...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
I've got to get on a plane shortly so shortly the links will go.
Brief thoughts on the first exhibition:
- Albrecht is an extremely wise pickup; if he can hit threes and break the press and get M's offense in motion he'll be at least a solid backup for four years. Michigan needed some stability at that PG spot and he looks like he'll provide it.
- Stauskas is going to be a lights out three point shooter and he has enough other game to contribute to the rest of the offense; D needs work.
- McGary's FTs will probably be fine, his stroke looks good. Hopefully that leg injury clears up and he gets that extra 10% athleticism that made him a huge prospect after his AAU season.
- GRIII is Branden Dawson-ish with more shooting and less rebounding but probably not much less rebounding.
- Hardaway played a much more complete game than we're used to seeing. Thumbs up.
- Know Your Foe from the MZone says "must resist making little Brown Jugs" joke at picture of hot woman in brown bikini, predicts 28-10.
- Who Are You And Why Do We Care exists, predicts on non-football factors, does so 38-13.
- Maize and Go Blue goes with 37-10.
- Maize and Blue Nation says 27-2, which I should have thought of.
- The Daily Gopher can't even find a jug picture where it's being held by a Minnesota player—RVB is the man—and goes with 31-13.
- I'm In Love With A Fringe Bowl Team has a mathematical model that says 33-23 and a non-gambler guy who picks Michigan to cover: "I would have loved to start this post recalling the last time the Gophers beat Michigan in Minnesota, but I don't remember it at all. This is mostly because it was five years before my birth."
Kovacs is a truthful dude. Post-Nebraska:
"A lot of it is the games we played," Kovacs said. "Air Force didn't necessarily throw the ball on us a lot, and Alabama didn't have to.
"There's some open receivers last game that (quarterback Taylor) Martinez didn't see. There were a couple blitzes we ran, and we had a guy running down the middle of the field wide open. Can't let that happen. We've been fortunate they haven't hit 'em yet."
So that means the secondary is playing at a high level, but maybe not its highest level?
"I don't know," Kovacs said. "I think we're playing all right. I think last game we didn't play well enough at all, specifically the defensive backs."
- Well, yeah. Gibbons:
"I really don't groom that much," Gibbons said, smiling.
Now he's going to bleed on you, Baumgardner. Or more likely whoever wrote this headline:
Michigan's Nik Stauskas and Matt Vogrich could finally give John Beilein a consistent deep threat in Ann Arbor
Zack Novak shot 41% from three last year, and whenever he gets back from wrecking Belgium he's going to be ANGAR. Elsewhere, Spike Albrecht is called "mini Steve Nash," which is definitely not getting ahead of ourselves and headline guy is definitely going to put a "got" in between the first two words of this one after a loss at some point this year:
Youth served: Michigan's talented freshmen five show ability, poise in college debut
Falk on Jug. Not like that.
Whatever that might mean.
Seriously, they can do this? Whenver M plays at Northern I think the exact same thing Yost Built does:
Unlike SOME SCHOOLS THAT I KNOW OF, Northern offers streaming video of their games for $7. You can also buy a season pass for $75, and if you're reading this blog, don't have season tickets, and claim that you wouldn't fork out that much for a Michigan version of the same thing, I will call you a damn liar. It's 2012 and this is Michigan fergodsakes. We shouldn't have less access to video of games than Northern Michigan fans. Just saying.
I've watched three or four games at NMU the past few years, and M hockey fans outside of the local area can't get one.
Meanwhile, MHN highlights the scheduling thing we'll hear all season:
LAST TRIP TO MARQUETTE?
The Mining Journal’s Matt Wellens talked to NMU coach Walt Kyle about scheduling the Wolverines in the future. Kyle is open to the idea, however it must be on “fair terms.” By that he means a basic home-and-home series where the Wolverines would travel to NMU one year and NMU would return the favor the next year. He is not open to two-for-ones and payout deals.
Honestly, good for NMU.
Etc.: Stuffing the Passer. Michigan expects lack of goalie ejections at Northern Michigan. Yost Built previews NMU. NCAA dooms Midwest regional to 20 people in stands for 13th year of 14 by giving it to Cincinnati, which has one program (Miami) within a four hour drive. Leitch should totally ditch the Knicks. Catching up with Hunwick.
