I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
I'll miss you, Birds+Books APR image header, except I'll probably still use you
APR threat: downgraded. My annual fretting about the first-year Rich Rodriguez number has been a full-post kind of thing the last few years. This year it gets downgraded to a UV bullet because of this number: 984. That's Michigan's most recent one-year score, and it's shiny enough to get Michigan over the 930 Mendoza line even with that 897 anchor. Hurray for everyone.
Unless Michigan experiences another flurry of transfers—unlikely—the next few June days on which everyone reports APR scores because it's the middle of June will be opportunities to reflect on what a swell guy Brady Hoke is. Officially standing down on APR alert.
Michigan's other sports are all doing well, as per usual.
Playoff: almost officially happening. It seems like we've had articles about the inevitably of a four-team playoff for months now. At some point if the thing is so inevitable people would stop writing about it. No one's writing about players being required to wear helmets this fall. Anyway, it seems like there has finally been a meeting with an actual single endorsed plan. It is this (emphasis added):
While the B.C.S. commissioners did not announce the details of how they would pick the teams for the four-team playoff, a source with direct knowledge of the decision said the plan is for a selection committee to “more than likely” pick the four best teams.
There will be a preference given to conference champions in the selection, but how much is yet to be determined. Strength of schedule will also be strongly considered. There have yet to be any discussions about how the finances will be split among the teams.
The selection committee will subject a sport steeped in regional biases to a different type of controversy, although one that will likely die down a bit now that there will be semifinal and final games. The two semifinal games are expected to be played within the bowl system and the national championship will be bid on like the Super Bowl.
In a joint statement, the 11 conference commissioners and the Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said that they had reached a “consensus behind a four-team, seeded playoff, while recognizing that the presidents will certainly present their views, including a discussion of a Plus-One.”
That's lip service. Presidents are going to rubber stamp it. Pop champagne? It could be better but it's a huge improvement. Other than the Big Ten's self-defeating opposition to home playoff games leading them to perpetual road travels, I'm cool with it. FWIW, even without preferences for conference champions, the SEC would only have grabbed multiple bids three times.
As for where the first one will be, bet on Dallas.
Why not both? This is a revamped sports bar split into MSU and Michigan halves.
VERNON TWP. — Uncle Buck’s Northern Exposure is making a dramatic change in format — from a nearly topless dance club to big-screen sports bar.
In fact, it was an overload of drama, says owner Ken Canfield, that prompted the change, including a different name: Crossroads Sports Bar.
Missed opportunity there.
Hockey schedule: again with the front-loading. Michigan's released the hockey schedule, which again has an extremely light back end. Nine of Michigan's final 12 games are away from home (one is at the Joe) and there are just six home games (and the U18 game) in 2013. Not like they could do anything about that what with the conference going away next year. Price of leaving.
Michigan plays no road games in the slim nonconference portion of the schedule. They've got two against RIT, another one-off versus Bentley, the game at MSG against Cornell, and the outdoor GLI. They'll open against Tech and get WMU or MSU in the second game.
I hope this isn't an indication of where Michigan's nonconference schedule will go when they join the Big Ten. It probably isn't. Red has sought out tough competition as frequently as possible since the program got its footing, and with a whopping 14 games to play with—16 if M makes the trip to Alaska—they should have room for annual series against the big powers.
Context at Maize and Brew.
Should you flip your defense or not? Generally the answer is "not" these days because of spread hurry up stuff. You may remember Michigan doing this a bit early in the year, but that was a stop-gap measure:
Why to Flip
Flipping the defensive positions based on strength of the Offensive formation started as a way to keep teaching simple.
Rather than having to teach a Defensive End to play either lined up either inside a Tight End or outside shade on a Tackle, you could teach him to always align to the strength, meaning he spent all of his time on the Tight End.
The teaching got simpler, as players had to know less about the entire game, and more about their own little piece of tunnel vision. It became easy to know very little about the game while still being a very good and knowledgeable player about your own position.
No more, because if you flip your bits people will run hurry-up on your face and get you confused. Better to have a general understanding these days than a hyper-specific focus. That's a subtle way in which the game's generally increasing specialization is taking a step back.
FWIW, the coach who posted this noted that a number of guys are using field and boundary calls to set their defense instead of opponent alignment. (IE, you line up to the wide side or short side of the field no matter what the offense does.) FWIW, Mattison is one.
More uniform concepts. This time Notre Dame does it to themselves:
The second comment is an image of Chris Hall—life's winner—and his glorious Tom Hammond tie. Well done.
Etc.: UMHoops gives the 1,000-foot view on Michigan's five-man 2012 basketball recruiting class. Rothstein horning in on my season intro column by discussing Hoke's inadvertent marketing genius. Baumgardner has a series on key moments from last football season. I disagree with Baumgardner's take on the 49% TD against Iowa—he seems to think the issue there was whether Hemingway was in, but the real problem was the nose of the ball hitting the ground.
WR ALERT. Devin Gardner's facebook:
Stop everything you're doing for the next three months and talk about this. Certain packages are likely to include the redzone and third down stuff when Michigan has four WRs on the field. 20-30 catches maybe? Unless an enraged Al Borges refuses to field a leaker?
