3/2/2018 – Michigan 6, Wisconsin 5 – 19-13-3, 11-10-3 Big Ten
3/3/2018 – Michigan 7, Wisconsin 4 – 20-13-3, 11-10-3 Big Ten
keystone flops [Bill Rapai]
Just when you think Michigan has banished chaos from its ranks, Wisconsin rolls into town. This weekend's playoff series was, in a word, bonkers. Michigan scored on their first shot Friday; Wisconsin scored on their first shot Saturday. In between there was a lot of hyper-aggressive forechecking from the Badgers, power play goals by Michigan, and wave after wave of odd-man rushes both ways. Your favorite and mine was a four on one(!) set up by Quinn Hughes and finished with authority by Dakota Raabe and Niko Porikos:
— Michigan Hockey (@umichhockey) March 4, 2018
This is the hockey equivalent of Brent Hibbits throwing down that thunder-dunk on Isaac Haas. It was that kind of weekend.
In the aftermath, Wisconsin is wondering what happened to their season…
“We expected more out of this group,” said sophomore center Trent Frederic, who led the team with 17 goals. “It is what it is. It’s hard to look back and say we could have won here, could have won here.
“I wouldn’t say we really ever got any bounces all year. Last year, some stuff went our way. Maybe we weren’t as fortunate or maybe that was ourselves. But it just felt like one of those years (where) we were always fighting it.”
…and your author agrees. Michigan played the Badgers four times in their Hey We're Good Now second half and got more or less run out of the building twice. That did not happen against anyone else. One of those times they got run was Friday, a 6-5 Michigan that saw Wisconsin pile up a 53-29 shot advantage. It was all for naught because Michigan was 4/5 on the power play. The only other team that's handed Michigan their ass like that this year is—sigh—Ohio State. OSU is fighting for a one seed. Wisconsin's season is over because they are 5 games below .500.
Wisconsin is almost terrifying. They're VCU on ice. They crippled Michigan's breakout Friday in a game that felt immediately out of hand, but Michigan scored first because one of their defensemen let a puck dribble by him and suddenly Michigan had a two-on-one gifted to them. It continued in this vein, which Michigan scoring slam-dunk PP goals as the Badgers got the puck to the left point and tried to shoot it through four or five bodies, with some success.
In the aftermath there was nothing to do but be glad those maniacs are done and hope that Michigan gained some valuable experience at breaking out of the zone against a heavy forecheck. I guess they were resilient? When Wisconsin punched, Michigan punched back. That they had to punch back after they flung the puck from their defensive zone directly to a Wisconsin stick and then fished the puck out of the net… well, they fixed that on Saturday, a much saner game by shot counts (but not goals). Nicholas Boka's return gave Michigan a second pair of defensemen who have the confidence and skill to break that forecheck, and the tables turned.
The bid's locked in now and the rest of the season is gravy. But also BC, BU, North Dakota, and Minnesota are down or flailing towards the finish line. There's no juggernaut this year, and now that Michigan's in they've got as good a shot as anyone. As long as they stay out of the box.
[After THE JUMP: a mercifully boring pairwise section and an invitation for small schools to jump in a lake.]
It's all over but the shouting. CHN's Pairwise Predictor as Michigan at 100.0%. That .0 implies there's some rounding going on there, and there is apparently a one in a thousand chance that everything goes wrong and Michigan drops to #13. That would still be a bid in all but the most perfectly apocalyptic scenarios. They're in.
They're also at the top of their seeding range at #7. They will be a 2 or a high 3. Given the regional locations and tightly bunched field in the 2-3 area, it really does not matter where exactly they fall. They could fall behind some teams with near-identical RPIs and it would be, like, whatever man. FWIW, KRACH thinks that Northeastern and Providence would be good draws amongst the plausible first round opponents. Dropping to a 3 and getting swapped around so that they pulled the #5 or #6 overall seed would be the least friendly draw—there's a big gap between Michigan, currently #7, and Denver, currently #6.
How good is this team, and how bad are the bits that are bad? The hockey team's main conundrum: save percentage. Hayden Lavigne's save percentage is .910, which is 38th nationally amongst 72 qualifiers. Lafontaine is at a grim .899. Last year Lavigne was at .912; Nagelvoort had a .921; Lafontaine a .911.
