Tortoise Transmogrifier Comment Count

Brian January 17th, 2011 at 1:48 PM

1/14/2011 – Michigan 3, Ferris State 2 – 14-6-4, 11-4-1 CCHA
1/15/2011 – Michigan 6, Ferris State 1 – 15-6-4, 12-4-1 CCHA

jon-merrill

It's hard to get any emotional mileage from a game you saw on Comcast Local in a bar. The audio was trying to ignore Joe Buck calling an NFL game, the picture quality was 70s-vintage, and the camera was placed so close to the ice that not getting seasick was the main goal. Also it was a blowout.

Friday night, on the other hand, Michigan fell behind 2-0 and looked like they had let whatever momentum they'd gathered towards the back half of 2010 slip away. Commence well-practiced emo time.

Over the next four periods later they outscored a decent Ferris State team 8-0 en route to locking up a home-and-home sweep that sees them top the league* for the first time in over a year. Their goal differential is the best in the league. They're knocking on the door of a #1 seed in the tournament. And it's all a bit mystifying how.

At midseason it seemed like this team was just another middle of the road bunch that would make the tournament but didn't seem like much of a threat to do anything once there, as has been the MO for most Michigan teams since Red's great asskickers of the late 90s. It still kind of seems like that, but something else is creeping in: doubt.

I have the paradigm of a great Michigan team in my head. It has a 5'8" guy who could stickhandle through the Red Army. It has another guy who is a scoring machine thanks to the midget. It has a great craggy mountain of a defenseman who is impenetrable and another defenseman who is a completely insane goal pirate and therefore my favorite player on the team. It has Jed Ortmeyer, who is also my favorite player, and a goalie that everyone is secretly suspicious of.

This edition has some of those pieces, but lacks the magic midget, the mountain, and the swashbuckling nut. The midget is a loss keenly felt by everyone who sees Lindsay Sparks do something surprisingly dangerous and remembers Hensick/Cammalleri/Comrie et al. But the defensemen… in the defensemen may lie the secret of Michigan's success. Specifically, John Merrill.

Merrill came to Michigan with a ton of hype, surviving as the one member of Michigan's incredibly awesome 2010 recruiting class that arrived on campus with his draft status close to intact. That hype still fell far short of Jack Johnson's, and Merrill hasn't spun past an opposition forward on a routine breakout or murdered three guys on a single shift yet. His dad does not dance during the second intermission, not that anyone would notice if he did these days.

Despite that, Jon Merrill is a about ten times better than Jack Johnson was as a freshman. Johnson was insane even for my tastes. As a freshman he racked up an incredible 149 penalty minutes, most of them due to insane aggression. When it came to penalties Johnson was Tristin Llewellyn on speed, and that extended to the rest of his game. When he wasn't doing something ridiculous, he was doing something ridiculous.

Jon Merrill has four penalty minutes this year. Four! He plays all the time, against the top line, and has as many penalty minutes as Shawn Hunwick. That kind of brilliance only becomes apparent over time. Merrill takes tough situations and handles them elegantly in ways that his senior defense partner doesn't always. (Langlais had a rough first period on Friday.) He's emblematic of the entire corps, which consists of Merrill and Burlon and Langlais and Pateryn not making the sort of mistakes that made my veins throb in years past, or at least not many.

Michigan has always been the hare of college hockey, a high-tempo, high-variance team that racks up goals and penalty minutes. Their assets have always been obvious—that guy who can shoot the puck through a donkey, that first round draft pick. This is not a vintage Michigan team, but what it lacks in JMFJ thunder it may make up for with subtler qualities.

-----------------------------

*[By winning percentage. Michigan is a point back of Notre Dame but has two games in hand—with conference wins worth three Michigan actually has a somewhat significant lead. Also if you're down here the next sentence says something about goal differential, by which I mean conference goal differential. Miami is better all things considered.]

Non-Bullets Of Well, Now

Though it's not that different. Michigan's ninth in GPG this year, just a tiny pip behind Miami and North Dakota. Most of the other big scorers are Air Force or locked in the insular (and usually not very good) ECAC, leaving just two teams—BC and Notre Dame—significantly outscoring them. Who knew?

Enter the Moffie. Man, Lee Moffie can sneak them in from the point, can't he? Twice in two games this weekend to go with a couple from his freshman year. If he could just play some defense he'd be in business.

Caveat: in a game earlier this season Moffie was a turnover machine and was subsequently benched for a good long time. He nosed himself ahead of Mac Bennett when Kevin Clare rotated in on Saturday but is liable to collapse.

This years Rolfe Memorial Who-Dat Senior. Will be no surprise, but it's Scooter Vaughn, who scored Saturday to reclaim his spot as the third leading goalscorer on the team behind only Hagelin and Wohlberg.

