Scrappy Used To Be An Insult

Scrappy Used To Be An Insult

Submitted by Brian on March 28th, 2016 at 4:15 PM

3/25/2016 – Michigan 3, Notre Dame 2 (OT) – 25-7-5
3/26/2016 – Michigan 2, North Dakota 5 – 25-8-5, season over

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[Patrick Barron]

When things went badly for Michigan this year, they tended to go bad in bunches. An inability to get a clean zone exit against certain hyperactive teams led to periods where Michigan got bombarded in its own end. Until the tournament these periods weren't even against good teams, since there weren't any on the schedule.

Half the time Michigan would fight back out of these holes, sometimes wielding puck-loaded tommy guns. (Literally: before the North Dakota game Michigan was 4-4-4 going into the third period down.) While the Notre Dame game wasn't quite as explosive as various Big Ten comebacks, they did rebound from a horrendous second period on Friday to get a grip on the game, one they would eventually use to win the game on a gorgeous behind-the-back pass from JT Compher.

That was something. Through two periods that game felt like nothing so much as the last time Notre Dame and Michigan played. That CCHA championship game was Michigan's last ditch attempt to salvage their tourney streak. Michigan grabbed an early lead in the kind of game that feels over as soon as the opposition ties it; Notre Dame tied it. There was a flicker there of something different. If only someone else, something else loomed.

There was no similar respite against North Dakota, and that's the problem.

Michigan and North Dakota are, or at least were, mirror images of each other. They recruit speed and skill directly after high school. They're piled high with NHL draft picks. They win a ton of games and get shot down in the tournament by bloody, goofy fate. But these last two meetings, spread out as they are over five years, demonstrate that the programs have diverged.

The first was the Tiny Jesus game. Michigan got outshot 2 to 1, gave up a blizzard of grade A scoring chances, and saw Shawn Hunwick stone every last one of them. I thought about that game on Saturday; North Dakota fans thought about that game on Saturday. Neither of us were happy to think about that game. Never has a team absolutely crushing their opponent without having anything to show for it on the scoreboard induced so much despair in their own fans as I imagine North Dakota did during that first period. At one point shots were 15-3, and all underthings were in danger of soiling.

That state of affairs took an irrationally long time to resolve itself, because single elimination playoff hockey is barely weighted plinko. You know this; you saw Michigan bomb Air Force's goalie over and over to no effect. The "hot goalie" thing has always seemed to be a bad way to think about the fact that hockey is pretty random.

Anyway, this is what I meant when I said the plinko was in our favor this year: Michigan wasn't in North Dakota's class except on the scoreboard. By the end of the game Michigan had once again been outshot 2 to 1. They gave up nearly 50 shots.

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[Barron]

In the years bookended by these games, North Dakota has been slashed down in the Frozen Four twice and at this stage twice. Michigan saw entire four-year careers come and go without a tourney bid. Last year's team had the NHL rookie of the year, another guy who played 70 games right out of college, and Hobey finalist Zach Hyman and couldn't make the tourney. A team with Jacob Trouba on it missed the tourney. This team features a top line of future NHLers, one of whom was so rampant he will win the Hobey himself, and Racine's performance is the only thing disguising the fact they got run off the ice by North Dakota.

The talent is there; has always been there. The team is not on an elite level anymore.

I guess trying hard and going down fighting to a vastly superior team is preferable to some of the alternatives we saw over the past few years. That assertion was featured in some pushback on Twitter after I said "it's over" for Red, as if Michigan—Michigan!—was some try-hard program that's just happy to be here. I guess some people are just happy to be here, these days.

I was one of them for most of the year because I'd resigned myself to the fact that Michigan hockey isn't what it once was. This is indisputably true. Michigan once was a team with a 22-year tourney streak. Michigan used to go out like North Dakota, shaking their fists after dominating attack time and possession. That hasn't happened for a long time, and it's hard to envision a Red team that will do that in the future.

So, no, Michigan Daily, Red should not return next year. This season is not a return to form. It is an extension of same against a terrible schedule with a transcendent one-and-done. If there wasn't a ready-made candidate waiting in the wings there might be a case. But there is, and it's time for Mel Pearson to get the job he's waited 30 years for. Only Red can make that call; here's hoping he does.

Bullets

A thought for Steve Racine. For Racine to finish this season with a save percentage of .914 is a danged miracle. Even so he has to endure goofs like Dave Starman deriding him as Michigan's weak point despite the fact that there can't be another goalie on a decent team in the country who endured the same shot quality he did. He made some big mistakes at times—two goals came from outside the blueline this year—but he is clearly Michigan's best goalie since Shawn Hunwick.

The statistics will not reflect this assertion. The scatter charts will.

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The Big Ten excuse doesn't fly. Have seen a number of assertions that Michigan was ill-prepared to play North Dakota because they are good and the Big Ten is not. Such assertions fail to deal with the fact that Michigan got run over by Ohio State just three weeks ago, that Michigan didn't even win the not good league, that Michigan had control over 14 nonconference games and came up with BU and nobody else within spitting distance of an at-large bid.

Michigan's defense was a travesty most of the year; there was plenty of opportunity to fix it,  but it didn't get fixed, just like it didn't get fixed any of the last four years.

Looking towards next year. Mike Spath says that Werenski, Downing, and Connor are almost certainly out the door and that Motte and Compher will get pushed by NHL teams to sign.

Those two guys will have to decide between getting a jump on their entry level contracts or returning and having the flexibility Zach Hyman did after his senior year. Hyman forced a trade to the Leafs and is now in the NHL permanently since Mike Babcock loves him. I've also heard that Compher is in Ross and has a very high profile degree he can complete next year, which is motivation to return.

If Michigan gets Motte and Compher back their lines might look something like this:

  1. Motte-Compher-Kile
  2. Calderone-Marody-Warren
  3. Dancs-Shuart-Pastujov
  4. Lockwood-Merl-Sanchez

Pastujov, Sanchez, and Lockwood should be mid-round picks in the upcoming draft.

D:

  1. De Jong-C. Martin
  2. Cecconi-Boka
  3. L. Martin-Luce

Luce will be a mid-round pick.

