Saturday, March 28, 2009

Final Thoughts

I agree with much of what was said in the comments on the last post. The passing was junk for an awful lot of the game. Breakouts in skates, passes behind guys in the other zone. It was weird. They'd kind of cycle between looking really good and a team that should lose to a 4-seed.

I also agreed with the comment that Turnbull was one of our best players tonight. He might have a short fuse, he might have looked as if he was going to go Corey Tropp on the official tonight, but he was all over the ice out there. Every time Michigan was doing something good, it seemed like #9 was around the puck.

Lots of individual play at times. I don't think it was a lack of respect for Air Force on an individual level as much as it was guys just wanting to make plays. Kind of more like a "Screw this, I'll do it myself" type thing. The crowning moment was when Mark friggin Mitera tried to split two defensemen in the third period.

In one-and-done hockey, so much of it is goaltending. And while Hogan only gave up two tonight--and one you couldn't blame him a bit on--going down a goal to a team that you're dominating is a complete back-breaker. Especially on a goal like that. If you think about it, aside from Montoya's sophomore year when we lost to BC, the goaltending has been a major letdown in every tournament loss since Josh Blackburn was here. Montoya gave up a shit goal in overtime against Minnesota, he didn't bail the Wolverines out once in giving up 4 straight to CC, Ruden got lit against NoDak, Sauer got lit horribly against NoDak, Sauer killed us against Notre Dame last year, and Hogie gave up a junk goal tonight.

Volkening, on the other hand, has played in back-to-back-to-back win or go home games. He's posted back-to-back-to-back shutouts. That's money right there.

Maybe all of our 40+ shots weren't great chances, but he made some really darn good saves. And he made the saves you need your goalie to make if you're going to advance. Maybe he didn't flat out rob anyone like Pearce did to Lebler last week, but he was solid the entire night. He's really quick with the pads.

Really what it came down to was Michigan couldn't get it done on the power play, they couldn't stay out of the box, their goalie gave up a soft one, the forwards were 0-for-43 on shot attempts, and Air Force had a great goalie playing at the top of his game. Plain and simple, we choked on applesauce. Again.

That being said, it's really hard to place blame on anyone in particular for this loss. The forwards didn't get it done, but they put 43 shots on net and had quite a few really grade A chances that Volkening stopped. You just have to tip your hat to him. He was better today than Michigan's collection of NHL-caliber talent. The defense? They gave up a few chances, but they only allowed 13 shots on goal. Even Hogan gave up a bad one, but he only gave up two goals. If you told me this morning that Michigna was going to give up two, I probably would have taken it. Especially if you told me we'd put 40+ shots on the other guy.

The power play was about half good and half bad. They had some really great shifts out there. There was one power play we had toward the end of the second period where Michigan must have controlled the puck in the Air Force end for 3 1/2 minutes straight. They were all over the Falcons. They just didn't do the most important thing and put the puck in the net. But there were also too many cases where we just got nothing going offensively. The worst one was when Air Force rushed it end to end, sent it back to a defenseman in their own zone, he chilled for a good ten seconds before a Michigan guy could get down to pressure, and then he iced the puck. Just awful. But overall I thought the power play was pretty good tonight. They looked like they knew what they were doing tonight. They just couldn't solve Volkening.

So goodbye to Tim Miller, Travis Turnbull, Mark Mitera, Danny Fardig, Billy Sauer, and Brandon Naurato. Thanks for four fun years, guys. Miller and Turnbull played every single game in their careers. That's pretty impressive.

What's most alarming is that we've had three first round exits in the last four seasons after having just one instance of making the tournament and not winning a game in history. That needs to get fixed. Losing to NoDak at NoDak is excusable. We all knew we were fooked in that one. I guess it just speaks to the competitiveness of college hockey and the strength of the teams toward the bottom of the bracket. It's pretty amazing how many of these teams have really awesome goaltenders. In a one-and-done against teams with solid goaltending it's pretty rare to have an easy game. I'm going to go nuts if we don't win four-straight one of these years. How the hell has it been over a decade since we've won a title with the teams we've had? Dammit.

First time we've been shut out in 71 tournament games. Unreal. Another really fun stat: 13 shots is the fewest shots on goal by a team that has won a game in the history of the NCAA Tournament.

As bummed out as I am right now, at least I'm not a Princeton fan. I think I'd need therapy if Michigan blew a game like they did. Holy buckets. Up 4-2 with 40 seconds to play and they lose? Yikes.

Also on the bright side, Jack Campbell, Jon Merrill, Chris Brown, Kevin Lynch, and AJ Treais were named to the USA roster for the World Under 18 Championships in April.


