Monday, April 30, 2007

Thoughts on the NHL/NBA Playoffs

One quick thing before I get into the playoffs: Michigan received another commitment for the Class of 2009 today. Per Western College Hockey, Greg Pateryn, a defenseman from Birmingham Brother Rice has committed to play for Michigan. Ohio in the USHL holds his rights, so he may end up there next year. He's already 6'2", 195. Here's Bob Miller's post on the matter. I'm sure he'll have more soon.

Let's start with the Wings. The Sharks are showing exactly why I've been so scared of facing them for the last several months. They've just got so many big, young, skilled forwards and they just keep coming at you. Hasek was the only reason that this game wasn't out of hand.

It was a bummer, really, because the Wings looked outstanding in the first period and the first half of the second. Where we really blew this game was not putting in another goal or two in that span. It was kind of similar to the Michigan/Minnesota game in the 2003 Frozen Four in that regard. Once the momentum shifted, the only question was if the Wings could hold on long enough, and it obviously didn't happen.

Our top line has really struggled on the road, with the opposing coach able to get the matchup he wants against them. Plain and simple, Zetterberg and Datsyuk have to be better if we're going to win this series. They were strong in Game 2, which is a big reason we were able to come back and win.

Nabokov was giving up some huge rebounds tonight and we didn't have anyone crashing the net to capitalize. I'm not sure why we haven't had someone in Nabokov's face the entire time like we did against Calgary. Holmstrom being out obviously hurts the Wings' play around the net, but there's still no reason that Bertuzzi and Franzen can't get there. Calder's play in the playoffs has been disappointing as well--but I think he's got a broken hand so that could explain it. Kyle Quincey has been a nice surprise. He hasn't looked out of place at all--getting his first real taste of the NHL in a tough situation.

It goes without saying, but Game 4 is a must-win. There's no way that we're beating the Sharks three times in a row. Hopefully Holmstrom coming back will help make it that much tougher for Nabokov to see the shots coming through, and maybe he can put in one of those juicy rebounds. It's easy to forget that that's a 30 goal scorer out of the lineup for us.

As for the NBA, I'm so happy that series with Orlando is finally over. The only question was if the Pistons would sleep-walk enough to lose a game, or if Mr. Davidson wanted that extra home date. Thankfully they took care of it in 4 games, and didn't risk a sprained ankle or something, which always seems to happen when we mess around with a team that we should've beaten quicker. Thanks for coming, now give us your draft pick. Bring on the Bulls in the playoffs for the first time since Detroit Radio was playing "Three Peat Beat" and Chicago killed that dream.

The Bulls are a scary matchup to me. We've struggled against them, and they're obviously playing well, having swept the defending champs, injured or no. The one thing we've got going for us here is that they don't have a superstar that the refs can give all the calls to. That's the only thing that would scare me more about facing Cleveland. I still think it's dumb that the NBA doesn't re-seed.

I gotta give a call to the Golden State Warriors. I've watched quite a bit of that series, and that's just fun basketball. The atmosphere in Oakland is amazing. Those fans were just going buck the entire game. When the Mavs got an and-one to take a three point lead going to halftime, it took the crowd out a little bit, then Baron Davis goes and nails a half-court shot to get the place rocking again. I don't usually watch out-of-market NBA games, but that series has been a blast. Steven Jackson does some great things out there when he's not being a complete psycho.

Good God. Robert Horry just hit another three with 30 seconds left in a one-point playoff game. How the hell does he keep doing that. And how do teams keep leaving him open in those situations. You know he's getting the ball, and you know he's making the shot if he gets a good look.

White guys in the crowd shouldn't wear basketball jerseys without an undershirt. That really is about the most white-trash thing you can do.

Lastly, there was a lot of stuff on Detroit Bad Boys about Cheick Samb, a Pistons prospect that's been playing overseas. They got him from LA for trading Mo Evans. He's like 7'2" and it sounds like his game is developing nicely. If he keeps that up, we could have a really nice frontcourt with him, Johnson, and Maxiell. Or at least a huge shotblocker to throw in the rotation. Well worth a read.

Playing Catchup (Yet Again)

I admit it. I'm lazy. I'm unproductive. Maybe Mel Kiper can coin me the next Alan Branch and make everyone believe it.

