Bridge Repair

Submitted by Brian on March 22nd, 2010 at 1:38 PM

3/19/2010 – Michigan 5, Miami 2 – 24-17-1
3/20/2010 – Michigan 2, Northern Michigan 1 – 25-17-1, CCHA

imageHere's an odd assemblage of autobiographical facts:

One. When I was in high school my AP English research paper was a no doubt ham-fisted comparison between Winesburg, Ohio and Bridge of San Luis Rey. I don't remember the former whatsoever, but the latter is a novel by Thornton Wilder in which a selection of lovelorn 18th century Peruvians pitch headlong to their deaths when the rope bridge they are crossing gives way.

This event fascinates a local monk who sees the tragedy happen. He tracks down the life stories of everyone involved and concludes this was merciful act of God since each victim suffered from a love so powerful and unrequited that the last thoughts of the victims was probably something a long the lines of "yay it's over yay yay yayyyyyyy—."

For the monk's troubles, the Inquisition burns him at the stake. He was looking for proof of a just and loving God, which is heretical when you're supposed to take that on faith.

Two. At some point in a gas station or at Meijer or some other place where bad or obscure movies are put on sale for five dollars, I happened across a movie version of Bridge of San Luis Rey. I still remembered the book. Inexplicably, the movie starred Gabriel Byrne, Kathy Bates, and Robert DeNiro(!). I was obviously compelled to purchase it. This did not extend to actually watching it.

Three. My satellite setup is shared with the landlord and sometimes when we want to watch TV he is instead taping every procedural crime drama or nature documentary set in the Far East on television. Yesterday in the afternoon it was Wild China. So my fiancée put on this movie.

Four. The reason we were stymied by Wild China instead of watching the NCAA tournament in Vegas was because Spirit Airlines, which sucks immensely, oversold our flight to Las Vegas and bumped us. This sent me into a rage, destroyed the cost-benefit ratio of going, saw us cancel the trip entirely, and caused me to spend Thursday sulking like a five year old.

Five. On Friday I went to a hockey game. Saturday, too.

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The number of Michigan fans that would gladly have seen their sports fandom pitch headlong to its doom has to be hovering near its all-time high right now. You can't voluntarily abandon it because suicide is a sin but, man, that bridge is looking pretty rickety and maybe if I just take all these things I care about and put them on the bridge and go attend to cargo down by the river I'll come back to find no trace of them and I can go be interested in crochet. There's no such thing as unrequited crochet.

As reactions to this year of Michigan sports go, turning off the hope and settling down into a prolonged malaise is obvious. I was planning some sort of gallows-humor-laden celebration when the three major sports seasons had finally expired and kind of hoping the hockey team would gack it up against Lake State just so it would over sooner. This was always hypothetical. Once the team got on the ice I was pulling for them, but without much fervor and with an eye on the silver lining if they did what they'd been doing all season. I was thinking about a mock funeral.

Then… that happened.

Putting the spurs to Lake Superior State was one thing, as they were a tenth-place team with some fatal flaw that made Michigan's numerous fatal flaws irrelevant. A dominant sweep was a rare occurrence for Michigan this year, but it could be explained away. Following that by stomping Michigan State in a series that redefined both teams' seasons lit a tiny little flame, though. When Tristin Llewellyn (of all people!) blasted a puck past Cody Reichard, it was on: the terror of a high-stakes game you are fully invested in. It had been a long time since one of those went the right way.

Something did flip on this team when Shawn Hunwick was forced into the starting lineup. The relentless defensive intensity from Hunwick's first game, when he saw maybe two shots with any hope of going in, has been a constant feature since his insertion. That's equal parts insult and tribute: the team both needs and wants to protect their miniscule walk-on goaltender. In doing so they've found the formula for success that eluded them so painfully the throughout the season and given Michigan fans reason to believe in heretical things like Benevolent Michigan Walk-On Tolerating God.

I guarantee you this: no group of people has ever been as excited about Fort Wayne, Indiana, as Michigan hockey fans are right now.

BULLETS

  • Yost Built is doing a round of apologies in the aftermath and I have a couple to offer up of my own:

    Tristin Llewellyn not only scored but avoided any penalties that meant something (he took one with a few seconds left in a 5-2 game against Miami) and failed do anything that made me mentally exclaim "Llewellyn!" in the same tone of voice Jerry Seinfeld says "Newman!"

