When you were kinda "meh" about the basketball first round exit and were all like "thank God it's not hockey."
things go poorly
3/23/2012 – Michigan 2, Cornell 3 (OT) – 24-13-3, 15-9-4 CCHA, season over
Shawn Hunwick first stepped on the ice for a 18-16-1 Michigan team that had seen its at-large NCAA hopes evaporate during a dismal road sweep at the hands of Nebraska-Omaha.
No one wanted him out there, but at least it didn't much matter. This year's team was in danger of missing the tournament in November and recovered to finish second in the Pairwise. Two years ago they had missed it, period, until they lost their starting goalie and inserted a guy who came to Michigan with no illusions he'd play.
That was the catalyst for a change in Michigan's fortunes. Involuntarily pulling Bryan Hogan was another outlet for the dread everyone was feeling at the near-certainty that Michigan would break its tourney streak. Those in the stands reacted by assuming that every shot at or in the general vicinity of the net would either go straight in (in the case of shots that needed no assistance) or be deflected into the dead center of a wide open goal (in the case of shots that were not already on net).
The team felt the same way. They responded by swarming into the slot in a great mass to sweep away the fat, glistening rebounds Hunwick seemed to give up on every shot, no matter how harmless. Their certainty that Hunwick would be overrun led to a 4-0 shutout.
The next night they'd finish the regular season by giving up five goals in an untelevised road loss. Did they relax? I don't know.
Michigan entered the playoffs the next weekend and went on a rampage. They continued to patrol their own slot with feverish intensity, and this translated into the "jump" hockey coaches and commentators are always using to define that ineffable quality a hockey team has when its passes are going tape to tape and the opponents keep finding inconveniently located defenders.
The jump lasted three games. They swept Lake State out of Yost, then bombed Michigan State 5-1 at Munn. The second night they leapt out to a two-goal lead and then bled it back. The first goal was just one of those things. Tristin Llewellyn took an insane elbowing penalty to put Michigan down two men and MSU passed it around until they got a slam dunk.
The second and third goals were the end of the ride. They were both power play goals—Llewellyn would watch State score from the box three times in three minutes—but they were pillowy soft ones. This was the moment at which it all came screeching to a halt and Hunwick was revealed as the walk-on he was. Michigan went to the locker room down 3-2 after one, certain that anything they let on net was going in. The jump had left Michigan's step.
Michigan State got one shot in the second period. It did not go in. That period was twenty minutes of battering a door until it hung by the barest sliver of a hinge. Three minutes into the the third, it gave way.
State managed 22 shots for the game but no more would get past Hunwick; Michigan tilted the ice decisively in the second, tied it, and finished the job in the third. The next weekend at the Joe, Michigan allowed 22 shots to Miami and 18 to Northern Michigan as they secured a streak-extending bid with the most rousing CCHA playoff run they'd had since the days when Michigan was looking up at the Lake States of the world.
They played like banshees. They died like Vikings. They did so because they didn't know what the hell was going to happen when someone threw a puck at the net.
Two years later, Shawn Hunwick is possibly the best Michigan goalie of all time and it's overtime because Michigan had a goal disallowed because Michigan always has a goal disallowed.
Michigan wins a faceoff and gets a shot off that is saved and caroms to Cornell. Cornell turns the play back against a third line of Luke Moffatt, Derek Deblois, and Travis Lynch. Moffatt is there to provide a third man back against the rush.
The defenders can't handle the rush that well and end up giving up a scary shot from a Cornell forward cutting left to right in front of the net. Hunwick's way out of the blue ice, because he's always way out of the blue ice because he's 5'6". He gets his right pad on the shot. He's 5'6". He has limited options when it comes to leg angles that kick pucks places. His choice here is between letting the thing into the net and kicking his leg as straight as he can so that there's no angle for the thing to go in. He's got a save percentage above .930. He's a Hobey Baker finalist. He kicks it out into the slot, like he did against Notre Dame, over and over again.
Moffatt's there, but in a bad position. His check is crappy, he doesn't tie the guy's stick up sufficiently, the guy puts it in the net, and Hunwick is over. All that's left for him to do is take the puck that was in the slot and is now in the net and hand it to Cornell. Deblois and Lynch are cruising into the defensive zone still. They don't look much like banshees, and they're not there in the slot. They're sophomores—juniors now—and don't remember what it was like when Shawn Hunwick was a 5'6" walk-on and not a Hobey Baker finalist.