By the way, Michigan picked up CO OL Chris Fox sometime in the second half of the Ohio State game—he probably felt an impulse to run out on the floor and tackle Ted Valentine and knew his destiny at that point. That makes February 18th, 2012 the Best February Michigan Sports Day In Living Memory.
- Football picks up five(!) consensus four-star recruits: IL OL Kyle Bosch, CO OL Chris Fox, MI OL David Dawson, MI CB Jourdan Lewis, and MI RB/H-back/TE/DE Wyatt Shallman. They now have 4 of the top five in Michigan according to Rivals, four top 100 recruits, and 7 consensus four stars.
- For the second consecutive year, Michigan hockey's senior day ends with an OT winner. They rise to #2 in the PWR, at least at this instant.
- Basketball beats Big Ten leader OSU 56-51 and now has a real chance at its first Big Ten title since 1986.
Muppets? Damn right muppets.
And you can't have one without the other…
ALL OF THE THINGS.
|WHAT||Northern Michigan at Michigan|
|WHERE||Yost Ice Arena|
7:35 PM Friday
|LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
Record. 14-10-6, 9-9-6 CCHA. The Northerns, as Al Randall bizarrely calls them, are yet another basically .500 CCHA team. Even at this late juncture six of the eleven teams are within a game of .500. Northern has the worst goal differential of any of them at –5, FWIW.
NMU has been successful out of conference, going 5-1 against WCHA opponents St. Cloud State, Wisconsin, and Michigan Tech. That has seen them through to the good side of the tournament bubble. Yeah, the bubble: even though Northern is currently tied for ninth in the PWR the margins down there are incredibly slim and a Michigan sweep this weekend could bonk them out of the tourney entirely, if temporarily.
Previous meetings. Remember this?
Yeah… that. Shawn Hunwick got booted from the Friday night game for that. You can see why he was pissed:
This started the year-long Gongshow campaign in Hunwick's crease and as a result Michigan got only a tie out of the weekend, losing 5-3 in the punch game and eking out a 3-3 tie Saturday. On Friday Michigan fell behind 3-1; after Hyman and Travis Lynch tied it up Janecyk let in a soft one to let the game slip away. Shots were 32-27 Northern. Michigan outshot Northern 28-26 the next night.
Dangermen. I'll defer to Marquette native Jason Paul on this one:
Topping my list would be big 6-foot-4 senior forward Justin Florek. He was a beast last time around against the Wolverines, who struggled to defend him in front of the net, especially on the power play. Florek has 15 goals and 13 assists in 30 games. Eight of his goals have come with the man advantage. He only had one goal against Michigan earlier this season, but he was responsible for a pair of redirects in front of the net on the power play led to rebound goals. I expect to see U-M defenseman Jon Merrill matched up with his line. That’ll definitely be the match up to watch on the power play.
Tyler Gron had 14-19-33 as well. Matt Thurber appears to be the other member of that line with an 8-15-23 line; past that there's an NMU version of Treias in sophomore Stephan Vigier (11-9-20) and a couple guys with seven goals before the dropoff into grinder territory.
Defense? I'm splitting defense and goalie because they are different things and putting a question mark after defense because let's be honest: it is impossible to scout college hockey opponents since they're never on television and honestly I don't know if I could figure anything meaningful out from a game or two anyway. Defensemen are especially vulnerable to misrepresentation.
So. Junior Kyle Follmer is the only NMU defenseman to make an impact offensively with 3-19-22. As a team, NMU is 21st in goals allowed per game but the guy in net has a huge impact on that, as we'll see…
Goalie. You may have noticed Jared Coreau's name pop up when this blog discusses how statistically impressive Shawn Hunwick is. That's generally to dismiss his candidacy for big-time awards because he's platooning, but a .935 save percentage is impressive even so. Paul notes that Coreau seems to have asserted himself as the man after starting the last three games. With senior Reid Ellington sporting a .905 and giving up almost an additional goal per game it's not hard to see why. The Wildcats are in crunch time and it's time to ride the hot guy.
This is how big a difference there has been between the two goalies: extrapolate Coreau's 2.03 GAA to a team GAA and NMU would be second nationally in goals allowed. Ellington's 2.92 would be 37th. As always, NCAA goalie sample sizes are extremely small, but they're all we've got.
