Friday, March 31, 2006

Final Assessment: The Forwards

#7 T.J. Hensick: Diving right into this, by talking about the most enigmatic player on the team. Not to compare their abilities, but doesn't TJ just have that Sergei Fedorov feel about him in that he could be the best player in the country if he'd just bring it every night. All too often it seems like he's coasting out there. But when he comes to play, watch out! He still put up 50+ points and was top 10 in the nation in scoring, but after being a Hobey candidate last year, this season still has to go down as a disappointment. According to Spath (and Red), Hensick admitted to Red that he may have let the team down this year and he has already seemed to take his new leadership role to heart. Time will tell, but hopefully he's poised for a huge senior year if he comes back.

Final Grade: B...Part of me wants to go lower, but you just can't argue with top 10 in the country in scoring.

#9 Andrew Cogliano:
28 points in 39 games is not bad for a freshman at all, but I expected so much more. Take a look at his game by game stats and you see a player that was streakier than Will Ferrell in Old School. Check out his season: 3 games with no points, then points in 8 of 9 games (17 points in that span), 3 games with no points, 2 games with a point in each, no points in 5 of 6 (3 points total), then just six points in the remaining 16 games. Apart from that hot streak early on in the year, he had just 11 points in 30 games. He's waaaay too talented to only be putting up a point every three games. Also he was a -11 (2nd worst on the team), an abysmal 42% on faceoffs, and he was runner up for the Paul Kariya memorial "Fish Out of Water Award For Flopping" to Robbie Earl. In his streaks he proved to be a very dangerous player however, and one of two forwards on our team that could change the game on any shift. He has incredible vision and he definitely is capable of being a top-line player on this level. Supposedly there's at least one person in the Oilers organization that wants to sign him, but he's crazy if he goes. He hasn't come close to dominating on this level yet, he's not going to be able to when a lot of guys are as fast as he is.

Final Grade: C+ (That may be a tad harsh, but I can't put up with players that drives me nuts)

#10 Travis Turnbull:
I love Turnbull. He had a rough stretch in the 2nd third of the season, but apart from that he proved to be a very capable player for us. He was one of our best forwards out of the gate, and IMO was one of our best forwards at the end of the year. 18 points isn't a bad number for a player that does what he does. He did a nice job on the PK, and threw one of the best hits of the season during the North Dakota game. He's a four-year guy, and he's a guy that we're going to be very happy to have for that long.

Final Grade: B+

#11 Kevin Porter:
He and Kolarik were mirror images of each other. Kolarik was useless to start the season and Porter disappeared in the second half. He still put together a nice year with 38 points in 39 games, and was tied for the team lead in goals, but he could have doubled his total of 17 if he could have hit an empty net. All too often, he disappeared along with Hensick. There's no reason that line shouldn't have been more productive than they were. A full season out of him would have gone a long well to helping this team. I still like his game an awful lot, and fully expect him to bounce back in his junior year.

Final Grade: B-

#12 Zac MacVoy:
Every year there seems to be a guy that just can't get a break on this year. One year it was Nick Martens, this year it was MacVoy. He just never seemed to get on the ice, and yet Tyler Swystun was out there for all but 5 games. He did get to play 20 games, but I'd be shocked if he had more than 3 hours of total ice time. I like Zac. I think he could be a nice player for us given the chance, but sadly he may have to go elsewhere to get a shot. I think he may have just been playing at too heavy of a weight (especially for a kid that wasn't a good skater to start with). He might be smart to drop some pounds in the offseason. He didn't make the most of his limited opportunities though, and Red went with the guy with the higher ceiling I guess.

Final Grade: C

#14 Brandon Kaleniecki:
No one can say he and Ebbett didn't go out playing their best hockey. Kal made up half of the heart and soul of this team, and he deserved a lot better of a final tournament run than he got. He had points in 17 of the last 23 games, including streaks of points in 8 of 9 games and 6 of 7 games. "The Line" of him, Ebbett and Kolarik carried Michigan for the last 2 months of the season. If the rest of the team had half the heart that Kal, Ebbett and Johnson have, Michigan would have been a lot better off.

Final Grade: A

#16 David Rohlfs:
Versatility. There aren't too many guys that could move from forward back to defense back to forward and not miss a beat. He was our best defenseman in his first game as a defensman (at BGSU 2 seasons ago), and his first series back up at forward this year, he was probably our best forward. He added some much needed size up front with the injury to Bailey and the loss of Moss and Ryznar to graduation. Only 2 goals and 12 points, but he's never going to be a big offensive threat. He does a lot of the dirty work, and I like what he brings to the table.

Final Grade: B

#18 Tim Miller:
I love Timmy Miller. Once Turnbull fell off from his fast start, Miller really started to play well. Great penalty killer, responsible in his own end, he can hit, and he's not clueless offensively. Just a good all-around guy that (like Turnbull) we're going to be happy to have for four years. He's one of the unsung guys of the team because he's not going to put up the flashy numbers or be a high draft pick. But he's just solid, solid, solid and you can put him out there in any situation. I'm very happy with him.

Final Grade: B+

#19 Andrew Ebbett:
He channeled Jed Ortmeyer this year. He led this team by example the entire year, but the guys never seemed to get the message. I feel bad for the guy because I really don't know that there's anything more that he could have done as captain. Had points in an astounding 14 of our last 16 games and was our best faceoff guy. In addition, I'm not sure if there was anyone that single-handedly killed off more minute-long-stretches of penalties by himself than Ebbett did. You can't say too much more about the kid than he got it done on offense, he got it done on defense, he got it done on special teams. He's the last person you can blame for this season.

Final Grade: A

#20 Tyler Swystun:
Ok, so the book on him was that he needed another year. But usually when guys are a little young or whatever, they'll at least show flashes once in awhile. Apart from one weekend late in the season, Swystun really didn't. I think he set a record for "number of outlet passes hitting the heel of his stick and going down the ice for icings". He had the worst +/- on the team and only had 1 point more than Tim Cook. (Side note: The Wings just lost to the Blackhawks in OT, letting Osgood complete the tri-fecta of losing to Chicago, Columbus and St. Louis this year. Glad we brought him back) He may eventually be a quality player, but this year he showed next to nothing.

Final Grade: D

#21 Jason Bailey:
I really would have liked to have seen a full season out of him. Every time he hit his stride, it seemed like another annoying injury would come up for him. I love his hitting, I love his grit, and he's not a huge scorer, but he can put the puck in the net every now and then. He, Miller and Turnbull (or Fardig?) might be a nice grind line to put together. They'd be annoying to play against, that's for sure. Hopefully injuries won't be an ongoing thing for him.

Final Grade: B

#22 Brandon Naurato:
I didn't really expect all that much out of him, but he really had some nice games. He supposedly has one of the best snapshots on the team, but several of his goals were of the garbage variety, not due to that great shot. He can really fire it though. He disappeared down the stretch with no points after January and a slew of DNPs. He struck me as a little more soft than he should be. He'll be a decent guy to have around throughout his career.

Final Grade: C+

#24 Chad Kolarik:
The opposite of Porter. Put up ok numbers but wasn't worth 2 craps until the Mich Tech game (and was invisible in the month of December apart from the last game). For awhile he had me wondering if sophomore slumps were exclusive to players named Chad from Pennsylvania. Once they got him with Ebbett and Kal though, things really took off for him. He had 10 multi-point games starting with the consolation game in the GLI, and was a 1/3 of the line that carried the team. 38 points in 41 games and a decent +12. Not a huge year, but one that he should be able to build off of.

