First off, the San Antonio Rampage were able to force a Game 7 by defeating Toronto 3-0 last night. Chad Kolarik had the game-winning goal on an assist from Kevin Porter. Kolarik also assisted on SA's third goal of the game. Chad has a 4-2--6 line in six playoff games and Porter has put up 0-4--4. Game 7 is tonight.
Now onto the second batch of forwards:
#14 Brian Lebler
29 GP, 3-5--8, +1, 52 PIMs
With the influx of talented forwards, Lebler's playing time was down from a year ago and, fittingly, so were his numbers. In 2006-07 he played 37 games and put up 7 goals and 11 points. His power play goals dropped from 3 to 0 as his power play time was very limited this season.
I kind of liken him to a Zac MacVoy type. I don't think he's a bad player by any means, but I don't know that he's a great fit for this team. I could see him putting up pretty good numbers on a team like LSSU (like MacVoy is) but his skating ability, or lack thereof, really limits the effectiveness he'll ever be able to have on a talented team like Michigan.
I criticized him quite a bit at the beginning of the season for dumb penalties (42 PIMs in his first 13 games, 22 if you take out the minutes "credited" for game misconducts--which is still too many for a 3rd/4th line player). He was much better the rest of the way, only taking five minors in his other 17 appearances. The worst penalty he took was probably in the loss to Ohio State. Michigan was down 1-0 late in the second period and he smoked someone well after he played the puck. That penalty negated a Michigan power play as well as an extra chance for them to even the game.
He had his first multi-point game against LSSU (when the Lebler-Fardig-Ciraulo line was outstanding) and I thought he was really strong in the 3-2 win over Notre Dame at Yost as well as against Providence in the GLI.
Overall, what we got this season was pretty much what I expected in my breakdown of him before the year. His numbers dipped slightly due to less ice time and less power play time and he played around 30 games.
2007-8 Grade: C
#15 Anthony Ciraulo
13 GP, 2-1--3, +2, 8 PIMs
Ciraulo didn't see the ice all that often, but I don't think he ever really hurt us. He played just 13 games, but I can think of at least three great performances off the top of my head. His line was stellar in one game against LSSU (they combined for 2 goals and 4 assists in the contest) and he was awesome in the GLI. He scored a short-handed goal on a beautiful shot against Providence. Against Michigan Tech, he was out there in some critical situations and played really well.
In a complete 180 from a year ago, he played more in the beginning of the season and barely saw the ice in the second half, which surprised me because I thought he might get some additional minutes after his performance in the GLI.
I can't complain. He was a minus in just one of the thirteen games he played (and that was the loss to Ferris when we didn't remotely care) and put us a man down on just three occasions.
Maybe I just have an affinity for little guys (I'm 5'5") but I think he's capable of helping this team. He's just caught up in a numbers game at forward.
2007-08 Grade: B
#16 Ben Winnett
41 GP, 6-5--11, +6, 12 PIMs
Winnett did absolutely nothing for me for a good portion of the season but I thought later in the year there were more and more instances where he was noticeable (and in a good way). He had a 4 game point streak in Feburary, scored a gorgeous goal against MSU in an otherwise dismal game for the Wolverines, and was really good in the CCHA At The Joe, despite only tallying an empty-netter on the weekend.
Winnett was one of the few players that I truly missed on with my pre-season expectations (I predicted high 20s, low 30s in points, though I did amend those expectations downward after some initial reports). He clearly had an adjustment period to the college game and I don't think his speed was quite as good as advertised, but I do think he could be a pretty good player for us eventually. He's got decent size, pretty good speed, and he's got some skill offensively. That move he had against MSU was beautiful and he unleashed a rocket of a shot against Providence on his goal in the GLI.
The most shocking thing was that he saw quite a bit of time on the penalty kill (right out of the gate, too. They had him on the PK against BC) and did pretty well. His defense wasn't a quality cited in any of the articles that I had read about him, but the fact that they played him on the PK as a freshman is a pretty good indicator that he's not bad at it.
In his initial year, he didn't live up to his draft status as a 4th round pick of the Leafs, but indications were that he was going to have an adjustment period and he did play better toward the end of the season.