    That latter is the way I usually judge individual defense: number of "Newman!" plays where someone's obvious error leads to a scoring chance versus number of anti-Newmans where something that looks threatening is snuffed out by a good play. (I know this is far from a complete evaluation but it's the best I can do live.) Llewellyn had a half Newman early in the Northern game when he came up too aggressively as NMU broke the zone, but he had backcheckers and nothing came of it. He had two or three anti-Newman plays against Miami, which is That Miami. Best weekend of his career? Probably.

    Louie Caporusso came in for repeated criticism this year as he and David Wohlberg failed to even approximate their 2009 production. At a couple points I suggested that this was the real Caporusso, a decent second-liner and nothing more, and that the blazing hot start to his sophomore year was the aberration. Yeah… Caporusso is now two points off a PPG. Yost Built has details:

    When Caporusso was a Hobey-finalist a year ago, he had 24-25--49, but scored just six goals after the first of the year--and five of those were against LSSU, WMU, and a dreadful FYS team. This year it's the opposite. After just 7 goals in his first 30 games, Caporusso has now ripped off 13 goals and 20 points in the last 13, which includes five multi-goal games and a playmaker. He also hasn't gone consecutive games without a point this calendar year.

    Theory as to what happened: Caporusso's okay but not great at stickhandling, crazy Hensick goal against Michigan State nonwithstanding, and he spent large chunks of the year attempting to do everything himself. This resulted in a lot of lost possession and not much else. When the team picked up its play, Caporusso had more faith in his teammates to get him the puck in dangerous areas, which has shifted the focus of his game from his stickhandling to his lethal wrister and ability to get open in dangerous areas. Both of Caporusso's goals against Northern resulted from that, as did the shot that zinged off the inside of the post immediately before his second.

    Shawn Hunwick. By the third period of the Northern game, Shawn Hunwick-specific terror had dissipated and was replaced by a slightly lower-level General Oh My God panic. His team is helping him out immensely, but after eight full games his save percentage is .912. I admit that I'm still waiting for the other shoe to drop here, but at this point you have to let it ride.

  • At no point have I said anything about Carl Hagelin that would require an apology, but I should probably mention that if either of his linemates takes a step forward or they throw an offensive-minded player on his wing, his points could blow up next year to the point where he's a serious Hobey contender. There are only six players who 1) have more points than Hagelin this year, 2) play in a Big Four conference, and 3) can return next year. A couple of those guys play for RPI and UMass, teams that aren't likely to be good enough to get their guys into the Hobey top three, and none of them can possibly be as spectacular two-way players as Hagelin. The big problem is fellow Swede Gustav Nyquist, a sophomore for Maine who has 61 points.
  • Hoo boy did I hate a number of calls this weekend. I did not see the Miami guy clock Wohlberg into the boards and can't offer an opinion on whether that was two or five. I did think Glendening was done as soon as that hit was delivered, FWIW.

    However, how the hell does a Northern guy plow Michigan's Happy Meal toy of a goalie without so much as a shove and not get a goal interference or charging call? How does the Miami game turn into a throwback where penalties are only called when there's bone showing?

    Also, I've seen this call often enough to assume that it's actually the correct call but it's immoral: when a defenseman (Steve Kampfer in this case) lays an open-ice check on a guy who's about to receive a pass and that guy has just whiffed on a puck he could easily have touched, that gets called as interference. That drives me crazy. It should be like the NFL rule. If the defender gets there after the pass has gone through a small area around you it's a good play.

  • I still don't understand why Winnett is playing the point on the power play. Michigan has Langlais, Kampfer, Burlon, and either Summers or Moffie available on defense. Three of those guys have more points than Winnett; Burlon is equal with him and Moffie is just two back despite playing only 29 games. Some of those guys aren't spectacular defensively but I'm betting they're all more comfortable there than Winnett. Winnett's a fourth line forward on a team with a ton of offensive defensemen. I don't get his usage there at all. Last weekend he shot numerous pucks into defenders and set up a couple shorthanded chances for the opposition.
  • Scooter got pulled up onto the third line when Glendening went out and did well; in the third period I don't think the fourth line got more than a shift. I don't think he'll move up in the pecking order since Michigan is adding at least one more forward than they lose (this perhaps foolishly assumes no NHL departures) but I'd be comfortable with him as an energy guy wherever he ends up.

