Saturday, March 14, 2009

Michigan 6, WMU 1

It's on to the Joe!

Michigan came out with one of the most dominating performances I have ever seen, outshooting WMU 21-0 in the first period en route to a 3-0 lead heading to the locker room. For the second straight night it looked like they were going to run WMU out of the building but could only get a couple of shots past Riley Gill. But for the second straight night, a goal late in the period swelled the gap to three.

Western came out with a much better second period, scoring to make it 3-1 before the Wolverines scored yet another late goal to pretty much put the game out of reach. We tacked on two more in the third period (actually it was three, but Shegos was a little quick with the whistle on a puck that was clearly loose and Caporusso's goal was disallowed). Louie was a quick whistle away from a very quiet three point night himself. Even though he's been putting up huge assist numbers, you can tell he's slightly frustrated by the goal scoring slump he's in (just one goal in his last nine games). He couldn't believe Shegos blew that one dead.

There really aren't words to describe the dominating performance by the Wolverines in the first period. The most impressive thing to me tonight was the backchecking. Every time Western was bringing the puck up ice, a Wolverine forward was busting his hump to get back. Most of the time, he'd lift the stick and take the puck away. When WMU got shots off, there was a Michigan player there to block it.

Standout players:
Once again, the line of Palushaj, Hagelin, and Rust was phenomenal. Palushaj had 2-1--3, Hagelin had a pair of assists, and Rust had a goal and an assist. They combined to be +6 on the night. It's pretty impressive when one line can be so dominant at both ends of the ice. For the weekend, Palushaj had six points, Hagelin five, Rust four, and they were a combined +12. In the process, they were a big reason why the Wolverines shut down Patrick Galivan. He had a goal and three shots on the weekend. Keep in mind he had 29 points and 13 multipoint games in his last 15 contests coming into this weekend. Hagelin, surprisingly enough, was the guy getting under the skin of the Broncos for part of the game.

Mark Mitera and Chad Langlais were each +4 tonight.

I thought Tim Miller and Brian Lebler each did some good work on the power play. Lebler popped in a goal--a nice shot where he held off on taking the shot, moved into a better position, and fired it into an empty net--and Miller was pretty good at playing the Max Pacioretty role on the power play. He was getting open an awful lot and Palushaj just couldn't quite get him the puck. A couple passes were slightly off and a couple of them got tipped. Miller ended up with a goal and an assist--along with seven shots on goal--on the night, though.

Really though, you have to give a call to each and every player on the Michigan team. That was as rock solid a team effort as I've seen in a long, long time. They held a team without a shot on goal for an entire period. Western finally got on the shot chart very early in the second period with a long shot from center that may have actually been going wide. Their first legit shot probably didn't come until the second period was like five minutes old.

Hogan ended up facing 23 shots, and a couple of them were big, big saves. The biggest was a pad save he made with about 15 minutes left and the score 4-1. One of the Broncos was wrapping the puck around the net, he centered it to an open player and Hogan slid to his right, kicked out the right pad, and made the stop on what looked like a sure goal.

Billy Sauer got into his final game at Yost as well. With Michigan up 6-1, the coaches swapped goalies with about 10 minutes remaining. Sauer made a couple nice stops with Western on the power play immediately when he came in.

Michigan is an impressive 25-0-0 when scoring 3+ goals. We've only scored fewer than that six times since the College Hockey Showcase, and with competent officiating, that number would be four. With the defense and goaltending this team has, it's no wonder they've been impossible to beat when scoring three for their netminder.

The power play wasn't as productive as you'd probably like it to be (just 1 for 8) but they looked very sharp for a lot of the opportunities. Michigan had an incredible 20 shots on net with the man advantage.

Michigan has three possible opponents for their series at the Joe: Alaska, Ohio State, and Miami. Miami is headed to a third game with NMU. If NMU wins, they get Notre Dame and we get the other game-three winner. If Miami wins, we play them.