UPDATE: Michigan says that's not actually Devin Gardner's facebook page. Woo!
Wow. Of all the quotes to put on Joe Paterno's grave, this is the best one:
No idea if that was planned previously and now takes on a vastly sadder meaning in the aftermath or someone in the family calling a ballsy audible. But, yeah.
When Irish legs are drunkenly crane-kicking you. Tommy Rees was at a party in South Bend that was broken up because it's South Bend. City motto: Where Fun Goes to Die. He got some tickets and stuff, but then the crushing weight of life in rural Indiana finally got to him and he went "wwrrroaaaaaAAHHHH" at a cop:
Officers saw five people jumping a fence to run away and they chased them down, catching Rees and Calabrese.
In an attempt to get away, Trent says Rees kneed an officer in the stomach.
Rees got pepper-sprayed—internet, where is the Tommy Rees getting it from Pepper Spray Cop image?—and arrested on various charges including a felony that has a zero point zero percent chance of sticking.
This is par for the Tommy Rees decision-making course. Confronted by police, the options he considered included:
- calmly taking the ticket and going home
- licking Manti Te'o's face just to see what would happen
- detaching his arm, insisting that it was actually Tommy Rees and he was Steve Miller of Steve Miller band
- transferring to any school coached by a non-mauve person
ANSWER KEY: #5: 10 points. #1: 5 points. #2: one point. #4: zero points. #5: you have been eaten by a grue'o.
So he could have done worse. Irish fans are hoping this disqualifies him from starting this fall. Opponents are hoping for his safe, addled return.
BONUS: Carlo Calabrese is as connected as you would expect a guy named "Carlo Calabrese" to be:
At 1 point, (Carlo) Calabrese allegedly told officers, "my people will get you," per police reports.
DOUBLE DRAGON BONUS: Jacobi uses the Furman suspension to troll Notre Dame about their lack of character. Well done. (BR link!)
Give us back our New Year's Day, and do so by taking it away. Remember when New Year's Day was reserved for teams that had won, like, eight games? Yeah, man, back then you really had to eke out a mediocre season to play on January first. No longer:
At the 2010 Outback Bowl, Auburn became the first team in 62 years to play on New Year’s Day with a losing conference record. Five more teams have done that since then: Northwestern, Texas Tech, Michigan, Florida and Ohio State.
In the past five years, 10 of the 27 New Year’s Day bowls featured a team without a winning conference record. That occurred in just six of the 221 New Year’s Day bowls from 1968 to 2007.
Fans have been treated like suckers. The powers-that-be figured by putting something on New Year’s Day — even if it was undeserving teams — you’d keep filling seats, watching on TV and building up ratings for BCS bowls in the coming days.
You can't even blame TV since the Big Ten's desire to cram every game they're in onto New Year's Day means four games I'd watch if given the option are on at the same time. As long as we're banning 6-6 teams from the postseason, let's ban teams with more than three losses from New Year's Day.
The erosion of NYD is a fine example of the stuff that drives me nuts the increasingly short-term thinking plaguing of college athletics: you have an institution that is loved, so you milk it for dollars until you've destroyed the meaning of that institution. Get The Picture:
The thing is, it’s not like that happened in a vacuum. It wasn’t an accident. It’s what TV wanted. And the conference commissioners were more than happy to comply with the request, as long as the checks rolled in. Now the panic has set in as the numbers decline. But who’s to say that the guys who drove the bus into the ditch in the first place are qualified to pilot the tow truck to pull the bowl season out of the ditch? Does anybody really believe they’d place the sanctity of New Year’s Day above a few more dollars?
On the national level this results in Gator Bowls between 7-5 teams on NYD; on the local level it results in the reseating of Crisler with absolutely no consideration given to the guys who have had tickets for the last crappy decade.
Alienating your most loyal fans is rarely a winner unless you're winding down an industry. (See: profitable but debt-laden newspapers slashing content willy-nilly.)
How to do it. I may expand this into a larger post later, but amongst an avalanche of head-nods and "you go girl" exclamations while I read Dan Wetzel's latest article on how to construct playoffs I found myself having a serious disagreement. It's here:
There is no good way to choose the field. None. There has to be a subjective decision made, and no one likes subjective decisions.
The best of a bad situation is to have that subjectivity hashed out in a cool, calm and studied environment and then make the selection process as transparent as possible.
As such, the sport would be best served if it created a single computer formula. People could decide how important strength of schedule (preferably giving extra credence to tough nonconference scheduling) or margin of victory or home-field/road-game criteria should be. They could program the formula accordingly and then test and tweak the next two seasons.
Most importantly, they could offer it up to everyone so that teams can plan ahead, know what they are up against and track the progress as the season goes along.
I'm a math guy, but that's not going to work. There is just not enough data in a 12-game season with very little meaningful overlap between conferences. Adding MOV helps, but not enough. Even computer models that try to take every drive or play into account spit out weird results like Virginia Tech #3 overall in 2009. While any selection mechanism would fall on the descriptive side of the descriptive/predictive rankings divide*, I just don't see a computer ranking ever getting fine enough that it will be right as much as a dedicated selection committee.
You need the committee to override groupthink like "Oregon has more losses than Stanford because it played LSU, so Stanford makes it."