Pairwise watching, still in vague mode. Michigan moved up one spot to sixth with their sweep. You are now rooting for the Bulldogs to destroy the rest of their schedule; at 11-10-4 they're actually pretty good (11-7-3) when not playing Michigan and if they can nose their way into the top 25 in RPI Michigan's Pairwise comparisons will get a major bump. Ferris is currently 28th.

How bizarre. Michigan hosted a fascinating recruiting visitor on the Michigan State weekend: Max Domi. Yes, that Domi. The younger guy is a highly skilled forward who would be a top pick in the OHL draft if his dad wasn't worried about OHL kids seeing the name on his back and wanting to make a name for themselves. They're making seemingly sincere college noises, but as always with these things it's hard to tell if the interest is real or if it's just posturing for the draft.

Domi's still a couple years from college, FWIW, and won't help fill in the two or three blanks at forward in next years class.

Also bizarre. Miami has the sixth-best goal differential in the country—Michigan is eighth—but finds itself 18th in RPI and outside of the tourney in PWR. Their record isn't very pretty so they must be obliterating teams in their wins and losing narrowly in losses.

Kicking yourself. Michigan's non-wins this year include a tie after being up 4-0 on Mercyhurst, blowing two third period leads against UNH, and two losses in OT. OTOH, they scored with under a minute left to send one of those games to OT and got a tie out of Ferris State via the same Houdini act.

Comment over/under. Twelve, in marked contrast to anything about football these days.

Comments

bluedog10

January 17th, 2011 at 1:57 PM ^

Thanks for the update Brian.  I admittedly haven't been following the team anywhere near as closely since the Big Chill and the Christmas break.  

We've gotta love watching Merrill now while we still can.  Considering how terrible the defense is over there in New Jersey, he could be on a quick plane ride outta town next season.  Finally, here's one comment to hopefully hitting the "over".

goblue7612

January 17th, 2011 at 3:40 PM ^

Through the NCAA website, the tickets can be as cheap as $39 depending on the regional. Keep in mind this gets you into three games that weekend. I've gone to the Albany regional in 08 and the Ft. Wayne regional last year, and know that as a student you can buy through the ticket office, so I would advise doing that as you'll be sat with a bunch of other Michigan fans/player's families. I don't think they give students that big of a discount if any, but the seats they give are generally pretty nice. Just wait until you see Frozen Four prices, Denver and Ford Field were both close to $200 I believe.

Currently searching through my emails to see if I can find any order confirmations, will post if I can find pricing from before.

BrownJuggernaut

January 17th, 2011 at 3:46 PM ^

This is what you do (me and a couple friends went to Fort Wayne last year). Buy tickets to the first game. If/When the team wins the first game, buy tickets to the second game off of the fans of the team you beat. Of course, this involves not being a complete jackass during the first game, but will save you some money. 

Couple friends and I have already agreed to go wherever because we all feel this is the (major) team that's closest to winning a national championship. Last season was a heartbreak and I still feel a strong sense of resentment towards the referee and to Miami U. Hopefully, things are different this year.

Addressing the long post up top, I think that's the beauty of this season. You aren't relying on just your primary weapons, Rust, Hagelin, and Caporusso to score goals and win you games. You have a strong sophomore class with Brown, Lynch, Treias all stepping up. You have Scooter providing production from the fourth line, the defensemen particularly Burlon are providing some goals too. This team is pretty deep and when Louie does get going, they could be unstoppable. 

The one thing I do think is holding them back at times is their unselfishness. It's great that our players are always willing to set each other up, but sometimes the best thing to do is to take the shot. Particularly, our defensemen need to be more assertive. You saw Friday night what happens when they actually shoot. You also have big forwards like Brown and Lynch in front of the net waiting to deflect it or pounce on rebounds. Taking shots, getting the goalie out of position and crashing the nets can create solid goalscoring opportunities. However, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't happy with this team right now. 

I hope they can carry this momentum through the rest of the season. Winning 7 of 8 games is impressive. With many of their remaining games at home, it'll fun to be a part of this run.

JustGoBlue

January 17th, 2011 at 4:52 PM ^

that I wrote all of that and forgot to mention, "take more shots", but I completely agree with you on that.  Sometimes they make really pretty passes that set up a great goal or opportunity and sometimes they have a great opportunity but try to make a pretty pass that either fails miserably or leads to a worse opportunity.  I'm not so sure our D needs to shoot more, the two goals on Friday were sort of fluky, especially Burlon's.  Granted, Nagle probably didn't see either shot because of screens, but as long as our D-men keep shooting smart, I'm not sure I need them to shoot more.  If they're smart, accurate, through (not into!) traffic, then yes please.  If they're other, it's better to let the forwards work some magic than have it hit someone in front and lead to a breakaway in on Hunwick. 

