there would have to be some to wash away
mgoblog, hockey edition
Nagelvoort rides to the rescue
Due to some recording snafus I ended up catching only the final two periods of Friday's game and the third period Saturday, along with the overtimes. Also, the feed FCS picked up looked like an internet stream and it was really hard to figure out who anyone other than Kevin Lohan was even though the announcers tried their damndest to keep us informed. (Seriously, they were great.) I didn't actually see any goals until the Motte winner on Saturday, though I saw replays of some of them. Not enough to write a column, but here are various bullets:
That was probably a good UNH team. The Wildcats were 20-12-7 last year, 13-8-6 in Hockey East, reaching the second round of the NCAA tournament. They lost a couple of their better forwards but returned the vast bulk of their scoring—10 of their top 12—and both goalies. They opened with a solid win over Clarkson in the Icebreaker and then lost 3-2 to Minnesota. By the end of the year that's going to be another quality scalp for Pairwise purposes. Michigan's done a lot of work in just two weeks here.
So far so good for Nagelvoort. Man, when Racine went down with what was obviously a groin issue that I'd be lasts a month or maybe longer (he's definitely out this weekend, and not practicing), dark thoughts flitted through my head. Nagelvoort comes out, my former goalie buddy remarks on how enormous his pads are, and he proceeds to shut UNH out through a rampant third period in which they outshoot Michigan 14-2, with one of those stops an impressive recovery on a penalty shot.
The next night he holds UNH to two goals through an entire game and overtime. Four games in Michigan's save percentage is .937 as a team and Nagelvoort is at .949. Massive sample size disclaimers are of course warranted. It's still the best possible start you could have hoped for minus the Racine injury. Hopefully it keeps up.
Power play: extant. Michigan's 6 of their first 16, a 38% strike rate, and that feels like a sustainable thing since Michigan's been going up against good teams and has been setting up in the zone for extended periods of time. The puck movement is night and day from last year, when their single idea was "get the puck to Trouba." It's too early for me to tell you much else—I get my mind around hockey things slowly.
Recovery. Michigan scrambled their lines for the first time this year after they got pinned in their zone for disturbingly long stretches of the third period on Friday night. They ended up getting outshot nearly 2 to 1 and that was a fair reflection of the play on the ice, if aided by buckets of penalties—UNH had eight power plays. The next night the script flipped and Michigan was better in the last 25 minutes.
Buddies. Michigan's line scramble affected almost everyone but did leave two forward pairs joined: Copp/DeBlois and Motte/Compher. I expect those pairings are untouchable with the success the former has had since its formation at midseason last year—Copp also leads the team in points with 6—and the success the latter's had since their NTDP days. Motte and Compher have already connected on a number of plays that show great understanding of each other and seem like they're more than the sum of their parts when they're on the ice together.
The defense is about what we expected. Bennett is far more aggressive with his puck rushes, Clare's slow speed of thought on the ice gets Michigan trapped in their own zone too often, and Serville continues to make scary mistakes. The freshmen have been a pleasant surprise, especially Lohan, who I figured would mostly ride the bench but has been in the way of a lot of scoring plays. Judgments here are still extremely tentative—ask me again after the upcoming four-game homestand.
Michigan's going to need to get some more playmaking from these guys. Successful passes to set up rushes have been lacking. Four games in the defensemen have four points between them, all of them assists, three of them Clare's.
Nieves stands out. Nieves had the proverbial jump over the weekend; on Friday his line was the primary one generating chances in the final two periods. The shuffle put him with Guptill and Hyman and while they didn't score the line got Guptill seven shots. That is a good guy to get shots; Nieves seems to be emerging. Di Giuseppe, too, seems to be more active this year.
“Bring me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”
Look, we need to talk. I’m worried about you. I mean, look at you. There are bags under your eyes, you’re pale, I mean…look, something just isn’t right. It’s the loss to Penn State, isn’t it? I haven’t seen you this upset after a loss since…well, since that other guy (you know, the one who wore the red wrist band) was still in town.
