Thursday, December 1, 2016
#6 Penn State 6, #20 Michigan 1
PSU 1 UM 0 EV 07:56 Assists: Richard & Smirnov
Nagelvoort’s standing to lock the post, which is perfectly acceptable and even favorable positioning-wise considering that open PSU skater drifting through the slot. Michigan loses a battle in the corner, and PSU now has possession of the puck near the net with a dangerous passing option open.
Richard decides that he’ll drive the net himself, which makes little sense to me but proves effective in stirring up a scrum in front of the net. Nagelvoort butterflies and stops the initial shot, but he gives up a rebound.
Defensively, Kile comes screaming in and goes right for Richard. Warren (whom the arrow is to the left of in the screen cap below) is also reaching ahead, apparently in an effort to knock the puck away. He soon realizes that he needs to cover the skater to his right.
Nagelvoort’s body is turned away from the middle of the crease because of the way in which he attacked the initial shot. He has to rotate around to get square to the shooters to his left. With so many guys in the crease unmoved, the task in front of him is monumental. The key to the goal is the skater underneath the arrow in the screen cap below.
I don’t understand why Shuart lets him skate into the slot unimpeded. It’s not like this is a skater who popped up out of nowhere; he’s been shadowing him since they were near the boards.
Sturtz gets to the loose puck an flips it up. The puck ends taking a strange path in, going up and rolling over Nagelvoort. Shuart then gives Sturtz a shot as guys jostle after the puck’s in, which…I don’t know. I don’t understand the lack of urgency and I don’t understand why he seemed to be so observant of what was going on behind and around the net but didn’t cover the skater right in front of him.
[Hit THE JUMP to reset expectations]
PSU 2 UM 0 EV 04:42 Assists: Unassisted
Boka’s headed to the corner to retrieve a loose puck. He gets to the puck and has a number of options. He could skate it behind the net, though that’s probably not the first thing he was thinking because of the angle of approach. He could hold the puck for a half second and then backhand it up the boards away from the pressure, which he’s clearly aware of; this seems like the go-to choice. If he really thinks he’s about to get crushed, he could hold the puck, absorb the hit, and kick it up the boards in hopes that a teammate is there to support him; he is not, however, about to get crushed.
Boka feathers a pass in the general direction of a teammate who’s at least one step too far up-ice to reach said pass. The result is a backbreaking turnover that leaves Folkes alone in front of the net.
Nagelvoort first seals the post and takes away everything near-side. Folkes has room to skate and no one impeding his progress, so he decides to carry to the puck in front of Nagelvoort and try something far-side.
Nagelvoort’s a little slow getting across, but Folkes should get some credit for carrying close to the front to semi-sell a short-side attempt, which keeps Nagelvoort on that post for a while. Folkes also lifts the shot incredibly well, hitting the exposed top corner. Maybe Nagelvoort could have attempt to poke the puck away; still, he’s dealing with a pretty crappy situation and ends up giving up a goal in essentially the only uncovered spot.
PSU 3 UM 0 PPG 15:18 Assists: Goodwin & Kerr
Looks to me like Penn State’s running the overload here. Kerr passes to Goodwin behind the net, and Lohan drifts down to cover him.
Goodwin sees Hamilton and an acre of open ice at the point and threads a beauty of a pass through Lohan.
The brilliant bit of this goal is what Berger (#8) does. As the puck gets to the point he’s just moved from the faceoff circle to the slot, and he effectively sets a pick on Warren that prevents him from racing up to cover the point. This gives Hamilton time to aim his shot. Warren is left with nothing to do but crouch and hope that he blocks the shot, while Nagelvoort’s been peering through traffic and doesn’t seem to see the puck. Even if he does it really doesn’t make a difference, as Hamilton executes an incredible far-side, top-corner snapshot.
PSU 4 UM 0 EV 18:22 Assists: Saar
Piazza is all over Saar as he tries to get to the front of the net to the point where he redirects Saar’s course behind the net.
