PLAYOFF TIME IS HOCKEY BEAR TIME
HOCKEYBEAR IS GO
Western vs Michigan
Miami/ND vs Michigan
Joe Louis Arena
8:05 PM Fri
|THE LINE||College hockey lines, junkie?|
Friday: FSD Plus
Not much has changed since Michigan took on Western in the second-to-last weekend of the regular season, so the previous Puck Preview stands. Since Western suffered the wrath of Senior Night Hagelin they split with Notre Dame, for which they get a tip of the hat when Michigan raises its conference championship banner, and won a home series against Ferris in three games.
That's been good enough to raise Western to 12th in the Pairwise, but not good enough to assure them a bid. They will be hair on fire this weekend trying to lock that down. A split should do it.
A brief reminder of Western's strengths: they get fairly diverse scoring and have a PPG-ish star in senior Max Campbell, who has 18-17-35. Freshman Chase Balisy is moving up NHL draft boards and has 12-17-29. Western splits those two up so the checking-plus-Scooter-domination line can't shut down both, and their scoring depth is such that the third line is going to have to play some D if they're going to outscore.
Goalie Jerry Kuhn was awful against Michigan earlier in the year but has a .915 save percentage overall. He's about average.
I don't know what was with the Redhawks earlier in the year but they're a death machine now. They haven't lost since an inexplicable 7-4 defeat to Michigan State on January 21st, and though they have three ties in that stretch they're still 8-0-3 since Enrico Blasi peeled the paint after whatever that was. That includes series against the other three finalists: a two tie split at ND, a home sweep of Michigan that caused me to PANIC, and what used to be a three-point weekend against WMU. In their last five they've outscored opponents 23-5, failing to give up more than one goal in any of those games. Despite coming in a distant third in the CCHA I bet if jamiemac (of Just Cover) was to dig up offshore college hockey lines from Venezuela or whatever they'd be a solid favorite this weekend.
As a result they've moved from the PWR danger zone (they were actually 18th(!) and well out of the tournament before the Michigan series) to the verge of a one-seed—Michigan's one seed. A hypothetical title game matchup will be for that one seed and the right to not play any of the top five teams in the country until hypothetically reaching the Frozen Four, and will be a BFD.
Miami's team was also covered in a Puck Preview that remains largely accurate. Andy Miele is a Hobey Candidate and the country's leading scorer with (sigh) 21-44-65. Carter Camper would be a Hobey Candidate if he wasn't on the same team as Miele—he's fourth nationally with 17-35-42. Sophomore Reilly Smith is also in the top ten in PPG with 26-22-48, and then they've got two more guys with double-digit goals. They score like whoah.
Of late they've also defended like whoah. Alaska managed a total of 31 shots in two games last weekend, and while Lake State wasn't quite as inept when it came to vaguely testing Miami's two-headed goalie they were equally incapable of getting the puck in the net. You're probably remembering that Saturday game in Oxford when Michigan had maybe three crappy scoring chances the entire game. Yeah.
Miami's rotated their goalies all year, including last weekend. They have nearly identical stats so it won't matter much who gets the call. One possible silver lining for Redhawk opponents: both have taken major steps back from last year, when they were amongst the national leaders in save percentage.
The Irish lost the CCHA title in agonizing fashion by losing on the last day thanks to three disallowed goals. They suffered something of a hangover two weeks later as they struggled to put away a pretty bad LSSU team. An OT win Friday was followed by a loss and ND didn't show their quality until the final game when they jumped out to a 3-0 first period lead and almost doubled up LSSU in shots in a comfortable 4-2 win.
Michigan's lone series against ND came during football season, before pucks start getting previewed. It was a split in which the games seemed fairly even. Notre Dame got some bounces Friday and then Michigan's Saturday win was the deflectingest game I ever dang saw, with the primary attraction a goal from Chad Langlais that came when Langlais was literally the only guy on the ice who knew where the puck was.
Since that weekend the two rivals spent the year neck-and-neck at the top of the CCHA standings. ND got there thanks largely to two (sigh) awesome freshmen: TJ Tynan (21-28-49) and Anders Lee (22-21-41) are 1—2 in team scoring. A couple of senior assist machines come next and then there's a smattering of guys with Wohlberg-like statlines and a couple of defensemen with pop in their stick, most prominently sophomore Sam Calabrese (not that Calabrese).
Notre Dame's issue has been iffy goaltending. Backup Steve Summerhays has a .859 in ten games and starter Mike Johnson's .907 is just 41st (of 71 qualifiers) nationally.
Michigan Vs Those Guys
Well… no bullet points as I try to find something not tautological to say. Michigan played well last weekend against the hockey equivalent of Hampton and before that did enough to scratch out a CCHA championship despite at no point seeming like the sort of team that would end up winning the league or earning a one-seed.
I wouldn't be surprised with anything this weekend. Michigan could have a couple bounces go against them against Western and then close out a disappointing weekend with a loss to a very good ND or Miami team, or they could deflect their way to glory in a series of tight games featuring lots of offense from the blue line.
There's a lot on the line; let's hope it's the latter.
The Big Picture
If you would like to be the committee go ahead: you are the committee. I was wrong on one important point earlier: Michigan's destiny is not entirely in its own hands. If Merrimack wins HE they will take their comparison against Michigan and slip into the last #1 seed. That requires them to beat New Hampshire and presumably BC back-to-back and seems pretty unlikely, but it is a possibility.
I've fiddled with YATC a bit and can't find any other scenario that doesn't result in a #1 for Michigan if they win the CCHA. I do find things like a hypothetical Western-ND consolation game being the difference between the Broncos finishing 17th in the PWR—well out of the tourney—and tied with ND for tenth.
Michigan can still get the last #1 if they lose to ND instead of Miami and favorites win other conference tourneys but that's a 50-50 shot that relies on the hottest team in the country going down against ND in a couple hours. Win and very likely a #1, lose and very likely a #2.
Root against Denver, Miami, and Merrimack this weekend.
Michigan Hockey Net catches up with the Honeybaked coach. He makes latest commit Evan Allen sound like Andy Hilbert, but compares him to Kevin Porter.