That's not bad but it lacks an out-and-out star on defense unless Luke Martin, who's eligible for the 2017 draft, is the top-15-pick various mock draft sites are projecting him as.

If Compher and Motte depart things start getting grim. The only forwards not listed above are Evan Allen, Niko Porikos, and incoming PWO Lukas Samuelsson.

Breakout failures. It was uncanny how North Dakota destroyed Michigan by attacking the second pass. Most of the time a D's pass up to a forward saw that F under immediate pressure, whereupon he either threw it up the ice blindly or turned it over right there. It reminded me of watching the USMNT play Germany in the most recent world cup. North Dakota's forecheck is a high press that destroyed Michigan's offensive rhythm for most of the game. Their goals were more or less both on the power play; at 5x5 they did not score.

5x5: all of it. Michigan had one full power play in 130 minutes of hockey and drew one other penalty. This was a disaster for the nation's top power play. It resulted from a combination of excellent discipline from opponents, Michigan's inability to possess the puck, and refs lacking the courage to blow the whistle.

This was particularly acute in the Saturday game. An obvious interference call as Motte attempted to dump and chase in the first five minutes of the North Dakota game went unpunished, and after that it was free-for-all for both teams. By the third period Michigan defensemen could get their stick slashed out of their hands repeatedly with no reaction from the referee.

North Dakota was the superior team and deserved to win the game, but I'm frustrated that the game tilted even further to them because the refs decided that playoff hockey has different rules than regular hockey.

A fitting end. Michael Downing's slashing penalty with two and half minutes left was the final nail in the coffin, and a fitting way for him to go out. It was a two-handed chop down on a guy's arm in a situation where you'd rather just let the guy take his shot. I can't remember a more frustrating player other than maybe the freshman version of Jack Johnson, and Johnson was incredible as a sophomore.

Meanwhile Downing never shook the violence and bad decisions that plagued his game at Michigan. Notre Dame's opening goal on Friday was an odd-man rush he ceded with an awful decision. He then compounded it by falling down as the play entered the defensive zone.

I don't think Michigan will miss a beat without him. They went 3-0 during his various suspensions this year.

Unverified Voracity Isn't Saying That It's Zombie Apocalypse Time, But…

Unverified Voracity Isn't Saying That It's Zombie Apocalypse Time, But…

Submitted by Brian on February 17th, 2016 at 4:13 PM

Football Booklet Cover

IT'S MADE OF PAPER UNKNOWN TO MANKIND. The Daily has a book that compiles all their Harbaugh stuff, Harbaugh-related stuff, and Harbaugh-tangential stuff from the past year. You can order it for $5 plus shipping, or skip the shipping and pick it up from the Student Publications building on Maynard. Proceeds help the Daily keep running so they can continue to pump out epic features. Someone's got to write COLUMNS that don't make you want to die.

If this is the start of the zombie apocalypse I'm going to be upset. Gotta give me at least five years of Harbaugh before the end of the world.

Apparently most of the swimming and diving team is sick and they're checking the pool for something that turns you into a flesh-eating, non-verbal lumbering horror. Sounds like they should check the press box, not the pool.

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Also please not before the MONORAIL. True story: one of the first Every Three Weekly articles ever was about an outlandish plan to join Central Campus to North Campus with a monorail. (In it, Tom Goss projected it would make money thanks to monorailgoblue.com, because Michigan had just launched mgoblue.com. Also it was on paper. I am old.) Well, IT'S HAPPENING DOT MONORAIL:

Schlissel, city envision monorail to unite North and Central campuses

Tuesday, University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel reintroduced the idea of creating a rapid transit system between Central and North Campuses, a project that has essentially been dormant since 2013.

Would I ride this just to ride it? Definitely. Let's put our town on the map.

Yes, thank you sane person. Man, has it been hard to keep the fisk in the garage after the latest and dumbest hot take explosion about Harbaugh. The main reason I haven't opened both barrels is indecision about whether I should go after Mitch Albom, Drew Sharp, or Tony Barnhart, all of whom put the literary equivalent of Skyline chili on the internet in response to Harbaugh's plan to visit IMG. Nothing has been as dumb as this, though:

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I mean… I can't put it past a guy whose version of the "Art of the Deal" will be titled "Chasing Rutgers," but cumong man. Put down the Confederate flag bong and sober up.

I may break down pretty soon here and call someone horseface, but for now Andy Staples is keeping me sane:

The Power Five leagues, including Sankey's SEC, got autonomy legislation passed so they could loosen some restrictions that other Division I schools wanted to keep tight. The new attitude in major college sports was supposed to be this: If you want to do it, do it. If you don't, don't. That lasted until several millionaire coaches got mad at another millionaire coach trying to mitigate their competitive advantage.

I'm so so done with being Meatloaf The Football Program: I'll do anything to win but I won't do that. Staples does mention that Harbaugh getting up in his players' spring break might come up during the infinite lawsuits the NCAA is fighting, but since a bunch of spring sports already do that it's likely a moot point. And as I always point out, Michigan fans should be hoping amateurism dies swiftly and comprehensively for the same reason the Yankees don't want a salary cap. I don't think Harbaugh is consciously attempting to point out the hypocrisy, but I'd support him if he was.

Meanwhile in attempts to negative recruit based on the above. Michael Dwumfour opens up about his recruitment process, detailing an ill-fated Penn State trip:

The Penn State coaching staff knew the competition it was up against. According to Dwumfour, the Lions poked fun at Jim Harbaugh’s recruiting techniques.

That didn’t sit well.

“When I was at Penn State, I heard jokes about Harbaugh and stuff like that,” Dwumfour said. “In the back of my head, I’m thinking ‘What he’s doing is working, obviously. Instead of criticizing him, you might want to take some of his techniques to try and help yourself out and get some recruits.’”

The prospect of Penn State coaches making fun of Harbaugh's sleepovers boggles the mind, but I put nothing that is bogglingly dumb past James Franklin.