Boka’s in front to cover any netfront PSU player, and Saar somehow threads a pass through the area between Boka and his stick.
DeRosa one-times a shot past Nagelvoort that he has absolutely no chance of stopping. The forward’s in the frame for a fraction of a second before the puck’s released. Essentially, a forward fell asleep on DeRosa and Nagelvoort was left to pay the consequences of a near-perfect pass.
PSU 5 UM 0 EV 12:06 Assists: Smirnov & Richard
Penn State wins a draw back to Smirnov. (Look, every goal has to start somewhere. Some screen caps don’t say as much as others.)
Smirnov fires through traffic and Nagelvoort makes the stop.
The key to this whole sequence is right here. Boka appears to be watching the puck; meawhile, his guy is headed to the front of the net unimpeded.
Nagelvoort doesn’t give up much of a rebound. The puck falls directly down in front, and Sturtz picks at it, throws it ahead to his backhand, and tucks it around Nagelvoort’s outstretched right leg pad. Nagelvoort’s about a foot off the post and lunging to make a desperation save; it’s not a situation where you can reasonably expect a non-NHL goaltender to slide and lock down the post with that little time.
PSU 5 UM 1 EV 12:36 Assists: Dancs & Winborg
Penn State actually turns the puck over in their defensive zone. Winborg picks it off and shoots wide, with Dancs in pursuit of the puck that’s now behind the net. The thing to watch here is Peyton Jones’s positioning. He’s perpendicular to the goal post when he realizes he needs to completely change his orientation and get to the opposite post.
Jones needs to reset with a t-push to the other side of the crease, but for some reason he feels the need to lock down the near-side post even though Dancs is at the midpoint of the back of the net. Jones realizes this as he does it and leans on the only thing he can do in this situation, dive across the net and try to get his glove out. Dancs gets to the puck and has a blitheringly open Calderone in front.
Jones extends to take away the bottom of the net, but that’s only going to stop the flattest of shots. Calderone lifts it and scores easily.
PSU 6 UM 1 PPG 16:00 Assists: Smirnov & Pedrie
Winborg and Cecconi converge on Pedrie, and though their contact knocks the puck loose that only benefits Smirnov (circled below).
Smirnov carries on his backhand before pulling the puck to his forehand and around Cutler Martin. This freezes De Jong in front of the crease, as he needs to stay there to take away a pass to the PSU skater camped out to Nagelvoort’s right or to take Smirnov if he charges the front of the net.
Smirnov opts for the third option, passing through the wide open lane to Autio in the left faceoff circle.
All De Jong can do is turn; Nagelvoort’s eyeing the puck through a screen, and by the time he works around it to his left he’s left to just bat at a shot that’s already on him.
Friday, December 2, 2016
#6 Penn State 5, #20 Michigan 1
PSU 1 UM 0 EV 03:49 Assists: Saar & Pedrie
This is just…it’s insane. I don’t know how else to put it. Penn State’s passing in this series was like an early 2000s video game where the puck would just latch onto someone’s stick if it got anywhere close to them, and when it wasn’t close there were glitches (see below) that still made things work for them. Cheat codes, game developers stretching a limited console to the max, bad defense: who knows what it was.
Luce sees the puck land behind him and start to slide in front, and he makes a valiant effort to knock it away. Unfortunately for him, the puck hits his blade and jumps ahead on a straight line. Saar, to the left in the screen cap below, picks it up and carries in with a step on Luce.
See how he turns his skates inward? He’s slamming on the breaks in front of the net and throwing off LaFontaine’s internal clock that dictates when he gets into his butterfly.
You can see in the screen cap above that Saar was just in the middle of the slot; he does an excellent job pulling the puck to his backhand and shooting from the right edge of the crease. LaFontaine, though, makes an absolutely incredible desperation save, extending his right pad and getting his blocker and stick out to swat the puck down.
