I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
An annual tradition: the post where I spit out a bunch of hockey thoughts right after football season ends.
Andrew Copp emoji state.
AT RIGHT: Friday night immediately after OT goal
They are going to the tournament. Michigan's fantabulous 10-2-1 record has come against a tough slate of opponents; unadjusted win percentage has M's opponent's third; the more sophisticated KRACH system has them 12th. As a result they are second in both RPI and KRACH, behind only Minnesota. They're also tied for second in the revamped Pairwise*. Unless they implode, Michigan is on pace for a bid. Hell, they're on pace for a one seed.
They are living on the edge. Michigan isn't as good as their record. Don't take it from me, take it from Red, who said something along those lines a few weeks ago. They have played only three games not decided by one goal: 3-1 over BC, 6-0 over Niagara, and 7-4 over RIT. Hooray winning one goal games and all, but:
- Michigan is 3-0-1 in five minute OT sessions.
- Their goalies have a collective .937, and that's not because every shot is from the blue line.
- Shots for and against are dead even at 428.
- Pythagorean expectation (upshot: goal differential is a better predictive metric than record) works just as well in the NHL as it does MLB, and Michigan is 7th in scoring margin, way behind the Gophers.
Who's happy with #7 in goal differential? Everybody. But they're not playing like the elite team their record and the rankings suggest. There's no denying they've had a hefty helping of fortune so far and replaying this season results in a record this good maybe 5% of the time.
The blue line is a large problem. Bennett's great; everyone else is worrisome at best. The OSU comeback Monday was a collection of gross errors from the defense corps, from Chiasson wandering out to a player behind the net without putting his stick down, thus allowing a centering pass right through him, to Downing sliding his way behind the net on a 4 on 3. On Friday, Clare threw a blind backhand pass behind his own net with three minutes left in a one goal game instead of chipping the puck out of the zone; five seconds later it was no longer a one-goal game.
With Serville hurt, Michigan turned to junior forward Andrew Sinelli as the #6 D, and my buddy and I went from panicking about this to wondering if Michigan would sit Clare in favor of him when Serville was back. Since he hardly saw a shift late Monday you'd think the answer to that is undoubtedly "no," but Spath says he's threatening Serville:
"I like his quickness," Berenson said. "He's a good skater. He goes back to get the puck and he'll win that race. He'll take a hit to make a play. And he's a defensive forward so he has good defensive instincts in our zone."
Szuma missed some time with a concussion but after a long and thorough rest, he's back at practice. It appears, though, that for now, Sinelli has won the job and he will be given every chance to compete with Serville to be the Maize and Blue's sixth defenseman.
Chiasson has apparently slid past Serville to solidify his job, which makes sense to me. Clare holding his spot without threat… not so much.
Sinelli is much defter with the puck than most of Michigan's available defensemen and surprisingly physical for a small guy. He effectively pinned a bunch of guys to the boards and didn't make any glaring errors. He could help. This is both an endorsement of Sinelli and a cocked eyebrow at the rest of the crew.
But hey Bennett. Getting any scoring from the D has been the main issue with Michigan's offense so far. They're 16th in scoring with virtually no contribution from the D. Bennett pulled both of those OSU games out of the fire, first with the great stretch pass embedded above, then with a plunge into the goal mouth to take a cross-ice pass from Chiasson(!) to complete the World's Most Dangerous Goal.
If that had rebounded such that OSU got a quick breakout that was a 3-on-1 developing with Di Giuseppe back. Yikes. But it went in, so hooray.
Guptill's penalty shot against BU is one of five goals on the year for him [Bill Rapai]
The forwards are deep with little top end. I love me some Copp and Compher, who just scored two of the dirtiest crease goals Michigan's put in since… well, it's been a while since Michigan's had a true goalmouth fiend. Those guys bring value beyond their scoring lines and both are at a PPG.
