LIST OF WWE PERSONNEL?!?
Apologies. This posted as a draft yesterday and I didn't notice until late.
2/14/2015 – Michigan 2, Minnesota 6 – 16-9-0, 8-3 Big Ten
2/15/2015 – Michigan 0, Minnesota 2 – 16-10-0, 8-4 Big Ten
There can be no contrast of hockey styles greater than going from playing Michigan State on ice that may as well be gravel to Minnesota's immaculate Olympic sheet. On the Olympic sheet you will play the biggest, fastest, and often finest players the "State of Hockey" has to offer. Also the occasional Austrian. (This year Minnesota State, the school you thought was fictional, has claim.)
Sometimes this goes okay. Sometimes it really does not.
Michigan got bombed out of the building on Friday as Minnesota repaid the favor Michigan did them when they met in Yost; they lost narrowly the next night as Minnesota repaid the favor from the first matchup. It wasn't fun, except it kind of still was even when Michigan was getting their ass handed to it.
I don't know man, it's weird. Multiple times a period teams would make little clever passes to break out of the zone and rush the puck in. Dump and chase, these days the default method of doing anything, was just about unheard of. The Olympic ice has weird effects on visitors, who tend to spread out on both ends. On offense this leaves you taking speculative shots from the outside that don't have a lot of chance to go in; on defense your slot is exposed*.
*(That's not what she said.)
So Minnesota opened the scoring by wiring a puck from the slot to the top corner on a power play and things continued from there. Hockey's weird and I don't think this means Michigan's a thousand times worse than the Gophers any more than the previous series meant the inverse. But sometimes you get Minnesota and you're just like… dude.
You have Hudson Fasching, a guy who I've heard about since he was 15, and he is a boring third-liner. The tic-tac-toe of the puck is mesmerizing, and if they get zeroed in on your breakout, as they did in the second period Friday, you are in deep without a paddle. Friday's game went from a relatively even 3-0 game to a 4-0 blowout over the first ten minutes of the second, if that makes any sense.
The kind of things Michigan does to a lot of star-struck opponents (or did until the last few years) Minnesota does from time to time. Sometimes when they're on, etc. Michigan competed, but they currently do not have the defense to deal with these things. Minnesota erased Zach Hyman with NHL uber-prospect Brady Skjei; Michigan has no equivalent defender. Zach Werenski is real good… and 17. Check back with me when Werenski is a senior to see if he's as good as Skjei, a junior, is now.
So it was over the weekend, as two teams playing with buckets of space made it 120 minutes of 4-on-4. 120 minutes of 4-on-4 is terrific to watch even if you aren't, like, scoring any goals. It restores a faith you didn't know you needed restoring in the wisdom of flinging pucks at a guy in a mask.
Margin for error is gone after losing three of four with weak competition ahead. Michigan is 17th after the sweep, currently on the wrong side of the bubble. They have eight regular season games left against the dregs of the league and Penn State; they have to win a lot of games if they're going to feel good about their at-large chances.
Michigan's schedule strength is languishing at 34th nationally despite nonconference matchups against Lowell, BU, BC, Michigan Tech, and New Hampshire. The league is really dragging them down, and they got unlucky to draw a really bad version of RPI (the university).
Anyway: I figured that Michigan had three or four games to give if they wanted to be secure going into the Big Ten tournament. They've just about given all of them. It is go time the next two weekends against Ohio State (who may not be as bad as they seemed the first time around, as they were dealing with a Michigan basketball level of injuries) and dire Wisconsin. Sweeps in both are imperative.
Olympic ice is terrific. I don't see any reason not to adopt it. More ice to cover means long periods like 4-on-4 hockey where the team with the puck can maintain possession and threaten for a 30 or 40 second period, as both Minnesota and Michigan did. I prefer anything that brings the skill of the rush back to prominence, especially a week after MSU's "line four guys up on the blueline and pray" strategy.