The exhilaration doesn’t last for long, however, as Robinson outraces Lohan into the zone and slams in the loose puck.
C. MARTIN GOAL
PSU 1 UM 1 EV 04:50 Assists: Shuart & L. Martin
Shuart gets the puck in the neutral zone and carries in while Penn State’s still transitioning back. The one defender nearest Martin thinks he needs to play a 2-on-1 here; he doesn’t realize that there’s a backchecker covering the Michigan skater to his right.
The defender drops to his knees to take away the passing lane when he thinks Shuart is about to let it go, and Shuart instead drops it back for Cutler Martin.
Martin snaps a shot on net that I don’t think Jones sees until it’s behind him. Credit where credit’s due, Shuart’s drop pass was executed so well it fooled the netminder.
PSU 2 UM 1 PPG 17:03 Assists: Kerr & Goodwin
Penn State’s running the 1-3-1 power play here, and Michigan counters with one defender high pressuring the point. I could be wrong here, but I think the first mistake is Slaker over-pressuring the wing. Once the pass gets back to the point, he’s left scrambling to recover and is unable to get back fast enough to alter anything.
The next mistake appears to be Lockwood staying in the high slot and not switching onto Hamilton at the top of the right faceoff circle. I think Lockwood thought he needed to stay there to take away a pass to the front of the net or to the skater cutting in behind him, but both of those are options are covered by the two low defensemen.
De Jong’s watching the puck rotation here and realizes that he has to step up a bit to try and do something, anything to Hamilton’s shot attempt; this also means he has to leave the guy in front of the net open. De Jong isn’t able to get out on Hamilton much because he bit on Kerr’s fake slap shot from the point, which Kerr sold well. De Jong tries to block the shot and LaFontaine tries to peek around De Jong, but Hamilton converts the one-timer short-side.
PSU 3 UM 1 EV 18:20 Assists: Hamilton & Richard
Luke Martin throws a shot into traffic that Richard not only blocks, but somehow turns into a pass. This series, man. He actually blocks a shot with the blade of this stick, the stick doesn’t break, and bloomp, there’s a free puck for Hamilton, who’s cutting to the high slot.
Smirnov takes off as soon as he sees the shot hit Richard. Hamilton sees him way ahead with no one near and launches a perfect stretch pass through the middle of the neutral zone.
Smirnov gets the puck with the nearest defender two strides away. LaFontaine’s staring down the barrel of a straight-up breakaway.
Smirnov fakes a forehand shot from the mid-slot that LaFontaines doesn’t bite on. He then pulls the puck to his backhand and flicks a low shot on net. LaFontaine appears to have his stick rotated out too far, thus leaving the five-hole exposed. He slams his leg pads together, but the puck trickles in.
PSU 4 UM 1 PPG 00:24 Assists: Pedrie & Autio
PSU’s on a 5-on-3 power play, so Michigan counters with a one-high triangle. As the puck is moved from the point to the wing, Lohan (currently out of the frame but to the goaltender’s left) is supposed to rotate over and force the skater wide.
Lohan steps out, though not very far because 1) the shot’s a one-time and 2) the skater it already wide. Cecconi is supposed to pick up the netfront skater, but instead there’s yet another player left alone in the crease for the goaltender to fend off. Sturtz keeps his stick down and deflects the shot past LaFontaine.
PSU 5 UM 1 EV 04:39 Assists: Myllari & Smirnov
Smirnov is under pressure from Dancs and doesn’t have a real option to pass to in the zone, so he decides to rim the puck around. Right after this screen cap, he takes a big hit from Dancs.
Myllari skates into the zone as the puck makes its way around, timing up a big slap shot as the puck reaches him. The puck hits Cecconi’s ankle.
Cecconi’s momentarily slowed by the shot, so he’s not able to pick up anything like, say, an unchecked guy in the slot. Hmm. Looks like I’ve circled something here. What’s th—oh, yep, there’s another uncovered guy in the slot.
