Check, Please

Check, Please

Submitted by Brian on March 28th, 2011 at 1:15 PM

3/25/2011 – Michigan 3, Nebraska-Omaha 2 (OT) – 27-10-4
3/26/2011 – Michigan 2, Colorado College 1 – 28-10-4, Frozen Four

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Jake Fromm/Daily

The course of the season showed that if Michigan was going to make the Frozen Four they were going to do it one way: narrowly. If you need a number, during the course of the UNO broadcast they put up a stat showing Michigan's record in one-goal games was 10-3. That's just how they do.

That record is now up to 12-3 after history's greatest video review and the Joe Howe show (wsgs Joe Howe's Posts) and if there was ever any chance we remembered this hockey team as the weird one that kind of reminded you of Ron Mason that's gone now. This team isn't trying to win games –1 to –2 but you'd be forgiven if sometimes you thought they were.

It's working, though. I spent the second intermission Saturday thinking about Buffalo, when Michigan dominated Minnesota for two periods but didn't put enough of that domination on the scoreboard to prevent Minnesota's rally from tying the game; Michigan lost the game and Al Montoya's brain in overtime on one of those bizarrely frequent OT goals that comes from almost the goal line on the left side of the net*. I spent the third period thinking about how beautifully boring it was until Red channeled into Lloyd Carr by slipping Jeff Rohrkemper out there for a power play shift. He was immediately punished for punting from the 34 by a Rohkemper boarding penalty and nine seconds later CC fumbled a puck into the net. Everyone braced for a storm. That storm was a single pea-sized hailstone. The most nervous moment after that was a bunch of players rooting for the puck on the boards with the goalie out and twenty seconds left.

Michigan had outshot their opponent 43-22, played a game universally acclaimed as their best of the season, and won 2-1 because Scooter is an animal and pucks that come off Lee Moffie's stick will hit the post and go in even if they have to deflect off three guys to do it. There is a natural inertia pulling them towards narrow wins you're uncertain about; even now that they've reached the Frozen Four there's a feeling they don't really match up with a North Dakota.

There's also the feeling they just might, though. Because what the hell, Michigan's 11-1 since the line shakeup after Michigan's dismal 0-3 stretch against MSU and Miami. Season goals slipping away and faced with the question of how to get the most use out of some good forwards who never, ever score Michigan put together a vintage Todd Marchant checking line and let anyone who might put the puck in the net forget about guys like Jaden Schwartz.

This has been remarkably effective. If the announcer didn't bring his name up every time he wasn't making a joke-type assertion about the "hockey hotbeds" of California, Texas, and Arizona, the viewer could have forgotten about Jaden Schwartz. Lingering irritation at Matt Rust's bad OT penalty against UNO evaporated as his line erased Schwartz, Schwartz, and Schultz with a healthy assist from Jon Merill at his most subtly awesome. The Schwartzes got their goal on a four-on-four scramble; everything other than that was frustration. In the second period they started jawing and shoving people because they were getting nothing. This was one day after they turned defending national champs Boston College into a lump of smoking carbon.

I watched North Dakota pummel two teams, one of them not even in the ECAC, this weekend. I remember Michigan's last two not-very-competitive matchups against them. I have considerable doubts that Michigan will beat them since they're by far the best team left standing. Doubts about doubts come when you close your eyes and see Jon Merrill gently shepherding you, the puck, and a hockey team into a deep, peaceful sleep as Matt Rust obscures the face of North Dakota Hobey finalist… oh… you know… what's his name.

*[Almost certainly an artifact of my introduction to college hockey but they seem to happen all the time: Josh Langfeld's championship winner, the Vanek goal (at 1:00) that put Michigan out in Buffalo, and ND's winner against Merrimack were all bizarre nothing shots from the same area of the ice that took the goalie by surprise.]

A Tiny Window Of White Bullets

Scooter!

Also the other two goals but mostly Scooter!

You do not have a twitter account that concerns itself with Michigan hockey if you didn't tweet "Scooter" followed by one to three exclamation points after his goal, which was completely unbelievable even as it was happening. CC does not have the greatest defensemen in the world but holy crap where did that come from?

Monster faceoffs. Michigan both faced and received extended periods of 5-on-3 time in the first period, and during both they got clean, critical faceoff wins. Moffie's goal was a direct result. The lack of a CC goal on their terrifying PP was greatly aided, as well.

