to play football, not to play trumpet
lake superior state
1/7/2011 – Michigan 4, LSSU 2 – 12-8-3
1/8/2011 – Michigan 2, LSSU 2 (LSSU wins SO) – 12-8-4
via the Daily
I'll take it. If you'd told me Michigan would only get 2 periods out of Shawn Hunwick, lose Alex Guptill halfway through Saturday night's game, and end up benching Brennan Serville again, I'd be thinking split or worse. Instead Michigan scrapes out a win and a tie in the NCAA's eyes and continues their trudge up the RPI and PWR charts in their effort to not be the team that breaks the streak.
Having Merrill back is an enormous relief, isn't it? After a half-season of watching various defensemen panic and suffer at the hands of forechecking, the gloriously smooth Merrill is a revelation. The puck is on his stick: breakout. It's like he never left… except for my scars.
Unfortunately, Merrill is not a panacea for all of Michigan's ills. They still sent Derek Deblois out in a shootout; their power play is still a debacle; they're still in the CCHA's usual massive pack of .500 teams. Mike Spath notes that in 21 shootout attempts this year Michigan has scored twice. There you go, Michigan's lack of dirty dangles in lights. I miss the days when Comrie and Cammalleri and Hensick provided a regular stream of top shelf highlights.
Whither the magic midget, I ask? Are we limited to one at a time and ours happens to play goalie? Probably.
Bullets that go over the net
Janecyk. That could have gone much, much worse. That was exactly like watching Hunwick play for the first time, in which it seemed impossible that the puck was staying out of the net and then it didn't. LSSU is a shoot-on-sight sort of team so his save percentage may have been a little inflated; even so two goals on 30+ shots is a quality outing.
Per Red, Hunwick will be back this weekend. Hopefully we don't have to test this Janecyk-is-also-Hunwick theory any further, no offense to a star of the game from Saturday.
Top line: extant. There is a top line now: Brown, Guptill, and Wohlberg. They're big and fast and generally hard to deal with around the net; what they lack in puckhandling skill they make up for with good shooting and crease mucking. Guptill will be back this weekend as well; if I had to guess I'd say both he and Hunwick had minor concussion symptoms.
I'm still not sure what they're doing with the other lines. Moffatt and Hyman with Sinelli is odd since that implies a fourth line when Moffatt, at least, seems to be one of the team's better offensive players. Pairing PDG with Glendening and Treais seems… suboptimal. Glendending should be the heart of a checking line and PDG should get Moffatt or Sparks to see if they can, you know, score some goals. Glendening has three points in his last 20. At this point he should not be on a scoring line.
Serville: yeesh. On the ice in front of the net for the tying LSSU goal on Saturday and then exiled to the bench for the rest of the game, marking the second outing in which he's found himself benched for most of a period. Before that he'd gotten walked through for two excellent LSSU chances. I'm shocked at his issues with the transition; can't remember an NHL draft pick who seemed so unready.
But what about Chiasson? There have been no injuries reports on Mike Chiasson, who missed Saturday's game. No one has even mentioned it. Is he healthy? Did he really get voluntarily scratched on Saturday? How is that possible? THEORY: accidentally wore a Lindsay Sparks jersey to practice.
Seriously, though… if Chiasson was a healthy scratch on Saturday I'm baffled. There's not a lot of time between Friday and Saturday night to have a team rules violation. Leaving him out by choice seems insane.
Massive pack of .500 teams, and some others. I'm not kidding. Six of the league's 11 teams are within a game of .500 with four exactly even. OSU is currently running away with the league on points, winning percentage, and goal differential after dumping the vast bulk of their team in the offseason. (I wonder what the OSU oversigning hawks think of that.)
Michigan is 11 points adrift, which is why I couldn't care less about shootouts. If Michigan's not winning the league I don't care where they finish unless they're unable to finish in the top eight and I have to either figure out how to get my playoff ticket money back or give an involuntary donation to the AD. Failing that, whatever.
Pretty much useless PWR update. Michigan slides up to a tie for ninth; lake state temporarily drops out only to be replaced by Ferris, WMU, and Miami. Hypothetical season-ends-today tournament features a hypothetical seven(!!!) CCHA teams with those three, Michigan, #6 NMU, #3 ND, and #1 OSU. I imagine cannibalism will knock that down to five by the end of the year.
Michigan improved its RPI a bit over the weekend and now stands a tenuous tenth. This upcoming OSU series is huge. They've been very good so far this year but are coming off consecutive ties against cellar-dweller BGSU, 1-11-2 against the rest of the league.