In other playoff ideas, I do like the idea that a conference champ ranked 5 or 6 gets in over someone who didn't win the conference. Without that limitation you get some squirrelly fields. That one seems good to me since it solves that Oregon issue.
*[IE: rankings either describe what you've done—evaluate who's had the best season—or attempt to predict the future by ignoring noisy wins and losses for a more robust underlying model.]
Stop, collaborate, and listen. Joe Stapleton talked with Zak Irvin's AAU coach and came back with some tantalizing tidbits. He's his loaded AAU team's go-to scorer and we also get some additional indication he could be BRJ 3000:
“Defensively, he’s our stopper,” Green said. “We put him on the other team’s best player. So sometimes you’ve got the best offensive guy, he’s going to work, but then he’s got to turn around and play defense against the other team’s best player. He’s capable of doing both.”
When the All-Stars were in zone, Irvin played at the top and was disruptive. His 6-foot-6 frame and long arms made it nearly impossible for smaller guards to get a lob pass over him, and his quickness allowed him to hound the ball without getting taken advantage of.
When the All-Stars were in man-to-man, Irvin guarded the opposing team’s best player and gave them plenty of trouble. Irvin’s combination of size and quickness allowed him to guard post players and wing players equally effectively.
“His best attribute right now is being a lockdown defender,” Green said. “Defensively, he’s always been a lockdown defender and that’s never going to change.”
I love players who can add value without using possessions, whether they're Aaron Craft or Ben Wallace. Irvin is going to use possessions, possibly at a Hardaway rate—in AAU the dude is an aggressive shooter. Add in a lot more value than Hardaway has at the other end of the floor, where he's an indifferent defender, and an inch or two of height and Irvin sounds like a top 50 player easy.
Etc.: Various coaches on playoffs. Considerable speculation that Alabama's projected starting tailback may not be ready for the Jerryworld game. They would plug in a five-star freshman in his stead. You are annihilating the EDSBS fundraiser. Good luck, St. Louis group trying to get a Big 10-SEC bowl game there. Seriously, good luck.
3/09/2012 – Michigan 2, Notre Dame 1 (OT) – 22-11-4
3/10/2012 – Michigan 3, Notre Dame 1 – 23-11-4, advance to CCHA semifinals
This weekend Michigan will make its 24th straight trip to Joe Louis Arena for the CCHA semifinals. The program hasn't recruited a kid who was alive the last time Michigan was absent for going on a decade now. The last 21 of those years, Michigan has followed up the Joe with an appearance in the NCAA tourney. Since they responded to their ugly November with a 16-3-2 tear to end the year they'll make it 22 in two weeks. The only people who remember a time when these streaks were not active are the old men in Yost not quite old enough to forget.
That is incredible consistency. Just look across the lake and find future Big Ten foes Wisconsin and Minnesota if you want to chalk it up to recruiting. Both those teams select who they want, like Michigan, and have rosters littered with NHL draft picks, like Michigan. They're both working on a tourney streak of zero. Michigan State is also in that situation. (Since Rick Comley left the roster stacked with AARP members instead of future NHLers, that's a different argument.) Those are three of college hockey's glamour programs and they have one bid between them the last three years.
A lot of the vibe around Michigan's program in recent years has focused on how the team has only turned two of those 21 bids into national championships, but that's a conversation for the flat blank day the day after your soul shrivels up when a puck goes in the wrong net and hides inside its lonely crevasse for 52 more weeks of winter. In the immediate aftermath of Michigan punching out Jeff Jackson's eighth-place, college-hockey-NIT-bound Irish and Ferris State blowing it against Bowling Green it's time to give thanks for consistency.
Notre Dame was supposed to finish first in the league this year unless Miami did; they took their great talent and legendary coach and shiny new arena and finished one game above .500. Ferris State actually won the league this year; they took on the worst team in the conference and lost. Neither will be at the Joe. Michigan will, because Michigan always is.
It would be one thing if that was because they always had some ludicrous talents on the team. In recent years this hasn't really been the case. They don't have a lights-out scorer. Their top guys in PPG tied for 94th this year. They've made a transition from firewagon hockey to a more defensive style; they coped with the total implosion of their power play. The big star last year was either a defenseman who never hits anyone or a lightning-fast Swede better known for his defense than his offense. Their big star this year is their goalie.
Michigan has transitioned into a new, monstrously tight-checking era of college hockey without missing a beat. They've all but locked down a one seed after that terrible awful vertiginous November showed us a picture hardly anyone remembers: April without Michigan hockey.
I've got a few Illinois fans on my twitter feed and their mournfulness yesterday as Selection Sunday played on without the Illini was striking as I pondered Michigan's 24 and 22-year streaks. We've been there ourselves, as Michigan's 2008 season spiraled into the dirt and Bo's bowl streak went up in flames. As the basketball program embarks on a baby streak of their own and football gets back up to speed, let's take a moment and give thanks for the unchanging excellence in Yost.
Things happen. Your goalie flames out or some guy leaves school and you're left with a guy from the club team and a mop Jon Falk said you could borrow you call "Lee Moppie" because all hockey nicknames consist of putting "—ie" at the end of someone's name. Moppie sees way too much time and gets stuck in his own end because it's a mop and you lose a bunch of games. Even Bo's bowl streak was a flimsy thing when Harbaugh went down.