Why has Michigan's goaltending stayed static or declined despite a much improved team? Here are various bins in which you can apportion blame:
- dumb luck
- poor play from the goaltenders
- a terrible penalty kill
- an increased quality of 5v5 chance allowed
The last item on this list almost cannot be the case, as anyone who watched last year's team will tell you. The penalty kill, though…
College Hockey News unfortunately does not have national rankings for these categories but I've poked around and the PK save percentage isn't that unusual. It's not great; it's not crazy bad. What is unusual is the sheer quantity of PP shots Michigan gives up. They're dead average in penalty minutes but a team like Penn State, which is in their area in PIM, has allowed 22% fewer power play shots.
I don't think Michigan can fix their PK this year or they already would have. "Stay out of the box" is an absolute imperative for the rest of the year.
this again [JD Scott]
Reviews! I'd like to find the guy who thought reviewing zone entries was a good idea and tell him he is bad and should feel bad. Hockey offsides is already the worst rule in sports without goals being wiped off the board because 30 seconds ago someone was a fraction offsides in a way completely irrelevant to the play.
Ditto Brendan Warren getting ejected for a shoulder to shoulder hit that was gone over with a fine toothed comb. It's at 1:50 here:
— Michigan Hockey (@umichhockey) March 3, 2018
If that's a major you might as well make hockey no-check. And if that's a major that you interrupt the game for five minutes to look at… woof. A Saturday review was even worse because it took 15 minutes and resulted in nothing at all.
Review is out of control in all sports. One minute and you're done should be the rule. Anything you can't fix in a minute isn't worth fixing.
ALSO. You should be able to bat a puck in with a stick that's above the crossbar. Disallowing those goals doesn't change anyone's behavior—people just bat at the puck and hope it's legal—so it doesn't actually improve player safety. Allow people to do a skilled thing, remove some reviews, and increase scoring a little by removing that rule.
Zero sympathy. Pearson flipped a Michigan Tech commit a few weeks back, prompting Tech Hockey Guide to wonder about the long-standing "gentleman's agreement" that college hockey actually had until recently. Yes, the snake oil thing was actually off limits—more or less—in college hockey, as there was a D-I wide agreement not to contact verbally committed recruits in an effort to get them to flip. This is no longer the case:
On October 6, 2014, Mike McMahon of CHN reported that in the spring of 2014, at the annual AHCA convention in Naples, Florida, representatives from all NCAA DI discussed the merits of the longstanding gentlemen’s agreement. For many years leading up to this time, the gentlemen’s agreement, between all DI coaches, dictated that coaches would cease contact with a recruit once that recruit made a verbal commitment to another program. The idea was that once a student athlete made a decision, that decision would be respected by other coaches. Following a heated discussion, a vote was held, and the results showed that the gentlemen’s agreement would be kept in place. Despite this result, several coaches were said to have stated that they would not adhere to gentlemen’s agreement. With this revelation, the agreement was dead, and DI college hockey changed.
And this is bad:
The big, powerful DI hockey institutions seem to have benefited most from the dissolution of the gentlemen’s agreement. These programs have unmatched resources to commit to recruiting efforts, and they have turned their efforts to include both uncommitted players, and players committed to other programs. Within the last year, Michigan Tech has lost recruits to both Minnesota-Duluth and to Michigan. While it is impossible to determine the level of contact coaches had with recruits while they were committed to Michigan Tech, it would be foolish to dismiss the possibility, especially in the case of Pearson at Michigan.
Well, tough nuggets. If Tech wanted Jake Harrison so badly they could have signed him and had him on campus this year—he's a '99. Instead they wanted a 20 year old freshman and no competition after their offer. Big schools shouldn't be playing that game anymore.
I could not have a tinier violin for small schools who are worried their guys are going to get poached. It's schools worried about bigger schools poaching their recruits that have created and maintained the worst championship format in sports, because they'd rather have the barely weighted plinko of a single elimination hockey tournament than best two out of three. It's small schools that banned Yost from hosting regionals because people actually attended them and instead sent them to a rotating selection of near empty buildings in the middle of nowhere. It's small schools that turned college hockey recruiting into a race to find the oldest guys you can cram onto campus. This from a couple years ago is ridiculous:
70% of college hockey freshmen had to spin their wheels for a year—and half of them for two—not going to college. 27 different programs have an average age of at least 22 this year, in a sport where redshirting is nonexistent. The vast majority of those players are not NHL prospects, so they are getting their degree later, entering the workforce later, and starting their post-hockey careers later. Why? So small schools can compete better. To get mad at larger schools for calling your bluff about what's good for the game and poaching some of these guys is serious chutzpah.
Small schools built this dumbass tournament and this anti-player recruiting regime. As far as I'm concerned they can go to hell. I'm glad Michigan is taking whatever they want from the forces in college hockey that make a mockery of it.