Final Grade: B+

#26 Danny Fardig:
The Digger is what he is. A guy that's going to work hard almost every shift, be annoying to play against, and provide some energy when the team is lacking it. I did not expect him to be a mainstay in the lineup, but there he was for 38 of our 41 games. He was almost as bad as Cogliano on draws (42.6%) but apart from that he's a really nice guy to have on your fourth line.

Final Grade: B

Chris Fragner and Morgan Ward get Incompletes obviously, though Fragner gets points off for an incredibly stupid penalty which started the ball rolling downhill in the CC game...

Curious to hear what people think....Agree? Disagree?

(Random Stat That Jim Gaffigan Made Me Think About: Spell Check caught 73 words in this post, 2 of them were legit corrections. HA SPELL CHECK!)

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Final Assessments: Defense and Goaltending

It's that time of the year: Post-season grades for the Michigan hockey team. Note that these grades are weighted with respect to my expectations for a player, therefore a B for Jon Montville and a B for Jack Johnson don't mean quite the same thing. Got it? Let's begin:

#3 Jack Johnson: Jack was phenomenal right out of the gate, with he and defense partner Matt Hunwick putting up huge numbers in the early going. Somewhere, things went awry and the middle of the season wasn't nearly as strong for the NHL's #3 overall pick. A new-found commitment to defense late in the year led to Johnson playing some of his strongest hockey toward the end of the season, particularly in the playoff series against Ferris State.

If you remember what I said about him before the season, it should come as no surprise that he ended up breaking our single-season PIMs record, as well as our freshman defense scoring record. It also shouldn't be a surprise that he became public enemy #1 amongst Spartan fans, Miami fans, and the nation of Canada.

Overall he was outstanding offensively, outstanding at times defensively, maddeningly irresponsible defensively at other times, and was always good for the type of play that got Yost jumping, be it a big hit, an end-to-end rush, or a huge goal. And will anyone ever forget that shot in the BC game that knocked Corey Schneider's mask off?

He just announced that he's coming back for his sophomore season, and I can't wait to see what an improved Jack Johnson looks like. Watch out CCHA!

Final Grade: B, he was for sure an impact player at the college level—and is without a doubt the most talented defenseman we've had in my time around this program—but he has room to improve and needs to make better decisions about when to go for the big hit.

#4 Adam Dunlap: Barely played, didn't kill us when he did, but got beat out by another walk-on. I don't really expect to see him back next year. 2 defensemen coming in, 0 that we know of leaving. That makes 8 if they bring Montville back and leave Rohlfs at forward.

Final Grade: Inc.

#5 Jon Montville: One of the pleasant surprises of this season. He was a mainstay in the lineup for the second half of the season, and was solid enough to allow them to move David Rohlfs back up to forward, where he was needed. For a walk-on sixth defenseman, he really didn't hurt the team—he had his plays that made me hold my breath for sure, but overall was pretty solid, all things considered.

Final Grade: B-

#6 Matt Hunwick: Teamed with Johnson to make up a defense pairing that provided excitement (sometimes good, sometimes bad) every time they stepped on the ice. Like Johnson, he started the year in fantastic fashion, but quickly went downhill. Though Johnson got all the pub for taking bad penalties, Hunwick was worse in that regard in a lot of cases (e.g. at Bowling Green). Sprinkled in a few brilliant performances along the way and was still good enough to be up for CCHA Defensive Defenseman of the Year (though I don't agree with that one). Got beat to the outside far too many times for a guy of his ability and generally just looked a half-step too slow a lot of the time. Did he add too much weight in the offseason? Still ended the year second on the team in plus/minus and put in 30 points, so he must have been doing something right.

Final Grade: B-

#8 Jason Dest: Very quietly had a great season. He's a guy you don't notice all that often, and that's usually a good thing with a defenseman of his style. The +/- number wasn't what it has been in year's past, but I feel that he still had a pretty darn good year. For a decent part of the season, he was Michigan's most steady defenseman, particularly in the 1-1 tie at Munn. Though he's not going to put up huge offensive numbers, Dest did get into the offense at little bit more often, especially late in the year. He did go through a stretch (early in the season I believe) where I frequently wondered what the heck he was doing, but he got it together in time to still have a very good junior season.

Final Grade: B

#16 David Rohlfs will be covered as a forward...

#17 Mark Mitera: Mitera is the one defenseman that I don't feel should share in the blame for how poorly they played for a fair portion of the year. With the exception of a couple of games, he was rock steady the entire year and was pretty much the pure definition of a stay-at-home defenseman. Showed a great ability to block shots, and was physical enough without spending an excessive amount of time in the penalty box. I would have liked to have seen more of him paired with Johnson, as I felt like they were pretty good together and compliment each other's styles well. Pretty much exactly what I expected out of him in terms of performance except that I would've thought he would have chipped in a little more on the offensive end. He does have a good shot, he just doesn't get to unleash it very often. Maybe that's the step for next year. He's 40% of the way to Tim Cook territory in the not-scoring department.

Final Grade: A-

#25 Tim Cook: It's not fair to slap a grade on him and have it represent his entire season. Up until he scored a goal, the kid took a step back even from his disappointing sophomore year. After he scored though, he played with confidence, started hitting, was out of position less, and pretty much stopped looking like John Navarre on skates. He still had a Cook moment here and there but was by-and-large a completely different player. It was truly amazing to see what a goal could do for the confidence of a purely non-offensive defenseman. He was one of the few players that got better as the season went on, despite the struggles of the team. I'm actually kind of excited to see him back for his senior season--and to see what a whole year of a confident Tim Cook can do for this team. Mid-season I figured he wouldn't dress next year with Summers and Kampfer coming in. Now, I'm cautiously optomistic that he could be a key part of next year's team.

Pre-Goal Grade: D Post-Goal Grade: A- Final Grade: C+

#34 Noah Ruden: Who saw this coming 4 years ago? That Noah Ruden would be the guy to lead the Wolverines into the postseason at some point in his career? He and Billy Sauer passed the starting goaltending job back and forth like it was a hot potato this season. Once it appeared that Ruden had a firm grasp on it, he let it slip again with a piss-poor performance by all accounts at Nebraska-Omaha, opening to the door for Sauer to start on senior night at Yost. He faltered, and Ruden took the reigns for the rest of the year. He sparkled in his final game at Yost, closing out FSU and leaving to the cheers of "NO-AH RU-DEN". When NFL scouts refer to a player as "a guy" they could just as easily be talking about Rudy. He'd make the majority of the saves he was supposed to make, wouldn't make the saves he wasn't supposed to make, and was good for one bad goal a game. He had a few fine performances, a few horrible performances, and was pretty much Blah the rest of the time. It'd be easy to just slap a C on his performance, but since we're weighting based on expectations as well, he gets this:

Final Grade: B-

#36 Billy Sauer: After seeing his performance against BC and a couple of other games during the season, I was convinced that Red and Co. had struck gold once again with their choice of a goaltender. At one point during the year on the Yost Post, I stated that Sauer had earned the chance to go the rest of the way. Somewhere in there though, something went horribly wrong. The defense didn't defend, he got shelled, his confidence went in the sewer. He did show that he's an extremely talented goaltender though. He is very athletic and excels in finding the puck in traffic. He really could have used a year as a full-time starter in the USHL, as he only played about half the game last year and before that was playing high school JV hockey. He'll have some healthy competition from Steve Jakiel next year (who Billy Powers loves), and I expect it will bring out the best in both of them, rather than the goalies passing it back and forth due to poor play this year.