Status of Bush the elder. Devin Bush Sr was long rumored to be on the verge of a Michigan job, something that he was openly hoping for in an interview with Brandon Brown:

“For me, if I was to get an opportunity, because I would love to coach at the next level, I never wanted to put it out there because I didn’t want to move my kids while they were in high school. If you get into that world you could be moving every eight to ten months. Once my son graduated, now I would be open for an opportunity because I don’t have to worry about moving kids, it’s just my wife and I.”

That sounds like a guy who is waiting for the Ts to get crossed and Is dotted. And now that Michigan's down Greg Jackson they might look at him for that job as well; Bush's profile isn't that far away from Jackson's: former NFL safety, little high-level experience. Harbaugh grabbed Jackson when he was an assistant DBs coach with Wisconsin.

Who doesn't these days? Tom Brady's agent wants to blow up the NCAA, and he's likely correct about how the edifice comes tumbling down:

This is the promise of [Don] Yee's advocacy. He is a football insider with firsthand knowledge of how a business works and the credibility to make people listen. He is exhausted, he says, by talk without much action and has reached the point of arguing for revolution: Blow up the system. Start over. Build anew. "This generation of players has more tools at its disposal than any other to be heard and to organize," he says. "If they adopted a Twitter hashtag of #disruptthefinalfour for the NCAA tournament, they would at least start a discussion. And significant change typically happens through some discussion that is too large to ignore."

All it would take is two basketball teams deciding to delay a Final Four game and amateurism is all over but the shouting. They don't even have to refuse to play. All they have to do is agree to start the game 15 minutes late, and there will be no illusions as to where the power actually resides. Yee:

"Nothing will change for the players unless they take the responsibility of becoming something more than willing victims to this system," Yee says. "At some point, you have to look in the mirror and ask yourself, 'Who am I? What am I doing? What's going on, and what am I doing about it?' These players, they have all the power -- they simply don't realize it."

That is correct. Someone's going to be the NCAA's Curt Flood, and pretty soon. Related: Sonny Vaccaro talks to the NYT, says the same things Vaccaro usually does.

I guess he's a Walverine. Michigan fans have this odd conversation about whether it's okay to be a Michigan fan without having attended the school. They do this largely because MSU fans are livid that nobody who doesn't go to MSU gives a damn about the Spartans and project this anger all around them. Meanwhile 95% of Alabamans are either Auburn or Alabama fans, and… uh… let's just stipulate that more than 5% of Alabamans do not have a degree from either institution. (Ace, at home, just screamed "BAN BOOKLARNIN'" again.)

It is good to have Michigan fans scattered about with no other connection to the school. One of them just joined the recruiting class:

“Honestly I’ve been a Michigan fan since I was little,” [Dylan] McCaffrey said. “My grandma is a big Michigan fan. She has a house about 40 minutes away [from Ann Arbor], so I don’t know why, but I just ended up loving them. I could’ve always seen myself going there, and in the end I just went back to how I felt about Michigan as a kid.”

Another person who was a Michigan fan for no particular reason: Jabrill Peppers. Let all who want to root for winged helmets do so irrespective of their degrees, and let MSU fans stew about it.

More on "floor seats". Everyone hated it. Especially people who have televisions. ESPN trotted out some poor damn spokesperson, who immediately torpedoed any sympathy I might have for her with a statement so inane it bordered on Dave Brandon Hire:

ESPN was built on trying new things and taking risks, and tonight is just another example of that.

ESPN was built on showing people athletics contests, not utterly failing to do so.

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[Eric Upchurch]

Austin Davis is looking rather different these days. Many people thought taking Davis was questionable at best when Michigan did, and it is going to be strange next year when Michigan has up to six post players on the roster (Doyle, Donnal, Wagner, Wilson, Davis, and Jon Teske). But Davis has done everything he can to prep himself:

635908046831956828-AUSTIN-020816-KD-12[1]While he was 6-10 a year ago, he was also 265 pounds. Today he is a svelte 235 and his game has benefited immeasurably.

“The big thing is I changed my diet around; I changed it pretty drastically,” he said. “And then I got on a new weight program.” …

A year ago, Davis was more of a plodder as he moved up and down the court. His teammates often had to wait for him to join them before they could run their offense.

That, more than anything, is why no major college offered him a scholarship — and U-M coach John Beilein made Davis aware of that fact.

“We had a directive,” said Eric Davis, Austin’s dad. “Coach Beilein really wanted to see him start moving better and running the court better.”

He has, and he now looks like a college post. Whether he'll still look like one in college is unknown; his 79% shooting percentage is indicative of both his talent and his competition level.

Who runs Big Ten hockey? The equivalent of Tom Anastos. Tom Anastos, hockey coach, not Tom Anastos, CCHA commissioner. Because Anastos was all right at the latter before being thrust into a role he had no frame of reference for. Ditto the folks running Big Ten hockey:

“Coming from a non-hockey background, it’s kind of hard for me to imagine a fan in the state of Minnesota who wouldn’t be excited to see a Michigan or a Michigan State come in to play,” he said. “I recognize and acknowledge that significant rivalries developed over the years in the previous leagues, and that’s fine."

Minnesota fans did not like this interview with Brad Traviolia, not one bit. I'm not much of a fan either. Nobody comes to the Big Ten hockey tournament because most fans are very far away from said tournament no matter where it is.

There is no possible solution to this problem. A neutral site Big Ten tournament is never going to draw. I have had season tickets for a decade now and I have no plans to ever go to a neutral site Big Ten Tournament, because that product sucks. It sucks being in a big empty building where hockey is going on. I am barely willing to put up with it for an NCAA tournament game. A Big Ten tourney where everyone makes it in doesn't even come close to moving the needle.

The only solution is to go to series on home ice, which four of the six schools should support since they have dedicated rinks. If Wisconsin or Ohio State don't want to host because of high school sports, they don't have to. Quit letting two schools that clearly don't care about hockey dictate to the 3.5 that do.

Hockey tourney status: don't collapse. Jim Dahl's excellent Pairwise projection site is reaching peak utility as hockey comes down the stretch here. Michigan is in barring a spectacular collapse:

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Even 2-5 likely sees them sitting in a pretty secure at-large spot, though they'd definitely want to win a game in the Big Ten tournament. Three wins and they would be all but a lock going into that tourney unless results elsewhere conspired against them; 4-3 and they're 100% in.

