landing spot. will be interesting to see how he does.
mgoblog, hockey edition
In Michigan sports that weren't that, Michigan kicked off its hockey season with a shaky sweep of Mercyhurst. The Lakers were .500 in Atlantic Hockey last year and lost five of their top six scorers to graduation. They looked like they were in for a rough year; Michigan dominated attack time and shots. They did not so much dominate on the scoreboard, with one-goal wins Friday and Saturday. (Michigan got an empty-netter Friday.)
Hockey takes in addition to Adam's Goal By Goal:
- Not seeing much difference in the team this year. A lot of individual talent, a lot of breakdowns. Michigan gave up a ton of odd-man rush goals and turned the puck over at or near the blueline far too much. Actual zone entry plays were rare; instead Michigan just tried to gain the zone with individual skill. They'll win their share of games, but I didn't see much that would indicate a turnaround from the last few frustrating years.
- Example of the above. On Sunday Alex Kile was on a 3-on-2 on which he had two guys open and trailing; he chose to try to beat a defenseman around the corner and blasted the goalie for an interference penalty.
- Werenski is up and down and frustrating. He stands out as a super talented even with a bunch of other NHL draft picks on the team. I expect his wrister to pick out a corner every time he gets an opportunity with it. But he was the D caught up ice on Mercyhurst's 2-on-1 goal Sunday and there were several other questionable defensive plays besides. He was iffy on D last year and should by rights be a freshman right now; I don't think that's a reason for long term concern but I was hoping he'd show a little better.
- Nieves is still Nieves. Perimeter player. Not expecting a breakout year. He's centering the "top line" mostly for morale reasons, I think—Compher's line is the actual top line.
- I don't have a feel for Connor yet. Sometimes takes me a while to figure out what I think of a player. Connor is currently in that boat.
- The third line is pretty dang good. It was Calderone, Marody, and Warren. All of them are high effort, physical guys. Calderone had some trouble receiving passes, but other than that those guys dominated their opposite number. Michigan is going to get production out of them against opponents' bottom six.
- Depth: questionable. Michigan skated seven defensemen on Sunday and elected to double-shift centers on the fourth line. I'm fine with this—one of my complaints over the last few years is that Michigan didn't seem to play its stars enough—but if there are injuries Michigan could be really thin at F.
This will be another season flirting with the tourney cutoff. Michigan's awful schedule hurts them significantly here. The Big Ten appears to be a tire fire again. These days RPI overcorrects for home games and Michigan loaded their schedule with them. And their nonconference schedule is mostly crap. I wouldn't be surprised if Michigan is the non-tourney team with the best record in April.
More Big Ten tire fire details. Alarmingly for the league and Michigan's schedule strength, Minnesota is 0-3 and has scored just one goal. Everyone expected the Gophers to take a step back after graduating huge chunks of their team; that much of a retreat is going to be yet another anchor for a league that is already carrying several around.
Meanwhile Wisconsin is coming off a BU/BC weekend in which they were outscored 10-1, OSU has been swept by Miami and BGSU, and Michigan State was just swept by Denver (total goals 7-2). Big Ten teams aren't just losing, they're getting crushed.
Penn State(!) is the only team with anything approximating an encouraging start after a competitive split with Notre Dame. Everything else points to a repeat of last year minus a good Minnesota team. Maybe the Big Ten could spend some of their filthy lucre on hiring non-incompetent hockey coaches next year? Could we try that maybe? MSU and Wisconsin allowing Tom Anastos and Mike Eaves to return is bad for everybody.
Yost things. They have walked back a lot of the in-game commercials this year, so that's nice. IIRC the only thing still around is Find The Object Under The Corporate Logo. That's down from just under a dozen per game last year.
The folks in charge are still a bit off, though. Hockey Special K has limited opportunities to do his thing because of the nature of hockey but he's still jamming in a goal horn—completely unnecessary w/ the bad—and then playing pump-up music before the puck drop. Why Special K insists on playing 5 seconds of music before every kickoff/puck drop is always going to be a mystery.
Also the concession prices remain completely out of whack. When it's more expensive than Joe Louis I'm going to avoid buying things out of principle. I can't imagine the tiny incremental profit increase is worth the psychic damage to hockey fans who are already pretty beat up. I almost dropped my tickets this year because I could probably TiqIq the entire schedule for half of what my seats cost. Like, I decided not to and then two weeks after the deadline I relented.
Yost is not priced at all sensibly, especially when it comes to students. They're down to two sections and an overflow in the endzone, which is super depressing. I know we want the hockey program to break even but surely the atmosphere in the building is more important than X thousand dollars.
Friday, October 16, 2015
Michigan 6, Mercyhurst 4
UM 1 Mercyhurst 0 EV 04:45 Nieves (1) from Connor (1) & Martin (1)
Nick Boka has the puck at the blueline and passes to Cutler Martin after reading his defender, who’s close enough to warrant not shooting. It’s a smart pass; Martin’s defender is moving across and giving him a big cushion. He takes advantage of that, gathering the puck and taking time (maybe even too much time) before firing.
The puck sails into traffic, and if we’re to believe the official score sheet it hits Kyle Connor at some point before reaching the goaltender. The goalie stops it but can’t gather, allowing a plush rebound to his left. The two netfront defenders have pinched in, and you can see from the screen shot that the distance between the nearest defender and Boo Nieves is not great for Mercyhurst.
The goaltender has to make a lateral push that’s basically impossible to do in time to cover; there’s no way he’s locking down the post when he has to go from the middle of the crease to the side. All Nieves has to do is flip a backhander over the goalies shoulder, which isn’t the easiest thing from that sharp an angle. Still, he’s got the necessary space to do so and executes.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest]
UM 1 Mercyhurst 1 EV 06:50 Cook (1) unassisted
Martin’s lined up just a hair inside the player with the puck and that makes all the difference. He has given up the inside path, and that allows Cook to swim past and gain the massively open middle of the ice.
This is the moment a decision must be made. Boka’s playing this one as he should; he’s attempting to take away the pass. There’s a bit of room, so it’s possible that a pass could have snuck through but with the momentum from being a step ahead Cook decides to keep it.