For the third straight year Michigan's season ends 3-2 in overtime thanks in part to a disallowed goal. The rage factor on this one is lower than the other two because it came with 58 minutes to play, was not disallowed because the ref blew his whistle, and there's not enough rage to go around this year thanks to the power play.
Michigan's terrible awful power play entered the NCAA tournament 46th nationally and leaves it 48th, where they'll stay since everyone else around them is done for the year. Michigan spent half the
third second period up a man, almost three minutes of that time up two, and achieved a –1 goal differential in that time. That was the game right there. Michigan finished 0/7 on the power play, gave up a power play goal on one of Cornell's three opportunities, and conceded a shorthanded goal for the first time all year.
It's clear there's something wrong with the power play that can't be explained away by pointing to a lack of talent. Michigan hasn't had a power play you could actually call good in four years despite consistently putting up a lot of offense:
|YEAR||PP RK||Goals per G||Goal RK|
You can say '09-'10 is slightly above average, but that's all. Meanwhile Michigan continues to finish around the top ten in scoring despite not getting much production out of their power play. If their ability with a man advantage roughly corresponded with their 5x5 scoring this year* Michigan would have put up 13 extra power play goals and leapt into the top five in scoring.
It's hard to take the argument that Michigan just doesn't have the talent seriously when outfits like Bemidji State, Western Michigan, Northern Michigan, and Ferris State all finish 20+ spots ahead. Zero of those teams have NHL draft picks littering the roster, let alone a set of offensive defensemen like Merrill, Moffie, and Bennett.
This is a coaching issue. Watching Michigan cluelessly bat it back and forth from one covered guy to the other one on the five-on-three should make that clear. No one moves, no one has a plan, and the most common thing to do is fling a point shot into a defender's pads. Red is the king of all he perceives but this is a major problem that doesn't look like it's going away.
*[The #10 power play, North Dakota, converted at a 22% rate compared to Michigan's 14.6.]
The disallowed goal. I don't think Moffatt's impact changed the outcome of that play. The goalie was already sliding away from the puck and had no idea where it was. That said, Moffatt did impact the goalie in the crease, and it didn't look like his defender had anything to do with it. I don't think it's an outrageous injustice. It's very frustrating, of course, but if the ref screwed that up he more than made up for it with the avalanche of Cornell penalties Michigan could do nothing with.
The penalty shot was a terrible call, but at that point I think I preferred it to the alternative since Michigan was down, had a power play, and was playing a team without a ton of offensive skill.
Merrill: WTF? Also Moffie. The biggest reason Michigan lost other than its power play was the Merrill-Moffie pairing. Moffie initiated the sequence that led to the shorthanded goal with a suicide pass to Merrill; Merrill screwed it up at the line and the two-on-one started. Then Merrill took a swipe at the Cornell saucer pass with his stick instead of getting his body into the passing lane, leading to a slam dunk.
On the winner it was Merrill and Moffie who combined to let that rush turn into a dangerous shot; Merrill got too far outside and again out of the passing lane. Moffie also added a stupid crosschecking penalty seconds into Cornell's dubious major; it was Merrill who ended up giving up the (admittedly ludicrous) penalty shot.
Merrill has not played well over the last month. He was responsible for goals against Northern Michigan, Bowling Green, Western Michigan, and Cornell and hasn't been as superb with the puck as he usually is. I'm not sure what's going on there but he doesn't seem focused.
CCHA: not so much. The conference got almost half its membership into the tournament this year but saw four of its five teams flame out in the first round. Ferris State got past injury-riddled Denver and Cornell to make its first Frozen Four, and congrats to them.
Everyone else went out in game one. Takeaways from this:
That latter issue should evaporate after next year. Western college hockey will reform itself into three conferences from two and Michigan will have 14 nonconference games instead of six. Hopefully those aren't all home series against Bentley during football season.
A glance at next year. It's hard to predict without knowing the results of the NHL draft and whether Michigan will suffer early departures. A hypothetical no-defection defense corps looks pretty good:
That's light on sandpaper but should have no problems moving the puck. The only problem is that Michigan could lose the first three guys listed above. Bennett came in saying outright that he would not be a four-year player, Trouba is good enough to be signed immediately by an NHL club, and who knows what Merrill's attitude will be towards a hypothetical junior season after the rollercoaster he went through. Losing one guy is survivable. Two is worrying.
