3/13/2010 – Michigan 5, Michigan State 1 – 22-17-1, 1-0 series
3/14/2010 – Michigan 5, Michigan State 3 – 23-17-1, 2-0 series
(Ariel Bond in the Daily)
"When I was in a barbershop quartet in Skokie, Illinois…"
The twist, if done properly, obliterates the thing you thought you were watching and replaces it with something completely different. This can redeem previously idiotic plot points, like Patrick Bateman charging down an apartment corridor, chainsaw blazing, without anyone noticing in American Psycho. Twists have enormous power. A really great one can launch an interminable directorial career even if no one ever likes another one of your movies again.
Michigan's 2009-10 season had a plot. After 37 games of erratic play, defensive breakdowns, soft goals, stopped shots, and the occasional monster performance that served only to get your hopes up so they could be suitably dashed later, we thought we were watching a movie titled "Death Wish III: You Thought Hockey Was Immune" or "500 Shots Of Bummer," for which latter I am deeply, deeply sorry.
Ah, but the twist. In the preview I mentioned that karma was busy with State's football team and had not yet attended to the Corey Tropp situation. I owe that fanciful concept an apology.
Tropp watched. He stepped on a puck in warmups and he watched Steve Kampfer and his teammates storm into Yost West, dominate on and off the ice, and forcefully boot Michigan State from the tourney bid it thought was guaranteed at midseason. After two periods, shots were 32-10. The only relevant scoring Michigan State had in the series came thanks to the generosity of Tristin Llewellyn and some iffy goaltending from a 5'6"-ish walkon.
Tropp and his entire team watched Michigan salute their students—who outnumbered Michigan State's—as they waited for no one to sing their alma mater. When the last of them headed off the ice, season over, a third of the arena gave them a "seeya." Karma has paid in full.
Never in the history of the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry has a comeuppance been so sudden, unexpected, and richly deserved. The road to 23-17-1 as been frustrating as hell, but as I raised my fist for the "hail" in the Yellow and Blue the season rearranged itself into a series of necessary evils. Tropp had to explode so his loss could be a crushing blow. Michigan had to lose to Bowling Green so the 2-7 matchup would be these two teams, and it would have to be at Munn for maximum pwnage.
Maybe not everything was necessary. Michigan didn't have to give it away late in nonconference games against BU and Wisconsin. If they hadn't Michigan would have probably punched their own ticket last weekend. As it is, they still have a mountain called Miami to climb before they can even play for a shot at the tourney. The frustration of this season is still real. But that's not what I'll remember it for anymore.
Because screw that guy in the ear, that's why. And screw the coach who thought a harsh conversation was sufficient punishment. Michigan has postgame video up and twenty seconds in someone walks up to the camera loudly declaring "THAT IS WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT." He passes the camera, and the back of his jersey reads "Kampfer."
He was the last guy off the ice. That's what I'll remember.
The sweep shot Michigan from 25th to 16Wth in the Pairwise and made the possibility of an at-large bid at least worth checking, but as of yet no one's put together a scenario in which Michigan splits at the Joe and manages to make the tourney.
Alabama-Huntsville winning the last CHA tournament moves the line to make to at least 14, and it will be 13 unless Cornell wins the ECAC, and it's really hard to move up by going .500, even against good competition. So Michigan will have to flip at least three comparisons. I don't see that happening. Sioux Sports has a new view where you can see the comparisons at a glance and it appears that Michigan has flipped all the comparisons they're going do. Actually going through the individual comparisons is blindingly painful: each common opponents category is a litany of missed opportunities. If Michigan wins two of the games they gave away—BU, BGSU, Ferris, UW, etc etc—over the course of the year they're probably a solid three seed.
That didn't happen, though, and it's win or go home.
Finally the Big Ten Network comes through: Friday's game against Miami is at 8 and is on BTN HD.
From time to time in Billy Sauer's first two years—when he was clocking with a season save percentage under .900—I felt panicked any time the opponent entered the zone, let alone put a harmless shot on net. That panic was orders of magnitude greater Saturday as Shawn Hunwick gamely tried to avoid blowing the above, awesome storyline in whatever way he could. That wander out of the net nearly killed me, and for large portions of the third he appeared to be throwing his glove out aimlessly.
I'm all for Hunwick as a concept but when your coach is calling you Rudy, there's not really any question about who the starting goalie is. Hogan (and Summers) "should have a chance to play" on Friday according to one of the assistants on WTKA, and while they're making noises about it being a tough call I will assume that Hunwick in net means Hogan is not ready to go.
I wonder how the guy who inexplicably knocked Langlais in the preview post by way of defending Tristin Llewellyn—who wasn't even mentioned—is going to justify that in the comments. It's the internet, after all. Changing your mind is not allowed. And this guy suggested that Eric Elmblad was a better option than Langlais, so he's not one of those people who is sane.
Llewellyn was in the box for all three Michigan State goals on Saturday, the first two of which came when Llewellyn ignored a loose puck he could clear out of the zone to drive some guy into the boards… on a penalty kill! Bler. The tripping call he took later was just a run-of-the-mill penalty anyone could have taken; the first was totally insane.
[Update! Llewellyn is +9 in the tournament! No one wants to play against him after he takes two penalties that make a laugher a tie game!]
Over the past couple week's I've been talking myself into the idea that Michigan could be really good next year based on their goal differential (now 10th nationally), the relatively light losses Michigan should experience this offseason, and Michigan's still-killer recruiting class.
On that recruiting class, specifically the defense: Michigan loses Kampfer and Summers to graduation. They bring in John Merrill, Mac Bennett, and Kevin Clare. Merrill will be a first round pick in the upcoming NHL draft. Bennett was already drafted in the third round by the Canadiens. And Clare is a polished stay-at-home defenseman who will probably go sometime in the middle rounds. Michigan is going to be scratching two scholarship defensemen unless someone moves to forward. So… should Langlais move to forward? He's probably the best puckhandler on the team right now and if he can adapt to the forward spot I envision him setting up Caporusso for his lethal wrister plenty. At a generous 5'9" he doesn't have an NHL career that would screw up.
Would you rather scratch Rohrkemper or one of the freshmen defensemen/Llewellyn?
Lebler is probably replaceable but that "probably" is a testament to how well he's played as a senior. When he came to Michigan he had, I believe, 14 points his final year of junior. He's mixed grinding boardwork, big hits, and the occasional impressive snipe to best that considerably the last two years. He's developed to the point where I'm a little worried about his departure when Michigan has the #2 pick in the OHL draft and Jacob Fallon coming in. He's a totally different player but I'd compare his career track to John Shouneyia, a guy who started slow and was never a star but developed into a very good college player by the end of his tenure.
How about that Caporusso goal on Friday? I talked to like four people about it and everyone invoked Hensick. That's the kind of stuff that's been almost totally absent from not only Caporusso's game but that of the whole team. I still remember goals Hensick and Cammalleri and Comrie scored, and I'll remember Caporusso's cruise through the slot. Hopefully that, and the ridiculous tear he continues to be on, carries over into next season.
…assuming that there is one. I don't think he's at a point where a team is going to scoop him up but it's vastly more possible now than it was midseason. He's a Senators draftee and went at the end of the third round in his draft year, FWIW.
I missed this when it happened, but apparently someone printed up a long screed against Comley when he didn't dress a senior defenseman on Senior Night. Said defenseman, who hadn't played all year, immediately quit the team, and his girlfriend or a relative went all manifesto.