Elsewhere

Daily story and gallery. Also a CHN article, attention from Puck Daddy, AnnArbor.com coverage Rivals promises "Swedish trash talk" in a Hagelin interview. 2011 recruit Lucas Lessio is projected as a first-round NHL draft pick. The Wolverine Blog on the game.

Comments

truferblue22

March 22nd, 2010 at 5:19 PM ^

Just last week I flew Spirit (not my choice) to West Palm Beach --I am an experienced flyer and it was the WORST flight I have ever taken. The flight was so bad, in-fact, that the entire plane cheered loudly (not kidding at all) upon landing. Think of it as an omen Brian; Spirit may have killed you on your way to Vegas.

Michigan Arrogance

March 22nd, 2010 at 1:53 PM ^

RPI is on their way up and has produced Hobey level guys in the past. I wouldn't count out those two players, especially the RPI guy b/c his talent differential in conference may be higher than a guy playing in the WCHA or HE. They are a team on the rise, young but talented, and it *could* come together next year. They play an up tempo style too.

but yeah... given his forechecking ability, Hagelin should get more national press than his stats would dictate.

hockeyguy9125

March 22nd, 2010 at 1:54 PM ^

As I look back on the Northern game, two players come to mind that really stood out to me that may not have gotten on the score sheet. Scooter Vaughn and AJ Treais worked their asses off that whole game. They were forechecking at full speed and they were busting their asses back to help on defense. It was effort like that, that has become the major difference for this team. The overall back checking and commitment to defense and pressuring the other team's defense has made all the difference in the world. I just think those two guys deserve to get some props for their effort Saturday

GoBlueScott

March 22nd, 2010 at 1:55 PM ^

One. I've been reading MGoBlog for about four years. This includes Elevan Swans, The Death of Bo, The Horror, the Rich Rod hire, Carr on the shoulders after beating Florida and, yea, those other things.
Two. Man, some of that time has kinda sucked. It's been a little frustrating. It's been a little disappointing. It's been trying.
Three. The last time I read a column like this -- you know, the happy stuff -- was probably after the Notre Dame game. It's ... been a long time.
Four. I'm looking forward to reading a lot more of these in the fall.

Yostal

March 22nd, 2010 at 1:58 PM ^

1). I feel better knowing that the Brian Cook looking guy in the blue Michigan jersey that passed me on M-14 on Friday afternoon as I was driving to the game, wearing my blue Michigan jersey, was in fact, Brian Cook.
2). I picked Michigan in my bracket for hockey, just because I could. I don't even care if I am wrong, it just felt good to pick Michigan and think that it could happen. Not that it necessarily will, but that it could.

MaizeAndBlueWahoo

March 22nd, 2010 at 1:58 PM ^

I did not see the Miami guy clock Wohlberg into the boards and can't offer an opinion on whether that was two or five.

Was Northern. Unless that also happened in the Miami game, in which case 1) my bad, and 2) poor Wohlberg.

Personal opinion: it was no worse or better than the Glendening hit, though I also thought the Glendening hit was a clear two and not the pile of nastiness that got thrown on top of him. I was demanding five for the Wohlberg hit just because they'd given five plus ten earlier for a very, very similar play.

JustGoBlue

March 22nd, 2010 at 3:22 PM ^

the same. I also recall thinking that they were both make-ups and the one just happened to be something you'd call anyways.

I really hate make-up calls. Even when they help us. Two wrongs don't make a right... I guess I shouldn't complain since NMU has a very dangerous PP and those calls may have saved the game, but I don't like them.

Also, just curious as my hockey knowledge is failing me. Remember the NMU 5-on-3 at the end of Glendening's major? If they had scored during the 43 seconds of 5-on-3 that were during the major, would the second guy have gotten out, or would we have still been down 2 for the full 43 seconds regardless of how many times they scored?