Final Grade: C+

Sunday, March 26, 2006

RIP Paul Dana

RIP Paul Dana...Thoughts going out to his family, teammates and fans. What a horrible way to start the season....

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Sun Came Up Today

I was right. Last year when I lamented that I wish that for once Michigan could lose in non-heartbreaking fashion, because these OT losses, blown leads, etc. were killing me. Last night was much better.

Now, would I have preferred that our team actually showed the slightest bit of heart/fight last night? Sure. But at the same time, I'm not depressed this morning, I'm not thinking back to the what-ifs throughout the game. We got beat soundly by a better that's probably going to end up winning the whole damn thing. I thought that analyst was crazy last week for picking UND to win it all, but he may have just hit it dead on. That's a very very good hockey team. Great goaltending, great defense corps, at least 2 great lines up front.

It was a fitting end to the season though. Leave it to that team to barely show up for a game of that magnitude. Yes we had a lot of shots on goal, but how many great scoring chances did we have? There weren't that many. They completely outclassed us in every aspect of the game, though there were segments that Michigan outplayed the Sioux, but Parise was there to shut the door.

At least this edition of the Michigan Wolverines is done for. It was hard watching games legitimately feeling like I cared more about what happened than anyone on the roster outside of Ebbett, Kal, and Johnson. Speaking of Johnson, I didn't notice it last night but he got a coincedental penalty with about 4 minutes left, which broke our all-time single-season PIMs record.

We just got off to a bad start and NoDak just kept coming at us. BTW, I thought the penalty calls that led to the first two UND goals were extremely weak. Not that it mattered. But it begs the question, is Dave Hansen any relation to TBTYB-arch-nemesis Scott Hansen of 2003 Buffalo and 2005 Grand Rapids fame? Just curious. Don't think for a second I'm blaming this game on the officiating though. Michigan could've had another 15 power plays in that game and I'm not sure it would have mattered.

I really enjoyed watching North Dakota play. Truth be told, I'd probably be rooting for them to win it all if that wouldn't put them within one title of us. That's a fun team to watch, and they're extremely talented.

Ruden had no chance on the first couple of goals, but again he didn't make the saves he needed to make to give us a chance. When it was 2-0, Parise makes a save at one in that was oh-so-close to going in, NoDak comes down and makes it 3-0 and the game is pretty much over.

I didn't think there was a great chance we'd win that game, but I at least expected us to keep it close.

At least we didn't lose to Holy Cross. Bwahahahahahaha!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Here Goes Nothing

8 ½ hours to faceoff and I’m getting “tournament stomach”. I hate not being there. I hate the fact that I’m probably not going to get to see this team in person again this year. I hate that I’m sitting in an office right now instead of in my car on a 16 hour trek across the country to watch hockey.

We aren’t the best team in the country. We’re probably not in the top 10 best teams in the country. But that’s the beauty of a single-elimination tournament, especially in a sport like hockey where a couple of guys can change the game so easily (namely the goalie)…anyone in this tournament could get hot and win it (with the exceptions of the two small conference teams—though Bemidji did come within inches of knocking out the eventual national champion last year).

The thing that I like about Michigan—the one area where they’ve got an advantage of North Dakota—is senior leadership. To be fair, I don’t know a ton about NoDak. But I do know that they don’t have Andrew Ebbett and Brandon Kaleniecki. Those guys are doing their best Jed Ortmeyer impressions, and I would be shocked if they don’t have a huge impact on the game tonight. Jack Johnson seems like a player made for the post-season. We’ll get our first (and last??) look at him in a one-and-done situation tonight. He’s the kind of player I was talking about earlier when I said that a single player could change the game. TJ Hensick, Andrew Cogliano, even Matt Hunwick, Chad Kolarik, and Kevin Porter…these are the guys that we need to be at their best tonight. We can’t have any of Hensick’s disappearing act, Cogliano’s Robbie Earl/Paul Kariya impressions, Hunwick’s penalties, Kolarik’s temper, or Porter’s missed empty nets the rest of the way.

We have the horses to get it done. If they can contain Parse and Thomas (like they did at Yost), they can contain Toews and Stafford. I just named off eight guys that are potential game-changers. That’s almost half of our skaters. Someone (preferably a few of them) needs to make a play, or this season (and for several guys, their Michigan careers) is over.

Yes, this was a disappointing season. But none of that matters anymore. Get out of the weekend, and nobody’s talking about that loss on Senior Night anymore. Make the Frozen Four, and it doesn’t matter that we got swept in the Showcase again. The tournament is what it’s all about. The last chance at redemption. 4 games. Get hot for the length of one pro playoff series, and you can call yourselves the champions.

It’s time for playoff hockey. Can you feel it in the air? I can. And I love it.

Let’s Go Blue.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Revenge is a Dish Best Served 8 Years Later

So the committee decided to keep Michigan and CC in the West, rather than ship BC out and thus the Wolverines will be playing in Grand Forks, in a region that they really don't stand much chance of coming out of.

Sweet revenge for North Dakota fans for 1998, as the Wolverines will now be taking on NoDak in their own barn. One fan on USCHO said that this doesn't make it even, since Michigan isn't coming in as a big favorite. To that I say that they're still probably going to get a higher-ranked Minnesota team in their own arena, so stop yer bitching.

The people that complain that Michigan gets to host all the time just crack me up. As if MSU, Wisconsin, Minnesota, CC, and now NoDak haven't gotten to host. Just because Michigan has managed to take advantage of it all three times they've hosted doesn't mean that they should be singled out as having an advantage, when so many other hockey powers have had the same opportunity. Plus there's that little thing about how Michigan bid for 2 regionals, hoping to get one a few years back. Nobody else bid, so the Wolverines got to host both times. Sorry bout your friggin luck Denver and CC. Put in a bid next time.

To the game itself, NoDak comes in having won the WCHA Tournament. The guy on ESPN2's selection show picked them to win the whole tournament, and I believe he stated that Parise is the best goalie in the tournament. Elliott, Schneider and the Miami goalies might have something to say about that, but there's little doubt that UND has a huge advantage over Michigan in goal.

Apart from in net, we'll have to see. UND has a ton of talented youngsters, just like Michigan. Michigan probably has the edge in upper-classmen leadership with Ebbett and Kal, especially if Drew Stafford isn't back in the lineup.

On the bright side for the Wolverines, North Dakota hasn't been overwhelmingly good at home this year, posting a 13-9-0 record. That includes 5 straight losses at home earlier in the season. Then again, the Wolverines haven't exactly ripped shit up on the road this year....

If Michigan is fortunate enough to beat the Sioux, they'll more than likely run into nemesis Minnesota, who has--as Brian would call it--a functional bye (though CC thought they had a functional bye against Wayne State a couple years ago, and Michigan probably thought the same about Mercyhurst). If Minnesota isn't in this edition of the Wolverines' heads yet, they're definitely in mine. I'm pretty much convinced that we're never going to win a big game against that team again, just to piss me off. Though Minnesota seems like they're having as bad of issues with their goaltending as we are (they gave up 12 in 2 games last weekend) so maybe we'd actually stand a chance. Actually, it'd be fitting for this year to have Minnesota strike the deciding blow into our hearts. It wouldn't be nearly as much fun if we weren't getting pwn3d by various Big Ten teams in all 3 sports.