I am very happy with the team right now, I'd be remiss not to mention that.  I absolutely love our secondary scoring, I think it's a crucial element towards elite status.  If I had to choose, I'd rather have more secondary scoring and less primary.  But I don't want to choose.  I want Louie and Carl to have their 20 or so and Rust to chip in 10-15 and everybody else to keep on keeping on.  But your best players have to be your best players.  Red says that pretty often.  We're very good right now, if we keep playing like we are, we'll be a 2/3 seed that everybody is pretty scared of, we'll be able to play with any team out there and have a decent shot at all three championsips.  I don't want to be able to play with the other top teams, I don't want a decent shot at championships.  I want to be able to beat top teams and I want to win championships.  I'm not saying the team is bad at all, I'm looking for areas where it can be better.  And the most obvious one is for the goal scorers to be goal scorers.

BrownJuggernaut

January 17th, 2011 at 6:32 PM ^

My main problem with the defense is that it has been being too patient, particularly on the power plays. I think they pass the puck around too much at times where a shot can conjure up a rebound, so if your opponent is playing a box, you might have a 3 on 2 advantage to get to the rebound. Obviously, they're passing the puck around to move the box around so that they can create quality passing lanes and better (higher percentage) opportunities.

Another problem that I've seen is that sometimes the passing isn't to set up the quick slapper. I don't know if it was Merrill or Langlais with the problem, but a lot of passes weren't out where they could one time a shot. A few were too close to the skates where the defender would have to control the puck first and the opposing team could close (get into a blocking position) to make a shot not worthwhile. I'd like to see some improvement in this regard. 

I'm not suggesting that they need to shoot to shoot, but if the shot is available, it's not the worst thing to take the shot. As you said, two goals on Friday were "flukish" but if they hadn't taken those shots, they wouldn't have had the goals. You can create opportunities to score by passing the puck, but you can't score if you don't shoot the puck. That's why I wouldn't mind the defense taking shots if they can get it through on net (if they can't they shouldn't because it can create opportunities the other way). 

I think we're both in agreement about where our scoring comes from. I think elite teams need that depth to have success. You also need to the straws to stir the drink. I have to say I'm not as optimistic about Caporusso breaking out like he did last year. I feel much better about Hagelin and Rust. We'll see though, I'm still hoping.

JustGoBlue

January 17th, 2011 at 7:04 PM ^

I feel the same way on the PP alot, when they just pass it between the points and wings for like 30 seconds before someone decides to shoot it.  It often seems like the D will have an open shot, with a goalie screen and pass it up for a pass around the edges and later decides to shoot into a less open lane, just for the fun of it.  As for the passing problem, a couple times now, Langlais has passed to Merrill, who was set up as if to one time it, but then pulls it back and just passes it along somewhere.  I can't always tell if that's Langlais not putting it where it needs to be, or Merrill not timing the shot well enough, but Langlais is generally the one passing in that situation.  I think on the PP, I'd really like to see a little more holding the puck down low with the D sneaking in for a one time from the slot.  That worked pretty well earlier in the season, but I haven't seen it very much lately.  In general, I think one of the elements the team is missing is the ability to set up somebody for a one times anywhere.  There have been a few tic-tac-toe backdoor plays, but not too much to an open man in the slot/point for a snipe.  They've worked on it in warm-ups that I've noticed, but it's not connecting in games. 

What I was thinking, was that I'm pretty content with the stat lines that most of our D-men have, so I wasn't so into them really shooting so much more, but thinking about the actual play more, I'd agree that they generally have a lot more opportunities to shoot than they use.  I definitely agree that sometimes the most important part of the shot is the rebound, just get it in the area and good things will happen.

I'm still holding out some hope for Cappy, but we'll see.  The thing about him, is that he's played pretty well all season, the numbers just aren't coming for him, so much, so it might be harder for him to make a much bigger impact.  Louis is getting a pretty good number of assists as well, I haven't looked it up, but I feel like he has more than normal.  Also, his +/- is through the roof right now, I believe.  If I were bored, I'd look up his shot totals and see how those compare, because other than his relative lack goals, he's playing really, really well.  I would say that Rust/Brown/Moffatt on the other hand, have really turned it up lately and thus have a lot more opportunity to impact the score sheet.  We'll see.