Guess what? I’ve got something to soothe your chapped and chafed sports-soul. It’s Michigan hockey. Weren’t expecting that after last year, were ya? Frankly, neither was I. And yet here we are, just two games into the new season and last year seems like a memory that we might just be able to get rid of and finally move on from. Last year was a memory burr; it hung around longer than it should have and felt like it might be impossible to get rid of, but once it was gone there was such sweet relief. See, a win over a Boston College squad that’s one of the top five in the country isn’t enough to do it alone. It’s the combination of not only winning but also showing defensive acumen and energy and situational awareness that’s so reassuring.
The official scoring sheet says that Michigan outshot BC over the course of the game, but let’s dig a little deeper. Below you’ll find Corsi tables, and if you aren’t sure what Corsi is read this post from last week.
Things didn't look good early on. Michigan was keeping up with Boston College, but that's about it. Granted, they did get a nice power play snipe from Luke Moffatt (whose performance was the focal point of Brian's excellent post), but that's about it. It seemed as though Michigan was doing all they could just to hang on for 20 minutes; hanging around for 60 is an entirely different thing, and winning that next 40 minutes is a different animal entirely.
Well, looks like the tables are starting to turn. Michigan and BC went back and forth this period, but Michigan looked better getting the puck out of their zone and moving it through the neutral zone. The shot totals above don't match the official scoring sheet, so it's worth noting the caveat that comes with this analysis; when the game is only available in standard def that's what I have to watch it in, and it can be hard to tell whether the puck hit the goalie or went just wide. Having said that, I do believe in what I saw and wrote down. We'll see how this takes shape over the course of the season.
The numbers end up looking like Michigan dominated the period, but that isn't how it began. BC carried the play in the first few minutes, and Michigan was allowing this to happen. They moved a forward high to defend and were dumping the puck in. Midway through the period this changed, and Michigan dropped the conservative schtick and started to move the puck again. One thing that went well: passing toa teammate on a zone entry and letting them carry the puck in instead of dumping it into the corner.
Michigan outplayed a higher ranked opponent by forechecking hard, backchecking hard, and making intelligent passes to keep the puck moving and away from the opponent. Michigan won. Read that again. Now do it again. Michigan (yes, that Michigan) beat an incredibly talented team and by game’s end made them look overmatched. Whether Michigan hockey is really back remains to be seen but this is certainly the only way to start.
As for overall shot percentages, I’ll let Seth handle that. He had a cool table in last week’s Dear Diary post and I don’t want to step on his toes because intellectual property, man. A quick programming note: I read your comments on the last article and haven’t given up on goal-by-goal analysis posts. I’m going to continue with this (because I think collecting the data over a full season will be worthwhile) but also start GBGA’s when the B1G season starts. Also, I can only do Corsi analyses for games that I have in full, so there won’t be one for the RIT game. Should be a Corsi post for this weekend's games, though, so look for that next week.
Think back to when you started reading mgoblog. Remeber that feeling of validation that there were indeed people out there like you, people who wanted to write about football in way that was funny but also disarmingly analytical? A site that values both memes and knowing the average yards per play for every formation Michigan has run so far this season is my kind of place. It's the reason I've been reading this site since 2006.
My objective for the coming hockey season is to add something empirical to the mix. I've always gravitated towards advanced stats in hockey, and for those of you who follow college hockey know all too well these types of statistics aren't readily available outside of the NHL. What I'm going to attempt to do is track Michigan's Corsi rating over the entire season.
Of course, Corsi is just one statistic (even if I'll break it down into a number of different components). The "big idea" behind Corsi is that you have to hold on to the puck to score, and that the team who does a better job of this has a better chance of winning. At the end of the day it provides some interesting insight into puck possession and could be useful for gauging the strength or weakness of special teams play, but it isn't a be-all-end-all stat. There are score effect problems, most notably that even strengh Corsi or Corsi from within one goal in the first and second periods is correlated with winning but it gets dicey in other situations. More on this later.
If you're looking for a nice overview of the statistic you can find that here.