I really can't believe how far he fell. After our season was over, the guy was thought of as a sure-fire top 10 pick (maybe even top 5). Without even playing a game, his stock fell far enough that he slid into the second round. Maybe Gary Danielson started campaigning for Justin Harrell on CBS, I'm not sure.

Regardless, I have to believe that this was another case of GMs being guilty of looking too much at workout numbers and not as much at actual impact on the football field. Branch may not have showed up for the Combine in the best shape of his life, and he's only got himself to blame for that. But for the life of me, I have no idea how anyone got the idea that he takes plays off and doesn't have enough of an impact on the game.

Michigan doesn't have a patient fan-base. People skewered Gabe Watson over taking plays off. Hell, Lloyd Carr benched him several times because of it. Did anyone ever make a peep over Alan Branch? I sure can't remember it if they did.

I'm pretty confident that mgoblog would've caught it during "Upon Further Review" and his +/- stats were as follows: 4, 5, 7, 12 (vs. Wisconsin when PJ Hill was held to nothing), 4, 4, 7, 6, 5, 2 (injured), 3.

He did have 3 games or so games where Brian wrote, "Quieter than normal" "Surprisingly quiet", etc. but even in those games, we still didn't give up anything on the ground. Minnesota cracked 100, but that's about it. Ohio State was the only team that ran the ball with any effectiveness against Michigan this year, and that was as much of a function of horrible safety play as anything else.

If he fell because of his workout/injury question mark, I can understand it. If he fell because of anything on the field....I have to believe a lot of teams made a mistake.

Comments on the Packers Draft:
Frankly, I think draft grades are stupid. People hated the Packers' draft last year and by the end of the season, they had the Dallas Morning News's only A+ grade (Rick Gosselin is a pretty respected draft guy from what I understand) despite a C last April. The media hated their draft in 2000 and it produced four Pro-Bowlers and another solid player in Na'il Diggs. They loved our 2001 draft and the best player to come out of that draft was Robert Ferguson, which should tell you something.

There are few people out there who have seen enough tape of every player in the draft to accurately comment and I'm most definitely not one of them. I can say that apart from Wynn, I haven't seen a whole lot of any player they drafted--and when I did see a guy like Harrell, I obviously didn't know I should be watching him.

That said, after reading profiles, watching video on youtube (greatest thing ever, by the way) and whatnot, I feel pretty good about things.

Harrell is an injury question mark (and a big one at that) but he would've been a top 10 pick if he didn't get hurt his senior season. His increase in reps indicates that his arm is getting healthy. His production was similar to Branch's. And it helps to know that Denver was looking to take him at 21. If he's healthy, they helped their run defense out a lot. He'll help keep guys off of AJ Hawk and Nick Barnett, and he should free up our ends just that much more.

The two running backs are supposed to be good fits in the zone blocking scheme. Jackson scares me a little bit because of his injury history as well--and the fact that he didn't put up great numbers at Nebraska--but the last running back out of Nebraska that we had ended up doing ok.

The pick that's drawing the most venom from Packer fans is grabbing James Jones in the third round. Couldn't tell you a thing about him, except that he's big and it seems like he's got good hands. We needed a WR. I would've loved to have seen this pick moved for Randy Moss, but it seems that he wasn't interested in coming to Green Bay once the Pats indicated their interest was legit.

I do, however, LOVE the pair of players they drafted out of Va Tech. Rouse, the safety, is huge, and he ran extremely fast. They swear he's going to end up playing safety, but he could end up as linebacker as well. The WR, Clowney, has a great looking video. People complained that he got tackled easily, but most of the passes he caught weren't very well thrown. A good pass, he's waltzing into the endzone. He seemed very good at making adjustments to the ball in the air, and he can run.

They also nabbed the best kicker in the draft. Yes he kicks at high-altitude, but he also nailed one from 58 yards out at Miami, I believe. And the offensive lineman, Barbre, is said to be an "ideal" fit for the zone-blocking scheme, and one site called him the "best pure blocker in the draft".

The picks that were really puzzling to me where the two ILBs drafted in the sixth round. The one from Boise St. is supposedly moving to fullback, which explains that one. With Barnett and Hodge in the middle, it seems odd that they drafted another ILB. I thought I heard that they want to move the draftee to the outside.

Overall, I feel good about what they did--and with Thompson's track record drafting, he deserves the right to have his draftees get on the field before he gets roundly criticized the way he has been. It's possible this draft could suck, it's possible he drafted all Pro Bowlers, but it's silly to make a strong opinion either way before these guys even step on the field.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Wings 2, Flames 2

I'm in a shit mood today.