I will not be making the 16 hour trek to Grand Forks. That Friday/Saturday thing is just killing me. All in all though, it'd be pretty tough to make a 1000 mile drive when there's probably a 90% chance that I'd be coming home disappointed.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Michigan 3, NMU 2

We're dancing.

It sounds (yes sounds. FSD decided they would rather show Wisconsin/Minnesota in the WCHA Consolation Game than Michigan/NMU) like the Wolverines actually played a pretty darn good game today, with the fire from the outset that was missing last night. We outshot the Wildcats by something like 41-25 and dominated the play for most of the game. They had some trouble getting the puck past Zaniboni, who was WTKA's #1 star of the game.

Hunwick made up for his awful performance last night with 2 goals in the win, including the GWG in the third period. Hensick had a goal and an assist, and it sounded like Kal/Ebbett/Kolarik were awesome once again.

Noah Ruden was outstanding in net, coming up with several big saves per the Michigan broadcast. I didn't get the impression that NMU had a ton of chances (and I don't recall more than maybe one odd-man rush--the first goal was a 3 on 1) but Ruden was big when he had to be, and it sounded like the defense--particularly Dest--kept the Wildcats at bay, with a lot of time spent on the perimeter.

Where does that leave us? We're in for sure. It's probably going to be as a 3 seed. The question is where. I came up with one scenario that puts us in Green Bay and playing Harvard in the first round, but a lot of the ones that I ran have us as the #9 seed, with #8 Cornell. Theoretically we'd be in Green Bay taking on Wisconsin (who just Minnesota for the #1 seed by beating them 4-0 today), but there's a conflict with #7 NoDak playing #10 CC in the first round, and I'm not sure if the committee is more likely to flip CC with us at #9 or BC at #11.

We should know a lot more once a couple other games get over. Colgate is making it interesting with Darmouth (3-2 Dartmouth with 2 minutes left) despite being outshot 42-22. If Colgate comes back, that throws all the scenarios I ran out the window, b/c I assumed Dartmouth would win once they took a 3-1 lead.

Overall it seems like Michigan played 4 1/2 good periods out of 6 this weekend. Last weekend it was 5 out of 6, and before that it wasn't close to that. They are improving, even though State has their number. Ruden is looking like he'll be reliable enough for us, even if he is probably good for at least one bad goal a game, and the defense is starting to play really well in front of him. The goal-scoring troubles came back this weekend though. That's never a good thing when you've got a goalie who could give up 3 on 4 shots at any given moment.....

MSU 4, Michigan 1

Another strong effort from the Michigan team that we're accustomed to seeing. It blows my mind how dis-interested this team seems when they go up against Michigan State. I think we had 4 shots on goal halfway through the second period. Credit MSU though, that's a good hockey team and they know how to play against us. Michigan found their skating legs with like 8 minutes to go in the second, but they couldn't bury any of their chances the rest of the game and MSU scored two late ones. Don't be fooled by the margin of victory, that was pretty much a one-goal game.

That being said, faceoffs were again a problem for the Wolverines. Guys not named Andrew Ebbett were 12 out of 40 on faceoffs, and 3 of MSU's 4 goals came off of offensive-zone faceoff wins. How many games over the last few years can we say that we lost almost solely because we couldn't win a draw? BC in the OT NCAA tourney game, MSU in the 1-0 game a few years back, OSU in the CCHA Championship a couple years ago, last night...that's off the top of my head.

Matt Hunwick was awful last night. He took two pretty bad penalties, one of which led to a goal, another negated a power play that was coming up for us. There were 3 or 4 other instances where I yelled "Hunwick, what are you doing?" at my computer monitor.

It was a typical game out of Ruden. He made some saves, but then he gave up a horrifically weak goal (MSU's 2nd one) that simply has to be stopped. Has to be.

Kolarik/Ebbett/Kal were good but the rest of the lines weren't really. Hensick isn't making the big plays that he's made throughout his career, and some of that is that teams just aren't letting him get into one-on-one situations anymore.

That said, we hit the goalpost late in the third period. If that goes in, the game is tied and we're probably looking at overtime. Instead MSU scores off of Michigan pinching, they get a late faceoff win and score a "Kessel" as Western College Hockey would say. It's just hard to watch that team come out with absolutely no fire, not only against the arch-rival, but in a conference semifinal nonetheless.

It's still looking very good for an at-large bid to the NCAAs. Apparently there's a scenario where we don't get in, but Michigan can make that irrelevant by simply winning their game that starts in about 25 minutes. By the way, Fox Sports, thanks for showing the WCHA Consolation game instead of ours today. That's super. On the bright side, I don't have to listen to Matt Shepard call Rohlfs "Tyler Howells" for 30 seconds, and hear him talk about how Kevin Porter is a Freshman (A freshman Canadian being captain of the WJC team....we're lucky to have him!). I can't handle listening to him and Pletsch.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

March Madness, I Love It!

But I ain't talking about the bouncy-ball stuff. I love that too, but I love it significantly more when Michigan is playing in a game that's remotely relevant. And being that they haven't been in one of those games in March since before I could drive by myself (note that I'm 2 years out of college now) let's shift to hockey.

Michigan gets it going tomorrow night against Sparty, and will make an attempt to not go completely winless against the Spartans in 05-06 (barring an NCAA Tourney matchup). If there's ever a game that could break Yale/Union's 5 OT game, this one is it. The Spartans come in looking to potentially grab a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, while the Wolverines have solidified themselves in the field, and with a good showing at the Joe could potentially grab a #2 seed and hopefully not end up in Grand Forks where they would get run.

Last weekend was Michigan's most complete weekend of the season. They played outstanding hockey for 5 of the 6 periods, the third period of game 1 being the lone exception. Jack Johnson and Matt Hunwick were absolutely awesome together, for the first time since before the Showcase. Per a surprisingly good article from a Daily writer not named Ian or James Dowd, Jack was on the ice for 7 of Michigan's 10 goals last weekend, while only on the ice for one of FSU's 5 tallies. That article also had this quote from Jack about the "Three more years!" chants:

"I was aware (they were chanting)," Johnson said. "The only way you're going to get me out of (Michigan) is at gunpoint."

Then again, Komo said he was staying four. It's looking better for a return of Jack next year though.

Anyway, I have a bigger challenge than the Michigan hockey team tomorrow night. I'm going to be at a comedy show at 7:30 (dammit!) and my goal is to make it home and watch my tape of the game without finding out who won. So off goes the cell phone, down comes AIM, and with a little luck maybe I can make it through for once without finding out the score. Or the game will still be in OT.

Some quick stats on our recruits for the next several years:

Trevor Lewis: 2nd leading goal scorer in the USHL: 51 GP, 32-38—70, +28, 63 PIMs, 12 PPG

Aaron Palushaj (89 bday): 52 GP, 10-21—31, +13, 53 PIMs,

Steve Jakiel: Since the trade 8-4-1 2.63 GAA, .914 save % (note the other goalie is 12-16-2 with a 3.69, .880). Overall he is 18-10-3 with a 3.06, .898

Tristin Llewellyn: 44 GP, 5-5—10, -5, 111 PIMs, has 2-3—5 and is +4 in 19 games since the trade

Steven Kampfer: 51 GP, 5-6—11, -5, 76 PIMs

Chris Summers: 49 GP, 5-10—15, 54 PIMs (2-7—9 in 22 games against NCAA teams)

Target Pat Kane: 48 GP, 41-39—80, 18 PIMs, 13 PPG (13-16—29 in 22 games against NCAA teams)

Matt Rust: 52 GP, 13-12—25, 56 PIMs for the U-17s

Louie Caporusso: Playoffs: 13 GP, 5-6—11, 6 PIMs, Regular Season: 48 GP, 29-44—73, 44 PIMs, 9 PPGs. Team is one game away from advancing to the semifinals.

