“On the offense last year, they had great spacing. That’s what I remember. Great spacing, great shooters, like Nik Stauskas, who’s not there right now. But they always have someone to fill the roles. They have a cutting offense, kind of hard to guard.”
"Northwestern fans can be both heartened and disheartened by the loss to Minnesota just like how nineteenth-century resurrectionists were heartened when they pried a heart from a freshly-buried corpse and then disheartened it when they sold it to a disreputable anatomist."
"The experience he has from last year is starting to show," Jazz forward Gordon Hayward said. "He’s making shots, and he made some gutsy plays against Portland. He’s got a confidence about him that he can get the job done."
Conference play has come, and Big Ten teams can safely retreat to their thunderdomes to clobber each other in peace, insulated from the braying mockery of the national media. There is still upheaval. Michigan has fallen apart. Dave Brandon and Brady Hoke have been confined to the Touliers Palace.
Sometimes being at a hockey game is an exercise in wishing you were watching the thing on TV where the camera angle is consistent and the replays are repeated ad nauseum. This is especially true at Yost, where events just happen and evaporate without the benefit of video replay.
An example: at the end of the first period the puck was behind the net and suddenly the ref was feverishly pointing at the puck in the net without the thing seemingly ever reaching a spot where that was physically possible. The ref went to check it out. A few moments later the part of Yost directly behind the penalty boxes stood up and craned their collective neck to see the review as I plotted to relocate there next year, and a few moments after that he waved the thing off.
Last year I would have had to trudge through the deep, useless recesses of the USCHO board to find out what happened. Five years ago a Saturday game against Western probably wasn't televised at all and no one would really ever know. Since it's 2011 I just pulled out my phone, tweeted at the Daily's hockey beat writer*, and found out within ten minutes that the puck had indeed gone into the net from behind the goal.
I didn't see it, though, and that's kind of the point of being a spectator.
Sometimes hockey collapses itself into a universe just for you. You have to be sitting along the sideline between the blue lines for this to happen. If you are, at certain points you can draw a perfectly straight line from you to the guy shooting the puck to the goal.
An example: when Michigan came back against Denver in the NCAA tournament I sat right behind the Michigan bench and watched Eric Werner plunge into the slot to flick a puck over Wade Dubielewicz** to tie the game. I saw it the whole way and my mind blew up.
I shelled out for old fogey seats this year so when Lee Moffie entered the zone I saw Hagelin behind him and thought Moffie should drop it, and he did, and there were two seconds left so there's only one thing for Hagelin to do, and as he let the shot go and I drew a straight line from me to him to the net as the puck slid past the defenseman clean and rose. I could see where it was heading, see the goalie throw his glove at it but not get there in time, see the puck ricochet the right way as the great clank filled the building. It was one of those moments where the angel comes down from heaven and says "you there—God has selected you to have the deep-seated, socially awkward fandom of the concealed lunatic." It was pure.
And while I've been craving video boards at Yost for years there's something beautiful about not having the thing you just experienced altered by someone else's perspective. Since the Werner goal isn't on youtube no one can tell me he wasn't wielding a scimitar, wearing an eyepatch, and screaming "hhhhhyarrrrr" as he swashbuckled towards the net. I'm pretty sure the unicorn he was riding was named Steve.
Those days are over—see the youtube clip above—but thanks to Carl Hagelin Yost got one last opportunity to walk out of the building buzzing about the thing that just happened in your head, and only your head.
**[Google's spellchecking was heroic here: I typed "wade dublevicz."]
mfan_in_ohio has again broken down the pairwise so I'll just point you to his analysis. Michigan flew up to sixth after the sweep, but it is a tenuous, tenuous sixth. Here's why:
That's Ohio State barely nosing above .500 in RPI after taking a win and a tie from LSSU. Michigan's 3-1 record against the Buckeyes thus counts in the TUC category. This tiny difference in the season of a single opponent swings comparisons against Boston College and UNO. If OSU had split over the weekend Michigan would be eighth and we'd be wondering what a man has to do to get some respect around here.
As it is, OSU's nose getting over the line combined with a couple of wins over a WMU team that did well in its nonconference schedule gets you halfway to a one seed in one weekend. That and a lot of help elsewhere—Dartmouth, RPI, UMD, UNO, and Denver all lost over the weekend. Denver lost to Michigan Tech(!), which is huge because that's a common opponent and a terrible team.