Clare escape. To recap the thing I kept talking about during the game: after a tough shift in which Pateryn and Clare got caught in the zone forever, allowing the Schwartz line to get out against them and some other random non-Rust forwards, Red pulled Clare out of the lineup for more than a period. Pateryn took shifts with the second pair D to give guys a break. Clare returned about halfway through the second and actually got some PK time a bit later, which I guess makes sense because your breakout on the PK is slapping the puck down the ice. I saw him out there a couple times in the third, as well, but his minutes were minimized.

All this invites questions about Burlon's availability. He's got two weeks to recover from his strep and penicillin reaction, so I imagine he'll be in the lineup. Losing 15 pounds is kind of a lot, though, and I wonder how effective he'll be.

RNG in full effect. Hockey's vaguely weighted plinko system was a little more random than normal this time around: FF participants are two three-seeds, a two, and a one. One seeds went 2-2 in the first round, bringing their record against fours to 11-9 the last five years. That goes beyond "anything can happen" into "your excellent season gets you nothing."

What's wrong? I don't think you can blame the Pairwise. The "better"* ranking system, KRACH, already updated for the weekend's results and still has Yale a #1. The only difference between KRACH's top seeds and the PWRs is putting Denver above Miami, and there's a fair chance that wasn't the case before the events of the weekend.

You can blame insular schedules. Yale's nonconference schedule consisted of single games against CC, Air Force, Cornell, and Vermont and an "Ivy Shootout" against other ECAC members. The only evidence we had that Yale was a top seed other than their ECAC schedule was a 5-1 win over a .500 WCHA team and a 2-1 record against Atlantic Hockey—yeah, they'd already lost to first-round opponent Air Force.

This vapor-thin trail coupled with some other ECAC nonconference games convinced the ranking systems the conference didn't suck despite years of evidence to the contrary. The last ECAC team to make the Frozen Four was Cornell in 2003 and that last to win a title was Harvard in 1989.

That only explains perpetually disappointing ECAC #1s, which are rare. The rest of it is on a tournament format which has #1 Miami play #4 UNH in New Hampshire in a single-elimination game.

*[FWIW, KRACH is mathematically pure but has a tendency to go nuts about nonconference results. In certain years it would put up to eight WCHA teams, some well below .500, into the field.]

Abandabuildings. It was no surprise to see literally every seat in the upper bowl in St. Louis empty. We wondered if a couple of friends had actually made the trip despite stern clucking about teaching the NCAA a lesson, and I said "if they did they'll be on TV because they'll be the only people there," and midway through the second there they were. Even the NCAA's comically generous numbers only show 55% capacity.

Every year we get sterile half-full buildings as teams get shipped halfway across the country and fans have to deal with the possibility they'll get on a plane to see their team play once, or if they're lucky play twice and make the Frozen Four and then you've blown your budget on regionals already. Insert usual rant about using home sites here.

The good news is the NCAA has not selected regional sites past next year. In the past sites have been selected three to four years out, so that's a clear sign this failed format is on its last legs. Last year there was a report out of Grand Forks that change was coming, with home sites and "super regionals" of an undetermined nature.

The bad news is that once again the CCHA has no regionals within hundreds of miles of it—the closest is in Green Bay as the St. Louis regional moves to St. Paul. At least Michigan's getting out of that rinky-dink operation, and as a bonus the failures of its commissioner* now directly benefit it.

*[Seriously, what has Anastos done since 1998 that a lump of quartz couldn't? The CCHA has gone nowhere, and has clearly become the region of the country that either gets screwed over by the committee or can't scrape together a bid that makes any more sense than having a regional in St. Louis.]

I am Jack's total lack of surprise. The crew doing the Yale-UMD game that chucked Yale's best player out of the game for a clean open-ice hit were from the CCHA. Yale's coach was infuriated enough afterwards to lead his presser with "the game was taken away from us." Yet more reason to be happy we're getting away from the league—hopefully most of the refs don't follow.

Videos

Via Boyz in the Pahokee as per usual.

Elsewhere

Daily game story and gallery featuring a great shot of the Scooter(!!!) goal:

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Everyone in the shot including Scooter is thinking "WTF?"