Brian Lebler: 54 GP, 23-12—35, 11 PPGs. Team did not make the playoffs

Max Pacioretty: No stats, but his team went to the New England Finals before losing to who the coaches called maybe the top high school team in the country. It looks like he had a big play in the semifinals.

AJ Jenks: 66 GP, 26-29—55, +27, 97 PIMs and apparently never loses faceoffs.

Robbie Czarnik: 28 GP, 31-39--70, 48 PIMs, 6 PPGs. He has scored a point in 27 of his 28 games played.

David Wohlberg: 26 GP, 16-34--50, 71 PIMs, has scored a point in all but 3 games for them.

Czarnik is 1st on the team in scoring, Wohlberg is second, the next highest on the team has 35 points. Looks like our guys are doing most of the damage for them. The team is 26-1-1.

From what I've been told, Czarnik is just awesome and may in fact be too good to play college hockey. The latter three have all been invited to USA's camp so hopefully we'll get to see them play in Ann Arbor quite a bit in the future.

Stupid question of the week courtesy of Eric from Ft. Collins, CO in John Buccigross's mailbag.

In your estimation, is Joe Sakic HOF worthy? Two Cups and a Smythe, Hart, Bing and a Bud Light Plus/Minus to his name. Seven 30-plus, five 40-plus and two 50-plus goal-scoring regular seasons, three 100-plus-point seasons, career average well over a point per game. He will end this season with 650 total goals & and is an all-around decent guy. Playing the homer for a minute, I think he deserves it when he is done.

Playing the homer you think he deserves it? I hope Yzerman gets in. (Note: Dino Ciccarelli scored over 600 goals and he's not in, so maybe it's not as dumb of a question as I thought. I think Dino should get in too, but Sakic is still a first-ballot guy, no question)

Jay Sharpe, whom I've mentioned on here before as a guy who is obviously tuned in to someone in the Packers organization (and who admittedly may be sending him smoke screens) posted on The Wire that Ted Thompson is expected to have a huge signing by the end of the week (no name was given). Terrell Owens' name keeps coming up, and would allow the Packers to move Javon Walker, either for more picks or as part of a deal to move up in the draft. Vinatieri is also expected to be signed.

I love what Ted Thompson has done in the first few days of Free Agency. He's locked up two of's top 10 free agents (Kampman and Pickett) and he's very possibly going to land another one in Vinatieri. He's avoided giving average players huge deals (Like what Brian Williams got from the Jags) and he's re-upped with a bunch of the guys I wanted to keep. Get Henderson locked up, sign another 1-2 WRs (I'm not sure how I feel about TO. If JWalk is dead set on getting out and it's a contract that protects the team if he flakes out, I'm all for it), a Kicker and a LB and we're in pretty darn good shape heading into the draft. They've got a ton of options out there, and it's nice to see them starting to make some moves.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Liveblog: NCAA Selection Show & Pistons, Thoughts on Hockey Last Night

Time for my first liveblog. We’re coming to you from a townhouse in Ann Arbor, where I’ve got two TV’s rolling, and a whole lotta sports to watch tonight. By my count, there’s the NASCAR race, the NCAA selection show, the Pistons/Bobcats, Wings/Blackhawks, the A1 Grand Prix from Laguna Seca, CA, and the MSU/UAF hockey game on

5:47 pm: Tony Stewart clips a cone on his way into the pits. NASCAR decides that it was improperly placed and thus he won’t be penalized. Anyone want to bet that if it was Kevin Harvick he’d be coming to the pits right now?

5:49 pm: An article on CBS Sportsline caught my eye. Basically a couple of NHL teams (The Wild, the Ducks) are bitching to the NHL about the Red Wings sitting their 5 Swedes against the Sharks. They think the Wings basically handed 2 points to the Sharks, who are in the playoff race against those two teams. Anaheim? If they would’ve taken care of business the next night (or maybe actually scored a goal?) it’d be a moot point. Minnesota? Don’t talk about the Wings playing their “B-team” against SJ. We started Osgood against you guys. That’s as much of a B-team as anything. Stop yer bitching and win some more games. If anything, blame the league for putting us 3 time zones away two days after the Olympics.

5:57 pm: Jay Bilas says we’re in. Digger says we’re out. I love Bilas. He’s been defending us all weekend. It would be such a joke if FSU gets in over us. Worse RPI, horrible SOS.

6:00 pm: Heeere we go! Prepare to be disappointed!

6:02 pm: A storm’s a-brewing in Ann Arbor. I’m going to be pissed if my power goes out as it tends to.

6:03 pm: JJ Redick is incredible. What a fun weekend of basketball. U of M has been dodging bullets all weekend. It’s my hope that this means the basketball gods are finally smiling on us. Can’t believe that guy on Utah State missed that putback last night.

6:04 pm: ESPN just announces that Duke is a #1 seed. I just realized that I was watching the wrong station here. CBS not ESPN ya idiot.

6:08 pm: Here’s the Atlanta region: GW falls all the way to an 8 seed. Holy crap. 26-2 and they’re an 8? Syracuse went from not making the tournament to being a 5-seed. Not a bad weekend for them. Texas A&M makes it. That can’t be a good sign….even though jsmirman points out that “Everyone had them in”.

6:12 pm: BBA points out the Southern Illinois is only an 11 seed and that could be an extremely good sign for Michigan. I can’t stand the guy, but he has had some really great posts over the weekend. Kind of a dick, but he knows his stuff about college bball.

6:15 pm: Some quick thoughts about hockey last night during the commercial: That was the best game they’ve played in 4 months, if not all season. I’ve watched that team too much this season to say with absolute certainty that the lightbulb has come on for them, but if they play that way the rest of the season, they’re going to be a very tough team to beat. Johnson and Hunwick had their best weekend since the start of the year when a lot of people thought they would be the best pairing we’ve ever had. Both players were defensively responsible the entire weekend, but were still able to chip in on the offensive end somewhat. Jack had just an awesome shot for the GWG. This was the complete opposite of that 2-0 game at Munn when you couldn’t say that anyone actually played well. This game, I’m not sure that you can say that anyone didn’t play well. The best part about having that bye may have been that Red got to work with that team in practice for 2 straight weeks. It’ll be either MSU or NMU in the semis. Gotta think that we’re in no matter what.

6:18 pm: Here comes the Oakland bracket. BTW, I never get sick of seeing that NC State National Championship clip. They’re talking about the Auburn Hills bracket right now. When the regional was there before, UCLA was practicing at Troy High, and they basically broke one of the rims in a dunk exhibition. We had to play a game on it the next day and basically it was impossible to score on that basket. We started the game with 4 guys, but it didn’t matter because we weren’t scoring on that basket anyway. We ended up winning because the other team didn’t score in the second half. It was good times.

6:20 pm: No Sparty in Auburn Hills. That’s unfortunate. Indiana is a 6 seed. That’s gotta be a good sign too right? I posted that on The Wolverine board, and Raleigh Blue, BBA, rrajani, southu, bluex2, Helmholdt, beardie and blueman92 all posted the same thing at the same time. We’re starting to be a hopeful bunch.

