that's unfortunate, but at least the interest is there on both sides
Thursday, March 19, 2015
Michigan 5, Wisconsin 1
Michigan 1 Wisconsin 0 PPG 14:45 Hyman (20) from Larkin (30) and Werenski (16)
The puck rims around the boards off of an errant shot and is picked up by Boo Nieves. He passes to Zach Werenski at the point, who holds it just long enough to get the high defender moving before passing to Dylan Larkin on the wing.
Larkin somehow sneaks a shot underneath a charging defender. Zach Hyman is doing an excellent job screening in front, safely tucked underneath the defense and in front of Joel Rumpel. Larkin’s shot is deflects off of Hyman’s stick and under Rumpel’s pads.
The puck hits the bar in the back of the net and bounces out. Hyman slides to his right and backhands it in for good measure; after all, it’d be hard to disallow a goal on review if it goes in twice. Unless the ref meant to blow the whistle. I rescind my earlier comment.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the tournament]
Michigan ends up one win short of the NCAA tournament for the third straight year, so here's this. I'm operating under the assumption that Berenson will continue, but it's not like anything is going to change in terms of personnel if he decides to retire.
Hockey has a LaVell Blanchard now [Paul Sherman]
Michigan loses Zach Hyman and Travis Lynch from the forward corps, plus defensemen Mike Chiasson, Brennan Serville, and Andrew Sinelli. Third goalie Luke Dwyer also departs.
Hobey finalist Hyman is obviously the biggest loss from that group. Hyman was incredible driving zone time and scoring points next to Larkin, and disrupting that line is a great misfortune. Other than Hyman, though, losses are minimal. Lynch was a fourth-liner; Chiasson barely played; Sinelli bounced between F and D. Serville is the most prominent non-Hyman departure, and his career was a frustrating exercise that saw little improvement.
MICHIGAN HOCKEY SUMMER CANDIDATES
IE, guys who might leave during the interminable attrition period between the final game and the first one next year.
Larkin was rather good. [Bill Rapai]
There are two prime candidates: Wings first-round pick Dylan Larkin and pending top-ten draftee Zach Werenski. Either departing would be a surprise. Larkin recently reiterated that he's "not looking to go as soon as possible" and talks like he is not even considering a departure:
"The future is bright and I think with all of us coming back, we will be even stronger next year."
Meanwhile the Wings tend to leave their prospects in lower leagues a painfully long time. Larkin is not likely to be an impact NHL player next year, and smart organizations tend to delay signing their prospects to team-friendly entry level contracts anyway.
Meanwhile, Werenski is already at Michigan and is a defenseman. Defenders develop more slowly and Michigan has had only one D leave after one year: Jacob Trouba. Werenski was pretty good last year, but he was not Trouba. Werenski skipped his last year of high school to enroll, so next year "should" be his freshman year.
Aside from those two, Copp and Compher would probably be the most attractive to NHL teams but don't seem like the type to go early or have their teams pressure them hard. Recruit Kyle Connor seems particularly set on Michigan over major junior but if he gets drafted by an NCAA-phobic organization they could pressure him to change course.
Never say never when you're talking about Michigan Hockey Summer, but it looks like Michigan will get through unscathed.
The aforementioned Kyle Connor is the star of the class, a lightning-quick forward with slick hands who led the league in scoring and cracked the top ten of all-time USHL career points on the way. He is projected as a mid-first round pick in the upcoming NHL draft and should slot directly on to a scoring line.
F Brendan Warren will arrive from the NTDP and should be a second-or-third round pick; he had a solid 16-16-32 line in 49 games for the U18s last year. Chris Dilks scouted him in November:
Warren has always been an excellent skater, and he showed a good compete level and willingness to work along the boards and go into rough areas along the ice. But he just hasn't developed into the scorer that many thought he would when he committed to Michigan at a young age. Warren held his own when he took a few shifts with the top scoring line, but he's not a player that's going to create a lot of offense for himself and others.
Sounds like a version of Motte that's a half-step worse on offense.
Former Canadian junior B winger Connor Murphy also enters. He moved to the USHL for his final year of competition before college and struggled to maintain the torrid scoring pace that first brought him to the attention of various scouts. His 13-14-27 in 51 games with Chicago indicates a guy who might develop but should be looked at as a fourth-liner to start.
