[Schnepp (yeah, seriously)]
Thursday, December 7, 2017
Michigan 4, Michigan State 0
UM 1 MSU 0 PPG 7:38 Norris from Cecconi & Slaker
Slaker tries to take away the pass down low but the State skater hangs on and hands on and hangs on and eventually forces the pass low. Cecconi reads this and steps in front to pick it off. He proceeds to flip the puck out of the zone and to Becker, who’s waiting for it at the edge of the neutral zone.
Becker carries in and avoids a cursory stick sweep, which he counters by dropping the puck back for Norris to retrieve upon entering the offensive zone.
Norris reads the depth of the defensemen and sees that there might be a stick in his passing lane, but there’s a good chance a saucer pass would get the puck to a very open Slaker. He lifts it, but Slaker loses the puck and has to reset. It takes a fraction of a second; the shot is now a writer instead of a one-timer, and the fraction of a second is enough time for Lethemon to read it and safely steer the shot to the corner.
The puck-side defenseman turns to block the shot and then steps in to clear the rebound. He has Slaker in his face and can’t afford to turn and try to carry it out without taking a gamble; there’s a good chance Slaker strips the puck from him if he does anything but fling it out of the zone. The pressure results in a weak clear, and the puck bounces off the boards about halfway up the zone.
Becker comes over to get the puck and thinks twice, instead pointing at it for Cecconi to take it. Allowing a defenseman an unimpeded slap shot from the blue line is, at the very least, a good way to get the puck into traffic and maybe deflected. That’s not needed here, though, as Cecconi shoots a top-corner laser over Lethemon’s glove.
[After THE JUMP: one night Calderone’s putting up a hat trick, the next night the offense stalls and the defense forgets what a backside skater is]
UM 2 MSU 0 EV 15:00 Calderone from Dancs & Marody
Dancs does a really nice job disrupting the clearing attempt and keeping the puck in the zone.
*psst* wanna see a dead body?
Calderone fakes forehand, pulls the puck to the middle of his skates, pulls it back to his forehand and quickly transfers his weight from his left leg to his right to sell the fake, then uses that weight transfer to push toward the post, where he flips the puck over Lethemon’s leg pad. Poor damn John Lethemon.
UM 3 MSU 0 EV 10:14 Calderone from Marody
Luce drops to the corner to help free the puck with a couple stick jabs, and he subsequently gets on the boards in position to retrieve it when Boka sweeps it his direction. Luce then skates it out to his side of the ice and flips the puck into the neutral zone. I understand not wanting to turn the puck over in your on review he could afford to take a couple strides. He sees Calderone near center ice, though, and that’s a tempting option to try to spring for a breakaway.
The puck is essentially arm punted to center ice, and an MSU defender jumps up to smack it away. He does make contact with the puck…but he hits it directly to Marody, who gathers it and carries into the offensive zone.
Here’s what the offensive zone looks like just after Marody carries in. That pass across to Calderone is tempting, but the MSU defender has his stick in the passing lane.
But hey, when you’re good you’re good, I guess. Marody saucers it over the outstretched stick. It’s really not a dangerous play, because if it doesn’t connect it bounces away.
The thing that’s far more likely to break up the play than the MSU defender with his back to the goalie is the one with his stick stretched out who’s backchecking like crazy (highlighted below). I don’t actually know how this puck ended up on Calderone’s blade without being knocked away, but it does. He has to open his blade to take the pass. Lethemon’s really slow to read the way this is developing and is so far from sliding across that Calderone has the requisite time (and a powerful enough shot) to snap it on net.
UM 4 MSU 0 EV 16:32 Calderone from Dancs & Marody
Marody loses the draw but follows it into the corner. He’s hauled down, but his presence forces State to play it back behind the net.
Dancs charges in undetected and slides along the wall, breaking up the pass and causing it to flop into the air.
Dancs curls around the State defenders and gets to the loose puck first, tapping it across to Calderone. You can see in the screencap above that he sees Dancs behind the net and starts to skate to the front of the net to get in position for this pass.
Calderone one-times it far side. Lethemon has locked down the near-side post in case Dancs turns on it and shoots, and the pass is executed with the two players in such close proximity that he can’t get off the post and square before it’s behind him. The most impressive part of this goal is that it all comes from effort: Marody loses the draw but chases it to the corner, Dancs comes flying in to cause a turnover behind the net, and Calderone gets in position to make a play in front of the net.
Friday, December 8, 2017
Michigan State 5, Michigan 0
MSU 1 UM 0 PPG 8:18 Khodorenko from Lewandowski & Hirose
State wins the faceoff, which Lewandowski carries across to the opposite side of the B1G logo. Michigan is getting into their extended box; Warren patiently waits for Lewandowski to make his move and tries to get his stick into the passing lane.
That stick isn’t enough of a deterrent, as Lewandowski sees a Michigan defender spaced incorrectly and fires the puck to the side of the net.
Khodorenko just has to not screw up receiving the pass to score. He does not screw up receiving the pass. He redirects the puck past Lavigne, who would have had to make the save of a lifetime to stop a tap-in like this. Boka left Khodorenko for the guy in the faceoff circle but that’s Norris’ man. This is what happens when you blow a coverage against State.
MSU 2 UM 0 EV 19:56 Khodorenko from Rosburg & Lewandowski
A loose puck eventually ends up with Lewandowski, though Dancs makes a good effort to play both skaters and gets into the passing lane such that it’s surprising this ever got to Lewandowski. Meanwhile, Calderone and Hughes switch. Hughes doesn’t get over quickly enough to alter the pass to the point.