Anonymous said...

I posted a few days ago Michigan would have their hands full with AFA. I live in Colorado Springs now and see these guys play all the time.

Today, the rest of Michigan nation saw what AFA and their Hobey finalist, a great goalie, and the best coach in college hockey outside of Red can do.

It's amazing what this program has risen too... especially when coach tells potential recruits they'll be going to war when they graduate, there isn't a kinesiology department at the AFA, and cadets won't be hooking up with sorostitutes, let alone getting off base when they're new, on the weekend.

AFA will play anyone; they took on tOSU and CC in an awesome preseason tourney a couple of years ago. AFA shows up for the NCAA; it was only a matter of time before they finally won one. Considering 3 lower seeds won today, that just shows how competitive the college product has become.

p.s. Quit bellyaching about refs, and the 1 and done format, it only makes us look bad. Michigan just got beat, plain and simple. PP and D was sketchy all year and it bit Michigan in the ass today.

Looking forward to next season already. GO BLUE!!!

Packer487 said...

Re: The refs

I keep a notepad open when I watch these games and jot down what I'm thinking at the time. Those comments are in there whether we win in a blowout, lose in a blowout, or do something in between. There are plenty examples of that.

Overall it wasn't bad. Certainly didn't cost us the game--though you have to wonder what happens if Turnbull is allowed to take that shot early in the third. On the list of reasons we lost, the refs wouldn't crack the top 10.

I'm not griping one iota about the 1-and-done format. I absolutely love the NCAA college hockey tournament. It's my favorite weekend of the year. Sure you'd have different outcomes (in all likelihood) if there were seven games series, but it wouldn't be nearly as exciting or heart-wrenching.

But goaltending is emphasized in a one-and-done format. You can have a guy steal a seven game series as well (signed, the Red Wings) but with as good as the goaltending is throughout the bracket, there's a darn good chance of seeing top seeds get knocked off.

Don't think for a minute that my comments about the tourney format were complaints. That couldn't be further from the truth.

Becky said...

What year did we play Maine and CC in the regionals at Yost? I remember Montoya being absolutely solid in those games, but I can't remember what year that was (embarrassing, as I was there!).

Hogan has definitely been disappointing in tournament action. But so was everything else about the team this year. Eh.

Anonymous said...

Don't think for a minute that my comments about the tourney format were complaints. That couldn't be further from the truth.

Sorry about that... I was just speaking in general, not directing it at any one person, well except for another Michigan blog which will remain nameless.

Packer487 said...

@Becky: That was the 02-03 season. He was phenomenal in that Regional. Just gave up a terrible, terrible, terrible goal in overtime against the Gophers.

I can't believe that group never made it back to the Frozen Four....

@93: Fair enough. More opinion: Personally I think the format is the most exciting thing in sports. Frustrating for sure, but if it was a best of 7 you'd lose a ton of the excitement. No way Holy Cross beats Minny in a seven game series. But for one game they were better and it was amazing.

You couldn't really do long series in college, but I wouldn't want them to if they could.

Jim said...

I have two questions.

First, why does Hogan get a pass after melting down in two straight games (and yes, he did melt down. That shot from the boards might have been 'amazing', but no goalie should miss on a 30 foot unscreened shot, and the second one was the definition of a soft goal.), whereas Sauer would be getting strung up by the fans, bloggers and media for doing the same? Not that I think Hogan should be getting reamed - I hated it when Sauer got pasted in the past. But I do wonder what the difference here might be.

Second, do other teams do something different/better with their goalies than we do? Red seems to feel the same about goalies as a football coach feels about punters, so I wonder if we just don't do what is necessary to have a really great goalie (not counting Marty Turco of course).

Packer487 said...

1) I think people are more likely to give a goalie a pass when the team gets shut out. It's impossible to win if you don't score. I don't think you can blame him for the second goal. It looked soft because it was a really slow-moving shot, but you can't leave the nation's leading goal scorer that wide open. He was really smart about it--waited until Hogan slid out of the way and then sent it right back where he came from. I'd imagine it's not easy to slide to the right and kick your left pad out at the same time. That was a goal-scorers goal. The first goal was brutal. Gorgeous shot...he had an inch to shoot at and he hit it, but that was a brutal, brutal goal to give up.

If he gave up 5 and the offense put in 4, he'd be getting ripped more than he is. That game last night was like what Sauer had to deal with in the early part of the year and people were very understanding to him.

