Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Seriously, Does This Happen Everywhere??

With things not looking so rosy for Michigan in RoJo land, with Maze and Finch decommitted, and rumors swirling about Watson possibly being next, it made me start thinking...does Michigan just have horrendous luck when it comes to this kind of thing, or does it happen everywhere (and I'm not just talking about football)?

Think about all the near misses (the guys we were told all along "they're coming" only to lose out right at the end), the decommits, etc. that we've had over the years and the reasons for them.

Just a partial list from the past couple of years:
RoJo possibly wanting to come here but his mom's "friend" not letting him, Maze, Finch deciding that he wanted to go be with his boys and MAYBE make a bowl game in his career, Jai Eugene not wanting to be away from his kids (how bout you just...umm...not have kids?), Al Horford, Joe Crawford, Malik Hairston going to freaking OREGON, ditto Cam Colvin, Patrick Beverly deciding that Little Rock reminds him of Chicago (riiiight), Matt Nickerson, Bryan Lerg leaving one week before a scholarship opened up, Trevor Lewis, AJ Jenks, Robbie "Benedict" Earl, Travis Johnson going to bed a Wolverine but waking up a Seminole, Sam Keller...

Seriously...does this happen everywhere else too? Or is this just the Michigan hating God getting his rocks off again?

We're a major program. We've been to 3 BCS games in 4 years. We have a pretty damn good track record of putting guys into the pros. We have a starting position available at corner. Why is it so fricken hard for us to recruit DBs?

At least basketball beat Iowa...oh wait. No, we wasted one of the few games where Courtney Sims isn't a blubbering vagina, and lost to a team that hadn't won on the road the entire season. So now, we're either stuck with Amaker, or we dump him and risk adding Manny Harris and Alex Legion to that massive list about. Frankly, neither option is real good.

I've defended Tommy for a long time. He's a great human being, and he has done some good things for this program. But losses like tonight's are completely inexcusable and they happen with alarming frequency. This one is especially damning after his comments in the media this week about how he doesn't understand the criticism.

On the bright side, Jed Ortmeyer had a career high 3 points last night on National TV (If Versus counts as National TV) and they were all assists that came from hard work on the boards. Great to see.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Michigan/Ferris Weekend Wrapup

Overall a great weekend of hockey down at Yost this weekend. The Wolverines got the sweep that they had to have against a Ferris State team that, frankly, blows.

Friday night was a really interesting game. Michigan jumped on the Bulldogs early and often, taking a 4-0 lead in the first, and a 7-1 lead late in the second, but the Bulldogs put up an incredible 24 shots on goal in the second period. Michigan pulled the old "We're up by 5 or 6 goals so we're going to stop skating" routine and almost let FSU back into the game. I can't have been the only person in the arena who was looking at the scoreboard wondering if there was still a way for us to blow that game after it became 7-3.

After it was 7-4, FSU was buzzing until Johnson put it away with another great shot...this time on a 2 on 0 with Ciraulo.

I can't believe that FSU left MacIntyre in there for the entire game. I'm not sure if they were trying to not kill O'Keefe's confidence for the next night or what, but you can't let that kid get 9 hung on him.

It's hard to play a better game than Johnson played Friday. 3 goals, 4 points, +4 on the night, 3 blocked shots...And what a move on his second goal! That deke was just not nice at all.

Despite allowing 4, Sauer was solid in net. A couple of the goals were on the questionable side, but he stopped 9 out of every 10 shots and that is perfectly fine with me. For the month of January, I think his save % topped .930. We played a bunch of bad teams this month, and as I've said before, hopefully this month raises his confidence for the stretch run.

Andrew Cogliano had the jets going the entire weekend, as he continued to play just excellent hockey. Over the last 18 he has only been held off the scoresheet one time. This is a lot more what we were all expecting when he got here.

TJ Hensick should get the Hobey. He's tops in the country in points now, he leads the nation in assists by 6 (and yikes, Kevin Porter is only 2 helpers out of 2nd place in assists and points), and now the puck is starting to go in for him. Add to it his leadership and pretty darn respectable play in his own end, and this is a guy that deserves some recognition come the end of the season.
The Saturday night game was easier to like, mainly because we didn't stop playing and give me a heart attack halfway through the third period. We also gave up 24 shots for the game. Not in a period. It was a much better defensive effort as a whole. Again, Johnson was excellent. Both his goals were just absolute rockets. The first one was especially great, mainly because I had about the best angle in the house for it. You could see the shooting angle open and if you give Jack that much room with that much to shoot at, he's not going to miss.

To put Jack's weekend into perspective: If you used his stats just from this weekend, he would be the 6th leading goal scorer and 11th leading point man on Ferris State's team.

You also have to give Mark Mitera a call. He was +11 in the month of January, and incredibly was not on the ice for a single even-strength goal against.

DC Nole pointed this out in his always-good game wrapups...Danny Fardig was a man possessed this weekend. Friday night I commented that it looked like he was trying to get ejected. The kid was just going after everything in sight.

