Uneasy Street

Submitted by Brian on January 24th, 2011 at 3:39 PM

1/21/2011 – Michigan 2, Alaska 0 – 16-6-4, 13-4-1 CCHA
1/22/2011 – Michigan 4, Alaska 3 – 17-6-4, 14-4-1 CCHA

Michigan goalie Shawn Hunwick tries to keep Alaska Fairbank's Chad Gehon, right, from scoring during second period action of Saturday, Janaury 22nd's clash between the two teams at UM's Yost Ice Arena.
Lon Horwedel | AnnArbor.com

Lon Horwedel/AnnArbor.com

Red Berenson:

"We had a lot of guys playing hard, but our team didn’t play as well it needed to.”

I've been going to Yost for a long time and I don't think I've ever seen Michigan outshot on consecutive nights, let alone by the margins they were outshot this weekend. And yet they still won. They won because Shawn Hunwick was both awesome and fortunate—at least three pucks sailed harmlessly through the crease behind him on Saturday—and Alaska demonstrated that they are the sort of team that scores two goals a game even when the other is dead-set on making a pile of errors.

I swear Michigan athletics is designed to make me look bad. A week after suggesting this set of defensemen was a near-flawless machine they coughed pucks up left and right, failed to check guys screaming through the slot, and gave up an epic number of odd-man rushes. On Saturday Alaska had a 2-on-0 thanks to Mac Bennett blowing a tire at the blue line. They didn't score. That was kind of the weekend.

Even Merrill broke character to join in. Of all people, he was the guy headed to the box to give Alaska a minute of 5-on-3 with five minutes left in the weekend and the game in the balance. His slash was pretty dumb. That was also kind of the weekend.

Michigan's last loss was courtesy of back-to-back dumb 5-on-3s ceded to Michigan State. Michigan's penalty kill is really bad this year. The building was braced for a red light. But then Chad Langlais dove to chip a puck out of the zone off the faceoff, Rust and Hagelin played with the puck for thirty seconds, and by the time the Nanooks got set up in the zone they'd spent 80% of their 5-on-3. Ten seconds later it was over, Yost was on its feet, and Michigan had swept an Alaska team that had gone two years since coming out of a weekend without a point.

Today varsity is two points clear of Notre Dame with a game in hand. They've won nine of their last ten and dropped the one in overtime. They're one Ferris State win away from a one seed. But this week the amalgam of parts that add up to more than they should individually looks like a ramshackle jalopy ready to fall apart. Hopefully this can serve as a wakeup call, rather than actual losses foretold by Saturday's performance.

Non-bullets of escape

Strategery Q. Should Alaska have pulled their goalie during the 5-on-3? I don't know, but I think I would have. You're not going to get a better chance to score and the chances a three-man group can break out against six skaters seems incredibly low.

Adding to the uneasiness. The only even-strength Michigan goal of the weekend that wasn't a point shot came from Scooter Vaughn directly off the draw. (Rust's goal was a deflection from Moffie.) Michigan's defensemen can really pick them out from the point but I doubt that's sustainable.

Moffie, yo. Lee Moffie had a three game goal streak and picked up an assist on that Rust goal when another point shot of his was deflected in. And he didn't seem responsible for much, if any, of the scary defending on Saturday.

Greenham FTW. After Michigan's first goal on Friday a student chucked a small plastic ball on the ice. Moments later, Carl Hagelin was decked as he skated by the Alaska bench. A scrum ensued, followed by one of those interminable referee conferences where they take ten minutes to give everyone matching minors.

In this window of time Alaska goalie Scott Greenham attempted to flip the ball back into the crowd. His first attempt was unsuccessful and drew boos. The second worked, but Greenham had miscalculated: he put it back where it came from. Whoever caught it chucked it right back on the ice. Greenham sighed demonstratively and set about trying to flip the thing over the boards on the other side, but couldn't. He eventually hit it to Rust, who put it over in one, causing the crowd to blow up and Rust to celebrate like he'd just won the Stanley Cup.

It was the best interminable referee conference ever.

Speaking of interminable referee conference. How does Michigan come out of that with an unsportsmanlike bonus penalty to Carl Hagelin? He took a penalty for getting nailed. Other frustrations from the refs:

  • not immediately waving off the hypothetical Alaska tying goal for goaltender interference, and then not giving Alaska a penalty for running Hunwick over.
  • watching two Michigan sticks cleaved in half right after Merrill had gotten out of the box for his slash and calling neither.