On defense, Michigan has a couple of potential draftees in Joe Cecconi and Nick Boka. Cecconi is projected as a third or fourth rounder and has a reputation as a steady, big stay-at-home guy:
“He does everything well – moves well, uses the size that he has,” Central Scouting’s David Gregory said. “But his presence and how he uses the game from the back end is one of the most impressive things.”
Cecconi’s calmness with the puck and mobility has impressed Gregory. So has his rapid development. He noticed improvements in just a short span during the summer.
Gregory wants to track Cecconi’s offensive improvements this season.
“He snaps the puck when he passes it, shoots it, so there’s going to be opportunities for him to be involved in offense as well,” he said. “He was getting a little bit of power-play time, albeit it in preseason, and he’s on a good team, so we’ll see.”
At 6'2" and almost 210 as of a year ago, he should be physically ready to play. He's the highest-rated USHL defenseman in this year's draft.
Boka played with the U18s last year and might be a late draft pick. Like Cecconi, he's a relatively big and mobile defensive defenseman, with just 7 points last year. His star has apparently fallen some since he was rated almost on par with Werenski by Over The Boards:
4. 97 D Nick Boka – NTDP U18 – Michigan
The Michigan recruit has an aggressive, athletic upside that could come on very strong in his draft year. Wins battles in the tough areas of the ice and can provide puck support. We like Werenski’s total skillset more right now, but Boka could easily emerge as the best American talent on the blue line in this draft behind Hanifin.
Boka committed a while ago so Yost Built put together a full dossier on him; he decommitted from MSU, giving Michigan the tantalizing possibility of rolling out a maximum-MSU-troll pairing of Boka and East Lansing native Cutler Martin.
If Michigan does lose a player to the NHL or other attrition, they could fill the hole by accelerating a player who is currently ticketed for 2016; the most likely player there would be Cooper Marody, who's both old enough to be eligible for this NHL draft and projected to go in the middle rounds of it. He finished 11th in USHL scoring this year, so he is probably ready to contribute in college.
Michigan is also in the conversation for uber-prospect Auston Matthews, who scored 87(!) points for the NTDP U18s as an underager this year and is projected to be the top pick in the 2016 draft. He's a certain one-and-done who has not yet decided on a team for next year. Like Werenski, Matthews would be entering college a year before his time. He is not only deciding between the WHL and college but also between BC, BU, Michigan, etc.
WHAT ABOUT GOALIE?
Racine was excellent… this weekend [Sherman]
Mike Spath reports that Michigan will delay the enrollment($) of Hayden Lavigne after he struggled to a .881 USHL save percentage last year.
That would leave Michigan rolling with the same two guys who could not lock the job down this year unless they bring in a grad transfer… and they are looking for those. Spath says they are vetting former UNH goalie Casey DeSmith, who was booted from the Wildcat team after domestic violence accusations that passed muster at neither the court nor university level*. There are also a couple of guys in platoon situations at smaller schools, like Alaska's Sean Cahill, who might be interested.
*[Link is the text of a press release from DeSmith's parents and should be taken in that light. I couldn't find any actual reporting on the case.]
USELESS BUT MANDATORY LINE GUESSES
A senior version of Copp is probably the nearest equivalent to Hyman on the roster; Larkin will have to drive more play next year, with Copp helping win the possession battles and Selman continuing his role as the guy who gets in good places and finishes.
Compher can return to his natural center spot between two extremely skilled offensive players.
I like Shuart's combination of size and speed and feel he'll move up as he enters his upperclass years; he is a prime candidate for Random Breakout Forward. Nieves has been a bit of a disappointment so far but did put up a solid 7-20-27 line and has his uses.
Motte is a generally talented fellow without any standout talent other than doggedness; I do wonder if Michigan might reunite him with Compher, as the two played very well together when they were freshmen and Compher had an off year on the scoresheet.
Take your pick of fourth liners. Dancs played in almost every game but was penalty-prone and –4 on the year. Calderone got 28 games last year and showed a little bit of offense (3-6-9); Warren is probably the most talented of the remaining forwards.
(Also: Talcott, Allen, Murphy)
Talcott and Allen did little in limited time a year ago; Murphy will probably need a year to adjust to college.