3 great moments in the crowd for the weekend:

1) Jack Sr.'s dance shows. I don't always get to see them, because it's kind of a tradition to walk 2 laps around the rink in between periods, but he's pretty much made everyone forget that the band director is a bitch. Jake Long and Adam Kraus joined in the fun on Friday night. These dances are more fun anyway...I do miss seeing the old band director bust out the broom in the back-end of a sweep though.

2) The "Jack Bauer Wears Jack Johnson" Pajamas sign. Just brilliant.

3) The "If you get get into college go to State" song last night, which included: State, Western, Central, Eastern, Northern, Tech, Hope, Albion, Alma, Oakland, Washtenaw, Kalamazoo, Grand Valley, Saginaw Valley, Wayne State, Detroit Mercy, one school I've never heard of that drew a reaction from a girl in front of me, Ohio State, and Pioneer High School before finally getting to Ferris. I was disappointed that Spring Arbor didn't get any love.

One last moment of joy for the weekend courtesy of MSUStudent. As much as I hate Chris Osgood, at least he's never given up a goal this bad.

And he's never lost to Holy Cross.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Stuff From Around the Net

First and foremost, my favorite band of all-time (Crowded House) announced that they are reforming after 11 years. Yes they're the band that sings the "hey now, hey now" song from the 80s. No they didn't have any other big hits (in this country at least...unless you count "Something So Strong" which was Top 40 I think). But they were a friggin awesome band. I'm pretty sure my collection of bootlegs of theirs numbers in the triple digits. I never got to actually see them live. I started listening just before they broke up in 1996, so I'm stoked. It might not be the same without drummer Paul Hester--he committed suicide about a year and a half ago--but I'm sure there will be plenty of tributes to him.

Next up is an article by Wright Thompson from that has gotten a ton of links around the various boards I post on. I've seen it linked at least 3 times on The Wolverine, and it's showed up on The Packer Wire, PackerChatters, the RCMB, and one of my friends just posted a link on Facebook to it. I think the general reaction has been nothing but shock and disgust over the way this kid has been treated.

Long story short--and you really should read it if you haven't already--a kid from Georgia got charged with child molestation for receiving head from a girl when he was 17 and she was 15. If they would've had sex it would've been a misdemeanor, but for some reason it was a felony that they had oral sex--which she initiated--and he's currently serving a 10 year prison sentence with no hope of parole.

I credit ESPN for bringing this story to light. I have to imagine a good chunk of the people that have read that article were as disgusted as I was and hopefully something will be done about this. The kid put himself in a bad spot, no doubt. There were drugs and alcohol on the film, and if they wanted to punish him for that, I could totally see it. Even if they wanted to punish him for having sexual content with someone under the age of consent, I can see that. They make a lot of high school kids into "criminals", but age of consent laws are there for a reason, even if in some situations it probably doesn't make sense to enforce them. But ten years for a beej when normal sex would've been a misdemeanor? They changed the law because of this case but they won't retroactively apply it? And the State of Georgia doesn't see anything wrong with this? It's just horrible.

Despite a rumored proposal that would have moved the Atlanta Thrashers to the Western Conference and the Columbus Blue Jackets to the East, the Detroit Red Wings say that if anyone is moving to the East--either in realignment or if/when the Penguins move--it had better be them.

Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly isn't so sure.
"Detroit would clearly have a strong case," Daly said, "but by the same token, there are other teams in the Western Conference that kind of depend on Detroit being in the Western Conference, so ... there's always balancing involved that would involve a lot of debate, I'm sure, with respect to what you do with the realignment. But hopefully we never get there. At least at this point."

I'm sure the Red Wings really care. It would cut their travel at least in half to move to the Eastern Conference--which I have to believe would make a difference come playoff time. They'd get to play against more than one team in their own time zone. Their fans--like myself--wouldn't have to suffer through playoff games lasting until 1:00 in the morning (without overtime).

He says that some of the teams in the West depend on the Red Wings (I assume he's referring to a team like Phoenix who only really sells out when the Wings come to town). That's all the more reason to get rid of this stupid unbalanced schedule and let all the teams play each other at least twice a year.

Bob Miller mentioned that there will be a couple of recruits on hand for the games this weekend. Both from Toronto (one is a Buzzer), and both were born in the 90s. I'm old. Hensick was dinged up in Alaska, but both he and Kampfer--who didn't make the trip--should be available for the games against Ferris. The rumors are swirling pretty much anywhere you look that the Wings are interested in picking up Peter Forsberg. I think I just threw up in my mouth. Great player when he's healthy. He'd be a huge addition. But some guys just shouldn't be Red Wings. Then again, I now own a Chris Chelios jersey. It's amazing what a new colored jersey can do to your opinion of someone. I friggin hate that guy though.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Michigan/Alaska Weekend Wrapup

What a huge sweep for the Wolverines! I don't know how many of us would've predicted that one. A team that's got a ton of problems with putting together a weekend going all the way across the country and then some to take on a team that's good at home and coming out with 2 wins--on the big ice to boot? Didn't expect it but man is that a nice treat.