Special teams. Your power plays per game:
|PP For / G||3.6||3.9|
|PP Ag / G||4.7||4.1|
The above table hasn't been much help of late. Gongshow is gonna gongshow and Red has now uncharacteristically complained about the officiating for two straight weeks. But, yeah, Northern takes a ton of penalties and doesn't draw many.
When on special teams, the NMU power play is decent, converting at just under 20% and fielding only one shorthanded goal. Michigan is still languishing just over 15%. Northern is 7th nationally on the kill; while NMU can expect to be shorthanded more often than M they perform better on special teams; this can be considered a wash.
Michigan vs Those Guys
Don't have Hunwick freak out and nail some guy but good. This is self explanatory, but it would be nice if a Gongshow ref actually called contact on Hunwick.
Keep your cool in general. This series was ugly four months ago. The Hunwick thing came paired with a couple of fighting DQs and a Northern guy got a contact-to-the-head DQ Saturday night. Pair that with Michigan's Miami dustup and increasing frustration with Gongshow refereeing you can see the outlines of an ugly, penalty-filled series short on 5-on-5 play.
This would be a bad thing. Not only does NMU play better on special teams than Michigan does but they give up a ton of shots relative to the opponent (they're –202 in CCHA play). The bulk of that disparity is 5x5—1.1 power plays per game does not make that big of a difference. If Michigan can play some of the remarkably penalty-free games they've turned in thus far they'll be in good shape.
Third line: make something pay off. The Sparks-Moffatt-Hyman line seems like it should be putting some pucks in the net but hasn't in a long, long time. AJ Treais can't keep his smoking hot shooting up forever. Unless Travis Lynch is going to start scoring against teams not named Michigan State, at some point Michigan is going to need these guys to step up.
First line: get your mojo back. Sans Brown the top line got smoked on Friday vs State and they didn't score on Saturday, which was the seemingly first time since its invention that it had not. As a huge driver of Michigan's success in the post-swoon era it will be reassuring if they get back on track.
The Big Picture
The CCHA title is likely gone. If Ferris biffs their layup against BGSU this weekend the door cracks open. That's not likely. That out of the way, Michigan can certainly aim for second and will strive to finish in the top four to get the bye and second-round home series. A split would likely assure the latter, again assuming Michigan doesn't totally blow their BGSU layup.
As far as the Pairwise goes, it's like I've been saying for a long time: Michigan can tread water with a split but to make headway they will have to do better than that. Splitting hurts slightly and will see them continue to hang out in the 2-seed band they currently occupy. Sweeping likely takes them past a team or two—they would definitely pass Ferris, for one, by becoming the #1 team in RPI. Probably, anyway. It's hard to predict exactly what will happen.
Aforementioned Michigan Hockey Net preview.
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.
|WHAT||Michigan @ NMU|
|WHERE||Berry Events Center
|WHEN||7:35 PM Fri/Sat|
|THE LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
|TELEVISION||Online streaming only ($7)|
Record. 14-15-5, 12-11-3 CCHA. Northern Michigan is miraculously fifth in the league despite having a –20 goal differential. They're +0 (-0?) in their nonconference schedule. Math thus requires a bunch of humiliating blowouts and indeed Northern's schedule features a 9-1 loss to Miami, an 8-1 loss to Notre Dame, a 6-1 loss to Western Michigan, and several other large margins of defeat coupled with narrow victories.
In six games against the league's upper tier (Miami and Notre Dame) the Wildcats are 1-5. There were the two massive blowouts plus a 4-0 loss to Miami, 5-2 and 3-1 losses to Notre Dame, and a single 3-2 win against the Irish in which Northern was outshot 53-15(!).
The Wildcats come in hot… sort of. The good: they've gone 3-0-1 in their last four and those were all on the road. The bad: they were against the worst two teams in the league and they come out of their series against awful BGSU with a tie and a 3-2 win. They'd lost their last four before that.
FWIW, it's spring break this weekend so the crowd will be relatively muted.
Dangermen. According to NMU head coach Kyle Walt via some guy on USCHO, NMU leading scorer Tyler Gron will miss his second consecutive weekend. That hurts, as he was on a PPG pace and the next guy is well back of that. In his absence Northern's main threats are juniors Justin Florek (12-14-26) and Andrew Cherniwchan (7-13-20) and seniors Phil Fox (11-7-18) and Greger Hanson (5-15-20).
