Mike Lantry, 1972
It is alive. A month ago, Michigan's tourney streak was dead and buried after an appalling skid the likes of which Michigan hasn't endured since Red revived the program in the mid-80s. Since then a four-point weekend against MSU and a surprising GLI championship have turned their pairwise fortunes 90 degrees. Try this on for size: if the season ended today, Michigan would be in. There's another 90 degrees to go, but that's good work for two weekends.
Video from the stands gets a great look at the Moffie-Clare connection that won the State game at about the 3:10 mark:
I missed all but the last ten minutes of the BC game because I was at Crisler. Yost Built has your recap. Michigan played well in the first, built a lead, got blown out of the water in the second before Treais scored against the run of play late, and then strangled the third. The ten minutes I did see were pleasingly dull.
The day after, Michigan played an even game with State. Trailing 2-1 with under a minute left and up a man, Luke Moffatt flung a cross ice pass to one of the sundry Lynches on the team, who deflected it in. In overtime Hunwick saved Michigan's bacon three times before the above transpired.
The Situation (Not That Situation)
The pairwise is a very silly metric that bounces hither and thither even when it has most of a season's worth of data, so no grand conclusions should be drawn just yet. The pairwise is also heavily slanted towards RPI, a metric that's still pretty silly but is far more projectable now that the vast bulk of nonconference games are out of the way. Now that they are, well, remember how they put in a rule that you couldn't finish below .500 and still make the tournament because of the WCHA? This year the CCHA is the WCHA:
The CCHA is 40-12-5 out of conference so far this year, for a winning percentage of 0.746. Even terrible Bowling Green, who is 1-11-2 in conference, went 5-0-1 in nonconference play, which helps everyone else in the conference.
That was before the holiday tourneys, FWIW.
Let's have a poke at RPI. Michigan is currently in a swamp of four teams separated by a couple thousandths that stretch from 10th to 13th. Their brutal schedule down the stretch is 14 games. Two of them are against BGSU. The remainder are series against #1 OSU, #4 ND, #8 NMU, #10 MSU, #15 LSSU, and inexplicably .500 Miami.
This is good and bad. Michigan can maintain its RPI at its current level by going .500 down the stretch, which will put them on the bubble. Win nine of 14 games and Michigan's RPI will slide up the 6-8 range. That is lock territory.
Michigan's in a much better spot than they were a couple years ago when they were 10-10 after the GLI. They had little room for error, used all of it and more, and only made the tourney after scraping out a conference tourney win. That team wasn't addressing its biggest weakness with the best defenseman in college hockey, though, and they weren't playing in a league the algorithm looked upon favorably.
The Other Situation (The Wall Punching One)
Is this team addressing their biggest weakness with the best defenseman in college hockey? When Jon Merrill's mysterious suspension was mysteriously extended to a mysterious end date, everyone assumed he would be back for this weekend's LSSU series and the stretch run. That is apparently not the case:
Merrill will NOT play this weekend per Red this morning
Didn't sound super optimistic the kid will be back anytime soon either. Might have to push his ETA back to late January.
Fantastic. We still have no idea what Merrill's issue is, no idea when he'll return, no idea why he's still in Ann Arbor when he's apparently never going to get back on the ice again. It's not academic or Merrill would be eligible now. It's not legal or someone would have run across a public document of it by now. It's not serious enough to put off USA Hockey when they were selecting the WJC team, but it's serious enough to force Merrill out of 2/3rds of a season and counting. ARGH ARGH ARGH ARGH. Red is Red. He is the program. He knows what he's doing. I will remain calm.
So here we are. If Merrill ever gets back I'd guess the pairings end up like so:
That's three pairings with one offensive and one defensive player and no Brennan Serville, a guy who has struggled immensely in his transition to college hockey. Early in the year I thought Clare's footspeed would see him eat bench in the distant future when robots ruled the world and Merrill was eligible again, but the coaches clearly have more faith in him at this point. During Michigan's dismal slide, Serville was more or less directly responsible for two goals in a particular first period and sat out until midway through the third. He'll probably rotate through from time to time when Moffie or Clare has a shaky outing; a regular shift is unlikely.
If the above looks pretty good, without Merrill it's the same story we've seen so far this year: a pretty good top pairing, a somewhat reliable elderly freshmen, and after that terror, alarm, and Lee Moffie's assist machine.
Silver lining: Merrill must be planning on coming back for his junior year given the above. I mean, right?
The Forwards (Eh)
Michigan's stats are bizarre. They're fifth in the country with 3.55 goals per game but have no one averaging a point per game; leading scorer Chris Brown is tied for 79th nationally with 6-12-18 and is the only guy in the top 100 at College Hockey Stats.
The game with ALL OF THE GOALS (all of the goals)
If it doesn't feel like they're fifth in scoring, this is largely attributable to the distribution of the goals. In one game against St. Lawrence, Michigan poured in ten. Excise that from the stats and they fall to 17th nationally… which also seems high. It is less eyepopping. Since their season-opening tomato cans they've averaged exactly 3 goals per game with four outings in which they managed only one. That's why anyone running across Michigan's place in the scoring ranks is set for a double take.
As for individuals, it's hard to pick out any for attention. What is Michigan's top line? I don't know, you don't know. M had Andrew Sinelli out there for the GLI with Moffatt and Hyman… is that a fourth line? What is that?
These days the nominal top line is Brown-Wohlberg-Guptill, which sounds like just another bunch of dudes but does have the three top-scoring forwards on the team. Whoever is playing with Phil Di Giuseppe is the second line. Lindsay Sparks has eaten bench the last four games after his production fell off; he still has more points in 18 games than Lynch, Deblois, Glendening, and Hyman have in 21 or 22. He is not notably more deficient on D than the rest of the team. I will never understand his deployment, especially when Michigan's power play is terrible.
