The other day, I projected stats for the rest of the season for the hockey team. Today, I'll break down the numbers with my thoughts on what you can take from them--and what might be a little misleading.
It's highly unlikely that Kevin Porter is going to score 41 goals. Ted Cook led the nation in goals last year with 32. The stats on USCHO only go back to 1998-99, but nobody has hit 40 in that timespan. Barring an injury he'll get into the 30s, which is usually good for the national lead, but I can't see him keeping this pace up all year. That said, the most goals a Michigan player has had since 98-99 is 31 (Muckalt). Porter should top that fairly easily.
Colin's research for his inaugural post (beyond an intro) indicates that since 99-00, Michigan has had just three freshmen score more than 1 point per game, and only five have have scored .8 ppg or more. Over the last 7 years, there have only been 57 .9 ppg freshmen. Currently, we've got two freshmen at or above a point per game, and three above .8 ppg. I think it's reasonable that Pacioretty's numbers will continue to improve, as he got off to a slow start due to a broken hand. History suggests that all three of them won't continue at the pace they're on, however.
Chad Langlais is on pace for 27 assists, which would be the highest total ever for a freshman defenseman at Michigan (23, Patrick Neaton) and the highest total by any defenseman over the referenced timespan (26, Jeff Jillson). With the way our power play is working, and with Langlais being the quarterback, it wouldn't shock me a bit if he continued on this pace. It's very likely that he'll get the freshman record. He only needs to average about a half assist a game the rest of the year to attain that mark. That's kind of incredible if you think about all the greats that have come through this program.
Look at those goals against and shots on goal totals. Sauer is on pace to allow 45 less goals than a year ago (albeit that would be in 4 less games). The team as a whole is on pace to allow 42 less goals than a year ago (not counting ENGs). A big reason for that is the play of the defense in front of our netminders. At this rate, we'll give up right around 200 less shots. Pretty impressive.
It should also be mentioned that Billy Sauer's current save percentage would be the best mark a Michigan goalie has posted since Al Montoya's stellar sophomore season.
The biggest surprise amongst the returning skaters has to be Steven Kampfer. In just 17 games, he's had 2 1/2 times the amount of points he had last season and he's on pace to make a 19 point jump (and a +20 jump). He's been really, really good.
Looking at the numbers, there aren't too many players that you can consider to be a "disappointment". Miller, Naurato, Lebler, Mitera, and Summers are the players on pace to score less points than a year ago.
Naurato is playing a lot less, which isn't surprising. Chris Summers's numbers are skewed, as he got a lot of points playing forward at the end of last year, and he's been up front for just a game and a half thusfar. Mitera's numbers are down, not insignificantly, but he's been so good defensively (I believe I read that he's been on the ice for just one even-strength goal all year) that it's impossible to say that he's been disappointing in any fashion.
Tim Miller puzzles me. He made a big jump forward offensively last year, scoring 7 goals and 24 points after tallying 15 points as a freshman. For a forward that didn't see a lot of power play time, those are pretty good numbers. He played with Cogliano and Kolarik for a little while, but most of the year he was playing on the third line, and his points were pretty spread out. He's been really quiet this year, with just six points and no goals.
If you are looking for a breakout player in the second half, he and Chris Summers would probably be the best bets. I think Caporusso's injury hurt him because even though he was playing with Rust, it kind of jumbled the second and third lines. I like him on the wing, and with Caporusso coming back, he should be able to slide back outside full-time. He's not going to be a huge scorer, but he should be closer to .5 ppg rather than .33 ppg. He's only on pace for 14 points, but I bet he ends up closer to 20.
Brian Lebler has been disappointing. Last year he wasn't great, but he was able to contribute offensively at times, and when he wasn't getting on the score-sheet, he was doing a nice job on the checking line. He's taken waaay too many penalties this season, and they've been of the dumb variety. He's had a couple of checking-from-behind majors, and he had a really stupid penalty that negated a power play during the loss to Ohio State. Perhaps he's trying too hard to make an impact physically when he's in the lineup, in an effort to stay there.
If Palushaj continues the pace that he is on, and ends up with 32 assists, he would be tied for 6th on the freshman assists list, just two behind TJ Hensick and ahead of the great Brendan Morrison.
Last year we had seven players with double digit goals and nine guys with 20+ points. This year, we're on pace to match those totals.
Currently we're averaging just a tenth of a goal per game less than we did last year when we led the nation in goals. The schedule gets tougher in the second half with as many as six games against MSU and at least two with both of Notre Dame and Miami. I expect the offense to take a slight turn down, and the goals against to rise a little bit. But as it is, our goal differential is nearly a goal per game better than last year, so we've got some leeway. I don't think anyone would object to averaging say, 3.9 goals per game and allowing 2.3 or 2.4 gpg. That's a vast improvement over 3.1 last year even if they aren't as wonderful in the second half.