But while it seems like Di Giuseppe, Nieves, Moffatt, and Guptill is a hell of a supporting cast, not a lot is happening 5 on 5 here. Those scoring line veterans have six goals 5v5 in 13 games. That's a little disappointing. The power play, clicking at 25%, is keeping everybody afloat right now; they're going to have to get some more even strength production if they're going to keep winning games if and when the save percentage and PP come back to earth.
Speaking of clicking. The turnaround in the power play is kind of incredible. Last year their single idea was get the puck to Trouba, and this was an okay enough idea to get Michigan to 19%. The year before they were completely miserable at 15%; they were at 17% the year before. All of these numbers seemed deserved.
This year's number also seems deserved. Michigan gets much better puck movement and regularly finds guys for cross-ice bombs that have been the most effective way to put the puck in the net since NHL 94. I don't get why it's happening this year instead of previous years, but I'll take it.
Inexplicable player enthusiasm of the year. Always one guy on the team who does nothing statistically but I find a way to advocate anyway, and this year it's Zach Hyman. Hyman's 1-2-3 line is obviously bleah. I still manage to think that he's much better at coming out of the corners with a purpose than anyone else on the team and should be flanked by two skilled players to take advantage of his ability to create offense off the cycle.
He seems like a different player, even if the stats aren't showing it. Remember this if he blows up in the next 20 games. Forget it if he doesn't.
No Racine is no problem. [Bill Rapai]
Goaltending is weird. Steve Racine started Monday's game out with some shaky rebound control before righting the ship and turning in one of the best four goals allowed performances you'll see; he has a .925 this year, building on the .920 he put up in the final ten games of his freshman season. And this is nothing compared to Nagelvoort, who's putting up Hunwick numbers: .945, 1.65 GAA.
Quite a difference there… and sad to say probably not a sustainable one. Teams that manage to have those kinds of save percentages over the course of the year are generally Cornell or Ron Mason-era MSU teams that place a heavy emphasis on defense and conservatism; Michigan just scored on a cross-ice goalmouth pass from D to D. Meanwhile, the shaky defense corps is giving up a ton of Grade A opportunities, and eventually those are going to start going in unless Michigan gets it together.
Even if it's not sustainable, that's 23 consecutive games of goaltending ranging from high quality to outstanding. At some point the sample size is about as good as its going to get, and we can put the terrible memories of last year behind. That point is coming up very soon.
Is Josh Blackburn still working with Michigan's goalies as a volunteer? Can someone buy him a smoothie or something?
The rest of the league is Minnesota and poop. I fielded a couple of questions about why I was high on Minnesota instead of Wisconsin and didn't really have an answer other than "Wisconsin always does this," and Wisconsin is doing it again: they're 4-5-1 on the year and just got swept by the Gophers in their first Big Ten series; they got blown out by both Boston schools. And they're probably the third best team in the league. The rest:
- OSU is 8-6 with seven of their wins against Robert Morris, Niagara, Canisius, and BGSU (a split with UMD is the final win). They played well against Michigan but still got swept; they were swept by Miami in their first series of the year, and Miami's not that good right now.
- MSU is 5-7 with 4 wins over American International (3-8) and Princeton (3-10); they were recently swept by Michigan Tech.
- Penn State is 3-7-1 with wins over Army, Robert Morris, and Sacred Heart; they were swept by Air Force and Union.
- Minnesota leads the nation in goal differential and is rather good at hockey. They've beaten UNH and taken a three point weekend from BC, plus split against ND.
Minnesota's the heavy favorite to win the league, and Michigan should finish second. No one else is likely to make the tournament.
*[I don't have a handle on what the changes did yet. In previous years I've downplayed the Pairwise until late in the season due to its volatility, preferring RPI as a better projection of where you would finish in the PWR at the end of the year than the actual PWR. If that seems like a dumb ranking system to you, well, at least they overhauled it?]
Oh man. I will not mention anything about brothers.
Mary Sue Coleman? That's gotta sting. Compounding matters: Steelcase CEO James Hackett, another of their speakers, is also a Michigan graduate. Fergodsake, MSU, just put Narduzzi up there.