Yost Built recaps the game with gusto. Not so sure that "this is the year" since North Dakota is terrifying but Mark Burns is. Hunwick:

“I think they did have a few pretty good shots early on,” Hunwick said. “But this is an opportunity to play for the Frozen Four. I think I made a couple good saves. It’s pretty easy to stay in the game when you’re playing to go to the Frozen Four. They didn’t really get anything going too much until they got into the power play. Once they got into the power play, I really had to be sharp.”

Seriously, that power play was terrifying. That first period five on three was awful.

Torrent of the CC game.

It's Business Time

It's Business Time

Submitted by Brian on March 14th, 2011 at 1:30 PM

3/11/2011 – Michigan 5, Bowling Green 1 – 24-9-4
3/12/2011 – Michigan 4, Bowling Green 1 – 25-9-4, CCHA semifinalists

scotter-vaughn

Ariel Bond/Daily

Michigan did what would have been extremely hard for them not to do by dispatching Bowling Green easily. It's business time.  Let's jump right to the bullets that aren't:

Pairwise

MFan in Ohio's usual breakdown awaits. Miami's sweep of a better opponent and some other jostling  sees the Redhawks move up into a tie for Michigan's fourth spot. Usually one-on-one ties are broken with the comparison and Michigan holds that despite getting swept by the Redhawks earlier this year, so Michigan is still nominally in possession of that last one seed.

Other threats:

  • Union was swept out of the ECAC playoffs by Colgate and won't be a threat; their RPI went from fourth to eighth and they've got no more games.
  • Denver swept Mankato and remains a threat but now they're in the meat of the WCHA playoffs. They get Bemidji State or UMD followed by probably North Dakota—you want UND to win that hypothetical matchup big time. By sweeping the Screaming Eagles Denver obliterated their own TUC record and now can't pass Michigan unless M loses.
  • UNO was swept by Bemidji State and went from threatening to take Michigan's comparison to hanging on to the last three seed. They're not a threat.
  • Notre Dame beat LSSU in three games, which hurts them to the point where they can't pass Michigan even with a head to head win.

It's pretty simple now. Michigan gets a one seed if they win the CCHA or if they split at the Joe and two other things happen: Not Denver wins the WCHA and Not Miami wins the CCHA. Root for anyone against Denver and you really want Notre Dame to take the first semifinal on Friday; if it's a Michigan-ND CCHA final and Denver's knocked out by whoever in the WCHA playoffs the one seed could be locked up before the final.

Not Bullets

Dirty. Thanks to reader Peter Saul you can relive Scooter's toe drag goal from Friday in gorgeous HD:

Just BG caveats apply but quick name Michigan's best forward not named Hagelin now that Wohlberg's out. Scooter, right?

Speaking of gurrrrgh. Losing David Wohlberg for the season is a heavy blow. With Llewellyn and Fallon gone—in Fallon's case temporarily—and Wohlberg and Caporusso out, Kevin Clare was the only healthy scratch on Saturday. Caporusso is supposed to be back this weekend but his health is going to be a big question. Michigan's going to need him to be his usual moderately effective self.

Break your nose six times next week and it will be a perfect comparison. Chris Brown's recent scoring run has taken him to nine goals, tied with Treais—on a run of his own—and Caporusso for fourth on the team behind Hagelin, Wohlberg, and Scooter Dominance. He's done this mostly by being a the big ugly net presence that he was supposed to be when he got drafted in the second round, and he's developing quite a knack for deflections* a la Ryan Smyth. He coolly directed a Merrill point shot into the net this weekend, for one. Of late it's usually Brown who is the source of "ohhhhh" moments when a defenseman's shot goes close after changing direction.

*[deflections FOR GLORY!]

Which one of you should be a forward next year? Mac Bennett or Lee Moffie: fight. Moffie now has six goals in 26 games. If he'd played as much as Caporusso he'd have eight, one fewer than Louie. His first on Saturday was a shorthanded bomb that caught the iron as it went in; his second was another lethal shot from distance. Meanwhile Bennett continues to lead any rush he can.

With Michigan bringing in a couple of guys who can fill in the sixth defenseman spot, if they don't lose anyone early it might be time to Scooterize one or the other. As far as the rest of this year goes, the reason Michigan is competing for the last one seed without seeming to be that good at scoring is that the defensemen are just insane. Merrill has seven goals, Moffie six, Burlon five, and the other three guys combine for seven. I'm not sure how that ranks nationally but I've scanned almost every CCHA team's roster for preview posts at this point and I can tell you that Michigan has probably doubled up the second-best D in the league in points.