Michigan really needs a big leap forward from Serville. He's a lot younger than Chiasson, has a decent NHL draft pedigree, and seemed to be moving forward late in the year. If he can develop into a solid second-pairing type it'll be okay.
At forward, Red will put them through the blender but one man's rough guess:
It's possible Nieves comes in and forces himself onto the top two lines but I'm guessing Red will go with a defense-oriented player over the freshman. Defections here are also possible, of course: Guptill, PDG, and Brown are all potential departures. People keep talking about PDG leaving but I'd be surprised if an NHL team is eager to sign him just now. His 26 points are good for a freshman but not Pacioretty good. The kind of guys who have left after one year have driven play more than PDG did.
The biggest change will be in net, where NTDP goalie Jared Rutledge replaces Hunwick with Junior A vagabond Steve Racine backing him up. Rutledge's Pointstreak page is a little scary—a drop in games and performance from year to year—but the embarrassingly primitive spreadsheet the NTDP uses to track its stats shows that over the course of the year Rutledge has a .902 versus teammate (and Ohio State commit) Collin Olson's .893. NTDP save percentages can be pretty ugly since a big chunk of their games are against college teams, so that's fine. Rutledge is a small, aggressive, technically-sound goalie who sounds a lot like Hunwick.
BONUS SPREADSHEETIN': Michigan's 3 NTDP U17 commits are #1, #4, and #5 in scoring on their team. JT Compher is the guy at #1 and has played 7-8 fewer games than the rest of the team. He's the only guy with a PPG. Tyler Motte is neck and neck with Miami commit Anthony Louis and UNH commit Tyler Kelleher for #2; Evan Allen is a half-dozen points back of that group. With those three guys and Bryson Cianfrone, a Canadian Junior A player who was projected as a first round OHL draft pick before committing to Michigan, Michigan looks like they'll have a dynamite 2013 class. Pending defections, of course, Always pending defections.
When you were kinda "meh" about the basketball first round exit and were all like "thank God it's not hockey."
I've been looking for someone to blame! *glares at Brian* *Feels a little better*
Somewhere before "Acceptance" is "blaming someone who has absolutely nothing to do the the grief you feel in an attempt to make oneself feel better, no matter the consequences to the innocent party." It's natural. Glad I could point out the obvious subject for you.
Shawn Hunwick epitomized the Michigan Man ethos with his handover of the game-winning puck to Cornell's assistant coach. Humble in victory, gracious in defeat. Moments like that help me explain my deep affection for Michigan sports to my children.
Cornell's coach agrees:
“One of the classiest things I’ve seen in 25 years of coaching,” Schafer would say of Hunwick’s gesture to Cornell after the game.
We're proud that you're a Michigan Wolverine, young man. Thanks for four great years!
[Link to Michigan Daily story, also linked in Brian's write-up: http://www.michigandaily.com/sports/final-gesture-shawn-hunwick . Definitely worth reading.]
This is a coaching issue. Watching Michigan cluelessly bat it back and forth from one covered guy to the other one on the five on three should make that clear. No one moves, no one has a plan, and the most common thing to do is fling a point shot into a defender's pads. Red is the king of all he perceives but this is a major problem that doesn't look like it's going away.
This is an interesting problem to have, since kids start learning how to play on the power play when they're 8/9 years old and in squirts / U10 leagues. I haven't watched Michigan this year because I live in Minnesota, but all kids are taught from Mite level that the keys to success in hockey are speed and to keep skating. I wonder what is causing Michigan to have these problems. It sounds akin to Bergkamp-era Arsenal and 90s Ajax in soccer, two teams that would rather try to walk the ball into the net instead of just taking a darn shot from 20 meters.
Perhaps Michigan needs to have its Minnesota moment. Lucia suffered through bad defections and a nasty ongoing illness the prior 2 years, but it wasn't until the assistant coach Guentzel came back this past offseason that the Gophers returned to (frankly) where they should be - the Frozen Four. Guentzel was and remains the heir apparent. You've mentioned a guy at (was it) Michigan Tech who is the apparent - maybe Red needs that guy back to freshen up the approach?