2) Don't know. I don't think there's anything we're not doing. Montoya was the top goalie available and Sauer was widely thought of as one of the top American goalies in the country when we brought him in. Jack Campbell is the best goalie in his age group.

It's amazing how these great goalies fall through the cracks though, the Jakaitises, look at them at the schools they're at and it's like "How the hell did you end up there?"

The savior is coming. Just gotta get through next year :)

Unknown said...

"If he gave up 5 and the offense put in 4, he'd be getting ripped more than he is. That game last night was like what Sauer had to deal with in the early part of the year and people were very understanding to him."

Exactly, it was a hard luck loss for Hogan, much like Sauer's were earlier in the season. Most nights he was good enough to win the way he played yesterday. He allowed ONE bad goal. One bad goal should not be comparable to the meltdowns that Sauer had in the two previous tourneys. Those performances aren't even in the same galaxy. Hogan did make some excellent saves last night to keep the game close. I just don't understand people thinking Hogan melted down.

Unknown said...

As far as that second goal being "the definition of soft", please tell everyone how a Hobey finalist, being wide open, with time, and scoring could ever be considered soft. If Hogan makes that save its HUGE. Since he allowed it, how could not making a big save be called letting in a soft one? It just doesn't compute.

Anonymous said...


What's the deal with the power play? And the 5-3? I realize the loss of Max P really hurt as there wasn't a go-to-guy in the slot, but heck, we lose players early to the NHL every year and still have 5 NHL draftees on the power play including outstanding point personnel. The talent was there. My issue is that we saw no improvement in the power play the entire year. How can that be? Clearly that is a function of bad strategy and tactics...and that falls on Red's shoulders. I love Red, and I do think he did a heck of a job after losing 3 big guns pre-season, but he needs to figure out a new power play strategy for next year. You have to be able to execute with less...other teams in college hockey do that and we have to also. So, I hold Red to a higher standard for next year. We better see a vast improvement in the power play.

Also, in watching yesterday's game, I really wish Red called a Timeout after falling being 2-0. I think the players could have used a kick in the ass. I just sensed depression all over the place. The guys tried hard but mentally they were overwhelmed. I just wish Red settled them down and got them refocused. College sports is all about momentum and when things aren't going your way, you call Timeout and get reorganized. Red made that mistake in the ND CCHA final...he should've called Timeout after the team got tied 2-2. Saving college hockey timeouts for the last minute makes no sense to me. You call timeout to shift momentum.

A couple other things:

Who is our backup goalie for next year?

Palushaj not ready - I really don't think he is ready to leave...he needs another 10-15 lbs of muscle on him and more consistent goal scoring.

North Dakota - I'm glad Denver lost and hope North Dakota does too. A win by North Dakota would give them 8 titles to our 9 titles....that's too close for comfort.


Anonymous said...

NoDak lost again... their recent futility in the tourney is starting to look like Michigan's.

Did not UNH play in New Hampshire? Where the F#%$ were their fans?

Woe be to the #1 and #2 seeds.

Go BLUE!!!

Brad said...

To whoever wondered about Hogan's backup next year, right now it's just current #3 Shawn Hunwick. Goalie depth is a concern next year if Hogan gets hurt.

And re: goalies falling through cracks, it's the easiest way for a smaller school to be competitive. Since only one gets to play (most of the time), it's easier to convince a good one to come to a school where he can play all the time right away vs. going somewhere else and riding the pine.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous: I'll defend Red Berenson until my last breath. He single-handedly resurrected Michigan from absolute desolation and turned it into one of the elite hockey programs in the nation, year in and year out.

Red recognizes and admits that the results are not up to his own expectations: "Michigan's been in the tournament 19 straight years. ... Well, we've only been in the championship game twice. That's not very good."

But with what other program would you trade places?

Packer487 said...

@Anon: I don't know what the deal was with the power play. It just never got going this entire season. It was pretty consistently crappy the whole time.

Aside from Burlon they didn't really have that booming shot from the point, we didn't have anyone going to the front of the net to tip pucks in (we need a Holmstrom!), Pacioretty was gone so we didn't have our sniper in the slot, and we never really cycled like back in the day with Hilbert, Shouneyia (now THAT was an underrated hockey player), and Cammi.

I'm really curious to see what they're going to do about goaltending. Hunwick did have some interest from division one programs after he recovered from his injury (I believe Northern was one of them). I'm sure they'd like to have a third guy, but I think it's going to be pretty hard to reel in anyone decent by saying "How would you like to come in and back up Bryan Hogan next year and then be third string the rest of your career?" But yeah, Bryan Hogan, if you're reading this, no "moving refrigerators" in the offseason...