This is just a bad goal to give up. Racine sees him coming from a mile away and yet still gets beat. A shot going in from that far away with that much notice is a bit of a red flag. So yeah, it took less than half a period to break out the first red flag of the season. Hooray.
UM 1 Mercyhurst 2 EV 09:13 Lammon (3) from Lancaster (2) & Verboom (1)
Boka’s forced to make a split-second decision on a rapidly developing rush, and I can see why he decided to cover the guy closest to the boards. He has to either stick with No. 27 or step toward the puck carrier, and if he sticks in the middle of the ice that allows the puck carrier a free lane down the wall. He thinks he can get the stick out to disrupt a pass, but the pass gets by him anyway.
Martin has the 2-on-1 rush handled for a moment, but for some reason he draws his stick back in. The puck carrier sees an easy pass across, and the timing is fortunate for him as Boka is just about to get back in the frame and in position to limit the passing opportunity.
This is very close to being a puck that’s knocked off a stick and turned into an opportunity to scramble and chase and basically not skate to the goaltender unimpeded. That puck, though, is not on Lancaster’s stick. Because of that, this turns into a chance to skate to the goaltender unimpeded.
Lancaster carries in and Racine is thinking about sealing the ice with his pads but delays a bit, and that’s when Lancaster pulls a toe drag that’s not really stopped. It hits Racine’s pad, but with his leg up there’s a big gap in the five hole and a loose puck in front.
Naturally Lammon flies in from out of the frame and shoves the puck in. Racine gets the pad down, but his momentum carries him backwards with the puck under his leg, and he slides across the goal line. At this point in the weekend we had no idea how tired we’d be of things in green and white appearing from nowhere and doing the improbable. Ah, to be young and naïve.
UM 2 Mercyhurst 2 SH 16:58 Connor (1)
Boka gets burned by a swim move here, and it looks like it’s time to start grumbling about last year and this year and things are dumb, etc. A sharp-angle shot is deflected, though, and the puck ends up in the faceoff circle.
Connor taps it ahead to himself off of the boards, and there’s nothing but open ice between him and the goaltender.
He dekes forehand-backhand-forehand, and this gets the goaltender to hit the ice. The last move back to the forehand is where Connor releases his shot, and it sails over the goalie’s shoulder and hits the farside top corner.
UM 2 Mercyhurst 3 EV 12:37 Charbonneau from Barach (3) & Cook (6)
Cook sees that he’s about to get plastered by Martin and has the awareness not to chip the puck ahead but to toss it toward the middle of the ice, as he sees he has a trailer who has gained a step on Evan Allen through the neutral zone.
Boka comes over to help because he has to. If Mercyhurst shoots and there’s a rebound Michigan’s in trouble. You can see that the two Michigan defenders are hemmed in the middle and bunched together, while Mercyhurst has a free skater lurking behind.
Instead of shooting Barach takes another stride and dishes across to Charbonneau, the trailer. And you thought my foreshadowing was heavy handed when it wasn’t even foreshadowing at all. What a twist. Charbonneau executes a really nice spin move and just throws the puck to the front of the net, where it hits Boka’s skate and deflects in.
UM 3 Mercyhurst 3 EV 13:31 Calderone (1) from Marody (1) & Warren (1)
Brendan Warren passes to Cooper Marody, who’s about to get hit. The puck deflects up and bounces all over, eventually settling along the boards.
Marody gathers the puck and passes to Tony Calderone, who’s open thanks to the two Mercyhurst defenders converging on Marody and trying to pin him along the boards. Warren, meanwhile, has started to drift toward the front of the net to set up a screen.
Calderone loops into the faceoff circle. The two low defenders come off the wall and head for the front of the net; Warren’s screen is able to keep them out of the play. Two more defenders skate down and try to help but can’t before Calderone spots a perfect shooting lane between Warren and another netfront defender. He releases the puck and beats Wildung, somehow placing the puck inside the defender, outside Wildung, and just inside the farside post.
UM 3 Mercyhurst 4 PPG 17:21 Lancaster (2) unassissted
I can’t find video of this one. C’est la vie.
UM 4 Mercyhurst 4 EV 18:16 Marody (1) from Werenski (1) & Downing (1)
Werenski gathers a puck in the middle of the defensive zone and shovels it ahead for Marody, who starts a solo breakout the other way. Marody gets to the blueline before making his move, turning the puck outside and skating around the defender
Marody shoots, and it’s gloved…sort of. Maybe for a second, but not long enough for a whistle.
At some point and somewhere in that mass of bodies the puck creeps across the goal line. Hockey, man.
UM 5 Mercyhurst 4 EV 02:57 Motte (1) from Compher (1)
JT Compher reads this incredibly well. The Mercyhurst player is off-balance, and the puck is behind him. Compher gets around him and somehow has the awareness to know that if he backhands a pass Tyler Motte will be able to retrieve it with lots of room to operate.
That whole “room to operate” thing was momentary, as Motte has a defender on him quickly. Still, he had time to get toward the center of the ice. With the goalie backed into his net Motte’s improved his chances. He shoots, and the shot flutters toward the net before sneaking in just under the crossbar. Also, nice job by Kile getting to the front of the net. He draws a defender both out of the way of the shot and into the goaltender’s line of sight.
UM 6 Mercyhurst 4 EN 19:44 Connor (2) from Selman (1)
Connor’s puck hawking (I don’t know, I just made it up) on the forecheck creates enough pressure for the Mercyhurst forward to flip the puck back up the boards.
The puck carrier is in way, way deeper than he knows; Selman’s about to strip the puck from his stick when Connor, who’s peeled off his previous check, comes up and just shoves the guy off the puck.
Connor bounces a long, backhanded shot through traffic and into the empty net for what is one of the nicer, more skill-dependent empty netters I’ve ever seen.
Sunday, October 18, 2015
Michigan 3, Mercyhurst 2
UM 1 Mercyhurst 0 EV 17:03 Kile (1) from Downing (2) & Boka (1)
Boka dishes to Downing laterally at the blueline. The defenders are playing off Downing, so he shoots immediately. Wildung makes the initial save, but he allows a rebound.
Kile, who’s been doing a nice job screening, isn’t really even challenged here. He gathers the loose puck and taps it in while the defenders around him hover as if repelled by a force field.