I'm still trying really hard not to get too excited. After all, we're in the stretch of games that we should be winning, and to this point we've thrown away a few points. But I would've been happy with a sweep of Northern and a split at Alaska, so we're coming out the same in terms of points.

Billy Sauer had another good weekend, and while I'm happy to ride the wave while it lasts, I'm still going into each game with the same look of trepidation that Bears fans have going into games with Rex Grossman at QB. It's great that he's playing well against the weak sisters of the poor in the CCHA, but I need to see it against a good team before I'm willing to believe this team has a shot at winning more than 1 game in the NCAA Tournament.

The TJ Hensick For Hobey train needs to be picking up steam. His first career hat trick and he's now just 4 points out of the nation's lead (but realistically, nobody from Air Force is winning the Hobey). Not to mention his excellent play in his own zone and outstanding 56% faceoff percentage (not that those will get looked at).

Andrew Cogliano is also showing that last year's Post-WJC hangover won't be repeated. He now has points in 15 of his last 16 games. He could be gearing up for a HUGE junior season if he doesn't make the leap to pro hockey.

Also, one stat that has been completely overlooked--only because it goes completely against everything the media has told us--is that Jack Johnson has only committed 11 penalties this year. 10 minors, 1 major (and 1 ten minute misconduct and 1 game misconduct in there). That's 45 PIMs total, with 20 of those coming from misconducts. Last year at this time he had 38 penalties for 106 minutes. He deserves a lot of credit for toning it down, staying on the ice, and still playing with the edge that makes him a great player. Who would've believed that he'd have an average of 1 penalty per weekend.

We now sit 1 point behind MSU for 3rd place in the CCHA with one game in hand, and 4 points behind Miami for 2nd place with 2 games in hand. Miami takes on Notre Dame this weekend in what will be a HUGE series to decide the CCHA. A Miami sweep along with a Michigan sweep of Ferris would make things really interesting!

It's nice that Sauer is playing well against the teams he should play well against. Build up some confidence before the stretch run. The next 5 games should be more confidence builders. There's absolutely NO excuse to take less than 8 points over these next 5 games, and if we're going to make a run at the CCHA title, they really need to get 10. Can't throw away more points against the Westerns of the world.

Something to keep in mind next week against Ferris that Western College Hockey pointed out, Dan Riedel--second on the team in points per game--is no longer with the team. He was a solid player for them and that's a big loss. Ferris's offensive stats really are ugly. Their leading goal scorer has 7. Their leading point man has 20 and the next highest has 13. To contrast, we've got 7 players with at least 7 goals, and 5 guys with more than 20 points. No excuse to lose to this team boys. Especially at home.

One stat that'll make you go hmm--Derek McIntyre, FSU's backup goalie, has a 4.38 GAA and a .862 save percentage...but he's 3-0-0. Mitch O'Keefe, the starter, has a 2.95 GAA and a .888 save percentage--much more respectable numbers--but he's only got 1 more win, posting a 4-15-3 record. release their mid-term prospect rankings, and Kevin Quick was listed as the #14 prospect in the organization, and the 5th best defenseman. Here's what they had to say about him:
Chad- "The future Michigan Wolverine remains a source of excitement for the Lightning organization because of his skating and all-around game. Perhaps because of this, Quick's modest 0-3-3 numbers at the high school level are viewed as somewhat underachieving thus far."

Pete- "Made an excellent decision choosing Michigan as his destination for when he makes the jump to the NCAA next year."

I like the love for U of M!

Giving Credit Where It's Due

I've cracked on Peyton Manning as a choke artist for years. I was a fan of doing it even before the media decided it was fun.

But to be fair, I've got to give credit where credit is due. Coming from 18 points down after you threw a pick 6 to put up 32 in the second half and win the AFC Championship is a pretty huge accomplishment and Manning deserves a lot of credit, because he was dealing in the second half.

I still think that if you give a guy with that much talent and that much talent around him enough chances to win a "big game" eventually it has to happen. But for tonight, he deserves a ton of credit (not that it changes the fact that the Colts should've probably won a couple by now).

And he probably just won the Super Bowl. Here's hoping the Bears pull a Gators. I'm probably the only Packers fan out there rooting for Chicago in this game. But with Grossman against Manning, even if Manning doesn't play that well, the Colts still probably have the edge at that position.

Congrats to both teams, and I'm really just hoping for a good game Super Bowl Sunday, even if the thought of Manning winning one makes me puke. And an extra big congrats to Tony Dungy, who is definitely one of the good guys in the NFL.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Story Time -- Titus Sucks Edition

After reading commentor Jeremy's story about the Bowling Green player who had the same name as himself, I feel compelled to tell my "Titus Sucks" story as another example of how you never know who is listening to the chants.

I take you back to February of 2002. The Michigan students were away on spring break. I was not, since I'm a big nerd and I'd rather attend hockey games. As such, we didn't have our usual seats and there actually weren't all that many Michigan students in the crowd. We had a small group right around us however.

