I spent Saturday night coping with a few thousand friends at Yost. It was the first game I caught this year, and first in a while. The team looked good! but not great. I thought there were some interesting things that could be relatively easy fixes and that the team should get better as the year goes on.
- Michigan's penalty kill was good and very aggressive in the offensive zone. Wisconsin struggled to maintain possession in their end and multiple Wolverines had great, disruptive shifts. Michigan got very passive once Wisconsin broke it out into the neutral zone though
- Michigan's powerplay really struggled to create chances. Going 0/4 in the first period Saturday before I forgot to keep counting. The main causes of this in my mind is some stagnation. Players seemed to set up the umbrella and not move much. People were not a threat to score. Most passes leading to shots were telegraphed where a defender could easily block the shot. Michigan's best powerplay chances came when they got Wisconsin moving horizontally, all the way across the ice.
- Hughes is clearly a talent step above everyone on the ice. Michigan's players knew it, so did Wisconsin's. At times this almost seemed like a detriment on the powerplay. Michigan's other players were almost too deferential. When Michigan struggled to break out and gain the zone, the play became "give it to Huges and let him stickhandle through to gain the zone". This isn't dissimilar to what the Blackhawks do at times with Kane - someone with great handles is called on to bail the team out.
- Hughes also seemed a bit tentative about his skill. The talent delta wasn't as huge as Jack Johnson's - at times JMFJ would say "fuck it", grab the puck and dominate play. Hughes didn't do that until overtime. Hughes was also much less reckless than JMFJ.
- Hughes' talent was best on display during the 3-on-3 overtime. He was clearly out of gas, but way beyond anyone else on the ice from a skill standpoint. He had a great kick-to-the-stick move that generated an "ohhhhh" from the crowd, but his pass didn't connect for a one-timer to win the game.
- College hockey is still more physical than the NHL, but it's less physical than it was when I was in the student section from 05-09. A few really nice open ice hits, which you rarely see in the NHL anymore. The refs also let players finish their checks more.
- #5 Luce is a big boy and he used his physicality really well. There was one shift in the 3rd in particular where he finished 3 great checks on Wisconsin players. He had a great game.
- Lavigne played really well Saturday. Not flashy, but definitely a B+/A- goalie based on this game. He shouldn't lose you any, and there's a great chance he can steal you a few.
- It was Thanksgiving weekend, but Yost was probably 95% full. The Alumni Band did a great job. It was a bit sad to see that the Student Section is down to just one section, when I was there (05-09) we had a whole side. I blame one thing - the basketball team getting good! I don't doubt that Crisler has a lot more demand than it did when I was there, and 3 sets of student tickets would be cost prohibitive. Sidenote- John Beilein was at the game!
- The B1G ought to have double header weekends - both the Hockey and Basketball teams should play on the same Weekend. I'd love to go to Madison for hockey Friday night, a Saturday afternoon/night basketball game, and Saturday Night/Sunday afternoon hockey.