Plinko Pays Some Debts

Plinko Pays Some Debts

Submitted by Brian on March 27th, 2018 at 1:10 PM

3/24/2018 – Michigan 3, Northeastern 2 – 21-14-3
3/25/2018 – Michigan 6, Boston U 3 – 22-14-3, Frozen Four

I've seen NCAA tournament games like Sunday's before: one team gets down, and gets desperate, and dumps all that energy into a relentless pursuit of the puck. Sometimes it's Michigan overturning a 3-0 deficit against Denver to win. Sometimes it's Boston College dominating just about every second despite being down 2-1. Most of the time when this team gets even, they keep going. BC's tying goal in 2004 was game over even if it took overtime. Shots were 45-17 in a game Michigan led the vast majority of. If North Dakota had scored on Shawn Hunwick, that was also game over.

So: Sunday. After about 30 minutes where Michigan had the edge in zone time and staked themselves to a two-goal lead, BU scores on a wraparound, then amps up their forecheck. The ice tilts their direction. When Quinn Hughes isn't on the ice, Michigan barely attempts a controlled zone exit, instead flinging the puck up the boards to BU defensemen. They dump it back in to continue the cycle. The game started to feel like Michigan's recent Big Ten playoff outing against Wisconsin, which this space called Michigan's worst of the year despite the fact that they won it.

And BU scores. They score when Josh Norris flips a pass back to Joe Cecconi in the face of two forecheckers. Cecconi makes a bad situation worse by trying to fling the puck up the slot. Turnover, unchecked guy directly in front of goalie with puck, goal, tie game, game over feeling.

The ensuing three minutes are more of the same; Michigan does not register a shot attempt and BU has a couple of dangerous chances. Then Slaker takes the puck out of the zone—a tiny flag is waved—and gets rubbed out on the boards. This is about the least threatening way hockey players can be configured:

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Slaker duly follows up on the defenseman the puck is wandering towards, and then something magical and very very stupid happens. That guy's attempted D to D pass gets caught up in the snow around the bench and turns into a perfect lead pass for Slaker. Horrified, the defenseman explodes in a shower of equipment and collapses to the ground, where he remains even now. Slaker then skates into the slot and shoots a puck off the other defenseman's shin that goes straight into the net. Various larger flags are waved.

That's more or less it. Michigan puts up an insurance marker a bit later but in a game like hockey even when you're playing badly and giving up a bunch of zone time to the opposition, a one goal lead is usually enough with 13 minutes left. They put up a stat at the beginning of the third that Michigan was a brazillion and one when leading after two and BU was 2-6 when trailing. 

Slaker's goal combined with Michigan's second, which bounced off the end boards and behind the goalie directly to Brendan Warren, and the BU wrap-around goal to lend the proceedings the distinct whiff of Barely Weighted Hockey Plinko. This is why it was very exciting to get in the tournament: it's usually pretty random and this year there is no dominant team that threatens to make it less so. The top seed got blown up by Air Force, which is a movie we've seen before.

Once you're there, though… I have to admit that mixed in with the hope and nervousness is a certain nihilism, because of this terrible format and hockey's failure to address the goalie revolution that shot save percentages skyward. I shook my fist at hockey plinko when Northeastern scored to even a game in which Michigan had a 2-to-1 shot advantage, and muttered something positive about it under my breath when Michigan scored on a harmless-looking play to retake the lead. They don't quite even out.

But here they are, no more or less deserving than Carl Hagelin or TJ Hensick or dozens of other Michigan hockey players who had the misfortune to have the puck bounce the wrong way instead of the right way. Cooper Marody, Tony Calderone, and Dexter Dancs wiped out the best line in the country in game one; Quinn Hughes spent the weekend looking like he had rockets in his skates; the team as a whole mercifully stayed out of the box for the vast majority of both games. Insofar as it's possible to earn anything in single elimination hockey, Michigan has earned their way to their first Frozen Four in seven years.