Sometime in the first period of Friday night's game, Buckeye defender Scott Titus took a cheap shot at Michael Woodford. For whatever reason, that set off our group of students. We started chanting, "Ti-tus Su-ucks" for his entire shift, whenever he was on the ice the rest of the game. Then as soon as he would step off the ice, the chant became "We Want Ti-tus!". It was probably funnier at the time than it actually was--it certainly wasn't all that creative. But we had fun.

Things escalated a little bit when an older woman came storming over to our section. She demanded that we stop the chant because "he's my son, Dwight Helminen's my nephew and I know Bill Martin, so if you don't stop I'll make sure that your season tickets get revoked!"

Our BS-o-meters were beeping heavily at that point--not to mention the fact that it was a game that we had to buy separately, so we weren't using our season tickets--so the chant kept going. There was lots more yelling.

That night, I did a little research. I talked to a buddy of mine who was semi-decently close to the USA program. He said to his knowledge Titus and Helminen weren't related. Which meant that she was full of crap (we think....) and the gloves could come off again the next night.

We got to the rink Saturday night, and as we were walking to our seats, the usher called us over. We figured, here it comes. We're gonna get yelled at. We walked over there and the usher says to us, "Guys.......I want more Titus cheers tonight. That woman yelled at me for 10 straight minutes. Call him every name in the book!"

So the chants started up again. The lady freaked out again, and she did something to get herself ejected from the arena. Around us, the other fans were wondering "What do you have against Titus??" We explained, and the chant grew and grew. Eventually it was a decent amount of our section.

Classy? Not at all. But next time, don't take a cheapshot at our player, you Buckeye trash.

Things got even better when I opened up Paula Weston's CCHA Preview for the next weekend only to see this:

Thank the hockey gods, however, that someone remembered something at Yost. Whenever Buckeye defender Scott Titus was on the ice, a small but enthusiastic group of Michigan fans chanted, "Titus sucks! Titus sucks!" When he was off the ice, the group chanted, "We want Titus! We want Titus!"

It's shocking that this group would even deign to use the junior's real name. After all, in the Michigan Daily, the student newspaper, Titus was known as "The Villain" — never a name, though sometimes his number (five) was mentioned — after a Michigan-OSU series two years ago in Columbus.

During the third period of the second game of that series, Mike Comrie — remember him? — cross-checked Titus near the right boards in the OSU end, and a brawl ensued. The only player who did not participate was Josh Blackburn, content to watch it all from his net at the other end. Jeff Jillson — remember him? — and J.F. Dufour went at it the best, dropping gloves and exchanging slugs. Buckeye goaltender Ray Aho mixed it up with someone a foot taller than he, but memory fails as to whom. However, both Aho and the Wolverine quit their small brawl by mutual consent, both smiling when it was over.

Titus — whom the Michigan student reporters blamed for the fight — was triple-teamed during the melee, hardly causing any damage.

After the game, Mark Kosick said that the Buckeyes were always cheap and dirty, and Eric Meloche responded by calling the Wolverines "weasels." The Michigan Daily called Titus "The Villain" in every subsequent issue.

Ah, those were the days.

Now, we only started the chant because of the cheapshot at Woodford. I had no idea about the back-story there. But it doesn't make it any less funny to me that we were mentioned on USCHO.

Those were the days....

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Webber and the Wings

Thoughts on the Chris Webber signing:

Purely from a basketball point of view, I don't see how this is a bad thing for the Pistons. The guy averaged 20 and 10 last year, he claims that this is as healthy as he's been in several years, and we got him for less money than we're playing Ronald Dupree. Even if he doesn't have anything left, it was worth the gamble. If he's telling the truth about being healthy, suddenly the Pistons add a HUGE force to the middle of their lineup. He's also one of the best passing big-men in history, which should get Chauncey, Rip, Tay, and Sheed some open looks.

From a fan's standpoint, I'm not sure how I feel about it. I realize that this was the best move that we could make in an effort to bring another title to Detroit. But Chris Webber? Man. Honestly, I wouldn't have a problem with the guy if he'd just say that he's sorry. Sack up, admit you made a mistake, and apologize to the school, your old teammates, and the fans that have suffered because of it. I can't honestly say that I wouldn't have taken the money if I was in his position. I'd like to think that I wouldn't, but at the same time I realize that it's easy to say "No way!" when you don't actually have $200,000 in front of you.

But he made a mistake, and it doesn't make me think much of him as a person that he's not man enough to admit it. And at least he tried while he was here unlike some people that took money ::cough::Mo Taylor::cough:: and essentially said he'd do it again.

To his credit, Webber does do a ton of charity work and is by all accounts a pretty darn good guy. Here's hoping that he is healthy, he is determined to rebuild his reputation in this city by doing things the right way on and off the court, he brings another title here, and then once the 10 year waiting period is up, he makes good at Michigan. While we're at it, I want a pony.