Positives and negatives are hard to throw out there when you're not sure who is supposed to be what. Glendening is a senior captain who spent much of the year on the top line and he has eight points. That would be disappointing if it wasn't obvious he was going to be a guy with about eight points at midseason. PDG has stopped producing after a torrid start; that would be disappointing if he had much help from his linemates and wasn't a shiny penny found in the depths of the OPJHL.
Two freshmen forwards are clearly deviating from expectations in one direction or another: Alex Guptill is deservedly on the top line and has more goals (9) than any other Wolverine. He's a big guy with enough mobility to make his size relevant and puts in a bunch of effort on most shifts. Zach Hyman hasn't been bad, per se, but I keep waiting for him to Do Something. He hasn't and has limped his way to a 2-6-8 and the worst +/- on the team. He's an older guy, too, so if he doesn't start producing soon he's not likely to ever become a star.
As for upperclassmen, there aren't many. Brown, Lynch, Glendening and Wohlberg are playing at about the levels you'd expect. Treais has become more of a chance-generator but is still more Shouneyia than Cammalleri. Sparks is hated by all coaches everywhere, even that guy at Colorado School of Mines. That no one has stepped up to Rohlfs/Scooter/Lebler levels this season is a collective disappointment. Michigan has had a big old guy take a leap forward just about every year. Not so much this one.
Special Teams (Terrible)
Hey, speaking of: Michigan's special teams are not good. Their power play has finally given up the ghost and languishes at 41st nationally with just 14 goals in 86 attempts. (Miami, miraculously, is worse at 44th. What happened to the Redhawks?) They are killing penalties at an 80% rate, 38th nationally and worst in the CCHA.
While special teams have not been a consistent strength for Michigan in a while, the power play especially, they seem to have no plan at all this year. They did get much better movement in the GLI—I bet they spent a lot of practice time on doing something other than shooting it into a defenseman's knee from the point.
As for the PK, it was a testament to how great Hagelin and Rust were that they kept their head above water the past couple years. Hunwick's weaknesses are magnified when shorthanded. Opponents are more likely to get to copious rebounds, more likely to get the cross-ice motion that either exposes big chunks of the net or forces Hunwick to stay deep enough in his net for his size to be a problem. It's not a surprise they're bad when they have to deal with that and don't have the best defensive forward in college hockey.
This bad? Probably not.
Hunwick's maintaining a decent .917 save percentage that sees him at 26th nationally. This is a step back from his blazing junior year partially attributable to a regression in his play and partially Michigan's intense focus on executing defensive breakdowns. He's still a guy you can win with.
I was much happier when Merrill was going to be back this weekend. I'm not sure this team can hack through the upcoming schedule without him.
3/11/2011 – Michigan 5, Bowling Green 1 – 24-9-4
3/12/2011 – Michigan 4, Bowling Green 1 – 25-9-4, CCHA semifinalists
Michigan did what would have been extremely hard for them not to do by dispatching Bowling Green easily. It's business time. Let's jump right to the bullets that aren't:
MFan in Ohio's usual breakdown awaits. Miami's sweep of a better opponent and some other jostling sees the Redhawks move up into a tie for Michigan's fourth spot. Usually one-on-one ties are broken with the comparison and Michigan holds that despite getting swept by the Redhawks earlier this year, so Michigan is still nominally in possession of that last one seed.
- Union was swept out of the ECAC playoffs by Colgate and won't be a threat; their RPI went from fourth to eighth and they've got no more games.
- Denver swept Mankato and remains a threat but now they're in the meat of the WCHA playoffs. They get Bemidji State or UMD followed by probably North Dakota—you want UND to win that hypothetical matchup big time. By sweeping the Screaming Eagles Denver obliterated their own TUC record and now can't pass Michigan unless M loses.
- UNO was swept by Bemidji State and went from threatening to take Michigan's comparison to hanging on to the last three seed. They're not a threat.
- Notre Dame beat LSSU in three games, which hurts them to the point where they can't pass Michigan even with a head to head win.
It's pretty simple now. Michigan gets a one seed if they win the CCHA or if they split at the Joe and two other things happen: Not Denver wins the WCHA and Not Miami wins the CCHA. Root for anyone against Denver and you really want Notre Dame to take the first semifinal on Friday; if it's a Michigan-ND CCHA final and Denver's knocked out by whoever in the WCHA playoffs the one seed could be locked up before the final.
Dirty. Thanks to reader Peter Saul you can relive Scooter's toe drag goal from Friday in gorgeous HD:
Just BG caveats apply but quick name Michigan's best forward not named Hagelin now that Wohlberg's out. Scooter, right?
Speaking of gurrrrgh. Losing David Wohlberg for the season is a heavy blow. With Llewellyn and Fallon gone—in Fallon's case temporarily—and Wohlberg and Caporusso out, Kevin Clare was the only healthy scratch on Saturday. Caporusso is supposed to be back this weekend but his health is going to be a big question. Michigan's going to need him to be his usual moderately effective self.
Break your nose six times next week and it will be a perfect comparison. Chris Brown's recent scoring run has taken him to nine goals, tied with Treais—on a run of his own—and Caporusso for fourth on the team behind Hagelin, Wohlberg, and Scooter Dominance. He's done this mostly by being a the big ugly net presence that he was supposed to be when he got drafted in the second round, and he's developing quite a knack for deflections* a la Ryan Smyth. He coolly directed a Merrill point shot into the net this weekend, for one. Of late it's usually Brown who is the source of "ohhhhh" moments when a defenseman's shot goes close after changing direction.
*[deflections FOR GLORY!]