2007-08 Grade: B- (Would've probably been a C+ but for the fact that he unexpectedly was a pretty decent penalty killer.)
#18 Tim Miller
43 GP, 4-13--17, +8, 26 PIMs
It was a weird season for Tim Miller. After scoring 7 goals and 24 points as a sophomore he was completely snake-bitten for most of the year. He didn't score under his 34th game of the season (a huge goal in a win over Spartina) and had just eight points at the time. Starting with the win over MSU, he had four goals and eight points over his next seven games and was named the MVP of the CCHA Championships due to his 2-2--4 line in the games against NMU and Miami.
If you count the game at the Palace against Notre Dame, all four of his goals and 11 of his 17 points came in neutral site games. That's kind of weird.
His best play of the year was for the CCHA Championship winning goal. He tapped an offensive-zone faceoff forward, danced around Nathan Davis and fed Brandon Naurato for an easy goal.
His shots on goal were down this year, his blocked shots were down, and he clearly had a disappointing year offensively. Part of the downturn was likely due to being named an alternate captain before the season. Berenson indicated that some players play better when you give them a letter and some don't, so he took the A off Miller's jersey and gave it to Mitera. One thing that was consistent, however, was his penalty killing. He does a really nice job.
2007-08 Grade: B-. Very disappointing year offensively but he was solid at the other end of the ice and he gets a bump because he made some huge plays in a couple of our biggest wins of the season. Without him in the lineup we probably don't win a game against MSU this year and we probably don't win the CCHA Tournament.
#19 Matt Rust
38 GP, 12-11--23, +13, 69 PIMs
I love Rust. You can play him in pretty much any situation, he's a great penalty killer, he's a strong faceoff guy (50.4%, but only Porter took more draws), he can put the puck in the net, and he's strong defensively. He's also probably the toughest guy on our team.
He was probably our best player not named Chad Kolarik against Notre Dame in the Frozen Four.
Goal-scoring-wise, he was fairly streaky. He put in six of his 12 in a nine game span during December and January and then had just one over his next 14 games. He also had a nine-game goalless drought early in the season.
Even though his +/- isn't overly high, he was a minus in just four games the entire season and worse than -1 just once. He was tied for second amongst forwards in blocked shots, with 20.
The only knock I have against him is that he takes too many penalties. His 22 minors led all forwards and his 69 penalty minutes led the team. He took a penalty in six straight games during the stretch run, which is too many. Early in the season he also ended up in the box at the worst possible times. There were at least 3 or 4 games where he took a penalty in the last 3 minutes.
I've got really high expectations for him moving forward. I don't think it's unfair to compare him to a less-stupid version of Justin Abdelkader (good speed, some offensive skill, gritty, great defensively, great on the PK, penchant for absolute retarded penalties sometimes--Rust may have had 22 minors this year but Abdelkader had something like 41). Their numbers as freshmen were almost identical (Abdelkader had 10-12--22 as a freshman, Rust ended up with 23 points despite not playing on the power play all that often). They have the same work ethic.
I think my favorite Rust moment from the season was his short-handed goal against Boston University. He knocked the puck away from a BU player by the Michigan blue line and was absolutely gone. It's not often that you see a player with a breakaway from their own zone, but Rust had one and he buried the shot.
One comparison that I have to make:
Porter's freshman year: 39 GP, 11-13--24, +11, 51 PIMs
Not that I think he has quite that kind of offensive upside, but it's just kind of interesting to see since their numbers were virtually identical as freshmen. I could easily see Rust becoming a high 30s/low 40s player (Abdelkader scored 33 and 40 as a sophomore and junior). It's also worth mentioning that of the guys who played, only Porter and Caporusso had a higher shooting percentage than Rust's 19.4% (halfway through the season he was scoring on a third of his shots). He's another guy that should benefit from the extra pucks made available by Kolarik and Porter graduation.
2007-08 Grade: A-. I was going to give him a B+ due to the penalties, but he gets a bump for playing on a broken friggin leg at the end of the season. And for being phenomenal in the Frozen Four. At least someone was....