What I need to know from you guys is whether you find it interesting and useful enough to continue tracking. If the fine folks of the MGoCommunity don't like it then I'll go back to writing up goal-by-goal analysis posts like these.
That's cool and all but this post is really boring me. No pictures yet? Come on, do you at least have charts?
Charts? This is mgoblog, fergodsake. Of course I have charts! Let's start by looking at things by period before looking at the bigger picture.
You don't have to know much about Corsi to see that Michigan carried the play in the first period. 72.9% of shot attempts came from the Wolverines, yet Waterloo ended up with the lone first period goal. Michigan made one mistake in defensive coverage in front of their own net and Waterloo took advantage. It's worth noting, however, that Michigan's Corsi total was bolstered by time on the power play (Waterloo didn't have one in the 1st). UM recorded five shots, seven missed shots, and five blocked shots over their two power plays.
Waterloo seemed to carry play in the second period and the Corsi numbers reflect that. Michigan's goal was something of a fluke, coming after Waterloo's goaltender badly misplayed the puck in front of his own net. Waterloo did get on the power play in the 2nd period, but they failed to register a shot. Their power play generated one missed shot and two blocked shots. Michigan's power play registered three shots, two missed shots, and two blocked shots.
Here's where the score effect problem I mentioned earlier comes into play. Waterloo was content to carry the puck into the neutral zone and play dump-and-chase in order to burn clock, and when you're playing that style a byproduct is a reduction in the number of shots you take. As you can see, that's certainly reflected in the numbers above.
Michigan had the edge in every category tracked here, yet they couldn't convert opportunities into results. I think that the reason for this lies in the type of shots Michigan was taking; most were from the perimeter, and perimeter shots are much easier for a goaltender to stop than shots through traffic. It will be interesting to see how the possession game plays out against BC, a team with a notoriously stringent defense.
Don't you usually draw on screencaps or something? Why are there all these charts?
Yeah, I call the screencap thing goal-by-goal analysis. I'm not set on moving away from that completely, but I want to know if people find the info above interesting. Like it and I'll keep tracking it, hate it and I'll go back to GBGA.
Mac Bennett's projected partner: also Mac Bennett
|Mac Bennett||Sr.||Mike Downing||Fr.|
|Kevin Clare||Sr.||Brennan Serville||Jr.|
|Mike Szuma||Jr.||Nolan De Jong||Fr.|
ALSO: Mike Chiasson (Jr), Spencer Hyman (Fr), Kevin Lohan (Fr)
THIS IS WHERE IT GETS STICKY. The simultaneous departures of Jon Merrill and Jacob Trouba leave Michigan's blue line in a spot that is icky at best. While they've got a couple of NHL draft picks incoming, there's a major difference between Trouba, a top ten pick who is going to make the Jets this year, and Mike Downing, a fourth-rounder who Billy Powers says is "a bit skin and bones" at the moment.
But let's start with the nice bit. MAC BENNETT returns for his final year in a winged helmet wearing the C. He toned his game down last year when he found himself paired with Trouba, eschewing the puck-rushing style he flashed his first two years so that he could be a more reliable defensive partner for a dynamic player. He still put up points at an encouraging rate until he was hewn down in the disastrous 5-1 loss to Bowling Green that seemed to be the last straw for Red. He returned a month later on the second pairing—Merrill's return bumped him—and performed ably down the stretch. Miraculously, his +/- was zero on the year. Despite all his talent, Trouba did not fare nearly as well in that (admittedly wonky) stat.
This year, Michigan needs him to be Trouba, and all-phases crusher who sucks up shift after shift. If Red is ever going to throw over his policy of relatively even time, this is the year. Bennett should be logging Jack Johnson-in-Columbus time, playing all three phases and attempting to shut down the opposition's best on a nightly basis. Powers provided some Fred Jackson-level reassurance when he talked to the Canadiens' official site:
“Mac Bennett will be a dominant college defenseman [this season]. We expect him to be the most dominant offensive and defensive defenseman in the Big Ten. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it,” added Powers. “Every night, there will be someone in the building who will say – ‘That No. 37 is special’.”