Which one of you should be a forward next year? Mac Bennett or Lee Moffie: fight. Moffie now has six goals in 26 games. If he'd played as much as Caporusso he'd have eight, one fewer than Louie. His first on Saturday was a shorthanded bomb that caught the iron as it went in; his second was another lethal shot from distance. Meanwhile Bennett continues to lead any rush he can.
With Michigan bringing in a couple of guys who can fill in the sixth defenseman spot, if they don't lose anyone early it might be time to Scooterize one or the other. As far as the rest of this year goes, the reason Michigan is competing for the last one seed without seeming to be that good at scoring is that the defensemen are just insane. Merrill has seven goals, Moffie six, Burlon five, and the other three guys combine for seven. I'm not sure how that ranks nationally but I've scanned almost every CCHA team's roster for preview posts at this point and I can tell you that Michigan has probably doubled up the second-best D in the league in points.
I'm going to name a caffeinated alcoholic drink after you. Just Bowling Green caveats apply, but Lindsay Sparks, yo. Two goals and an assist on the weekend, one of them a display of impressive speed on the breakaway. Even if the big leap in competition level this weekend will make it hard to replicate that performance I'm still pretty excited to see Sparks-Treais-Moffatt hit the ice. They've been effective against third and fourth lines and since Michigan gets last change all weekend Michigan can shelter them from guys like Andy Miele.
Please bury me with it. With Michigan's depth already stretched to the breaking point it's time to adopt the same strategy deployed in the tourney last year: stop rolling the fourth line. Michigan should retrieve Lynch from it, put Winnett back down there, and put that fourth line out there once or twice a period with Winnett giving occasional people a rest when they need it.
I'd put Scooter on Hagelin's wing and reform the checking-plus-Scooter-domination line as Rust-Lynch-Glendening, give them the job of shutting down top lines, and get Vaughn some of Hagelin's playmaking ability to better further his utter dominance of opponents. I don't think Red will break up combinations that seem to be working well but Vaughn is Michigan's second-best forward right now and it seems like a bit of a waste to have him out there with people other than Hagelin.
I confess that I'm mystified by how much run Winnett has gotten over the course of his career. He spent three ineffective season on the point on the power play, including plenty of time this year, despite never getting off a checking line. This year literally every defenseman on the roster has more points than him except Kevin Clare and his 0-1-1 in 12 games. I'm sure he's a dutiful checker and good defensive player but at least Lynch has shown something other than that in his career thus far.
Go time. Is now. Don't expect much out of me on Friday. With the clear relevance of the other semi and Michigan's tourney game I'm probably going to head down to Detroit to catch the Michigan game, then head over to the Joe for the double-header.
So there's this.
Screening. Very cool article from Mike Rothstein on the increasing use of ball screens and pick-and-roll in college basketball going all the way back to the days when LaVall Jordan was helping run it at Butler. It comes complete with pithy epigram:
The ball screen forces defenses to choose where they want to recover.
John Beilein has started using it frequently, getting Jordan Morgan a wide array of dunks and others various open shots—I wonder if that's Jordan's influence? Here is where we compare and contrast Beilein's program reboot after last season with Rodriguez's defensive flailing. [comparison] [sadness/frustration] [basketball team swept state] [woo]
Literally less than nothing. I was away when SI came out with a story about college football criminals heavy on the research and light on the context. The blogosphere duly blew it up. I'm with Braves & Birds in that I'd rather have a big media organization doing research instead of, you know, not doing it, but I'm also with Orson when he rips it. Two main takeaways:
- Journalists are terrible with numbers. It's appalling. I bet there isn't a journalism program in the country that requires a statistics course. They are the equivalent of dog groomers once you bring out a decimal point.
- Journalists will not stand for doing a lot of research and declaring "nothing to see here."
SI found nothing but still made the monkey dance:
Of those seven percent, "nearly 60 percent…were guilty or paid some penalty". If we assume "nearly 60 percent" means 57% (shockingly, the actual numbers and survey methods aren’t given), then 4% of players on top 25 football teams have been actually convicted of, or plead guilty to, a crime.
The number of average college students with the same criminal record? According to this article from Corvallis, Oregon’s Daily Barometer, 3.45%. That’s right: Your typical college football player is one-half of one percent more likely to have a criminal conviction. To put that in perspective, a team of 85 players has half a person more convicted criminals on it than a sample of 85 students drawn randomly. Hide yo kids, hide yo wife.
"Nothing" is actually generous. Consider that the kids on college football teams are disproportionately male (duh), black (45% as of 2006), and poor (presumably, right?) and that male, black, and/or poor groups tend to have more criminal activity. SI really discovered that putting someone on a college football team is a good way to keep them out of trouble. Which, duh. You're giving them something to lose.
Braves & Birds criticizes a lack of "solutions" in the SI problem, but how do you solve the opposite of a problem? (Other than hire Greg Robinson.)
BONUS: Remember the Free Press going ape that Michigan didn't do a juvenile background check on Demar Dorsey? Yeah…
…when the nut graf of the piece mentions that only two out of 25 programs conduct background checks on their incoming recruits, there's two instances of serious slippage here. First, programs probably don't do them out of negligence and cost, not because they know that juvenile records searches are sketchy business at best. Second, they assume this means anything when they also write this in the middle of the piece:
Nor did SI and CBS News have access to juvenile arrest records for roughly 80 percent of the players in the study.
The issue of background checks for most recruits in most states is dead before you finish the first page of the article.
BTW, Feldman's latest features a bunch of quotes($) from coaches and administrators citing the same problems bloggers did.