USELESS BUT MANDATORY D PAIRING GUESSES
On defense, the roster doesn't really lend itself to traditional 1-2-3 pairings since each one will have an established left-hander and a question mark or two on the right, but in very vague order:
Werenski is enormously talented and began coming into his own late last year as a puck-rushing offensive defenseman. The defense bit could still use some work—no surprise given that last year was scheduled to be his NTDP U18 season until he accelerated. Add some weight and get him more acquainted with what he's supposed to do without the puck and you're gonna have a good time.
As for Cecconi, normally you would not want to put a freshman on your top pairing but Michigan's top three returning D are all left-handed shots. A 6'2" stay-at-home guy who shoots opposite Werenski and is #70 in the current CSB sounds like a good idea.
Martin was probably Michigan's best all-around defender by the end of last year. He's physical without being penalty-prone (just 16 PIMs compared to Downing's 76), he has a nasty snap shot from the point, and he doesn't make the boggling decisions some of his compatriots have made. In a season full of defensive frustrations he was a lone bright spot.
Lohan was just a guy last year but he did play every game and didn't make many glaring mistakes until a bogglingly glaring one against Minnesota. He could end up opposite any of the lefties; it mostly depends on whether any of the freshmen clearly outperform him.
Downing's eventful year featured a 6-16-22 line plus those penalty minutes. He was erratic, laying out big hits and giving up odd-man rushes. The +/- gap between the three left-handed defensemen being discussed here is informative: Martin was +12, Werenski +11, Downing +3. He's frustrating.
Boka will probably slot in as a third-pairing stay-at-home guy.
Also: De Jong, Piazza, Porikos
De Jong got 23 games before being bumped from the lineup in favor of Sinelli; he was weak on the puck and Michigan tended to get stuck in their own end when he was on the ice. He will be called into action frequently as various defensemen invoke the ire of the coaches.
Piazza saw ten games, in which he did absolutely nothing I remember—not always bad for D. Porikos didn't play and seems to be just filling out the roster.
If they do get everyone back and a year older, the offense should be at about that level again: while Connor won't replace Hyman's production his addition plus an extra year for the rest of the eight scoring line players probably will. Some sort of regression to the mean is likely, but they should still score a ton.
Defense and goalie remain problems. Michigan managed to miss the tournament this year despite scoring almost four goals a game, a feat no one else has managed since the internet started having stats on it. (In fact the only team to get worse than a two seed was 2003 Michigan.)
The goaltenders collapsed from a year ago, when Nagelvoort had a year impressive enough to get him drafted as an overager. The defense was possibly worse—those save percentages were negatively impacted by the improbable odd man rushes given away on the regular.
And that's an area I'm not sure gets better. Michigan hasn't seen a lot of improvement from their defensemen since Pearson left. The good guys showed up good and the ones who weren't so good stayed that way. Late in the third period of the Minnesota game, Downing stepped up to lay a thunderous hit… and gave up a two on one as a result. That stuff happens all the time now. The goal to tie it 2-2 was Lohan getting far too aggressive and turning a harmless neutral zone play into a two on one.
That stuff is now all too typical: errors borne of nonsense aggression. At this point you can't just wave that away with "they'll learn." They might. Recent history makes you a little dubious they will.
Friday, February 20, 2015
Michigan 3 Ohio State 5
Michigan 1 Ohio State 0 EV 03:52 Larkin (11) from Selman (8) and Hyman (22)
Michigan enters the offensive zone with a numerical advantage. Dylan Larkin passes to Justin Selman instead of dropping it to Zach Hyman, and I’m not sure why considering the defenseman in front of Selman and the open lane in front of Hyman.
Selman gets tied up, but the defenseman is unable to knock the puck away from Michigan’s forwards. He gets a weak swing on the puck, but Larkin is in the process of cutting from the corner to the front of the net and intercepts it.
Larkin has a tremendous advantage in that he’s undefended and the goalie has already hit the ice. Christian Frey is square to a shot from where I drew the arrow on the screencap, but…
Larkin can skate around Frey faster than he can move across laterally to re-square himself to the shot, resulting in an uncontested shot on a half-open net.
