national champs baby
Always Next Year: Goalie
After the defection of Jack Campbell and failure to acquire any other goalie target, no one is entering or leaving. We can skip right to the main event, then: Hogan or Hunwick? That question wasn't even feasible when Hunwick was a 5'6"-ish walk-on with zero meaningful game experience even when Hogan was languishing around the 30th percentile in save percentage during a disappointing junior year. Ten games later, Hunwick is a real option after going 8-2 and posting a .918 save percentage.
I still have the nagging fear that Hunwick's tendency to leave fat, glistening rebounds in the slot several times a period will come back to hurt him badly when Michigan attempts to platoon him next year, but late in his playoff push he went from a terrifying goal waiting to happen to an incredibly quick little bastard whose ability to go post-to-post in no time flat allowed him to make a wide array of Grade A stops.
On the other hand, I still get creeped out whenever he has to jump at a puck that might be on net, and there is a great raging debate about the validity of save percentage as a metric even amongst professional goalies logging 2000 save seasons—the sample size on Hunwick's .918 is so far from statistical significance that not even David Berri would pretend it has meaning.
Hogan has been an enigma. As a sophomore he posted a .914 save percentage en route to a 1.97 GAA, the second-best in Michigan history. Last year, however, his save percentage plummeted to .901. Since this is a save percentage that does not look like much, but the standard deviation in save percentage last year was .0125: Hogan lost essentially one SD in the most relevant goalie stat tracked in college. Until his injury forced Hunwick into the lineup, he had played every minute of Michigan's season—his numbers are as meaningful as any college goalie's can be.
The end result: Hogan finished 53rd of 76 qualifying goalies in save percentage last year. Hunwick did not qualify due to a lack of appearances, but if he had he would have finished tied for 12th with Air Force goalie Andrew Volkening, who you may still wake up shivering about late at night, ahead of Michigan State's fine Drew Palmisano.
So what's going to happen? Early in the year it will be a repeat of the 2008 season in which the established veteran has established that he's not good enough to be given the job free and clear, no questions, and the new face (relatively new, in Hunwick's case) is given the opportunity to win the job free and clear. Last time Hogan and Billy Sauer played about even, but Sauer had this incredible ability to suck the mojo out of Wolverine forwards and ended up on the wrong end of a number of 2-1 decisions. Meanwhile, Hogan got fantastic goal support and won a bunch of games; with Sauer's two vast tournament failures fresh in the minds of all, he was shelved and things went very well until the aforementioned Volkening showed up.
The parallel last year is eerie: Michigan was a sloppy team last year until the instant Hunwick drew into the lineup, at which point the team started backchecking furiously and plunging into their own slot to clear out the plentiful rebounds that gathered there. Does this have anything to do with the guy in net? Not really. Has it been proven as a factor the coaches consider? Absolutely. Is it real? Probably right away, sure, but the probability Must… Protect… HUNWICK is a feeling that lasts through an offseason and a period of what should be persistent success next year is low. At some point the guy stops being an adorable walk-on and is just your starting goalie.
I have no idea what will happen here. Hunwick could backslide as his rebound control betrays him, and Hogan could bounce back to his junior-year form. If you put a gun to my head I would say Hunwick claims the starting job around midseason, but that is a prediction with nothing but good memories from the playoff run behind it. I don't think anyone has a clue here, including the coaches.