SCORE. Wolverine Historian has had his video library restored. Run around in circles, but in a good way. 408 painstakingly crafted retrospectives on Michigan past, back. Here is a randomly selected one:
The infuriating part of all of this was that no one who puts these things on the tubes is looking to get rich; they are just sharing their fandom, taking items of little financial but excellent emotional value. I'm not going to pay one red cent to watch a game from 2001 broadcast on free television. I will take in a highlight package and deepen my fandom. It's a soft benefit from the perspective on high, but man if I was looking at 0.01% of my revenue versus not being T3Media, well…
US Soccer gets this; they slap great highlight packages from every game they have rights to on YouTube (ie, no World Cup), and sometimes I get lost in them like it's Wikipedia. It's 100% feelingsball, but that kind of thing makes me like the USMNT more from the top down. Getting annoyed by whatever Michigan's latest un-embeddable video player that's crappier than YouTube by a factor of ten is a detraction, and the payoff is minimal.
Hopefully this is a sign that the hardliners have been relegated to the back. T3's channel exists, even. Now… can YouTube maybe unlock my previous UFR account?
LET US DISPATCH ENTHUSIASM. Man, I wanted to write a post on the Concordia game but it seemed like too much what with Ace saying all the things I wanted to. Still, UMHoops jumps in as they are wont to and I want to say things about things. So let's do that.
- Concordia but. In 2010, Michigan played Concordia. They won 86-65 and Concordia's center went off for 29 points on Jordan Morgan. Michigan led 42-32 at the half. This was a different game, and a different level of team. That team was a Darius Morris bucket away from taking Duke to OT in the second round of the NCAA tournament. This game was an annihilation, and that was without the guy who's probably the best player on the team.
- Oh, man, Caris. I will not get too excited about Caris LeVert. I will not get too excited about Caris LeVert. I will not WOOOOOOO CARIS LEVERT. LeVert flashed the ability to get where he wanted on the court last year, which is an impressive ability at 6'6". He never really delivered; he was always the kind of guy who might blow up hardcore with some more development. Blowing up hardcore is… I will not get too excited about Caris LeVert. Oh man.
- GRIII, also. Robinson drove to about 15 feet and pulled up for a Jumper I Hate and it went down, back of the iron, smooth, and I wasn't even mad because Robinson going and getting it is something to look at.
- Stauskas, also. Do not play the "not just a shooter" drinking game this year. You will die.
- Walton… you get it. This is a team with many good players on it.
Racine back soon? The Daily's Greg Garno tweets that Red is "leaning" towards Zach Nagelvoort this weekend; he has returned to practice. That one word promises Racine back on the ice next week or the week after. Even if that seems far less urgent than it did when he went out against New Hampshire, Racine's still the starter and should be until he falters.
This will be cool or infuriating or probably both. Prepare thine vintage torches and antique pitchforks, ye mobbe of Ten Yeare War-ists.
BTN Originals will premiere Tiebreaker, the network’s first feature-length documentary, at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday, Nov. 16. Tiebreaker paints an indelible portrait of college football’s most storied rivalry and reveals a forgotten moment in college football history that helped shape today’s game.
The 60-minute documentary examines the aftermath of the 1973 Ohio State v. Michigan football game that ended in a 10-10 tie. With both teams sporting identical 7-0-1 conference records, Big Ten Athletic Directors were left to vote on which school would represent the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl. At that time, only one Big Ten team could play in a bowl game. In a controversial vote, the Big Ten Athletic Directors voted to send Ohio State to Pasadena. Michigan head coach Bo Schembechler called the decision “the lowest day of my athletic career.”
Hopefully this is a little more hard-hitting than The Journey, which is about 20% cool inside stuff and 80% watching Aaron Craft make pancakes. That's not a joke. I caught an episode last year in which a good five minutes was dedicated to Aaron Craft making pancakes*. Moar NFL films, less soft-focus twee, please.
*[Naturally, he crowded the pan.]
