Thursday, March 19, 2015
Michigan 5, Wisconsin 1
Michigan 1 Wisconsin 0 PPG 14:45 Hyman (20) from Larkin (30) and Werenski (16)
The puck rims around the boards off of an errant shot and is picked up by Boo Nieves. He passes to Zach Werenski at the point, who holds it just long enough to get the high defender moving before passing to Dylan Larkin on the wing.
Larkin somehow sneaks a shot underneath a charging defender. Zach Hyman is doing an excellent job screening in front, safely tucked underneath the defense and in front of Joel Rumpel. Larkin’s shot is deflects off of Hyman’s stick and under Rumpel’s pads.
The puck hits the bar in the back of the net and bounces out. Hyman slides to his right and backhands it in for good measure; after all, it’d be hard to disallow a goal on review if it goes in twice. Unless the ref meant to blow the whistle. I rescind my earlier comment.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the tournament]
Michigan 2 Wisconsin 0 EV 02:05 Sinelli (1) from Nieves (19) and Dancs (9)
Andrew Sinelli passes to Dexter Dancs on the boards. Dancs, who has two defenders closing on him, shovels the puck to Nieves.
Nieves carries through the neutral zone, weaving from the center of the ice to the wing. Sinelli steps into the center, and Nieves passes ahead to him.
Sinelli “shoots” and the puck bounces off the ice before taking a bizarre bounce in which it just keeps rising until Rumpel seems to realize he won’t be able to glove it.
By the time Rumpel’s able to get a read on where the puck’s going to land he’s too far out in his crease to recover. E8!
Michigan 3 Wisconsin 0 EV 04:48 Hyman (21) from Martin (9) and Larkin (31)
Cutler Martin stickhandles for a few seconds before stepping into a heavy wrist shot.
Hyman has once again set up in front of Rumpel, and the critical mistake here comes from Wisconsin’s Tim Davison. Instead of checking Hyman, he takes a step toward the Michigan player skating behind the net before realizing his mistake, stopping, and reversing direction. By this time the shot has already reached the front of the net, where it deflects in off of Hyman.
Michigan 3 Wisconsin 1 EV 09:14 Soleway from Hughes
The puck goes to the corner off a stopped slap shot. Jedd Soleway moves behind the net at this point and no one goes with him. Cameron Hughes passes to the now-wide-open Soleway.
Soleway turns on the puck and attempts a wraparound backhander that Racine initially stops with his left leg pad. There are still no defenders close enough to Soleway to move him out of the crease, and he pushes Racine (and subsequently the puck) across the line before he’s knocked over.
Michigan 4 Wisconsin 1 EV 14:23 Larkin (15) from Sinelli (4) and Selman (12)
There’s no chance I can do this justice with screen caps. Watch. Enjoy.
Michigan 5 Wisconsin 1 EV 17:39 Selman (11) from Larkin (32) and Hyman (31)
Larkin has the puck deep and passes to Hyman because he has a fairly open lane to get behind the net. Hyman has to spin, but he’s able to shake his man (as he’s done all season).
Hyman passes back to Larkin, who’s on the opposite wing now. Justin Selman was in the slot and slides down to the goaltender’s left.
No one picks up Selman, and Larkin dishes through the netfront area. Selman shovels the puck at the right time and gets enough under it to lift it over Rumpel’s leg.
Friday, March 20, 2015
Michigan 4, Michigan State 1
Michigan 1 MSU 0 PPG 12:59 Downing (6) from Copp (17) and Motte (13)
Andrew Copp passes to Michael Downing, and Downing moves laterally to the middle of the ice.
He throws a wrist shot on net…
…that hits John Draeger’s leg. It flutters up and over Jake Hildebrand’s shoulder; he had virtually no chance at stopping a redirection that was that close that shifted direction that much.
Michigan 1 MSU 1 PPG 08:41 Berry from MacEachern and Jacobs
Jacobs passes down the boards to MacEachern, who in turn passes to Berry in the corner. Berry’s given time and space and, being a sentient being with an ounce of hockey sense, walks to the front of the net.