If I was the NHL commissioner I'd decree any new building has to have Olympic ice. I'm a fan of weird variations in playing situations, something that gives baseball some of its allure. The time to make that change was probably 20 years ago before the various stadiums went up, but I'd make that change anyway.
Goaltending: insufficient. Nagelvoort got chased on Friday as he let in one very soft goal (the second trickled through him and he was unaware of that fact, leaving a ton of time for a forward to swat at the puck twice) and did not make many of an admittedly very difficult sequence of saves on water-bottle jobs from the Gophers. Still, I don't have much confidence in either guy at this point… and that's coming from a person who was claiming the problem largely rested with the defense corps for the first half of the season.
Which it certainly does, in part. Michigan's slot has been… not well defended dammit that's still a PHRASING. Is there any way to talk about the section of the hockey rink between the circles that now that I'm thinking in this manner really really resemble breasts ARGH I blame twitter for everything.
Nieves is modern day Milan Gajic. Looks like he should be a scorer, isn't a scorer, reinforces this by putting his first two in since November in a situation in which no one will remember because they don't matter.
I thoroughly enjoyed the Minnesota crew. The color guy was a little willing to condone disproportionate reprisals for a bit of Michigan frustration on Friday and the PBP guy was inclined to exclaim "no penalty!" in situations where there wasn't even much complaining from the crowd. Other than that, they were excellent—much better than the anodyne BTN duo, still featuring Fred Pletsch for reasons that escape me.
The PBP guy, who turns out to be named Doug MacLeod, brought up Ufer apropos of nothing other than respect for the fraternity of announcer bros, and that felt appropriate. He has that certain gravitas a Bud Lynch or Carl Grapentine does.
One thing not so much though. The color guy kept knocking Compher for not pulling the trigger on a couple of 2-on-1 opportunities he got. This felt wrong because Compher's last second pass after a shot fake trickled through the crease and Shuart really should have gotten a stick on it. If he did that was a slam dunk into an open net. The other one didn't come off as his attempted saucer pass was flicked into the air by a defenseman's stick, but a super great opportunity for a tap-in in two tries is worth more than any two two-on-one shots are.
Nightmare fuel via Patrick Barron
Friday, February 13, 2015
Minnesota 6 Michigan 2
Minnesota 1 Michigan 0 PPG 06:28 Rau from Cammarata and Reilly
Tyler Motte over-pursues at the point, which leaves Kyle Rau free to skate toward the slot. I’ve drawn on the screen cap where Motte should be; you can see that if he’s further to his left he can pick up Rau and drive him wide.
Zach Werenski steps up to cover Rau, so he passes to Taylor Cammarata to the side of the net.
Rau keeps his feet moving and gets past Werenski easily. Werenski turns toward Cammarata and just drops his coverage of Rau. Not good. Nagelvoort sees the puck at the side of the net and tries to lock down the post, but Cammarata passes back to an all-too-open Rau. Nagelvoort leaves some huge gaps as he tries to come off the post, the first sign (of many) that this night is not going to go well for him.
[After THE JUMP: *insert your preferred guttural noise here*]
UM 1 MSU 0 EV 01:43 Downing (5) from Calderone (6) and Nieves (14)
Tony Calderone gets the puck via a stretch pass Boo Nieves makes from along the boards in Michigan’s defensive zone. The pass comes from the same spot Nieves wasn’t able to gain control of the puck last Friday (which subsequently led to a Spartans goal), so it’s nice to see him seal the puck and get it out of the zone this weekend. Calderone skates to the red line before walking it back up the boards in an effort to avoid the MSU defender.
Michigan State’s defenders have collapsed around the net, which is typical of their style. That’s not really a criticism; if you’re going to give up shots from the point and your goaltender is Jake Hildebrand you’re probably going to do alright. Calderone passes to the blur at the top of the screen cap. That blur is Downing, and it’s easy to see how much he’s able to put on the shot from the camera’s inability to focus on him.