Powers also said he's an “elite skater with incredible explosion and incredible endurance"; that latter quality should be put to the test.
Expect a resurgence of the offensive flair Bennett showed his first couple years, because it's not coming from anywhere else on this defense corps and whoever ends up pairing Bennett will be shot if he so much as thinks about getting up ice.
Now, who partners with Bennett? Your options are all frightening on some level. The primary contenders:
- The aforementioned MIKE DOWNING, who has promise and offensive upside but saw his stock drop significantly in his final year of junior and needs to fill out.
- Senior KEVIN CLARE, who provides zero offense (0-2-2 last year, 12 shots), was –9 last year in just 19 games, and was scratched for the final 14 because of disciplinary issues.
- Junior BRENNAN SERVILLE, who seems like he should be more of an offensive defenseman of only because he tends to give you hives with his decisions but is as bereft as Clare is in the points department (1-2-3, 21 shots) and was scratched for 11 games himself last year. But I guess he was +3? Woo?
I'm going with Downing, mostly because I cringe at the idea of Clare or Serville on a top pairing and haven't seen the freshman yet, but I could also see the job going to Clare, since Downing has some offensive upside in his game:
"He carries the puck well out of the zone and makes good decisions on when to hang on to it or move it ahead. Sees the ice well in transition and has a pro pass. He is willing to mix it up, especially when defending down low. He is also very good at moving the puck on the power play. He has a good, hard shot that he gets through to the net, but can and will fake his shot and make a quick pass to the open man. He is not afraid to jump to an open hole on the offensive attack to create scoring chances. He will need to show all of this with more consistency for the next level."
Michigan may want to split those two guys in an effort to have a puck-mover on the ice for most of the game. Clare's just going to sit back, break up plays, and try to get the puck out of the zone, and if he's out there with a lesser guy that could result in spells of uncomfortable pressure.
As for Serville, I'm in full confirmation bias mode with him in which I magnify every mistake he makes. But I'm aware of it and I'm still nervous about having him in a major role. He was a draft pick a couple years back and defensemen take time, etc etc etc. I'll be pleasantly surprised if he makes a significant step forward.
[After THE JUMP: at least they've got a ton of third pairing guys?]
there are worse things than being inexplicably +5
BOTTOM PAIRING AND FURTHER DEPTH. Further down the roster you've got three more freshmen, hockey Kovacs, and a guy who lost his job to hockey Kovacs. Hockey Kovacs is MIKE SZUMA, who could not be less of an offensive threat if they did not provide him with a stick but played 30 games last year, acquired one point and just two minor penalties, and lead the team in +/- with +5. Nine of the ten games he missed occurred in the first 14 games of the season—you know, when Merrill was also out—and while Clare left the lineup for reasons not entirely to do with on-ice performance, Szuma beat out Mike Chiasson straight up.
Szuma can't do much more than eat minutes against checking lines, but he evidently does that with aplomb. I'll be surprised if he doesn't lock down a third pairing slot this year. He is reliable, and that's in short supply.
Before the just-mentioned MIKE CHIASSON lost his job to Szuma he was another no-offense middling defensive defenseman. By the end of the year he was clearly seventh in the pecking order, scratched for almost the entirety of Michigan's encouraging season-enduring run (he played in place of Serville in a 6-2 win versus Northern Michigan). His –6 may be a bit deceiving since he more than anyone else on the roster bore the brunt of Michigan's terrible goaltending until Steve Racine's end-of-season run; no one else missed only those 10 games. He should rotate in, and be the exact same guy.
The most promising freshman other than downing is NOLAN DE JONG, a seventh-round pick of the Wild. Like Downing, he needs to fill out something fierce. The Wild's GM was uncharacteristically blunt when asked to describe him, calling him "physically weak," something he won't be able to get away with nearly as much in college.