Ah, yes. Yet another defensive breakdowns of the season-in-a-nutshell summations variety. You can take your pick (spoiler: there are more to come in this post), but this is the one I’ll remember. Three guys near Berry, no one able to do a thing to alter his path to the front of the net.
Michigan 2 MSU 1 EV 11:36 Compher (12) from Kile (13)
A pass that’s too far behind DeBlouw bounces off the boards to Alex Kile and turns into a 2-on-1 rush.
Kile gains the zone and passes to JT Compher, who’s lagging a good deal behind. That works to Michigan’s advantage, however, in that it gives Compher a long time to pick his shot. He also has space, as defender was in line with Kile and his momentum carries him toward the goaltender.
Compher’s able to load up and shoot what appears to be a stoppable snap shot from the high slot. It’s perfectly placed in the top corner, and Hildebrand can’t glove it.
Michigan 3 MSU 1 EV 09:14 Nieves (7) from Dancs (7) and Motte (21)
Tyler Motte shoots from the outside and (surprise) Hildebrand stops it.
He does give up a rebound, and Dancs chops at it before being hauled down. Hildebrand kicks at it and the pucks ends up behind the net.
Motte being on the outside of his defender works to his advantage as he’s able to get to the puck on the wall first. Motte sees Nieves in the high slot and the MSU defense’s attention turned toward him, and he puts a nice pass through traffic that Nieves one-times past a sprawled Hildebrand.
Michigan 4 MSU 1 EV 13:40 Kile (12) from Nieves (20)
Nieves starts the play with a nice stretch pass to Kile. You can see three defenders on the opposite side of the ice, and Kile’s far enough ahead that he’s going to get an opportunity to shoot.
Compher is tied up, so there’s no pass to be made. Look at the rotation in Kile’s lower half. He uses this to snap an impressive wrist shot toward Hildebrand.
Yet another perfectly-placed shot beats Hildebrand high, this time in the near-side corner.
Saturday, March 21, 2015
Michigan 2, Minnesota 4
Michigan 0 Minnesota 1 PPG 02:30 Boyd from Rau and Cammarata
Cammarata passes to Rau at the side of the net.
Rau somehow threads the puck through the crease to Boyd, who’s kind of preposterously open. With a net that open Boyd just has to not mess up, and he doesn’t.
Michigan 1 Minnesota 1 PPG 03:56 Hyman (22) unassisted
Hyman wins a battle along the boards, splits two defenders, and starts to skate to the middle of the slot. There’s a defender waiting there and so I would normally consider this a bad idea, but it’s Hyman. He can do whatever he wants.
I don’t mean that in the sense that I’m giving him a free pass; I mean he can do what he wants in a literal way. He dekes the defender, pulling the puck back and turning him into a pylon.
Wilcox also bites on the deke and sprawls across his crease. Hyman simply lifts the puck over his outstretched arm.
Michigan 2 Minnesota 1 PPG 06:14 Kile (13) from Nieves (21) and Hyman (32)
Kile carries the puck deep in the offensive zone, but gets knocked off of it near the side of the net.
Hyman wins the battle for the loose puck. He shovels it to Nieves, who sees that Kile has gone around the back of the net and is unchecked. Kile takes the pass and taps it in.
Michigan 2 Minnesota 2 EV 10:34 Rau from Fasching and Bristedt
Kevin Lohan inexplicably pinches in the neutral zone, which creates a 2-on-1 opportunity for one of the most offensively talented teams in the nation.
Rau passes across Werenski’s face to Fasching.
Fasching beats a turning Werenski and passes back across to Rau. Racine now has no help; it’s a 2-on-0 once Fasching beats Werenski.
Racine comes out to challenge Fasching, but that does nothing to stop Rau. As soon as the puck leaves Fasching’s stick it’s over. Rau more or less redirects it in from a sharp angle.