I'm going to name a caffeinated alcoholic drink after you. Just Bowling Green caveats apply, but Lindsay Sparks, yo. Two goals and an assist on the weekend, one of them a display of impressive speed on the breakaway. Even if the big leap in competition level this weekend will make it hard to replicate that performance I'm still pretty excited to see Sparks-Treais-Moffatt hit the ice. They've been effective against third and fourth lines and since Michigan gets last change all weekend Michigan can shelter them from guys like Andy Miele.

Please bury me with it. With Michigan's depth already stretched to the breaking point it's time to adopt the same strategy deployed in the tourney last year: stop rolling the fourth line. Michigan should retrieve Lynch from it, put Winnett back down there, and put that fourth line out there once or twice a period with Winnett giving occasional people a rest when they need it.

I'd put Scooter on Hagelin's wing and reform the checking-plus-Scooter-domination line as Rust-Lynch-Glendening, give them the job of shutting down top lines, and get Vaughn some of Hagelin's playmaking ability to better further his utter dominance of opponents. I don't think Red will break up combinations that seem to be working well but Vaughn is Michigan's second-best forward right now and it seems like a bit of a waste to have him out there with people other than Hagelin.

I confess that I'm mystified by how much run Winnett has gotten over the course of his career. He spent three ineffective season on the point on the power play, including plenty of time this year, despite never getting off a checking line. This year literally every defenseman on the roster has more points than him except Kevin Clare and his 0-1-1 in 12 games. I'm sure he's a dutiful checker and good defensive player but at least Lynch has shown something other than that in his career thus far.

Go time. Is now. Don't expect much out of me on Friday. With the clear relevance of the other semi and Michigan's tourney game I'm probably going to head down to Detroit to catch the Michigan game, then head over to the Joe for the double-header.

Fade Route

Fade Route

Submitted by Brian on February 8th, 2010 at 12:02 PM

"My only hope is that the big Lebowski kills me before the Germans can cut my dick off."
-The Dude

2/6/2010 – Michigan 2, Wisconsin 3 – 16-13-1

bryan-hogan-wisconsin-goal

Capital Times

When I first started following Michigan hockey, Michigan had this unbelievable streak of not giving up third period leads. It stretched back and back and back and was some ridiculous number that may have been in the triple digits and the last team to actually overcome a Michigan lead in the third period was Illinois-Chicago, a team that didn't even exist anymore.

That record fell by the wayside some time ago and now seems as distant of a memory as UIC hockey itself.

It's not like it's a surprise at this point but I'd really prefer a straight-up stomping to taking the lead in the third, thinking about a manageable stretch run if the team takes care of Bowling Green on Tuesday, dreaming about extending Michigan's record run of tourney appearances to 20, and then giving up two power play goals to the same guy in the same spot within a few minutes of each other.

If they'd just get run out of the building you can get over it and move on. The basketball team has had the decency to do so of late, releasing me from the obligations to care about Wisconsin's unconscious three-point shooting aside from instant reactions like "Jesus," "oh come on," "you cannot possibly be serious," and "did someone slip me LSD?" (Have you ever seen a guy launch a half-court shot and thought to yourself "oh God, that's going in too"? At one point in the second half I complained that Wisconsin was shooting 70 percent from three and thought I was wildly exaggerating to make a point; they were actually 11/15 at that point: 73 percent.)

I digress. The hockey team has made a specialty of this sort of thing. A late penalty doomed them against Ferris State. They managed to blow a one-goal lead against a dire Bowling Green team by conceding bang-bang third period goals. Bryan Hogan wandered out of his net to blow a tie with BU with 2:30 left. Hogan got pulled and his backup conceded what I hear was an unbelievably soft goal at the GLI. You've got an Alaska tie and the 5-4 win over State on the other hand, but the State win almost doesn't count since they blew a 3-0 lead to get themselves in the predicament they overcome. Michigan has lost ground late in games.

It's not really a surprise given the way the team has played. They're wildly variable, sloppy, penalty-prone, etc. But when the names get called on Hockey's selection show and Michigan is, in all likelihood, absent, it will be the last ten minutes of the third that did them in.