Downing has a couple of years of a good play in the high-level USHL to his name; De Jong's performance is much less projectable since he comes in from the lower level BCHL, a firewagon hockey league in which save percentages are sad and scoreboards active. Downing was originally a Cornell commit, FWIW, and the CSB liked him a lot more than his draft position would indicate, ranking him 111th. His mobility is a strength. If he makes better decisions than Serville he could pop up onto that second line; if he gets blasted off the puck like Serville did as a freshman he'll be stuck on the third pairing.
Michigan brought in KEVIN LOHAN a year earlier than they might have; since Lohan is 6'5" and turns 20 today that should paint a clear picture for you: this is a project. Lohan emerged into a big-minutes guy for his BCHL team last year, and defensemen tend to develop slowly, so Michigan might have something there. Putting him in the top-four mix straight out of the BCHL is asking a lot.
Finally, Michigan brings in Zach Hyman's brother SPENCER HYMAN. Think Bob Gassoff; Hyman's unlikely to crack the lineup as a freshman.
MICHIGAN DROPS THE PUCK on Sunday in an exhibition against Waterloo to kick off their 2013-2014 hockey campaign; things get real serious real fast after that as BC comes in for the season opener proper on Thursday the 10th. While I can't go into as much detail as I do with football, a conveniently-timed bye week provides a window in which to properly preview hockey, something I'm not sure I've ever done.
say hello to your next two-year captain, Andrew Copp
The following is a fanciful line chart that will be wrong from day one in many respects, and even more wrong when Red runs his line through a blender four times. But you've got to try:
|LEFT WING||YR||CENTER||YR||RIGHT WING||YR|
|Alex Guptill||Jr.||Andrew Copp||So.||Boo Nieves||So.|
|Phil Di Giuseppe||Jr.||JT Compher||Fr.||Derek DeBlois||Sr.|
|Tyler Motte||Fr.||Travis Lynch||Jr.||Luke Moffatt||Sr.|
|Evan Allen||Fr.||Justin Selman||So.||Zach Hyman||Jr.|
ALSO: Andrew Sinelli (Jr), Alex Kile (Fr), Max Shuart (Fr)
I call him mini-Copp
CENTER. The theory here is that a year after Michigan struggled with leadership everywhere they will prioritize guys who give maximum effort on every shift and build the team around a core of hard-ass centers. Andrew Copp is obvious. Copp was handed the reins of the top line halfway through the season and almost singlehandedly turned the attitude of the team around. Copp worked his ass off, inspired Alex Guptill to great heights, and finished the year with something of a scoring flourish. He's still developing after a career as a high school quarterback made hockey a part-time pastime, and his freshman year was good enough to draw the attention of the NHL after being passed over a year ago. If Michigan can make good on the promise of their late season run this year and for the next few, Copp will go down like Ortmeyer or Hagelin.
Meanwhile, every scouting report on incoming freshman JT Compher goes out of its way to praise Compher's compete level and two-way play:
Compher's NTDP coach Don Granato summed it up pretty well in Compher's hometown newspaper: ""Anything intangible, as far as an attribute, that I’ve mentioned, he’s a 10."
The phrase "two-way forward" is often the polite cliche for a player with not a lot of offensive talent, but in Compher's case, it's not used in a derogatory fashion. Compher is one of the rare skilled players that exhibits the same effort and enthusiasm without the puck that he does with the puck. He's a tenacious, sometimes nasty, defender that makes life difficult for opponents. His compete level all over the ice is among the best in the draft.
Despite not having awesome size or speed, Compher led the NTDP in PPG last year. He is ready for a lot of responsibility, probably right now. Billy Powers isn't even being coy about it:
J.T. is a guy who really has a lot of tools. He’s being talked about a lot as a defensive, third-line forward type but there’s some offensive potential there as well, and we think that will flourish in college. We see him as a power play, penalty kill player right from the start, and he’ll manage a line as a center in our top six.
If you thought one Copp was rather nice, two Copps will be like heaven after suffering through last year.
[After THE JUMP: actual rather a lot of depth.]
