didn't expect Rocky V to play a prominent role in deciphering what exactly is going on but here we are
Welcome to the first in a three-part series intended to take a closer look at the six most important topics of the hockey season thus far. In case your attention and time were siphoned by football and basketball, this year’s hockey team is in a similar place to last year’s at the same point. That squad limped into the GLI at 7-7-2, then lost in the first round of that tournament to Bowling Green. I remember thinking after that game that the season was more or less over, so of course they went on a Frozen Four run.
This year’s team has a fairly similar record (6-7-4) and has taken a step forward in its execution of Mel Pearson’s possession-oriented system. Though they’ve been adept at hanging onto the puck and generating attempts they haven’t been able to turn those attempts into high-quality scoring chances, and the roster composition is such that the list of candidates for a second-half breakout isn’t as long as it was last season. This team seems to be a more fully formed one, for better and worse. They are one of the nation’s best teams at generating shots at even strength and on the power play, and the first unit power play has to be one of the best puck moving squads in the nation. Michigan’s desperately needed them to be that, too, as they can’t find a way to score five-on-five despite a bevy of shot attempts. Just how good is Michigan’s power play, and what’s going on at even strength? We’ll use some of the shot-tracking data David’s been diligently inputting after the break.
[After THE JUMP: Quantifying the difference one guy makes]