For those out there who were waiting on Michigan to beat somebody to prove that they're legit, it's now safe to consider this team for real. After sweeping the Fighting Irish, Michigan is now off to the best start in the history of the program at 22-2-0. Let's see what the media had to say about this one:
The Michigan Side:
MGoBlue stories about both games, including a link to the highlights from Friday night.
The Daily liveblogged both games.
The Daily's article on Friday's game compared it to a playoff game, and I'd have to agree. That was an unbelievable hockey game. Though I'd point out that you can say that this is "arguably" Billy Sauer's best season as a Wolverine in the same way that you could "arguably" say that Tom Brady had a pretty good regular season. By the way, I love Louie Caporusso's goal celebrations.
Here's a short article about the snoozer the next night at The Palace. Not a competitive game, bad ice, crowd that only filled half of the arena, no Michigan band....
Tuesday's edition featured a more in-depth story about each game. Red pointed out that Notre Dame doesn't play a top-four CCHA team the rest of the way, so it was huge for Michigan to sweep them. As I pointed out last week, that basically buries Notre Dame in conference. They're 7 points back of Michigan with 10 to play. Michigan has 12 games left. They'd have to run the table and hope that Michigan plays .500 hockey the rest of the way to have a chance. Not gonna happen.
Michigan went with 11 forwards and 7 defensemen on Saturday night. They apparently did it as a response to Chris Summers getting ejected the night before. So it looks like they're going to keep Summers back on the blueline, as they didn't just dress Llewellyn, and move Summers to forward for the game--then have him drop back if anyone got tossed.
The Wolverines are playing it safe with Max Pacioretty, who has missed the last three games with a shoulder injury.
Kevin Porter called Friday's game maybe the best Yost experience of his career. Games like that really make me miss being there for this season. If you listened hard, you could hear me screaming in Madison though.
If Notre Dame wants to keep moving games to the Palace, they're more than welcome. Michigan's not interested in returning the favor, however. Rightfully so. I'm sure the recruits were impressed.
The Ann Arbor News's game story about Saturday's game.
Despite a record-breaking start to the year, Antoine Pitts points out that as the 2005-06 Pistons learned, regular season success doesn't mean much. Thankfully, from everything I've been told, this team is remaining humble and not paying attention to their ranking.
Edit: I was remiss in failing to mention two very good blog articles. Hoover Street Rag used some math to project the rest of the season based on the remaining strength of schedule. It obviously won't play out in this exact fashion but it's interesting to see the numbers anyway. A commenter posts what the KRATCH projects for Michigan the rest of the way: About 50 points in the CCHA. Which...yeah.
Also, Colin chimes in with his thoughts on the game Friday night. I always like hearing what he has to say. Sauer was having an intersting game with his positioning. It seemed like when he was going post-to-post, he was almost sliding too far and taking himself out of position at times. It never bit us, but there were a few "Holy crap" moments. Did anyone else notice that?
Friday night was the first time Notre Dame lost a game when scoring the first goal of the game. They also had not been defeated when leading after the first period.
Billy Sauer now has a 1.70 goals against average (3rd in the nation, the leader has a 1.55) and a .935 save percentage (#2, .941).
Kevin Porter is still the nation's leader in goals, points, and PPGs, though Nate Gerbe leads in the nation in points per game.
Chad Kolarik is fifth in goals and sixth in points.
Our power play is +26 (PPG for - SHG allowed) and we're just -7 on the Penalty Kill (PPG allowed - SHG for). Last year at this point, the power play was +17 and the penalty kill was -21. We've given up just 13 power play goals on the season, compared to 29 at this point last year. If you want one of the biggest reasons for our success this season, it's that our special teams are almost a goal per game better (+19 vs. -4 over 24 games).
Faceoffs = struggling again, though Caporusso and Rust being back in the lineup full-time should help that back up. We're sitting at just 48.5% for the season, which is just a tick better than last year at this point.
Our penalty kill is now 90.2%. Yikes. If you factor in short handed goals for as a part of PK% (as I like to do), it rises to 94.7%. That's kind of absurd. Last year at this point, it was 80.1% (or 85.6 modified).
We've now gone 9 straight games without giving up more that two goals (9-0-0 in those games). Michigan's given up more than two goals just five times all season. We've been held to two or fewer goals just twice.
Travis Turnbull has points in six straight games (4-4--8). Brandon Naurato also has points in six straight (1-6--7).
After just one point in his first 15 games, Kevin Quick has 3 points (2-1--3) in his last four.
Since getting on the scoresheet for the first time (in his 5th game after an early season broken hand slowed him down), Max Pacioretty has been held off it just one time when he's played. Get well soon Max!
The Notre Dame Viewpoint:
Official game stories from Friday and Saturday. Michigan's PKing during that 5 minute major was unbelievable. The Irish didn't get a shot on goal, despite having possession in our end for much of the time.
What's cooler than being cool? Notre Dame's power play.
South Bend Tribune writer Steve Wozniak may be lamenting the fact that there's no Tim Horton's near South Bend after having one of their wonderful beverages, but he's not panicking about the team. I hear ya Steve. I can't get Timbits in Madison either. It's a major bummer. Apparently the Irish practiced outdoors on Monday--more to get back to having fun with the game rather than as a punishment. Pretty cool idea, and they all loved it.
The Irish hit "rock bottom" on Saturday night. At least they hope so. Apparently all four goals we scored with a goalie in net on Saturday were of the soft variety.
SBT article on Friday's game.
I really enjoyed reading Wozniak's take on the games. He does a nice job.