In the bottom six, Justin Selman is a lock at one of the two center spots. He and Zach Hyman teamed to give Michigan a high-effort, cycling fourth line last year. They barely scored but were not frequently scored upon; at points last year you could have argued they were the core of the second-best line on particular nights.
The final center spot is probably Travis Lynch's. Lynch was Michigan's go-to faceoff guy a year ago, winning 55% of his nearly 550 attempts. Only AJ Treais approached that many faceoffs and he was the worst FO guy to get an appreciable number of attempts. Lynch is an unbelievably boring offensive player, but scraped his way to a +1 rating a year ago despite just eight points to his name—think about that on a team with Michigan's collective save percentage—and took vanishingly few penalties: three minors, a major, and a misconduct. He is the boringly reliable checking center from central casting.
Guptill and Nieves will probably flank Copp
WINGS. This is one big bucket to me since Michigan will scramble things around. I have Nieves and Allen on off wings, FWIW. For Allen that makes a lot of sense since his scouting report is Jeff Tambellini but slow. You may want to flip the projected top-line wingers if you think Nieves's game is more suited to the perimeter and Guptill is more of a plow, which yeah I hear you.
Here Michigan will look for a balance between scoring and defensive responsibility they didn't really get a year ago. Alex Guptill was a rumored malcontent playing so badly they left him at home when they went to Ferris State; then they put him next to Copp. 20 games later, Michigan looked like a hockey team again and Guptill had put up a PPG for half the season. Things started off poorly for him this year, as it sounds like he has not been skating for disciplinary reasons:
Tuesday, Berenson announced that junior forward Alex Guptill — last year’s leading scorer — hasn’t been skating so far. Berenson didn’t specify as to why, but said that he removed him “because of something that happened this fall.”
Berenson didn’t say how long Guptill would be off the ice, but said he would be back at some point.
It's not serious enough to cause Red to leave him off a list of guys they need to break out (Di Giuseppe and Bennett were his other two), at least. Guptill is a banger with soft hands and a quality skating stride for a big man; his motivation level has waxed and waned over his time at Michigan. Given his results with and without Copp last year I can't see any way in which he's not placed next to his talisman.
It seems clear that Phil Di Giuseppe, Boo Nieves, and Derek DeBlois comprise the rest of the scoring-line wingers. DeBlois was Red's choice last year to ride along with Guptill and Copp and may reprise that role; this preview projects that DeBlois will deputize Compher on the second line, but realistically all three guys mentioned in this paragraph will see time on the top line.
DeBlois finishes checks
DeBlois is a low-offense mucker who did well to acquire an 11-9-20 line a year ago. He's not much of a creator, either with slick passing or strength, but his high effort level leads him to productive areas of the ice. He managed a +4 a year ago, which tied him with Copp for the team lead amongst forwards; three of his 11 goals were shorthanded. Now wearing an A, he's your Glendening Memorial Third Liner Who Plays On The Second Line.
Di Giuseppe has been a frustrating player in his first two years at Michigan, capable of putting up a 9-19-28 line with more shots than anyone on the team save Guptill and Trouba but finishing with a crappy .082 shooting percentage, taking 16 minor penalties largely of the lack-of-effort variety, and finishing –10. He's one of the biggest swing players on the team if he can reverse his falling NHL stock and blow up, which does happen regularly. Now would be the time; Red called him out as a guy Michigan needs to step up.
Nieves is a talent who had a harsh adjustment period. He spent his high school career at a prep school out east, not the USHL, and he was clearly shellshocked by the rise in competition level for the first half of the season. His shot totals are still alarmingly low for a guy expected to be a top scorer: 63 attempts is barely better than Zach Hyman last year. In year two Michigan wants him to be more of a physical threat; his speed and deft passing are tantalizing aspects to pair with Guptill, who is a quality finisher just waiting for opportunities. Like Di Giuseppe, he's a major swing player.
THE BOTTOM SIX WILL BE A SEASON-LONG BLENDER with the probable exception of the Hyman/Selman pairing. Senior Luke Moffatt brings good scoring ability for a depth forward that he pairs with often-indifferent defense. He'll bounce between the third and fourth line and is likely the guy to move up in the event of injury or suspension to one of the top six.
