rundown of Michigan's riser
2/11/2011 – Michigan 3, OSU 2 – 18-9-4, 15-7-1 CCHA
2/12/2011 – Michigan 2, OSU 1 – 19-9-4, 16-7-1 CCHA
As with the basketball team, no grand soaring narrative bits as the hockey team did what it needed to do against Ohio State. They did in in the way they had to do it if they were going to do it. They further established themselves as a pretty good team that's obviously not great. They're going to have to deflect their way to glory.
On Friday an elderly gentleman sitting next to my friend said "there's just something missing with this team" out of nowhere—he was bothered—and my friend said "scorers" and that led to a conversation about all the various ways in which scorers are fun to have. I didn't participate. I sat there and thought "AAARGH" as Michigan almost scored on a dozen cross-crease passes. I've gone from missing TJ Hensick to missing Andy Hilbert to missing Brandon Kaleniecki, and now I'm missing all of them. Michigan can't score on two on ones, one-timers, or pucks that skitter a foot from the goalmouth*. At the same time their defense is probably the deepest and best Red's ever had. Watching them play is persistently odd, which is why old Midwesterners break with the strong and silent bit to complain to people they don't know.
The line revamp was interesting. Vaughn, Rust, and Glendening got the start on Friday, which was odd until it became clear that Red was matching that line against the Alberts/Somma line that provides the bulk of OSU's offense. That left Hagelin/Caporusso/Brown and Moffatt/Treais/Wohlberg against weaker competition. I'd say that's getting the bulk of Michigan's scoring away from top lines and allowing them to be more offensive minded, but Scooter scored his tenth of the year on Friday. So I can't. That's the idea, though.
It seemed to work for the Wohlberg line. All those guys have some skill and Moffatt and Treais seem to be taking steps forward as the season progresses. Treais is now doing a couple of noticeably skillful things per game and Moffatt has had at least one shift in the last four games where I thought to myself "that's a really good shift"; they were the only two to come out of the Miami weekend with any credit. Moffatt opened the scoring in the 2-1 win Saturday, with Treais getting the first assist, and if Michigan can keep them out there against third lines they should outscore on the regular.
Hagelin and Caporusso were a little awkward but got goals even if they rode up a defenseman's stick or were unscreened shots that went five-hole or… well… you know the drill by now. A lot of Michigan's goals are weird bounces of the puck. They win by getting more opportunities at weird bounces against teams that can't break down their D.
So it goes. Three series left (including the playoffs), two against bad to very bad opponents, two at home, a tourney bid all but assured—feels like biding time until Michigan gets an opportunity to reprise their phoenix act from last year.
*[For those who don't remember Kaleniecki, imagine a 5'9" Thomas Holmstrom. This about sums it up:
I'm not sure he ever scored a goal from more than three feet, but despite that he always hit double digits by the end of the year. The definition of a mucker. Also he scored this very silly goal.]
With a couple weeks left in the regular season it's now feasible to look at the PWR with an eye towards its final incarnation. This is where I'd go into the individual comparisons and fish out which were gone and which were flippable but mfan_in_ohio has already done so.
The upshot: Michigan's only lost three comparisons irrevocably and has at least a slim shot at the rest. Realistically, comparisons against BC, Denver, and a few others are longshots dependent on a precise set of results Michigan has no control over. The reasonable best-case scenario is to move up from 9th to 6th or 7th, snagging a two-seed and removing any chance Michigan would play North Dakota or some other high-power WCHA team in the first round.
This year's a weird one as far as desired seedings go. Yale and Union are doing very well nationally—even schedule-obsessed KRACH likes them—but the ECAC hasn't had a national contender in a decade and I'm not sure how I'd feel if Michigan ended up eighth and got bracketed with Union with (presumably) Yale to follow. I don't think I'd like it much. Even if Yale is playing weak competition they're the top scoring team in the country by a half goal and are outscoring opponents by 2.12 goals per game. That's a lot of goals per game. A schedule argument only goes so far when KRACH likes you without even considering the fact that you're not just beating teams, you're bludgeoning them.
Non-bullets and stuff
For the record. This is my 12th year at Yost and while I haven't been to every game I've been to the vast bulk. I've never seen a three-for-three night at Score-O before. Can anyone recall the last time that happened?
Conference race. Michigan is a point behind ND after they swept Bowling Green. Miami took four points from WMU and is tied with M but both of those teams will spend their games in hand. Despite being a point back Michigan should feel they've got a good chance. This weekend Michigan gets Western at home; ND gets Ferris on the road; the next weekend Michigan gets Northern on the road as ND plays a home and home with Western.
Where did they come from? Usually opposing fans are limited to the parents section and maybe a pocket or two in the endzone. That was the case Friday, but on Saturday there were lots of OSU fans—probably more visiting fans than I've seen since MSU was in its Mason heyday. Where did they come from? Why did they only show up Saturday? Should I carry around a voice recorder just in case this happens again so I have proof of the things that come out of their mouths?
Aggressive. OSU's coach was very aggressive when it came to pulling his goalie. Both nights Heeter left with about two minutes left and stayed out the rest of the game; OSU didn't score but didn't get scored on either. I've been bugging my buddy about this for much of the year when opponents get an opportunity: if you're down one and you get a power play with 3 minutes left or whatever, shouldn't you pull the goalie?
Pateryn: erratic. Greg Pateryn is probably driving the coaches crazy, as he's alternating Llewellyn-like aggression at the blue line that gives up odd-man rushes with great passes and backchecks.
Brown: scores. Also guh. I wasn't sure Brown's major was a good call but Yost Built had the benefit of replay and said it was "obvious," so okay. In the immediate postgame Red said he hadn't seen it but had "heard it was a legitimate major penalty in college. You can’t do that." Also, the night before I thought Brown was definitely getting the gate for his other boarding/charging/general naughtiness, so if that played into the refs decision that's understandable.
Chris Brown: please stop doing this. The naughtiness, not the scoring.
Yost Built covers the weekend in depth and raises an excellent point:
I'm starting to think that you could make a damn fine case for Shawn Hunwick as the first team All-CCHA goalie. He's third in wins, despite playing 7 fewer games than Pat Nagle and three fewer than Mike Johnson. He's second in GAA to Connor Knapp, second in save percentage to Will Yanakeff (who has only played in 9 games), and tied for first in shutouts. I could see giving it to Nagle as he's put up killer numbers and has barely gotten two goals per game of support, but Hunwick has been really fantastic for the Wolverines after a slow start (and it's not like we've given him a ton of goals lately either).
That's amazing. Red said Hunwick was the starter point blank before the weekend and after saving 55 of 58 shots he's done nothing to change that.