Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Swept Away

When I was in college, there was a girl who lived on my floor freshman year. When you saw her from a little ways away, you'd think alright, this girl is going to be pretty good looking. Up close? She wasn't ugly, but definitely not as hot as you were expecting/hoping. That led my roommate to coin the phrase "Catherine should be hotter than she is". I bring this up because all that was running through my mind this past week is that this team--in terms of playing ability--should be so, so much hotter than they are.

What did we see this past weekend? We saw a team that has clearly learned nothing from the position that they put themselves in just last year. We saw a team whose seniors are not playing their best hockey--or even within shouting distance of their best hockey--at this point in the season. We saw another team--our opponent--whose seniors are their best players are who showed it time and time again. We saw more stupid penalties. We saw special teams that I'd call "Un-Michigan-like" except that they've been subpar for long enough (at least on the Power Play) that they were decidedly Michigan-like special teams.

We currently rank 32nd in power play percentage. Freaking Alabama-Huntsville, who is 4-24-2 this year, is in the top 25. They have 58 goals in 30 games and their power play has scored 4 more times than ours. The PK is 39th.

Was the officiating terrible this weekend? Hell yes. But bad calls are amplified when you can't kill penalties. And you tend not to notice the bad calls in your favor when your power play can't capitalize.

I don't want to assign too much importance to one weekend of games, but it was kind of alarming to watch them lose a game that they had no business losing and then completely fail to show up the next night. You can't write the team off given that they just have to get hot for four games to win a national championship, but what we're seeing is that good teams make you pay for bad habits. Taking dumb penalties against the #3 power play in the country is a great way to lose hockey games. In the tournament, most everyone is good.

The sad thing is, they actually played a pretty good hockey game for most of Friday. Miami did nothing 5-on-5 in that game. The Wolverines took a 1-0 lead on a play started by Brown. He was carrying the puck back toward the point, dropped it down to a streaking Moffatt who slid the puck through the crease to Treais for a tap-in. After the first, we were outshooting Miami 16-6 (it helped that we had 3 PPs). Really, though, it's gotta be the worst thing in the world for this team to get three PPs in a period. You know we're not scoring, and then we're not getting a call the rest of the game.

Miami made it 1-1 on a power play created by an absolutely abysmal goalie interference call on Luke Moffatt. He got drilled into the goalie by the defenseman and yet the arm went up. Michigan got running around, Miele had the puck at the right point and sent a pass diagonally to Carter Camper to Hunwick's right. Easy goal.

Treais made it 2-1 on a harmless looking shot from the point that somehow beat Reichard. That was the lone mistake that he made on the weekend. He was really good outside of that one.

Another awful call led to Miami's second goal. Derek DeBlois was bringing the puck out of the zone. He got hauled down. Arm goes up. But no, it's Scooter Vaughan headed to the box. They claim he hooked the guy that hauled down DeBlois. I don't buy that one for a second. A shot from the point deflected off Bennett's skate and then right on to Miele's stick. Nothing that Hunwick could do on that one.

Cannone then toe-dragged around Pateryn and found Tomassoni back door for another goal. You'd have thought Tomassoni was Raymond frigging Bourque with the way he looked this weekend. I can't do justice to how good that move was by Cannone, though.

The RedHawks later added an empty-netter for the 4-2 final.

Really, the highlight of the game was getting to see the clip of BU's comeback yet again. That really doesn't ever get old.

It's not like the chances weren't there. Glendening had a breakaway early, Caporusso had a breakaway off a great feed from Wohlberg, we hit the post and Reichard stopped the rebound with his toe, even though I don't think he ever saw it.....guys just aren't putting the puck in the net when they get the chance. I swear, we're probably something like 0 for our last 15 on breakaways. It's probably a good thing we don't make many shootouts.

But the penalties. God, the penalties. At least three in the offensive zone, two with possession, one with us already on the power play. The capper was David Wohlberg, who took one of the worst penalties I've ever seen. Michigan was down 3-2 with 3 minutes left in regulation. He's racing to try to negate an icing and the defenseman got in his way a little bit. They blow the play dead and Wohlberg just blasts the defenseman into the boards. No reason for it. Yes, the kid rolled around like he was dead. But you can't take that penalty. You know they're calling it. And so Michigan ended up having to kill a penalty for 2 of the remaining 3 minutes. I swear he should've sat the next game for that one. Maybe we don't have enough depth to sit a player for doing something like that, but it was the type of play that's been typical of this team the past couple of years. Something has to change.

Other stuff from Friday:
-I liked the way they took advantage of the hybrid icing, chucking the puck down there knowing that Hagelin would beat his man to the faceoff dot. He would've had a great scoring chance, but the guy pulled him down and got sent to the box.
-Pateryn played a breakaway about as well as you possibly can. He caught up to Vaive just enough that he could sprawl out, and use his size/stick to reach out and knock the puck away without making even a bit of contact. It was gorgeous.
-In addition to stealing all of the Yost chants (I know, we stole them too...), playing William Tell, and apparently using the same intro music as Michigan for warm-ups, what do they play late in the game? Jump Around. I was half waiting for Miami to honor their former Hobey Baker winner Kevin Porter, chant "It's Great....To Be....A Michigan Wolverine" to celebrate the sweep, and then retire Ray Bourque's jersey. Inventing tradition, just like the Avs!
-Hunwick was really good. He couldn't do anything on any of the three Miami goals. The first one was unstoppable. He has to come out of his net further than a lot of goalies because of his size. It works for him to be aggressive. But when they connect on a kitty-corner pass to the backdoor, there's no stopping it. The second goal was a bad bounce off Bennett's skate, and the third was a gorgeous move by Cannone and another backdoor feed that there's no stopping. He made some really great saves.