Motte scored twice in the NTDP's first-ever win over M last fall
This preview projects incoming freshman Tyler Motte to be the other third-line winger. I'd always assumed he was another slick short guy who wasn't going to be TJ Hensick, but Motte sounds a lot like a smaller, slicker Compher:
“He's a bit of a bull," Doneghey said. "He’s scored at every level, but he brings an intensity that’s second to nobody. He’s a guy who is probably going to have more bruises and ice packs on him than points in a game. He’s a really good utility player who can play a lot of roles.”
Powers compared Motte to Kevin Porter(!) and Carl Hagelin(!!!) and projected a multifaceted role right from the start:
He’s a gifted all-around player who will be involved in special teams and be a key forward for us right from the start. He’s around 5-10, and to make another comparison, he could be like a Carl Hagelin type – he may not wow you with his physical gifts at 18 but in three or four years he could be special.
Having him on the third line would give Michigan a high-energy player on the ice at all times, and maybe give Motte some time to round into college hockey. He also performed well with the NTDP a year ago, putting up 26 goals—second on the team.
The aforementioned Hyman isn't going to be moving up the depth chart much after arriving as an overager and quickly proving that most of his junior success was being older than his opponents, but neither is he going to be moved off of it. He and Selman treaded water last year, and in context that's impressive.
The final spot is going to see a lot of rotation. At the top of the list is freshman Evan Allen, the third NTDP alum. He was passed over in the draft despite an impressive 21-26-47 line, which was third on the team. Seven of those tallies were on the power play, and that might earn him a fourth-line role as Michigan tries to find something other than "give it to Trouba" there. When he committed, Michigan Hockey Net caught up with his AAA coach and got that Tambellini-but-slow evaluation:
His skating is probably slightly above average. He’s got an NHL shot. I mean, he can absolutely fire the puck. Good vision. Sees the ice well. He’s our main power play guy. We kind of key our power play off of him and he’s phenomenal on the power play.
Anything resembling "phenomenal on the power play" is a ticket to this lineup.
Also an interesting prospect is Alex Kile, who blew up after he committed with a 30-30-60 in his final year in the USHL. That was tied for 15th in the league. Some cautions: he was only the third-leading scorer on his team, which often implies that he was a bit of a passenger as his other linemates did more of the heavy lifting, and that was an overage year. Like Hyman he may peter out into a guy who can't put up numbers in college, but a PPG in the USHL is generally a good sign for anyone, overage or not.
Projected bench players include Andrew Sinelli, who is JJ Swistak 2013, plus freshman Max Shuart. Shuart did not sign a LOI and had to move to the NAHL in the middle of the year last year to get more playing time; don't expect him to contribute much as a freshman.
This piece was going to start with something about how fall is here and evoke images of pumpkin pie or pumpkin spice lattes but there’s a thread on the board about hockey practice jerseys that has double-digit comments so let’s get to the point; it’s almost hockey season. Also, you’re probably envisioning pumpkin pie or a pumpkin spice latte now anyway so mission: accomplished.
Twenty two days remain before the puck drops on the 2013-14 season, and even though it might seem like a good time to do a season preview* I’m not done writing about last year. There are two things that I could write about ad infinitum; applying advanced stats to college hockey and what went wrong during the 2012-13 season.This might as well be a Sports Illustrated expose because there just isn’t going to be a smoking gun that alerts us to the singular reason behind the 2012-13 collapse, but with advanced stats in the fold there are new ways to look at what happened.
I recently read about applying baseball’s quality start statistic to goaltenders (you can read more here and here). A lot of blame was heaped on Michigan’s trio of netminders last season, and while some of it may have been understandably levied I still believe that an unwarranted amount of criticism was given to the guys between the pipes and not enough was placed on those standing in front of them.