The Hockey East Tournament has been kind of crazy. Bret from GBW made a good point: Both Vermont and New Hampshire are out in the first round. Boston University and Northeastern are headed to third games. If BU and Northeastern go down, the bubble shrinks by a team because either BC, UMass, UMass-Lowell, or Maine would win the Hockey East Tournament.

One team no longer in contention for a bid: Incredibly Colorado College. USCHO's preseason #3 will not make the tournament. They're out of the WCHA Playoffs, having been swept at home by Minnesota-Duluth.

Here's a crazy stat for you: Bryan Hogan is 23-4-0, Billy Sauer is 5-6-0. Sauer's save percentage is actually higher (.921 to .917) and his GAA is just .13 lower. Hockey's a strange game sometimes, eh?

Michigan could very legitimately end up with 17 skaters in double-digits in points. Fardig and Glendening are sitting at 9 apiece. We had 15 last year. For all the questions about who would score, Michigan now has 140 goals on the season. They had 170 last year, in five more games than they've currently played. They likely won't match that total, but they'll be in the ballpark. Pretty impressive, knowing the guys that they lost.

Interesting note: A lot of people seem to think that Colin Wilson will win the Hobey. Best player on the #1 team, I guess. But Palushaj and Wilson have played the same number of games, and Palushaj now sits just one point behind him for second on the national list, and first amongst players that don't go to Quinnipiac. Additionally, Louie Caporusso is just three points back, but has nine more goals than Wilson. Amazing that neither of those guys are up for CCHA Player of the Year, but the All-CCHA Honorable Mention goaltender is. (For the record, I don't think it's wrong that Pearce is up for the award.) I guess Jeff Lerg is a bigger omission than either of our guys.

For seeding purposes, it would probably help us if Alaska and Northern Michigan both lost tomorrow. They're both TUCs right now, and neither one is helping us by being a TUC (since we were 1-1 against both of them).

For practical purposes I'd probably rather face a tired OSU/Alaska team than Miami, so it'd probably be beneficial to us in that regard if NMU won. (Plus, man, let Notre Dame deal with them.) I'm kind of torn on my rooting interests in the two remaining CCHA series.

One thing is perfectly clear to me, however: This Michigan team can win the national championship. They've got the offense, the defense, the goaltending, the coaching, the special teams, and the chemistry. They're peaking at the right time. They've got two fantastic lines. They're getting scoring from unlikely sources. And their captain--and arguably their best player--is getting more and more comfortable in the lineup (he was +4 tonight) after missing pretty much the entire season. No one has a duo like Palushaj and Caporusso, except maybe BU. I can't imagine there's a line in the country that's better at both ends of the ice than Hagelin-Rust-Palushaj. And I don't think anyone, except for maybe Notre Dame, can match the group of defensemen that Michigan has got. Then you can add in a goalie that may set the Michigan record for lowest goals against in a season (and is within striking distance of Sauer's save percentage record as well) and you've got a very dangerous team come tournament time. I love this time of year.


Anonymous said...

For the second straight year, we have as good a shot as anyone of winning it all. And, if it was not a one-and-done tournament, I would really like our chances. But, anything can happen in a one-game setting, so hopefully the pucks bounce our way this time.

Anonymous said...

You mean Lerg is the smaller omission.

Anonymous said...

A big shout-out needs to go to Linesman Paul Tunison, who played along with the student section in awesome fashion last night. After the refs came out before the second period, Tunison stood in front of the south net and playfully smiled and pointed at the net, asking the students if he should go inside of it. When he did, he reached into his pocket, then reached down to the bottom of the net and acted like he had picked something up. He looked at the items in his hand, then skated over to the student section and tossed them a handful of candy. He repeated this before the third period, except with even more candy than before.

I thought it was really funny and I enjoyed seeing a referee (linesman) having fun with the students' antics instead of trying to block them out. I don't know if Tunison has done this before, but he's my new favorite CCHA official.

