Monday, April 21, 2008

Postseason Report Card: The Goalies

The Pistons have rubbed off on me. Sure I could start working on the report card for the forwards next, but it's so much easier if I just half-ass it and talk about the three goalies. So that's what you're getting today, in honor of Deeeeee-troit Bassssketball.

#31 Shawn Hunwick
1 GP, 0-0-0, 0.00 GAA, 1.000 Save %

He served as the backup during the time when Bryan Hogan was out with mono and then became the third goalie for the rest of the season. He played against the NTDP in an exhibition game and gave up one goal and then saw his first official action against UNO in the CCHA playoffs, where he stopped both shots that he faced in just under 3 minutes of playing time.

2007-08 Grade: Incomplete

#35 Bryan Hogan
6 GP, 3-2-1, 2.55 GAA, .903 Save %

Before the season, due to the uncertainty between the pipes, I listed Hogan (and Sauer) as a 10 out of 10 in terms of Level of Necessity. If Michigan had slipped one additional puck past Jordan Pearce, that rating would have been completely justified.

When Hogan came in, the general school of thought was that he would be given every chance to win the starting job. He came down with mono just before the start of the season and was never able to show his stuff. By the time he was back healthy, Sauer had nailed down the starting job and Hogan was left to spot duty.

In the regular season, he played just five games, going 3-1-1 in the process, with the lone loss coming in overtime to Ferris State after Michigan had already locked up the CCHA. His best performance was probably the first of his career, in a home game against Ohio State. The Buckeyes had defeated Michigan the night before and it was pretty important that the Wolverines get a win. Hogan was thrown right into the fire and he performed very well. He allowed 2 goals on 28 shots, stopped a penalty shot in the first period, and made 15 saves in the third period to preserve the win.

The other highlight of the regular season was during his win against Bowling Green. Michigan was killing a penalty late in the game and the BGSU net was empty. The puck came to Hogan with no one in the middle of the ice and--without the risk of an icing call--he shot at the empty net. That thing looked like it was dead on the entire way and juuuust missed. I thought he had it though.

Despite limited playing time, I think Hogan did prove that he can be trusted to play at this level, unlike his predecessor Steve Jakiel. The jury is still out on if he is a future starter, but I fully expect him to see a little bit more time next year (and possibly significantly more if he plays well and/or Sauer struggles). The one flaw in his game is that he has a tendency to give up a lot of rebounds, but overall I was pretty impressed with what I saw.

The biggest moment for Hogan came during the Frozen Four. After Billy Sauer was chased, Hogan played the last two periods and overtime and did an admirable job. He made some good saves, and kept Michigan in the game enough that they were able to tie the game twice. In overtime, he made a glove save that was dynamite. Sadly the Irish scored not too long after the puck dropped again. I wouldn't really fault him for either goal he allowed in that game.

2007-08 Grade: B. It can't be easy to see time between the pipes so sporatically. He beat three teams that we needed to beat, tied a hot NMU team, and lost to Ferris (but made 37 saves) in a game we had nothing to play for. I would agree with the commenter who posted that coming into a game down 3-0 is a fairly low-pressure situation for a goalie normally, but when it's the National Semifinal, I'm inclined to disagree. Hogan knew he had to be basically perfect the rest of the game for us to have a chance to extend our season. To me, that's a lot of pressure to put on a freshman who had only played 5 times the entire year. And after a few shaky moments in the early going, I thought he played really well. I'm looking forward to seeing more of him next season, and I don't mean that as a knock against Sauer.

#36 Billy Sauer:
38 GP, 30-4-3, 1.95 GAA, .924 Save %

I'm still shocked at the way his season ended. After being absolutely stellar against Miami in the CCHA Championship as well as against Niagara and Clarkson in the Regional, I was convinced he could be a big-game goalie and that the confidence issues were a thing of the past. 9 shots and 3 goals later, he was relegated to the bench to watch another goalie lead the team that he won 30 games for this season.

I know everyone was disappointed with the way the season came to a close, but Sauer still has to be applauded for the work he did this year. After getting shelled, shelled, shelled some more in the first half of 06-07, he played pretty well for the most part in the second half, got absolutely destroyed against North Dakota, and ended the season with some pretty scary numbers. His coach wouldn't give him a vote of confidence, most Michigan fans were hoping for something great out of Bryan Hogan, and a lot of people questioned how this kid--who had a track record of not being the most mentally strong goalie we've ever seen--would bounce back from the shellacking that North Dakota handed him.

To his credit, he bounced back amazingly well. The-best-statistically-season-by-a-goalie-in-the-history-of-Michigan-hockey well. He allowed more than 2 goals in just 11 of his 38 starts. A year ago? He allowed more than 2 goals on 12 the 18th game. For the season, he did it 22 times.

He didn't even look like the same goalie for most of the season. I don't know how much was due to the defense, how much was due to new goaltending coach Josh Blackburn, and how much was due to the light finally going on for a player who was still just 19 years old at the start of the year, but the difference was startling. A few good performances gave him the confidence that he had been lacking throughout his career and things kind of snowballed. He got better and better and was at or near the top of the goaltending stats for most of the season.

Two moments in time that will live on in my mind forever: 1) His MVP performance at the GLI, making 50 stops to shut out Providence and following it up with a double-overtime, 37 save encore, leading Michigan to a 1-0 win over Michigan Tech; 2) The incredible flurry of saves he made to preserve Michigan's 2-0 win over Clarkson. That was arguably the best sequence of goaltending that I have seen....ever.

From December 7th to January 26th, he gave up 10 goals (on 291 shots) over a nine game stretch. He gave up 19 goals in his best nine game stretch from 2006-07.

2007-8 Grade: A. And it's an A+ if we show up and lose a normal 3-2 game against Notre Dame. He had an amazing season. 30-4-3 with a GAA below two when he had never had a season below three? You're getting an A for that.

Yes he choked against Notre Dame. Badly. But without Billy Sauer there's no way we win the GLI, there's no way we stay #1 for a fair portion of the season, there's no way we're the #1 overall seed, there's no way we win the CCHA, and there's no way we make the Frozen Four. For a guy that wasn't even guaranteed the starting job, that's a pretty damn fine season. And even though he gave up a pair of horrid goals at the worst possible time, there are plenty of other players who can point the finger at themselves as well for that debacle.

Other Stuff:
The San Antonio Rampage put together a montage of the radio calls of Kolarik's hat trick with "The Victors" in the background. They also have audio from Kolarik after the game. It sounds like our Michigan guys have fit right in. Game 3 is tonight.

Also, after getting sent back down from the Predators, Josh Langfeld notched a pair of goals for the Milwaukee Admirals, giving him an AHL-leading five in just two games.


Becky said...

Didn't Hogan's shot hit the post?

Even though it missed, it really fired up the crowd. Between that and the penalty shot, he should get extra credit for sheer entertainment factor.

Anonymous said...

I miss Kevin and Chad already... *sniff*. I hope they do win the Calder.