Quality starts are worth looking at because they are highly correlated with winning. At the NHL level, a team wins 77.5% of the games in which their goaltender recorded a quality start. There are, of course, some flaws to the statistics. First and foremost, there’s still not a good way to control for a poor defensive team. If a team gives up lots of breakaways and odd-man rushes then the goaltender’s save percentage is still likely to suffer. At the same time, quality starts are useful from a consistency standpoint. If a goalie fluctuates between shutting out teams and blowing up and allowing five goals then they typically won’t record as many quality starts as a goalie who consistently goes out and allows two or three goals per game.
A goaltender is awarded a quality start if they 1.) start a game and 2.) have a save percentage that is above the league average (or, in this case, above the DI average). In the context of a portion of a season we aren’t going to escape the problem of small sample size, but there are some nuances to what happened last year that we can glean from the stats available. As you can imagine save percentage and quality starts are closely linked. Steven Racine’s 89.9% save percent wasn’t exactly a revelation, but at the same time his improvement over the season did get Michigan within one game of another NCAA Tournament berth. This is where not just quality saves but the associated statistics become worth investigating and discussing.
A cheap win occurs when a goaltender records a save percent below the DI average but his team wins anyway. Conversely, a tough loss (or wasted quality start) is granted if a goaltender has a save percentage at or above the DI average but his team loses.
[QS= Quality Start, NQS= Non-Quality Start, CW= Cheap Win, WQS= Wasted Quality Start]
Steven Racine’s 2012-13 stats are featured in the table above. We’re going to look at his starts because he’s the only goalie on Michigan’s roster that started more than 15 games, and 15 starts was the cutoff for having one’s save percentage counted towards the DI national average. The DI national average turned out to be 90.2%, with 76 goaltenders being included in the calculation. As a quick aside, three of Adam Janecyk’s nine starts were quality starts and three of Jared Rutledge’s nine starts were quality starts. Having only 33.3% of your starts qualify as quality starts is just bad; the NHL standards at Hockey Prospectus state that a quality start percentage of 40% or below is considered very poor.
Racine fared better than his counterparts, with 12 QS out of his 22 starts. That means that 54.5% of Racine’s starts were quality starts, putting him relatively close to the 60% QS that Hockey Prospectus considers elite. While Racine’s QS numbers weren’t all obtained during the team’s nine game win streak that put them in the CCHA Championship game he definitely had a statistically better latter half of the season. Racine recorded five QS in his first twelve starts and seven QS is his last ten. Again, it’s hard to tell whether the shift from 41.6% of starts being QS to 70% of starts being QS is due to Racine settling in and adapting to the speed and angles of the college game or whether it’s because the team defense buckled down and started, like, defending but there’s no question that the increase in QS% was huge.
Five cheap wins in 22 starts means that 22.7% of the time Racine started in net he didn’t have a SV% that was at or above the DI average, with three of those cheap wins coming after the team’s nine game win streak started on February 22nd. That doesn’t surprise me that much, as you’d expect that a Michigan goalie is going to get some cheap wins when the offense is ranked seventh in the nation in goals per game.
Only two of Racine’s 22 starts were wasted quality starts, which is also indicative of having a good offense; in only 9% of his starts did Racine or the team perform well defensively only to watch the game slip away because they couldn’t put the puck in the net.
Tl;dr. What’s your point?
Michigan’s goaltending wasn’t as bad as it may have seemed, with 54.5% of Steven Racine’s starts being quality starts. The percent may seem low until you find out that having a 60% QS% is considered elite in the NHL. If Michigan can get their forwards to backcheck and forecheck and if the defense corps isn’t a punch of pylons or rovers then the 2013-14 season should go better than 2012-13.
While there are some obvious flaws to the QS stat, it should be interesting to track over multiple seasons. There will always be the huge caveat of shot quality being untrackable, but it’s definitely a better (and both more nuanced and interesting) stat than *shudder* wins.
*If you are looking for a season preview then perhaps ordering Hail to Hoops and Hockey would be a good idea. You get an actual preview from Brian, as well as an article by me about what went wrong last season. Wait, what do you mean there’s a theme to what I write?