JustGoBlue

March 22nd, 2010 at 3:46 PM ^

kind sir. I could have done the research myself, but it wasn't really that important to me and I was hoping someone would just know offhand. You did both and for that I would like to commend you. My reaction at the time was the opposite of the truth and I am VERY glad that I'm finding out now that I was wrong rather than at the game!

truferblue22

March 22nd, 2010 at 5:26 PM ^

It's actually kind-of funny you brought this up. Even though I knew this is the way it worked all along, the first time I think I have ever seen this (or at least in quite some time) was during the Capitals-Blackhawks game two weekends ago when Ovie took that 5-minute major for the hit on Campbell. I remember because it caught me completely off-guard when the guy who had just gone in came right back out while (whomever it was serving Ovechkin's penalty) stepped out.

JustGoBlue

March 22nd, 2010 at 2:19 PM ^

also, is back for next weekend according to the daily (http://michigandaily.com/content/notebook-m-team-speed-too-much-wildcat…). Red says he will "probably" play this weekend.

I realize I've posted this everywhere, but I think it's good news and I think this is a good time to pile on the good news, it makes all the little good things happening seem so much better.

EDIT (because I don't feel like writing a whole new post):
I really like the line of Hagelin-Rust-Lynch and I think there's a pretty good chance that all three of them come back better next year. Especially Lynch, as a freshman isn't the thought always that you get the most amount better between freshman and sophomore year? Also, he was a 2nd rounder, so people that occasionally know what they're talking about thought he can be pretty good. I think he's looked decent this season, he doesn't have a lot of points, but he's had quite a few good opportunities and has done a pretty good job of screening the goalie on a couple of occasions. I think if he can start finishing some of his better looks and learns his way around the net a little better/more he could definitely be a force and open the door a little more for Hagelin and Rust to be their ridiculous selves.

New Kid On The Blog

March 22nd, 2010 at 2:11 PM ^

With about 13:00 left in the 3rd period against NMU Michigan won 3 consecutive face-offs in NMU's zone and I felt then Northern had no chance. It's such an important part of the game and the Wolverines were clutch. Also, I gotta give Rust a ton of credit. He played the whole weekend like the puck belonged to him and he wanted it back. That's what your D-men have to do. Great post again Brian! As always, a great read. How about Red giving a shout-out to the fans in the post game interview? It was very cool. It really feels nice to have a positive Michigan story to read. Go Blue!

Bronco648

March 22nd, 2010 at 2:35 PM ^

Sorry about your travel SNAFU, Brian. That stinks. You got engaged? I don't know how 'evenyoubrutus' gleaned that from your post but, if true, congrats!

Now, are we emotionally invested in the UM Hockey Team's tournament chances? I sure hope so because I'm a little tired of sitting around expecting the worst. I'm so 'on-the-fence' about driving to The Fort to watch Saturday's game. The 'best seat in the house' is in your living room (IMO) but I have a little 'history' @ the Coliseum (learned to ice skate there and used to watch the Komets play there). What to do....

Engin77

March 22nd, 2010 at 4:36 PM ^

You got engaged?

I felt like I was reading the script of the Allstate Insurance commercial where two guys are tailgating in Blue and White at a 'State' game.

Carrying that script to its conclusion, I'm assuming Brian did not meet his fiancée at pilates.

Darrens Pet Turtle

March 22nd, 2010 at 3:05 PM ^

While I understand the comparison, I don't think it is at all a viable option. A QB intends to throw the ball to specific WR's and it is that WR's sole responsiblility to catch the ball.

Often times, a defenseman will headman a puck to an unknowing winger to avoid the forecheck. Allowing an opposing player to unload on the winger just because the puck is in the vicinity wouldn't be very prudent.

JustGoBlue

March 22nd, 2010 at 3:51 PM ^

are busy studying for exams Saturday night after our hockey team wins conference championships and can't just willy-nilly "celebrate".

Some of us also collided with Louie (I swear it was his fault!), got an angry glare and decided we probably shouldn't follow him into a place where he likely has lots of friends that are bigger than we are. Some of us are paranoid wimps.

joeburner82

March 22nd, 2010 at 3:11 PM ^

I can't believe two great things (night game at the Big House & CCHA championship) happened to U of M sports this past week! Maybe lady luck is finally back on our side! I hope this means good things are coming this fall! Go Blue!

Zone Left

March 22nd, 2010 at 3:42 PM ^

"I guarantee you this: no group of people has ever been as excited about Fort Wayne, Indiana, as Michigan hockey fans are right now."