Did you just say we need to get rid of Red Berenson?
Might be one of the ludicrous posts i have ever seen on Mgoblog
I almost feel like I should be turning in my (expired) MCard for even thinking about questioning coaching when it comes to Michigan Hockey. But I feel like the more and more we have tournament runs like this one, the more and more I want to do it. It's as if something with this program has gotten routine, stale, formulaic. And that means flaming out in the tournament.
Last year was magic, sure. And 2008 was the Kevin Porter show (which still ended up choking). But I really have to wonder why this program has struggled so mightily, has suffered so many bad nights and complete lapses in NCAA regionals, why it seems so intensely difficult for this program to progress in the tournament in the neutral-site era. It's maddening.
....but I've long had the feeling that if people cared about hockey as much as they do other sports that Red would be getting a lot more unfair criticism that other coaches are subjected to. It might be the lack of profile, or that those who follow hockey REALLY follow hockey, so are probably a little more knowledgable about their sport than the layman in say, football. But If he was coaching football or basketball and had as much sustained success there, there would be a lot of griping about "not being able to take it to the next level". "Why do we keep winning the Big Ten but aren't playing for the National Championship?"...."Why do we make Final Fours but can't get over the hump and win the whole thing?!?!". Michigan coaches have suffered that in football forever (except till very recently), and used to face it in basketball all the time before the dark times. (And might be headed back to that very shortly). I don't know if it's an indictment or a credit, but Red has managed to dodge this over his career pretty well.
If hockey had the cache of football, Berenson would feel as much heat as Lloyd did from about 2004 on.
....because one it creates comparison, and two, really, you could find lots of examples (even though I basically agree with you).
You can look back at Bo, an icon and father of the current athletic program, and really, when he was coaching, people were constantly bitching about Rose Bowl losses, and why we couldn't win outside the conference. I was on a bus after his final game, and people were "maybe we can get a modern day offense with the forward pass in here and start winning these things"...even though, you know, we had won the Rose Bowl the previous year, and were screwed in that one. But success doesn't create a safety zone (for most), it just creates greater expectations. You can look at Spurrier at Florida leaving because he felt fans didn't appreciate winning the SEC every year, but expected MORE National Championships.
But back to Michigan, you got a lot of the same thing. Fisher wasn't doing anything as a coach (which might have had some point) and why couldn't we win it all again. And before that Frieder and his not winning the Big Ten and flaming out in the Tourney with all that talent. Now, in these cases there were whole other reasons to have issues with the work they were doing, but most of it wasn't that...it was on court.
As Jmblue states, Red is the Bo more than the Carr of the program. Also, lack of attention plays into it.
As it Brian's note about the PP, Red doesn't really have any plays for the PP. He kind of lets the kids figure it out and any plays he tries to draw up are very basic. In practice, the kids are allowed to kind to improvise when practicing the PP. There really isn't any discipline or at least it lacks the discipline and organization you would expect from a program like Michigan.
Red is not the Lloyd of the hockey program (though his successor might be). He's its Bo. He brought the program back from the depths. Bo was always bulletproof and Red always will be.
Also, I think you mean "cachet."
Red has the teflon from two national championships in a run where they conceivably could have won 4 straight. Everything thereafter has been this White Whale-esque pursuit of replicating that magic. Yet as those days grow dimmer, and Red grows older, you have to wonder how long that chase should continue unquestioned.
And you're absolutely right, I think it's a factor of the fanbase being generally smaller, more invested, generally better informed, yet blindly loyal to Red. As long as The Unit is behind the bench, all is right with the world. Not to say I'm not in that camp to a certain degree, but at some point, I want to see a Michigan team reasonably expected to go the distance actually do it.
I don't want to get into a coach's head. I don't want to question their style, and I don't want to assume what they are or aren't saying to their players. But when you watch Red on the bench, and he's barely saying a word to these guys most of the time, when he's barely showing any intensity in these types of games where the team is pretty much just floating around aimlessly, when there's a TV timeout and the other bench is being coached while our guys are just leaning on their sticks waiting it out, is it hard to wonder why there's no urgency on the ice?