This is a weird year in college hockey. Not only is Michigan struggling to maintain its streak but 11-8-3 Denver and 11-8-2 North Dakota are currently on the outside looking in at 18th and 20th, respectively. Wisconsin is barely a TUC and Mass-Lowell and Merrimack are currently in. Strangest of all: Minnesota might make the tournament.
Power play: argh. It's time to take whatever Michigan's doing on the power play and throw it away and get a specialist consultant or something.
Against Lake Superior State this weekend, the Michigan hockey team went a combined 0-for-4 on the power play. The Wolverines averaged less than a shot per man-advantage.
It's ugly to watch. Throwing Treais out there on the point is the latest oddity; Michigan immediately gave up a scoring chance due to his inexperience playing on the point on Friday and abandoned it. With Merrill back they should just throw the top four defenders out there and try to scrabble together some forwards—it's not like they're overflowing with good options there, either.
|WHAT||Lake Superior @ Michigan
CCHA First Round
|WHERE||Ann Arbor, Michigan|
March 5th/6th, 2010
7:35 PM EST March 7th
|THE LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
|TELEVISION||Friday: Comcast Local
Saturday: Fox Sports Detroit
Michigan plays on the first weekend for the first time since the CCHA switched to its current, extremely welcoming playoff format.
Lake Superior State
Record. 15-16-15, 10-15-3-2 CCHA. Tenth place with 35 points. Overall goal differential 91 for, 107 against. Conference goal differential of 66 for, 90 against. Michigan swept (wha?) Lake Superior in the Soo 5-1 and 6-3 in late October.
Dangermen. Lake State's top scorers are all juniors. Rick Schofield has a 15-13-28 line, Will Acton 10-14-24, and Chad Nehring 12-5-17. Nehring has six power play goals and must be the designated sniper with that combination of PP effectiveness and assist paucity.
Overall, LSSU is their usual hardworking, stone-handed selves. They languish at 47th in scoring offense with just over two and half goals per game.
Defense and goalie and whatnot. Lake State's primary goalie is Sharks draft pick Brian Mahoney-Wilson, who's putting up slightly above average numbers. His .914 save percentage is 24th nationally. Lake Superior gives up a lot of shots, though, and they check in below average with a 2.97 goals against average.
Bryan Hogan's numbers remain pretty ugly but they are now irrelevant as he sits out with a groin injury. Tiny walk-on backup Shawn Hunwick will play this weekend. While Hunwick did all right against Notre Dame his first night out, Red's take on Hunwick's performance Saturday is less encouraging:
"He got out of sync," Berenson said. "He still made a couple of good saves, but those goals, he would save every day in practice. Those aren't goals that wouldn't normally go in, and he knows that. He needed to put that behind him and say, 'never mind' and move on. And he didn't."
Special teams. Your power plays per game stat:
|PP For / G||4.4||5.8|
|PP Ag / G||4.4||5.5|
If Nehring isn't scoring, no one is. LSSU's power play converts at a 16.5 percent rate, 42nd nationally. Michigan's creaky power play isn't a ton better at 18.6 percent—same as Miami!—but it is better. Michigan also remains near the top of the penalty kill charts at 87.3 percent (sixth). Lake Superior is fifteenth at 84.2. Michigan's specialty teams are marginally more effective than Lake State's.
As per usual, LSSU doesn't take or draw many penalties.
Michigan Vs Those Guys
Do whatever you did before. Michigan's crushing sweep of Lake State in October is a major reason LSSU's conference goal differential isn't much different than last place Western Michigan's and Michigan's is actually five goals better than second place Michigan State. Think about that as you slowly claw the goo from your eyes.
Keep it super simple, please. With Hogan out and a shaky Hunwick in the lineup, it's imperative to keep the turnovers down against a team that's not likely to generate a ton of good scoring chances by itself. Steve Kampfer's recent generosity should end, please.
Don't take a penalty ten seconds into your own power play four times. My head will explode. So will Tim's. Our lives are in your hands.
The Big Picture
With Michigan barely hanging on as a TUC, the Pairwise does not matter. Michigan will not get an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. As far as the conference goes, it's really hard to see either of the CCHA's two awful teams winning on the road, especially when those trips are to Alaska and Nebraska. That means Michigan is all but locked into a second-round series against Michigan State at Munn.
If the team is fortunate enough to make it to the Joe, they'll probably face Miami in the semifinal. The pulse is faint indeed.
Etc.: Is this supposed to be reassuring?
Never mind that the CCHA tournament doesn't begin until Friday. The Michigan hockey team has been in playoff mode for weeks.
It is not. Mac Bennett fight!