May our continued existence continue to entertain the hockey gods.

BULLETS

PONCHO TIME? Hockey borrowed something from basketball.

I'll allow it.

This is too random. Some randomness in a tourney is fun. Without it there's no point in playing. Too much randomness and the format is clearly broken, with annually unsatisfying champions that have no real claim to being the best team. This is too random:

After going 12-0 against No. 4s in the first three years, No. 1s are 31-21. A No. 4 seed has won at least one game against a No. 1 in each of the last 13 seasons. Since realignment came about, No. 4 seeds have won eight of 12. …

In the case of those four seeds that became national champions — Yale in 2013 and Providence in 2015 — they were the last teams in the tournament. Providence qualified by .0002 RPI points over Bowling Green in 2015. This year, Duluth was the last team in by .0001 points over Minnesota. In any other year, UMD would've been a No. 4 as well. However, BU, Princeton and Michigan Tech winning their conference tournaments changed all of that.

Air Force turtled against SCSU and got lucky, like they did against Michigan some years back. The prevalence of blocked shots and super high save percentages makes that strategy pay off way too often; the sport should take radical steps to increase scoring, so that individual games are more indicative of who's actually better at doing hockey.

Stayed out of the box! Four power plays against on the weekend. One fairly badass goal from Northeastern and that's it. Given the margins here any more would have been disastrous.

But it was rough against BU. Per College Hockey News, Michigan was out-shot-attempted 63-31 at even strength. M helped bridge that gap by blocking almost a third of BU's attempts (19); BU only blocked 6 of Michigan's. Michigan benefited from the randomness this year. Hooray.

I take solace in the fact that Michigan played ND dead even this year and it didn't seem like the Irish were ever able to lock Michigan in their own zone like BU did, even when they trailed in both games of the Michigan sweep.

If Michigan does get OSU that's… sort of okay? 0-5 on the year is far from ideal, but the playoff outing was just about even at 5v5, and even though Michigan was swept in multi-goal games in late January they had huge ES Corsi advantages in both games. (55-31 and 43-23.) I ain't scared of those guys.

Hughes. Before this season my personal ranking of defensemen I've seen play for Michigan went like this:

  1. Jacob Trouba
  2. Mike Komisarek
  3. Zach Werenski
  4. Jack Johnson
  5. Jon Merrill

Hughes is flying up the list despite not even being drafted yet. He's… #3? I think I'd take him over Werenski. His absurd skating nullifies most of his size deficiencies…

…and late in the year he's learned what he can do at this level. He's still a bit wild and will turn the puck over in a bad spot a couple times per game, but that's because he's trying—and largely succeeding at—stuff that nobody else has the ability to even attempt. Here's an excellent twitter thread highlighting some of the things he did in the BU game.

Etc.: Michigan, those loveable underdog scamps. Berenson watched from the stands.

Goal-by-Goal Analysis: Wisconsin, Big Ten Tournament

Goal-by-Goal Analysis: Wisconsin, Big Ten Tournament

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on March 7th, 2018 at 10:41 AM

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[Bill Rapai]

Friday, March 2, 2018

#3 Michigan 6, #6 Wisconsin 5

[Note: numbers refer to BTT seeding]

1st period

CALDERONE GOAL

UM 1 UW 0 EV 1:40 Assists: Marody & Cecconi

Cecconi puts some mustard on a backhanded clearing attempt and gets the puck out of Michigan’s defensive zone.

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The puck stays more or less on the wall and looks like it’s about to be stopped by Tischke’s skates.

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until it somehow gets through. You can see Marody locked onto the puck in the screencap above, and he’s in perfect position to pick it up and go once it gets past the UW skater. To Tischke’s credit, he makes the right move once the split second he realizes the puck is past him. He turns and moves to get into a position where he can take away Marody’s passing lane to his right.