It looks to me like the puck goes under the defenseman’s stick and beats Hildebrand on his blocker side in the little green square I’ve drawn on the screen cap. This isn’t a good goal for him to give up; despite having a defenseman in front of him in the screen cap he was able to track the puck and squared himself to the shot. That d-man in his view came in after the pass had been made to Downing and Hildebrand was starting to butterfly.
[After THE JUMP: Darth Vader makes an appearance, and it’s not in discussing MSU or Dave Brandon]
OSU 0 UM 1 EV 01:38 Hyman (12) from Larkin (15)
Dylan Larkin picks up the puck in Michigan’s defensive zone and carries it out himself. As he reaches the neutral zone the two nearest defenders react in very different ways; the far-side defender sees Larkin and steps toward him, while the near-side defender skates off for a line change. In the middle of a play. Where the guy with the puck is about eight feet away.
Larkin is able to skate in to the neutral zone with ease thanks to the pick that the line-changing defender set on his neutral zone counterpart. Larkin’s speed gains him a step on the flat-footed defenseman that picks him up, and as he starts to go behind the net the opposite defenseman (circled below) panics. He jumps to try and pick Larkin up, thus vacating the net-front area he should be in.
Larkin sees the second defenseman jump out of position and realizes that leaves Zach Hyman unchecked in front. He threads a perfect backhanded pass to Hyman, who shoots immediately. The puck hits Matt Tomkins’ shoulder and rolls down his back a bit before falling into the net behind him.
[After THE JUMP: M’s goalie gets pulled but they still win, so lots of scoring]
Friday, January 9, 2015
UM 0 Minn 1 EV 07:03 C. Reilly from Collins and M. Reilly
Minnesota passes back and forth along the boards, and Tyler Motte overskates in pursuit. Once the puck is back on the stick of the defender he’s responsible for there’s little he can do. Collins easily gets a shot off, though it’s an easy save for Racine; he’s not screened and is square to the shooter.
The problem is that he gives up a huge rebound. To his credit, the rebound is directed to the corner as much as possible. That’s little consolation in relation to the final result, however. Serville has floated back toward the right side, but he has no idea that there’s a Minnesota player behind him. He needs to turn his head to check sooner than he does, because by the time he sees there’s someone there the puck is on Reilly’s stick.
He’s too far away to recover, and Racine is in the same situation. There’s no way he’s going to get across the crease in time to stop an undefended shot like that, and it’s an incredibly easy goal for Minnesota.
[After THE JUMP: Hyman hyperbole, lots of goals]
Hey. How are you? Been a while, huh? If you’ve never read one of these before, the purpose of this post is to break down every goal of each Wolverine hockey game. Reading left to right, there’s the score followed by whether the goal was at even strength or on the power play. After that there’s the time of the goal and the players awarded points on the play. In parentheses is their season point total.
Michigan swept RPI last weekend, and though they still have a lot of things to work on defensively a number of guys who have offensive upside finally turned upside into production. Long story short: a Michigan team not coached by John Beilein had a good weekend. Let’s enjoy that.
Friday, November 28
UM 1 RPI O EV 15:55 Kile (6) from Larkin (9) and Hyman (8)
Hyman carries the puck up the boards. Kile moves laterally from left to right, and eventually peels off his defender to head toward the net. The defender at the top of the circle does a nice job of taking away the passing lane to Kile, but taking away one passing lane opens up another (highlighted through the faceoff circle).
Being able to draw a line through three of your five defenders means someone is blitheringly wide open. Oh, look. Alex Kile is blitheringly wide open. Larkin has the puck in front of the net thanks to the passing lane created in the first screen shot. All he has to do is find a way to thread it through the mass of defenders to Kile.
Which he does perfectly. You can see that the goalie has to sprawl out to his left to try and get anything on the puck. This is because Larkin was so close to the crease that not only did he have to stay square to him but he had to hit the ice and go into his butterfly to take away the five hole. It takes extra time to move across the crease once you’ve hit the ice, and the goalie can’t recover in time to stop Kile’s shot.
[After THE JUMP: We got moooooooore goals]