Comments were broken this morning but are fixed now. Lo siento.
- Top 9 games in Michigan history: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
- Deadspin-style regional previews: West | Northeast | East | Midwest
One of the unfortunate parts of college hockey fandom is that I have virtually no knowledge of anyone outside our league since it's impossible to get either CSTV or ESPNU on cable. So I can't tell you all that much about the Fighting Sioux except that Ryan Duncan shouldn't get the Hobey over Hensick. One thing I think may be in our favor: North Dakota's Toews-Oshie-Duncan line -- popularly referred to as "the DOT line" even though calling it the "TOD" line opens up all sorts of Flanders jokes, I mean seriously North Dakota let's get on the ball here -- is close to the be-all and end-all of their scoring. The Flanderses all score more than a PPG, but one other forward does more than 0.6 -- Brad Miller with 10-13-23 -- and he's an outlier. NoDak's fifth forward has 15 points on the season.
I'm generally not hockey-savvy enough to pick up on matchup issues, but this one will be glaring: watch who we put on the ice against the Flanderses. Since we have last change we have the luxury of putting Jack on the ice whenever Christianity threatens. Unfortunately, if the rest of the year is any indication this also means sending Matt Hunwick and his turnover machine onto the ice. If I was Red Berenson I'd break my pairings and send Mitera and Jack out there versus the DOT line, though both have played RD this year. I'm sure Jack can handle LD. This would be the world's most perfect situation to have Dwight Helminen around, too, but alas there is no equivalent shutdown center available. It'll be fascinating to see whether or not Red matches Hensick up against them or not. I think I'd rather see another line blend to get Cogs on the ice with Porter and Rohlfs, who are our most defensively responsible forwards. Cogs' backchecking is far superior to Hensick's just because he's Helminen fast and I don't want to see any Flanderses on an odd-man rush. I kind of doubt we'll see these changes, but there it is: my strategic plan for tomorrow. Shut down the Flanderses, try to get Kolarik and Hensick to hook up for a couple goals, and get the hell out of dodge.
And thus... hope. The cycle begins anew. Unlike last year's identical matchup, in which every reasonable Michigan fan expected a brief burst of pain and then a soothing white light, Michigan has a reasonable chance of beating North Dakota tomorrow. It's a shame that this team has played whack-a-mole with its fans' hopes, losing to Bowling Green or Lake State or Ohio State just when they seemed to be rounding the corner and pushing towards the Michigan hockey of old where no team would have prompted an insane burst of profanity just because Michigan had drawn them in the regional.
In my effort to make all Michigan sporting events as melodramatic as possible, I pondered some sort of hockey post about this team that was alternately titled "Hope Exists Only To Be Crushed" or "Hope Is A Thing That Flutters" as my manic-depressive fandom swung wildly from one pole to the other. A goalpost or two fewer against Notre Dame and we're in Rochester or Grand Rapids against some ECAC teams or Maine or something and hope is fluttering its ass to St. Louis to make hotel reservations right now. But just as our heads started poking its way out into the neon sunshine of the arcade, down came the hammer. And it's Denver and the absolute best team in the country and then a hotly debatable second and, uh, Air Force, and hope is a distant country with extremely strict entry visas and customs guys with submachine guns and a dictatorial type with a limp and a cigar and a 300,000 person rally, all of them screaming "Death to Michigan" with inflamed fervor. What a shame it seems that the JMFJ era and the TMFJ era will end with their respective figgins on gibbets a mile high, sending out a warning for any CCHA teams who dare venture west of Chicago.
But if TJ can just stickhandle through a couple guys and JMFJ can make the Flanderses ghosts and Sauer can just hold it together... so I'll watch. With a brick posed over a butterfly, I'll watch. Hockey's weird.