A one seed would require Michigan to absolutely sprint down the stretch; even a 6-1 finish most likely sees them still a 2 going into the BTT.

I have no idea how good this goalie is. The Daily's Jason Rubinstein on Michigan's poor, bombarded goalie:

After three and a half years, Racine is playing the best hockey he ever has in a Michigan uniform. Berenson named him the team’s bona fide starter more than three months ago. For his last six games, he boasts a .931 save percentage, a career high for any stretch over five games that he has played.

And this past weekend, he was the only reason Michigan managed to escape Madison with five points, rather than three. In Saturday’s contest against Wisconsin, the Wolverines won in a shootout, despite surrendering four goals.

“You should’ve seen him at Wisconsin,” Berenson said. “He stood on his head, and we had no business winning the game based on the chances we gave up.

“That was his best game of the year.”

This has got to be the strangest year for hockey since I've been paying attention. They give up four goals to a very bad Wisconsin team only because their goalie stands on his head; they are on pace for a two-seed.

Etc.: Barry Alvarez apologizes for saying innocuous, accurate thing about UW hockey. Bob Miller on incoming goalie Jack LaFontaine. Jim Harbaugh adopts a kitten. PWO Anthony Kay profiled. Incoming hockeyist Nick Pastujov also profiled.

Catching Up With Hockey

Catching Up With Hockey

Submitted by Brian on December 5th, 2013 at 12:25 PM

An annual tradition: the post where I spit out a bunch of hockey thoughts right after football season ends.

Andrew Copp emoji state.

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AT RIGHT: Friday night immediately after OT goal

They are going to the tournament. Michigan's fantabulous 10-2-1 record has come against a tough slate of opponents; unadjusted win percentage has M's opponent's third; the more sophisticated KRACH system has them 12th. As a result they are second in both RPI and KRACH, behind only Minnesota. They're also tied for second in the revamped Pairwise*. Unless they implode, Michigan is on pace for a bid. Hell, they're on pace for a one seed.

They are living on the edge. Michigan isn't as good as their record. Don't take it from me, take it from Red, who said something along those lines a few weeks ago. They have played only three games not decided by one goal: 3-1 over BC, 6-0 over Niagara, and 7-4 over RIT. Hooray winning one goal games and all, but:

  • Michigan is 3-0-1 in five minute OT sessions.
  • Their goalies have a collective .937, and that's not because every shot is from the blue line.
  • Shots for and against are dead even at 428.
  • Pythagorean expectation (upshot: goal differential is a better predictive metric than record) works just as well in the NHL as it does MLB, and Michigan is 7th in scoring margin, way behind the Gophers.

Who's happy with #7 in goal differential? Everybody. But they're not playing like the elite team their record and the rankings suggest. There's no denying they've had a hefty helping of fortune so far and replaying this season results in a record this good maybe 5% of the time.

The blue line is a large problem. Bennett's great; everyone else is worrisome at best. The OSU comeback Monday was a collection of gross errors from the defense corps, from Chiasson wandering out to a player behind the net without putting his stick down, thus allowing a centering pass right through him, to Downing sliding his way behind the net on a 4 on 3. On Friday, Clare threw a blind backhand pass behind his own net with three minutes left in a one goal game instead of chipping the puck out of the zone; five seconds later it was no longer a one-goal game.

With Serville hurt, Michigan turned to junior forward Andrew Sinelli as the #6 D, and my buddy and I went from panicking about this to wondering if Michigan would sit Clare in favor of him when Serville was back. Since he hardly saw a shift late Monday you'd think the answer to that is undoubtedly "no," but Spath says he's threatening Serville:

"I like his quickness," Berenson said. "He's a good skater. He goes back to get the puck and he'll win that race. He'll take a hit to make a play. And he's a defensive forward so he has good defensive instincts in our zone."

Szuma missed some time with a concussion but after a long and thorough rest, he's back at practice. It appears, though, that for now, Sinelli has won the job and he will be given every chance to compete with Serville to be the Maize and Blue's sixth defenseman.

Chiasson has apparently slid past Serville to solidify his job, which makes sense to me. Clare holding his spot without threat… not so much.

Sinelli is much defter with the puck than most of Michigan's available defensemen and surprisingly physical for a small guy. He effectively pinned a bunch of guys to the boards and didn't make any glaring errors. He could help. This is both an endorsement of Sinelli and a cocked eyebrow at the rest of the crew.

But hey Bennett. Getting any scoring from the D has been the main issue with Michigan's offense so far. They're 16th in scoring with virtually no contribution from the D. Bennett pulled both of those OSU games out of the fire, first with the great stretch pass embedded above, then with a plunge into the goal mouth to take a cross-ice pass from Chiasson(!) to complete the World's Most Dangerous Goal.

If that had rebounded such that OSU got a quick breakout that was a 3-on-1 developing with Di Giuseppe back. Yikes. But it went in, so hooray.

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Guptill's penalty shot against BU is one of five goals on the year for him [Bill Rapai]

The forwards are deep with little top end. I love me some Copp and Compher, who just scored two of the dirtiest crease goals Michigan's put in since… well, it's been a while since Michigan's had a true goalmouth fiend. Those guys bring value beyond their scoring lines and both are at a PPG.

But while it seems like Di Giuseppe, Nieves, Moffatt, and Guptill is a hell of a supporting cast, not a lot is happening 5 on 5 here. Those scoring line veterans have six goals 5v5 in 13 games. That's a little disappointing. The power play, clicking at 25%, is keeping everybody afloat right now; they're going to have to get some more even strength production if they're going to keep winning games if and when the save percentage and PP come back to earth.

Speaking of clicking. The turnaround in the power play is kind of incredible. Last year their single idea was get the puck to Trouba, and this was an okay enough idea to get Michigan to 19%. The year before they were completely miserable at 15%; they were at 17% the year before. All of these numbers seemed deserved.

This year's number also seems deserved. Michigan gets much better puck movement and regularly finds guys for cross-ice bombs that have been the most effective way to put the puck in the net since NHL 94. I don't get why it's happening this year instead of previous years, but I'll take it.