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That doesn’t mean Tischke’s actually able to take away said lane, though. Marody gets the pass through to Calderone, who’s perfectly aligned. This is extra dangerous for Wisconsin because Calderone is a right-handed shot, so he’s going to get the puck on his on hand.

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It’s also extra dangerous because there aren’t many skaters at this level who can lift a puck from in tight like Calderone. This isn’t the closest to the net that I’ve seen him go top shelf this season, but it’s still impressive because he does it at full speed while allowing the puck to slide past the midpoint of his body to where he wants to shoot, slightly outside his frame to his right.

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[Analysis of the other 743 goals after THE JUMP]

Goal-by-Goal Analysis: Wisconsin

Goal-by-Goal Analysis: Wisconsin

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on February 6th, 2018 at 3:03 PM

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[Upchurch]

Friday, February 2, 2018

#20 Michigan 5, #18 Wisconsin 3

1st period

Frederic goal

UM 0 UW 1 EV 3:33 Assists: Weissbach & Hughes

A shot gets through Luke Martin and Lavigne makes the toe save, but the byproduct is a puck kicked out to his left. Warren has a chance to snag the rebound and clear, but he overskates it. Hughes picks up the puck, spins, and fires. Lavigne stops it and steers the rebound to the corner, which is ideal if you’re allowing a rebound. Hughes is behind the net with no Michigan defender in position to get there before him.

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Piazza was closest to getting to the puck, but he’s starting from a flat-footed position in front of the net and coming out to cover Weissbach. As Piazza chases, a huge passing lane opens. Norris, who’s currently patrolling the slot, does quickly turn his head to check for unmarked skaters. That head turn, though, doesn’t pick up anything that isn’t at least in line with Norris’ shoulder (see blue line below). Frederic is off the radar, Wiessbach notices this, and naturally he passes through the highway-sized gap.

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Norris isn’t gapped up and he isn’t going to even able to take a step forward because of the speed of the pass and Frederic’s lack of hesitancy. I don’t want to guess at what Lavigne can see here, as he seems to have a fairly good chance to track the shot but there are two teammates in front of him that might have been screening him; the speed of the snap shot is also a consideration in casting blame (or lack thereof) for this goal.

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[After THE JUMP: an up-and-down weekend when they could least afford it]

Goal-by-Goal Analysis: Ohio State

Goal-by-Goal Analysis: Ohio State

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on January 30th, 2018 at 11:37 AM

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[JD Scott]

Friday, January 26, 2018

#6 Ohio State 4, #17 Michigan 0

1st period

Miller goal

OSU 1 UM 0 EV 16:40 Assists: Joshua & Parran

Cecconi pinches and misses the puck, which is passed off the wall to Parran in the high slot. Parran sees Joshua leaving the defensive zone with four Michigan defenders still turning, and he’s able to hit him with a nice outlet pass about halfway between the blue line and center ice.

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Joshua reads Hughes, Michigan’s lone defender back, and decides that he’s far enough outside Joshua to dish before entering the offensive zone. Miller carries the puck in.

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Joshua swings his stick over, which Hughes uses against him. Hughes lifts the stick back into the air, effectively erasing Miller’s pass. Miller is on the same page; he brings the puck to his side and prepares his shot.

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Hughes is almost able to get over and poke-check the puck off Miller’s stick. Miller’s just able to get the shot off, though. Lavigne has stepped up to challenge and even stands up when he sees where the puck is headed, but the shot somehow ends up going just under the crossbar. There was a reverse angle replay later that shows the puck on Miller’s stick, Lavigne standing, and the net moving. Lavigne raised his right shoulder and thus the left dipped just a bit as the shot was released, and I guess that was enough to create the tiny window Miller needed.