Gonzaga is a 3 seed??!! Yikes.

6:23 pm: The shots of Mateen waiving a towel never get old.

6:27 pm: Albany is a 16 against UConn. I googled them to see just how far away that hockey regional is. They’re 600 miles away? Did not realize that. UAB is in. Not good. Fuck. Utah State is in. It’s over. There’s Seton Hall. Another nail in the coffin. I bet their annoying fans will be all over our board this week.

6:30 pm: 16 teams left. We’re not going to be one of them. This sucks. We can bitch all we want about having a better resume than Air Force or Seton Hall or Utah State or George Mason, but if we won one more freaking game this would be a much more relaxing Sunday.

6:33 pm: Ben Wallace is hobbling with what appears to be a knee injury. The last 6 minutes have sucked.

6:34 pm: Blueman92 points out that Air Force and Utah State weren’t in Bracketology’s last eight teams out. So that’s what they meant by surprises in the opener.

6:35 pm: It’s a formality but here’s the last bracket. Here comes the #12 seed to play Nevada. C’mon…..Montana. Cool. 6 teams in the Big 10 are in the top half of the bracket, but the 7th seed isn’t going to get in. That’s just super. Here’s the last few…and it’s official. No Michigan, no FSU, no Hofstra, no Cincinnati, Missouri State becomes the highest RPI ever to not get in. Michigan has only got themselves to blame I guess. And someone just lit a match under Tommy Amaker’s chair.

6:45 pm: This day is just getting better and better. Chris Osgood is starting for the Red Wings tonight, which means I’m not giving that game more than a passive look as much as I’d like to watch some hockey tonight. The Pistons have woken up and got out to a 9 point lead over the Bobcats.

6:47 pm: Another fun anecdote from last night. We talked with Jack Johnson’s dad for a good long while last night. Great guy. Very intense, you could just see the passion in his eyes when he was talking about how emotional Jack is and how all he wants is to win. He said that anytime that Jack maybe lost his head a little bit it’s just because he hates to lose so much. I’ll take a kid like that anyday on my team. Our basketball team could’ve used a few guys like that, and if TJ Hensick had half of Jack Johnson’s heart, he’d be a lock for the Hobey. Anyway, when we were talking about how great it's been having him here, he suggested that we get a chant going for him, that Jack would really appreciate something like that because he absolutely loves being at U of M and everything.

So the Johnsons were getting in on the chant too. After the game I talked to Mr. Johnson again and he asked if I was going to the Joe. And I said probably to which he replied "ALRIGHT! We're going to the Joe then!". I said something along the lines of "We're going to MILWAUKEE!" and Jack Sr. goes "Yeah f--- the Joe, we're going to Milwaukee!!" Good times.

One of my buddies talked to Jack's mom and she said that if she was a betting woman, they'd be seeing us next year. It’s obvious what side of the fence his parents are on. Hopefully he’ll listen to Mom and Dad. He’s really matured down the stretch, whether anyone wants to admit it or not. In the biggest weekend of the year, he was defensively responsible, scored the series winning goal, and didn’t take a penalty in either game. He also became UM’s all-time leader in freshmen defense scoring and is one assist from tying for the lead in freshman defense assists. Andrew Ebbett has scored a point in 7 straight games down the stretch. He’s moving into Jed Ortmeyer territory IMO.

They asked Jack about the chant after the game last night and he was slightly embarrassed that his parents were joining in, and according to Mike Spath, they asked him if he’d like to be apart of the atmosphere next year and he said “Yeah, and the year after that too”.

6:55 pm: I’m going to cut this off now. I’m not watching the Red Wing game because of Osgood, I’m probably the only person in the US that’s going to be watching the A1 Grand Prix, and the Pistons? They’re playing the Bobcats. Tony Delk is looking to be a pretty nice pickup. Anyway, it’s up to hockey now to salvage something out of this awful sports season at U of M. Thankfully it looks like they finally got the message. I still don’t have real high expectations for them, but they could end up with a nice season yet. Two dangerous scoring lines, a defense corps that might have finally gotten the message, which includes a rejuvinated Tim Cook who was just killing people this weekend. The big question mark is in net.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Michigan 6, FSU 4

God if that game wasn't our season in a nutshell....get out to a real fast start, look like world beaters, and then forget how to play defense and make me want to pull my hair out.

Ebbett, Porter, Kal and Hunwick were great tonight. Thank God for Andrew Ebbett...that kid has just put this team on his back despite an incredible lack of support this year, but he just keeps getting it done. Jed would be proud.

I don't care how many points that anyone else had, Travis Turnbull should have been the #1 star. He may have saved our season with the shift of the year. Single-handedly kills off about a minute of the remaining time, then he keeps at it and scores a goal, even at the end of a long shift. Just absolutely outstanding.

Berenson threw the 4th line out there after it was 5-4 and Digger was doing everything he could to get the boys fired up. It might have worked.

Through two periods, that was as sound of a defensive game as we played all year. Jack and Hunwick wouldn't go in past the blueline, and the 2 occasions Jack did, he got his butt back as soon as he got rid of the puck. Johnson was in control of himself the entire game. It was really nice to see.

Funny moment on our 3rd (I believe) goal. Cogliano broke his stick and wasn't happy about it. So he turned to go toward the bench, so his back was to the play when the puck went in. The crowd went crazy, and you could see the exact moment it registered we scored, then he spun around and threw his arm up in the air.

I also yelled down to Molina that we miss his moustache. Ian, the equipment guy relayed the message and they both had a good laugh over it.

Ruden was solid when he needed to be. Hard to fault him on most of those goals. I have no problem with him getting the nod tonight, which he will. He looked VERY shaky in the first five minutes, and I was surprised we got out of it without giving up a goal. After he settled down he did ok though.

Tim Cook actually laid 2 people out. Very nice job getting physical. The one bad play was when he was out there with Mitera when they got split--that simply can't happen. Just haul the guy down if you're going to get beat like that.

I'd like to think they'll complete the sweep tonight, but I've watched this team too many times this year to expect it to actually happen. Here's hoping though. A win has to make us almost a lock for NCAAs....especially if Denver loses again.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Basketball, Hockey, JWalk, and the Wings Nastiness

I’m not talking about Michigan basketball. They might still get in. I’ll be thrilled if they do, but frankly they don’t deserve it. When you’ve got two games: one at home against Indiana, one on a neutral court against a team you’ve smoked twice, and a win in either game makes you a lock for the tournament and you choke away both of them? And when you can’t bring better than your C-game in either of them? You don’t deserve to be in the tournament. Blame Amaker if you want, blame Hunter for jacking up threes, blame Courtney Sims for taking over for Jimmy “Butter” Carson as the definition of soft, blame Horton for running his mouth about how “We’re in” after the Ohio State game. There’s plenty of blame to go around. And it’s too bad that they’ve let a 16-3 start pretty much go to waste. Enough about them.

Hockey is heading down the same road as the basketball team. Great start, collapse down the stretch, now we need to get some wins to get in. They’re going with Noah Ruden tonight. I would’ve gone with Sauer myself, but I can’t disagree with the choice. They’re both the same goalie for all intents and purposes. I’ve got a pretty good feeling about this weekend, hopefully I’m right. I think we’ll learn pretty quick if this team has any kind of run in them. They’ve had two weeks of practice, so whatever Red wanted to ingrain in this team he should have been able to.