The way it had to end. MSU's hockey team did get swept in Fairbanks, ending Rick Comley's career, but it wasn't easy. Both games went to overtime. On Friday Michigan State had a potential game-winner ruled out and suffered a seemingly controversial UAs game winner. This caused an epic fit of bitching on MSU player twitter feeds—Derek Grant hashtagged "awful," "embarrassing," and "disgraceful" in a single tweet—that suggested Comley had complained to his players about the call in the locker room. The disgraceful event: the MSU net lifted up momentarily but was settled on its moorings before the shot was taken.
MSU's season ended the next night with another overtime goal, and thus ends Rick Comley's career. That's karma. This is something beyond it:
Michigan State hockey head coach Rick Comley reportedly was involved in a physical confrontation Friday night in the Carlson Center with Alaska Nanooks fans Robert Downes, a Fairbanks Superior Court judge, and his daughter, attorney Amy Tallerico. …
Downes, during a telephone interview Saturday, said he talked to Comley after the game. “It was a comment on his complaining about every goal that was scored,” Downes said.
The confrontation reportedly turned physical and Tallerico allegedly was struck. Speaking Saturday night, Tallerico said they exchanged shoves. Her father said she filed a complaint with the CCHA.
I'm not inclined to believe a random fan who dispenses frontier justice over Comley—never been anything but stonefaced in my experience—but for Comley to get into a confrontation with a fan in the last weekend of his career is a weird echo of the Kampfer incident that was the beginning of his end. May it haunt his dreams.
Meanwhile. Other than State getting swept it was a bad week for Michigan on the TUC cliff. OSU and NMU both lost, ending their seasons. Michigan's 5-1 record against them is now gone. Compounding matters, NMU's loss against BGSU sends the Falcons to Yost for a second-round series that can't do much to help Michigan. Sweeping gets them .001 for their RPI.
mfan_in_ohio broke down the comparisons in a diary bumped yesterday, but a brief recap:
- Michigan is still the last one-seed but lost a comparison against UNO. That will be tough to get back unless Bemidji State starts winning games.
- Denver lost over the weekend, keeping them behind M. Michigan can probably stay in front of them by doing at least as well as they do but pulling BGSU complicates things. Denver has a much better opponent this weekend and could pass Michigan in RPI if they win the WCHA.
- Any chance of stealing the BC comparison is gone after the Eagles swept UNH.
- Miami will be dangerously close to passing M if they sweep this weekend but since one or the other will have to lose it's kind of a moot point.
- Ferris is safe as a TUC.
- Lake State can become a TUC by beating ND.
In simple terms, if Michigan wins the CCHA they will very probably be the last one-seed. If they don't they'll be a two.
More dudes. A local newspaper article on 2013 commit Tyler Motte lists offer-type substances:
Motte committed recently to the University of Michigan, choosing the Wolverines over Miami (Ohio), Ferris State, Western Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State.
It's even more difficult to sort fiction from reality when it comes to college hockey offers since their recruiting cycle is so accelerated, but Miami was Motte's "second choice" so that's probably legit. They're a good team to snatch a recruit from. Knock on wood, but Motte does not sound like he'll give the OHL half a thought. Backing that up: his older brother is ticketed for Ferris.
Michigan continued its run of getting commits from kids who will hit campus after the Mayan apocalypse with 2013's Alex Talcott, a teammate of Alex Kile on Honeybaked's U18 midget major team. He had an 0-10-10 line at the recent Select 15 camp and was the seventh-best forward there according to USHR. All they said was "good hands," though. Michigan Hockey Net has a full googlestalk of Talcott waiting for you; FWIW, The Scouting News claims he's an NTDP "cinch."
This is a bit convoluted. But Simmons's latest column on the NFL is a compelling takedown of the sort of shortsighted thinking that plagues NFL owners specifically and, more generally, anyone who is obsessed with getting the highest Financial Oligarch Pacman score at the expense of the future. That people like Daniel Snyder and Dan Gilbert can own incredibly expensive sports franchises is a condemnation of the whole system. If those comic-sans-deploying, Mark-Shapiro-hiring idiots can make billions of dollars just so they can prove their ineptness in games with a score the idea this is a meritocracy is fanciful, isn't it?
Etc.: Yost introduces $38 "all you can eat" seats. Seriously. Red Berenson will be honored by the Blues today. All Big Ten teams from UMHoops; Morris second, Hardaway third, Morgan and Hardaway all-frosh. Kellen Russell wins a Big Ten championship in wrestling. Even tackles can be too tall.
2/25/2010 – Michigan 3, NMU 2 – 22-9-4, 19-7-1 CCHA
2/26/2010 – Michigan 5, NMU 0 – 23-9-4, 20-7-1 CCHA – Champions
My AP Biology teachers were not very good at anticipating how much minutia an average high school student could write down in 54 minutes. They consistently wrote tests that were ten minutes too long. This compounded itself over the course of a day, so when we showed up for the last hour there was always a class full of frantic scribblers occupying our seats forever. Forced to wait, definitely not making any bus, and unbound by anyone showing up after us, my class would dribble out of the room anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes after the official end of the school day.
Except for me. Pointless memorization was my jam, man. I blew through the tests in a half hour, then waited outside for a friend who would need a ride. I'm sure this privately infuriated my teachers since most of my time in their class was spent asleep. If I'd failed a test or even not done so well they could have swooped in with Life Lessons, maybe even called my mom to describe what a terrible student I was. But as long as I was the only guy finishing their insane tests on time they were powerless.
Michigan has not been a particularly entertaining hockey team this year. They've been gritty and frustrating and occasionally elegant but only from the back end; Hagelin has been fast and Hunwick surprisingly effective. They split with an awful MSU team and didn't look like they even belonged on the same ice as Miami. They blew leads to tie seemingly all of their nonconference games. They didn't score much in the way they were trying to. It's been jarring.