Inexplicable player enthusiasm of the year. Always one guy on the team who does nothing statistically but I find a way to advocate anyway, and this year it's Zach Hyman. Hyman's 1-2-3 line is obviously bleah. I still manage to think that he's much better at coming out of the corners with a purpose than anyone else on the team and should be flanked by two skilled players to take advantage of his ability to create offense off the cycle.

He seems like a different player, even if the stats aren't showing it. Remember this if he blows up in the next 20 games. Forget it if he doesn't.

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No Racine is no problem. [Bill Rapai]

Goaltending is weird. Steve Racine started Monday's game out with some shaky rebound control before righting the ship and turning in one of the best four goals allowed performances you'll see; he has a .925 this year, building on the .920 he put up in the final ten games of his freshman season. And this is nothing compared to Nagelvoort, who's putting up Hunwick numbers: .945, 1.65 GAA.

Quite a difference there… and sad to say probably not a sustainable one. Teams that manage to have those kinds of save percentages over the course of the year are generally Cornell or Ron Mason-era MSU teams that place a heavy emphasis on defense and conservatism; Michigan just scored on a cross-ice goalmouth pass from D to D. Meanwhile, the shaky defense corps is giving up a ton of Grade A opportunities, and eventually those are going to start going in unless Michigan gets it together.

Even if it's not sustainable, that's 23 consecutive games of goaltending ranging from high quality to outstanding. At some point the sample size is about as good as its going to get, and we can put the terrible memories of last year behind. That point is coming up very soon.

Is Josh Blackburn still working with Michigan's goalies as a volunteer? Can someone buy him a smoothie or something?

The rest of the league is Minnesota and poop. I fielded a couple of questions about why I was high on Minnesota instead of Wisconsin and didn't really have an answer other than "Wisconsin always does this," and Wisconsin is doing it again: they're 4-5-1 on the year and just got swept by the Gophers in their first Big Ten series; they got blown out by both Boston schools. And they're probably the third best team in the league. The rest:

  • OSU is 8-6 with seven of their wins against Robert Morris, Niagara, Canisius, and BGSU (a split with UMD is the final win). They played well against Michigan but still got swept; they were swept by Miami in their first series of the year, and Miami's not that good right now.
  • MSU is 5-7 with 4 wins over American International (3-8) and Princeton (3-10); they were recently swept by Michigan Tech.
  • Penn State is 3-7-1 with wins over Army, Robert Morris, and Sacred Heart; they were swept by Air Force and Union.
  • Minnesota leads the nation in goal differential and is rather good at hockey. They've beaten UNH and taken a three point weekend from BC, plus split against ND.

Minnesota's the heavy favorite to win the league, and Michigan should finish second. No one else is likely to make the tournament.

*[I don't have a handle on what the changes did yet. In previous years I've downplayed the Pairwise until late in the season due to its volatility, preferring RPI as a better projection of where you would finish in the PWR at the end of the year than the actual PWR. If that seems like a dumb ranking system to you, well, at least they overhauled it?]

Unverified Voracity Commences Insultingly

Unverified Voracity Commences Insultingly

Submitted by Brian on October 31st, 2013 at 1:11 PM

Oh man. I will not mention anything about brothers.

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Mary Sue Coleman? That's gotta sting. Compounding matters: Steelcase CEO James Hackett, another of their speakers, is also a Michigan graduate. Fergodsake, MSU, just put Narduzzi up there.

SCORE. Wolverine Historian has had his video library restored. Run around in circles, but in a good way. 408 painstakingly crafted retrospectives on Michigan past, back. Here is a randomly selected one:

2001 Iowa

The infuriating part of all of this was that no one who puts these things on the tubes is looking to get rich; they are just sharing their fandom, taking items of little financial but excellent emotional value. I'm not going to pay one red cent to watch a game from 2001 broadcast on free television. I will take in a highlight package and deepen my fandom. It's a soft benefit from the perspective on high, but man if I was looking at 0.01% of my revenue versus not being T3Media, well…

US Soccer gets this; they slap great highlight packages from every game they have rights to on YouTube (ie, no World Cup), and sometimes I get lost in them like it's Wikipedia. It's 100% feelingsball, but that kind of thing makes me like the USMNT more from the top down. Getting annoyed by whatever Michigan's latest un-embeddable video player that's crappier than YouTube by a factor of ten is a detraction, and the payoff is minimal.

Hopefully this is a sign that the hardliners have been relegated to the back. T3's channel exists, even. Now… can YouTube maybe unlock my previous UFR account?

LET US DISPATCH ENTHUSIASM. Man, I wanted to write a post on the Concordia game but it seemed like too much what with Ace saying all the things I wanted to. Still, UMHoops jumps in as they are wont to and I want to say things about things. So let's do that.

  • Concordia but. In 2010, Michigan played Concordia. They won 86-65 and Concordia's center went off for 29 points on Jordan Morgan. Michigan led 42-32 at the half. This was a different game, and a different level of team. That team was a Darius Morris bucket away from taking Duke to OT in the second round of the NCAA tournament. This game was an annihilation, and that was without the guy who's probably the best player on the team.
  • Oh, man, Caris. I will not get too excited about Caris LeVert. I will not get too excited about Caris LeVert. I will not WOOOOOOO CARIS LEVERT. LeVert flashed the ability to get where he wanted on the court last year, which is an impressive ability at 6'6". He never really delivered; he was always the kind of guy who might blow up hardcore with some more development. Blowing up hardcore is… I will not get too excited about Caris LeVert. Oh man.
  • GRIII, also. Robinson drove to about 15 feet and pulled up for a Jumper I Hate and it went down, back of the iron, smooth, and I wasn't even mad because Robinson going and getting it is something to look at.
  • Stauskas, also. Do not play the "not just a shooter" drinking game this year. You will die.
  • Walton… you get it. This is a team with many good players on it.

Racine back soon? The Daily's Greg Garno tweets that Red is "leaning" towards Zach Nagelvoort this weekend; he has returned to practice. That one word promises Racine back on the ice next week or the week after. Even if that seems far less urgent than it did when he went out against New Hampshire, Racine's still the starter and should be until he falters.