It is at this point that your program lays down for a breather, and you find out that the only thing worse than the horrible deflating feeling in April is one in March or February or November. But not for us, not yet.
It was really too bad this one wasn't on TV. It was the game of the year, no question, and up there as far as Yost all-timers go. Obviously not at the level of tourney games; other than that it's competing with Ryan Miller-era games against MSU and that BC game when Jack Johnson shot the goalie's helmet off.
Hunwick on his last game at Yost:
The flag. It's above. It's fabulous. They'll have to figure out exactly when to deploy it since their current idea conflicts with the "who cares" bit during player introductions, but it is awesome. They'll figure it out. Aaron Ward paid for most of it, which is also awesome. Also, Taylor Lewan pled for the Arizona state flag—which the student section deployed when Moffatt got a penalty just to show it off—to make an appearance at Michigan Stadium this fall.
I want more flags. All of the flags!
That's more like it, Notre Dame goalie situation. CenterIce has a diary breaking down the Michigan goals and came away from the weekend with an impression similar to mine:
Watching the highlights I was very surprised by how the scoring played out for us. I could not see anything televised because of my location, but it was very strange to see an entire series of lucky bounces and soft goals.
Michigan had a bunch of legit scoring chances they rang off the posts (three of them in the first OT Friday); everything else was soft.
Even though Summerhays wasn't exactly awful—he did give up just over 2 GAA—most of the goals he gave up were soft-ish, none worse than the harmless dink Phil Di Giuseppe managed to slide through his five hole:
If you let something in through the five hole at that angle from that tight, you have earned the "it's all your fault" in the aftermath.
Meanwhile, Hunwick was just about flawless. He had no hope on ND's Saturday goal, on which Jon Merrill didn't realize he had a two-on-one situation down low and went after a puckhandler emerging from the half-boards, leaving the back door wide open. The Friday goal came after a long period of Notre Dame pressure featuring several grade A stops from Hunwick; finally he could not react fast enough when ND found an open guy in the slot on a pass that came from behind the net.
Meanwhile, the all-Gongshow goalie gave up ten in a three game series against BGSU. Well done, hockey gods.
Notre Dame. Good? Bad? ND is such a confusing team. I think I was right to be very much against playing them in the second round, as they dominated large stretches of the first game and could have/should have put it away. Hunwick was ridiculous, and Michigan was much better in the OT. Michigan was much better on Saturday; even so my impression from watching ND play four times this year is that they should be easily in the tourney.
The goalie thing is a big, big problem. You could tell the body language on Saturday night was "here we go again." If they just had an average goalie I'm guessing they're well above the bubble.
Top line re-emerges. They had a little bit of a quiet spot there. That's over after Brown got the winner Friday and Wohlberg's top-quality snipes Saturday. They were dominant for stretches on the cycle, as well.
Now that Glendening and Di Giuseppe are getting some goals it seems like Michigan has two solid scoring lines for the tournament with the potential for some bonus stuff from Moffatt, a Lynch, etc.
The main problem left. The power play is just horrendous. They could not even get the zone on Friday night, and while they fixed the problem somewhat Saturday they still ended up 0/7 on the weekend. There's an obvious lack of dipsy-doo on the team that is a problem. Michigan has never in my memory played two defensemen on the PP, and I remember many years where the solution to getting the zone on the powerplay was "give it to Hensick."
This year the guy most likely to get the zone on the rush is… Mac Bennett, probably, and he does it by beating a guy as he leaves the defensive zone. When an opponent is lining four up across the blue line like ND was he doesn't have the puckhandling to make guys back off.
I don't really have any answers here. I'll just be over here massaging my temples for the next two minutes.
Sparks. : ( Scratched again and with no points in forever it's hard to make the case he should not be. I just thought that line was so close to putting in a half-dozen goals once he returned to the lineup. Oh well.
MFan in Ohio has been ably summing up the situation on the message board. Michigan actually dropped after Friday night's action thanks to a weird confluence of factors seemingly designed to play up the PWR's flaws: a bunch of not very good teams won or lost to fall above or below the .500 RPI mark that makes teams a TUC. They did this in just the right fashion for Cornell's TUC record to be momentarily very good, and Cornell took its comparison from Michigan based on that and the 3-4 games they've played against common opponents. Cornell is almost 300 points back in RPI.
Order was restored on Saturday, and with just one weekend left you can run scenarios out the wazoo. The worst-case chalk scenario (all higher seeds win except M going 0-2 at the Joe) still sees Michigan finish second; the worst-case-period scenario (UMD, BU, Miami, and Cornell win conference tourneys) sees Michigan finish in a three way tie for fifth. If Michigan beats BG in the semi they'll finish in a tie for third.
Upshot: Michigan has to both blow it as hard as possible and have every opponent within striking distance do as well as they can to lose the top seed.
As far as draw goes, I have no idea. One set of results sees Michigan drawing #4 seed Cornell in the first round; others have Cornell a strong two. The PWR is a jittery thing.