Even this weekend they spent the first 90 minutes asleep. On Friday, Shawn Hunwick and some emergency defending saw them scrape a win they didn't seem to deserve. On Saturday it was looking like they were going to do the same after the first 26 minutes saw 12 shots total, one of them an attempted pass by Hagelin that a Wildcat deflected into his own net. Since I was watching the internet feed on my computer my melodramatic twitter feed features an existential crisis, incredible frustration, and the phrase "awful, awful, awful."
After the existential crisis the previous class shuffled out and Michigan got down to business. There was a humorous scene in which they wrote so fast smoke rose from the paper. When it cleared no one was even mad two goals had been waved off because four others had stood.
What was that? Was that something that's been there all along but isn't unearthed on the regular, or was it just like Michigan starting the Minnesota basketball game off 6 of 6 from three, a statistical fluke? Should we call Michigan's mother to tell on him?
I'm not sure we can. The test is in and it says "A":
No matter how deeply suspicious we are or are not, the test says "A". Michigan may have gotten blown out of Oxford but Miami won four fewer games in the league. On Saturday Notre Dame had three goals disallowed and scored none against Western Michigan. They did not put a knuckling puck through the Bronco goalie with 40 seconds left, then flick one into the top corner with two left. They allowed twelve more goals than Michigan and scored only three more. I'm still not sure how that's true but it is. Last year Michigan finished seventh in the league, and this year they won it.
Now we come to the knee-buckling section of the schedule. Last year Michigan reached this point down their starting goalie, playing a first-round series for the first time in forever and staring down the barrel of Michigan State, Miami, and someone else if they were going to extend their tourney streak. They did, and then they were robbed of a Frozen Four bid in one of the program's all-time classic games. They died like Vikings, turning their league D into a B.
This year they've got a much easier road. They've guaranteed themselves an at large and won't face either of the CCHA's other elite teams until the final. Hold serve and you're one game away from a one seed and a friendly bracket.
I don't know what to think. Maybe the subtler qualities really do exist and this series of narrow victories is just what happens when you're a really good defensive team that lacks magic midgets. I've never deeply cared about a team like this. Maybe this is what life is like when you've got six good to great defenders and Scooter Vaughn is vying to be your second-leading scorer. Or maybe the Miami series was a dark preview of what will happen whenever Michigan meets an elite opponent.
I'll know in the next month. They've got an A so far, but the only thing that matters in this class is the final. This is not fair. It is, however, college hockey.
The usual extreme detail from mfan_in_ohio.
Somewhat briefer: for a moment on Friday night Michigan had fallen to tenth despite their win against NMU, but when the dust cleared from the weekend Michigan moved up into a tie for fourth(!) despite losing OSU's record and gaining MSU's in their TUC category. Then a butterfly flapped its wings, sending MSU below .500 RPI. Voila:
Bracketology stuff usually has Michigan playing RPI/CC in the first round and getting the winner of Union/UMD in the second if they get there. Stop the season right now. I want to get off.
How did this happen?
Merrimack blew up. The lead people including myself thought was unassailable evaporated in a single weekend as meh Maine (14-10-6 before the weekend) swept. I think we PWR watchers underestimate how quickly teams high up in the RPI can backslide if they get swept. Merrimack has terrible Providence this weekend and can only lose ground—sweeping leaves their RPI basically where it is now.
WCHA teams did too. UMD only got one point out of their weekend with CC, and UNO split with Denver—the exact result Michigan wanted.
CCHA playoffs rooting guide:
- In the first round you want Alaska over MSU, NMU over BGSU, and OSU over LSSU. NMU [M: 2-0 against them] can approach the cutoff with a sweep and OSU [3-1] can get over the hump with one. MSU [2-2] is thousandths away from the cutoff and if they don't lose things could get ugly. OTOH, this might not be so bad. Unless BGSU pulls a massive upset MSU would then play Michigan in the second round. Michigan could put them right back under .500. Even if they didn't the record would then be 4-2, which whatever.
- Second round assuming no upsets: Michigan, obvs, over OSU or LSSU. NMU over Miami, as that would make them a TUC. Ferris-WMU doesn't really matter since it appears the Bulldogs are locked in as a TUC, and neither would ND-Alaska.
- At the Joe it probably won't matter as long as Michigan wins.
The most important other thing: Die, Denver. You die and go to hell. Also, pull hard for UNH against BC this weekend.
Non-Bullets Of Silverware
Wat. If you were one of the dedicated few ripping the NMU radio guy a new one on twitter as you watched the B2E feed you might have wondered what the hell Michigan players were doing after the game, unless you were also one of the many who played NHL 94 incessantly. Michigan Hockey Net digs up a junior team doing the same thing. I'm impressed guys who were about three when '94 came out have even heard of it.
Feed BTW. It probably wasn't worth seven bucks if we're talking about a random midseason series. With the title on the line, though, I shelled out both nights and was relatively impressed. Negatives: the quality is not super high and you aren't getting replays. Positive: the feed was very smooth. I missed maybe a minute of game time total to internet hiccups.
The quality wasn't good enough for me to be able to say much about specific players, however. It was tough for me to figure out who was who most of the time.
One exception. Hunwick bounced back huge on Friday night after a disappointing series against Western. He stole that game. On Saturday he had very little to do, so points to the team defense there.
Highlights. HT to Michigan Hockey Net for digging up highlights from Friday and Saturday. Friday:
That post from MHN has a bunch of other stuff including Andrew Cogliano fighting someone much bigger than him.
“You’re instincts take over on a play like that,” Burlon said after Friday’s game. “(Hunwick) was the goalie on that one, but then, I’ve got to play goalie. You do anything for the team to get the win and that was just one of those plays.”
