Tuesday, January 17, 2006

I am the Michigan Hockey Team's Total Lack of Enthusiasm

I meant to post about this before but haven't had a chance til now. Just like last year, the Wolverine hockey team came out and found themselves trailing USA before ultimately squeaking by with a W. Unlike last year however, this edition of the U-18 team isn't all that good. Where last year they had Phil Kessel, Jack Johnson, Jack Skille, Ryan Stoa, Peter Mueller, etc., this year they have Pat Kane and Erik Johnson. There are some other good players on the team, no doubt, but this team is nowhere near as talented as last year, and their 4-11 or so record against NCAA opponents supports that (last year, I believe they ended up right around .500).

Michigan looked completely disinterested from the drop of the puck. It was probably the worst game I've ever seen Jack Johnson play--and a bad giveaway by him led to USA's first goal. The Tim Cook "moment" for the game was in the third period when he went to actually make a check out by the blue line. The only problems were that #1) he missed and went feet first into the boards and #2) He was the last man back and the USA player ended up with a breakaway that thankfully Ruden stopped. Hensick was better than he has been, but he still coasted for a big portion of that game (thankfully trying long enough to chip in a couple of points).

The best player on the ice for us was the guy that was supposed to be out long-term: Kolarik. Though, if he was that hurt, I'm not sure why they'd risk him in an exhibition game.

Pat Kane was outstanding for USA, with a gorgeous one-touch pass to set up USA's second goal. He was an offensive threat all night. Chris Summers I didn't notice too much, but he did seem to have much better awareness in his own end (read: He knew where his own zone was). Didn't notice him all that much and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Sauer couldn't be faulted for at least 2 of the 3 goals (and if he was screened on Johnson's bomb, you can add that to the list). Ruden didn't get much more help than Billy but he was outstanding between the pipes. Our defense just doesn't have the look of a team that's going to contend for an NCAA title right now. I like that they shuffled the D pairings a little bit, though I still think Johnson and Hunwick need to be split up in even-strength situations. Leave them together on the PP, but for 5 on 5, split em up. I like Mitera with Cook. If you can't trust #25 in front of the net, put out the best positional defenseman that you have with him. Sauer has had almost no help in front of him, but at some point he has to stop letting 3-4 pucks get behind him. I can make excuses for him all year, but at some point he needs to make some saves that he "shouldn't".

The Wolverines take on MSU tonight at Munn, and will be shown on Fox Sports Detroit. Michigan's looking for their first 2 game winning streak at Munn since the year the place opened. Ouch. Hopefully the boys come out with a much better effort tonight than they had against USA. State's been playing pretty well lately, and I can't even make fun of them for their schedule since they actually swept UAF. Should be a bunch of Wolverines fans in attendance though. I'm not going to make it to this one, but I'm going to the Friday-night game there in a couple weeks.

In the "Rumours Du Jour" section of the Ottawa Sun this week, they speculated that the Wings might have an interest in Mike Komisarek. That'd be a huge pickup. Komisarek hasn't been great for the Canadiens, but he's not even 24 yet and we've learned from watching Jiri Fischer how long it can take big defensemen to develop. He probably came out a little too early, but he does have almost 100 NHL games to his credit and he's a big body on the blueline that will actually hit, and he has a nice shot from the point.

I also have to give a call to Andreas Lilja who has been very good for the Wings lately. I was hard on him earlier in the year, but he's been pretty solid as of late. Though he's not Chris Chelios who was a machine against the Rangers. I can't believe how good that guy still is. He doesn't look like a 44-year old, and he sure looks like he could play another few years if he wanted to. Shanahan looks great too. Babcock pointed it out that he's actually skating more, and playing really well even when he's not putting the puck in the net.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: When Rasheed Wallace is shooting the ball well, the Pistons are next to unbeatable. 9 of 12 from the field yesterday, including 18 points in the third quarter. He's a bad, bad man. Carlos Delfino was outstanding off the bench yesterday, and if he can keep providing a spark like that, we're going to be in pretty good shape between him, Dyess, Fried Ice Cream, Evans, and Hunter coming back.

Saunders mentioned in the newspaper the other day that he might use Tayshaun as a backup point-guard to throw a different look at teams. Interesting idea, and I like the idea of Billups getting some time at the 2. That team is just such a pleasure to watch.

Honestly, if they stay healthy I don't know how that team win the title this year. It's not just that they're 30-5, it's not that they've got a ten game lead in what might be the best division in basketball....they're just blowing teams out in the process. They can come at you in so many different ways. They've got 4 starters capable of dropping 20-25 in any given game. Billups has been phenomenal whether he's scoring or just dropping dimes on people (16 yesterday). And I don't think Saunders has even installed the entire offense yet. When Hunter comes back, their defense should even pick up a little bit. You just never feel like there's a point during the game when they don't have their opponent covered. Wojo put it really well today:
They can dig a healthy little 14-point deficit against Boston and nobody -- trust me, nobody -- thinks they'll lose the game.
That's pretty much it. At this point though, it's a hard wait until the playoffs. I want to see them win 70 as much as the next person, but it's hard to watch games just hoping that no one gets hurt. Because honestly, that's the only way I see this title run derailed....

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