Onto the Wings, where Dominik Hasek got screwed out of a spot on the Western Conference All-Star team. I realize that Luongo got voted in and he probably wouldn't have made it otherwise, and I realize that Turco got in because they had to have a Stars player on the team. And I realize Kipper is an outstanding goalie in his own right, but for the NHL's leader in goals against average to not make the team is ridiculous. He's been awesome for us this year, and he should be on the team.

That said, I'm glad he didn't get in. The Wings have taken every precaution this season to make sure he doesn't get hurt, even going as far to keep The Joey MacDonald Experience on the roster so that Hasek rarely even has to dress as the backup goalie for games. Luongo was voted in as the starter, so that means that whenever they put Dom in, he'd be coming into the game cold, which is the last thing we want. Plus as fun as the "Slinky as a spine" thing could be during the skills competition, it's probably not great for his groin.

Michigan traveled to Alaska today in preparation for their weekend against the Nanooks. I don't know about all of you, but if I was a hockey player who left the rink at 7:00 in the morning and arrived in Alaska about 9:00 pm Eastern Time, I'm pretty sure that the last thing in the world that I would want to do is have practice even before going to the hotel. But that's the agenda. Ouch. I guess it's good to practice around the time you'll be playing though.

Alaska has lost 7 in a row, but to be fair 6 of those were on the road. Unfortunately, they're 6-2-2 at home this year. Our team on the big ice, general inconsistency, a long trip....even though they're really not that good of a team, I think a split is about all we can hope for in this one. Anything more than 2 points is a bonus. And that's depressing to say.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Michigan/NMU Series Wrapup

Things started out so well, too.

I was actually really pleased with the way we played Friday night. On Tuesday against BGSU, I came away from the game thinking, "We played ok, but a good team would've buried us." I didn't feel that way Friday. I thought we came out, played a solid game at both ends of the ice, got pretty good goaltending, got a stellar performance out of TJ Hensick, and got out of there with a dominating win.

My thoughts on Friday from the Yost Post:

"Northern had a lot of shots on goal, but there weren't a TON of great scoring chances. Sauer was big when he needed to be. Both goals were on the weakish side--the first one was an Osgood-like rebound and the second one was just goofy, but he made some really nice saves. Though the first playing of "Temptation" should've really been for Brandon Naurato. The guy had a wide open net and Naurato blocked the shot.

TJ Hensick was absolutely fantastic last night. As Puckhead said below, he could've had 7 or 8 assists if people were finishing. Every pass he makes seems to have eyes. They're all right on the tape. It's just been great performance after great performance out of him.

I thought Kampfer actually had a pretty good game last night. Made some big hits, had a couple nice rushes.

I still don't like Pio. But he's definitely the best ref in the CCHA. I can't believe some of the jokers that we've had this year. I agree for the most part with MSUStudent's ref rankings, except I think McInchak and Aaron are on a tier by themselves waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay at the bottom.

As I said on Tuesday, I still don't get how less talented teams always seem to get more power plays than Michigan. Especially after the "Crackdown" on obstruction. It seems that they're just a lot more likely to let it go when it's a team's MO, and then when a more wide-open team like Michigan does anything, they notice it and call it. It's stupid.

I was skeptical about moving Rohlfs down to the third line, but it seems that he's a better player in his own right than I was giving him credit for. He was having a great season finishing off passes from Hensick, but he's showing now that he can carry his own line. It's looking like this move might pay off--though we'll have to see it against a team that isn't in the bottom 3 in the CCHA.

Brian & I were talking about this last night--it seems that every senior on our team has improved throughout his career (examples: Rohlfs being a legit star, Cook becoming actually a capable player)...except for Matt Hunwick. It blows my mind how much that kid has regressed.

My last paragraph of that post just goes to show how predictable this team can be sometimes:

"I can't make the game tonight, but hopefully the guys realize that the two wins this week go for naught if they blow the game tonight. It'd be typical Michigan to come out and drop this one like 2-1 or something. Here's hoping they come out with another strong effort and make it a 6 point week."
Hockey players, listen up and listen good. I should not be able to accurately predict a home loss to a tenth place team that you just destroyed the night before. Moreso, I should not be so confident in my prediction that I didn't bat an eyelash upon seeing the score that night.

It's embarrassing to continually play this way at home. That makes 5 home losses this year (including losses to Northern Michigan, Western Michigan, and Northeastern--3 schools that have directions in their name. That's not a good sign). We had 6 home losses last year (including losses to LSSU, Ferris, Ohio State, and Alaska-Fairbanks). Once in awhile is understandable. Over the course of a 40 game schedule, you're going to get beat by inferior teams once in awhile (particularly when the majority of your opponents could fall into that category), but to lose 11 games over 1 3/4 seasons, including seven to teams that could legitimately be considered to be bad teams is just wrong. They need to get it fixed and they need to start playing with some consistency if they're going to have any prayer of making the tournament.