Lewandowski passes to the point, where Rosburg sees that he has a netfront presence emerging. To his credit, Calderone took away the winger in the faceoff circle. Marody made a token effort to get toward the point, but he’s not doing anything that’s going to force Rosburg away from getting the puck on net/in deep. Hughes is in the process of wheeling around; this is the point where he has finally started his journey to the side of the net.
Khodorenko gets to the front of the net unbothered, getting his stick up and tipping Rosburg’s shot in while Hughes is still turning at the bottom of the faceoff circle.
MSU 3 UM 0 EV 9:14 Lewandowski from Hirose & Gatt
Norris and Slaker both try to cover Hirose, which is basically death on a 5-on-3. Norris gets his stick flush with the ice to take away the lane to the front of the net, and Slaker is now too close to do anything once the puck is swung to the weakside.
Lewandowski has all the time and space in the world. He doesn’t need time, though, as he makes the obvious play: he one-times it. Boka’s covering the front of the net and steps out to try and block the shot. Lavigne ends up being doubly screened, but Boka’s shot-blocking instincts are right. He does the best he can, but the puck still gets past Lavigne.
MSU 4 UM 0 EV 14:10 Eliot from Milan & Sanford
Hughes does a nice job defensively here. He picks up the puck carrier as he enters the zone and forces him to stay on the outside, using his positioning and stick to deny an opportunity to carry to the front of the net.
I’ll be honest, I’m not entirely sure what happened here. Milan throws the puck up the boards, then Hughes pins Milan against the glass in the corner for a considerable amount of time. It looks like Marody has possession and tries to throw it up ice when the puck hits a body and falls; Calderone and Warren get up ice expecting Marody to spring them.
Michigan skaters are, uh, not the ones who end up gaining the offensive zone with speed. Milan passes to Eliot, who has jumped back in front of the blue line. With three players getting repositioned after play was just on the boards and two near the neutral zone expecting to fly the other direction, this is a wide open opportunity for State.
Martin actually plays this pretty well, getting his stick out and into the lane to the middle to dissuade Eliot from passing to the slot and therefore giving Lavigne an easier read. Eliot’s shot is inch perfect and it hits the glove-side top corner.
MSU 5 UM 0 PPG 4:44 Lambdin from Rosburg & Hirose
Hirose swings the puck to Rosburg at the point. Rosburg sees Lambdin skating the slot; Slaker and Becker also see Lambdin skating to the crease.
Rosburg is going to pass to Lambdin here because he looks fairly open at the time of the pass, but Slaker and Becker collapse on Lambdin immediately.
The pass gets into Lambdin’s skates and he somehow digs it out and shoots around Becker. This is about as well defended as you can get considering Becker has to step to the slot once he sees that that’s the play; in other words, he has to judge whether or not he can leave the backside skater who had burned Michigan all night unchecked to pick up the skater in the slot. LaFontaine’s a fraction of a second slow getting into his butterfly, but that’s enough for Lambdin to score (it looks like) five-hole.
And with that, Michigan’s sitting at 25th in PairWise, looking up at Michigan State (23rd), Wisconsin (21st), Penn State (11th), Minnesota (9th), Ohio State (8th), and Notre Dame (2nd). This is the relative strength I think people expected when the conference was created, and it’s a fair indicator of where Michigan is right now: much improved, but the giant step forward is yet to come.
I shot the game Friday for us (Marc-Gregor got sick), and I owe a debt of gratitude to the Michigan State hockey communications team for getting me a hole in the glass to shoot through each period. Sitting in the corner at ice level has some drawbacks, but it gave me a really good feel for what Michigan was able to do in the offensive zone. Seemingly every time they had possession they were forced to shoot from the outside if they were able to get off a shot at all. It wasn’t until more than halfway through the game that I had to think about how to shoot netfront photos; I am very experienced, however, at zooming in to try and get something cool from the corner only to be forced to quickly zoom out as the puck goes the other way.
The shot charts and Corsi show that the puck going up ice the other direction didn’t yield a ton of shots, but they did result in dangerous ones. Watch enough hockey and you get a good feel for the shot equivalent of white noise versus the ones that result in a horn blaring, and State did an excellent job picking their spots and shooting the latter. I was lucky in that my corner assignments allowed me to shoot Michigan with them facing me as they entered the offensive zone, but that meant that State’s offensive zone was far enough away that I was relying on the red light for info. I glanced up almost every time they shot.
This was aided by Michigan falling into some old defensive habits. Backdoor skaters and weakside wingers were open all last season, and that cropped up again Friday night. I’ve been busier than ever with football this year so this is admittedly a bit more feelings-pucky than I’d like, but I don’t remember that happening early in the season. Yes, the competition has gotten better as we’ve reached the conference portion of the schedule, but this feels less like a talent issue and more like an attention one to me.
MIchigan doesn’t have their typical scoring prowess, and if they’re going to get anything going forward it’s going to have to come from the DMC line and guys getting to the front of the net to give outside shooters a chance. This team can score—they put up nine goals in a road series split with Penn State and 11 in a home split with Minnesota—but they aren’t going to do it flinging wristers at the net from the circle with no traffic in front.
They have a chance to inch toward the tournament bubble with a tweak to the PK and a renewed emphasis on tracking the man on defense, not watching the puck. Up next is the GLI, then a home-and-home with Notre Dame, which is undefeated in conference play. If things hold, the last three weeks of January will decide this team’s fate due to RPI’s quality win bonus and road win bonus: they travel to Minnesota, have Penn State at home, then travel to Columbus.