Dropping The Puck

Submitted by Brian on October 14th, 2008 at 11:31 AM

10/11/2008 – Michigan 4, St. Lawrence 3 – 1-0
10/12/2008 – Michigan 5, St. Lawrence 3 – 2-0

palushaj-sick

Impressions from opening weekend:

SICK. Aaron Palushaj put Michigan up 4-3 on Saturday with the best goal I've seen at Yost since Mike Cammalleri beat two guys and scored from his knees against Michigan State. I'm going to try this MGoBlue embed one more time, but if it doesn't work here's a direct link to Saturday's highlights:

The sickness is at around 2:23.

Yes, Yost Built. Yes, I think having Mark Mitera's knee implode when you're already skating Eric Elmblad because Llewellyn and Burlon are out justifies the term Angry Michigan Defenseman Hating God. And if it didn't, well:

Junior defenseman Steve Kampfer suffered an injury Saturday night in the wee hours of the morning and will miss a significant amount of time. Berenson could not disclose the injury at this time but is extremely frustrated. No word on the cause of the injury.

That's four defensemen getting whacked in under a week, the most impressive run of malevolent fate to befall a Michigan team since that a 5'6" Jewish kid was running the point against Michigan State.

Mitera, by the way, is out a long time and considering surgery of some sort. The exact nature of his injury has not been revealed, but Spath sayeth:

If they do rehab, he could wear a brace and play at some point in 2009. If he does surgery, it's also likely he will return but probably not until much later. Berenson obviously wants to do what's right by the kid.

Yes, he could get a medical redshirt if he wanted one but I think it's much more likely he signs with an NHL team after the season. The reason surgery isn't a given is because Mitera isn't going to take a medical redshirt.

As for the other guys: Llewellyn played Saturday and is evidently fine. Burlon has a sprained ankle and had his foot in a boot as of Friday; sounds like he's out for at least a few weeks.

New rules. A big thumbs up to the new faceoff rules:

  1. When you take a penalty the ensuing faceoff is always in your defensive zone.
  2. All faceoffs come from one of the nine faceoff circles.
  3. No changes on icing.

#3 had been very successful in the NHL and you probably know all about it; there were a couple instances Friday that the crew screwed up but that's a minor issue. They probably shouldn't have TV timeouts after an icing anymore, though.

As for the other two, they eliminate a number of boring neutral ice faceoffs; rule #2 does away with those extraordinarily annoying faceoffs a couple feet inside the offensive zone that always result in the puck ending up at center ice if "won."

And there are two referees now, which wasn't a disaster. It seems clear there is a lead referee and a guy who's sort of a backup plan, as both weekends have seen one ref make the vast bulk of the calls. Then again, when Mark Wilkins is one ref and Not Mark Wilkins is the other ref, Mark Wilkins is always going to make the majority of the calls.

No, seriously, at one point Saturday the teams played three-on-three.

New guys. Robbie Czarnik didn't score but he looked pretty darn slick out there. Losing Summers to the defense means he's probably going to have a rotating cast of pluggers on his line this year, but he looks like he could warrant significant power play time and maybe combine with Winnett and Turnbull or Miller or whoever to create a dangerous second line. I wonder if they'll futz with positions a little bit here? It seems like Caporusso is always playing with two guys who can't do much with the plays he sets up. I'd sort of like to see Caporusso, Czarnik, and Winnett give it a try. I dunno.

Wohlberg is tooling around on the fourth line but had a couple of impressive shifts where he got and kept control of the puck in some difficult situations. I missed most of Luke Glendening's reportedly impressive performance against Waterloo; he played Saturday and didn't do anything that left an impression on me.

As far as the defenders: Burlon didn't play and Pateryn got undressed on a goal Friday, then sat in favor of Elmblad Saturday. Pateryn wasn't supposed to come in this year and could be something of a work in progress; his draft status might be more representative of his size (an NHL-errific 6'5", 220) than his ability to play right now.

Emerging guys. Ben Winnett looked like a different player as a sophomore, far more capable when he got the puck and far more capable of putting himself in a spot to get it. I've mentioned this before, but he was a big scorer in junior and a fourth-round pick, so there's certainly some potential there for a breakout year if he gets the appropriate icetime.

The other two guys who jumped out—Rust and Hagelin—were no surprise given their position on the roster. I've been an avowed Hagelin fan since midway through last year and expect him to have a big year. He's almost Cogliano-fast, gives maximum effort on both ends of the ice, and has a pretty slick wrister.

I was never that high on Rust last year; this year he looks like a worthy #1 center.

Meanwhile, Eric Elmblad was solid both nights and appears to have gotten the nod over Pateryn on Saturday. Michigan is going to need him for an extended period of time now. He has to play as long as Burlon is out and may see significant time for the entire duration of Kampfer's injury, whatever it is.

Disappointing starts. Brandon Naurato deservedly ate bench after picking up two silly penalties in Friday's game, and this is probably irrelevant going forward but one SLU goal was a gift from Mitera. Scooter Vaughn got undressed on a couple of SLU goals Saturday.

But the biggest issue last weekend was not any individual player but the powerplay, a lame 1 for 19 on the weekend with the lone goal coming with eight seconds left in Saturday's game. I won't pretend to be some hockey wiz who can diagnose the issues but it occurred to me that there's not really a sniper on the team who can bomb one-timers, and this has been Michigan's PP strategy for the past couple years. Probably will take some time to adapt.

GOALIE WAR. Both candidates for the job gave up one soft goal, one okay goal, and one virtually unstoppable one. Sauer saw a lot more rubber; he has the tentative advantage, IMO.

Overall. That did not look like the #2 team in the country, and with three of the top six defensemen out for extended periods of time, including the captain, it's probably not going to look like that for much of the season. I went into the year expecting the team to win a lot of games 3-1, but now the "1" portion of that equation looks pretty shaky. Hopefully they can put themselves in a good position for when Kampfer and Mitera return, if Mitera can return at all.

Comments

jcgary

October 14th, 2008 at 11:58 AM ^

I just heard from someone I know and trust the reason Kampfer is injured is a football player, Mike Milano (scrub running back) body slammed Kampfer fighting over a girl (possibly a UofM Gymnast) and that body slam put Kampfer in the intensive care unit.  Now our football team which is losing is now hurting our good hockey team.