I thought the reffing over the weekend was actually pretty good, but those were weird/frustrating.

Yost bits. A couple of student cheers that were memorable: shutting up the Alaska parents section after their third goal with a "Sarah Palin" cheer and chanting "where's our candy?" at a linesman who had flipped them some the night before.

Pairwise bits. Bits flipped somewhere in the PWR and Michigan now slides behind Boston College. They're sixth. This is probably because Ferris dropped under .500 in RPI and Michigan lost their shiny TUC record against them. That's enough to flip the BC comparison.

For an example of how volatile the PWR is, especially at this point, RPI was mentioned as the #16 team in the preview. After the weekend they're up to 8th. Swings all over the place.

I did take a look at a couple of the comparisons Michigan is losing right now and it does seem possible that they would be able to pass some of the teams in front of them without passing them in RPI. They will not win the North Dakota comparison without heaven and earth moving, but they would win comparisons with BC and Denver if Ferris was still a TUC; the UMD comparison would be very much up for grabs with a narrow margin in the common opponents category making the difference.

Comments

MGoKereton

January 24th, 2011 at 3:58 PM ^

Carl Hagelin even stated that the crowd noise during the 5 on 3 gave them the energy to keep on fighting.  Loudest I've heard Yost in quite some time.

Also, the whole Alaska player throwing the net on the ice in frustration thing.  I bet he had a fun plane ride home.

JonSobel

January 24th, 2011 at 5:04 PM ^

I haven't seen three guys just take over the ice that way in a while.  Everyone knew their assignment, stayed in great position, took chances when they needed to, and didn't take a chance when killing time was more important.  Watching Hagelin skate in all alone, stop, and then throw the puck back into our defensive zone to Langlais and then Rust just to kill off another 15 seconds was a thing of beauty.  It was like they decided that they had had just about enough of Alaska tying it every time we went ahead and it was time to send them packing.  I love the personalities on this team.  They've been my favorite to watch since Porter/Kolarik/M. Hunwick.

SCS100

January 24th, 2011 at 4:21 PM ^

Last year one of the linesman (Tunison or Likens?) threw candy to the Section 17 area at the start of the game, and ever since we've chanted "We want candy" if they don't give us candy at the beginning of each period. For the record, we were given candy last weekend against Ferris, but not this weekend.

Johnny Go Blue

January 25th, 2011 at 11:12 AM ^

Tunison in the past has past out the candy to the student section. This season I have not seen him work any the games I went to. Last season he was so liked, one of the students had a ref jersey on with Tunison's name on it. Plus this season, the refs names are no longer displayed. So it's more of a challenge knowing who is working the game.

Seth9

January 24th, 2011 at 4:13 PM ^

Alaska is a very good defensive team. They've allowed a total of 34 even strength goals, 3 of which came on an empty net. So I wouldn't worry a tremendous amount over our reliance on point shots to beat them, especially since we did score six goals on the weekend and Greenham, to his credit, made some absolutely tremendous saves on a number of our even strength opportunities.

The defensive play was much more concerning. Yes, we were sloppier than usual defensively, but sloppy defensive play has been an issue all year. We turn the puck over in our zone way too often and we get killed by competent power play units, which Alaska thankfully lacks.

BrownJuggernaut

January 24th, 2011 at 5:30 PM ^

I brought this up in another thread that I would like to see more shots from the point and I was glad to see us execute that. Particularly on the power play, Alaska was giving up lots of space for our defenders (I can see why their penalty kill is awful, they barely move). We have players like Moffie, Merrill and Burlon who can get shots on net. Also, we have guys who can deflect it and guys who can clean up the garbage in front of goal. It seems sometimes we get a little too caught up in having a tic-tac-toe goal, rather than taking advantage of what our opponents give us.

The fact that we were so sloppy getting out of our zone was a little concerning. I hope we got it out of our system because we need to be at our best in that Miami series. Last season, they really bullied us. We have to be better and we have to execute well.

Cheers to everyone who was at Yost on Saturday. It was a smaller crowd in the student section, but it was definitely nice to make a lot of noise. I think we all fed of each other in those final minutes.

kevin holt

January 25th, 2011 at 8:08 AM ^

I have infinitely more respect for Greenham, and feel bad for him getting booed though it was all in fun.