This is not exactly going up against Miami here. NMU is 46th in scoring even and is missing their top guy. Chances are goals will come off of Michigan mistakes, of which there will be a few.
Defense and goalie and whatnot. Junior Reid Ellingson and freshman Jared Coreau have split time. Ellingson gets about two-thirds of it and has a significantly better GAA and save percentage, so chances are Michigan sees him both nights unless Northern gets bombed Friday.
Northern's defense corps is young. They've got two seniors taking a regular shift and then it's sophomores and freshmen. NMU is better defensively than they are offensively but they're still giving up exactly three goals per game.
Special teams. Your power plays per game:
|PP For / G||3.9||4.1|
|PP Ag / G||5.5||4.4|
That's a huge gap for NMU, one that helps explain that goal differential. NMU gets penalties from all over but they're concentrated in the defense: only senior Andrew Fernandez has fewer than 35 PIMs and freshman CJ Ludwig has 78. It may even be worse than the PP numbers suggest since by the looks of it Northern is taking a lot of penalties longer than two minutes.
As to what happens when the specialty units get on the ice, NMU's power play is pretty effective at 18.8 percent (21st), but their penalty kill is very bad: they're 50th of 58th at 78.7 percent. They take a ton of penalties and don't kill them well, which is a recipe for getting bombed by Miami and their #5 PP.
Meanwhile, Michigan is mediocre at both, slightly worse than NMU on the on the power play but better killing penalties and less likely to end up with a deficit in power plays.
Michigan Vs Those Guys
Don't give up two pure breakaways against a 5'7" goalie. Just sayin'. More to the point: like Michigan's series against Alaska earlier in the year it looks like this opponent isn't going to generate much you don't give them. No hockey team can go a game without making mistakes that lead to scoring issues but Michigan's had more issues than they're comfortable with lately; reducing those is kind of important.
Get a bounce-back from Hunwick. A rough outing here and there happens to the best; a second consecutive would be an ominous sign as Michigan hits the playoffs.
Demote everyone to fourth-line center. Then they'll be Kevin Lynch and imbued with super powers.
Let the Sparks fly. Hurr durr hurr! But seriously folks, Sparks has verve. He has panache. He has extra savior faire. I know defense and all that but frankly before Lynch blew up that fourth line has been a liability that gets stuck in its zone more often than not.
BONUS: "The Northerns." If you're listening to this on the radio be sure to listen for one of the most bizarre verbal ticks you'll ever hear: PBP guy Al Randall will call Michigan's opponent this weekend "The Northerns." It never fails to amuse and slightly alarm.
The Big Picture
The CCHA is simple. Michigan wins the league if they get one more point than Notre Dame does this weekend. They have a home and home with a reeling Western Michigan team. ND will get the Broncos' best shot: despite their four-game losing streak WMU is still hanging on to the last at-large bid*.
As far as the Pairwise, it is a fickle beast and Michigan will probably lose ground no matter what this weekend. You want the following results:
- Denver to lose to Nebraska-Omaha
- Nebraska-Omaha to lose to Denver
- Minnesota-Duluth to lose to CC
- Boston College to lose to UMass
- Ferris State to beat OSU
- OSU to beat Ferris State
Ferris and OSU skated to 2-2 tie yesterday so you probably want OSU to win the remaining game.
Obviously some of those are direct contradictions; even with a sweep there are several sets of results that will see Michigan give back the ground it somewhat illicitly staked thanks to OSU getting into the TUC category. Looking at the comparisons, it's going to be hard for Michigan to stay in front of UNO if they sweep, so you probably want splits in both the DU/UNO and OSU/Ferris series and now we're proscribing very specific sets of results and you can see why Michigan's probably locked into about where they are now even if they end the year on a ten-game win streak.
Losing is bad for many reasons, one of which is that losing to NMU will give them a good shot at being a TUC at the end of the year with a record Michigan would rather not have featured, but it also doesn't matter a whole lot because Michigan's almost certainly going to be a two or three. What does matter is the conference race—the winner gets to avoid Miami in the league semifinal.
*[assuming that no one outside the top 16 snags an autobid, which is a dodgy assumption.]
On Motte’s character: “He was voted captain by the boys and basically that’s a result of not only his hard work on the ice but off the ice. He’s just a pure leader. There’s not much bad I can talk about Tyler.”
Motte will try to make the NTDP team in March.