Not looking great. The Power Rank's take on the Big Ten division race:
A win Saturday and Michigan State is gone; so much for the preseason It All Comes Down To November meme. It comes down to this game. Win it and Michigan has a half-game lead. Lose it and State is 2.5 up on M and home free unless… uh… yeah, home free. Ed's numbers have Michigan with a 37% shot in East Lansing, FWIW.
Etc.: Dan on Fire is the best. Boy can the NCAA write a grabbing headline. Narduzzi's probably out the door soon, so at least there's that. Florida: the new Purdue? Come on, certify the players' class, man. More with that girl from the Indiana game. Someone find a different picture of her.
10/10/2013 – Michigan 3, Boston College 1 – 1-0
I once watched a YouTube video of Luke Moffatt scoring five goals in one game. He'd just committed to Michigan and was still playing AAA with Little Caesars or Honeybaked or whatever, and I was told that he was the best 15-year-old playing hockey in the world. I believed it, and Luke Moffatt believed it.
Every waking moment since has been something of a disappointment after that high, for both of us. For me, at least, that's a compartment. For Moffatt it's been his life. Moffatt's prospect status slid until he was a seventh—and last—round draft pick. At Michigan he trundled through seasons that were matched and surpassed by guys who never thought they were the best player on their team, let alone in the country: 5-8-13 as a freshman, 6-10-16 as a sophomore. Last year he was an idling third-liner who finished –8 as the team he probably thought he'd be leading to a national title and incidental Hobey Baker missed the tournament for the first time since evolution was a thing.
My buddy who grew up playing hockey and still knows way more about it than I do heaped derision on him: no check, no effort, no defense, no care. I thought that was a little unfair. But only a little. Luke Moffatt kind of symbolized everything that was wrong with last year's team.
Boston College is fast. Michigan was fast; Boston College is still. Michigan has little bursts of fast. Boston College lives on it, and whenever you see them live it jumps off the ice. Boston College is fast. Get your back turned at the wrong time and throw the puck the wrong way in your defensive zone and you are in for a harrowing minute and a half as they swarm you, talons out.
Michigan endured a few shifts like that, and when that happens the mind turns to old games in the tournament against these guys where Michigan was just able to keep up for a while before collapsing, exhausted, as soon as BC tied it. You know that one game I'm thinking about. The one with nine minutes without stoppages.
When I felt that coming on, Michigan lifted a stick. Boston College, which is fast, would be coming out of the defensive zone and then a Michigan guy would have the puck and not quite know what to do with himself. After the puck hit the corner, Michigan would pen Boston College in their zone for a change. I kind of expected this. I've been talking up Andrew Copp and JT Compher for six solid months now.
I did not expect my confirmation-bias riddled self to fist pump because Luke Moffatt was shouldering his way through to keep possession, finishing checks, and playing like the best goddamn 15-year-old on the planet, seven years later. Forget the two power-play snipes. Forget everything about them except Moffatt's comically exaggerated goal celebrations after. Those were Jean Claude Van Damme-level overacted. They were wrestling heel moves. Forget the snipes. Remember the reactions, and apply it to Luke Moffatt plundering through the offensive zone to acquire or re-acquire possession.
Why is Luke Moffatt on the second line next to the all-effort freshmen? Go to hell, that's why. Luke Moffatt is tired of being a guy who was a prospect. Luke Moffatt is tired of my buddy popping on message boards to trash his effort level. Luke Moffatt is tired of being a third liner. Luke Moffatt is done with that crap. Go to hell, says Luke Moffatt. He says it directly to me and my hissy fit last year. And I say yes, sir.
Luke Moffatt's going to get a major and game misconduct he deserves. And I'll say yes, sir.
After Moffatt buried the 3-1 goal, Michigan had a relatively easy time of seeing Boston College off the ice in the third period. They were desperate; they managed five shots. Michigan put the clamps down, as the clock ticked down and an odd feeling of security descended, last year momentarily seemed like a hazy dream. After that moment it was real, and still bleeding in front of you because Michigan had taken its stick and sliced it across the throat.