Slaker gets something of a pass here. He’s following the skater at the bottom of the faceoff circle to the goaltender’s right in the screen cap below; he saw that Cecconi was hit and decided to carry his defensive assignment.
I think this one falls on Piazza. He’s gliding toward the netfront area in the screen cap above seemingly without ever moving his head to check where the skaters are positioned. By the time Biro gets the puck, all Piazza can do is turn and hope that he blocks the puck. LaFontaine isn’t even in his butterfly, so he’s doing his best to stay as tall as possible and take away as much of the top of the net as possible. Biro goes bar down, and LaFontaine has no chance at stopping it.
That was brutal. Watching the Penn State series provided a glimpse into what it must have been like to watch last year’s Michigan team from the perspective of a Big Ten cellar dweller. College Hockey News has this really cool feature where they’re tracking a sort of rudimentary version of Corsi; they aren’t able to provide shot differentials, so it’s hard to tell whether a player is driving his team’s play without knowing what he gives up defensively, but it’s far better than just a box score. On Thursday, Michigan was out-shot-attempted 78-58. Bad, but nothing compared to Friday’s game, in which Michigan was out-attempted 98-48. Penn State threw almost 100 shots at or near the goal and only one skater had double-digit attempts. God save the goaltenders.
On that topic, please don’t blame them for this. Yes, Michigan gave up 11 goals in a series. They’re lucky it wasn’t 15 or more. The defense has done its fair share of not defending, though that pesky unchecked-guy-in-the-slot problem cropped back up for the first time in this series; they’ve been outshot all year, but I’ve seen the shot charts and the shots were coming from the edges more often than not.
This series reminded me of—(please take a deep breath before you read this. If you have an Apple Watch, open up the Breathe app. Get that heart rate down. Okay, keep reading)—the 2014 football season. This is a team that spends 75% of its time on defense because the offense goes three-and-out on every possession. Michigan’s goaltending has been excellent. Those guys are under constant assault because Michigan cannot clear its zone. When they do, they spend virtually no time at the other end of the ice. I don’t know what Michigan’s passing percentage was, but it had to be terrible. I was watching intently for a sequence where Michigan completed two passes in the offensive zone and remember seeing two. I think. It might have been one.
In the defensive zone, Michigan reminds me of a basketball team that can’t rebound and gives up offensive rebound after offensive rebound. Michigan seems to spend an inordinate amount of time watching the puck and not nearly enough time checking the position of the opposition’s skaters. Switches are ugly. Clean passes abound, and when said pass gets through, there are often two guys in one area of the ice and no one near the new puck-handler. I’m sure the goaltenders end the game fatigued beyond belief. I’m sure the skaters are exhausted from chasing pucks around the defensive zone. The problems compound, and I don’t know how Michigan fixes this.
I thought that this weekend would tell a great deal about Michigan’s team. It did, but not in the way I expected. Penn State had played two teams that would make the tournament if the season ended today and a bunch of teams in the nation’s bottom ten. They were certainly a good team last year, but I thought their near-national lead in Corsi and goals and the power play and all those offensive categories was inflated by playing weak competition. Michigan had played a similar number of tournament teams and a bunch clustered in the middle of the pack nationally. I thought they might hold their own against Penn State if they forechecked like crazy and the goaltending bailed them out. The physicality was there for part of the game Thursday and evaporated by the end of Friday’s game, and though the goaltenders did their part an offense that can’t string anything together is bound to get their team blown off the ice.
There’s little reason to think things will change. Based on what we’ve seen, the goaltenders should be excellent. The forwards are a few freshman still learning the ropes, Alex Kile, and a bunch of checking-line types. The defense will continue to rotate guys in and out of the lineup looking for the right pairings, pairings that can get the puck into and through the neutral zone. Michigan will be out-attempted handily at times. Michigan will also win some games; hockey’s a sport of weird bounces. The problem is you have to get into the opposition’s offensive zone for those bounces to go your way.