I'd argue that no group of people has ever been more excited about Fort Wayne, IN. Has anyone ever been excited about Ft Wayne?

tjyoung

March 22nd, 2010 at 9:17 PM ^

An independent team, The Michigan Huskies. We played out of Novi, MI. We lost in the finals to a team from Colorado after going undefeated in the tournament. 2nd in the country - those were good times.

Over the years, I got the chance to play with and against a lot of current and former Michigan Wolverines, including Jack Johnson. Wish I improved as much as they did so I could have played for Michigan during college.

Homer

March 22nd, 2010 at 4:47 PM ^

As of this morning, the Michigan Ticket Office had a two ticket maximum on orders for the Regional. That cap has now been lifted. You can order them by phone from the ticket office, sit in the Michigan section, and avoid the Ticketmaster "service" charge.

jaster

March 22nd, 2010 at 5:13 PM ^

I don't know for sure, but my guess is that Winnett is playing the point because he's a right-handed shot. A lot of coaches in the upper ranks prefer to have both a LH and RH shot on the points (it's why the Wings used Samuelsson there for years, and now Williams). This makes cycling the puck easier, saves time and space, and can open up more options.

UM's RH defensemen include Kampfer, Pateryn, and Vaughan, if you want to count him. Well, Pateryn and Vaughan are not very good options for the PP, and while one can argue that Winnett isn't either, I would submit that he is the best of the three.

If this is indeed the reason, then next year Berenson may have some tough choices to make. With Kampfer graduating, the RH shots will be....

F Ben Winnett - SR
F/D Scooter Vaughan - SR
D Greg Pateryn - JR
F Luke Glendening - JR
F Chris Brown - SO
F Kevin Lynch - SO
F A.J. Treais - SO
F Luke Moffat - FR
F Derek DeBlois - FR

Winnett would definitely be back on the point in this scenario. Red would have to either pick another off this list, or go with two lefties on one unit.

JustGoBlue

March 22nd, 2010 at 5:34 PM ^

is good on the power play, just not at point. I think he's had a couple big goals (MSU, obviously and I think Northern the game we won at Yost too) by pinching in and just rocketing a shot into the net. But as a true point in the power play it tends to get past him (especially with pressure) and then he has to either give up the breakaway or take a penalty.

In the next year scenario, it definitely makes sense to keep Winnett on the PP, especially if he can learn the quasi-defense role better. I don't think any of the forwards would be much/any better and I'd take Winnett's shot over Scooter's. Adjusting Winnett's D-partner and his role a little bit too could help, if they pair him with someone that knows what signs may indicate Winnett is in trouble a little quick and can get back in time to not give such an easy breakaway then Winnett can maybe just try to chase down and try to backcheck rather take a desperation penalty. At this point all of the other teams know we use Winnett on the PP and know to go after him when he has the puck at the point too, which doesn't do him any favors.

EDIT: If I remember correctly, Summers is generally Winnett's partner on the PP, which obviously makes sense. If you're going to put not-a-d-man out there, your best D-man should be covering for him. I think Winnett still lost the puck a lot, but there wasn't the constant threat of breakaways and penalties.

Blue Balls

March 22nd, 2010 at 5:27 PM ^

I loved it when this 5'7" player skated out to accept the tournament MVP. Not only did it bring a tear to Red's eye but a sense of euphoria to Michigan's players. Shawn's play between the pipes has provided the spark to make this group of players jell as a team. For whatever reason, Shawn's play has elevated the play of his fellow teammates. Team chemistry, mojo, call it what you like, but this 5'7" dynamo player helped Michigan's Hockey Team find it.

michgoblue

March 22nd, 2010 at 5:45 PM ^

Why are we wasting so much time talking about a Michigan team that had one of the best late-season turn-arounds in recent history? Shouldn't we be focussing on more important matters for discussion, such as:

1. Will Devin Gardiner redshirt?

2. Who will start at QB?

3. How many wins does RR need to keep his job?

4. Why does RR only take recruits that nobody else wants, like Devin Gardiner?

5. Will any of our current QBs turn into Pat White overnight?

6. Should we allow Delaware State into the B10?

7. If we fire RR, should we hire Charlie Weis?

8. Can we work out a trade of Beilin for Coach K?