PAIRWISE UPDATE

Michigan's dropped to 19th in RPI and 20th in the Pairwise. They have to win six of seven down the stretch to give themselves a chance, I think. They might be able to win five and then lose in the CCHA final, but that will be touch and go. Probably. The PWR has so much jitter that any prognostication more than a week or two from the end of the season is vague. It comes down to the TUCs.

BULLETS

  • Apparently the Michigan coaching staff was very unhappy with the late penalties on Summers. MVictors tweeted Mel Pearson's response: "You won't see that call 9 out of 10 times." I don't know about that. Like Greg, I assumed Pearson was talking about the second call, when Summers was penalized for a routine defensive play when he was in good position. I thought the tripping call was legit.
  • My main ref bitch is that Wisconsin should have had at least one guy gone for dangerous plays along the boards: the hit on Hagelin that was called a cross check should definitely been five and a game and the elbowing call Scooter took was borderline at best.
  • No Lee Moffie? If you're going to put in Llewellyn, I guess that's fine, but Moffie's been playing really well and I'd think an error-prone Greg Pateryn would be the guy to get the gate. Maybe he got injured against BG.
  • At this point how Louie Caporusso ever scored 24 goals is the mystery, not his season-long slump. His dangles don't work and he tries them all the time. He did have some nice forechecking moments against Wisconsin, but that's kind of the point, isn't it? Even if TJ Hensick had some crazy forechecks in a game no one would remember them because he would have done a bunch of other crazy stuff.
  • Good for Scooter to get that goal; he's deserved it the way he's played this year. Might be playing himself into an A for his senior year.
  • Torrent is here if you're a masochist or Wisconsin fan.

STANLEY CUP BABY PEERS INTO YOUR SOUL

stanley-cup-baby

STANELY CUP BABY: Hey.

NBA on NBC -- NBC Sports -- Pictured: Tom Hammond, Play-by-Play Announcer -- NBC Photo

TOM HAMMOND: Hey.

Treading Water, Losing Time

Treading Water, Losing Time

Submitted by Brian on January 25th, 2010 at 1:00 PM

1/23/2010 – Michigan 2, Ferris State 0 – 14-10-1, 9-7-0-1 CCHA
1/24/2010 – Michigan 2, Ferris State 3 – 14-11-1, 9-8-0-1 CCHA

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I think I've come to this conclusion about the Saturday game, in which Michigan tied it up with two minutes left only to concede a game losing goal with under thirty seconds on the clock: GODDAMMIT.

In a little more detail, perhaps. There's no shame in losing to a Ferris State team that basically lived up to their advance billing as a very good team, but it's super frustrating when the three goals scored are

  1. a terribly soft short-handed goal on a nothing play
  2. the direct result of a really obvious tripping call, and
  3. in the final minute of the game.

If Michigan had done better than .500 in the first half of the season it would be easy to let the game go as a combination of misfortune, an excellent opponent, and a tough road venue, but they didn't. The thing stands as a giant missed opportunity in a season that doesn't have many left.

This post probably should be focusing on the full two-minute 5-on-3 kill and a weekend in which Michigan proved itself equal to a team that's solidly in the tournament, but it's hard to do anything but fret when your RPI is in the high teens and you're flirting with the end of a 20-year run in the NCAA tourney. Does Mel Pearson look nervous above or am I projecting? Does it matter?

Items

The great reversal. What a weird series. Despite the 2-0 final score, the Friday game was full of end-to-end rushes and wide open play, with both teams just missing on a number of pretty passing plays. And despite the three extra goals on Saturday, that night's game was a slog where I don't recall a single scoring chance for Michigan in the first period. I don't know if Michigan's breakout caught Ferris by surprise or what, but it was weird. I was shocked that a team with defensive numbers like Michigan State in all its dead-puck Ron Mason glory would get into an end-to-end game like that.

Part of the deal Friday night was a very fast Ferris team pressing hard after they fell behind, which resulted in a lot of open ice—but few odd-man-rushes—once Michigan broke the pressure. When Michigan returned to the ice in the third just looking to close it out, that period became very boring. Saturday was mostly Michigan chasing thanks to the uber-soft shortie. With this team, I buy that first-goal-all-important stuff. The last two weekends are plenty of evidence.

People of note. I thought it was odd that Scooter Vaughn sat out last weekend in favor of freshman Jeff Rohrkemper and still think it's odd after Vaughn got back on the ice against Ferris and played very well, picking up a first assist on Friday and generally being the sort of fourth-liner that gets noticed for positive contributions. I guess you want Rohrkemper to know he's going to get in some games and if you're going to scratch one of the forwards it's probably going to be Scooter.