UM 1 Mercyhurst 1 PPG 01:52 Riley from Cook & Barach
Mercyhurst is in the umbrella on the power play, and as expected the move the puck to the point. The point-man shoots, the shot is deflected, he gathers and shoots again. This time the puck makes its way through traffic to Nagelvoort.
Nagelvoort stops the shot but doesn’t corral it; Cook is able to dig it out, and I don’t think he’s making a pass so much as just trying to get possession of the puck when it rolls to the side.
The screenshots make it look like Martin, one of the low defenders, should have made more of an effort to unbunch and take the man at the side of the net but on video it’s such a quickly developing play I can see why he takes a swipe at the puck in an effort to clear instead. The problem is that he misses, and that allows Riley a simple tap in to an empty net.
UM 2 Mercyhurst 1 EV 05:08 Allen (1) from Shuart (1) & Selman (2)
Shuart retrieves a loose puck off the wall and carries in on a 2-on-1. The defender makes a move and tries to…actually, I’m not quite sure. He’s out of position to stop a pass now and he’s also too far away to alter a shot attempt. He makes Shuart’s decision to pass pretty easy; put it a little bit ahead (and under the defender’s stick, which is off the ice for some reason) and Allen has a scoring chance.
Michigan’s in an ideal situation. The pass causes the goaltender to push across, and he’s already in his splits and needing to get his glove hand up when Allen’s ready to shoot. All he has to do is roof the puck to score, and that’s exactly what he does.
UM 2 Mercyhurst 2 EV 11:03 Charbonneau from Best & Wu
Mercyhurst enters the Michigan zone on a 2-on-1, albeit one in which the trailer is so far behind he doesn’t really factor in until later; you could justifiably call this a 1-on-1. Martin is the lone defender back, and he sees that the pass isn’t going to be there. He attempts to slide to take away the shot, but he doesn’t get there in time.
You can see in the screen cap below that Martin’s slide doesn’t influence the shot, which Nagelvoort stops for a second. He can’t hold onto the rebound, however, and the puck that was practically on his chest protector bounces away.
I mean, you know what’s going to happen. The spoiler’s in the title of the post. That’s a massive amount of space for Nagelvoort to cover with a guy charging and wielding a stick ready to thunderously whack the puck in. To Nagelvoort’s credit he does sprawl and take away the bottom of the net, but Charbonneau lifts it up and over.
UM 3 Mercyhurst 2 EV 15:51 Connor (3) from Selman (2) & Werenski (3)
Selman has the puck in the neutral zone near center ice when he puts a perfect pass through the zone of Connor on the opposite wing.
Connor draws the nearest defender to him; that defender is the guy in the middle of the ice in the screen cap above. He’s working from a bad position, and he’s gliding for a moment. That’s enough time for Connor to gain the zone and set up his shot at full speed.
This is why people sometimes make a big deal out of a defenseman’s handedness. Mercyhurst’s D is at a disadvantage from the start because is he’s going to alter Connor’s path or shot he needs to swing his stick around (that’s what the dotted line below represents). However, he’s unable to do that before Connor can unload his shot.
This shot beat the goaltender cleanly from the middle of the faceoff circle. I be like dang.
Mercyhurst is pretty good. They’re currently 23rd in the way-too-early-but-I’m-gonna-mention-it-anyway PairWise and RPI; Michigan is 15th in both.
That doesn’t excuse shaky goaltending. I thought Racine looked worse than Nagelvoort. Still, I don’t think this is a competition that’s settled anytime soon. We could be in for a replica of the last two years.
Kyle Connor is pretty, pretty good. I’m not going to make the comparison yet but a few more weeks of that and maybe it’s fair to say we replaced our Larkin with another Larkin dang couldn’t make it to the end of the sentence without mentioning him.
Hey, maybe playing desperate is a good thing. Red said after Sunday’s win that he liked his team when they play desperate, and that they did that and were able to lock down defensively in the third. I, too, like when Michigan plays desperately and in fact have been waiting for that for like three years. That’s the reason I’m not going to make 2014 comparisons, even though Friday felt like that. Sunday’s win was enough to make me think that maybe Friday was a team still ironing things out in the early season and not a repeat of the unit that could score and not defend.
at least there's still bubble hockey? [Bill Rapai]
I don't know if there was anything Jim Hackett could have done about this in the short time he's been athletic director, but man, for the second straight year the hockey schedule is deeply unappealing to me as a season-ticket holder. Worse, it doesn't set Michigan up well for an attempt to make the tourney in Red Berenson's final year. Let's run down the problems.
The nonconference schedule sucks
Here's the nonconference schedule, with last year's RPI out of 59 in parentheses after. Home games bolded.
- Mercyhurst x 2 (39)
- @ Union (30)
- @ RPI (46)
- Robert Morris x 2 (25)
- Niagara (58)
- @ BU x 2 (3)
- Dartmouth x 2 (22)
- NMU (GLI) (35)
- Tech or State (GLI) (8 or 32)
- Ferris State (34)
The best nonconference home game is none. The only team that made the tournament last year (other than Tech, which is in the GLI with Michigan every year) is BU. BU has been thoroughly mediocre for the past five years when Jack Eichel wasn't around. He and his +51(!!!) are no longer around.
The opponents aren't even interesting from a historical standpoint: other than Ferris State and NMU in the GLI, none of these teams are old CCHA teams. They are just random Eastern teams that aren't good and want a paycheck.
This is especially grim because the Big Ten was so bad last year. In a tough, or even reasonable, league a 22-15 record is a good shot at the tournament. Michigan had none because the Big Ten was a disaster. Even if the league gets off the mat somewhat this year (doubtful since MSU and Wisconsin both inexplicably retained their coaches), Michigan is going to need some help from a solid nonconference schedule. This is emphatically not it.
And that goes double since the home/road split is 9/5. The current iteration of the RPI irrationally overrates road wins and irrationally underrates home wins, so any team that is willing to scrimp for guarantee games like Michigan clearly has is putting itself even further behind an already rather large eight ball.
There are infinite football conflicts
It's like this was intentional:
- There are only four road games before the Christmas break.
- Two of them come during football's bye week.
- One of the Robert Morris games is on October 31st. Michigan plays Minnesota that day. That game has already been announced for 8 PM.
