...let's do some stat comparisons!
Last year, the 18-2 Wolverines were scoring 4 goals per game and allowing just 1.9. At the moment, the 08-09 squad is 13-7, scoring 3.4 a night and giving up 2.3. Clearly you're going to lose some games when the scoring margin dips by a full goal per game.
We scored fewer than three goals in a game just twice in our first twenty last year. This year, it's happened seven times. We've also given up 3+ nine times out of twenty, compared to five times at this point last year.
That being said, aside from the 7 goal disaster at BU, our goalies haven't given up more than 3 in a game (Alaska's fourth goal in our loss to them was an ENG). That's a good sign for the rest of the season, because with Hogan in net we haven't had any problems scoring goals. Clearly 3 goals allowed isn't what you're striving for, but if the offense is going, we should still win the majority of those games (and we are 6-3 this year when giving up more than 2 goals--and we scored just three goals total in the three losses, all with Sauer in net).
Let's put it in perspective how they've played in front of Hogan. As I said, at this point last year we were scoring 4 goals a night, and everyone thought our offense was ridiculous. Well we're scoring 4.7 a night for Hogan, including 27 goals in his last 5 starts. In front of Hogan, we're the #1 offense in the country by a long shot (Air Force has the overall mark right now at 4.05 goals per game). In front of Sauer, we'd be dead last in offense at 1.30 goals per game (Tech is last at 1.32 gpg right now).
This is impressive: The big duo of Porter and Kolarik had combined for 31 goals and 55 points at this time a year ago. Palushaj and Caporusso have 26 and 50.
Caporusso has already bettered last year's totals in goals, points, shots on goal, and PPGs. Palushaj's numbers aren't much better (8-17--25 this year vs. 6-16--22 last year), but considering he was second in the country in assists last year, how much improving are you really going to do (especially considering our power play has taken a big dip)?
Hogan has been very solid in his own right. He's not putting up quite the numbers that Sauer put up last year (1.80/.930 at this point), but he's in the ballpark. A 1.95/.917 is going to win you a lot of hockey games. He's been really steady, but he's also gotten a ton of support.
Even with only getting 17 games (out of a possible 60) from Mitera, Burlon, and Kampfer, we're giving up fewer shots per game this year than we did last year (24.9 vs. 26.2). Take out the ENGs and we've given up 7 more goals than this time a year ago. Really not all that bad, all things considered. There's also been a difference of 5 PPGs allowed, which is understandable when you're missing 3 of your top 4 dmen. We're also getting nearly identical production out of our blueliners on the offensive end. Last year they had 38 points in the first 20 games. Right now they've got 39 (again, with no Mitera, no Kampfer, and Burlon for about half the time).
Ten games ago, our opponents were converting on 22.6% of their power plays. Now it's down to 15.7% because we've only given up 5 PPGs on the last 55 opportunities. Clearly the PK is moving in the right direction. They're 26th overall, but after the hole they dug themselves, it's a major improvement.
The PP has been at a pretty consistent clip the whole year. They were 14.9% after 10 games, and it's 14.8% now. Not good enough, and clearly an area that needs to be improved in the second half. Last year's team was 20.4% in the first half and 20.5% overall. We're 32nd in the country on the PP right now. Gotta get that cranked up. I suppose it's a pretty good sign that we have the #8 offense in the country with our power play that far down the charts.
The special teams are probably the biggest difference between last year and this year (well, that and a strange inability to play in front of Billy Sauer). At this point last year, we were +14 in goals scored on special teams. This year, we're +1. You want the biggest reason for that goal per game difference in scoring margin, that'd be it. The power play isn't as good, the PK is worse. Though, ya lose Pacioretty, Porter, and Kolarik, it's tough to improve the PP.
Keep in mind that in the second half last season Kolarik and Pacioretty exploded. Kolarik had 18 goals in his last 19 games and Pacioretty had 10-11--21 in the last 19 games. Porter also had 32 points in the last 23 games. Turnbull also had a great second half, and Mitera shockingly had 17 points in his last 23. It's also worth mentioning, though, that our goals per game stayed exactly the same.
One guy who I fully expect to break out in the second half is Robbie Czarnik. He has one goal, but he's fourth on the team in shots (behind Caporusso, Hagelin, and Turnbull) with 45. He's been playing pretty well as of late and the most important thing is that he's getting scoring chances. They're going to start going in.
We need more out of Rust as well. He had 12-11--23 in 43 games last year and this year he has 2-6--8 in 17 games. He's only got 21 shots on goal so far and he's done virtually nothing on offense since Palushaj was moved off his wing. Since the two of them played pretty well together in the World Juniors, I'm hopeful that we'll see them reunited back in Ann Arbor. Caporusso doesn't need the "Palushaj boost". He was off to a great start before the duo was even put together. He was great in the GLI without Palushaj, and he clearly has some chemistry with Wohlberg. I'd love to see the Hagelin-Rust-Palushaj line back together, personally.
Those are the obvious ones. I'd like to see a few more goals out of Hagelin, but he's got 4 in his last 10. I'd like to see him up around 15 by the end of the year. He's got 5 right now.
So yeah, take what you want out of those numbers. Just thought I'd put them out there. Keep 29, 8, and 25 going bonkers, continued improvement in the PK, get the power play going at a little higher clip, and get Czarnik and Rust going offensively. Those are some of my keys to the second half.
I think this team is really primed to make a run. They're scoring a ton of goals and they're getting solid goaltending. The defense should be getting better and better as Kampfer, Burlon, and Pateryn get more comfortable back there. Summers also went through an adjustment period and he's been playing fantastic hockey. All the pieces are in place. The CCHA Championship is probably out the window (unless we sweep ND and Miami) but if they keep moving in the right direction I don't think anyone would be excited about playing these guys.