Afterwards, Michigan gathered at center ice as they always do. I always watch this. It feels different every time. This time, it was rocket-fueled resentment and a chin held high. We are not them, despite largely being them. That is not us. This is us.
They lifted their sticks as they had Boston College's, and announced their presence. This is not last year's team. An ice shavings-covered, slavering Luke Moffatt is plenty of evidence of that.
[After the JUMP: tracing the outlines of what happened at RIT, Coppwaii.]
please Tiny Jesus, bless this goalie with your holy save percentage
This was a mess for the first 30 games last year, and was so immediately. Michigan blew a two goal lead in the opener, falling to RIT in overtime as Jared Rutledge gave up 5 goals on 26 shots. Four of those goals were somewhere between weak and horrible. Steve Racine backstopped a 7-2 win the next night, and the rotation was on in earnest.
Both struggled; to my eyes, Rutledge was a roving assemblage of holes just waiting to burst open. When he moved across the crease it was like portions of his body just phased out. Racine looked much more solid, but was a little snakebit and had one or two WTF breakdowns per game.
Both guys puttered along with ugly save percentages until a 4-1 loss to Western spurred Red to try the old "put in a 5'6" walk-on to spur the team to greater heights" gambit. Adam Janecyk entered. The team shut out Western the next night, and thus embarked Tiny Jesus Quest 2.0. That, like almost everything else last year, failed. It turns out that there's only one Shawn Hunwick.
Michigan turned back to Rutledge for a pair of wins against utterly inept Michigan State—a team that had bombed him for 7 goals back in November—and a humiliating 13-goals-allowed weekend at Notre Dame before finally, mercifully re-inserting Racine for his first start since December. Racine let in six goals on 60 shots as Michigan swept OSU. The next weekend Michigan held Ferris to two goals in two games. Northern got four. And so forth and so on. By the end of Michigan's somewhat stirring run to the CCHA final, Racine had gone ten straight games without giving up more than three goals and had just about forced his season-long save percentage over .900. His SV% over Michigan's 9-1-1 run to finish the season was .921—very good.
The Difference. Michigan's save percentage the rest of the season was an abominable .873. The difference that would have made:
GOALS ALLOWED, HYPOTHETICAL SEASON-LONG SUCK: 143
GOALS ALLOWED, HYPOTHETICAL RACINE .921: 89
It's kind of a big deal that Steve Racine is the guy he seemed like in the last ten games and not the guy he seemed like in his first 12. Is he? I have no idea. Goalies can go entire NHL seasons without establishing a true performance level. You only get reliable this-guy-can-play data by extending your data over two or three years. Anyone telling you anything about Racine definitively is having you on.
Racine's big, Michigan has a recent pedigree of developing goalies, and the good bit was at the end. If he's not getting jerked around—and he will be allowed to sink or swim until at least midseason—hopefully he's closer to the end bit than the starting bit.
Backups. Rutledge fled back to the USHL for a breather year, and while Michigan is holding the door open they've added Zach Nagelvoort in this class and possible draft pick Hayden Lavigne in the next. The door is open, and crowded, and if Rutledge wants to play I don't think he's coming back.
This year, Nagelvoort is the guy. We've actually got a hello post for him because he committed back in April and there was actual data on him—most hockey commits don't get pub here because the posts on them would consist of "this is his name, that's all I know." Nagelvoort is a lot like Racine, as he had a blazing year-end run after a midseason trade (he was stuck behind another D-I goalie), going 8-1-1 with a SV% of .957. His season-long SV% was .936. He's a flier with very few games under his belt and probably won't play much unless Racine struggles.
While I can't predict the outcome of a few question marks, here are a the things I'm relatively confident I can project:
The give-a-damn level will skyrocket. GAD level started to incline when Copp was installed as the top line center, and now he's got an A. With some less committed folk out the door and JT Compher and Tyler Motte in, Michigan will have one backchecking, two-way, effort player on the ice at all times.
Mac Bennett is going to blow up. A senior with a ton of talent, he'll be given ice time levels rarely seen in Yost Ice Arena. He'll anchor the top pairing and power play, rush the puck with much greater frequency, and be All Big Ten, easy.