The MSM agrees with me that the Avs trade for Theodore was completely idiotic. Now they’re saying that he might not even be back until the playoffs start (more for salary cap reasons than anything—which is just unbelievable that they could be that stupid to have to keep their starting goalie on IR to not go over the cap). Couple that with Svatos being out for the year, and they’re just not getting in. If they don't, this will just look like a colossal blunder by LaCroix, especially since Sakic is a FA this offseason and they're not going to be able to tell him to take less money than Theodore.

I went to the Red Wings game last night. God is that a fun team to watch. Datsyuk and Zetterberg are just incredible. Datsyuk had a move last night that I won’t even attempt to describe, but let’s just say that if he scored, it would’ve been right next to Ovechkin’s goal from his back on the top plays of the year. Lidstrom has to go down as the best defenseman of this era doesn’t he? He’s going to win his 4th Norris this year, he was in the running for 3 more. That guy is just never out of position, and with his four points last night, he became the highest scoring Swedish defenseman of all time. Chelios amazes me. He single-handedly killed off a long 5 on 3 in the first period. The guy looks like he could still play another couple of years. What a freak of nature. Lang/Williams/Yzerman looked like a real nice line. I don’t get all the people that were calling for Lang to be traded.

I like the move for Cory Cross. That was just the type of move that they needed. They got a big stay-at-home dman and they didn’t have to give up a high pick or a prospect to get him. It’s an upgrade over Jamie Rivers, who was moved, and that’s all they were looking for. They’ll probably trust him in the playoffs over Ledba or Woolley if he plays at all well down the stretch.

Horribly officiated game last night. Babcock didn't take the bait (probably since they still won by 4 goals) but I have no idea what those guys were doing last night. Holmstrom got called for diving on a high-sticking penalty (that was also called) negating a 5 on 3 chance, the Kings got two really cheap 5 on 3s (the Kings fan next to me agreed that those calls were horrible), and on a Wings PP in the first period, they ignored a blatant hit from behind right in front of the ref. I thought Brian Aaron was calling that game.

Javon Walker decided today that the best response to his failed demand for a new contract would be to not only burn his bridges in the Packers organization, but to blow up the bridge, set it on fire, drop his pants, and piss on the remains of the bridge. Strong comments (by him, not his agent this time) on this morning:

Some of the most choice quotes:

"I really have no interest in being in a Green Bay Packers uniform or playing
for Green Bay again."

"If I had to go back there, I'd retire," he said. "I don't have to play."

The rift is so deep and his animosity toward Favre so great that, Walker said,
he is even willing if necessary to repay the Packers the prorated portion of his
signing bonus, which amounts to around $850,000.
"Why should I risk another
year of getting beat up playing for a team that I don't want to play for? That's
stupid," Walker said.

If I’m Ted Thompson, you know what I say? Alright jackass, have it your way. You have permission to seek a trade, but if you want to be paid like Randy Moss, then the compensation that we’re asking for in a trade is in line with what you would get for trading a top 5 WR. Namely a starter and a high first round pick. Like the Vikings got for Randy Moss. Otherwise, give us back our $850,000 and retire you ungrateful piece of crap. Because you're totally going to walk away from $15 million.

I’m sowwy that Bwett Fawve huwt his wittle feewings when he said that JWalk should get his ass into camp and stop holding out, but at the same time, Favre didn’t hold a gun to his head. If he was that unhappy, who cares what Brett Favre thinks? Brett Favre didn’t turn the state of Wisconsin against him. Drew Rosenhaus and Javon’s attitude turned Wisconsin against him. Favre didn’t have anything to say to the media about Sterling Sharpe or Antonio Freeman and everyone still hated the two of them after they held out.

I didn’t see him in any hurry to pay the Packers back any money when he had a shit year his first year. Unless I’m mistaken, it’s extremely unusual for rookies to get new contracts before they are into the last year of the deal. I believe the Vikings waited until the last year of his contract to pay Moss, so why should JWalk have been any different? Moss had actually had more than one good year at that point too.

If he would’ve just shut up, come to play, and performed like he did 2 years ago, the Packers would have taken care of him. He might not like the way the organization is run, but you know what? Until last year, they were the only team in the league to not have a sub-.500 season in the salary cap era.

Did he really think that a brand new general manager (which Ted Thompson was last year) was going to come in and throw money at him when the team had no cap space whatsoever? Yeah Javon, we can’t afford to keep either of our Pro Bowl guards and actually protect our Hall-of-Fame quarterback, but we’ll get right on giving a new contract to a WR who—albeit very talented—has 2 years left on his deal, has a bad attitude, and has only had one real good season. If he came to play, showed he was back from his injury, and got off to a good start this year, they would’ve broken the bank for him. They have the money to do it. Instead he pulls this crap.

Trade him to Baltimore and see how he likes Kyle Boller throwing him the ball (unless they’re the ones trading for Culpepper, in which case he can go to Cleveland and see how he likes Charlie Frye).

It adds an interesting wrench to the Packers’ offseason though. Do they try and trade Walker for TO and swap malcontents? Do they trade him for John Abraham and then take AJ Hawk with the #6 pick? Do they use him as trade bait to move up in the draft to get Reggie Bush? Truth be told, if someone’s willing to give up a 1 or a high 2 for him, I take it and move on. The only problem is that Ferguson is probably gone, Murphy’s career is probably over, Chatman isn’t coming back. With Walker gone, they need to find 2, if not 3 receivers this offseason (depending on if they keep Rod Gardner).

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Hahaha! Stupid Avs

The Avs just made a trade that makes less sense than the Joseph to Ottawa to back up Hasek trade that CNNSI speculated about.

They moved David Aebischer, who actually had started to play pretty well as of late, to the Canadiens for Jose Theodore. Straight up. The same Jose Theodore who has been doing his best Jim Carey Post-Vezina-winning impression for the last two seasons.

Now that right there is iffy enough, but then when you take into account that they just traded their starting goalie for a goalie that won't be healthy for at least two more weeks due to a broken heel, the trade looks even worse. The Avs are in a major playoff fight. They're up by 6 points on 9th place Anaheim, but the Ducks have 3 games in hand. LA and Edmonton just got better. They're both behind Colorado. And the Avs are starting.....Peter Budaj coming down the stretch. Don't they almost have to make a trade for another goalie now?

Not a real good day for Michigan hockey alums. Tambellini got moved to the Islanders and Hilbert got waived. Good thing he went pro early.

Good thread on The Wolverine board about who everyone thinks should start in net this weekend. I'll go with Sauer. Even though it was a long time ago, he was great against BC and he's been a lot better at home with the students than he has been on the road. I think the chances of him getting hot and leading us to a title are better than the chances of Ruden doing it. Plus the experience will help him next year. But they're both pretty much the same at this point. And if the team doesn't improve their overall play, it wouldn't matter if we had Ken Dryden in there...

Lastly, a great article by Chris, the author of Western College Hockey. He has a new blog called Sports Writers Journal. This article about Steve Yzerman was just absolutely outstanding. As soon as I started reading it, I was thinking "Crap, I need to write something about Stevie Y", but after reading this, pretty much anything I have to say would be redundant. He did a great job.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Curiosity in the Sports World

If anyone needs an indication that people in the CCHA offices just aren’t paying attention, check out their weekly release with the award finalists.

