Record. 13-8-2, 8-5-3 CCHA. The Irish have been a slight disappointment after entering the year conference co-favorites with Miami. They are still in good position to make the tournament and have a shot at the league, so the emphasis is on "slight." Most of the disappointment came last weekend.
ND split with national #1 UMD to open the year and has wins over tourney-bound BU and Minnesota in their nonconference schedule; a sweep at the hands of Northeastern (one a 9-2 loss!) is their major blemish on the year. Their CCHA record is basically eh; last weekend they were swept by Western Michigan in a series that put the Broncos into the kinda-sorta league lead, depending on which metric you're relying on.
The upcoming series is a critical fight for not only home ice in the second round but a first round bye, tourney positioning, etc. It's a big deal.
Previous meetings. None this year.
Dangermen. The names should be familiar to you as ND returned virtually all of its important personnel from last year. Sophomore TJ Tynan leads the team with 31 points; he is the team's main playmaker with 22 assists. At 5'8", he is also from leprechaun central casting.
Swede Andres Lee is the main beneficiary with his 14-8-22. Hunwick on those two:
“T.J. Tynes and Andres Lee are probably the two most talented forwards in the league if not the whole country,” said Michigan goaltender Shawn Hunwick. “Those two can put the puck in the net.”
Insert sighs about Michigan having neither a magic midget nor a Swede on this year's team. Ah, swedes and magic midgets.
Red Wings draftee Riley Sheahan has 7-14-21. Sheahan will miss the Friday night game on a suspension, which is a stroke of luck. Past the top line, senior Billy Maday has 6-12-18, freshman Austin Wuthrich has 5-6-12, and then it's a bunch of defensemen with generic "I make a lot of second assist" lines and the 9-7-6-5 point levels that populate CCHA second and third lines this year. This would be a nice spot for Michigan's killer checking line from last year, but alas. They are no longer extant.
Defense and goalie and whatnot. Junior Mike Johnson and sophomore Steven Summerhays are splitting time like they did last year. Also like last year, whoever's in goal is a liability. Johnson managed a .904 last year in 36 games; Summerhays's 12 saw him post an ugly .863. This year the games are closer to even because Johnson's save percentage has dropped to .887; Summerhays is better than last year but still under the .900 Mendoza line. I mean, yeesh:
their goaltenders are 62nd and 67th out of 76 qualifying goalies in save percentage.
On defense, Notre Dame has a lot of draft picks but not much production. They get a few goals here and there; no one has a notable scoring line and given the goalie results it's probable they are selling their guys out somewhat. Blackhawks draft pick Stephen Johns is the most hyped but is averaging almost a penalty a game.
Michigan seems to have a huge advantage here with Hunwick's .925 and half-goal-per-game advantage over the Irish tandem; most of that .925 was compiled without the aid of Jon Merrill.
Special teams. Your power plays per game:
|PP For / G
|PP Ag / G
[Note: I am all but certain that I screwed up the chart last week. Lo siento.]
This will be a major battle. Michigan's power play was better last weekend, robbed of a goal when Treais scored two seconds after an OSU penalty expired and generally more lively than it had been in a while. Statistically it's still a debacle. Michigan dropped another slot to a 45th-place tie (with Miami of all schools). ND's penalty kill is mediocre—more evidence those goalies are an issue—but still better than the Michigan PP. Merrill is of course the wildcard.
The inverse matchup is not much more promising. ND is converting 21% of its opportunities, which is about 75th percentile nationally. Michigan's PK is improving slowly but still 36th.
With ND's clear advantage in drawing penalties, this is a deficit that probably will be the difference in a Michigan loss. Sample size, etc.
Michigan Vs Those Guys
Don't get fancy. Against these save percentages the play is to throw it at the dude and see if he gives up a softie or a bad rebound, whereupon your net-crashing may be able to pick up a goal or two. At some point the top line's monster run has to end… but this doesn't seem like the game. Throw it at these goalies and it seems like reward is probable when you're all big dudes who can pound the front of the net.
Check that top line, especially Friday. I'm not sure how Michigan will match up with Tynan, et al, but as with many CCHA teams it seems like scoring is restricted to fluky stuff once you get past the top line. Michigan's sudden defensive depth should help here.
Third defensive pairing: get it out. It seemed like the majority of scary Ohio State shifts came when Clare and Chiasson could not clear the puck out the zone. Notre Dame has last change and may at times be able to get that top line out against the panicky third pairing.
Don't lose special teams. Winning seems like a tall order. Staying even with ND would be excellent; Michigan is an outstanding 5x5 hockey team at this point.
The Big Picture
The situation hasn't changed since the game column on Monday: Michigan is fifth in the pairwise and can either move towards a one-seed, tread water, or move back towards the bubble.
In terms of the league, It's hard to figure out who's where in the CCHA what with all the shootouts and three-point games and games in hand. Inspired by an Oilers blog that does this for the NHL, here is the CCHA presented baseball-style:
Western Michigan has a slight advantage over OSU and then there is a ravenous pack of five teams separated by less than a game with Miami and NMU a game behind that. First-round byes go to the top five and second-round home series go to the top four.
A sweep either way provides clarity; a split further promotes the league's incredible quagmire.
Yost Built on the renovations, which disappointingly contain no mention of a giant floating Yost head. Also provided is Tim's version of the ND preview. Michigan Hockey Net's weekly recruiting update notes that 2013 commits JT Compher and Tyler Motte are 1-2 on the NTDP U17 team in scoring. Evan Allen is ninth. Jacob Trouba continues annihilating the opposition. Compher is profiled by MaxPreps.