Louie Caporusso continues to struggle mightily. He's scored once in the past nine games. He has tried 60 spectacular dangles in that time, 58 of which have ended in pucks turned over in dangerous areas. The other two were admittedly pretty sweet scoring chances. I'm worried about him and also AJ Treais, who certainly seems like he should be putting up more points. He's not, and the longer he goes without having something click the less likely it is to ever happen. See also: Ben Winnett.

Greg Pateryn drew in for MGoWhippingBoy Tristin Llewellyn and was just okay. He didn't take any bad penalties but there was one incident where even a relative hockey neophyte like myself could see that he was moving the wrong direction like five seconds before a really poor attempt at a check was blown by and created a two-on-one. Lee Moffie, on the other hand, is super smooth and impresses more each game.

Bryan Hogan… ghaahahhah. Gah.

On that tripping call and other things. I didn't have a lot of complaints Friday night about the refereeing except for Steve McInchak's usual determination to let every post-whistle cheapshot go unpunished, but I also did not have the benefit of replay. Seemingly every call for and against Michigan in the Saturday game was wrong, most comically the Chad Langlais penalty where he took a holding the stick call after he'd established position in a race for the puck and bodied a Ferris player off so that his defense partner could collect the puck. I don't recall the bad calls on Ferris as specifically, but I remember thinking to myself

And then there was the second goal, where David Wohlberg was tripped coming out of the faceoff dot and then rushed out to the point at a speed that allowed Ferris's defenseman to step around him and pick a corner. That's an obvious call you have to make.

Why the CCHA allows McInchak and Some Guy I've Never Seen Before to ref a really important series when there's an opportunity to stash them at Western-Bowling Green I'll never know. In their stead we could have gotten the marginally more competent BG-WMU crew of Confused Marmoset and PCP-Enraged Physics Professor.

JMFJ. Two days after the Dean Lombardi incident, Jack Johnson is where?

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At Yost, playing Score-O in his letter jacket. Not even Danny Fardig wore his, and if I was Danny Fardig I would never take mine off. Jack Johnson is awesome.

Still slightly to the good. Splitting with a team as highly regarded as Ferris is in the PWR is still progress: Michigan gained a spot over the weekend and now sits #18.  Ferris, on the other hand, dropped from 5 to 8.) In the brief window between the Friday and Saturday games Michigan was technically in the tournament at #14.

PWR is really jittery, though, and the current RPI will predict the future PWR better than the current PWR. In that, Michigan was static.

Re-evaluating the 14 of 17 meme. I suggested that Michigan had to storm the last half of its schedule to have any hope of an at large bid and with the Saturday loss Michigan is off pace. They've used half of those three losses in six games. Doom?

Well… it does look pretty doomy. Sioux Sports shows that Michigan has to win nine of its last eleven to move into an RPI spot better than the last team in the tournament. If we can give them a little more slack it's not mch more: basically we don't have to count the Alaska tie against them.

This weekend is huge, huge, huge. HUGE. For one, it's against Michigan State. For two, State has slid of late and is now on the bubble itself. They're on the right side at the moment but Michigan could—probably would—pass them with a weekend sweep. That would give them the two head-to-head points they lost earlier back and probably send M past the Spartans in RPI. At the very least, Michigan would put that comparison back in play. Anything short of a sweep and that comparison is gone and Michigan will have spent another weekend doing nothing in particular to move on up in the world.

Before the weekend I suggested that 3-1 in this four game stretch was just about required if Michigan was going to be in position for an at-large bid, and they're 1-1. There are nine games plus the CCHA playoffs left after this weekend, which is a lot of time, but if they want to give themselves any leeway at all down the stretch they'll have to take a win and a tie from the weekend.