Dear Lord, I love Michigan Hockey :-)

BrownJuggernaut

January 17th, 2011 at 7:42 PM ^

I love college hockey. I'm from Boston and my mom went to BU, so we'd go to BU games when they had Grier, Bates, and Drury (my god were those teams stacked). I loved everything about those games. It's probably why Iove college support so much and why I wanted to come to Michigan. It's only been fitting that I'd fall in love with Michigan hockey. Going to Yost definitely has to be some of my better experiences at Michigan (definitely sports wise).

Let's keep this response kind of short (or not):

1. If you have a good shot from the point, you shouldn't be afraid to take it. A lot of the times, it seems that they're pussy footing around the point. They're not even getting it to the high wing player as much as they should (are teams pressuring that guy more?). 

2. I definitely agree on the D-Men getting down low. I love the back door pass (uh, Big Chill, Merrill). I think we've tried it a few times, and it always seems we get a tantalizing cross ice pass that doesn't have a player to put it on net (or just out of reach). We need to definitely look for it more, especially if we're going to try and use tic-tac-toe passing to move the box around (get them out of position). Ferris State's second goal against us Friday is a good example of how we should move around defenses and attack the back door. 

3. I'm happy overall with our defensive production. I think a lot of guys are getting goals and getting involved in the play (assists). I do think that the point men can create more though. Perhaps going after rebounds is a little more gritty hockey that doesn't fit into our style of play. I think a lot of the offensive success does depend on cycling and moving the puck. I have no qualms about that. Sometimes, you do need to just crash the net and look for rebounds. With Brown and Lynch you have two players who are not afraid to get after it.

4. I'm slightly concerned about Merrill. I agree with the assessment (in Brian's post) that Langlais struggled a bit Friday night, but I'm worried that Merrill might be tiring a little bit. Obviously, he's still playing at a high level. I do see him as one of the big keys to this team's success. It's a lot to expect from a freshmen. I think he's getting into the area where he's playing more games than he's ever played (World Juniors weren't the best thing for him IMO), if I'm not mistaken. I really hope he is able to resist the NHL to stay a few years. He really is a great player (though my friend whose a Devils fan is licking his chops). 

5. Offensively, you want Louie to light up the lamp. However, playing with Wohlberg and Glendening, I see them as a more veteran, responsible line. Yes, I want them scoring some goals, but they're also the line that's the line you want taking D-Zone faceoffs, particularly if you're using Hagelin-Rust-Brown as your main offensive line. It's a two-edged sword really.

6. New issue, but I've been really impressed in particular with Brown and Lynch's maturity this season. I think last year they picked up a lot of penalties trying to show how tough they were. We saw Brown pick up a few of those early this year which was unnecessary, like punching that Notre Dame(?) player in the face (besides the one against Nebraska-Omaha, that guy deserved to be body slammed). I don't have numbers on penalties this year (may be we should look at them to give a more statistically supported discussion), but it seems to me that the team as a whole is a lot more disciplined, and net positive in special teams. This killed them, particularly against Miami last year (If I recall the NCAAs, all three of their goals were on the PP). 

We have some nice home series coming up that should be fun, but I think the big gauge of how good this team is against Miami. Last year, the Miami series was the most frustrating of the season (as a fan), though it was early in the season when we were really trying to find ourselves. The NCAA game was equally frustrating (though I'd rather not get into that grrrr). I really would like to see how our neutral zone game has improved because I think that's the place we were dominated last season. 

JustGoBlue

January 17th, 2011 at 9:16 PM ^

1.  I agree and I don't recall noticing the winger being more pressured, but it isn't out of the realm of possibility and you mentioning it makes me thing I'm noticing it more.

2.  That's kind of what I meant and we could certainly make more use of nice passing plays that end up right in front of the net, from a centering pass or a designed backdoor pass, but I'd really like to see more passing for really anybody open, by the dots, on the point, whatever, for just a good onetime shot that he can really get behind.  Maybe I'm over-estimating the freqeuncy of this, but the play Cammy was (and still is) absolutely lethal on, when someone would pass to a more or less open Cammy in one of the circles and he would just snipe it, he'd shoot so hard, he ended up on one knee.  Obviously we don't have anybody as good at that as Cammy, but I think Cappy, especially would be (and has been) effective at that and maybe even back to the point for a D-man to try it, because if nothing else, there's probably going to be a nice juicy rebound to pick up on.  I don't know if that makes a ton of sense, but basically, I want more one-timers in general, however we can get them.  They do practice them quite a bit at the end of warm-ups, but they never show up in the game and I would like to see that happen.