Yost Built hasn't updated. Frowns.
2/18/2011 – Michigan 6, Western Michigan 3 – 20-9-4, 17-7-1 CCHA
2/21/2011 – Michigan 5, Western Michigan 4 (OT) – 21-9-4, 18-7-1 CCHA
Sometimes being at a hockey game is an exercise in wishing you were watching the thing on TV where the camera angle is consistent and the replays are repeated ad nauseum. This is especially true at Yost, where events just happen and evaporate without the benefit of video replay.
An example: at the end of the first period the puck was behind the net and suddenly the ref was feverishly pointing at the puck in the net without the thing seemingly ever reaching a spot where that was physically possible. The ref went to check it out. A few moments later the part of Yost directly behind the penalty boxes stood up and craned their collective neck to see the review as I plotted to relocate there next year, and a few moments after that he waved the thing off.
Last year I would have had to trudge through the deep, useless recesses of the USCHO board to find out what happened. Five years ago a Saturday game against Western probably wasn't televised at all and no one would really ever know. Since it's 2011 I just pulled out my phone, tweeted at the Daily's hockey beat writer*, and found out within ten minutes that the puck had indeed gone into the net from behind the goal.
I didn't see it, though, and that's kind of the point of being a spectator.
Sometimes hockey collapses itself into a universe just for you. You have to be sitting along the sideline between the blue lines for this to happen. If you are, at certain points you can draw a perfectly straight line from you to the guy shooting the puck to the goal.
An example: when Michigan came back against Denver in the NCAA tournament I sat right behind the Michigan bench and watched Eric Werner plunge into the slot to flick a puck over Wade Dubielewicz** to tie the game. I saw it the whole way and my mind blew up.
I shelled out for old fogey seats this year so when Lee Moffie entered the zone I saw Hagelin behind him and thought Moffie should drop it, and he did, and there were two seconds left so there's only one thing for Hagelin to do, and as he let the shot go and I drew a straight line from me to him to the net as the puck slid past the defenseman clean and rose. I could see where it was heading, see the goalie throw his glove at it but not get there in time, see the puck ricochet the right way as the great clank filled the building. It was one of those moments where the angel comes down from heaven and says "you there—God has selected you to have the deep-seated, socially awkward fandom of the concealed lunatic." It was pure.
And while I've been craving video boards at Yost for years there's something beautiful about not having the thing you just experienced altered by someone else's perspective. Since the Werner goal isn't on youtube no one can tell me he wasn't wielding a scimitar, wearing an eyepatch, and screaming "hhhhhyarrrrr" as he swashbuckled towards the net. I'm pretty sure the unicorn he was riding was named Steve.
Those days are over—see the youtube clip above—but thanks to Carl Hagelin Yost got one last opportunity to walk out of the building buzzing about the thing that just happened in your head, and only your head.
*[Michael Florek was beaten to the punch by the Hoover Street Rag.]
**[Google's spellchecking was heroic here: I typed "wade dublevicz."]
mfan_in_ohio has again broken down the pairwise so I'll just point you to his analysis. Michigan flew up to sixth after the sweep, but it is a tenuous, tenuous sixth. Here's why:
That's Ohio State barely nosing above .500 in RPI after taking a win and a tie from LSSU. Michigan's 3-1 record against the Buckeyes thus counts in the TUC category. This tiny difference in the season of a single opponent swings comparisons against Boston College and UNO. If OSU had split over the weekend Michigan would be eighth and we'd be wondering what a man has to do to get some respect around here.
As it is, OSU's nose getting over the line combined with a couple of wins over a WMU team that did well in its nonconference schedule gets you halfway to a one seed in one weekend. That and a lot of help elsewhere—Dartmouth, RPI, UMD, UNO, and Denver all lost over the weekend. Denver lost to Michigan Tech(!), which is huge because that's a common opponent and a terrible team.
While this is almost Michigan's ceiling, the stumbles of Denver and UMD have opened the door to the last one seed. Michigan easily beats Denver in COP now and is within striking distance in both TUC and RPI—outperforming them by a game down the stretch will do it. UMD, meanwhile, is close enough in RPI to drop if they lose and the six remaining regular season games between the two teams are all common opponents—NMU for Michigan, CC and UNO for UMD. If they take those two comparisons and Ohio State and Ferris can walk the tripwire so that both of them finish the season under consideration, they can slide up to fourth. This will take some luck but if Michigan sweeps Northern and wins the CCHA playoffs I think they'll be 50-50 for the one-seed.
- OSU plays Ferris this weekend and can remain in the TUC zone by splitting. However, sweeping will actually put Ferris about where OSU is now, leaving them vulnerable to dropping out in the CCHA playoffs. You probably want a split here but root for OSU on Friday because they're more vulnerable. You want both of these teams to do well in the playoffs.
- You hate Denver and Minnesota-Duluth with the burning fiery passion of a thousand suns.
- Also Boston College and UNO.
Everything else is up to Michigan.
It's Michigan and Notre Dame with ND maintaining a one-point lead. They have a home-and-home with this Western team; Michigan goes to Northern. Agonizingly, neither game in Marquette is televised. Michigan will win the tiebreaker if the teams end up even in points.
Non-bullets of !!!
Kind of mad, kind of awesome. Shawn Hunwick was not so good this weekend. On Friday it didn't result in much damage because the team had already gotten the other guy's goalie pulled but on Saturday he was off on both of the breakaways. They were breakaways so it's hard to be too mad but he gave up a weak five hole goal on the first and was way too deep in his net on the other. On the other hand, this is what he tweeted immediately afterwards:
Thank you Carl Hagelin for saving my ass. Great senior class. We had a phenomenal four years.