“Best Defensive Defenseman:

Andy Greene, Miami
Matt Hunwick, Michigan
Nathan Oystrick, Northern Michigan”

What dude, what dude, what dude??? Matt Hunwick? Why don’t we go ahead and give Tim Cook the Offensive Defenseman award, or Jack Johnson the Lady Byng Trophy? Put it this way, with Jack being up for best Offensive D-man, if Hunwick was truly one of the best defensive defensemen in the CCHA, we would have without a doubt the finest pairing the country. Instead, most people want to see the two of them split up. And there’s no doubting Jack’s offensive ability……..

Ebbett should be a lock for best defensive forward.

Osgood really makes me laugh. By all accounts, he was outstanding the 2-0 win over Anaheim earlier in the week. I wouldn't know. I don't watch games that he starts. But check out the campaigning after the game:

"That was the key for me. Just go out there and play and not make a big
deal out of it. Obviously it would be easier if I played a little more."

"Manny is going to play the majority of the games," Osgood said. "But it
would be nice to play a little more."

Calm down a little bit there, tiger. Let's start with going back to back games without getting yanked (which he hasn't done since 12/31 and 1/3) before we start talking about consistent PT eh?

The other curiosity this week comes from Allan Muir from CNNSI:
In his column, he lists 10 potential NHL Deadline Deals that would be “Matches Made in Heaven”. Some of them do in fact make sense. McCabe to Carolina, Jokinen to Ottawa, even Samsonov to Detroit I could see. But then there was this:

Phoenix deals Curtis Joseph to Ottawa for 2006 second-rounder.
The Sens have too much on the line to risk going into the playoffs with Ray Emery as their starting netminder. With no concrete timetable for Dominik Hasek's return from the groin injury he suffered in Torino, Ottawa needs a capable veteran
Phoenix might want a prospect as well as a pick in return for CuJo, but the market for goaltending has cooled off considerably.

Now, I may not be an NHL guru or anything like that. But I will go out on a limb here, and say that there are two teams that you will not see Curtis Joseph play for. One is the Detroit Red Wings (and as bad as they treated him, I don’t blame him a bit). The other is the Ottawa Senators. There is just absolutely no way that he is going to play second fiddle to Dominik Hasek again. There is no way that a team is going to invite that circus to come back to town.

Maybe Vancouver could sign Steve Moore to play on a line with Bertuzzi. Maybe Terrell Owens will sign with whatever team Jeff Garthia ends up going to. Maybe Chris Kunitz and ‘anny Richmon’ will sign with the Wild because they like playing defense so much. Yes Ottawa probably wants a backup goalie. I would be absolutely shocked if that goalie is Curtis Joseph though. It’s just not going to happen with Hasek already there.

This isn't a curiosity but it made me very happy when I read it in the Detroit News today, especially the last sentence.

The Griffins, Detroit's minor league affiliate in Grand Rapids, is duplicating
the Wings' red-hot season. Forward Donald MacLean scored a franchise-record 47th
goal in Sunday's 6-1 victory over the Rochester Americans. The Griffins lead with
the American Hockey League with 43 victories and 91 points (43-16-1-4). Griffins
goalie Jimmy Howard is 16-4-2, and has helped the Griffins earn points in 14 of
his last 15 starts (12-1-1-1).

Doesn’t Howard have to be Detroit’s back-up next year at the very worst? That was an absolute blessing that he fell to the Wings in that draft.

Michigan hockey landed a second round date with Ferris State. I say bring em on! If there’s one team that I want to see back at Yost, it’s the Bulldogs. They’re a solid opponent, and they have just as much to gain/lose as Michigan in this series (don’t believe me, check out the PWR…they’re right on our butts), but Michigan has to be pissed over the way the regular season ended. They’ll be ready to go against FSU. The question is can they put a solid weekend together for the first time since December. I’m fully counting on being at Yost all 3 days this weekend. I think this is a pretty reasonable estimate of how I think this series will go.
Michigan wins in 2: 30%
Michigan wins in 3: 40%
Ferris wins in 3: 20%
Ferris wins in 2: 10%

I’m not going to dig the post out, but an FSU fan on USCHO before the regular season series between these two teams posted that Mitch O’Keefe had a scholarship offer from Michigan contingent upon Al leaving. Al took too long to decide, so O’Keefe went to Ferris instead. Does anyone know if that’s true or not? My BS-o-meter was beeping away when I read that because I had honestly never heard O’Keefe’s name until 2 weeks ago (Ferris is an irrelevant program to me when they’re not playing Michigan or in a battle with Michigan for seeding). I have a hard time believing that I wouldn’t have heard him mentioned by Bob Miller or Mike Spath if the Wolverines were recruiting him—let alone if they offered him a scholarship and they wanted him to be their goalie of the future. I had heard of Sauer, I had heard of Jakiel. We even heard about Jimmy Spratt. I don’t recall hearing O’Keefe’s name ever brought up.

Lastly, RIP Kirby Puckett. He was around back when I still actually liked baseball, and even though I wasn’t a Twins fan, you could tell that was one of the truly good guys in sports.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Black Thursday

Quick hitters:

Someone has uploaded to Google Video a wonderful highlight reel of Alex Ovechkin's young career. It's not fair some of the things this kid does. Personal favorites: The shot up under the bar in a shootout against Calgary, the goal from his back which may have been the best goal since Mike Legg, and the play against Nashville where he skates into a guy trying to check him, he knocks the Predator player over, and doesn't miss a stride. Just sick. It's almost a crime that he's wasting away in Washington. Can you imagine if he was in a major NHL market like Detroit, Toronto, or Montreal? It's sad because I really would love to see him play more often.

I downloaded the Measly Penny song that the Michigan football players recorded and Frat Boy Missionaries so graciously hosted (HT: MgoBlog for linking it). Sadly it is nowhere near as good as its Miami counterpart. No classic lines like "Multiply that bitch up dawg, you get my dick size", the intro wasn't as funny as "This song in its entirety is not meant to disrespect any women in its entirety", no arguments about if a rubber was worn or not. Granted the 7th Floor Crew is a lofty standard to hold anyone to, but the Mean Team doesn't measure up at all.

Black Thursday is already underway in the NFL with name guys like Stephen Davis and Lawyer Malloy amongst the early cuts. Basically no deal is good news for the Packers (at least for this upcoming season) as a fair number of the teams are over the cap and will have to cut some pretty talented players in an effort to comply with the cap by tomorrow. The Packers are one of about 5 teams with significant cap space--enough to make a major splash in free agency if they choose.

Jay Sharpe, a regular poster on two of the Packers boards I frequent, hosts a radio show out in California and attended the combine. According to this post, he was told by Reggie Bush that the Packers are one of the teams showing the most interest in moving up for him. Whether it's a smokescreen or actually true remains to be seen, but Sharpe is one of my favorite posters on those boards, and I believe that he was told what he says he was told. At this point though, I'm not so sure that I wouldn't prefer Green Bay to just stay where they're at and take Mario Williams, because he sounds like the second coming of Julius Peppers. 6'7" 295 and he's got a 40 inch vertical and runs a 4.7 40? Sign me up. This article is just glowing about his combine performance.

Tomorrow is going to be very interesting with all the cuts going on. Reading what the NFL writers from ESPN are saying, there could be some real big names let go. One thing that won't be happening is this:

Packers | Favre could be cut
Wed, 1 Mar 2006 15:11:10 -0800

Jarrett Bell, of USA Today, reports Green Bay Packers QB Brett Favre could possibly be cut Friday, March 3.

Yeah, I guess Favre could be cut. And tomorrow could start the next ice age. And Michigan hockey could learn how to play defense. And Spartan fans could not have an inferiority complex starting Friday....Buuuuut I bet they won't.