3.Yes, yes I agree with you perfectly here.  I think they've done a decent job of transitioning to a more gritty team, like Red said at the beginning of the year they would have to, but they aren't there yet.  At the same time, we do have the talent for the skill plays to be effective if we execute them.  I flat out love activating D-men, it makes the whole team that much more dangerous and as long as they pick their spots carefully, it usually doesn't give up too too much defensively.  I think sometimes we almost have too many players going directly to net, leave that mostly to Brown and Lynch and to some extent Wohlberg, because that's their specialty.  But then, other times I'm screaming because there is nobody there to bang home to obvious rebound, so it's a line.

4.  I'm not particularly concerned about Merrill getting tired. According to Red's radio show and the people at the Yost Post, it's the second weekend back from the WJC that the player's are really tired for, which is this weekend for Merrill and Brown.   This year, the US-NTDP u-18 has already played 35 games.  Michigan has played 25 so far.  The NTDP will play at least 49 games total, which is, I believe, more than Michigan will play, even if they win the CCHA and get to the Championship Game.  I think he'll bounce back just fine.  If not this weekend, next weekend when we only play one game, I think he'll benefit from that extra rest.  I'm sure the coaches are paying attention to it, too, so I think it's OK.  As for leaving...  All we can do is a, "One more year" chant when he's announced at a game sometime and hope for the best.  Probably last game at Yost during the CCHA play-offs.

5.  I'm fine with that, as long as it's the Hagelin-Rust-Brown line that is producing and not just Hagelin, that is producing.  The thing is, Wohlberg already has 11 goals (and Glendening has 5, his career high was 7 in the season last year), so it's not like the line can't score... If Louie isn't scoring, but Rust and Brown and the secondary scorers keep at it, I'm OK with that and as I said, he isn't playing poorly at all, I'm just still hoping the floodgates are going to open for him.  Really, especially I hope he gets hot in the postseason, because when Louie gets hot, he gets HOT.

6.  I've noticed that as well, I think they've both playing been playing pretty well, but when you have a coach like Red, it doesn't particularly surprise me, either skillwise or maturity wise.  Miami scored both regulation goals on the PP, but the OT goal was even strength.  I also thought our special teams were much better last year than this year, in the CCHA alone, we're averaging about 3rd in special teams and net special team, but I'm not thrilled with either game. 

Miami is going to be a huge series, it's always big to measure up against the best teams and in the CCHA this year, it's Miami and Notre Dame, we played ND earlier in the season and got a split, but it means more later in the year, I think, so this series is really important.  Miami is a really possesion oriented team and their biggest strength is in the neutral zone.  We're probably going to lose the neutral zone battle, the key is going to be to lost only that battle and not too badly.  That, or if we get them playing our more track meet game, like in the CCHA play-offs last year, we stand a much better chance, than just letting them cycle all over the place.  Another point is that Michigan tends to sruge in the 2nd half and Mimai tends to start strong, then falter a little in the 2nd half before picking it up again in the play-offs.  The other important battles we need to win, to me, are the 2nd period, which is our weakest and their strongest and the specialty teams battle.  If we can keep it tied, or down by 1, the third period is our strongest and their weakest, so we stand a good chance of taking control then.  Miami takes a lot of penalties, but kills them off at about 90%, if we can score on our PP chances, it might make them a little more hesitant to take penalties, which could take them off their game some.  Alternatively, this is a weekend we really need to stay out of the box, because their PP converts more than 20% of its chances and our PK isn't always stellar this year.

EDIT:  I lied, one more battle.  As I recall, Miami put their three big scorers (Smith-Miele-Camper) on one big line and that line is almost certainly the best line in college hockey.  Miele and Camper have scored an absolute boatload, and Smith has similar numbers to Wohlberg, I believe.  So, if I'm nothin changed, another big key is going to be the Hagelin-Rust-Brown/whoever line's (or any other line, really) ability to shut down Miami's top line.  If we can do that, I don't believe they have too many scorers apart from those three, so our other three lines could really be difference makers.  I believe Miami's D likes to be really active, too, but really if we can shut down their top line, that's huge.  I think Carl and Rust are two of the better defensive forwards in the college game, (which is why I pick that line over the Wohlberg-Cappy-Glendening line, that generally has a more defensive role, though it coul dbe their line too) so if Red (this is where it hurts being away) can keep them (and either of our top 2 defensive pairs) out there against Miele/Camper, that's going to be a really interesting match-up.  I would certainly make offense very secondary for whoever is in on that match-up.  I think since I wouldn't classify any of our D-pairings as shut down, that either of our top 2 pairs would be fine, but whichever line Red matches against that top line has got to keep them off the scoresheet as much as possible.  I wouldn't be surprised to see a 2-1, 3-2 type of game both nights, especially if both big scoring lines are working against each other, but I think we have the advantage in secondary scoring, if we can keep their big guys off the board, even at the expense of our big guys.