- There is a home game on the day of a home OSU game that's at least 50/50 to be at 3:30.
- In the unlikely event Michigan makes the Big Ten Championship game, there is a home game against Wisconsin probably at the same time.
I understand that some conflicts are inevitable. This is close to maximum hypothetical conflict. Michigan has scheduled games that no Michigan fan is going to want to attend that hurt their chances to make the tournament.
There are way too many games early and way too few late
As mentioned, the season ticket has 12 of its games before the break and just 7 after, one of which is the NTDP exhibition. There is another month-long gap between home games. (At least this time it's not because Michigan sold a game against MSU so Chicago could ignore it.)
- And Michigan inserted the Ferris game into a weird mid-February bye week. They go six weeks(!) between home league games, from Ohio State on January 17th to Ohio State on March 4th.
There are still no playoffs
Maybe I'll fly to Minneapolis, though. It could happen.
The extra slot. Max Bielfeldt could return next year if Michigan was so inclined. It does not sound like they are rushing to make this happen, though. Bielfeldt:
"I don't even know," the 6-foot-8, 240-pound forward said. "I've just been looking to see what else is out there. If this (situation did come up), I knew I'd have to take it for what it is. If I end up making a decision here in the next week or so and nothing pops up Michigan-wise, then I'll move on.
"(I haven't talked with Beilein about it) since the scholarship opened up."
It might be hard to kiss and make up here with Bielfeldt fielding serious interest from multiple Big 12 schools.
Harbaugh profilin'. Bruce Feldman on the man in khaki:
Most coaches will say they are much better at their jobs than they were a decade ago thanks to experience, but Harbaugh isn't most coaches. "I don't know that I am (a better coach)," he said. "Even though you've proved something before, that's the very nature of football playing or coaching. You could have proved something 1,000 times before. You could prove it again, but now that's all that matters.
"It's irrelevant no matter how many times you prove something. This is the only time that matters."
Well worth a read.
That this is a hard decision is a bad thing. Dylan Larkin is playing at the World Championships for the USA, an impressive accomplishment for any college player. He is still considering signing with the Wings. That would be far from unprecedented, except for the fact that his pro team doesn't seem to be pressing for it at all:
Should Larkin sign with Detroit, he would most likely spend the season in the AHL with Grand Rapids, a team that has consistently been successful recently under the stewardship of coach Jeff Blashill. …
From what I’ve been told, the Red Wings would be happy with Larkin’s decision either way. If he returns to Michigan, he gets to play that big role on a young team (the team had a dearth of juniors this season, so there will only be a handful of seniors next year) and he can learn from mistakes now rather than in a couple years when he’s in the NHL.
If Larkin signs when the Wings are saying "you will play in the AHL"—something they no doubt mean given the guys they've left in Grand Rapids well after they've ripened—that is a devastating commentary on the current state of the program.
Unfortunately, I don't think I would be at all surprised by that. Mike Spath is without question the most plugged-in hockey reporter Michigan has, and when Andrew Copp left he talked to various people in the program and came back with this:
A motivation for Andrew Copp to leave? Apparently his dad didn't like that Copp wasn't the leading scorer the past two seasons and blamed this on Michigan's failure to develop him to be the first-line center he was destined to be.
This is what society has become. Every parent thinks their kid is the next Crosby. Winnipeg apparently told the family he could one day lead their team in points. I like Andrew a lot but that is a crock.
There is only one person who would say this to Spath: Red Berenson. Spath probably should have kept that one under his hat, because it drew a response from Copp's father in which he made it clear that assertions about his character were way off base. A small portion:
Michael it is disappointing that as you have gotten to know Andrew over the last 3 years you should have a gut feeling about how he is as a person. Much has been made about it in the press and by the coaches over the years. Andrew is a very mature young man with character, conviction, and morals. I can tell you that Andrew made the decision to leave completely on his own. We do not parent like micro-managers, we have always raised our two boys to be independent and we support the decisions that they do make. Andrew consulted with our family during the process but never once asked our opinion on what he should do with his life nor did we give it, that is HIS decision. To be honest I don’t know what I would have said, I would have loved to see him play his senior year, see him a couple times a week and every Sunday for family dinner. As a parent you hope you provide your kids with the life skills to make difficult decisions and I am proud of how Andrew has navigated this process.
Red has always been lovably cantankerous about his players leaving before their time. This goes several steps beyond that. Copp was not mentioned at the post-season banquet. When bitterness gets that prominent it starts to seem like a reason for the team's recent underperformance.
Red is going to be back next year, and then he is likely to retire. I'm not particularly optimistic about that final year. That Copp would leave probably doesn't say much about Copp.
For Larkin's part, here's Larkin:
"Not 100 percent," Larkin told The Windsor Star when asked if he's made a decision. "I'm still in between and weighing the options. I wanted to wait until after the tournament to make a decision.
"I'll probably take some time. I mean, I'm not in a rush. The seasons are over. There's really no rush. I really feel like there's not a wrong choice or a bad option. Either way I'm still going to be playing hockey and doing what I love.
"We'll see what's best for me."
I have a bad feel. NCAA muckety-mucks are complaining about the graduate transfer rule, because obviously. They do not have great reasons to do so:
"I don't think it fits the core values of intercollegiate athletics," said Sun Belt Conference commissioner Karl Benson.
When asked for specifics on the conflict with core values, Benson said, "It just doesn't feel right."
The core values of intercollegiate athletics are what exactly? If it's about getting an education, these players have already acquired bachelors' degrees. If it's about a level playing field, that ship sailed, sunk, and turned into barnacles a long time ago. If it's about catering to coaches' whims… we should probably have more timeouts in basketball.
Pat Forde says that if the NCAA is actually concerned about their core values they'd look at the scourge of recruits reclassifying. It's not clear that such a thing is at all common—most kids who reclassify are in fact forgoing a prep year, not accelerating. And the ones who do always have the option of, like, not doing so. It's hard to see what the harm is there. Forde's attempt to conjure one is unconvincing:
A senior year of high school is among the priceless commodities in life. I hope giving that away in part because some coach needs you now is a good decision for Thornton. It certainly seems to be one more example of the coach controlling the athlete more than vice versa.