This will be cool or infuriating or probably both. Prepare thine vintage torches and antique pitchforks, ye mobbe of Ten Yeare War-ists.

BTN Originals will premiere Tiebreaker, the network’s first feature-length documentary, at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday, Nov. 16. Tiebreaker paints an indelible portrait of college football’s most storied rivalry and reveals a forgotten moment in college football history that helped shape today’s game.  

The 60-minute documentary examines the aftermath of the 1973 Ohio State v. Michigan football game that ended in a 10-10 tie. With both teams sporting identical 7-0-1 conference records, Big Ten Athletic Directors were left to vote on which school would represent the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl. At that time, only one Big Ten team could play in a bowl game. In a controversial vote, the Big Ten Athletic Directors voted to send Ohio State to Pasadena. Michigan head coach Bo Schembechler called the decision “the lowest day of my athletic career.”

Hopefully this is a little more hard-hitting than The Journey, which is about 20% cool inside stuff and 80% watching Aaron Craft make pancakes. That's not a joke. I caught an episode last year in which a good five minutes was dedicated to Aaron Craft making pancakes*. Moar NFL films, less soft-focus twee, please.

*[Naturally, he crowded the pan.]

Not looking great. The Power Rank's take on the Big Ten division race:

BigTenLegends_winprob_Nov2013[1]

A win Saturday and Michigan State is gone; so much for the preseason It All Comes Down To November meme. It comes down to this game. Win it and Michigan has a half-game lead. Lose it and State is 2.5 up on M and home free unless… uh… yeah, home free. Ed's numbers have Michigan with a 37% shot in East Lansing, FWIW.

Etc.: Dan on Fire is the best. Boy can the NCAA write a grabbing headline. Narduzzi's probably out the door soon, so at least there's that. Florida: the new Purdue? Come on, certify the players' class, man. More with that girl from the Indiana game. Someone find a different picture of her.

Lift The Stick

Lift The Stick

Submitted by Brian on October 14th, 2013 at 4:12 PM

10/10/2013 – Michigan 3, Boston College 1 – 1-0

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MGoBlue

I once watched a YouTube video of Luke Moffatt scoring five goals in one game. He'd just committed to Michigan and was still playing AAA with Little Caesars or Honeybaked or whatever, and I was told that he was the best 15-year-old playing hockey in the world. I believed it, and Luke Moffatt believed it.

Every waking moment since has been something of a disappointment after that high, for both of us. For me, at least, that's a compartment. For Moffatt it's been his life. Moffatt's prospect status slid until he was a seventh—and last—round draft pick. At Michigan he trundled through seasons that were matched and surpassed by guys who never thought they were the best player on their team, let alone in the country: 5-8-13 as a freshman, 6-10-16 as a sophomore. Last year he was an idling third-liner who finished –8 as the team he probably thought he'd be leading to a national title and incidental Hobey Baker missed the tournament for the first time since evolution was a thing.

My buddy who grew up playing hockey and still knows way more about it than I do heaped derision on him: no check, no effort, no defense, no care. I thought that was a little unfair. But only a little. Luke Moffatt kind of symbolized everything that was wrong with last year's team.

-----------------------------------

Boston College is fast. Michigan was fast; Boston College is still. Michigan has little bursts of fast. Boston College lives on it, and whenever you see them live it jumps off the ice. Boston College is fast. Get your back turned at the wrong time and throw the puck the wrong way in your defensive zone and you are in for a harrowing minute and a half as they swarm you, talons out.

Michigan endured a few shifts like that, and when that happens the mind turns to old games in the tournament against these guys where Michigan was just able to keep up for a while before collapsing, exhausted, as soon as BC tied it. You know that one game I'm thinking about. The one with nine minutes without stoppages.

When I felt that coming on, Michigan lifted a stick. Boston College, which is fast, would be coming out of the defensive zone and then a Michigan guy would have the puck and not quite know what to do with himself. After the puck hit the corner, Michigan would pen Boston College in their zone for a change. I kind of expected this. I've been talking up Andrew Copp and JT Compher for six solid months now.

I did not expect my confirmation-bias riddled self to fist pump because Luke Moffatt was shouldering his way through to keep possession, finishing checks, and playing like the best goddamn 15-year-old on the planet, seven years later. Forget the two power-play snipes. Forget everything about them except Moffatt's comically exaggerated goal celebrations after. Those were Jean Claude Van Damme-level overacted. They were wrestling heel moves. Forget the snipes. Remember the reactions, and apply it to Luke Moffatt plundering through the offensive zone to acquire or re-acquire possession.

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MGoBlue

Why is Luke Moffatt on the second line next to the all-effort freshmen? Go to hell, that's why. Luke Moffatt is tired of being a guy who was a prospect. Luke Moffatt is tired of my buddy popping on message boards to trash his effort level. Luke Moffatt is tired of being a third liner. Luke Moffatt is done with that crap. Go to hell, says Luke Moffatt. He says it directly to me and my hissy fit last year. And I say yes, sir.

Luke Moffatt's going to get a major and game misconduct he deserves. And I'll say yes, sir.

-----------------------

After Moffatt buried the 3-1 goal, Michigan had a relatively easy time of seeing Boston College off the ice in the third period. They were desperate; they managed five shots. Michigan put the clamps down, as the clock ticked down and an odd feeling of security descended, last year momentarily seemed like a hazy dream. After that moment it was real, and still bleeding in front of you because Michigan had taken its stick and sliced it across the throat.

Afterwards, Michigan gathered at center ice as they always do. I always watch this. It feels different every time. This time, it was rocket-fueled resentment and a chin held high. We are not them, despite largely being them. That is not us. This is us.

They lifted their sticks as they had Boston College's, and announced their presence. This is not last year's team. An ice shavings-covered, slavering Luke Moffatt is plenty of evidence of that.

[After the JUMP: tracing the outlines of what happened at RIT, Coppwaii.]