BrownJuggernaut

January 17th, 2011 at 9:16 PM ^

Here we go again indeed.

1. I was more tossing it out there as a possible cause of the winger not getting the puck more. I'll keep an eye on it too. 

2. Backdoor, it might just be more about execution. We'll see how we use that going forward, but it's definitely a weapon of note. 

3. Nothing really needs to be said. 

4. I guess I was wrong about Merrill. I read what Red had to say, and he's definitely a better judge than I am on this, but I thought he was lagging a little bit, particularly in the MSU series. He seemed better in the Ferris State series. Brown has looked great since he came back IMO. 

5. True, they have been producing a lot. I don't take a notebook to the game, but I wonder what the ratio is for their defensive to offensive faceoffs. I'd also like to look at face off percentage (I couldn't find individual faceoff percentage on MGoBlue). I always thought it was important to have your best faceoff taker in defensive situations.  I guess this is up to debate. 

6. Right. Last year it seemed we were bullied in the neutral zone. We couldn't even get it out of our zone. We have to be physical (without penalities) enough to disrupt this. I'm surprised at how many penalties we've given up because I've felt that we've gotten the better of things. May be it's more so at home. 

JustGoBlue

January 17th, 2011 at 10:32 PM ^

Down-load this, it has face-off percentage (http://www.mgoblue.com/auto_pdf/p_hotos/s_chools/mich/sports/m-hockey/a…).  As a team we're winning about 54% of our face-offs.  Some games it's super lopsided in our favor, sometimes it's pretty even, going either way and a couple times (I believe one or both of the ND games) we were creamed on face-offs.  Louie wins 56.8%, Rust wins 56.4%.  They've taken the lions share of face-offs, with Rust having taken about 20 more than Cappy.  Treais has maybe 2/3rds of what each of those two have and wins 51.2%.  Obviously there is no offensive/neutral/defensive zone break down, which would be very interesting. 

This is anecdotal, because I don't feel like looking through each individual box score again, but I do go through each box score right after every game and just look at things.  I've mentioned general trends above, but on a personal note, it generally seems like EITHER Rust or Louie wins an absurd amount of their face-offs (like >60%) and the other one is much closer to 50%.  Based on that, if it's a trend and not just something I  noticed a couple times and remembered, Red might just go with the hot hand at the time.  I would trust both lines on a defensive face-off, based on defensive ability. 

I noticed Merrill not looking at 100% in the game at Munn, but that was really the game I thought he looked most vulnerable in and he was still good, though he missed probably 3 or 4 one timing opportunities that he tried for and whiffed on.

That's part of why turning it into a up and down game helps us so much, the less time we're in the neutral zone, the less chance they have of being able to affect the game there.  We had trouble getting out of our zone, but, as I recall, they had it around the edges a lot and didn't really get that many chances out of all their possession, because we always had strong D in front of the net to disrupt anything that went out that way, during the regional at least.  On the flip side, I thought we were surprisingly good at cycling it in their zone in the regional at times.  This is one of those games where you want Llewellyn.  But also don't want Llewellyn because of the (without penalties) part.  Though now it's a moot point.  I think we've been more physical this year than last, but I still wouldn't necessarily call us an overly physical team, whereas Miami is certainly very physical.  It helps them that a lot of their players are the older USHL kids that have a year or two extra to develop physically, so they have that physicality, but it's also part of why they take so many penalties.  There isn't a ton to choose between us and Miami, they're very good.  I really do think it's going to come down to whether we can match their top line, defensively and if our secondary scorers can outpace theirs.

In the CCHA, we're something like +4 in net special teams, but I'm pretty sure if you include non-conference we're quite a bit worse. Which could mean either that we've improved or that we're only good against more mediocre competition.  Also, the CCHA seems to have pretty weak special teams across the board this year, with the exception of Miami, so being 3rd in both PP and PK in conference isn't really saying much.  I feel like nationally we're pretty average and/or low.  Our PP seems to get a lot of goals that are "normal" that I feel like we'd get easily in a even strength situation, screens, fluky bouncy goals, rebounds.  Obviously it still helps being on the PP for those, but I haven't seen so many nice more skilled goals on the PP, ala Ferris' 2nd goal on Friday.  Our PK seems to be very hit or miss.  We either dominate the kill from the beginning or look out-classed from the face-off. 

zlionsfan

January 17th, 2011 at 7:32 PM ^

I can tell you that plan works very well. My friends and I had tickets for the '88 Midwest Regionals in the Silverdome; after Purdue's embarrassing loss to Kansas State, we had no desire to stick around for the Sunday final, so we probably sold our tickets to the nearest Wildcat fans. (This was the year of Cheatin' Larry Brown, of course, so it's probably better they lost when they did. Twice in nine years would have been a bit much, but then again I didn't root for Purdue until I enrolled there, so I don't get credit for the 1980 loss ... my friends might have, though.)