High school is nice and all but if you told me I could go to prom or start at point guard for Duke I think I might take the latter. Thornton could still pick any school he wants as a class of 2016 player; that Duke presented him with an option he found attractive is not a problem.
Then there are the academic questions. By all accounts, Thornton is a bright young man and he may have been planning his class load with this accelerated graduation in mind. But will he be ready – early – for the classroom challenge at Duke? It's not exactly like going to UNLV.
It is. It is exactly like going to UNLV because every school has easy classes for people not interested in requirement X. I was in some at Michigan. Forde probably doesn't know that college hockey was well ahead of the curve here, with three top-ten NHL picks (Zach Werenski, Noah Hanifin, and Hobey winner Jack Eichel) arriving after accelerating their studies. It seems likely that both Werenski and Hanifin will be back at their respective schools next year, which they could only do if they were coping academically.
Increased flexibility for players is generally a good thing. Let them accelerate cake and graduate transfer cake.
Don't mind if I schadenfreude, thanks. EDSBS's ERASE THIS GAME series strikes upon the USF-Notre Dame game that caused Brian Kelly to turn into Yosemite Sam. Notre Dame's next game was this one:
If you could get in the college football hall of fame for making fanbases other than your own happy, Rees would be a holy lock.
Now when is #M00N happening EDSBS? For pants' sake.
Scouting centers. Brendan Quinn on Austin Davis and Jon Teske:
Davis: While quiet in-person, he's not shy on the floor.
Davis is aggressive with the ball, while remaining steady and methodical, refusing to rush. He knows how to work offensively on the low blocks, utilizing good hands and a soft touch. Most importantly, Davis looks to score the ball. Points to just come to him -- he shows himself well on post-ups and gets his own points.
Teske: The shot-blocking ability is abundantly apparent. Teske is a natural with instinctual patience and timing. He's does well to go up and block shots in the air instead of lunging to get shots at the point of release. That defensive prowess translates to his movements and awareness on that end of the floor. Teske seems to anticipate without guessing, and looks to make defensive plays without leaving himself susceptible to mistakes.
Interesting that MLive is getting more into the scouting/video stuff for recruits. Davis got a bump to four stars on 247, BTW. It looks like there is going to be a severe difference of opinion between the sites on him. Brian Snow has made it clear that Scout is not going to follow suit.
Etc.: Tyus Battle will visit officially tomorrow; Duke has taken a big lead in the Crystal Ball, and this one doesn't seem like guesswork. Remember when a playoff was going to kill the bowls? Speaking of coach catering. On 2016 combo guard Bruce Brown.
Thursday, March 19, 2015
Michigan 5, Wisconsin 1
Michigan 1 Wisconsin 0 PPG 14:45 Hyman (20) from Larkin (30) and Werenski (16)
The puck rims around the boards off of an errant shot and is picked up by Boo Nieves. He passes to Zach Werenski at the point, who holds it just long enough to get the high defender moving before passing to Dylan Larkin on the wing.
Larkin somehow sneaks a shot underneath a charging defender. Zach Hyman is doing an excellent job screening in front, safely tucked underneath the defense and in front of Joel Rumpel. Larkin’s shot is deflects off of Hyman’s stick and under Rumpel’s pads.
The puck hits the bar in the back of the net and bounces out. Hyman slides to his right and backhands it in for good measure; after all, it’d be hard to disallow a goal on review if it goes in twice. Unless the ref meant to blow the whistle. I rescind my earlier comment.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the tournament]
Michigan 2 Wisconsin 0 EV 02:05 Sinelli (1) from Nieves (19) and Dancs (9)
Andrew Sinelli passes to Dexter Dancs on the boards. Dancs, who has two defenders closing on him, shovels the puck to Nieves.
Nieves carries through the neutral zone, weaving from the center of the ice to the wing. Sinelli steps into the center, and Nieves passes ahead to him.
Sinelli “shoots” and the puck bounces off the ice before taking a bizarre bounce in which it just keeps rising until Rumpel seems to realize he won’t be able to glove it.
By the time Rumpel’s able to get a read on where the puck’s going to land he’s too far out in his crease to recover. E8!
Michigan 3 Wisconsin 0 EV 04:48 Hyman (21) from Martin (9) and Larkin (31)
Cutler Martin stickhandles for a few seconds before stepping into a heavy wrist shot.
Hyman has once again set up in front of Rumpel, and the critical mistake here comes from Wisconsin’s Tim Davison. Instead of checking Hyman, he takes a step toward the Michigan player skating behind the net before realizing his mistake, stopping, and reversing direction. By this time the shot has already reached the front of the net, where it deflects in off of Hyman.
Michigan 3 Wisconsin 1 EV 09:14 Soleway from Hughes
The puck goes to the corner off a stopped slap shot. Jedd Soleway moves behind the net at this point and no one goes with him. Cameron Hughes passes to the now-wide-open Soleway.
Soleway turns on the puck and attempts a wraparound backhander that Racine initially stops with his left leg pad. There are still no defenders close enough to Soleway to move him out of the crease, and he pushes Racine (and subsequently the puck) across the line before he’s knocked over.
Michigan 4 Wisconsin 1 EV 14:23 Larkin (15) from Sinelli (4) and Selman (12)
There’s no chance I can do this justice with screen caps. Watch. Enjoy.
Michigan 5 Wisconsin 1 EV 17:39 Selman (11) from Larkin (32) and Hyman (31)
Larkin has the puck deep and passes to Hyman because he has a fairly open lane to get behind the net. Hyman has to spin, but he’s able to shake his man (as he’s done all season).
Hyman passes back to Larkin, who’s on the opposite wing now. Justin Selman was in the slot and slides down to the goaltender’s left.
No one picks up Selman, and Larkin dishes through the netfront area. Selman shovels the puck at the right time and gets enough under it to lift it over Rumpel’s leg.
Friday, March 20, 2015
Michigan 4, Michigan State 1
Michigan 1 MSU 0 PPG 12:59 Downing (6) from Copp (17) and Motte (13)
Andrew Copp passes to Michael Downing, and Downing moves laterally to the middle of the ice.
He throws a wrist shot on net…
…that hits John Draeger’s leg. It flutters up and over Jake Hildebrand’s shoulder; he had virtually no chance at stopping a redirection that was that close that shifted direction that much.