Hockey Preview 2013: Goalie, Outlook

Hockey Preview 2013: Goalie, Outlook

Submitted by Brian on October 4th, 2013 at 4:38 PM

Goalie

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please Tiny Jesus, bless this goalie with your holy save percentage

This was a mess for the first 30 games last year, and was so immediately. Michigan blew a two goal lead in the opener, falling to RIT in overtime as Jared Rutledge gave up 5 goals on 26 shots. Four of those goals were somewhere between weak and horrible. Steve Racine backstopped a 7-2 win the next night, and the rotation was on in earnest.

Both struggled; to my eyes, Rutledge was a roving assemblage of holes just waiting to burst open. When he moved across the crease it was like portions of his body just phased out. Racine looked much more solid, but was a little snakebit and had one or two WTF breakdowns per game.

Both guys puttered along with ugly save percentages until a 4-1 loss to Western spurred Red to try the old "put in a 5'6" walk-on to spur the team to greater heights" gambit. Adam Janecyk entered. The team shut out Western the next night, and thus embarked Tiny Jesus Quest 2.0. That, like almost everything else last year, failed. It turns out that there's only one Shawn Hunwick.

Michigan turned back to Rutledge for a pair of wins against utterly inept Michigan State—a team that had bombed him for 7 goals back in November—and a humiliating 13-goals-allowed weekend at Notre Dame before finally, mercifully re-inserting Racine for his first start since December. Racine let in six goals on 60 shots as Michigan swept OSU. The next weekend Michigan held Ferris to two goals in two games. Northern got four. And so forth and so on. By the end of Michigan's somewhat stirring run to the CCHA final, Racine had gone ten straight games without giving up more than three goals and had just about forced his season-long save percentage over .900. His SV% over Michigan's 9-1-1 run to finish the season was .921—very good.

The Difference. Michigan's save percentage the rest of the season was an abominable .873. The difference that would have made:

GOALS ALLOWED, HYPOTHETICAL SEASON-LONG SUCK: 143

GOALS ALLOWED, HYPOTHETICAL RACINE .921: 89

REALITY: 130

It's kind of a big deal that Steve Racine is the guy he seemed like in the last ten games and not the guy he seemed like in his first 12. Is he? I have no idea. Goalies can go entire NHL seasons without establishing a true performance level. You only get reliable this-guy-can-play data by extending your data over two or three years. Anyone telling you anything about Racine definitively is having you on.

Racine's big, Michigan has a recent pedigree of developing goalies, and the good bit was at the end. If he's not getting jerked around—and he will be allowed to sink or swim until at least midseason—hopefully he's closer to the end bit than the starting bit.

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Backups. Rutledge fled back to the USHL for a breather year, and while Michigan is holding the door open they've added Zach Nagelvoort in this class and possible draft pick Hayden Lavigne in the next. The door is open, and crowded, and if Rutledge wants to play I don't think he's coming back.

This year, Nagelvoort is the guy. We've actually got a hello post for him because he committed back in April and there was actual data on him—most hockey commits don't get pub here because the posts on them would consist of "this is his name, that's all I know." Nagelvoort is a lot like Racine, as he had a blazing year-end run after a midseason trade (he was stuck behind another D-I goalie), going 8-1-1 with a SV% of .957. His season-long SV% was .936. He's a flier with very few games under his belt and probably won't play much unless Racine struggles.

Outlook

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LEAD

While I can't predict the outcome of a few question marks, here are a the things I'm relatively confident I can project:

The give-a-damn level will skyrocket. GAD level started to incline when Copp was installed as the top line center, and now he's got an A. With some less committed folk out the door and JT Compher and Tyler Motte in, Michigan will have one backchecking, two-way, effort player on the ice at all times.

Mac Bennett is going to blow up. A senior with a ton of talent, he'll be given ice time levels rarely seen in Yost Ice Arena. He'll anchor the top pairing and power play, rush the puck with much greater frequency, and be All Big Ten, easy.

Pain and woe will be the watchwords of the second defensive pairing. The third pairing will probably be fine with many options and Mike Szuma holding it down against checking lines. But the options on the second pairing include two mediocre players and two freshmen with decent, but not great, profiles.

The power play will suck. Who's got the talent to run it? I don't see anyone. Last year it was "let Trouba shoot"; this year it's back to the salt mines.

5x5 scoring depth will be good. Michigan won't have a blazing top line that kills all comers but they will be solidly positive as their two-way work helps. The second line should be solidly above average, and they'll get nice production out of Motte or Kyle or Moffatt as you go down the roster. It'll have to be, because only Bennett projects to offer a lot of points from the defense.

This will be a rebound year. Well yeah.

The Verdict

How much of a rebound depends heavily on Racine and the two relatively ready freshmen defensemen. If Racine is a barely-above-.900 guy and Downing and De Jong are better suited to the bottom pairing, it's an NCAA bubble team fighting tooth and nail to get a bid. If Racine is a .920 guy and Downing/De Jong can solidify the top four defensemen, Michigan will cruise into the tournament as a two or strong three.

M did not do themselves many favors with a brutal schedule, and will start off sloppy and shaky. The BC opener, to be played without Guptill, is a Bad Idea, and Michigan's record won't impress too much early. Once they get into the rather easy Big Ten section, they'll win enough games to be a three-seed going into the NCAA tournament.

Dear Diary Mails It In

Dear Diary Mails It In

Submitted by Seth on September 20th, 2013 at 11:59 AM

I'm gonna Akron this column today since we're sending the final PDFs of Hail to Hoops and Hockey to the printer. The contents (click to make it readable):

004 toc_v5

Actually we had to cut the 2nd Bartelstein article today

If you don't know what Henri* is doing in the upper-right corner you didn't follow hockey so much last year. If you did follow hockey last year you probably have strong opinions on goaltending. HTTV contributor MGoBlueline put together a neat diary this week trying out the "quality start" metric they use in baseball for hockey goalies. He gives them out for having a save% better than the DI average, i.e. a start that gave your team a chance to win. My quibble: it's justification of feelings-ball (-puck whatever).

