It isn't just Jack. It isn't just Jack and Hunwick. I understand that team defense is more than just one player, and without watching the tape and knowing Michigan's strategy, it's hard to say if a defenseman made a bad pinch or if the forward was supposed to come back and didn't. I single out that duo more than I probably should because we saw how incredible they can be at the start of the year. Maybe it increased our expectations too much.
The commenter said that he feels Jack could carry this team if Red would let him. I don't necessarily doubt that. I said earlier in the year, I think that Jack would be our second best forward. He got that much offensive talent. But here's the thing: If they were to want Jack to carry them, then they have to make adjustments. I have no problem with them giving Jack the green light to go whenever he wants (I thought putting him out at forward against Michigan State was a great move, not that it lasted for more than 5 seconds, because officials seem to freak out when he hits anyone), but--and it's a big but--they need to adjust. Because there's too many occasions where Jack or Hunwick pinch and we end up seeing an odd man rush going the other way. So either they're going at bad times or too often, or the forwards aren't being defensively aware enough to get back and play some D. I suspect it's some of both. Last night--according to the captain--it was the latter:
"We can't play shootout games anymore. We were rushing up the ice when Kaleniecki had a blocked shot and we had all five guys underneath the hash marks. Then they got a breakaway and took the puck the other way. I thought our defense played pretty decently tonight, but the forwards weren't helping them out on the backcheck. The offense wasn't coming back, but the defense did a great job coming back up the ice."
The other point I'd like to make about Johnson having the ability to "carry" the team is this: Our offense has gone through some slumps this year, no doubt. But I'd also say that this team has a ton of offensive talent and with our goaltending alternating between shaky and piss-poor, at this point I'd rather see our defensemen pinching less, and the team as a whole making more of a commitment to defense. They're not going anywhere in the tournament if they keep giving up 4-5 goals a game, no matter how good the offense can be.
Johnson plays with passion and he plays until the final horn. I love players like that. It's what I loved about Jed Ortmeyer. God only knows we could use a lot more players with the heart those two play with.
I think it's unfair to put all the blame on the goalie(s) just as it's probably unfair to single out Jack and Hunwick all the time like a lot of fans (myself included) tend to do. There have been wayyyy too many goals that you could say "Sauer/Ruden would like to have that one back" about (The first, fifth, and sixth goals last night jump right to mind), but at the same time, there's plenty of them that our defense (that includes the forwards) needs to do a better job of helping out. The sheer number of breakaways and odd-man rushes we've given up point to some breakdown in our system.
I'm really frustrated right now. I'm not used to seeing Michigan lose this many games. I'm not used to seeing the Wolverines lose this many games at Yost. Something needs to change, because our defensive coverage hasn't been up to par. And I can't believe a coach as good as Red has let it go on this long uncorrected.