It does seem like Michigan has a solid shot at getting another Atlantic Hockey champ despite not being the #1 overall seed. For that to happen, the following must transpire:
- Two CCHA teams must be one seeds
- Two CCHA teams must be four seeds
- Michigan must be the highest-ranked CCHA team
In that case the committee has no choice but to match the CCHA teams up against the other folks and hand the not-very-good AH champ to Michigan. Your wicked hangover from that one year Michigan played Air Force suggests this may not be the absolute best thing in the world, but… well, yeah.
That is likely to happen if Miami beats Michigan Saturday. It's a consolation prize.
As far as the league goes: Miami, Michigan, and Ferris are solidly in. Ferris and their all-world goalie gave up a billion goals to BGSU and ended up not making the Joe; they're a solid two seed. Western Michigan and State are on the bubble. Both are in unless there is a bid stolen.
One will make it unless two bids are stolen this weekend; that team will be State unless WMU wins the CCHA. In that case State can be knocked out with a single stolen bid.
1/21/2012 – Michigan 1, Notre Dame 3 – 14-9-4, 8-7-4 CCHA
1/22/2012 – Michigan 2, Notre Dame 1 – 15-9-4, 9-7-4 CCHA
Rudy does not impress Shawn Hunwick
At one point this weekend one of the announcers called Shawn Hunwick "Rudy" and then laughed about how Notre Dame fans would be mad about that comparison. I just don't even know where to start with that. Maybe here:
|Kent Patterson (COL)||Minnesota||SR||1618:54||56||2.08|
|Kevin Kapalka||Lake Superior||SO||1519:14||63||2.49|
|Andrew Hammond||Bowling Green||JR||1507:05||67||2.67|
|Paul Karpowich (STL)||Clarkson||SR||1458:58||51||2.1|
Rudy was an annoying twerp destined for sketchy pump-and-dump stock schemes who got in late in a blowout once. His life story is a tale of how plucky determination can turn you into a successories poster model and scam artist. Rudy's about as real as Notre Dame football's status as a national power.
By contrast, no one in the country is more important to their team than Hunwick. He plays every minute unless he's probably concussed or Michigan is up 10 goals. He is top ten in save percentage despite getting bombed, despite playing behind a poor penalty kill and mostly without Jon Merrill. He's so good not even the CCHA Gongshow can deny him his rightful place as the all-conference goalie this time around. (Surely. Surely?)
Like Jordan Kovacs, Hunwick long ago left walk-on territory. The journey looks like this:
- We're starting a walk-on? Death!
- He's tolerable for a walk-on but this is a signifier of how far we've fallen and we'll never get good until we get some talent in here.
- He's really good for a walk-on. I should probably stop calling him a walk-on.
- He's pretty good. I am waiting for the other shoe to drop.
- He is my binky.
For both of those guys the term "walk-on" is no longer a signifier of anything other than an improbable backstory. Rudy they are not because they are actually good at things.
It's time to ask the question: is a five-seven walk-on who came to Michigan never expecting to play a game the best goalie in the history of the program?
Statistically, the answer is yes. Al Montoya put up an .895 as a disinterested junior and is out. Marty Turco's billion wins and tourney heroics obscure the fact he put up sub-.900 save percentages until his senior .907. I can't find full Steve Shields stats; the one year hockeyDB has also shows a .907.
Michigan's record book goes back to 1962 and currently lists Billy Sauer's 2007-2008 season at the top of the heap because it hasn't been updated in a couple years. Hunwick's two seasons as the out-and-out starter be 1-2 if whoever's responsible for the book could be convinced you weren't having them on. It's not even a debate when it comes to save percentage. Unless there's a sumo wrestler from the 1920s everyone's forgotten about, Hunwick is the all-time best.
However, hockey's changed considerably even over the last 15 years. In 1996 and 1998 when Turco was regarded as a god despite having those ugly numbers. That was not all in fans' heads, either. Turco went on to a long, successful, colorful NHL career. His first year in the AHL he put up a .920; two years later he was in the NHL. Clearly there was something about Michigan's mid-to-late 90s firewagon hockey that exposed goalies to a lot of high quality chances.
Save percentage alone is insufficient and if there were sports talk radio dedicated to Michigan hockey, people could rage about their favorites without anyone stepping in to say "you're wrong." Because who knows?
But it's not that we can answer that question definitively. It's that we can ask it at all.
It is a sad but undeniable fact that Sauer will mostly be remembered for tourney meltdowns. Hunwick has last year's North Dakota game to his credit. Montoya had a couple of stolen tourney games on his ledger; those are the only ones I can remember that came anything close to last year's grand theft. How close was that? Not close at all.
In the end answering the unanswerable question is going to come down to a few games in April. At this point there's only two ways the question can be answered: maybe, and yes.
*[Michigan's hockey statistical DB doesn't go very far back.]
A good weekend. Speaking of! Hunwick had a second consecutive monster weekend, giving up three goals on 74 shots. One was a no-chancer on a cross-crease pass, another a slot rebound that is the one consistent weakness of his game, the third a close-in shot it was hypothetically possible to stop but very difficult. Last week Ohio State managed one goal.
Michigan's third pairing got stuck in the zone against ND's hard forecheck, the second line seemed to spend most of its time futilely attempting to get the puck back from the Costello line, and defensive breakdowns put him under duress. He still cracked the top ten in save percentage.
