A Massive Overreaction, Unless It's Not
2/4/2011 – Michigan 2, Miami 4 – 17-8-4, 14-6-1 CCHA
2/5/2011 – Michigan 0, Miami 3 – 17-9-4, 14-7-1 CCHA
Over the weekend Miami paid tribute to tragically deceased team manager Brendan Burke by kicking Michigan's ass; Michigan paid tribute to not-very-tragically departed Tristin Llewellyn by having a team-wide contest to see who could take the stupidest penalty. Your winner was David Wohlberg, who slammed a Miami player into the boards on an icing call. Michigan had just blown a one goal lead and trailed by one with three minutes left, and I wasn't even surprised. The next night Michigan managed maybe three scoring chances in a 3-0 loss that tempted me to use the word "pathetic" despite its association with internet troglodytes.
So this is definitely an overreaction: that kind of felt like the beginning of the end of the Red Berenson era. I know what the instant reaction to that thought is because I had it too, but after I recoiled at the thing it sat there leering and never scoring any goals it appeared to mean. It's still there. It's horned and pitchforked. It's eating all my cheese dip. I hate it. It knows this, does not care, and refuses to leave.
Let's review the facts:
- In the last billion games Michigan has scored four goals, all of which were shots from defensemen that pinballed around the offensive zone like they were in that famous HORSE game between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Each struck at least three goats before entering the net.
- The best player on the team is the four-foot walk-on goalie who's gone from a terrifying liability to the reason Michigan hasn't lost all of the last billion games in which they scored four goals.
- Despite being coached by another four-foot tall person, this one so goofily hairy that he has to shave every six hours lest he drown in his own beard, Miami has the top two scorers in the country and is 10-6-1 against Michigan in the past X years. Michigan has been swept in Oxford the last three times they've visited.
- The four goals scored have mostly zinged past seniors, and while all of them not named Scooter or Carl have been disappointing the incoming recruiting class consists of a hyped goalie and then guys who are mostly last-minute additions. They seem likely to keep Michigan above the epic .500 fray in the CCHA but not keep pace with Miami and Notre Dame.
As I was trying to figure out the "subtler qualities" this Michigan hockey team had in the midst of their streak of nine wins in ten games, Red Berenson was telling anyone who would listen this team kinda sucked and was enjoying a fluky magic carpet ride. Red Berenson may not be have Carter Camper or Andy Miele these days but he can still identify problems better than I can. Three games later Michigan's finished going 2-2 against the 10th place team in the league and was swept out of the building by the Redhawks. They're now third in the CCHA and while they've got a couple of games in hand on Miami they're two back of Notre Dame and fading fast.
Meanwhile, I've been bracing for next year as a possible end to the tourney streak ever since Lucas Lessio decided to take his talents to the OHL. Michigan loses Rust, Hagelin, Caporusso, Vaughn, Langlais, Hogan, and Winnett, and while those guys have been immensely disappointing on the whole that list has Michigan's three top scorers. Two or three defensemen are flight risks and Michigan always seems to lose one guy inexplicably. Right now next year's top line look like it could be Wohlberg-Brown-Glendening, which… man. Either Moffatt blows up or that kid too young for the NHL draft (Di Guiseppe) massively exceeds expectations or we're going to be Alaska-Fairbanks++ next year.
Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm guessing anyone who's watched this team closely was worried even when its winning, waiting for the other shoe to drop. It has gone thud. Now we're looking back across the last few years, seeing a narrative of erratic but generally declining play coupled with declining recruiting and a general sense of malaise as other teams in the league pass Michigan.
I'm in no way advocating a change. Red's earned the right to coach Michigan until the sun expands and engulfs the earth. I'm almost definitely freaking out because fans are always like "this thing that just happened is never going to stop happening," and unless Jim Tressel is involved that's not usually true. But it does feel right now that we're in the long decay phase every icon from Woody to Bo [era in general] to JoePa to Bowden to Mason [era in general] endures in the long slide from might to age. This Miami series was the equivalent of Football Armageddon: the moment the bad thing you hope isn't true becomes undeniable.
That doesn't mean we can't be good here and there. Since college hockey's system is weighted plinko, we could even win a national title. It won't be as a one-seed, and the days when Michigan getting swept by someone was a nuclear event are over. The near future for Michigan hockey feels like those years when they wandered into a WCHA rink against Minnesota or North Dakota in the tournament and you expected they'd lose. That feeling has lost its novelty.
Feeble, Feeble Non-Bullets
Come on, anti-jinx. Let's do this, yo. Genuine feeling about Michigan sports == Michigan sport doing its best to make me look silly. Let's do it.
Pairwise. Another weekend, another alarming slip. Michigan now hovers at 12th. Eyeballing it, they'll have to go 4-2 down the stretch and make the Joe to feel secure for an at-large. Going .500 would give them the same RPI as Western has right now. Western is 16th and the PWR is an RPI correction scheme, so that would be a coin flip. Going 4-2 would keep their RPI where it is right now and probably keep them along the 3/4 borderline.
The schedule is relatively friendly: home series against OSU and Western followed by a trip to Northern. OSU and NMU are both 9-11-2 in the league, but OSU's performed much better OOC and Northern's lucky they haven't sunk well down the league standings with their –24(!) goal differential. Western is 9-5-8 and has +11 league goal differential, which is good but not in the class of Miami. If they can't go 4-2 in those six games and then beat a team like OSU or Northern at Yost in the second round of the playoffs they won't deserve to be in the tourney anyway.
Yes, pretty much. Daily's Florek with two haunting questions:
If it’s late in the game and the Wolverines are down and call a timeout to draw up a faceoff play, whose stick does the puck end up on? And who takes a penalty shot if Michigan coach Red Berenson could choose anyone on the team?
Florek says you thought about that for too long and settled on Hagelin, which is true, and not good, and it's sad that's not good because Carl Hagelin is awesome but he needs an evil goal scoring gremlin somewhere on his team. It really burns when Michigan is consistently going up against Miami's magic midgets. Those tiny magnificent bastards used to be ours.
OH GOD FLOREK STOP ASKING QUES—
When’s the last time, somebody, literally anybody, on the Michigan team scored on a breakaway?
Dude, I can top that with "what about a cross-ice pass?" If you don't count the first Treais goal from Friday, which had already been deflected into the net by a defenseman's skate before Treais yo-ho-hoed it, it's… um?