I keep reminding myself that this series is exactly where I expected it to be at this point. I picked the Wings in 6, which means I have them winning Game 6 in Calgary. Which means that Calgary had to win 2 of the first 5 games...which ones would be the most likely for us to lose? The two road games...hence a 2-2 series coming back to Detroit.

So why such a shitty mood?

Because it's the same damn stuff that has been going on for years. We get to the playoffs, teams start to force us to dump and chase, and we can't do it. Teams get physical with our sissy Europeans and they fold like a cheap hooker who got punched in the stomach by a fat guy with sores on his face. We run into a hot goalie who can keep his team in the series despite getting outshot 2 or 3 to 1. The other team sells out on defense. Their guys give up their bodies like they're nothing to block shots. Our guys try to block shots standing straight up, and just screen the damn goalie. And nothing ever changes.

I don't understand why we continue to try and play puck-possession throughout the entire regular season when we know it's not going to work come playoff time. Lose 5 or 6 extra games in the regular season, and work on dump-and-chase, so that come playoff time it looks like we have some idea what the hell to do.

That said, game 3 was bad. Game 4 really wasn't. The line switches that Babcock made worked pretty well. The big problem right now is our special teams are horrible. The power play has been sub-par the entire season and the penalty kill is horrendous. Stay out of the box (or at least don't give up 5 on 3s) and we're still in pretty good shape. It's just too bad that this series has basically come down to us depending on Calgary to play completely clueless hockey on the road again.

It's also been alarming how the top line has been invisible the last couple of games...especially with Regher out of the lineup for Calgary. One suggestion: If we're going to be dumping and chasing, they need someone on the top line who can go muck in the corners and get the puck back. Holmstrom can muck, but he can't skate. Put Bertuzzi up on the top line with Datsyuk and Zetterberg. Bertuzzi was our best player last night, and he can get in front of the net just like Holmstrom. He's not as good at it, but he's more talented in all the other areas. We have to do something to jump-start that top line. It's like Datsyuk scored his two goals, so he hit his playoff quota for the next 5 seasons. I hate that signing by the way. Too much money, too much "term". I'm not ready to start making jokes about it, but they're definitely running through my head.

All that said, the Wings should still win this series. If nothing else, we've got two home games left and Calgary is clueless on the road. One thing I will say though: If you're a Wings fan reading this, and you (obviously) want the Wings to win the Cup this year...root for Dallas. Be as big of a Stars fan for the next (hopefully) two games as you are a Wings fan. Because I'm pretty damn sure we won't win the Cup unless the Stars win their series with Vancouver. If they do (and the Wings beat Calgary), we play Dallas, who we've dominated this year. If they don't, we play San Jose and our chicken-shit penalty kill will be the end of us. Calgary isn't even good offensively, and they're hurting us bad on the power play. San Jose will be at 50% if we keep playing like that. With Dallas winning, SJ would have to play Anaheim, who is better equipped to handle them, in my opinion.

Edit: One more quick thing about the Wings. I hate that we have Samuelsson on the point on the power play. I hate it in general when teams put a forward back there (it bugs me when Michigan does it with Cogliano, too). Forwards aren't used to holding the puck in at the point, they're not used to the angles, they don't know when to step and when to back out, etc. There was one play last night where we won the draw and it rolled softly back toward the point. Sammy was in no-man's land because he didn't know if he should go get it or not. Any of our defensemen would've known to have gone and gotten it. He eventually did, and panicked and threw it across the ice to no one. Put Lebda back there. That guy has "power play specialist" written all over him.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Czarnik Is Good

A few quick things as we head into the weekend:

Max Pacioretty was invited to the NHL Draft Combine.

The USA U-17 team swept Alpena in the NAHL playoffs. Robbie Czarnik currently leads the NAHL playoffs with 5 goals and 6 points. Our other commit on the team, David Wohlberg is second with 5 points.

Detroit Bad Boys points out that the Pistons have recalled Amir Johnson to the big club. Given that the Pistons have clinched the East's #1 seed, seems reasonable that Amir is coming up to play in the Show, and not ride the pine. He's been extremely impressive in his limited minutes thusfar (When he got extended playing time he scored like 19 points and didn't miss a shot). As someone who has been on the Amir Johnson bandwagon going all the way back to his first Summer League game as a Piston, I'm geeked.