Freshman goaltender Steve Racine (1) in game versus Western Michigan. Michigan won by a score of 5-1. (Paul Sherman/Daily)
Racine's year to MGBL: 12 quality starts, 10 non-quality, 5 cheap wins, 2 wasted quality starts. [Paul Sherman, Michigan Daily]

The problem with any gamesmanship stat is this: have you ever met a goalie who ever liked any goal going by him in any situation ever? It makes sense for pitching because it's possible to surrender a run to get an out, a pitcher's most important currency; for goalies the currency is time. What you're measuring is consistency, which is useful so long as you remember that's what you're measuring (and that we wouldn't be having this conversation if Racine posted any shutouts last year).

While we're being realistic, alum96 wrote a board post that got diary-bumped that compared the recruiting profiles of Michigan's defensive line to those of Ohio State. His metric for guys is the quality of offers—Michigan's were mostly regional while OSU's guys mostly had Alabama offers and plenty more power programs after them.

True, and that's a big part of why Michigan is hard after the top DL recruits in the country right now. If you take away the Heininger Certainty Principle Michigan's DL looks really thin; since pass rush is more of a talent thing it should be no surprise that the deficiency in recruiting stars is most apparent there. But then Ohio State's line is just ludicrously stacked right now—Michigan doesn't need to get 8 guys Saban wanted badly to get to good.

[Jump for the Weeklies, Best of the Board and some badly needed zen]

Hockey Bits: RIT

Hockey Bits: RIT

Submitted by Brian on October 17th, 2012 at 9:47 PM

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Trouba intimidates even when putting on hats

Full game stories have to wait for football season to end, but a highly timely selection of things on last weekend's games:

Overall, extremely encouraging. Michigan lost Friday thanks to 3 terrible goals and two savable ones given up by a freshman goalie, and don't just take my word for it:

"I'll have to look at them again but they all looked pretty soft to me," Berenson said. "The kid made some good saves too, but it was a tough night to be a goalie in our net, and we have to do be better than that."

Aside from that and some sloppy early-season play from defenders, Michigan was on. They had twelve goals on the weekend, one of them waved off for a high stick that didn't affect the outcome of the play. They bombed RIT, nearly outshooting them 2-1 both nights. RIT is a respectable outfit that was 20-13-6 last year with nonconference wins over Ferris State and Lake State, so to thoroughly outplay them without Jon Merrill is a good sign.

Most importantly, the power play looked like it had some purpose. Michigan converted three of thirteen opportunities and did not spend entire power plays either failing to acquire the zone or shooting it into a defenders' skates from the point. Trouba is a great help there—he's got a laser shot and the ability to pass and stickhandle from the point. Paired with Treais he's a major upgrade on last year's efforts—now Michigan can rotate down either point man and put the opposing box under stress as they try to hand off players between each other without opening up passing lanes.

Point Racine. Obviously. 21 saves each; five goals let in for Rutledge, two for Racine. Racine is a strange goalie who kind of reminds me of a huge Hunwick—he will come way out of his crease in an attempt to aggressively cut down shooting angles. He's far less agile than Hunwick, though, and this will burn him at some point. After the highly scientific sample size of one game each, he seems better right now.

Rutledge didn't just give up a bunch of atrocious goals, he also looked shaky on a bunch of saves and gave up an ugly goal in the exhibition. Hopefully that's just nerves and youth and Blackburn can get him straightened out—Hunwick was night and day from his initial forays onto the ice once Blackburn had him for a significant period of time.

Trouba ridiculous. Wrap-around goal, killing that guy, a series of tape-to-tape breakout passes, excellent PP QB performance… yow. He'll get a little too aggressive at times, but he's a lot like a calmer Jack Johnson. #JMFT.

Some steps forward from the younger D. Serville didn't do anything to make me go "uhhhh noooo" except maybe once or twice, which is progress. Clare seemed to have taken a step forward towards reliable Jay Vancik defensive defenseman before his injury, as well. The other guys seems to be the other guys.

Nieves bouncing around. He started on the fourth line but had worked his way up to Guptill's outfit by the late stages on Thursday and jumped off the fourth line for the entirety of Friday's game. Big guy, can get the edge on defensemen, wish he would try to ride them to the front of the net a lot more often. I get why the scouts kept talking about him as a perimeter player.

Sparks: deployed. Lindsay Sparks was given a large share of power play time and was placed on a second or third line, depending on your POV. Like last year, he's off to a good start with two points on the weekend. Hopefully he can stay out of the doghouse enough to grab one of those top nine slots.

Elsewhere

Michigan Hockey Net on the top line:

The chemistry on the first line is undeniable, particularly with A.J. and Di Giuseppe.  All night they were a two-tandem terror giving the Tigers fits.  A.J. was all over the ice, he was on top of the RIT defense seemingly at will, punishing their backstop with a barrage of pucks.  His goal was a thing of beauty: PDG corralled the puck, and found AJ wide-open in the slot, who hammered it home, going down on one knee Brett-Hull style for added effect.  PDG’s goal was similar earllier in the game: the Captain found his linemate hovering between the circles, the Maple native zinged a wicked wrister top shelf.  Not to be outdone, Moffatt had an assist, and really seemed to be the stabilizing force on that line, letting the other two do their thing.  What we’re seeing from Luke are flashes of what he displayed before arriving on campus, and he’s finally adjusted it to the college level: the ability to find his way through traffic and get to the net. He split two defenders in his lone SOG.  For the record: AJ finished with 9 SOG, and PDG had 5.  I’m salivating over here about what this line can accomplish, but let’s temper expectations–it’s early, and we haven’t hit conference play yet.

Yost Built on Friday:

The Wolverines put 51 shots on net, including 20 in the third period. Every player who dressed recorded at least one shot on goal this weekend. For the series the power play was 3-for-13 (23%) and generated 27 shots on goal (!!!). The PK was 9-for-9 and added a short-handed goal. Good weekend for the special teams.

Yost Section 25 has some pictures and a take as well. Mike Spath says Clare is "most likely" to miss the Bentley game this weekend with his shoulder injury, which will bring Mike Szuma into the lineup. Sounds like Clare's injury isn't too long term—the important games ramp up quickly, with Miami, Northern, State, and ND the next four weekends after Bentley.