While this is almost Michigan's ceiling, the stumbles of Denver and UMD have opened the door to the last one seed. Michigan easily beats Denver in COP now and is within striking distance in both TUC and RPI—outperforming them by a game down the stretch will do it. UMD, meanwhile, is close enough in RPI to drop if they lose and the six remaining regular season games between the two teams are all common opponents—NMU for Michigan, CC and UNO for UMD. If they take those two comparisons and Ohio State and Ferris can walk the tripwire so that both of them finish the season under consideration, they can slide up to fourth. This will take some luck but if Michigan sweeps Northern and wins the CCHA playoffs I think they'll be 50-50 for the one-seed.
OSU plays Ferris this weekend and can remain in the TUC zone by splitting. However, sweeping will actually put Ferris about where OSU is now, leaving them vulnerable to dropping out in the CCHA playoffs. You probably want a split here but root for OSU on Friday because they're more vulnerable. You want both of these teams to do well in the playoffs.
You hate Denver and Minnesota-Duluth with the burning fiery passion of a thousand suns.
Also Boston College and UNO.
Everything else is up to Michigan.
It's Michigan and Notre Dame with ND maintaining a one-point lead. They have a home-and-home with this Western team; Michigan goes to Northern. Agonizingly, neither game in Marquette is televised. Michigan will win the tiebreaker if the teams end up even in points.
Non-bullets of !!!
Kind of mad, kind of awesome. Shawn Hunwick was not so good this weekend. On Friday it didn't result in much damage because the team had already gotten the other guy's goalie pulled but on Saturday he was off on both of the breakaways. They were breakaways so it's hard to be too mad but he gave up a weak five hole goal on the first and was way too deep in his net on the other. On the other hand, this is what he tweeted immediately afterwards:
Thank you Carl Hagelin for saving my ass. Great senior class. We had a phenomenal four years.
It wasn't that bad. We still love you and the fact that on shots from the point you end up halfway to the blue line.
Also, Hunwick made three clutch, clutch stops in the third period Saturday.
Need moar Swede. There needs to be another Swedish guy on the team ASAP. We've got the flag, we're very enthusiastic about the word "Bork"—let's make this happen.
Muppets. I totally should have muppetsed. Sorry. I had some people over afterwards and it slipped my mind.
With an assist to Lee Moffie. Moffie's fought for playing time most of the year despite having quite a knack for scoring because he's not that great defensively. Late in the third period as Michigan was trying to tie, however, he was ridiculously good. He's at his best when it's desperate and he can pinch and use his skill and wheel around the zone.
Other defensemen. It was a weekend full of defenseman thoughts:
Greg Pateryn had a goal and three first assists on Friday. He essentially beat WMU by himself. As a bonus he would have had a fourth assist if you could assist on your own goals—he made an excellent play to control the puck and make a cross-ice pass in to the zone to set up the scoring chance. He still gets too aggressive at the blue line.
Jon Merrill was really really good Friday—my friend just kept saying "he's really really good"—and then had probably his worst game as a Wolverine Saturday. It wasn't just the breakaway; he probably had more turnovers Saturday than in any two games he'd played this year.
Mac Bennett is now leading the rush like 25% of the time there is one when he's on the ice.
What does he have to do? Lindsay Sparks was fast out there and looked as dangerous as he usually does. He hasn't put up much in the way of points but I'm continually surprised he can't get in the lineup regularly.
Exploding Lynch. Two on Friday, then two very fancy moves to get to his forehand Saturday. After the first I thought "that's the most dangerous thing he's done as a Wolverine" even though the shot was stopped; he did the same thing a period later and scored. Let's throw everyone down on the fourth line.
BONUS. Googling for Denver goals did turn this one up:
I'm hoping Hagelin channels Ortmeyer in his final games at Michigan.
As the crowd honored the seniors after the game, the Swedish flag that has flown at Yost for three seasons was tossed over the glass to Hagelin. The students had passed it around throughout the game, autographing it and writing thank yous and words of encouragement to our Super Swede.
I wondered what all the stuff on it was. Also: this is a bonus from having Senior Night on a weekend where the students aren't on break.
Michigan Hockey Net has press conference recaps from Friday and Saturday. Berenson:
On what Berenson said to Carl when he gave him a hug after the game… Well, I just told him “Aren’t you glad you came to Michigan? And aren’t we glad that you came?” And good for him. He set a standard here. He’s been a terrific kid, student, player, teammate—you know, just a terrific kid. It’s the first Swedish player we’ve had and we’ll always remember him.