Bruce MacLeod of the Macomb Daily has a Red Wings blog now. He's got some great stuff in there. Did you know that game one against the Flames brought about Detroit's biggest "hit" total of the season? Do you know what percentage of faceoffs each of our centers has won against Calgary's centers over the last two seasons? This is the stuff that people like me want to know during the playoffs. Love it!

Great performance by the Wings yesterday. It's so huge that Pavel Datsyuk got that goal out of the way early on. Hopefully now that that monkey is off his back, he'll play like we know he can. Kipper played outstanding--the Wings really could've scored 7 or 8 in that game--but Hasek was equally good, just with less shots against him. Dom gives this team a chance.

Very impressive was especially nice to see the Wings hitting like that, even without Bertuzzi in the lineup. This isn't the same Calgary team from 2004. I can't believe how piss-poor they played defensively.

The other thing that was great to see was Zetterberg looking like he hasn't missed a beat, despite missing 19 straight games. Couldn't even tell he had been gone. That's huge for our chances.

I'm not very happy with the NHL right now. A couple of weeks ago, I shelled out $50 for the remainder of the season + playoffs of Center Ice. Then what happens? Versus picks up every damn Detroit game so Center Ice can't show it. They aren't showing a single Red Wings playoff game according to the schedule. Unbelievable. So I had to upgrade my dish package to the highest one, just so I can get the Wings games on Versus that I should've be getting on Center Ice.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Looking Ahead (Part Two)

Today we'll take a look at the remainder of Michigan's recruiting class. Here are McKeen's profiles of Llewellyn ("poor hockey sense, bad decision making, solid defensively once he gets the body on a player, strong first pass") and Caporusso ("poor man's Mike Cammalleri") that weren't included in the last update.

Max Pacioretty (Forward, Sioux City Muskateers, 6'2", 205):

Season Stats: 58 GP, 20-42--62, 95 PIMs, +21
Playoffs have not begun

When he committed, all we really knew was that he played prep hockey out East. There wasn't any information about him beyond a stat line. Fast-forward a year, and he's quite possibly the jewel of the recruiting class.

McKeen's Hockey Digest lists him as the 58th best player in the upcoming draft (and the 15th best winger) putting him at the end of the second round. NHL Central Scouting ranked him as the 23rd best North American forward. He's said to have "supple" hands, and to be an outstanding passer. The knock is that he doesn't use his size that well. But he's big, can pass, and is apparently a good skater.

Maybe a version of late-in-his-Michigan-career David Moss?

There aren't too many articles on him out there, but here's a commentary on his play from McKeen's. They seem to be fairly hot and cold on him, but think he has a great upside.

Aaron Palushaj (Forward, Des Moines Buccaneers, USHL, 6'0", 185):

Season Stats: 54 GP, 21-43--64, 60 PIMs, +6 (7th in USHL scoring)
Playoffs have not begun

McKeen's ranks him as the #19 winger available in the upcoming draft and the #74 player overall (Grain of Salt Alert: They rank Steve Kampfer #73. I can honestly say that I never watched him this year and thought "There's a guy that can play in the NHL" let alone "There's a guy that I would take in the 3rd round." But hey, I thought Ryan Leaf would be better than Peyton Manning, so what do I know?).

He's said to be a sniper inside 15 feet and be able to undress people with his stick-handling. He's got a heavy and accurate shot. Decent skater and willing to do the dirty work. There's some real good stuff in this McKeen's commentary, though there is one contradiction: In the first sentence they say that some scouts think that he's a selfish, me-first player and kind of a brat. They then go on to say that he's a great teammate, and passes more than he should.

From reading that commentary I get the TJ Hensick vibe. Good passer, thought of as selfish but he piles up assists, great stick-handler, good shot. Sounds like he has potential to be a great player for us. In two different places, I saw Thomas Vanek's name dropped as a comparison. Not that he'll be quite that good...but it's not a bad guy to be compared to.

Kevin Quick (Defenseman, Salisbury Prep, NEPSIHA, 6'0", 175):

Season Stats: 25 GP (max) 1-10--11, 10 PIMs, +26

Quick's numbers were well down from last year, which leads me to wonder if he missed part of the season (they don't list games played on the website). Apparently the team as a whole struggled to score in the first half of the year, though.