Michigan 2 Minnesota 3 PPG 09:29 Kloos from Bristedt and Brodzinski
Minnesota just barely holds the puck in at the line. Michigan’s changing one defender, and this leaves a pass to the middle of the ice open.
As Kloos starts skating to the net Lohan dives. A pet peeve of mine is defensemen diving early, and this is the perfect example why.
Kloos takes another stride and moves the puck around Lohan’s legs, happily taking a fall for an easy goal. Racine’s not blameless here, though; he went into his butterfly at the same time Lohan dove (both were too early) and can’t recover or push across to stop the shot.
Michigan 2 Minnesota 4 EN 19:38 Boyd
This is the part of the post where I’m supposed to write about how I feel, but I don’t feel anything. I liken this to developing a callus. By the end of the third year of repetitive pain and emotional friction I have now developed the requisite emotional callus to write weekly about Michigan hockey.
I can't remember ever following a team that came into the season so fully formed. What they were at the beginning they were at the end; thrilling, maddening, dynamic, listless. The players who made improvements in the offseason carried those through the year (Hyman, Kile) while those who entered the year unchanged maintained their developmental plateau (Serville, Downing, etc). There were no Zac Irvin-like development leaps on this team. They were what they were, which is largely what they've been for three seasons.
This is where the emotional callus works in my favor. I feel nothing because I think I'm largely able to predict the outcome of a game or series before it's played. This is not something to brag about. I want to be surprised; I think most sports fans do. I want to have Michigan play a road series where the losses don't seem preordained. Most of all, I want to remember what it's like to have hope.
If we watch sports to escape the monotony of everyday life, if we watch them to feel something, then the disappointment in the 2014-15 Michigan hockey team is derived from the temporality of the feelings evoked. Watching Zach Hyman split defenders and screen goaltenders and backhand ridiculous shots in provided momentary relief, as did Dylan Larkin's sublime skating and vision with the puck. What they did, however, never seemed to transcend the pull back to mediocrity. Here comes the failed clearing attempt. Here comes the odd-man rush. Here comes the soft goal. Here comes the Friday night loss. Here comes the road sweep. There goes the tournament berth.
As for the septuagenarian elephant in the room, the writing's no longer on the wall, it's in the record book. The Streak was bound to end at some point, but we've moved beyond missing the tournament being an anomaly and are onto it being habit. Something's changed in the last three years; porous defense seems to be to blame on a micro level and Mel Pearson's departure responsible on a macro level.
I think firing Red with one year left on his contract is an exercise in futility. At best you (hopefully) get Mel Pearson back a year sooner, and at worst you alienate former players and a large portion of the fanbase. It would be like shoving a houseguest through the doorframe when they’re already on the way out. Red’s teams struggled at the beginning of his career and they’re struggling at the end, but the middle was so special that I have no problem letting him leave on his own terms. I take Red at his word, that he will step down when he doesn’t think he has what it takes to make Michigan successful.
It seems like the program is treading water in a lap pool; it’s not technically an incorrect use but it’s certainly not maximizing the potential of what’s there. Maybe what the team needs to break the cycle is for Red to let them know he’s officially going to be done after next season. Maybe they’ll realize that the senior class could be the only one since before the internet existed to not go to the tournament. There’s no “we’ll get ‘em next year” when there’s no next year. I have no idea whether this could get guys to buy in to playing more intelligently defensively, but if nothing else has worked over three years it’s as valid to believe it could as any other motivational tool or coaching point.
Goal-by-Goal Analysis is supposed to be relatively impartial because it’s based off of photographic evidence. A side effect of seeing photographic evidence of the same thing over and over is that I feel I have a good grasp on the symptoms of what’s wrong but still no formal diagnosis. Frustration has turned into helplessness, and that has permuted into numbness. It’s at this point, of course, that the picture of Andrew Copp that’s at the top of the page shows up. No adjective I’ve used to describe how I feel about this team describes that photo. There is, thankfully, mercifully, no callus acting as a buffer for Copp. He still feels.