Michigan 1 MSU 1 PPG 08:41 Berry from MacEachern and Jacobs
Jacobs passes down the boards to MacEachern, who in turn passes to Berry in the corner. Berry’s given time and space and, being a sentient being with an ounce of hockey sense, walks to the front of the net.
Ah, yes. Yet another defensive breakdowns of the season-in-a-nutshell summations variety. You can take your pick (spoiler: there are more to come in this post), but this is the one I’ll remember. Three guys near Berry, no one able to do a thing to alter his path to the front of the net.
Michigan 2 MSU 1 EV 11:36 Compher (12) from Kile (13)
A pass that’s too far behind DeBlouw bounces off the boards to Alex Kile and turns into a 2-on-1 rush.
Kile gains the zone and passes to JT Compher, who’s lagging a good deal behind. That works to Michigan’s advantage, however, in that it gives Compher a long time to pick his shot. He also has space, as defender was in line with Kile and his momentum carries him toward the goaltender.
Compher’s able to load up and shoot what appears to be a stoppable snap shot from the high slot. It’s perfectly placed in the top corner, and Hildebrand can’t glove it.
Michigan 3 MSU 1 EV 09:14 Nieves (7) from Dancs (7) and Motte (21)
Tyler Motte shoots from the outside and (surprise) Hildebrand stops it.
He does give up a rebound, and Dancs chops at it before being hauled down. Hildebrand kicks at it and the pucks ends up behind the net.
Motte being on the outside of his defender works to his advantage as he’s able to get to the puck on the wall first. Motte sees Nieves in the high slot and the MSU defense’s attention turned toward him, and he puts a nice pass through traffic that Nieves one-times past a sprawled Hildebrand.
Michigan 4 MSU 1 EV 13:40 Kile (12) from Nieves (20)
Nieves starts the play with a nice stretch pass to Kile. You can see three defenders on the opposite side of the ice, and Kile’s far enough ahead that he’s going to get an opportunity to shoot.
Compher is tied up, so there’s no pass to be made. Look at the rotation in Kile’s lower half. He uses this to snap an impressive wrist shot toward Hildebrand.
Yet another perfectly-placed shot beats Hildebrand high, this time in the near-side corner.
Saturday, March 21, 2015
Michigan 2, Minnesota 4
Michigan 0 Minnesota 1 PPG 02:30 Boyd from Rau and Cammarata
Cammarata passes to Rau at the side of the net.
Rau somehow threads the puck through the crease to Boyd, who’s kind of preposterously open. With a net that open Boyd just has to not mess up, and he doesn’t.
Michigan 1 Minnesota 1 PPG 03:56 Hyman (22) unassisted
Hyman wins a battle along the boards, splits two defenders, and starts to skate to the middle of the slot. There’s a defender waiting there and so I would normally consider this a bad idea, but it’s Hyman. He can do whatever he wants.
I don’t mean that in the sense that I’m giving him a free pass; I mean he can do what he wants in a literal way. He dekes the defender, pulling the puck back and turning him into a pylon.
Wilcox also bites on the deke and sprawls across his crease. Hyman simply lifts the puck over his outstretched arm.
Michigan 2 Minnesota 1 PPG 06:14 Kile (13) from Nieves (21) and Hyman (32)
Kile carries the puck deep in the offensive zone, but gets knocked off of it near the side of the net.
Hyman wins the battle for the loose puck. He shovels it to Nieves, who sees that Kile has gone around the back of the net and is unchecked. Kile takes the pass and taps it in.
Michigan 2 Minnesota 2 EV 10:34 Rau from Fasching and Bristedt
Kevin Lohan inexplicably pinches in the neutral zone, which creates a 2-on-1 opportunity for one of the most offensively talented teams in the nation.
Rau passes across Werenski’s face to Fasching.
Fasching beats a turning Werenski and passes back across to Rau. Racine now has no help; it’s a 2-on-0 once Fasching beats Werenski.
Racine comes out to challenge Fasching, but that does nothing to stop Rau. As soon as the puck leaves Fasching’s stick it’s over. Rau more or less redirects it in from a sharp angle.
Michigan 2 Minnesota 3 PPG 09:29 Kloos from Bristedt and Brodzinski
Minnesota just barely holds the puck in at the line. Michigan’s changing one defender, and this leaves a pass to the middle of the ice open.
As Kloos starts skating to the net Lohan dives. A pet peeve of mine is defensemen diving early, and this is the perfect example why.
Kloos takes another stride and moves the puck around Lohan’s legs, happily taking a fall for an easy goal. Racine’s not blameless here, though; he went into his butterfly at the same time Lohan dove (both were too early) and can’t recover or push across to stop the shot.
Michigan 2 Minnesota 4 EN 19:38 Boyd
This is the part of the post where I’m supposed to write about how I feel, but I don’t feel anything. I liken this to developing a callus. By the end of the third year of repetitive pain and emotional friction I have now developed the requisite emotional callus to write weekly about Michigan hockey.
I can't remember ever following a team that came into the season so fully formed. What they were at the beginning they were at the end; thrilling, maddening, dynamic, listless. The players who made improvements in the offseason carried those through the year (Hyman, Kile) while those who entered the year unchanged maintained their developmental plateau (Serville, Downing, etc). There were no Zac Irvin-like development leaps on this team. They were what they were, which is largely what they've been for three seasons.
This is where the emotional callus works in my favor. I feel nothing because I think I'm largely able to predict the outcome of a game or series before it's played. This is not something to brag about. I want to be surprised; I think most sports fans do. I want to have Michigan play a road series where the losses don't seem preordained. Most of all, I want to remember what it's like to have hope.
If we watch sports to escape the monotony of everyday life, if we watch them to feel something, then the disappointment in the 2014-15 Michigan hockey team is derived from the temporality of the feelings evoked. Watching Zach Hyman split defenders and screen goaltenders and backhand ridiculous shots in provided momentary relief, as did Dylan Larkin's sublime skating and vision with the puck. What they did, however, never seemed to transcend the pull back to mediocrity. Here comes the failed clearing attempt. Here comes the odd-man rush. Here comes the soft goal. Here comes the Friday night loss. Here comes the road sweep. There goes the tournament berth.