It's always good to go if you have the chance ... you'll never know when (if) it'll happen again. In 1999, I saw the Purdue women's team play the first two rounds at Mackey and the next two at Illinois State. (The Bloomington/Normal area is about three hours from Indy, not a bad drive.) Of course they went on to win the title - just one of three team championships Purdue has won, and given that the other two were in golf, this one probably had some significance - and what I remember now is that my brother lived in Los Altos at the time, and the women's Final Four was in San Jose. I could have done it, but I didn't, and now I probably won't ever get to again.

Fortunately, Michigan's hockey program is a lot stronger than that ... but even though you might get the chance to see them in the Frozen Four a couple of times a decade, it's always worth tossing around the idea of at least traveling to regionals.

Hardware Sushi

January 17th, 2011 at 2:12 PM ^

I like our team this season. No, it doesn't feel like the typical season or team but we're scoring, playing exciting hockey, and mostly winning. Plus, I had class with Hagelin my senior year and it's great to see him doing so well.

I hope we take care of the teams we should, beat those that will help our prws rankings (OSU, Alaska, Western), and split with Miami. That will take us into the CCHA tourney with just a couple losses and a potential one seed.

We're going on 13 years since winning a national title. It'd be nice to get one soon.

GO BLUE!

lunchboxthegoat

January 17th, 2011 at 2:15 PM ^

Haven't seen much hockey this year (sad, I know). And I don't have Comcast which makes it even harder. what I have seen of Merrill is truly amazing. He's a special talent and here's to hoping we have him around for more than one-and-done.

Harvest Wain

January 17th, 2011 at 2:19 PM ^

While Merrill looks great in the CCHA, his defense was shakier than Michael J. Fox as your Jenga partner in the World Juniors against Canada.  I don't think he's ready to play against the best.  And I really, really hope we can get at least 12 comments.

JustGoBlue

January 17th, 2011 at 2:35 PM ^

didn't have any D-man that I noticed that didn't look pretty shaky defensively.  There were an incredible number of no-look back passes to the center of the ice in the D-zone, when nobody was there that often led to good chances for the other teams. 

I'm blaming a deccent amount of that tournament on the coach.  Obviously Keith Allain knows what he is doing, since Yale is doing really well this season, regardless of the schedule argument they're a legitimate top 10 team.  But I'm not sure that the players really took to his system.  He's a run'n'gun, offensive guy and Team USA wasn't exaclty scoring the lights out.  They were good defensively, by the numbers, but a lot of that was Jack Campbell, I thought (ARGHHHHHHH!!!!!!). 

I do think Merrill would benefit from another year at Michigan, he's far from perfect, but I just wouldn't use the WJC as much of a metric.

JustGoBlue

January 17th, 2011 at 2:26 PM ^

to say that, seeing Merrill play, I'm a lot less scared about next year, now.  Unfortunately, I'm not sure that there is a next year for Merrill.  I like to think he's not ready right now, but with the situation with the Devils, he might need to be ready.  The really scary part happens when you think about what could happen if Burlon and Wohlberg join Merrill on that flight to New Jersey.  I don't think there is any question that Burlon and Merrill are our best defensemen and Wohlberg is our second leading scorer and I think he's played really well this year.  Hopefully none leave, but all three are certainly flight risks.

As for this season, it's a lot what I expected, except minus Rust and Cappy exploding and plus the defense being better, offensively and defensively, than I expected (a lot of this has to do with Burlon being good again and Merrill being awesome), which sort of balance each other out.  We've really progressed defensively in the course of the season, which is really encouraging and that's the key to our last couple of wins.  Offensively, we're decent, but I expected to be a lot better.  If Rust and/or Brown could hit the back of the net to save their lives (yes, Brown has a good WJC and a big goal this weekend, so we'll see, but they both have had SO many chances (the only one I saw) and just can't seem to finish).  The good news is that Rust, from starting the year with like no goals, no assits and a - +/- has progressed to the point where he's making a lot of nice plays that lead to goals (including some that he doesn't get an assist on but makes an incredible play to get it to the secodary assister which leads two easy passes and a goal) and has gotten back on the + side, so at least we're getting something from him now and hopefully he can start putting a couple in soon.  Brown had a great WJC and a goal this weekend, so maybe he'll start doing something again, especially if Red keeps him on the line with Carl and Rust, I think he could start picking it up.  Cappy has 7 goals, which isn't horrible, but isn't what we expect/need from him.  But at this point, Cappy is who he is, he at times scores a ton and a times scores nothing at all.  Hopefully he's still saving hs best for last and the last month or two of the season will see him back as a premier goal scorer.  Lynch had like 6 goals in the first couple months, but hasn't done much since.  We play Miami in a couple weeks though, so we could see him goals soar from that.  I think Treais and Moffatt are both playing really well, Treais is putting up some points and I think Moffatt is going to start cashing in soon too.  The rest of the team is pretty much as we expected.  We're getting more secondary scoring than I had expected coming into this year, but most of our primary guys aren't scoring like I thought they might. 

