Also: sorry, but this Nuss-at-Washington post is going to have to be delayed since the video conversion failed the first time I tried it.]
If you’re a frequent visitor of this site then you’re familiar with the 2014 meme. Unfortunately it seems that the gilded griffin who’s been sprinkling magic dust on all of the arenas and administrative buildings across the athletic campus couldn’t make the road trip to Wisconsin. I heard it was icy, maybe that was an issue for the griffin. I’m not sure. What I am sure of is how frustrating this weekend was to watch. Even Michigan’s human embodiment of the 2014 meme, Andrew Copp, couldn’t turn this series around.
#8 Michigan v. #14 Wisconsin
Friday, January 10, 2014
Wisconsin 1 UM 0 4:16 EV
Mersch from Schulze & Dahl
Wisconsin dances around Michigan in the neutral zone to gain the offensive zone with little pushback from the Wolverines. Instead of driving the net Schulze leaves a drop pass for Mersch, who has no one defending him. You’ve heard of gap control? Here’s an example of what not to do.
Mersch takes what appears to be a harmless shot. Nagelvoort has a good read on the puck and isn’t screened, but the puck hits the outside of his glove and deflects in. Nagelvoort was phenomenal most of the night, and this is just a tough break for the freshman netminder.
YOU MAY REMEMBER ME FROM SUCH FILMS AS:
Wisconsin 2 UM 0 11:47 EV
Besse from Schulze & LaBate
Wisconsin shoots the puck from near the blueline into a crowd, where it hits someone and deflects to the side of the net. There just so happens to be a Wisconsin player in the vicinity, who grabs the puck and heads behind the net.
Besse skates out from behind the net and centers the puck to the slot. It hits the back of De Jong’s skate (who actually has his man well defended in front of the net) and deflects in between Nagelvoort’s legs. Two flukes, two times the puck finds the back of the net for Wisconsin. At this point it appears that Michigan’s just not going to have fortune smile upon them. Rarely does one bizarre goal happen in a game, but to have two happen in the same period puts a team so far behind the eight ball that they aren’t even playing pool anymore.
Wisconsin 3 UM 0 11:47 EV
Dahl from Mersch & McCabe
How does a shot get through from the blueline to the front of the net? One way is for there to be a big defensive miscue, such as sticking with the wrong man when the other team is moving laterally. That’s exactly what happens here. This is especially unfortunate because Motte played an otherwise good game defensively
To his credit, Motte closes the gap fairly well even though the shot gets through. Nagelvoort stops the initial shot but gives up a juicy, grade-A rebound.
Dahl is right in front but can’t get his stick on the puck. The puck actually bounces in off of his skate, going through Nagelvoort’s legs in the process. Credit to Dahl for not kicking the puck.
[AFTER THE JUMP: Michigan's response, and sad happenings the next night.]
Wisconsin 3 UM 1 14:50 EV
Copp from Di Giuseppe & Guptill
Di Giuseppe does a fantastic job using speed and stickhandling to keep the puck away from his defender on the half wall. He centers the puck and it deflects off of a Wisconsin defender’s skate in the slot.
Michigan entered the zone with enough speed to suck Wisconsin’s defenders to the front of the net, which leaves the high slot open. Copp flys into the zone and quickly goes forehand-backhand, lifting the puck up and over Wisconsin’s goaltender.
Wisconsin 3 UM 2 17:58 PPG
Moffatt from Motte & Clare
Clare passes down the boards to Motte, who patiently waits to see what kind of gap he’s going to get from his defender before making his move. The D plays this in a typical box formation and they aren’t being very aggressive, but instead of taking the puck behind or to the net Motte passes back to Moffatt. This is a good pass, because the space in front of the Moffatt is so much greater than a shooting lane that I think it has to be dubbed a shooting highway.
Moffatt rips a perfect one timer that finds the only possible lane that would result in a goal. If gets through two defenders and then goes over the glove of the goalie and between the netfront Wisconsin and Michigan players.
Wisconsin 4 UM 2 18:42 EN
Mersch from Dahl & Zengerle
In the film adaptation Compher gets to this puck. Good job, good effort.
Wisconsin 5 UM 2 19:20 EV
Mersch from Dahl & Faust
No video of this one. Much like a tree falling in the woods, if no one’s around to see it did the goal really happen?
Saturday, January 11, 2014
Wisconsin 1 UM 0 14:06 EV
Simonelli from LaBate & Schulze
Michigan defends this well, so I have very little to criticize and even less to make jokes about. Wisconsin carries behind the net and works the puck back to the blueline for a one-timer.
I guess the one bone I could pick here is that the top two defenders could close their gaps a little and play closer to the blueline. Otherwise, it’s hard to stop a one-timer while being screened (Compher does get credit for making a good defensive switch after recognizing the undefended player in front of the net and trying to move him out of Nagelvoort’s way).
Wisconsin 1 UM 1 17:44 PPG
Copp from Bennett & Guptill
Bennett is able to move laterally and draw a defender with him, which leaves a lot of space for Copp. Bennett passes and Copp tees it up right away. The defender in front of him tries to block the shot but doesn’t get it, and the puck finds a way through to the net.
The area circled in blue is where Michigan could score from at will this series. The area circled in red is the area that they could not score from.
Wisconsin 2 UM 1 12:04 EV
Drake from Mersch & Zulinick
De Jong gets caught trying to make a hit in the neutral zone that is mistimed, allowing his man to fly past and start the rush for Wisconsin. This is a mistake by a young defenseman and something that, if he does develop, will be fixed soon.
Wisconsin has a great offensive opportunity here. Michigan is outmanned here, leaving the trailing player open (see below). He takes the pass and shoots but Nagelvoort makes the initial stop. He does not, however, gather the puck and it falls next to him outside the crease.
Michigan tries to clear the puck but it’s a weak attempt and doesn’t leave the zone. This allows Drake to pinch down and get to the loose puck. He snaps it into the top (wide open) half of the net. Nagelvoort is still on the ice and lost in the scrum in front of the net, so he really has no chance at stopping this puck.
Wisconsin 3 UM 1 18:01 EV
LaBate from Dahl & Schulze
Wisconsin chips the puck out of the Michigan zone, and it just so happens that Dahl’s clearing attempt soars over the two Michigan defensemen and lands right next to LaBate.
Compher backchecks hard and tries to do something, anything to stop LaBate but he’s in all alone on Nagelvoort. LaBate shoots it high and makes Nagelvoort’s water bottle jump.
So what’s the problem right now? Some have pointed to the power play, others have pointed to secondary scoring, and I point to the defense (particularly the defensemen). The power play and secondary scoring are certainly valid concerns, but what really concerns me is the defensemen’s inability to move the puck out of the defensive zone coupled with generally sloppy assignment pickups.
The defensemen who seem to be making the most mistakes are young, and in a way that’s reassuring. Trying to hit guys in the neutral zone is a death knell if it isn’t timed right, and Michigan’s fallen victim to this multiple times over the course of their losing streak. The silver lining is that young guys can learn from their mistakes (as long as their offensive coordinator doesn’t change blocking schemes mid-seas…whoops, wrong sport), and the mistakes they’re making as far as picking up assignments and mistiming plays are correctable.
Michigan still has more than a week to correct their problems. I don’t expect everything to be fixed by the end of next week, but how this team performs against a Michigan State squad that they should have no problem with will likely tell us a great deal about what problems are here to stay and which were just holiday visitors that over-stayed their welcome.