With being teflon from two titles and rebuilding the program. I just think that it's fair to subject him to any fair criticism that any other coach in another sport would be subject to. And a coach in another sport who had "underachieved" (perception or reality) for that time in the middle there of about a decade would be getting heat from fans, if never actually on a hot seat. The bouncey nature of hockey has helped deflect any of that type of thing, but the much smaller field (you're not winning 6 basketball games for a title) offsets that, if not actually completely, to some degree.
I think Red should retire from Michigan when he wants, barring something strange (and not even to the Paterno level...). He's earned it. And I'm not sure throwing all that away is good for a program no matter who you can get to come in and replace him (and better odds are it'll be worse). I don't think most people who have some reservations are saying that he should be replaced though. Just questioning if everything is running at the best level it can, as it. Maybe something similar to Beilein realizing there needs to be changes and him replacing his assistants wholesale. (Not saying coaching is the changes that should be made, or even if there is one that should be made...just an example). Because part of it is there IS going to be some deterioration with age. It's not Joe Pa figurehead stuff. It's just that at a certain age, it's really hard to get up every morning and want to kiss the ass of some 17 year old recruit who'll never contribute 1/100 of what you have to the sport, but you have to sweet talk him. Attention to details, rather than the experience. For the most part, they become more difficult. I think our recruiting took a significant uptick when Bo retired, and we got more nationally competitive talent. I think the later years of Lloyd are well documented. And I think Brady Hoke is going to be a much better recruiter new to his dream job at 53 than he will be at 67 (knock on wood and all that). It just happens. It's the nature of the business, and humanity.
It's all part of the process of having a long standing coach of excellence. You may have to accept some slippage partly in return for all the great that has been brought by that individual, and partly so it doesn't seem like you're throwing it all away, which can be bad program ju-ju too. But it doesn't mean fair mind's can't find criticisms if they're ways to improve what exists, rather than "throw the bums out."
I've doubted Red and some of our increasing staleness but it's that same logic that ended us up with RichRod. Whenever Red retires (which should be when whenever he wants to), Dave Brandon needs to go out and find the Brady Hoke hockey-equivalent. Probably a former player (or Mel Pearson) who gets the program and will hopefully drive us to a few titles
One-and-done hockey does that. Especially in the neutral site era. It's maddening, yes. It downright sucks.
I can't just point at one reason why the PP was so bad because there were so many different things.
They just looked hurried when moving the puck, it was either pass or shoot right away. Any time a defender challenged it was a panic and most of the time a turnover.
Getting the puck into the zone was also an issue, too many times a forward tried to bring it over alone and got it sent back down. Dump and chase is what is supposed to be done and we never did it.
I liked how they set up in the Tampa Bay formation, but they either tried the impossible pass or shot before the wings could crash.
"Always pending defections" :( college hockey...
Why are you so tough to love, college hockey? I love you but some things are so backwards, and they just get flipped more backwards when they are "corrected". Also requisite "fuck the OHL": Fuck the OHL.
Fuck the OHL, indeed.
Michigan hasn't been hit as hard by the OHL... just in net... and you ended up with Hunwick. Campbell hasn't exactly lit up the OHL in net (although Gibson has been pretty good).
BU/NoDak have been more offected losing skaters.
Yeah Michigan has had plenty of guys leave early... but that's for pro hockey... and as an "elite" team it is going to be a problem you will always have.
There's always Matia Marcatouni, Lucas Lessio and, briefly, Max Domi
No one seriously thought Domi was going to college.
You've been trolling hard today. There was always a chance that he was going to play for the Ice and come to Ann Arbor and if he had elected to go the college route, all signs indicated that's what he would've done
Something relevant and insightful and not covering a double post.
Every time I think the power play can't get worse, it does. I remember YEARS ago telling my mother to watch the Frozen Four, because I really, really cared. She watched the third period of the Michigan-Minnesota game in 2003, and called me before OT to say, "Why can't you guys score on the power play?" That was her first impression of Michigan hockey, after watching a single period of play.
Nearly a DECADE later, and we're still asking the same goddamn question.
I'm not even sure this is the worst the power play has ever been. There was a year around 2003 or 2004 when it seemed like Michigan was scoring more short-handed goals than power play goals. And there was also a year where Cogliano was stationed at the point in the power play, and like EVERY SINGLE TIME the puck went to him he let it out of the zone. (I was secretly delighted when I looked up his stats and saw that he had a lot of goals scored but a really low +/- rating. It wasn't just my imagination that he was a huge honking defensive liability!) Then Langlais wasn't much better on the point for the power plays. AAARRRGGGHHH.