You can argue he's the best in the country. The top four are at Union (ECAC) and three Atlantic Hockey schools; #7 is an ECAC guy; #9 is another AH guy. NMU's Jared Coreau and Miami's Connor Knapp are platooning. That leaves Hunwick, OSU's Cal Heeter, Merrimack's Joe Cannata and Mass-Lowell's Doug Carr at the top of the leaderboard in the Big Three conferences.
No one in that group has a huge lead in save percentage and Hunwick's ominpressence would seem to give him an edge. He's logged more minutes than anyone other than Minnesota's Kent Patterson; he has four full games on Cannata. He gets bombed, too. Michigan is yielding a blizzard of shots. That may hurt him when voters look at goals allowed, but he's got a shot at All-American type things.
A bad weekend. No one player is 100% responsible for any goal but Luke Glendening was the guy trying to check the guy shooting on all three of Notre Dame's goals (ENG ignored). Notre Dame's second on Friday was a backcheck he did not get position on and did not control the opponent's stick; the other two were just derpity doo.
(It's possible Merrill was more at fault on the last one.) Glendening also took two dumb penalties, one boarding, one interference.
So… like… he's the captain and everything but he has nine points in 28 games, three in 20 CCHA games; he's –3 in those 20. PDG is +4; Treais does not have conference stats listed at MGoBlue for some reason. Anyone else with those numbers would be fighting Andrew Sinelli for playing time. I'm just this guy on the internet but it's hard to see what Glendening is bringing to the table in terms of stats or the eye test.
Even if Michigan doesn't have a cornucopia of great options, the lines after the raging goal-fest that is Guptill-Wohlberg-Brown haven't been producing much of anything of late. It's time to throw the bottom nine in the blender and see what comes out.
An ugly weekend. Notre Dame was thugtastic to the point where Berenson's biting his tongue:
“They play an overly — I don’t know if it’s overly physical, but some people would say it’s — you know, there’s — I’m not going to say it. But yeah, it’s physical hockey,” Berenson said.
Guptill did not mince his words, though:
“I think they played a really dirty game, I’m going to be honest,” said freshman forward Alex Guptill on Saturday. “It was dirty; it was a mean series. You had to be playing tough out there to get any kind of ice.”
Hunwick is a hothead who will take retaliation penalties; Notre Dame was clearly trying to get him off his game with constant late chops that never get called and a bunch of stuff that probably should have been, most notably a cross-check to Hunwick's head. Hunwick kept his head for the most part. While he picked up a penalty it was a hockey-ref cop-out special wherein a bunch of guys end up in the box and no one gets a power play.
None of this rises to the level of OUTRAGE, but it's annoying when your goalie is under assault constant enough for announcers to delicately bring it up both nights and the referees won't put someone in the box for a couple minutes to stop it. I guess I shouldn't be surprised.
Pairwise bits. Michigan stays fifth in RPI and slides a spot in the PWR for reasons I won't bother figuring out until a couple more weeks are gone.
LIES! A quick glance at Michigan's comparisons is encouraging. Duluth and BU are likely out of reach unless those teams fade hard down the stretch. Comparisons lost against CC, Denver, Lowell, and Ohio State are within reach.
Michigan has significant RPI edges on the first two schools but that Union loss kills them in the COP; everyone is two games above .500 against teams under consideration but CC and DU have had fewer TUC games and therefore have a higher winning percentage. Michigan ties Lowell in COP and will remain tied unless Lowell faces BC or Northeastern in the Hockey East playoffs. Lowell has a significant TUC advantage; the teams are virtually tied in RPI. Because RPI is the tiebreaker, whoever wins that will win the comparison.
Ohio State, meanwhile, got just a tie from a series against Ferris State. They're now 0-3-3 in their last six and have finally bled off their huge advantage in PWR. They've dropped to 4th and are also a tiny hair above Michigan in RPI. OSU has slightly more than a one game lead in TUC; they do have a significant common opponents advantage but not one that Michigan can't make up what with OSU being in the same conference at all.
Michigan can of course slide down by losing a bunch of games. The point of this section: a one-seed is very much in play. Michigan has at least six more opportunities against TUCs and the toughest four games of the brutal stretch run are in the books at 3-1. They've got a bye week, Miami, a road-and-Joe with State, Northern, and then @ BGSU.
Weekly "I can't believe all these CCHA teams are in the tourney" update. Still six or seven. OSU-ND-M-FSU comprise a block from 4 to 7, Northern is 10th, and MSU and Miami are tied for 14th.
Weekly CCHA cat-in-sack update. Nothing is resolved. Miami swept WMU, making things even worse. Baseball standings:
Eight of eleven teams are within a weekend of first place; the difference between the conference champion and not even getting a bye is four points.
Steve Mike Chiasson scratch. Saturday. Got away with it. Still don't understand it.
Argh argh argh argh 2 on 0. It is emblematic of Michigan's odd-man-rush struggles that Guptill and Brown—two of the top three scorers—broke in alone on struggling Steve Summerhays and didn't even got a shot off. They had the right idea but Brown's pass was too far in front of Guptill. That would have made the last period a lot more relaxed.
In all other matters, first line uber alles.