Unverified Voracity Braces

Unverified Voracity Braces

Submitted by Brian on April 2nd, 2009 at 12:49 PM

Hockey summer. The hockey season is over, and that means one thing: months and months of waiting for the other shoe to drop and for someone to sign an NHL contract. There's always at least one, so let's run down the possibilities:

  • Aaron Palushaj. Palushaj was heavily rumored to be out the door last year and is even more heavily rumored to be out the door this year. The Wolverine's Michael Spath is basically saying "he gone," as is (ugh) Hockey Buzz.
  • Chris Summers. A first round pick entering his senior year is always a flight risk, but Spath says a projected second depature "isn't Summers." Also, when Jerry of the Joe Cribbs Car Wash was a Saline Reporter… uh… reporter he interviewed Summers and got the distinct impression he was in for the long haul. About that second projected departure…
  • Scooter Vaughn. By the end of the year Vaughn was Michigan's eighth defenseman and was being tried out as a fourth-line forward. On the blue line the only graduation loss is Mitera. With Summers returning, no other defensemen seeming like huge flight risks (Kampfer, I guess, but there haven't been any rumblings to that effect), and freshman Lee Moffie arriving in the fall, Michigan will again have eight defensemen and Vaughn is staring at an uphill battle for playing time. Unsurprisingly, he might look elsewhere.
  • Caporusso, Hagelin, and Rust. There hasn't been any buzz on these guys either way because none are expected to leave. Caporusso and his shiny point totals are the biggest threat, but he was a late third round pick and Ottawa is not a team with a rep for signing kids just for the hell of it. That said, this is Michigan hockey so someone will kill us with an unexpected departure.

If the only departures are Vaughn, who is probably going to spend most of next year in a suit, and Palushaj, who everyone had already written off, that would be a win.

Spot on. Joe Posnanski's blog post on what ails sportswriting is a version of my usual complaint, except much less snotty about the whole thing:

There is still great, great sportswriting being done in newspapers, I believe this with all my heart. But that professional thing — maybe in places, there is a lack of joy. Maybe in places, there is an honorable distance. Maybe in places, the professional skepticism that we have built up through the years turns our coverage of games into hard-nosed city hall reporting. And last I checked, nobody wears jerseys that say “City Hall” on them.

That's at least part of it, with a large section of the other part being blithering stupidity. (Of which the internet has none.) Elsewhere in the post, Posnanski—who is an Actual Journalist for the KC Star and SI, if you don't know who he is—relates a formative anecdote in which he won a team-sponsored raffle and had to give it all (cooler! golf trip!) back when his hard-nosed city hall editor took the stogie out of his mouth and muttered something dark and deflating. It's an excellent example of the culture that was installed way back when, and how it turns young bucks into bitter donut-inhaling old men.

Not that Posnanski is one; he's my favorite Actual Journalist because he's the kind of person who maintains a personal blog and gets it in a way people who think typing a gamer your browser window is being "internet savvy" don't.

For a section dubbed the "toy department," there isn't a whole lot of fun on the sports pages. The erratic attempts at it only serve to confirm that the worst thing in the world is someone with an inflated impression of how hilarious they are; they're more sad than anything else. The exceptions (Wojo at the News, for one) only serve to reinforce the dull stentorian grumbling of the rest of it.

Thank you. Y'all can stick little needles in your Jim Carty voodoo dolls as you read this, but the man has done us (or at least me) a service:

Kirk Bohls is a very good columnist for the Austin American-Statesman newspaper in Texas. We've been fortunate to meet and interact a little at the Rose Bowl. He's used Kentucky's recent firing of Billy Gillispie to compile a list of the 10 toughest jobs in college sports.

Here's the excerpt for No. 8:

8. MICHIGAN FOOTBALL: Wolverines chased off proven winner Lloyd Carr for Rich Rodriguez, but the 108,500 fans who crowd the Big House won’t tolerate losses to Toledo — much less Ohio State — for long.

We'll deal with why the contention Carr was changed off in a minute, but even more amusingly, Bohls lists the Texas football job behind Michigan at No. 10.  The only problem with that suggestion, of course is ... well ... actual historical record. Michigan has had four coaches since 1968. None of them were fired. The only one who resigned under pressure did so for reasons that had nothing to do with football.
There is nothing—nothing—more annoying than people who have no idea where Michigan even is spouting off about how insane Michigan fans are because they "chased off" Lloyd Carr. You would not believe how many times I've forced myself to close a browser window before a spittle-flecked 1000 word post magically appeared in my editor. And Carty's takedown of the idea is authoritative. Ten cocktails to you.
 
Etc.: Rocky Top Talk unleashes a mondo post on the inside zone; highly recommended for extreme dorks. The full story on the moustache man banner. Michigan's spring media guide. People are signing up for the alumni game.