Now, since we've crapped away four points at home against the Westerns and Northerns of the world, we head up to the Final Frontier in fourth place in the CCHA (3rd in winning percentage). But really? Who would be confident in picking us to come away with more than 2 points this weekend, given our past record up there and general inconsistency? Honestly, there's not a team in the country that I would lay money on us to sweep. Northeastern pretty much proved we can lose to anyone. 9 of the last 12 are away from Yost, and frankly I'm not sure that's a bad thing with the way we've played at home this year.

The disturbing thing to me--more so than us losing home games--is that we managed to lose one of the rare games where it sounds like our goalie actually played really, really well. You can't blow home games, you can't blow games where your shaky goalie actually performs at a high level. Two rules of thumb that we'd be wise to abide by.

Fortunately (I think) for us, 9 of our last 12 games are against the weak sisters of the poor in our conference. The downer in that is that we're currently teetering squarely on the Pairwise bubble, playing these teams will hurt our strength of schedule, and we really can't afford to blow too many more games, especially against bad teams.

One other quick college hockey comment: Isn't it pretty hypocritical for the team formerly known as Alaska-Fairbanks to complain about another team running their goalie? Ya know, since their MO in the recent past was to run into Al Montoya as much as possible and all. I'm guessing we're not the only team they did that against. Just sayin'.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Tuesday Night Hockey!

First off, Bowling Green is just an awful awful hockey team.

But we did what we needed to do against a team that bad. We showed up, jumped on them early (even if we didn't put the puck in the net on all our chances), then stepped on their throat and never really gave them life.

Sauer made the saves he needed to make--had a couple of really nice ones actually. The toe save at the start of the third by the left goal post was particularly good.

Hensick was just toying with them tonight. That little back-and-forth with Porter on the third goal was about as pretty as you'll ever see. And by the same token, Rohlfs' knuckleball from the blueline on the second goal is about as bad as you'll ever see--though it might have been touched.

I wrote this before, and I'm getting more and more convinced every game I see...They need to reward TJ Hensick by slapping a C on his jersey. They don't need to take it away from Hunwick--even though our senior captain REALLY needs to be more disciplined--but you can't ask any more of a player than Hensick has provided this year. He was absolutely OUTSTANDING in all aspects of the game tonight. His passing was incredible, he was great on the penalty kill, he was back-checking like an absolute DEMON. I love seeing it and I think they should reward him for the constant effort he's shown this year. Definitely a Hobey Finalist, and if the team has some success in the second half, he'll probably win it.

I'm not sure when Sergott became a referee but he needs to go away quick. I just don't understand...if you're going to crack down on the hooking and holding, then wouldn't it follow that the team whose entire game is clutch, grab, hook, hold would take more penalties? I would've thought so too. But the penalties had to be something like 37-5 tonight. At least it helped out our god-awful penalty kill percentage. For example, the hooking penalty late in the game against us was a legit call. Our guy tugged him. But if that's the standard you're going to hold the players to, then I'm pretty sure we should've had 3 penalty shots tonight.

(Interlude....HOLY CRAP DID DATSYUK REALLY DO WHAT I THINK HE JUST DID ON OUR GOAL????? I need to see that one again. Wow, the Wings have taken 6 in a row and 20 out of 26 from the Avs? Never would've believed that....Nothing like coming home from a hockey game only to watch Wings/Avs.)

Even though this ref was calling an awful lot, we REALLY need to do better about staying out of the box. When your PK is 75% you can't be taking penalties left and right like we were tonight. PK did a nice job tonight though, even though the enthusiasm has to be tempered by the fact that BGSU is a horrible hockey team. They did a nice job on Matsumoto...he was quiet tonight.

I'm not sure why they moved Rohlfs down to Miller and Naurato's line. He's shown that he's VERY effective when they've got someone on his line that can get him the puck. He was lights out with Hensick earlier this year. I'm not sure what the point of basically making him a grinder is. Then again, he had two tonight on that line, so maybe they know what they're doing a little bit more than I do. It seems that it could make the third line a little more effective, but again, you have to take into account that BGSUcks. If it starts working against some better teams, then I'm all in favor of it, but Rohlfs has been incredible on the top line.

That's all I got...Those games are fun once in awhile, but I'm really happy we're not playing them back to back. The back-end would have very high "We think we're going to win just by showing up and we lose 2-1" potential. Though BGSU might be bad enough that it wouldn't have mattered.

Lastly, Zetterberg's goal in the shootout was gross. 7 in a row, 21 of 27. We own you, Colorado.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Story Time -- Steve Yzerman Edition

One of the all-time greats—and my second favorite athlete ever behind another guy that might be retiring this year—was honored this week. Steve Yzerman had his #19 jersey lifted to the rafters by the Red Wings, to join #1, 7, 9, 10, and 12 in immortality.

I thought it was a very nice ceremony. Darren Pang did a great job as emcee, and it was great seeing so many old faces back for the celebration—though it was disappointing that Gerard Gallant couldn't make it. His schedule has freed up a lot since the Blue Jackets let him go. I thought for sure he'd be there. Reunite Spud and Silk one more time.