It wasn't that bad. We still love you and the fact that on shots from the point you end up halfway to the blue line.
Also, Hunwick made three clutch, clutch stops in the third period Saturday.
Need moar Swede. There needs to be another Swedish guy on the team ASAP. We've got the flag, we're very enthusiastic about the word "Bork"—let's make this happen.
Muppets. I totally should have muppetsed. Sorry. I had some people over afterwards and it slipped my mind.
With an assist to Lee Moffie. Moffie's fought for playing time most of the year despite having quite a knack for scoring because he's not that great defensively. Late in the third period as Michigan was trying to tie, however, he was ridiculously good. He's at his best when it's desperate and he can pinch and use his skill and wheel around the zone.
Other defensemen. It was a weekend full of defenseman thoughts:
- Greg Pateryn had a goal and three first assists on Friday. He essentially beat WMU by himself. As a bonus he would have had a fourth assist if you could assist on your own goals—he made an excellent play to control the puck and make a cross-ice pass in to the zone to set up the scoring chance. He still gets too aggressive at the blue line.
- Jon Merrill was really really good Friday—my friend just kept saying "he's really really good"—and then had probably his worst game as a Wolverine Saturday. It wasn't just the breakaway; he probably had more turnovers Saturday than in any two games he'd played this year.
- Mac Bennett is now leading the rush like 25% of the time there is one when he's on the ice.
What does he have to do? Lindsay Sparks was fast out there and looked as dangerous as he usually does. He hasn't put up much in the way of points but I'm continually surprised he can't get in the lineup regularly.
Exploding Lynch. Two on Friday, then two very fancy moves to get to his forehand Saturday. After the first I thought "that's the most dangerous thing he's done as a Wolverine" even though the shot was stopped; he did the same thing a period later and scored. Let's throw everyone down on the fourth line.
BONUS. Googling for Denver goals did turn this one up:
I'm hoping Hagelin channels Ortmeyer in his final games at Michigan.
As the crowd honored the seniors after the game, the Swedish flag that has flown at Yost for three seasons was tossed over the glass to Hagelin. The students had passed it around throughout the game, autographing it and writing thank yous and words of encouragement to our Super Swede.
I wondered what all the stuff on it was. Also: this is a bonus from having Senior Night on a weekend where the students aren't on break.
On what Berenson said to Carl when he gave him a hug after the game… Well, I just told him “Aren’t you glad you came to Michigan? And aren’t we glad that you came?” And good for him. He set a standard here. He’s been a terrific kid, student, player, teammate—you know, just a terrific kid. It’s the first Swedish player we’ve had and we’ll always remember him.
2013 commit JT Compher will join the NTDP, which should lock him up for college—it also suggests he's a high-end guy.
Insanely too long, but I fell down the rabbit hole on this one.
There is an annual complaint against the Pairwise when Team X is passed over in favor of considerably less deserving team Y. This is an exercise in pointlessness, but I was curious as to what a tournament that's selected by eyeballing it would look like. Let's pretend I'm the committee and put 16 teams together.
Boston College, North Dakota, Cornell, Michigan, Alabama-Huntsville, and RIT.
Denver and Miami have the top two records in the country against the #8 and #14 schedules. Wisconsin and St. Cloud are 3 and 6 in RPI and have top ten records against top ten schedules.
THE EXCESSIVELY LARGE BUBBLE
|TEAM||Record||RPI||TUC||Record Rank||SOS||Conference finish||Conference tourney|
|Bemidji State||23-9-4||0.543||6-2-1||6||34||1st CHA||Third place tie|
|Yale||20-9-3||0.537||4-1-2||8||40||1st ECAC||First round|
|Ferris State||21-13-8||0.533||6-10-3||13T||30||3rd CCHA||Fourth place|
|Minnesota-Duluth||22-17-1||0.533||11-14-5||18||9||4th WCHA||Fifth place|
|UNH||17-13-7||0.533||7-10-6||19||12||1st HE||First round|
|Alaska||18-11-9||0.530||6-7-6||16||26||5th CCHA||Round of eight|
|Michigan State||19-13-6||0.525||8-10-2||17||27||2nd CCHA||Round of eight|
|Colorado College||19-17-3||0.524||8-14-3||25T||7||6th WCHA||First round|
|Union||21-12-6||0.523||2-4-3||11||39||3rd ECAC||Second place|
|Minnesota||18-19-2||0.519||9-17-2||34||2||7th WCHA||First round|
Those are the next ten teams in the RPI, the shiniest record remaining after that, and the team KRACH says should be in the tourney that isn't anywhere near these teams in RPI.
Of the above teams the first one off the board is Northern Michigan. The Wildcats have the best TUC record by far of any team with a significant number of games played, a strong RPI, and the best combination of record and schedule strength. NMU is 7-2-5 against this cohort.
Bemidji State is next with their excellent RPI and 7-5-2 record against a 14-game slate of WCHA and CCHA opponents that included a three-point weekend against Northern, a sweep of UMD, and a win over Miami.
And we will take Yale as a 20-9-3 ECAC champ even if KRACH thinks they are worse than eight WCHA teams.
Now we get down to the tough decisions. Three spots left for eight teams. They come in three sets:
- High RPI: Ferris State, UMD, UNH.
- Low RPI: Vermont, Michigan State, CC, Union, Minnesota
- Straddling: Alaska
Minnesota is mostly included to show how broken KRACH is as a real world selection device. In its world, an under .500 WCHA team that finished seventh in its conference, went 5-3 OOC and has a horrible TUC record would be a three seed. There is an NCAA rule prohibiting teams under .500 from getting at-large bids after Wisconsin pulled that trick off a couple years ago. They're dropped.