He was already drafted in the 3rd round of last year's NHL Draft by the Tampa Bay Lightning. Redline compared him to Buffalo's Brian Campbell (again, not a bad guy to be compared to).

He's said to be a great leader, solid in his own end, but offensively gifted.

Boltsprospects has him as the heir apparent to Dan Boyle as an offensive defenseman.
Long Q & A with him from McKeen's.
profile ("Loads of offensive potential" "hard, sharp passes" "good point shot")
The original Link-o-Rama about him from my site. It has many of the same links. Bolts Prospects dropped the JMFJ comparison. Chad, from their site, dropped by to say that came from his midget coach...and also that Tampa management LOVES him.
Great article from Tampa's official website. They love his hockey sense.

It's not fair to compare the kid to Jack Johnson, but from reading these links, doesn't it sound like a poor man's JMFJ would be a nice comparison? He sounds like he's great in all aspects of the game, nice offensive upside, good leader, pretty responsible in his own end, likes to hit.

He's kind of flown under the radar because he's playing prep hockey. It's easy to forget that we've got a 3rd round pick coming in on defense next year. I'm excited about him.

Matt Rust (Center, USA NTDP Under 18 Team, 5'10", 180):

Season Stats: 48 GP, 12-17--29, 77 PIMs

Talk about under the radar, especially for a USA kid. When I think of the forwards in the incoming recruiting class, I think of Patch, Pal and Winnett. Then I look at the sidebar, see his name, and remember just how impressive he was in the game against the Wolverines this year.

I love what I've seen (and it's limited) of this kid. He was a good skater, wasn't afraid to hit even though he's not that big, and he works his butt off, very strong in his own end.

He strikes me as a player that can come in and play on our special teams, that they won't be afraid to put out there in the third period with a lead and who can do a nice job centering our third line. We've heard the Ebbett comparison for Caporusso, but I think it'd fit just as well with this kid. He's not flashy, but he can get the job done offensively...but he's a very strong defensive center.

Bob Miller's profile of him on hockeysfuture includes a quote that says he's a good faceoff man too. Love it!

CSS put him as the #124 North American forward. Which is fine. The NHL might not love him, but I think Michigan fans will.


From the ISS via MHNet.

Charles "Scooter" Vaughan (Defenseman, St. Louis Bandits, NAHL, 5'11", 190)

Season Stats: 58 GP, 8-27--35, 115 PIMs
Playoff Stats (currently ongoing): 2 GP, 1-2--3, 2 PIMs

Here's my original post about him. Apparently he's pretty fast and he plays the game with an edge. He says that his favorite player is Kelly Chase because "He shows no mercy." I like that. We need a player with that attitude now that JMFJ and his "I would rather break someone's jaw with a legal hit than score a goal" mindset is off to the pros.

For a guy that I'm not positive is getting any scholarship money to come here, Vaughan could play a surprisingly key role on this team. If he comes in ready to play at this level, that will allow us to keep Chris Summers up at forward, where he's shown the ability to be an impact player. If he comes in and can't be an NCAA player yet, then Summers probably has to slide back to Defense, where he was a pretty blah player for the most part.

Sorry to say, Scooter, you're leaving a team with Ice Dolls to come to a team with no Ice Dolls. That's gotta be a huge disappointment. Maybe we can pull Molly, the old St. Cloud cheerleader, out of the strip club to come say hello.

Ben Winnett (Center, Salmon Arm Silverbacks, BCHL, 6'1" 180):

Season Stats: 39 GP, 27-30--57, 58 PIMs, 14 PPGs
Playoff Stats: 11 GP, 3-7--10, 12 PIMs

Last, but not least in this year's recruiting class, we have Ben "In it to" Winnett "like Yzerman". A highly-skilled center out of the BCHL, who plays for the same team that brought us Andrew Ebbett. He ranked 39th in league scoring, but also only played about half the season due to a separated shoulder. He ranked t-10 in points per game.

Here's a quote from his team's GM, out of the Roycal City Record:

"He does things on the ice offensively that you just can't teach. His skating ability, his stride and his ability to shoot off both feet are outstanding," Davidson said.

He was also given an "A" despite being a younger player. They like his leadership qualities. Not afraid to go in the corners, nice shot. From everything out there about him though, it seems that his speed is what separates him from other players.