Pain and woe will be the watchwords of the second defensive pairing. The third pairing will probably be fine with many options and Mike Szuma holding it down against checking lines. But the options on the second pairing include two mediocre players and two freshmen with decent, but not great, profiles.
The power play will suck. Who's got the talent to run it? I don't see anyone. Last year it was "let Trouba shoot"; this year it's back to the salt mines.
5x5 scoring depth will be good. Michigan won't have a blazing top line that kills all comers but they will be solidly positive as their two-way work helps. The second line should be solidly above average, and they'll get nice production out of Motte or Kyle or Moffatt as you go down the roster. It'll have to be, because only Bennett projects to offer a lot of points from the defense.
This will be a rebound year. Well yeah.
How much of a rebound depends heavily on Racine and the two relatively ready freshmen defensemen. If Racine is a barely-above-.900 guy and Downing and De Jong are better suited to the bottom pairing, it's an NCAA bubble team fighting tooth and nail to get a bid. If Racine is a .920 guy and Downing/De Jong can solidify the top four defensemen, Michigan will cruise into the tournament as a two or strong three.
M did not do themselves many favors with a brutal schedule, and will start off sloppy and shaky. The BC opener, to be played without Guptill, is a Bad Idea, and Michigan's record won't impress too much early. Once they get into the rather easy Big Ten section, they'll win enough games to be a three-seed going into the NCAA tournament.
I'm gonna Akron this column today since we're sending the final PDFs of Hail to Hoops and Hockey to the printer. The contents (click to make it readable):
Actually we had to cut the 2nd Bartelstein article today
If you don't know what Henri* is doing in the upper-right corner you didn't follow hockey so much last year. If you did follow hockey last year you probably have strong opinions on goaltending. HTTV contributor MGoBlueline put together a neat diary this week trying out the "quality start" metric they use in baseball for hockey goalies. He gives them out for having a save% better than the DI average, i.e. a start that gave your team a chance to win. My quibble: it's justification of feelings-ball (-puck whatever).
|Racine's year to MGBL: 12 quality starts, 10 non-quality, 5 cheap wins, 2 wasted quality starts. [Paul Sherman, Michigan Daily]|
The problem with any gamesmanship stat is this: have you ever met a goalie who ever liked any goal going by him in any situation ever? It makes sense for pitching because it's possible to surrender a run to get an out, a pitcher's most important currency; for goalies the currency is time. What you're measuring is consistency, which is useful so long as you remember that's what you're measuring (and that we wouldn't be having this conversation if Racine posted any shutouts last year).
While we're being realistic, alum96 wrote a board post that got diary-bumped that compared the recruiting profiles of Michigan's defensive line to those of Ohio State. His metric for guys is the quality of offers—Michigan's were mostly regional while OSU's guys mostly had Alabama offers and plenty more power programs after them.
True, and that's a big part of why Michigan is hard after the top DL recruits in the country right now. If you take away the Heininger Certainty Principle Michigan's DL looks really thin; since pass rush is more of a talent thing it should be no surprise that the deficiency in recruiting stars is most apparent there. But then Ohio State's line is just ludicrously stacked right now—Michigan doesn't need to get 8 guys Saban wanted badly to get to good.
[Jump for the Weeklies, Best of the Board and some badly needed zen]
Trouba intimidates even when putting on hats
Full game stories have to wait for football season to end, but a highly timely selection of things on last weekend's games:
Overall, extremely encouraging. Michigan lost Friday thanks to 3 terrible goals and two savable ones given up by a freshman goalie, and don't just take my word for it:
"I'll have to look at them again but they all looked pretty soft to me," Berenson said. "The kid made some good saves too, but it was a tough night to be a goalie in our net, and we have to do be better than that."
Aside from that and some sloppy early-season play from defenders, Michigan was on. They had twelve goals on the weekend, one of them waved off for a high stick that didn't affect the outcome of the play. They bombed RIT, nearly outshooting them 2-1 both nights. RIT is a respectable outfit that was 20-13-6 last year with nonconference wins over Ferris State and Lake State, so to thoroughly outplay them without Jon Merrill is a good sign.