On Friday, Notre Dame made it their goal to seemingly hit Shawn Hunwick as much as possible and try to get in his head. They ran into him, slashed him after the whistle, high-sticked him, at least a half-dozen times (many in the first period alone). The first instance led to a power play. Then the incompetent boobs officiating the game, Keith Sergott and Barry Pochmara, decided to basically let ND do whatever they wanted to our goalie. At one point, Hunwick got frustrated enough that he threw his stick to the ice after a scrum. I thought they then called him for unsportsmanlike conduct--that seemed to be the consensus on the telecast as well--but in the box score they've got him down for slashing. I'm guessing the reaction was based on them evening it up after he got slammed into for at least the fifth time.
He mentions how Friday's game was frustrating for the large quantity of chances against an iffy goalie that were spurned; co-signed.
Penn State picks up their first ever NHL draft pick. Max Gardiner was third rounder in 2010. If you're counting on your fingers trying to figure that out, Gardiner spent a year at Minnesota, where he was 1-2-3 in 17 games and then made a dash for the USHL. Michigan will see him when he is an upperclassman.
NOTRE DAME IS BRIAN BOITANO TIME
|WHAT||Michigan at Notre Dame|
|WHERE||Compton Ice Arena|
|WHEN||7:35 PM Friday/Saturday|
|LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
|TV||Friday: NBC Sports (nee Versus)
Sunday: CBS Sports
Record. 13-8-2, 8-5-3 CCHA. The Irish have been a slight disappointment after entering the year conference co-favorites with Miami. They are still in good position to make the tournament and have a shot at the league, so the emphasis is on "slight." Most of the disappointment came last weekend.
ND split with national #1 UMD to open the year and has wins over tourney-bound BU and Minnesota in their nonconference schedule; a sweep at the hands of Northeastern (one a 9-2 loss!) is their major blemish on the year. Their CCHA record is basically eh; last weekend they were swept by Western Michigan in a series that put the Broncos into the kinda-sorta league lead, depending on which metric you're relying on.
The upcoming series is a critical fight for not only home ice in the second round but a first round bye, tourney positioning, etc. It's a big deal.
Previous meetings. None this year.
Dangermen. The names should be familiar to you as ND returned virtually all of its important personnel from last year. Sophomore TJ Tynan leads the team with 31 points; he is the team's main playmaker with 22 assists. At 5'8", he is also from leprechaun central casting.
Swede Andres Lee is the main beneficiary with his 14-8-22. Hunwick on those two:
“T.J. Tynes and Andres Lee are probably the two most talented forwards in the league if not the whole country,” said Michigan goaltender Shawn Hunwick. “Those two can put the puck in the net.”
Insert sighs about Michigan having neither a magic midget nor a Swede on this year's team. Ah, swedes and magic midgets.
Red Wings draftee Riley Sheahan has 7-14-21. Sheahan will miss the Friday night game on a suspension, which is a stroke of luck. Past the top line, senior Billy Maday has 6-12-18, freshman Austin Wuthrich has 5-6-12, and then it's a bunch of defensemen with generic "I make a lot of second assist" lines and the 9-7-6-5 point levels that populate CCHA second and third lines this year. This would be a nice spot for Michigan's killer checking line from last year, but alas. They are no longer extant.
Defense and goalie and whatnot. Junior Mike Johnson and sophomore Steven Summerhays are splitting time like they did last year. Also like last year, whoever's in goal is a liability. Johnson managed a .904 last year in 36 games; Summerhays's 12 saw him post an ugly .863. This year the games are closer to even because Johnson's save percentage has dropped to .887; Summerhays is better than last year but still under the .900 Mendoza line. I mean, yeesh:
their goaltenders are 62nd and 67th out of 76 qualifying goalies in save percentage.
On defense, Notre Dame has a lot of draft picks but not much production. They get a few goals here and there; no one has a notable scoring line and given the goalie results it's probable they are selling their guys out somewhat. Blackhawks draft pick Stephen Johns is the most hyped but is averaging almost a penalty a game.
Michigan seems to have a huge advantage here with Hunwick's .925 and half-goal-per-game advantage over the Irish tandem; most of that .925 was compiled without the aid of Jon Merrill.
Special teams. Your power plays per game:
|PP For / G||5.0||3.8|
|PP Ag / G||3.8||4.1|
[Note: I am all but certain that I screwed up the chart last week. Lo siento.]
This will be a major battle. Michigan's power play was better last weekend, robbed of a goal when Treais scored two seconds after an OSU penalty expired and generally more lively than it had been in a while. Statistically it's still a debacle. Michigan dropped another slot to a 45th-place tie (with Miami of all schools). ND's penalty kill is mediocre—more evidence those goalies are an issue—but still better than the Michigan PP. Merrill is of course the wildcard.
The inverse matchup is not much more promising. ND is converting 21% of its opportunities, which is about 75th percentile nationally. Michigan's PK is improving slowly but still 36th.
With ND's clear advantage in drawing penalties, this is a deficit that probably will be the difference in a Michigan loss. Sample size, etc.
Michigan Vs Those Guys
Don't get fancy. Against these save percentages the play is to throw it at the dude and see if he gives up a softie or a bad rebound, whereupon your net-crashing may be able to pick up a goal or two. At some point the top line's monster run has to end… but this doesn't seem like the game. Throw it at these goalies and it seems like reward is probable when you're all big dudes who can pound the front of the net.