Another pretty good team in Alaska comes into Yost next week.  Hopefully the team can continue this little streak, sweep them, maybe get Brown/Rust/Cappy a few goals and just continue building confidence.  Right now, Michigan is on track to make the tournament and challenge for both CCHA titles, but they're going to need some of the big guns to start stepping up like we know they can, if they want to be the National Title contenders we expected at the beginning of the season.  Right now, we can take care of business against bad/mediocre teams and we can play with the big boys, but we're not to the point where we can beat them consistently.

Also, Brian, we're only one game back of Notre Dame, not two.  So we still quasi-lead the CCHA, but it's not as nice a cushion as you make it out to be.

1329 S. University

January 17th, 2011 at 2:32 PM ^

a cheer in the future after he brings a National Title to Ann Arbor. Of course I expect the chant to be slightly more colorful.

I never get to see any games down here (Kentucky) but the three I've managed to catch on TV this year are the 2 OT losses and the Big Chill. Talk about your contrasts.

UAUM

January 17th, 2011 at 2:37 PM ^

Contrary to Brian's statements, Red has consistently put out awesome teams since the 2 national championship teams in '96 and '98.  Since 2000, UM has won the CCHA 5 times, won the CCHA tourament 5 times, and been to the Frozen Four 4 times.  In those 10 years, Red has produced 15 All-Americans.

Despite our recent football woes,  UM hockey is certainly doing well.

But, certainly appreciate the hockey coverage.  It's a great sport, we're good at it, and it's a positive distraction from the football team.  Many thanks!

GO BLUE!!!

bklein09

January 17th, 2011 at 2:38 PM ^

With all the football hooplah making my head hurt and basketball looking like we all thought they would, all of my Michigan hopes and dreams are sliding toward hockey (as it does almost every year at this time). 

From here on out, I will be jacked up for every game they play, building toward eventual devastation in the tourney when they lose a game they probably shouldn't.

I'm not trying to be negative, but the NCAA hockey tournament is a fickle fickle *expletive* You just have to get there and hope to get hot/find some luck. Let's hope this is the year!

mjw

January 17th, 2011 at 2:40 PM ^

really bummed i finished out school before merrill got on campus, and being on the east coast now i don't get to see any games.

fwiw, per hockey's future, 4 of the devils top 6 prospects are d-men (including merrill) (burlon comes in at #10 on the list), the other 3 are all older than merrill, the one ranked ahead of merrill has already seen time in the league and another is said to be ready to contribute at the NHL level.  also, if their handling of burlon is any indication, who they drafted in the 2d rd, they won't rush merrill along.

also - more hockey plz.

goblue7612

January 17th, 2011 at 2:44 PM ^

Pretty sure we only have one game in hand on Notre Dame. We have 11 games left, and they have 10, so it actually isn't a "significant lead". At most we have a 2 point lead.

medals

January 17th, 2011 at 2:51 PM ^

"His dad does not dance during the second intermission, not that anyone would notice if he did these days."

This one went over my head.  What's up at Yost these days?  (For the sake of context, I was there from 95-99).

cheesheadwolverine

January 17th, 2011 at 2:57 PM ^

I was 6 in 1995 so I can't really compare, but everyone dances to some song in the second intermission (by which I mean like 2/3 of the students and 1/3 of everyone else).  A few years ago (like my freshman/sophmore years) it seemed that only one or two people danced in the section and everyone else watched.

goblue7612

January 17th, 2011 at 3:02 PM ^

More specifically it used to be that Mr. Johnson (JMFJ's dad) would dance during Jack's two years here. And Superfan or some other costumed fellow (a penguin, a shark, etc) would jump in.This was after the band conductor stopped dancing, and these days the students don't even clamor for him anymore. Sad times.

esipp

January 17th, 2011 at 4:02 PM ^

I was a freshman in 2005, and that was just about the end of the band director dancing. I only saw it happen once and it was the alumni band director at that. These days if you chant "DANCE!" and point at the director, everyone thinks you're telling the band to play "Can't Turn You Loose" at the end of the 3rd period and usually ignores you.