[More after THE JUMP]
Friday, January 23rd, 2015
UW 1 UM 0 PPG 02:48 LaBate from Dougherty and Schulze
Michigan starts in a box on the penalty kill when Andrew Copp comes up high to attack the puck near the point. Wisconsin passes the puck down the boards and then back up to the blue line, and as Copp turns he runs into what is essentially a pick being set by Grant Besse. When Copp came up high someone else (Tyler Motte) should have moved over to cover the opposite side of the ice. He doesn’t, and Michigan ends up having three of their four defenders smushed together.
The pass gets through because of Motte’s error, but he isn’t the only one who makes a mistake here. Kevin Lohan needs to be lower in order to eliminate the backdoor player and step up and tie up the guy in the center of the crease if need be.
Leave the middle of the ice undefended and it’s not surprising what happens next. Zach Werenski hesitates and it looks like he’s trying to take away both the pass and shot, and the result is that he takes away neither. Dougherty passes to LaBate for an easy tap in.
[After THE JUMP: Michigan scores with Enthusiasm Unknown to Mankind]
Back in the day I had a brief period as an Edmonton Oilers fan. (Long story short: never had much of a Red Wings connection since I grew up in pre-Avs Colorado and Edmonton had Mike Comrie.) This was at the point where they had one of the most bizarrely popular players in the league, Georges Laraque.
The French-Canadian was more province than man, kept on the team to grind on the fourth line and facepunch people. He had one more skill than that, though. If provided the puck along the boards in the offensive zone, he could keep it there indefinitely.
This had almost no utility. Laraque couldn't do much of anything once he had established possession. He was too slow to threaten to take the puck off the boards himself and not skilled enough to pick out his teammates. Even so it was a thing to see: Laraque fending off increasingly enormous piles of opposition players as the arena got more and more fevered about something that would never, ever lead to a goal. In this it was like his fighting, there to entertain in a way totally orthogonal to the stated goal of hockey.
When Zach Hyman started doing this at the outset of last season, it had a Laraquian feel to it. He was stuck on three points a third of the way through the year and no amount of cheerleading from this space made a difference. At that point Hyman was a guy who had a great season as an overager in junior but had done nothing to suggest he was going to replicate that through 60% of his career at Michigan.
And then he started walking into the slot.
Michigan's weekend was a rote walkover introduced by a penalty-induced hangover. I've been on both sides of games like Friday where the ice tilts towards the losing team and no lead seems safe, and by the time Michigan scored to pull within 1 late in the second period that game felt like a Michigan win.
The way it transpired is quickly becoming familiar. Hyman walked off the wall again, flicking the puck to the far side of a goalie worried about a wrap-around attempt. Then Michigan marauded through the slot for the go-ahead goal and the double-tap to make sure Wisconsin's zombie upset bid was well and truly dead. They'd solved prominent goaltending issues by removing them from the relevant section of the game. An empty-netter felt appropriate as an extra-point exclamation mark.
Saturday's game was over two minutes in when Michigan had scored twice and chased Joel Rumpel to the bench in world-record time. By the time Michigan scored to go up 5-0 early in the second period they were barely celebrating. After two periods shots were 37-9.
Even Wisconsin's frustrated after-the-play Standard Hockey Goonery felt obligatory. It takes a remarkable mental state to shove someone without meaning anything by it, but by the third period Wisconsin was doing it solely by reflex, thinking about what they would watch on Netflix after the game.
Eliminate Tony Calderone's five minute major and this weekend wasn't a hockey series. It was a reason that Michigan should be forced to wear body cams when on duty.
Hyman's surged into serious Hobey Baker contention in a way I don't think I've ever seen a Michigan player do so. Previous dominant Hobey types have mostly been the little puck wizards that felt like Michigan's birthright for most of the 90s and aughts. Brendan Morrison was an NHL-sized version of those guys, Kevin Porter a gentleman who scored buckets of goals without being dominant in any particular facet of the game.
All of these guys reached the point where you look for them to hit the ice because they are generating chances every shift. Most of them did so by having the puck on a string. A guy like Hyman, who is so physically dominant he creates most of his chances off the cycle, is a new thing.
He's a good metaphor for the team as a whole: eventually overwhelming. Michigan shoves line after line at you—they have eight guys on or within a couple points of a PPG, and that doesn't count NHL Draft second-rounders Boo Nieves and JT Compher. Every time they go for a line change someone you don't want to see is coming over the boards.
