12/11/2009 – Michigan 4, Notre Dame 1 – 9-8, 5-6 CCHA
12/13/2009 – Michigan 0, Notre Dame 2 – 9-9, 5-7 CCHA
It's a sign of the raging apathy I've got going over here that the first I heard about Notre Dame's struggles to date—they, like Michigan, are a hugely disappointing .500—was in a game preview on Friday. I haven't looked at the CCHA standings all year. It turns out that Ferris State is really good (13-3-2) this year and Michigan is in 10th place. Hurrah. (They do have two games in hand, but those games in hand are against Ferris.)
Even so, it was a surprise to see the team totally dominate the Irish en route to a 4-1 victory that was probably their best game of the year. And then it was not a surprise when Michigan fell limply on Sunday, losing 2-0 despite outshooting the opponent 38-20.
Sunday was the seventh game this season in which Michigan has had close to a 2-1 advantage in shots but lost anyway because they can't put the puck in the net:
- Michigan outshot Alaska 23-13 in the opener and lost 2-0.
- They outshot BU 35-22, losing because Hogan wandered out of his net and gave the other team an Osgood-type goal.
- They outshot Miami 28-13 in one of the most frustrating games I've ever seen at Yost, losing 3-1.
- They outshot Michigan State 31-19 in a 2-0 loss at Munn.
- They outshot Bowling Green 31-21 in a 4-2 loss.
- And most spectacularly, Michigan lost to OSU 5-3 despite putting 45 shots on Cal Heeter and facing just 19.
That's seven of their nine losses. They only trailed in shots in the second game against Miami and the first against Michigan State. The Daily says Michigan was "unlucky" on Sunday, but it's hard to look at that pattern and not find something systemic.
If the games had gone according to script, this would be a freakin' awesome team. It's not, obviously, for reasons that remain mysterious to me. Some guesses:
There is an obvious deficiency in top-tier offensive talent. Caporusso occasionally does something reminiscent of Michigan's traditional magic midgets, but he's a far cry from Comrie or Camalleri or Tambellini or Hensick or Cogliano. Mostly he just ends up giving the puck away because he's trying to go 1-on-3. And the rest of the team is not there. Wohlberg's regressed (two goals), Czarnik left, Langlais and Burlon and Kampfer haven't provided the offensive pop they were expected to, and there's no one on the team who is a lock for a long NHL career despite not being able to go on all the rides at Cedar Point.
This was the case last year to some extent, too, but Wohlberg and Caporusso were scoring like mad. The two combined for 39 goals last year without much help from Aaron Palushaj, who spent almost the entire year playing on other lines. This year they have seven between them. They're on pace to score well less than half of last season's output, which is a drop in production you can't weather when your freshmen are anything less than epic.
The defense has been sloppy. The thing about some of those games, primarily that Miami game, is that even though Hogan didn't face a whole lot of shots I don't know if there was anything he could have done to stop the goals he let in, which resulted from massive defensive breakdowns that left Miami players totally uncovered in dangerous scoring areas.
It's not that they've been bad, necessarily, it's that they don't do a good job covering high-value areas of the ice and too often leave guys wide open in bad spots.
Hogan: meh. Bryan Hogan's save percentage is .905, which is 44th nationally. It's not far away from 30th, and given the weird tendency of Michigan to give up small numbers of high-quality shots it's harsh on him. But it's about right, right? Hogan has been basically average. He hasn't given up many (any?) really soft goals, but he's given up some questionable ones and rarely makes a "wow" save.
Results? Another weird item from the year's first foray into accumulated statistics: AJ Treais has only three points. Treais certainly looks like he's doing stuff right out there. His dangles are increasingly dirty as the season goes along and he gets more comfortable trying stuff against college competition. He certainly seems like a more effective offensive player than Luke Glendening or Brian Lebler, but the numbers aren't there for him. And he's playing on a line with Caporusso, so it's not like they've put him there to die with the grinders. He didn't have much in the way of points with the national team, either. Hopefully this is just a slow burn to effectiveness like an Andrew Ebbett or John Shouneyia.
Next time just punch the ref, please. Berenson did end up yanking senior defenseman Tristin Llewellyn for a couple games after his now-usual assortment of stupid roughing penalties and irresponsible defensive play, but he returned for the Notre Dame series, where he proved he'd learned his lesson by taking the world's dumbest crosschecking call on Friday.
I mean, I get that he's not that fast and sometimes he's going to get spectacularly walked by Drew Palmisano. That's life sometimes. It's the incessant penalties that get me. Llewellyn has five more than anyone on the team despite missing two games and most of them are boarding, slashing, roughing, that sort of thing. The penalties aren't from excessive defensive zeal, they're unnecessary, potentially dangerous plays that don't do anything except put Michigan a man down. This is not a new trend: Llewellyn lead the team in penalties last year with 25, five more than Travis Turnbull.
With Lee Moffie playing very well, I'd scratch Llewellyn again.
Tourney. Unlikely at this point unless Michigan goes on a rampage. Michigan did have the good fortune to do well in the nonconference portion of the schedule (4-1 against teams outside the CCHA, with a nonconference loss to Alaska), which will be disproportionately helpful at the end of the year, but they are currently 28th in RPI—not even a team under consideration—and going 12-6 the rest of the way only gets them to around 20th.
They'll have to win something like 13-15 of their final 18 games to be on the bubble when the conference tourney rolls around. That's probably not going to happen.