Check that top line, especially Friday. I'm not sure how Michigan will match up with Tynan, et al, but as with many CCHA teams it seems like scoring is restricted to fluky stuff once you get past the top line. Michigan's sudden defensive depth should help here.
Third defensive pairing: get it out. It seemed like the majority of scary Ohio State shifts came when Clare and Chiasson could not clear the puck out the zone. Notre Dame has last change and may at times be able to get that top line out against the panicky third pairing.
Don't lose special teams. Winning seems like a tall order. Staying even with ND would be excellent; Michigan is an outstanding 5x5 hockey team at this point.
The Big Picture
The situation hasn't changed since the game column on Monday: Michigan is fifth in the pairwise and can either move towards a one-seed, tread water, or move back towards the bubble.
In terms of the league, It's hard to figure out who's where in the CCHA what with all the shootouts and three-point games and games in hand. Inspired by an Oilers blog that does this for the NHL, here is the CCHA presented baseball-style:
Western Michigan has a slight advantage over OSU and then there is a ravenous pack of five teams separated by less than a game with Miami and NMU a game behind that. First-round byes go to the top five and second-round home series go to the top four.
A sweep either way provides clarity; a split further promotes the league's incredible quagmire.
Yost Built on the renovations, which disappointingly contain no mention of a giant floating Yost head. Also provided is Tim's version of the ND preview. Michigan Hockey Net's weekly recruiting update notes that 2013 commits JT Compher and Tyler Motte are 1-2 on the NTDP U17 team in scoring. Evan Allen is ninth. Jacob Trouba continues annihilating the opposition. Compher is profiled by MaxPreps.
About Last Saturday:
Purdue 14, Michigan 36
Caption contest. Go.
The Road Ahead:
Iowa (5-3, 2-2 B1G)
Last game: Iowa 21, Minnesota 22 (L)
Recap: The only thing worse than questing for title of “Worst Big Ten Team EVER” is losing to that team, which Iowa did on Saturday. Flags in Iowa City flew at half mast to honor the death of Gopherquest -- and themselves, in the eyes of Brian Cook.
Two deaths and a funeral indeed.
Let’s take a look at the autopsy report: Thanks to a couple missed field goals, the game was close through the third quarter until Iowa scored to go ahead 21-10 early in the fourth, seemingly poised to finally wrest it out of Minnesota’s reach.
After a Hawkeyes fumble and Gophers field goal, however, Minnesota converted a fourth and one from their own 42 and scored a touchdown a couple plays later.
The Gophers onside kicked, catching Iowa by surprise. Minnesota recovered and miraculously scored again on a fourth-down conversion at the Iowa three.
Flailing, the Hawkeyes went four-and-out and were then helpless to stop the Gophers from running out the clock.
Remarkably, Iowa RB Marcus Coker carried the ball 32 times for 252 yards and 2 touchdowns in an outstanding effort no Iowa fan will ever remember. Imagine if Pheidippides had made it all the way to Athens only to collapse before delivering his message. Instead of inspiring an entire culture of running a couple millenia later, now he’s just a clammy dead guy.
Right now they are as frightening as: A watered down version of 2007 Michigan immediately post-Horror -- not as good, therefore not as embarrassed. Still hiding under a blanky though. 5.
Michigan should worry about: The first real manball team on the schedule not playing in a trash tornado. Also the last.
Michigan can sleep soundly about: Iowa had the rhabdomyolysis problem in the offseason, which seems to have scared the CARA out of the strength staff. (Do you see what I did there?)
As a result, Iowa’s defense looks like it’s been playing Wii Fit in lieu of real conditioning. They made Iowa State QB Steele Jantz look like Andrew Luck, allowed Penn State to go Look-Ma-No-QB, and couldn’t stop Marqueis Gray when it mattered -- incidentally, all of these things happened in the fourth quarter.
When Michigan plays them: 2011 Iowa is undefeated at home. 2011 Michigan is undefeated in November. Immovable object meet unstoppable force? Hah.
For realsies now: Iowa’s best win was against Pitt. This was the game where Vandenberg led the epic comeback against a Tony Gibson coached secondary, earning him the Vandenhenneberg moniker. The joke is getting stale, but if you were still wondering, that along with BGHP’s gushing comparison at the beginning of the season is where it comes from. Their next best win was against Northwestern, and you know all about Northwestern’s secondary. And then if you keep looking you fall off a cliff right before the Indianas and Lousiana-Monroes of the world, where concerns about the secondary are, well … secondary.
Sorry, I had to do that.
The Wolverines secondary is much better these days, having survived Alex Carder, Michael Floyd, Dan Persa, and B.J. Cunningham (electing to fall prey to Keshawn Martin instead). Teams succeeded against VandenMcHenneNutt by preventing deep routes. Michigan’s inside-and-in-front philosophy should be able to do at least that.
And then there’s the issue of the Hawkeyes defense. Their major breakdowns tend to happen late in the game due to the aforementioned stamina problems. Aside from targeting specific weakness (see Ace’s FFFF), offensive playcalling that spreads and stretches the field laterally to wear down Iowa defenders would be a smart approach, especially early in the game.
(more after the jump)