They do have to get their act together on defense. The goalies' flagging save percentages are not entirely their regression. Michigan's giving up grade A scoring chances with alarming regularity. Not so much this weekend, but Wisconsin is truly, bogglingly bad.
Even so at this point you have to wonder if they can outscore anyone. The 80s called, offering their hockey again. All aboard the firewagon.
Michigan's sweep did count for something, as they moved up about four tenths of a point despite Lowell and Minnesota (teams that give them quality win points) having bad weekends. Wisconsin has a solid SOS (4th in RPI terms) and that helps them remain somewhat relevant. Then the road multiplier kicks in.
That four tenths of a point corresponded to a whopping five-spot move in RPI/PWR because the teams immediately in front of Michigan had horrible weekends, with three getting swept and a fourth taking just one point.
Michigan is now solidly in the tournament but vulnerable to backsliding. They're barely a point above the 16 slot which is guaranteed doom.
Suggestion: keep winning. Michigan has 12 games left in the regular season and probably has to go 8-4, maybe 9-3 to feel secure entering the Big Ten Tournament. Given the way they've been playing and the way the rest of the Big Ten has, that's not too tall an order.
Pile 'em in. Michigan has surged to an enormous lead in scoring offense, a full six tenths of a goal past #2 Robert Morris. Last year's leading offense, BC, was at 4.1 GPG; Michigan is at 4.4. BC got their piles of goals thanks to 80-point Hobey winner Johnny Gadreau.
PPGs. Those eight(!) guys at or a couple points away from a PPG: Hyman, Larkin, Copp, and Motte are past that pace. Kile and Werenski are one and two points short, respectively. And after a five-point weekend featuring a Friday hat trick, Justin Selman is at 5-6-11 in just 11 games.
This goal was rightfully disallowed. Kile got a little bumped here but yeah:
I wasn't expecting that to stand after one replay.
Goalie issues. The BTN announcers made a great deal about Michigan's goalie issues this year, which I thought was pretty simplistic given the sheer number of grade-A chances they'd faced but then both goalies gave up horrendous goals on Friday and now that I'm poking at the numbers… yeah. Nagelvoort is 50th of 80 qualifying goalies on CollegeHockeyStats and Racine is 74th.
These things can turn around quickly—Racine was horrible the first half of his freshman year and put up a .920 the rest of the way—because you need a pile of shots before save percentage becomes statistically meaningful. Michigan's going to have to hope someone steps forward as we approach the stretch run. It's Nagelvoort's turn for a while, it seems.
Selman? Selman's been one of my argh-play-him-more favorites. Sometimes these work out (Hyman), sometimes not so much (Lindsay Sparks), but a five point weekend on the wing of Selman and Larkin probably buys him a few more weekends as the third wheel there. Selman brings a net-driving presence on a line that generates a lot of chaos and rebounds, and he seems like a good fit there.
Already prepping to pump Selman as next year's upperclass breakout forward, which has been an annual tradition (Rohlfs, Scooter) until recently.
Larkin. Hyman is carrying that line and has been all season but Larkin is obviously contributing, and he's contributing on a higher level since the GLI break, where he was one of the best forwards on the WJC team. Larkin reminds me a bit of Max Pacioretty, who wasn't particularly noticeable during the first half of his only year at Michigan but absolutely blew up in the second half. Larkin's adding some flair to his game now that he's comfortable with college and his line.
Sinelli on defense? Michigan listed Andrew Sinelli as a defender this weekend, leading to weird things like a box score featuring "XD" as a position for Nolan De Jong. Michigan rotated through its centers for extra shifts on the fourth line—when those guys are Compher, Copp, and Larkin that's not a bad idea—and played with what they were going to do on the back end.
I liked Sinelli as a defender last year. I actually thought he was a top four guy for them. He's not great shakes as a forward with the puck but for a defenseman he's very capable in that department, and while he's small he was generally in the right spot. That would be a large improvement for Michigan's defensive corps.
I'd keep an eye on that going forward, especially since Michigan is going to plug Lynch back into that fourth line center spot when he gets back. Given the Michigan offense a solid senior like Sinelli might be preferable to a guy who has more upside but offers up more WTF moments.
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]