Monday, February 13, 2006

Michigan 4, LSSU 2

Belated thoughts from a Saturday night victory:

Don’t look now, but Jack Johnson only has 2 PIMs total in his last 4 games and that penalty didn’t lead to us being short-handed. He’s done a nice job of toning it down since his last ejection.

Much better effort Saturday night than Friday. Michigan came out in the first period and actually looked like they wanted to be playing hockey, rather than chasing tail or yelling out the window making fun of Asian girls that can’t parallel park (yeah Mike Woodford!).

Once again, The Line set the tone with Kal and Ebbett accounting for 3 of Michigan’s goals in the first period. Kal’s second goal was about as big of a blooper as you’ll ever seen. He was basically in all alone, and when he went to shoot, he biffed on the ice and somehow was able to shoot the puck on his way down. It got past Jakaitis in classic Junior-Year-Al-Montoya-“He’d-like-to-have-that-one-back” fashion and Kal had one of the ugliest goals you’ll ever see. Kal has points in 8 of 9 games since he’s come back from his injury and Ebbett has points in 6 of 7. That line is carrying this team right now. A friend in my ticket group put it best, “Good thing him and Ebbett are leaving this year.” Yeah.

Tyler Swystun got on the scoresheet for the second straight game with a beautiful give-and-go with Danny Fardig. Swystun really played well this weekend. It wasn’t just that he tallied points in both games. He made a couple of really nice backchecks Saturday, and showed the first flashes we’ve seen of that high-end offensive skill that he supposedly has. 1-1—2 for the weekend, but he could’ve easily had another goal at the bare minimum.

If any psychology student is reading this and feels like doing a case study into the effect that confidence can have on an athlete, you need to look no further than Tim Cook. Honest to God, he looks like a completely different player from the start of the season. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a time he’s screwed up since the tie game at Munn, and he even played pretty well in that one. The highlight for him Saturday night was a crushing hit on a guy in the first period. Yes I just used the phrase crushing hit in reference to something Tim Cook did.

Ruden was solid in net. I don’t think I’d characterize either goal as his fault, which you couldn’t say on Saturday night. As long as he doesn’t really screw up, we’re not going to see Billy Sauer the rest of the way.

Apart from that 45 second span in the first period, the team defense was overall pretty darn good. I did notice that when Jack rushed the puck, a forward made sure to get back and play defense on a couple of occasions (both times that I actually looked for it). The power play is still absolutely abysmal. What happened to Rohlfs in front of the net? He was out on the point this weekend.

Kevin Porter’s Kris Draper syndrome continued Saturday night. He’d miss the side of a barn if he was shooting from the slot right now. He’s in a funk but I have every confidence he’ll get out of it. I’m not worried about Porter at all. Hensick on the other hand, looks like he’s only willing to skate hard for 2 or 3 shifts in any given game. You can’t have a preseason Hobey Baker candidate going roughly two months without having goals in back-to-back games.

Other notes: The power play was 0-8 on the weekend with 8 shots on goal total. Awful. And we got smoked on faceoffs both games. 33 out of 71 on Friday and 31 out of 70 Saturday. AJ Jenks can’t get here soon enough.

I don’t think it was a coincidence that we had Piotrowski finally and subsequently had probably the two best officiated hockey games of the season. I’ve never been a Pio fan, but after seeing what else the CCHA has to offer in great detail this season, I’ve come around. More of him, please.

It was a little disappointing that Michigan came out and looked like they were going to blow LSSU out of the building, and then a 45 second lapse in team defense turned a 4-0 lead into a 4-2 hockey game. The 2nd and 3rd periods were extremely dull and I zoned out for a pretty fair portion of them. It wouldn’t make me cry if we don’t see LSSU again this year.

There are signs that this team is turning it around—which sounds funny to say after they lost that game Friday night, but I believe it’s true. LSSU isn’t going to remind anyone of the late 80s Oilers or anything, but they did a pretty nice job defensively this weekend. It looks like Jack has toned it down some and the forwards are doing a better job of getting back on the defense rushes. Get the power play going—which it will, there’s too much talent for it not to—and keep making a commitment to playing defense and there’s still hope that this can turn into a successful season.


Anonymous said...

Simple reason the PP isn't working---No one is willing to go to the net for the "dirty" goals. I question about JJ, is he really as effective "trying" to stay out of the box, or are we better with him going "balls out" I personally think JJ and Hunwick schould be out EVERY other shift! Why keep JJ on the bench for almost 1/3 of the game? He really makes a difference.

Anonymous said...

just a thought about you comment about JJ "tonong it down". Why in the hell do you think he's the 2nd ranked player in THE WOrld not in the NHL, way ahead of kronwall of the Wings? Partly because he's tough as nails. Could it be that his style just doesn't fit with college hockey, but surely suits the NHL? Nothing againsy UM, but college hockey in general. Let's be honest, there are two sets of rule already, JJ and the rest of the league. In all reality, I question why this kid came to UM after being chosen #3? Why the hell didn't he go to Carolina or at least their AHL team. We shoul all stop an appreciae him while we have him. I can't believe for one moment he'll be back.

Packer487 said...

I'm not sure why every comment I say related to Jack Johnson has to be viewed in a negative light, when I've stated numerous times that I absolutely love the kid and what he brings to this team.

But you're right. There is a different set of rules in the CCHA for him, but it seems like he's adjusting to that (hence 1 penalty in the last 4 games...part of that may also be that we had a competent official for 2 of those games).

I don't know that he's actively trying to stay out of the box, as much as he's just playing smarter knowing that he's got a bullseye on him.

I wouldn't have a problem with Johnson out there every other shift, but I completely disagree about Hunwick needing to get extra ice time. He's had a couple good games, but by and large, he's been our worst scholarship defenseman for the last month (as Cook and Dest have really stepped their games up and Mitera has been pretty solid).

As far as the power play goes, I agree with what Colin said about guys not moving. They're passing around the perimeter quite a bit, but no one is moving, except Hensick, and he just carries it into the middle and fires it off the defenseman's shin guards.

I'm a big fan of crashing the net (and apart from Kal, we really don't have a guy that will do the dirty work down there that plays the PP) but if you're not getting shots through it doesn't matter if anyone is there to clean up the garbage. I liked having Rohlfs down there because no one can move him. I'd like to see more of that.