What a great moment when Vladimir Konstantinov was introduced. If anyone was going to get an ovation as big as Stevie Y, Vladdy was the guy. It's nice to see him out of the wheelchair, even though it still depresses me like no other to see him in the state he is in (sidenote: If you ever want to get good and pissed off, read the book about the limo accident written by one of the police officers involved in the case. I believe it's called "Broken Wings", though a quick google search didn't come up with anything).

The biggest disappointment of the night—to me at least—was how unprepared Scotty Bowman seemed. It was as if someone wrote his speech for him and he was just seeing it for the first time as he was reading it. It's possible that it was just nerves, but he never took his eyes off the page, the delivery of the jokes was completely off….he didn't seem ready to speak.

The oddity of the night was that the NHL had a congregation there, but not only did Gary Bettman not get introduced, not only did he not speak, but their seats were in the upper bowl! Kinda funny really.

As for Yzerman's speech: What can you say? He talked for awhile—I'd say at least 15 minutes, and had nothing written out. No notecards, no cheat sheet, no nothing. It was straight from the heart. I love listening to that man speak. I don't know where you would have to go to find a better athlete that is more humble than Steve Yzerman. He seems almost embarrassed by his success.

To emphasize what a great guy he is—and in honor of the occasion—it's time for another story time.

We're going to go back to late 1993/early 1994. Toronto, Ontario. I was on a family vacation to the city with my parents and brother, and it just so happened that not only were the Wings in town to play Toronto (remember when the NHL actually let us play the Maple Leafs?), but they were staying in the hotel right across the street from ours.

Now let me take this moment to point out that I love getting autographs. I always have. It's getting a little weird now that it's getting to the point where the professional athletes I root for are younger than me, but at this point I was 11 or so.

So the day of the game, my brother and I put on our Wings jerseys—that we had bought the night before—and headed over to the Wings' hotel. The players started filing down, and while my brother and I were in the hotel's gift shop, Dallas Drake walked in. And this is one of the reasons that I've always liked Dallas Drake, even when he acts like a knucklehead on the ice, he came up to the two of us and said hello. We chatted for a minute or two, we got an autograph (he has a very cool signature, by the way) and we headed back out into the lobby.

One by one, the guys started walking by. Bob Probert stopped to sign an autograph for us—he was also very nice. It made me very happy to see him at the ceremony. I would love to see him get his life cleaned up for good, because I do believe he's a good man. Slava Kozlov—new to the country—stopped by, and made us laugh because it seemed that the only word of English that he knew was "yes". "Thanks Slava!" "Yes" "Good luck tonight!" "Yes".

We saw Scotty Bowman, Tim Cheveldae (as nice of a guy as he was bad a goalie), Steve Chiasson (RIP), Ray Sheppard, and a slew of others.

They all worked their way out to the bus. A few minutes later, Yzerman, Osgood and Cheveldae walked by. As an 11 year old, I was really excited, sprung up from my chair and exclaimed "Mr. Yzerman!!" failing to notice that they were obviously in a hurry. Yzerman didn't brush me off though. He told the other two to go ahead and came back to sign an autograph for me. As it turns out, he missed the bus. I don't THINK I caused it, since Osgood and Cheveldae didn't make it either, but the fact that he was willing to stop and sign an autograph for a young Wings fan, even though he was late for the team bus to the rink has always stuck with me.

And if you need another example of how much he is loved in this city: He did a signing at The Goalies Den in Troy awhile back—it was probably 1994 or something. The line stretched around the entire strip mall. It took us 2 ½ hours to get in, and we definitely weren't the last ones there. And despite the marathon session, he was still nice as could be—asking my name, and then endorsing the photo "To Tim: Best Always, Steve Yzerman".

Great hockey player and an even better man. Congrats Stevie. And may you have as much luck in management as Joe Dumars.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Michigan Hockey Roundup

I'm going ostrich about the Rose Bowl. We all know what went wrong, I'm not going to tell you anything you don't already know or think.

1 quick comment though: Anyone that uses the outcome of that game to say, "Obviously the voters got it right" is an idiot. Does Michigan have a case as the #1 team in the country anymore? No. Do they have a case as #2? No. But based on the evidence at hand at the time the vote was taken, Michigan would've been the correct team to put into the National Championship Game, and the outcome of the Rose Bowl does nothing to change that. It just means that with a similar effort, Ohio State would've probably rolled them even worse than USC did. And that Michigan was overrated--and very capable of being exploited. But nobody knew that.

Frankly, it's too bad USC crapped the bed against UCLA because that would've been a good title game. I still think OSU kills Florida. But what do I know...I'm like 172nd on The Wolverine site alone in the bowl pick 'em. Awesome pick of Oklahoma over Boise as my 32 pointer.

On to hockey, where there's a surprising amount of stuff to talk about.