As for the septuagenarian elephant in the room, the writing's no longer on the wall, it's in the record book. The Streak was bound to end at some point, but we've moved beyond missing the tournament being an anomaly and are onto it being habit. Something's changed in the last three years; porous defense seems to be to blame on a micro level and Mel Pearson's departure responsible on a macro level.
I think firing Red with one year left on his contract is an exercise in futility. At best you (hopefully) get Mel Pearson back a year sooner, and at worst you alienate former players and a large portion of the fanbase. It would be like shoving a houseguest through the doorframe when they’re already on the way out. Red’s teams struggled at the beginning of his career and they’re struggling at the end, but the middle was so special that I have no problem letting him leave on his own terms. I take Red at his word, that he will step down when he doesn’t think he has what it takes to make Michigan successful.
It seems like the program is treading water in a lap pool; it’s not technically an incorrect use but it’s certainly not maximizing the potential of what’s there. Maybe what the team needs to break the cycle is for Red to let them know he’s officially going to be done after next season. Maybe they’ll realize that the senior class could be the only one since before the internet existed to not go to the tournament. There’s no “we’ll get ‘em next year” when there’s no next year. I have no idea whether this could get guys to buy in to playing more intelligently defensively, but if nothing else has worked over three years it’s as valid to believe it could as any other motivational tool or coaching point.
Goal-by-Goal Analysis is supposed to be relatively impartial because it’s based off of photographic evidence. A side effect of seeing photographic evidence of the same thing over and over is that I feel I have a good grasp on the symptoms of what’s wrong but still no formal diagnosis. Frustration has turned into helplessness, and that has permuted into numbness. It’s at this point, of course, that the picture of Andrew Copp that’s at the top of the page shows up. No adjective I’ve used to describe how I feel about this team describes that photo. There is, thankfully, mercifully, no callus acting as a buffer for Copp. He still feels.
Michigan ends up one win short of the NCAA tournament for the third straight year, so here's this. I'm operating under the assumption that Berenson will continue, but it's not like anything is going to change in terms of personnel if he decides to retire.
Hockey has a LaVell Blanchard now [Paul Sherman]
Michigan loses Zach Hyman and Travis Lynch from the forward corps, plus defensemen Mike Chiasson, Brennan Serville, and Andrew Sinelli. Third goalie Luke Dwyer also departs.
Hobey finalist Hyman is obviously the biggest loss from that group. Hyman was incredible driving zone time and scoring points next to Larkin, and disrupting that line is a great misfortune. Other than Hyman, though, losses are minimal. Lynch was a fourth-liner; Chiasson barely played; Sinelli bounced between F and D. Serville is the most prominent non-Hyman departure, and his career was a frustrating exercise that saw little improvement.
MICHIGAN HOCKEY SUMMER CANDIDATES
IE, guys who might leave during the interminable attrition period between the final game and the first one next year.
Larkin was rather good. [Bill Rapai]
There are two prime candidates: Wings first-round pick Dylan Larkin and pending top-ten draftee Zach Werenski. Either departing would be a surprise. Larkin recently reiterated that he's "not looking to go as soon as possible" and talks like he is not even considering a departure:
"The future is bright and I think with all of us coming back, we will be even stronger next year."
Meanwhile the Wings tend to leave their prospects in lower leagues a painfully long time. Larkin is not likely to be an impact NHL player next year, and smart organizations tend to delay signing their prospects to team-friendly entry level contracts anyway.
Meanwhile, Werenski is already at Michigan and is a defenseman. Defenders develop more slowly and Michigan has had only one D leave after one year: Jacob Trouba. Werenski was pretty good last year, but he was not Trouba. Werenski skipped his last year of high school to enroll, so next year "should" be his freshman year.
Aside from those two, Copp and Compher would probably be the most attractive to NHL teams but don't seem like the type to go early or have their teams pressure them hard. Recruit Kyle Connor seems particularly set on Michigan over major junior but if he gets drafted by an NCAA-phobic organization they could pressure him to change course.
Never say never when you're talking about Michigan Hockey Summer, but it looks like Michigan will get through unscathed.
The aforementioned Kyle Connor is the star of the class, a lightning-quick forward with slick hands who led the league in scoring and cracked the top ten of all-time USHL career points on the way. He is projected as a mid-first round pick in the upcoming NHL draft and should slot directly on to a scoring line.
F Brendan Warren will arrive from the NTDP and should be a second-or-third round pick; he had a solid 16-16-32 line in 49 games for the U18s last year. Chris Dilks scouted him in November:
Warren has always been an excellent skater, and he showed a good compete level and willingness to work along the boards and go into rough areas along the ice. But he just hasn't developed into the scorer that many thought he would when he committed to Michigan at a young age. Warren held his own when he took a few shifts with the top scoring line, but he's not a player that's going to create a lot of offense for himself and others.
Sounds like a version of Motte that's a half-step worse on offense.
Former Canadian junior B winger Connor Murphy also enters. He moved to the USHL for his final year of competition before college and struggled to maintain the torrid scoring pace that first brought him to the attention of various scouts. His 13-14-27 in 51 games with Chicago indicates a guy who might develop but should be looked at as a fourth-liner to start.
On defense, Michigan has a couple of potential draftees in Joe Cecconi and Nick Boka. Cecconi is projected as a third or fourth rounder and has a reputation as a steady, big stay-at-home guy:
“He does everything well – moves well, uses the size that he has,” Central Scouting’s David Gregory said. “But his presence and how he uses the game from the back end is one of the most impressive things.”
Cecconi’s calmness with the puck and mobility has impressed Gregory. So has his rapid development. He noticed improvements in just a short span during the summer.
Gregory wants to track Cecconi’s offensive improvements this season.
“He snaps the puck when he passes it, shoots it, so there’s going to be opportunities for him to be involved in offense as well,” he said. “He was getting a little bit of power-play time, albeit it in preseason, and he’s on a good team, so we’ll see.”
At 6'2" and almost 210 as of a year ago, he should be physically ready to play. He's the highest-rated USHL defenseman in this year's draft.
