Record. 15-11-4, 10-9-3 CCHA. State is one of the cast of a thousand CCHA teams hovering around the middle of the CCHA pack and solidly on the NCAA tournament bubble. They are tied for 13th with Northern Michigan (who Michigan will face next weekend) and will either play themselves in or out over the last few weeks of the season. Get ready for another super-motivated team. Oh, and they're also Michigan State.
Thanks to Michigan's demolition job on Miami last weekend and MSU's sweep of imploding OSU, it's now the Spartans who have the second-best goal differential in the league at +8. Michigan is +19 and has an easier closing schedule than the Spartans, who must travel to ND to finish the regular season.
Previous meetings. Michigan pulled out of its November tailspin with a four-point weekend against MSU in early December. The games were close: Michigan won 4-3 on Friday and a 3-3 tie followed. State won the shootout, something that seemed pointless then but may end up costing Michigan the CCHA title.
In the Friday night game shots favored MSU 34-27 largely thanks to a 14-3 blitz in the third period as MSU narrowed a 4-1 game to one goal. MSU was 2/3 on the PP. Shots were almost even in the Saturday game; MSU again scored on the PP. In general penalties were few and far between, with just eight on the weekend.
Michigan continued its renaissance at the GLI when Luke Moffatt tossed a puck in front of the net on a 6x4 power play with 50 seconds left. Kevin Lynch deflected it in and nine minutes into overtime Lee Moffie and Kevin Clare combined for a beauty OT winner.
Dangermen. Considering the position he plays, defenseman Torey Krug is far and away MSU's best offensive player and has a case for the best one in the league. His 8-16-24 is not quite a PPG and he is the primary weapon on MSU's power play with five goals.
Forwards Lee Reimer, Brett Perlini, and Greg Wolfe are also in the 27-23 point range.
Defense and goalie and whatnot. State is platooning senior Drew Palmisano and sophomore Will Yanakeff. Yanakeff has the better save percentage (.927 vs .914) and GAA (2.37 vs 2.77). The gap is not so large that it would be a Blasi-level error to continue splitting starts.
The aforementioned Krug is MSU's top defenseman; the rest of the guys are stay at home types with little profile. No MSU defenseman has been drafted. (Side note: only three(!) MSU players have been drafted, period, and two of them are former first rounder Daultan Leveille and Trevor Nill, who have 14 points between them. Thank you Comley clap clap clap.)
Special teams. Your power plays per game:
|PP For / G
|PP Ag / G
Two mediocre power plays face off; State's penalty kill is significantly better than Michigan's and one of the top ones in the country. Given the shocking lack of penalties so far when these teams go head to head it might not matter much… unless State goes 3/5 on the PP over the weekend.
Michigan Vs Those Guys
I'm going to skip this section since it is of debatable utility and the game is in like an hour.
This is where I note that Chris Brown is out on Friday thanks to the fight-type substance at the end of Saturday's Miami game, which will draw Luke Moffatt up to the first line and (presumably) Andrew Sinelli onto the fourth line. Which Lynch pops up on the third line is an open question. Obviously, breaking up the rampant first line is suboptimal.
Also, CenterIce's preview includes some revealing +/- numbers: MSU has very little depth. On D Krug and Shelgren are +17 and +11, respectively; everyone else is treading water at best. Reimer and Wolfe are the only MSU forwards with double digit +/- in the right direction. Michigan will have a big advantage when one of their top two pairings is on the ice opposite someone other than Krug and Shelgren.
The Big Picture
With the Miami sweep Michigan hops up to an extremely precarious second in the RPI and Pairwise; they can solidify that spot (or at least a one seed) by doing better than split. MSU's got a nice enough RPI that a split will actually improve Michigan's, albeit barely. Going 1-1 against a TUC is a negative… in all it's a push. Michigan would likely slide behind someone behind them who sweeps. At the top of the mountain you can't tread water.
Anything better than a split and Michigan is cooking. Getting swept would be bad but far from fatal on the quest for a one-seed.
As far as the conference goes, Michigan would really like to gain points on Ferris this weekend; the Bulldogs take on Notre Dame before finishing with BGSU and WMU. If Ferris pushes their edge out any further than the one game it's already at it will be hard for Michigan to pass them on the final weekend.
Other previews from the newly renamed "CenterIce" and Yost Built.