Here's an article about him from Hockeysfuture.

And a mention of him from this site, where I make a similar pun with him name. Because that's not going to get old.

McKeen's profile that mentions his speed quite a bit.

My original post about him, that includes some quotes from Paul Shaheen.

So that does it for the recruiting class. Overall it looks like an extremely talented group. We're bringing in a lot of very good players up front, even if they end up not having that top-talent like Hensick. Our offense will probably drop off slightly next year. We lose a couple of big-time performers up front, but we will be a lot deeper at forward next year if everyone comes back.

Where the dropoff will come, though, is back on the blueline. JMFJ and Hunwick are gone. Quick should be able to pick up some of that slack, and you'd like to think that Kampfer will find his game after a year of getting his feet wet.

Bryan Hogan is as important a recruit as we've had in a long time. If he's for real, this team could have a chance next year. If he can't take the starting goaltender job, we're not going anywhere for the next two seasons. And that sentence means exactly what you think it means, about my confidence in our goaltender at this point. Sauer showed that he has the ability to play at a high level for a stretch, but the kid just doesn't have the confidence to be a top-flight goaltender.

Hogan is especially important because he's our last chance for the next two seasons. There's no way another goalie signs on for 08-09 with Sauer, Jakiel, and Hogan there and a roster slot won't open until Sauer leaves two years from now. So if he's not the guy, either Sauer needs to get with it, or we're done for the next two years. It's too hard to try and win an NCAA title by outscoring teams, and we've had to try and do it for 3 years now, since the last time we've had consistent goaltending was Montoya's sophomore year.

Lastly, commenter Colin expands on his War and Peace length comments from a couple of posts ago in his new blog. Well worth reading, and I look forward to reading what he has to say in the future. Unlike mgoblog, I think the name of the blog is pretty funny.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

NHL Picks

A quick diversion into the NHL before I get to the rest out the recruiting breakdown. Here's how I see the NHL playoffs shaking down. I'm tempted to pick a repeat of what I picked last year (Wings over Devils) but that didn't work out so well last year. I know it's going out on a major limb to pick both #1 seeds, but it has to happen this way. I'll explain later. We'll go with this:

Wings over Flames in 6: Kipper puts a scare in Detroit, but the Wings are better equipped to deal with Calgary than they were back in 2004.

Anaheim over Minnesota in 5: Anaheim has the defense to stop the Wild's top forwards, and the goaltending to stop them if the defense can't.

Dallas over Vancouver in 7: There might not be a player in the league with more to lose this playoff year than Marty Turco. With the up-and-coming Mike Smith watching over his shoulder, Turco could find himself on the bench or on the block with another bad playoff. He gets it done this time.

San Jose over Nashville in 7: Nothing would make me happier than to see the Predators take out the team in the West that I'm most scared of. Nashville doesn't scare me (Detroit was 6-1-1 against them this year) but San Jose scares the hell out of me. This is a great matchup of the teams who fell just short in a closely contested division battle (and it shows why I wanted to win the Central so bad). I like the Sharks because of their depth up front, but Vokoun is the better goalie. This series should be awesome.

Buffalo over NYI in 4: Wade Dubielewicz? With DiPietro the Islanders might stand a chance of taking a game or mayyyybe two. But the Sabres have too much for them.

New Jersey over TB in 6: The Bolts might have enough offense to push a few pucks past Brodeur, but the matchup in goal is so lopsided it's scary. Bad penalty-killing and subpar goaltending isn't a good duo when you're trying to pull an upset. I'll take the injury-plagued Devils.

NYR over Atlanta in 7: Lundqvist has rebounded from the embarrassment of getting cut from my last-place fantasy team (my team rebounded nicely to lose in the championship). Going "all-in" at the trade deadline has worked out well for the Thrashers (Tkachuk has gone for almost a point a game since the trade), but I'd still beware of the "just happy to be there" syndrome for this first-time playoff team.

Ottawa over Pittsburgh in 6: Too young. Next year they're a scary team. This is time to just get their feet wet in playoff action. It'll be fun to watch how Crosby does in the second season though. Then again, it's not playoff time until Ottawa has choked, so maybe the Pens have a fighting chance.

Red Wings over Dallas in 6: Detroit has faired pretty well against the Stars this year. This would be a great series, but I think the Wings have too much for them.