We lost the GLI as usual, but what was alarming to me was the way we lost the GLI. The team simply looked disinterested in being there. MSU came out flying, Michigan came out lethargic. They looked slow, they looked tired, and they looked like they just wanted to get out of there. Case in point was a great scoring chance Bryan Lerg had in the first period. The puck was flipped into the zone up over the heads of the Michigan defense and it was bouncing around right around the hash marks. Both Michigan defensemen (I want to say Mitera was one, I forget the other) skated back nonchalantly, as if they had all the time in the world. Lerg skated his ass off, beat both of them to the puck, and ended up getting a great chance.

If you can't get up for a game against your arch-rival in the championship game of a tournament that you haven't won in 10 years, there's a problem. And the really scary thing is that this isn't the first time in the past couple of seasons that a Michigan team has come out really flat against MSU. We have got to fix our penalty kill. It currently stands at 78.1%, which is the worst a Michigan team has done since 89-90--and we missed the tournament.

TJ Hensick really deserves a lot of credit. If anyone showed up for that game, it was him. I never thought we'd see him be a force at both ends of the ice, but he continues to show how he has managed to become a complete player in his senior season, and he deserves all the credit in the world for it. In fact, if I were coaching the team--which I'm obviously not--I would give him a "C" on his jersey as a reward for his hard work. They don't have to strip it from Hunwick or anything like that, but Hensick has shown me a lot this year and it would be nice to see him recognized in a very visible way.

The US rebounded very nicely from a rough start in World Juniors, finally getting eliminated by Canada today in a thrilling game that ended in a shootout loss. The Americans can still come home with a bronze. Jack has rebounded as well, scoring the game winning goal in overtime to put the US into the medal round. He also added a Kessel in the quarterfinals, and had two identical goals in the shootout today.

Quick tangent before I get back to Michigan hockey: I think I spoke about this before, after the World Cup final, but it bares repeating. Shootouts in tournament games are stupid. They don't represent the game as a whole, and the game is decided by an action that rarely even takes place during the course of an actual game. It would be like deciding overtime football games by using the XFL's old "coin toss" method of having the players run for the ball in the center of the field.

The shootout today in no way proved that Canada was a better team than the United States--hell, they didn't even keep going through the roster, the same guys kept shooting over and over. All the shootout showed was that Jonathan Toews is nasty and Jeff Frazee can't stop breakaways. If you are going to play a ten minute overtime as it is, why not just let it keep going until someone wins? I love the shootout in regular season games. I'd never think of turning one off. But as a way to decide an elimination game in a tournament (or any playoff game for that matter) it's absolutely ridiculous and a crappy way to end things.

The Hockey Hotboard at the Yost Post was updated today and there were a couple of interesting names on there. Bryan Rust is listed as a potential 2010 recruit. I can only assume that he's the brother of Michigan signee Matt Rust. It's not a common last name and both players are from Bloomfield Hills. It'd be an awful coincidence if they're not...ya know...connected! Two points if you get that reference.

And if you want evidence of how out of control recruiting has gotten, look no further than the inclusion of Rocco Grimaldi on the list. With a name like that, you'd figure he's gotta be like 6'2", 200 lbs and a defenseman right? Nope, he's 5'3". Granted he was born in 1993 so he's got plenty of time to bulk up. God we're recruiting 93s.

There's also a player from Croatia on the list (though he plays for Honeybaked). Don't see that everyday.

Finally, for some more information about potential 2009 recruit Kenny Ryan, we turn to an unlikely source, Go Blue Wolverine. Bret Osburn had a great post about Chris Brown and Kenny Ryan. He has scouting reports based on his first impression of each of them, but the really interesting part of the post was about his interaction with Kenny Ryan's dad, KC.

When asked about where Kenny was looking, he was very honest and open with me.
Michigan, Notre Dame and Boston College are all in the mix -- it had been
presumed that it was down to Michigan/Notre Dame, so Boston College was somewhat of a surprise. Kenny still has a while to decide -- and it's a good thing
because I don't see this one ending anytime soon. Each school has a different
set of factors pulling him in. Michigan is offering a great education, the
location is ideal, and he's got two brothers (Ross and one more) that are both
students at U-M right now. Notre Dame has Jeff Jackson. Jackson has done a
tremendous job turning around the ND program, and K.C. noted that Jackson
started the U.S. NTDP, obviously a significant accomplishment. He did mention
the facilities at ND might be a concern, but ND is also a childhood favorite for
Kenny because of K.C.'s football days. Boston College entered the picture late.
I don't think they'll be a serious threat, but the family did visit the school
over the summer. Interest in BC came from former Red Wing Doug Brown. Brown was a coach for Kenny in a spring league a few seasons ago. He's been in contact
with the family ever since then. Brown played for BC and his brother Greg is an
assistant coach there right now. Doug clued the BC staff in on Ryan and they've
been recruiting him ever since.
Interesting stuff, particularly about the Doug Brown connection. There's not all that much activity on that board, but it's nice to see some recruiting info coming out of there as well as the Yost Post. Can't have enough!