Anonymous said...

agree with the above sentiments on tunison. it doesn't change the game if you have fun with the students and i'm really glad that he recognized that and had a good time. made for a better game for everyone i'm sure. students, parents, and even wmu fans too

Anonymous said...

so much funny stuff at the game last night. tunnison was great, but so was the kid directly across from the student section... at one point the students noticed he was going nuts and were egging him on to take his shoes off, etc., which led his father to try to tell the students to cut it out in a funny way ... that kid was having a blast.

also, i really loved all the yelling at chris frank. anytime he went anywhere near the puck there were 20 or 30 people just yelling out FRANK in random intervals.

probably from the st. patricks day booze, but the students were on fire last night.

Anonymous said...

How. Much. Time. Is. Left?
One Minute remaining in the period.
No...Thank You.

Anonymous said...

I also noticed that with Tunison. Molina is a good guy, too. Really cool. I also noticed that McInchak was having fun too.

I thought the officiating crew was the best we have seen this season, although Shegos had his moments.

Tim: Any word on Ben Winnett? He left the game friday and rumor is he has a blown out knee.

Good overall effort. I am rooting for NMU to upset Miami so that we get the Alaska/OSucks winner.

Last push for NMU since I think that they are making a heavy run to the WCHA. I'll miss their spirit, but I won't miss the whining about how they don't get any CCHA love.

Anonymous said...

since it's looking less and less likely that we'll be in GR, I think we need to focus our attention on getting to Bridgeport. We need to stay out of Minneapolis. Let Denver play there. We'd have a better shot at getting past NoDak in Bridgeport than Minneapolis.

Anonymous said...

Despite blowing the play dead on what should have been a goal by Caporusso, Shegos did a great job officiating last night. Western came determined to play physical, which is fine, but that kind of thing can easily lead to flaring tempers by both sides and can get out of control if the officials don't keep a lid on things.

I agree Michigan is one of about 5 teams I think has a legit shot of winning it all. I have a feeling it might come down once again to Red's old nemesis Jeff Jackson. Fortunately we match up well with them, with UM having an edge in offense and ND in goal. The defensemen as a group are about even.

Speaking of which, Pearce should be up for the Hobey, with 8 shutouts now the season, which is the most for a NCAA goalie since Ryan Miller's 10 in 2000-01 (and he followed it up with 8 more in 01-02). He's really good.

Pretty amazing that at midseason there were people wondering if we'd even make the tournament and here we are in line for a #1 seed. Yet another outstanding coaching job by Red.

I really hope after the season Billy Sauer goes on to have a fine pro career, he was stuck in an odd situation and handled it extremely admirably. He'll leave behind I think the strangest legacy of any UM player. I was thrilled to see him be able to play in his last game at Yost.

Next few weeks should be fun!

Anonymous said...

I saw Winnet in street clothes at Yost, and he was limping really bad, though I did not see any type of brace to indicate what injury it was.

Packer487 said...

Yeah, I thought the officiating was solid last night, despite the presence of McInchak and Shegos. They even were smart about getting Langlais and the WMU dude out of the game when things started getting feisty.

I just think it's hilarious that we can have a goal disallowed when the play should've been allowed to keep going and praise the officiating. Your CCHA officiating, folks!!

I haven't heard anything on Winnett yet, but it wouldn't shock me if what you heard is right, streaker. Too bad if it's true. I'd still consider him a disappointment overall, but he was playing pretty decently. Fortunately we've got some solid depth at forward.

Pearce should be up for the Hobey--which makes it all the funnier that he was merely CCHA Honorable Mention.

Sauer will end up with the strangest stat line I've ever seen. GAA around 3, and save percentage below 90 his first two years, 30-4-3 with a sub 2 goals against and a .920 or so as a junior, then 5-6-0 with a 2 goals against and a .921 as a senior. People are gonna look at that someday and be like WTF?! He's going to walk out of Michigan with the career goals against and save percentage marks, which is impressive considering the goalies we've had. (He's only keeping those records warm for Hogan though...and then for JACK CAMPBELL!!!!!! :-) )

I wish him nothing but the best down the line. I'd love to see another Michigan goalie in the pros.

That's hilarious about the linesman last night. I used to love when they'd play around with the crowd. Molina really got a kick out of our porno-moustache chants, it seemed like. It's nice that some guys don't take themselves too seriously.