Thanks for posting the Ortmeyer goal. Those regional games were amazing to watch. Win over DU was even sweeter since their coach elected to kick Michigan out of their own locker room for the tournament as he could do that as the top seed.
"Sometimes hockey collapses itself into a universe just for you"
This is why I like reading this blog so much - Brian puts into words what so many of us are thinking and experiencing.
This happened for me in 1996 in Cincinnati at the National Championship. I drove down with two friends from Ann Arbor to watch the game. We had the nosebleed seats that students were sold at the time, but managed to trade them (and $20 each) to a ticket scalper for blueline seats five rows up. Absolutely fantastic seats - Ron Mason told me to sit down at one point, that's how great the seats were. My guess is that they were previously the seats of one of the coaches of a team that was eliminated in the semi-final, and they decided not to use them.
That last goal by Morrison in overtime - the puck rebounded off the goalie straight back toward our sight line and floated untouched. Morrison saw the free puck, and the giant open right side of the net...
What a glorious, glorious day. I had such a great four years there - so many great memories.
Last season and this season until Saturday ,I thought Sparks wasn't good enough defensively to be playing. Maybe if he could crack a higher line, but he's not a 4th line player, which is where there is space for him. His performance Saturday night made me reconsider things quite a bit. He's still not a particularly physical defender and probably never will be, but he made a couple really nice defensive plays through his speed and stick-handling coming from behind to get in front of Western forecheckers and stealing a couple pucks as well. I still don't like him as a 4th liner so much, but seeing some of his skills out there recently makes me think that with the big bodies of Lynch and Winnett with him, he could succeed down there, very nicely. Far more than I would have argued before Saturday. I've always been kind of OK with him on the third line, but now I'm definitely fine with him there.
The only problems are Moffatt and DeBlois, who, I think, are also both very derserving of spots in the line-up. Maybe it was just that he was so hyped when he committed and then so un-hyped by the time he matricultated, but I've been really impressed with Moffatt. He's showed a lot of really, really nice things offensively and defensively. He doesn't have the numbers so much, but I can definitely see his potential. DeBlois is just very solid. Generally good defensively, occassionally looks dangerous offensively.
Does anybody have a definite reason for DeBlois and Moffatt being out on Saturday? Any injuries? Did Red just want to see how other guys did? Or did he think they played poorly on Friday? Or something else?
If it's not injury, my thinking would be he just wanted to see how some guys he thought were doing pretty well in practice would respond to being in a game; I don't remember either Moffatt or DeBlois being at all bad on Friday. If so, I think Sparks was, maybe not a home run, but a double or a triple, at least. Rohrkemper was OK, but I'd definitely prefer DeBlois. It will be interesting to see what he goes with next weekend. My guess, based on no to very little evidence, would be that Moffatt and DeBlois play Friday and whichever plays worse on Friday, even if neither plays poorly, gets replaced by Sparks on Saturday. But, now,I do agree Sparks needs to see the ice more.
the third line's defensive difficulties on Friday, but forgotten about them. Thanks for that.
The good/bad news is that we'll only be able to debate Moffatt/Sparks/DeBlois for (hopefully) about 10 more games. If Fallon comes back, nobody leaves earlier and all our committed recruits make it, we'll have 13 forwards to play with and I doubt any of those three find themselves in a suit too often
Fallon has much to do to get back into good graces. Didn't do much with the chance he did have, so I wouldn't count on him especially with Guptill etc. coming in. We'll have plenty of options, like mentioned.
Am I concerned about our offense next year? Yes. Is it my #1 concern? No.
I am most concerned about Merrill and Burlon coming back. Both have shown terrific talent, but have both been off their game recently. The Devils may sweet talk them into moving into the AHL to increase their learning. I hope they don't bite. Merrill could probably handle it, but Burlon is not ready. JMHO, but Merrill seems to be fatigued/distracted lately.
Keep in mind our defense has accounted for a ton of our points this season. This would be a huge blow to our offense next year.
Oh- and doesn't Bennett remind you of Langlais? We'll be getting another addition on the blue line lext season, too.
I just had a terrifying thought, is it possible that the NCAA infractions committee might consider the Swedish flag a prohibited extra benefit? It was a great gesture by the students and it clearly meant a lot to Hagelin, but could it come back to bite him?
The flag's obviously not of huge monetary value and I want to believe there's no way the NCAA bureaucracy would make an issue of it, but I have lost much faith in them over the last decade or so. Sorry for playing the part of the wet blanket, but someone please tell me I'm being paranoid.
God bless every single one of your cotton pickin' Maize and Blue hearts