Monday, February 12, 2007

Snap Back to Reality

As nice as a win over Michigan State at the Joe would've been, I think if Michigan fans were being honest, most of them would've accepted a tie. We struggle with State, we struggle at the Joe, those teams have a history of ties. I guarantee that all Michigan fans would've gladly taken a tie if you asked them after the Wolverines fell behind 3-0 to the Spartans. Come back from that and the weekend is a success right? Maybe. Except for one small fact:

We lost to freaking Bowling Green!

When we were making our second half predictions on The Yost Post, and I accounted for "one loss in a game that we definitely shouldn't lose, just because..." I wasn't counting on it being to that joke of a team. I mean, c'mon. They had won two games since November!

Now, I will give it up to the Falcons. They've vastly improved since the last time we saw them. It was after that game that I called them the second worst CCHA team I had seen in the last 7 years--and I was pretty confident it wasn't an exaggeration. But they're playing better, they work their asses off, and they haven't quit on their season despite the lousy record that they've got.

I'm not going to go with the "typical Michigan arrogance" and say that Michigan just didn't show up. They played an ok game. But they did get outworked and outplayed by an inferior team. I think we got punched in the mouth by a team that wanted it more, and was just better that night. Was part of it looking ahead to State or taking the Falcons lightly? Probably. But I don't feel pinning the blame solely on that gives BGSU the credit that they deserve.

Sauer was outstanding again against BGSU. Amazingly, we needed him to be at his best in that game. And it still wasn't enough. Hensick also deserves a call. After the BGSU go-ahead goal, he took it down into the Falcon end and rang one off the bar, and then got on his horse and high-tailed it into the corner to keep them from clearing the puck. Great effort play all around.

Pretty obvious that the Falcons were going to score on the PP when Johnson and another Michigan player got crossed up at the bench for the Too Many Men call. It always seems that stupid penalties end up being the ones that bite you.

One last minor bone to pick...there should've been at least 3.7 seconds on the clock before the last faceoff. The puck was already behind the Michigan net (keep in mind it's automatic icing and all) when the clock hit 1.0. Not that it would've mattered, but you can't do anything in 1 second. 3.7 you've at least got a chance.

Halfway through the second period Saturday, this weekend looked like it was going to be a complete disaster. Down 3-0 to MSU, I was pissed off enough that I flipped the TV off. I wouldn't have been able to catch the third period anyway because of my own hockey game, but I had seen enough.

Luckily the Michigan team dug deep and didn't mail it in like they did in the GLI. I thought Summers looked outstanding at forward even before he started lighting the lamp behind Lerg. He had at least 3 or 4 great scoring opportunities in the game when I was watching--including one that he rung off the post.

I have to believe that the slightly-less-than-60-shots was a function of a generous statistician, but I don't doubt that we dominated that game. It bugs the hell out of me that B. Lerg scores every damn time we play MSU--or it at least seems that way. That decommit was a killer. He'd be a great fit on this team. I blame Dwight.

DC Nole came strong with his "State of the Team Address" that includes far more stats than I would have the time (or patience) to look up. In short (and the post is really worth a read), when our top line and top defense pairing are producing points, we win. When they're not, we lose. That by itself isn't a shocker, but some of the stats he provides are very interesting.

The one thing I disagree with is this passage: "And as it turns out, [the top line/pairing not producing points] has been the missing link in our bad games these last 6 weeks. Not defense. Not turnovers. Not goaltending. Not coaching. Who knew?!?"

He proved his point about the goaltending and defense, but I disagree that turnovers haven't played a big part in the goals we've allowed. Kampfer and Cogliano's turnovers on the point killed us against BGSU and MSU. Also, no one on our team came up with the puck on Sauer's hard around on the play where he "got run into" by Abdelkader. So that'd probably be one as well.

All in all though, that was a great post, and his summary does give us cause to still be excited about where this team could end up at the end of the season.

Our chances are even better if we end up with a bracket like this. I will gladly take anything come tournament time that doesn't involve us being in a Regional with Minnesota, and that doesn't require us to play UNH in New Hampshire. If we get Clarkson in a first round game, all the better. I'd love another crack at Notre Dame....

4 comments:

Colin J said...

I think I accept what DC Nole said about this team, which is that the margin of error for this team is very small. And this shouldn't be that big a surprise. We knew we simply wouldn't get scoring from either our third or fourth lines. Even with the defense and Billy playing above average, this team will struggle because it can't overcome even a small amount of bad luck. It really speaks to the ability of Hensick, Jack and Porter that they've been able to rattle off so many wins and speaks to their consistency.

That said, if Summers can emerge as an additional scoring threat, we might just give ourselves a serious chance. Then we can go Hensick-Porter-Rohlfs, Cogs-Kolarik-Naurato, Miller-Summers-Lebler. It's still a little much to see Naurato as a 2nd liner, and actually it might make sense to swap he and Rohlfs. That's a pretty solid lineup and the D's solid as well. If Billy plays well, that's a team that could at least win its first round game.

What's sad is that the team looks like it's missing Trevor Lewis, which makes what's happened this season understandable and all that more regrettable that the NHL CBA came out the way it did.

Packer487 said...

Yup, the only thing that I disagreed with him on really is that turnovers haven't been a factor.

Though there's no stat in college to measure TOs that I'm aware of, I can say with absolute certainty that in 2 of our 3 "non-wins" in the second half, I've screamed "Stop turning the puck over, assholes!" at the TV pretty regularly.

It was an epidemic against BGSU, and against State it definitely cost us 2 goals.

I like Summers on Cogliano/Kolarik's line. He adds some grit to the mix. He'll go in the corners and do the dirty work. He's fast enough to get to the corner if they want to dump the puck in. Plus on the rush he's fast enough to keep up with Cogliano--and not too many people are. I'd at least keep him there for a little while longer to see if the chemistry is as good as it was against MSU.

With the right draw (read: not playing Minnesota)--and if we get goaltending the way Sauer has been playing--they could still be a Frozen Four team.

You're right about Lewis. He would've made a huge difference to this team. We're a Trevor Lewis away from having 3 strong scoring lines, which is a lot harder to deal with than 2. Plus our second PP unit would probably be a lot better. And the PK for that matter. Then again, I still think we got off easy in the offseason departure column for once....

Colin J said...

It's really incredible that Red is going to have to bring in the equivalent of a large football recruiting class these past 3 years, and I'm not sure exactly what we're doing wrong that programs like Minnesota and North Dakota are doing right. It feels like we bring in similarly talented recruits, but the payoff just isn't there of late.

I really wish the NHL and all other relevant parties would have a sit down so they could hammer out a healthy way for the talent to be shared. My suspicion is that the Canadian juniors, D-1, and NHL minor leagues are all over-expanded. It seems to bear itself out in the cutthroat tactics and incredibly early commitments.

Brad said...

Colin,

One thing to keep in mind - North Dakota under Hakstol has made a habit of bumbling around in the early part of the season when we're doing things like going 9-1-1. It's been in the second half when they go on a tear and end up in the Frozen Four. They've been getting consistant results in the back end of the season (when it of course matters more) rather than early. Otherwise, in terms of overall record, they've been pretty similar to UM the last couple of years.

Minnesota is just on another level though.