Most importantly, the power play looked like it had some purpose. Michigan converted three of thirteen opportunities and did not spend entire power plays either failing to acquire the zone or shooting it into a defenders' skates from the point. Trouba is a great help there—he's got a laser shot and the ability to pass and stickhandle from the point. Paired with Treais he's a major upgrade on last year's efforts—now Michigan can rotate down either point man and put the opposing box under stress as they try to hand off players between each other without opening up passing lanes.
Point Racine. Obviously. 21 saves each; five goals let in for Rutledge, two for Racine. Racine is a strange goalie who kind of reminds me of a huge Hunwick—he will come way out of his crease in an attempt to aggressively cut down shooting angles. He's far less agile than Hunwick, though, and this will burn him at some point. After the highly scientific sample size of one game each, he seems better right now.
Rutledge didn't just give up a bunch of atrocious goals, he also looked shaky on a bunch of saves and gave up an ugly goal in the exhibition. Hopefully that's just nerves and youth and Blackburn can get him straightened out—Hunwick was night and day from his initial forays onto the ice once Blackburn had him for a significant period of time.
Trouba ridiculous. Wrap-around goal, killing that guy, a series of tape-to-tape breakout passes, excellent PP QB performance… yow. He'll get a little too aggressive at times, but he's a lot like a calmer Jack Johnson. #JMFT.
Some steps forward from the younger D. Serville didn't do anything to make me go "uhhhh noooo" except maybe once or twice, which is progress. Clare seemed to have taken a step forward towards reliable Jay Vancik defensive defenseman before his injury, as well. The other guys seems to be the other guys.
Nieves bouncing around. He started on the fourth line but had worked his way up to Guptill's outfit by the late stages on Thursday and jumped off the fourth line for the entirety of Friday's game. Big guy, can get the edge on defensemen, wish he would try to ride them to the front of the net a lot more often. I get why the scouts kept talking about him as a perimeter player.
Sparks: deployed. Lindsay Sparks was given a large share of power play time and was placed on a second or third line, depending on your POV. Like last year, he's off to a good start with two points on the weekend. Hopefully he can stay out of the doghouse enough to grab one of those top nine slots.
The chemistry on the first line is undeniable, particularly with A.J. and Di Giuseppe. All night they were a two-tandem terror giving the Tigers fits. A.J. was all over the ice, he was on top of the RIT defense seemingly at will, punishing their backstop with a barrage of pucks. His goal was a thing of beauty: PDG corralled the puck, and found AJ wide-open in the slot, who hammered it home, going down on one knee Brett-Hull style for added effect. PDG’s goal was similar earllier in the game: the Captain found his linemate hovering between the circles, the Maple native zinged a wicked wrister top shelf. Not to be outdone, Moffatt had an assist, and really seemed to be the stabilizing force on that line, letting the other two do their thing. What we’re seeing from Luke are flashes of what he displayed before arriving on campus, and he’s finally adjusted it to the college level: the ability to find his way through traffic and get to the net. He split two defenders in his lone SOG. For the record: AJ finished with 9 SOG, and PDG had 5. I’m salivating over here about what this line can accomplish, but let’s temper expectations–it’s early, and we haven’t hit conference play yet.
Yost Built on Friday:
The Wolverines put 51 shots on net, including 20 in the third period. Every player who dressed recorded at least one shot on goal this weekend. For the series the power play was 3-for-13 (23%) and generated 27 shots on goal (!!!). The PK was 9-for-9 and added a short-handed goal. Good weekend for the special teams.
Yost Section 25 has some pictures and a take as well. Mike Spath says Clare is "most likely" to miss the Bentley game this weekend with his shoulder injury, which will bring Mike Szuma into the lineup. Sounds like Clare's injury isn't too long term—the important games ramp up quickly, with Miami, Northern, State, and ND the next four weekends after Bentley.