Boka played with the U18s last year and might be a late draft pick. Like Cecconi, he's a relatively big and mobile defensive defenseman, with just 7 points last year. His star has apparently fallen some since he was rated almost on par with Werenski by Over The Boards:
4. 97 D Nick Boka – NTDP U18 – Michigan
The Michigan recruit has an aggressive, athletic upside that could come on very strong in his draft year. Wins battles in the tough areas of the ice and can provide puck support. We like Werenski’s total skillset more right now, but Boka could easily emerge as the best American talent on the blue line in this draft behind Hanifin.
Boka committed a while ago so Yost Built put together a full dossier on him; he decommitted from MSU, giving Michigan the tantalizing possibility of rolling out a maximum-MSU-troll pairing of Boka and East Lansing native Cutler Martin.
If Michigan does lose a player to the NHL or other attrition, they could fill the hole by accelerating a player who is currently ticketed for 2016; the most likely player there would be Cooper Marody, who's both old enough to be eligible for this NHL draft and projected to go in the middle rounds of it. He finished 11th in USHL scoring this year, so he is probably ready to contribute in college.
Michigan is also in the conversation for uber-prospect Auston Matthews, who scored 87(!) points for the NTDP U18s as an underager this year and is projected to be the top pick in the 2016 draft. He's a certain one-and-done who has not yet decided on a team for next year. Like Werenski, Matthews would be entering college a year before his time. He is not only deciding between the WHL and college but also between BC, BU, Michigan, etc.
WHAT ABOUT GOALIE?
Racine was excellent… this weekend [Sherman]
Mike Spath reports that Michigan will delay the enrollment($) of Hayden Lavigne after he struggled to a .881 USHL save percentage last year.
That would leave Michigan rolling with the same two guys who could not lock the job down this year unless they bring in a grad transfer… and they are looking for those. Spath says they are vetting former UNH goalie Casey DeSmith, who was booted from the Wildcat team after domestic violence accusations that passed muster at neither the court nor university level*. There are also a couple of guys in platoon situations at smaller schools, like Alaska's Sean Cahill, who might be interested.
*[Link is the text of a press release from DeSmith's parents and should be taken in that light. I couldn't find any actual reporting on the case.]
USELESS BUT MANDATORY LINE GUESSES
A senior version of Copp is probably the nearest equivalent to Hyman on the roster; Larkin will have to drive more play next year, with Copp helping win the possession battles and Selman continuing his role as the guy who gets in good places and finishes.
Compher can return to his natural center spot between two extremely skilled offensive players.
I like Shuart's combination of size and speed and feel he'll move up as he enters his upperclass years; he is a prime candidate for Random Breakout Forward. Nieves has been a bit of a disappointment so far but did put up a solid 7-20-27 line and has his uses.
Motte is a generally talented fellow without any standout talent other than doggedness; I do wonder if Michigan might reunite him with Compher, as the two played very well together when they were freshmen and Compher had an off year on the scoresheet.
Take your pick of fourth liners. Dancs played in almost every game but was penalty-prone and –4 on the year. Calderone got 28 games last year and showed a little bit of offense (3-6-9); Warren is probably the most talented of the remaining forwards.
(Also: Talcott, Allen, Murphy)
Talcott and Allen did little in limited time a year ago; Murphy will probably need a year to adjust to college.
USELESS BUT MANDATORY D PAIRING GUESSES
On defense, the roster doesn't really lend itself to traditional 1-2-3 pairings since each one will have an established left-hander and a question mark or two on the right, but in very vague order:
Werenski is enormously talented and began coming into his own late last year as a puck-rushing offensive defenseman. The defense bit could still use some work—no surprise given that last year was scheduled to be his NTDP U18 season until he accelerated. Add some weight and get him more acquainted with what he's supposed to do without the puck and you're gonna have a good time.
As for Cecconi, normally you would not want to put a freshman on your top pairing but Michigan's top three returning D are all left-handed shots. A 6'2" stay-at-home guy who shoots opposite Werenski and is #70 in the current CSB sounds like a good idea.
Martin was probably Michigan's best all-around defender by the end of last year. He's physical without being penalty-prone (just 16 PIMs compared to Downing's 76), he has a nasty snap shot from the point, and he doesn't make the boggling decisions some of his compatriots have made. In a season full of defensive frustrations he was a lone bright spot.
Lohan was just a guy last year but he did play every game and didn't make many glaring mistakes until a bogglingly glaring one against Minnesota. He could end up opposite any of the lefties; it mostly depends on whether any of the freshmen clearly outperform him.
Downing's eventful year featured a 6-16-22 line plus those penalty minutes. He was erratic, laying out big hits and giving up odd-man rushes. The +/- gap between the three left-handed defensemen being discussed here is informative: Martin was +12, Werenski +11, Downing +3. He's frustrating.
Boka will probably slot in as a third-pairing stay-at-home guy.
Also: De Jong, Piazza, Porikos
De Jong got 23 games before being bumped from the lineup in favor of Sinelli; he was weak on the puck and Michigan tended to get stuck in their own end when he was on the ice. He will be called into action frequently as various defensemen invoke the ire of the coaches.
Piazza saw ten games, in which he did absolutely nothing I remember—not always bad for D. Porikos didn't play and seems to be just filling out the roster.
If they do get everyone back and a year older, the offense should be at about that level again: while Connor won't replace Hyman's production his addition plus an extra year for the rest of the eight scoring line players probably will. Some sort of regression to the mean is likely, but they should still score a ton.
Defense and goalie remain problems. Michigan managed to miss the tournament this year despite scoring almost four goals a game, a feat no one else has managed since the internet started having stats on it. (In fact the only team to get worse than a two seed was 2003 Michigan.)
The goaltenders collapsed from a year ago, when Nagelvoort had a year impressive enough to get him drafted as an overager. The defense was possibly worse—those save percentages were negatively impacted by the improbable odd man rushes given away on the regular.
And that's an area I'm not sure gets better. Michigan hasn't seen a lot of improvement from their defensemen since Pearson left. The good guys showed up good and the ones who weren't so good stayed that way. Late in the third period of the Minnesota game, Downing stepped up to lay a thunderous hit… and gave up a two on one as a result. That stuff happens all the time now. The goal to tie it 2-2 was Lohan getting far too aggressive and turning a harmless neutral zone play into a two on one.
That stuff is now all too typical: errors borne of nonsense aggression. At this point you can't just wave that away with "they'll learn." They might. Recent history makes you a little dubious they will.