Next, we shoot down Michigan State. There are two CCHA teams with big RPI advantages on them. Both have better records against basically equivalent schedules. Taking them would mean taking the other two CCHA teams and having six in the tourney, something that can't be justified given the relative nonconference results.
We also shoot down CC, which didn't do anything in the nonconference or playoffs to disprove the idea it's a below average WCHA team. CC's nonconference consisted of a split against Northeastern, the ninth place team in HE, a win against Cornell, a loss against Maine, and four games against an assortment of AH and CHA teams. KRACH, of course, has them ninth nationally because they're almost .500 in the WCHA.
Union is the next to die with their ugly SOS and nonexistent TUC categories. That's something that can be overlooked when you have a nice RPI, but there's no reason to look at Union's schedule and think they're somehow underrated.
The Real Bubble
|TEAM||Record||RPI||TUC||Record Rank||SOS||Conference finish||Conference tourney|
|Ferris State||21-13-8||0.533||6-10-3||13T||30||3rd CCHA||Fourth place|
|Minnesota-Duluth||22-17-1||0.533||11-14-5||18||9||4th WCHA||Fifth place|
|UNH||17-13-7||0.533||7-10-6||19||12||1st HE||First round|
|Alaska||18-11-9||0.530||6-7-6||16||26||5th CCHA||Round of eight|
The only low RPI team we can't dismiss is Vermont, which went 3-3 in six games against RPI #2 Denver and #4 Boston College. They also beat Yale and UMD in single games and went 2-3-1 against UNH. Their TUC record is the most impressive of any team not already selected. They finished eighth(!) in Hockey East, yes, but they were three points from third. Going 6-1 in the nonconference and beating league champ UNH in the first round of the playoffs means they're worth a look.
Ferris has the best record of any remaining team other than ECAC foe Union but they have an ugly TUC record that's made uglier by the details: four of Ferris's six wins are against UNO, the #21 team according to RPI. The others are wins against Michigan and Michigan State.
New Hampshire… same boat, but they are 3-2-1 against Vermont for whatever that's worth.
Alaska swept Ferris, split a trio with Michigan, and tied three of six against Northern.
UMD is in a similar boat: eight of their eleven TUC wins are against #18 CC (who they played an improbable seven times) and #22 Minnesota. However, Duluth has a better record, RPI, and SOS than UNH and Vermont. They have slightly worse records by a much higher SOS than either of the CCHA teams. Minnesota-Duluth is in.
We have to kill two of these teams. I don't know. Maybe goal differential?
- Ferris State: +0.65
- Alaska: +0.45
- New Hampshire: +0.21
- Vermont: +0.05
That does not help at all. This is why they went with the Pairwise. Okay. You cannot possibly put Vermont in the tournament over UNH when UNH has a better record, RPI, SOS, conference finish, and beat Vermont head to head. And I don't think you can leave out UNH without a good reason when they proved themselves vastly superior to all HE teams not named Boston College. So New Hampshire's in. Then you have three teams.
TEAM A has the best record and RPI but weakest schedule.
TEAM B swept team A but has a meaningfully worse record and a worse league and conference finish.
TEAM C beat more really good teams than the other two but lost to more bad teams and finished in eighth place in its conference.
I… I guess I'm going with Ferris State and validating all the complaints. But it's not like this is obvious.
Working backwards since those should be the easiest:
Small conference autobids for teams with bad metrics.
14. Ferris State
13. New Hampshire
Last three in.
Michigan gets ahead of UMD and Ferris by virtue of common opponents. The other metrics are so close as to be nearly indistinguishable, but Michigan has a major edge in COP against a conference opponent in Ferris and a 10-2 to 8-6 advantage against UMD. The comparison with UNH is basically a push in all categories, so Michigan gets the edge for the strong late-season run.
9. Bemidji State
I guess this is where strong records against weak competition go.
8. Northern Michigan
Clearly the best of the bubble-ish teams.
6. St. Cloud State
They've separated themselves from the below; it's a coinflip as to which is 6 and which is 7.
5. Boston College
4. North Dakota
Three teams for two one-seeds. Wisconsin has a major edge in comparisons against BC; North Dakota narrowly loses TUC but actually has a much more impressive record since they played 15 games against RPI top ten opponents (and another five against #12) to BC's one. The COP category is BC's mostly because North Dakota went 1-4 against Denver. Since RPI is basically equivalent, I give the nod to North Dakota's SOS.
These are the obvious top two teams in the tournament. Picking between them is not a big deal since the last two teams are by far the least impressive and both should go meekly. Miami does have all three points in the PWR comparison so we'll go with them.
That sets us up with one intra-conference matchup in the first round: Cornell versus Yale. We'll swap Yale and BSU.
1. Miami vs 16. UAH
8. Northern Michigan vs 9. Yale
2. Denver vs. 15. RIT
7. Cornell vs. 10. Bemidji State
3. Wisconsin vs. 14 Ferris State
6. St. Cloud State vs. 11. Michigan
4. North Dakota vs 13. UNH
5. Boston College vs. 12. Minnesota-Duluth
Attendance will be shaky in Fort Wayne, but there's no way to swap Michigan in since Northern is holding down the 8 seed unless you want to swap the entire matchup. If Northern and St. Cloud had comparable metrics, I'd do it but there's a big enough gap that the bracket integrity is more important.
Minnesota-Duluth probably should have been in easily, but was left out in favor of Vermont. If you put a gun to my head, I'd say Ferris is more deserving than Alaska. Apparently, in my Northern is slightly underseeded; other than that it's not much different, at least not this year.
If I was the king of college hockey I'd have the committee hand select the last couple at large bids but then use the Pairwise for seeding.