Anaheim over San Jose in 7: A loud cheer goes up from southwest Madison as the Sharks are vanquished. I watched quite a bit of their last regular-season meeting and the Ducks did a great job slowing the Sharks through the neutral zone. I like Anaheim's goaltending better. Great series though.

Buffalo over the Rangers in 5: Too much offense, better goaltending.

NJ over Ottawa in 6: The annual exit comes one round later than normal.

Red Wings over Anaheim in 6: I'll still take a healthy Hasek over almost anyone. If he's not healthy, the Wings are going to the Finals. I'm hoping he is.

Buffalo over NJ in 6: This could be an outstanding matchup in net with Miller going up against Brodeur. Buffalo scored 100 more goals than NJ in the regular season though. You don't make up an offensive gap like that. Especially since both teams have had injury problems.

Buffalo over Detroit in 7: It'd only be fitting. I think the hockey gods have proven that they absolutely despise me for whatever reason. Why not cap off Michigan State's Championship with their old goalie beating the Wings for the Stanley Cup in the city where the hockey gods pulled off their biggest karate kick to my balls. I'm thinking Game 7, 2-1, Triple OT, and Miller makes about 65 saves...yeah, that'd be fitting.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Looking Ahead (Part One)

With the skates taken off for the final time of the 2006-07 team, it’s time to stop wondering what might’ve been if we had gotten a better draw—or taken care of business against Notre Dame—and start looking ahead to the 2007-08 edition of the Wolverines.

Here’s my breakdown of the incoming recruiting class (hopefully all of whom will end up on campus and not go Trevor Lewis on us). For more information about these guys, MHNet has a nice breakdown, including quotes from Billy Powers.

Louie Caporusso (Forward, St. Michael’s Buzzers, OPJHL, 5’10”, 180):

Season Stats: 37 GP, 23-27—50, 45 PIMs
Playoff Stats: 20 GP, 14-19—33

Louie has picked up where Andrew Cogliano and Mike McKenzie left off at St. Michael’s, leading the team in scoring this season (FTR, he was second in scoring last season as well). Tbarr has compared him to a more offensive-minded Andrew Ebbett. He can score, he can make plays, and apparently he’s good in his own end as well. He’s also shown the ability to come up big when it matters; 33 points in 20 playoff games is evidence of that. He’s had some injuries the last couple of seasons, but if he can stay healthy we could have a nice duo of St. Mike’s forwards next year (if “Drew Cogs” comes back).

The Wolverine article about him from December (may be $$ link)
My original post about him, which includes the text of St. Mike's press release
An ancient blurb from Redline

Carl Hagelin (Left Wing, Södertälje SK, J20 SuperElit Södra, 5’11”, 176):

EliteProspects lists his stats as follows: 40 GP, 24-31--55, 42 PIMs.

I know next to nothing about this guy. Most mentions of his name are in Swedish. It’s hard enough tracking down his stats on the funky Swedish website that I have linked (and it appears that EliteProspects is more updated.

According to the site that I have linked on the sidebar, he tied for his team lead in scoring and ranked in the top 10 for the league as a whole, so that’s something. Even better, according to EliteProspects, he led the league in scoring.

He was 40% on faceoffs, so he’ll fit right in (ok, that was a cheapshot, he only took 5). In the quote from Powers on MHNet's site, he stated that he's a scorer, a great skater, and he loves to forecheck and play physical. He could be a pleasant surprise since we really don't know a damn thing about him.

A post on Hockeysfuture says that "H has alot of speed and has pretty good offensive abillities. Skating and agility is above average, has an fairly good shoot and okay passingskills and vision. Not that good along the boards and has problem when meeting aggressive defensmen." (sic).

My original post about him.

Bryan Hogan (Goaltender, Lincoln Stars, USHL, 6’0”, 190):

Season Stats: 42 GP, 25-11-3, 3.16 GAA, .884 Save Percentage
Playoffs have not started.

I would call him the most important recruit in this year’s class. After Billy Sauer’s meltdown in the game against North Dakota, I don’t see how anyone could say otherwise. We’ve got a major problem with goaltending on our team, since it appears that Steve Jakiel isn’t well thought of enough to get into more than one game, even when Sauer was saying “Ole!” to hockey pucks for a large part of this year.

Can Hogan change our goaltending from a weakness to a strength? Couldn’t tell ya. I was a lot more excited about him last year, when he played well enough to get Steve Jakiel traded away from Lincoln and put up a 2.50 and a .916 (along with similar win totals).