Yeah. If Michigan couldn't do anything with that five-minute-major power play (except commit their own penalty nine seconds in, AND commit a penalty giving Cornell a penalty shot, WTF), and couldn't do anything with two separate stretches of 5-on-3, I don't think they really deserved to win that game. I really, really wanted them to win it all for Hunwick, but alas.
Something I noticed about our powerplay and offense in general is that Michigan is content to hang out at the periphery way too much. We don't utilize anyone up front to stand in the goalie's face and tip passes or even just be there to try a point blank shot. Sometimes a man will cycle through the crease to take a pass like that, but it's not part of the offense. We make the PK way too easy for our opponents because all they have to do is chase around the outside of the zone and wait for a blown pass.
Which always happens, because passing is not a strong suit in college hockey.
Under no circumstances should anyone click on the 100% Worst Thing Ever label unless you want to ruin the rest of your day. Let my foolishness serve as a warning to the rest of you.
Your D aren't as good as you think.
Merrill is lazy and plays when he wants to... when he's not on the shelf for smoking pot.
He looked awful against WMU in the CCHA Championship, awful against Bowling Green in the regular season and awful against Cornell. Go ahead and rewatch the video of that game-winning goal by Craig... look at him jumping out of the way of the puck. And oh yeah... he missed the entire 1st half of the season...
WMU's D outscored yours this season 23-19 and frankly no one is calamoring for yours to leave early and go pro.
I didn't see a single Wolverine D on the All-Conference list, yet FSU had one and WMU had 2.
I get it... you're Michigan and blah blah blah... but just because a player has a block M on his jersey... doesn't make him a great player. And frankly... you guys just don't have a lot of great players anymore.
Michigan isn't getting the elite scoring talent like they used to. No Chad Kolariks.. no Kevin Porters. Those kids are now going to Miami, NoDak, BC, etc.
Good luck with the goalie situation too next year. Rutledge is gonna need some work... and then you have a 21 year old that couldn't hack it in the USHL.
I hope you didn't go to school there.
Not sure what there means. I went to Miami and then to Northwestern for grad school... now I live and work in the Detroit Area and go to a handfull of Michigan games a year.
For your company's sake, I hope your job doesn't involve using the English language.
Correctly, at least.
Or I wouldn't have to explain what "that" means. Even if you go to more than a "handful" of games "every" year.
Very little words english skills required. Glad to know that grammar is a big sticking point here, though.
Have to be able to write in English.
No one passes a college essay like that. I'm not sure it would even get you into school with these guys-
I don't agree with your assessment of our blueliners being bad because of a few games you saw and an All-Conference list, but you're spot on with our forwards.
Michigan has not been recruiting forwards anywhere near what we used to, but neither is the CCHA as a whole. Top tier hockey players are not coming to this conference like they used to, but if you think they are passing up Michigan to go to Miami you are wrong. Last time I checked your offensive numbers took a dive too.
The days of the 50 point Freshman seasons are gone from the CCHA, we are not a top conference anymore.
I moved to Metro Detroit in 2005 when you guys had those studs. Hensik, Porter, Palushaj, etc.
That was a lot of fun to watch.
According to tweets from Cook and Slovin (Michigan Daily Hockey Beat Writers), PDG and Bennett are coming back next year. https://twitter.com/#!/YostBuilt A few down, now. Merrill is still deciding, wants to talk to Red before he leaves. Cook and Helfand (also Daily Hockey Beat) think (but have no more than a feeling) that Merrill is gone. Also of interest: Pateryn turned the Canadians down when they asked him to go directly to AHL right now, he's sticking out the school year to graduate.
Take all that for what it's worth, it's still 7 months before the season starts and Michigan could still end up with 3 walk-ons and the band as the hockey team after everyone else leaves for AHL/NHL/OHL/whatever in the intervening time.
EDIT: I've seen nothing in regards to Brown or Moffie, probably are other two legitimate flight risks. And Spath on Merrill: Red says he think he will be back-http://michigan.rivals.com/showmsg.asp?fid=41&mid=154202566&sid=883&tid=154201449&style=1