The fact that he animatedly hung his head and laughed about it, even while being booed, just shows that he can be classy and acknowledge one of the toughest crowds in hockey instead of just ignoring them the whole game.

V-Link

January 25th, 2011 at 8:57 AM ^

Greenham seems like a great kid and a damn good goaltender; he impressed me more than Nagle from FSU who many drool over. In addition to having some fun out there with the student section and Rust, he skated over to check on Louie when Cap was on the receiving end of a boarding call. Post game, he didn't just go through the motions in the handshake line, but actually had words with a few Wolverines while giving them the bro-hug. 

JustGoBlue

January 24th, 2011 at 6:57 PM ^

was disgustingly bad most of this weekend, we turned it over at our own blue line probably half the times we tried to start the break-out.  I remember thinking Chris Brown was a HUGE culprit, at least on Friday, one of the defenseman (Bennett? I don't remember) seemed to do it a lot too, the first night.  The second night, it appeared as if the bad turnovers were more of a team effort.  I'm sure that's something the coaches will focus on in practice this weekend and I think it'll be cleaned up in time for the game against State.  They really did a pretty good job of team defense against Ferris, so they probably focused too much on other things and the D slipped a lot.  With this reminder, I wouldn't expect to see things like that too much more.  Though if we do, I wouldn't expect a Michigan win, again. 

Red said they worked a ton on the PK (especially 2 men down) since the MSU series and it seemed to pay off this series.  Out of curiosity, has anybody been keeping track of which PK is out normally when we're scored on?  I wanna say it's pretty even, but, even though it was against Alaska's offense, that kill at the end was absolutely sick and between that and the just general aptitude of Carl and Rust on defense makes me feel like it's more of a second PK thing, but I don't have the numbers and I don't feel like looking it up.  The PK hasn't been scored on since the first night against Ferris, so in the 4 games, it's something like 11/12, which is a definite uptick.  The PP's we've faced haven't exactly been incredible, so we'll see if they can keep it up against teams (Miami) that have a PP that normally works decently.

I actually think the barrage from the points is pretty sustainable, they've really been doing it most of the season (at least Merrill and Burlon have and Moffie when he's in).  It's not usually going to be the case that just about everything starts with the D-men, but they've been putting up points all year.  Red has talked quite a bit this year about how with everybody condensing so hard around the net these days, you have to be able to get it to the D and they have to get it on net.  I agree with BrownJuggernaut, if the points are open bomb away, if it doesn't go in directly, there's at least an opportunity for a rebound or re-direct.  It's better than constantly watching centering passes go to nobody (or at least nobody on our team) or watching beautiful set-ups fizzle because somebody whiffs on the wide open net. 

I do think that as a unit, our forwards have to work being able to generate offense without defensemen getting involved, but I do think that the D-men can stay effective through the rest of the season.  I thought Lynch didn't look great this weekend too, he actually stood out to me as not looking great this weekend.  Though it was really nice to see Brown and Rust (especially Rust, did you see that celebration?!) get goals, now hopefully Brown can score in games that he doesn't turn the puck over 1,000,000 times in...

1 win away from guaranteeing a first-round CCHA bye is nice but expected.  Nicer is being 7 points ahead of Miami with a game in hand.  They play ND, in South Bend, twice this weekend.  I'm hoping for the split, to stay 2 points in front of ND and 7 in front of Miami with 2 games in hand on each (assuming we win).  That puts us in a really nice position to win the conference.  I would guess we could lose about 3 games in that scenario and still retain first, that allows ND to take one of their last 6 games (against BGSU, FSU and WMU) to a shoot-out, win the rest and we could still win the conference (our last 6 are against OSU, WMU and NMU, the first 4 being at Yost).

goblue7612

January 24th, 2011 at 7:04 PM ^

I thought I had read that the goal wasn't disallowed because of goalie interference but because the net had come off its moorings. Nothing in the highlights to back me up though.

BlueDragon

January 24th, 2011 at 9:18 PM ^

I swear Michigan athletics is designed to make me look bad. A week after suggesting this set of defensemen was a near-flawless machine they coughed pucks up left and right, failed to check guys screaming through the slot, and gave up an epic number of odd-man rushes.

Michigan athletics is designed to do the opposite of what Brian Cook says they will do.  It's a scientific law.