Red Berenson has indicated that he thinks Hogan could be a "special" goalie. Not that he'd say anything different. But the idea gives me warm fuzzies. He's ranked as the #14 North American goalie in the Midterm Rankings.

If nothing else, he's played a lot of hockey over the past couple of years, which is something that I feel really hurt Billy Sauer upon his entrance to college.

I'll end his profile with the same plea that I have in my Yost Post signature: Please be for real.

Chad Langlais (Defenseman, Lincoln Stars, USHL, 5'8", 170):

Season Stats: 46 GP, 5-34--39, 112 PIMs, -1
Playoffs have not started.

He's not very big, but the penalty minutes suggest that he's willing to hit, and the assist numbers suggest that he makes a nice pass. He has matured this year, with his point totals going up significantly (he's increased that total by 16, despite playing 13 less games at this point). 27 of his 39 points have come on the power play, so he obviously sees a lot of time on the PP. He also averages about 2.5 shots on goal a game.

He ranks sixth on the team in points, fourth in assists (second amongst defensemen in both categories), and is second in PIMs. He'll be an older freshman (he'll be 21 by the time he plays his first game) so he probably doesn't have the upside of some of our other incoming freshmen, but he should be ready to step in and play. Plus he'll hopefully provide some leadership back there, which will be nice with as many young defensemen as we're bringing in.

One of my original posts about Langlais, which includes quotes about he and Bryan Hogan.
I hate Pat Caputo, but here's an old article (2004) about Chad and his twin, Chase.
This is from the 05-06 season on the USHL website.

Tristin Llewellyn (Defenseman, Tri-City Storm, USHL, 6'1", 193):

Season Stats: 49 GP, 3-15--18, 152 PIMs, Even

Is he really going to finally be a Wolverine? It seems like we've gone through a full class of players since he committed. He was the youngest player in the USHL back in the 04-05 season and was a very highly touted player. The hype-meter seems to have dropped off. Kyle Woodlief from Redline says that it's because he hasn't improved "one iota" in the last three years. Part of that could be boredom. He's been playing in the same league for three years. Hopefully a change of scenery will do him some good.

He's big, I assume he can hit (again with the PIMs) and the book on him a few years ago was that he was a pretty good skater.

I'll have stuff up on the remaining players (Palushaj, Pacioretty, Quick, Rust, Vaughan, and Winnett) in the near future.

Until then, here's a couple of other tidbits:

A feature from January on the USHL's site about 2009 recruit Chris Brown.

Also, we've added a new commitment, 2010 player Jared Knight. Tbarr and WCH have the scoop. He leads his league in scoring with a 35-30--65 line in 31 games. He's ten years younger than me. I feel really old.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

A Sham I Tell Ya

I didn't get to comment on this when it happened due to ongoing issues with unpacking and whatnot. The guy who probably should've won the damn award, TJ Hensick, isn't even a Hobey Baker Finalist??? Are you freaking kidding me?

In favor of who?

Dave Brown: I can live with him being there. He had a great year, ND won the CCHA regular season and playoff championships and he was a big reason why. Personally, I don't think he was the best goalie in his conference, but they aren't going to give it to someone whose team didn't sniff the NCAAs. So if you want a goalie, Brown is a good choice.

Ryan Duncan: Is he even the best player on his line? Nation's second leading goal scorer, I get it. But he only had eight more goals than a pass-first-second-and-third player in TJ Hensick (and twenty less assists). Not to mention the fact that, with all due respect to Kevin Porter and David Rohlfs, Duncan was playing with TJ Oshie and Jonathan Toews! Hell, I could put in 20 playing with those two. This nomination reeks of "OMG we just have to have a WCHA player in the Hobey Hat Trick because that conference is oh so good and the rest = teh sux."

Eric Ehn: How cute. How. How. Cute. Someone from a shitty ass conference has a good year, so let's throw him in as a Hobey finalist. Never mind the fact that Hensick had five more points, one less goal (but one more game winner), and doesn't play in ATLANTIC FREAKING HOCKEY. Is there any way to justify this beyond the fact that it's a feel-good story? Hell, let's just give Boise State a chance in a BCS game while we're at it. (Wait, they beat who in what bowl?) Scratch that last comment.

Unbelievable. I was absolutely stunned when I saw that release.