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[After THE JUMP: we turn our attention to Pairwise]

Goal-by-Goal Analysis: Minnesota

Goal-by-Goal Analysis: Minnesota

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on January 16th, 2018 at 11:08 AM

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a defenseman in a shooting lane was a common sight this series [JD Scott]

Friday, January 12, 2018

#9 Minnesota 3, Michigan 5

1st period

DANCS GOAL

MINN 0 MICH 1 EV 00:14 Assists: Calderone

Michigan has Calderone high to forecheck, and his presence at the edge of the neutral zone is enough to get Lindgren to pass the puck to Sadek along the boards. Dancs reads the pass and comes charging hard at Sadek.

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Dancs’ rapid pursuit causes Sadek to recoil, and the puck rolls off his stick as he pulls it back across his body. Calderone has skated to the area and picks up the loose puck, turning with it and entering the offensive zone with Sadek in pursuit.

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Sadek closes the gap quickly and Calderone feels the pressure. He decides his best play is to pass back to Dancs, who has plenty of space to operate and picks up the pass cleanly.

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Dancs starts to cut through the middle of the faceoff circle when he pulls the puck out to his side. He holds it there long enough that Sadek reads it as a shot and gets ready to block it. Sadek pulls his stick in and starts to bring his knees together; Dancs still has the puck held out to his side and now has room to shoot around Sadek. He doesn’t try to dangle Sadek, instead opting for a filthy snapshot that beats Robson in the far-side top corner. It’s a perfectly-placed shot, and it doesn’t go in if a.) the goalie has an elite glove hand or b.) the shooter misses his mark.

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[After THE JUMP: this post is antithetical to showing good defense but it was there and we should talk about it]

Notes From A Hockey Exhibition

Notes From A Hockey Exhibition

Submitted by Brian on October 5th, 2017 at 12:15 PM

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[Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Michigan walloped a bad CIS team on Saturday, beating Western Ontario 10-1. The Mustangs were not a good team last year and seemingly came to Yost with less than a full complement of skaters; things did not improve with one injury and three ejections. But Michigan hockey has played a CIS punching bag annually and they haven't always looked like that. Since 2009-10, with tourney teams bolded:

  • Michigan 6, Windsor 2, shots 33-16 M
  • Michigan 4, Western Ontario 2, shots 39-29 M
  • Ontario Tech 3, Michigan 2, shots 56-28 M
  • Michigan 7, Windsor 3, shots 43-30 M
  • Waterloo 2, Michigan 1, shots 35-22 M
  • Michigan 5, Wilfred Laurier 2, shots 52-24 M
  • Michigan 8, Toronto 1, shots 52-12 M
  • Michigan 2, Windsor 0, shots 36-32 M

Beating up on Western Ontario doesn't mean Michigan Is Back, but the trend there is clear. All but one tourney team doubled up the opposition in shots; all but one team that missed was in a relatively competitive game, give or take the goaltending. Not clobbering Western Ontario would have been a real bad sign. Michigan avoided that.

GENERAL FEELINGSBALL

Feelingspuck? Doesn't sound right. Anyway: Michigan felt like a much-improved hockey team. Odd-man rushes, which happened seemingly three times a period during the last few years, were restricted to one early two-on-one and a breakaway when Quinn Hughes's stick broke. Meanwhile Michigan's breakout impressed with the diversity of approaches they took and their success at breaking the WO forecheck.

The forward corps is still short on talent, with two or three guys who would ideally be third-liners on the top two lines and a questionable bottom six. On the other hand, the return of Cutler Martin to defense—where I've always liked him—gives Michigan seven defensemen ranging from competent to excellent. Michigan has almost never had the kind of defensive depth they have this year, and with a more organized team supporting them and two good goalies backing them up Michigan could find success as a grind-it-out outfit that wins games 3-2 and 2-1.

Nobody wants Michigan hockey to look like that long term but beggars can't be choosers this year. If they get to the tournament, that's how.

[After THE JUMP: player-specific takes and a feel for the season.]

