Bottom line is Michigan needs to sweep their last six games if they want to hold any hopes of hanging a conference title banner. We're two points behind Miami (NTM) and a point behind the Irish, so we're far from done, but our margin for error has shrunk to nothing. Hopefully the line shifts amp up the scoring that has been missing for the past month. Go Blue.
Puck Preview: Ohio State
|WHAT||Ohio State @ Michigan|
|WHERE||Yost Ice Arena
Ann Arbor, MI
|WHEN||7:35 PM Fri/Sat|
|THE LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
Record. 14-13-2, 9-11-2 CCHA. OSU's gone 2-4 the last three weekends, splitting with Notre Dame and Michigan State and getting swept in Alaska. They've got a –5 CCHA goal differential but had a strong effort against (terrible, terrible) nonconference teams. They're +9 for the season.
KRACH is not impressed: it has them 28th, ahead of only BG and Northern Michigan in the CCHA.
Previous meetings. Michigan split in Columbus in early December, losing 3-2 in OT on Friday before winning 2-1. Friday was a sinfully ugly game in which Michigan had the bulk of what chances occurred. On Saturday Michigan bombed Cal Heeter with 48 shots but couldn't break through until the third when Luke Glendening gritted in a goal; Wohlberg punched in the game winner with around five minutes left.
Both games were low on quality chances and featured plenty of aimless play between the blue lines.
Dangermen. OSU's middle of the pack in scoring at 32nd. Their top guys are linemates and seniors John Albert (11-20-31) and Sergio Somma (15-11-26); junior Danny Dries has 13-11-24 but did the bulk of his damage against OSU's weak nonconference schedule. There are three more guys with seven or eight goals and then it collapses—OSU has no scoring depth.
They also get nothing from their defensemen. Shane Sims is the only D with more than one goal and the only guy who seems like he might be generating scoring chances with his passing. The rest of the corps have the scattered assists you'd expect from guys who happen to be on the ice when other people do stuff.
Heeter. Also ugly uniforms.
Defense and goalie and whatnot. Junior and guy named like he lives in a van down by the river Cal Heeter has played all but 22 minutes this season. He's been good. He's got a .920 save percentage despite facing almost 30 shots a game. That puts him in a four way tie for 20th nationally (72 goalies are ranked) with Shawn Hunwick and a couple other guys.
As mentioned, the defense is comprised of simple defensive guys save Sims, an Islanders draftee. None stand out statistically and I don't remember anything useful from the first series. They do seem to be good. Michigan struggled to generate anything earlier and while that was also the case last weekend that OSU series still stands as the ugliest and least exciting of the year.
Special teams. Your power plays per game:
|PP For / G||4.7||4.3|
|PP Ag / G||4.3||4.7|
More evidence the OSU D is pretty good at being boring, solid defenders can be found in that power plays against number. 4.3 is low, and the OSU D corps does not take a ton of penalties that generate power play opportunities. OSU's maintained their PP advantage through the conference season, so that's not an artifact of the nonconference schedule. Meanwhile, after the dumb penalty orgy over the weekend Michigan exactly inverts OSU's numbers.
Michigan (17.7%, 32nd) has a slight advantage on the PP against OSU (16.9%, 37th) but is slightly worse killing penalties at 80.7 percent (39th) to OSU's 81.5 (35th). Yes, Michigan's specialty units are both in the thirties.
Michigan Vs Those Guys
Attempt to stay awake through both games. It's going to be tough. There's going to be all this luxurious ice out there and it will be easy to forget about the puck and just lay down for a nice nap. While it's unlikely anything actually happens while you're getting a bit of shut-eye, if it happens in the offensive zone you'll have to deal with offsides and whatnot.
Hunwick non-reprise. Michigan lost that OT game largely because Hunwick gave up a terrible goal on a shot taken from the half-boards on a a harmless rush. He's been very good every since.
Maybe the line blender will work. Red revamped his lines for the first time in over a year, placing Caporusso with Hagelin and creating a new second line of Wohlberg, Treais, and Moffatt that should/could/might wake up Rust, Lynch, and other forwards who are scoring less frequently than Scooter Vaughn and three of Michigan's defensemen. Rust and Lynch can go out there to shut down OSU's secondary scoring, leaving the line that hypothetically could score to eat up OSU's exceedingly weak bottom six.
The Big Picture
Michigan is hovering around the 3/4 borderline after three straight losses and needs to pick it up if it expects to reach Joe Louis Arena with an at-large bid already in its pocket. Falling down the standings has created a huge mess of teams that are relevant to Michigan's PWR ranking and makes it hard to pick out specific events that you're rooting for this weekend other than "root for everyone in front of and directly behind Michigan to lose (unless Michigan played them)." That means anyone good in the CCHA, Merrimack, Union, Dartmouth, and Colorado College are your enemies.
As for Michigan itself, they're 12th in RPI and will maintain that if they go 4-2 down the stretch. Ohio State at home is probably their second-easiest series—Northern's goal differential is awful—and after the ugliness the last two weeks a sweep would go a long way towards calming fears about breaking the tourney streak. A win and a tie would be fine, a split disappointing. Anything worse is time to head for the lifeboats.
The Wall Street Journal declares college hockey arenas "the cathedrals of sports" and gives Yost the nod for best crowd. Caporusso is now e-famous. Yost Built previews OSU and adds a little bit more information to what we know about 2013 commit JT Compher:
USHR had him ranked as the #4 forward at the Select 15 camp this past July: "Aggressive and good-sized, with a sense of the game and anticipation. Competitive, too. Blocks shots."
In hockey, isn't Miami (NTM) actually Miami (YTM) and vice-versa?
That would make my head spin. I hope that isn't how we do it.
I am really excited about the new lines. The best way to get Caporusso going is to put him with Hagelin, plus the top line now has the classic set up guy, sniper, big guy to go to the net combination.
I like putting Hagelin with Caporusso too. Hopefully this can give us a scoring line equivalent to Miami's #1 line.
Woooo! How about those Wolverines, eh?