAA bubble. If the season ended today everyone would be very surprised and State would either be one of the last teams in or first teams out depending on how the conference tournaments went.
Before that, State ripped off five straight wins, albeit against BGSU, Michigan Tech, RPI, and Lake State. Only one of those teams—Lake State—is not bad, but Michigan's managed to lose to two of the bad ones this year so hurray.
Dangermen… literally. Well, you're not going to like this except as an example of Michigan State's willingness to tolerate anything, but Corey "Practicing My Golf Swing On Your Head" Tropp is Michigan State's leading scorer. By all rights he should be in the CHL with his goon buddy or playing a year in the USHL in preparation for a transfer somewhere far away, but Second Chance U doesn't care what you did the first time around.
Anyway. Tropp has a 17-19-36 line and, though he hasn't scored in a while has continued to pile up assists. Freshman Derek Grant has 10-17-27 and junior Andrew Rowe has 11-10-21. From there it's a pile of guys with five or so goals. Nick Sucharski has seven but appears to be a minimal threat outside of the power play, where he's got five.
Michigan will attempt to match Hagelin against the Tropp line as often as possible, I'm assuming. They are the home team at the Joe this year so they'll get one night where that's a possibility.
Defense and goalie and whatnot. It's been a weird year for Michigan State, which has plenty of 0, 1, and 2 goal games to its credit but also gave up five to Maine, seven(!) to Wisconsin, and has yielded 18 goals in this recent rough patch. For the first time in the history of the universe, Michigan is scoring less and giving up fewer goals than State.
Spartan goalie Drew Palimsano isn't quite at the level of Ferris State goal Pat Nagle, but he's not that far off. He's in a three-way tie for 7th in save pecentage with a .927; Brian Hogan improved last weekend to .906 despite giving up a really terrible shorthanded goal.
On defense, Jeff Petry has rebounded from a dire sophomore season to post 3-18-21 and has actually gotten his plus minus above zero (+5) after his epic –31 last year, but it's a couple of younger players—sophomore Matt Carndell and freshman Zach Josepher—leading the defensemen in +/- at +10 and +11, respectively. (Yes, yes, +/- is a pretty dumb stat, but it's all we've got for college hockey.)
Special teams. Power plays for and against:
|PP For / G||5.4||5.8|
|PP Ag / G||5.2||5.4|
Michigan has a slight advantage, but only slight. When it comes to the specialty units' efficiency, though, Michigan has a clear advantage. Their penalty kill has slipped to 5th nationally but Michigan State's is basically average at #24. Neither powerplay is gang busters but Michigan does have a slight advantage, converting 19.7% of its opportunities to Michigan State's 18.5. State has also given up two more. Michigan is +1 in shorthanded goals; Michigan State is even.
Michigan Vs Those Guys
Be careful in the neutral zone. State tends to back off on the forecheck pressure in favor of sitting in passing lanes when you try to break out and Michigan's been pretty turnover-prone this year. They're also short on guys who can stickhandle past the first opponent and open up space—that's basically Chad Langlais and zero other players—so dumping the puck might be a frustratingly common occurrence. Or, worse, not dumping the puck and turning it over in a dangerous spot.
I'm extra concerned about this after the last weekend, where the Friday night game was acres of open ice and cross-ice passes galore. Those things will get picked off against State.
Be seriously aggressive on the forecheck. State's defense corps consists of Petry (a junior) and six freshmen or sophomores. With Michigan's speed up front they can probably force their share of crippling turnovers or draw some penalties.
Keep your composure. Always difficult against MSU, worse when Tropp is going to be out there, worse still when you've dropped the last two against them and are playing for your season, essentially.
The Big Picture
This is the biggest series left in the season for many reasons. One: it's Michigan State. Two: a sweep puts the MSU-UM pairwise comparison back in play; anything short of that and Michigan basically can't win it unless the two teams meet in the CCHA playoffs. (And even then Michigan will probably have to get three points this weekend.) Three: Michigan can drop two, maybe three games in the eleven they have left and still have a reasonable chance of a bid without a CCHA tourney championship. Aside from the Wisconsin game, these two are the toughest left on the docket.
So… basically like last week: a split does nothing good or bad for Michigan, which is bad when you're on the wrong side of the bubble. A win and a tie helps but not nearly as much as a sweep.
The goal differential says "split"…
Team GP GF GF/G GA GA/G MARGIN
8 Michigan State 28 92 3.29 67 2.39 0.89 9 Michigan 26 81 3.12 58 2.23 0.88
…but performance since the holiday break gives Michigan some hope that they'll come away with something more than that. Also, Michigan's put up that margin against a slightly tougher schedule. Then again, performance in the previous series argues they won't do better.