Goal-by-Goal Analysis: Ohio State

Goal-by-Goal Analysis: Ohio State

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on February 8th, 2017 at 12:00 PM

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[Ryan McLoughlin]

Friday, February 3, 2017

Michigan 5, #11 Ohio State 4

1st period

ALLEN GOAL

UM 1 0SU 0 EV 08:21 Assists: Shuart & Winborg

Winborg wins the faceoff and knocks the puck to Shuart on his right. Shuart sort of accidentally shovels it forward to Winborg, but Winborg again scoops it up and back to Shuart.

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With the puck now solidly on his stick, Shuart’s determined to do something purposeful with the puck. He shoots, and the shot is blocked by the OSU defender in front of him. The puck bounces off the defender and ends up to his left.

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This next bit happens so quickly that I’m not sure whether Shuart passes to Allen or whether Allen picks up the loose puck himself. Either way, Allen has the puck. He splits two defenders and finds himself with a wide-open net, as Frey is still sliding across after squaring to Shuart’s shot.

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[After THE JUMP: 2015-16 redux (for 40 minutes at a time)]

Goal-by-Goal Analysis: Wisconsin

Goal-by-Goal Analysis: Wisconsin

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on December 14th, 2016 at 2:38 PM

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[Bill Rapai]

Friday, December 9, 2016

Michigan 4, Wisconsin 7

1st period

PIAZZA GOAL

UM 1 UW 0 PPG 09:49 Assists: Lockwood & Allen

Michigan goes away from the 1-3-1 they’ve been using most of the season and aligns in the umbrella with Kile working the point. Kile happens to have the puck, swinging it to Lockwood in the right faceoff circle.

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Lockwood takes his sweet time with the puck, as well he should. He’s looking for something to develop, and that something ends up being the defender taking a knee when he thinks Lockwood’s about to shoot. This opens up a pass at the red line for Allen, and the pass can be made with confidence because 1.) the nearest defender is on his knee and 2.) the rest of the defense is occupied with other Michigan skaters and won’t be able to challenge the pass aggressively.

Allen sees the seam between defenders, and with said defenders collapsing on net Piazza is left unchecked to the goaltender’s left. Allen threads a nice pass through the lane.

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Piazza one-times it, leaving Berry with no chance of stopping a shot for which he has to get all the way across the crease. Michigan does a nice job here of moving the puck; once it’s on Lockwood’s stick and then moved behind the net, the goaltender has to lock the post and the defense shifts away from Piazza.

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[Hit THE JUMP for some weird bounces]

Goal-by-Goal Analysis: Boston University

Goal-by-Goal Analysis: Boston University

Submitted by Adam Schnepp on November 17th, 2016 at 11:00 AM

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[James Coller/MGoBlog]

Friday, November 11, 2016

#18 Michigan 4, #4 Boston University 0

1st period

LOCKWOOD GOAL

UM 1 BU 0 PPG 10:04 Assists: Piazza & Slaker

Slaker wins the draw cleanly back to Piazza. He surveys options in front of him and sees that nothing’s developed yet, so he starts to move laterally with the puck; you can see that Lockwood’s already on the same page and moving to his left.

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Slaker cuts to the middle of the ice to give Piazza a passing option to the right, while Lockwood loops behind Piazza and presents an option to the left. You can see in this screen cap that there’s only one defender involved in the play, and since Slaker gets in front of him he now isn’t sure whether he should stay in place, carry Slaker, or start to his right to pick up Lockwood.

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The defender decides to shove Slaker and then stay in place, which meansh he has to dig in and sprint once he sees Piazza pass to Lockwood.

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Lockwood has all the time he needs to make a decision and a move, and he decides that he wants to wrong-foot a shot from the top of the circle and hope that the traffic in the shooting lane screens the goaltender.

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The puck grazes the side of the BU defender at the bottom of the faceoff circle and slightly changes direction, and BU’s Jake Oettinger has almost no chance at stopping the shot.

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[After THE JUMP: moooooore goals (also, more goals for the other guys)]