Now to Saturday.

The Wolverines got an early power play that they should have declined, but it was Miami that ultimately got on the board first. Hunwick had to come way out on a shot that ended up behind the net. He was unable to get back into the crease in time to block Reilly Smith's wraparound.

Miami made it 2-0 off a gorgeous pass from Miele that sprung Vogelhuber on a breakaway. He made a nice move, but Hunwick stayed with him. Vogelhuber clipped Hunwick on the way by, Shawn wasn't able to find the rebound and Smith put it in. In the meantime, Vogelhuber fell when he clipped Hunwick's pad. Merrill ended up on top of him. The ref, who wasn't looking at Merrill, turned, saw Merrill on top of Vogelhuber, and called a trip. Perfect example of a ref guessing about what happened.

Miami got a 2-minute 5-on-3 in the middle of the second period and you could pretty much put the goal on the board before they even dropped the puck. Sure enough, Miele hit Cannone on the same play Camper scored on the day before. In terms of two penalties leading to a full 5-on-3, those were pretty weak.

That was pretty much all she wrote. Michigan had a few chances but stuffed them up (Rust on a breakaway, Wohlberg went offside on a would-be breakaway, Wohlberg hit the defenseman with a point blank shot while the d-man was laying on the ice). That was really about it. We probably didn't have 5 great scoring chances the entire game.

Other thoughts:

-Line changes, not so good. I'm pretty sure the second goal was off a blown change, and Friday night, Camper would have had a breakaway off a bad change but he was just a tick offside.
-Langlais (and Burlon as well) could not have chucked the puck into the defender's shin pads any more than he did this weekend. It was unreal. Shot from the point? Blocked. 3 on 1 with two open teammates? Shoot it into the D's feet. He was clearly getting frustrated. 
-Lazy, 150-foot backhands through three people? Those don't usually work.
-I thought DeBlois was really solid this weekend--and I seem to remember thinking the same thing against FYS last week. Didn't notice him much in the early part of the year, but he's doing some good things now. I think he'll be a pretty decent player for us.
-Miami: Take the fall! Act hurt! Get indignant!
-Red hated the officials this weekend. Quote from Friday: "We're taking too many penalties........or we're getting called for too many penalties." Quote from Saturday: "Either we're shooting ourselves in the foot or we're being shot in the foot."

So we got a whopping 0 points out of our games in hand on Notre Dame. We now sit 2 points behind Miami (still with 2 games in hand) and 1 point behind Notre Dame. This week we get Ohio State, Miami gets 4th place Western Michigan, and Notre Dame has BGSU.

Other thoughts from MGoBlog. Jason from MHNet gives his thoughts on the disappointing senior class and the debacle of a game Saturday. He also has a recap of The Red Berenson Show


Anonymous said...

Ugh that goalie interference... Words don't do justice how bad that call was. Moffatt was standing still, when not one, but two Miami players went for him, knocked him into the goalie, the ref right there did nothing and the back ref sees a Miami player down and calls the penalty. I get the whole 2 ref system thing, but there has GOT to be some sort of guidelines for what they can and can't call. 75% of the time, when there's a really bad call, it's by the back ref. There's gotta be some channel of communication, some hierarchy of command, or they should just go back to 1 ref, because it's frankly embarrassing.

You know what else is embarrassing? Michigan, for 130 of the last 180 minutes they've spent playing a hockey game. You know what else embarrassing? Hagelin denying that Miami has players not named Miele. I don't like Miami much either and Miele is really, really good, but come on Carl. There were a lot more Miami players that showed up this weekend than Michigan players. Maybe chirp less and focus more on figuring out how to make your team look like they know what they're doing.
Rant over.

If you think the after-game quotes by Red were bad, look over his Radio show podcast from tonight.
"There were people at the game, Ira, that would tell you that it was the worst refereed series they've ever seen. I thought that happened in the Michigan basketball game, but apparently it happened at our game too. I'm not going to say that, but I'm telling you what other people said. People that know a lot about hockey."

I really, REALLY hope that when Red retires (please never retire, Red!), he does like a special hour (or 2 or 3...) segment on some major network, where he just bashes the refs he's had to deal with over the years. With his Jack Adams prominently displayed in the background, special appearances by Babs, Bowman and maybe some of his other good friends in the business and close ups on the jewelry shop he owns. It won't happen, but not only would it be sweet, sweet retribution, it might be enough of an impetus for competent officiating, at least some of the time. One can dream.

Reed said...

We used to say "Good from afar, but far from good."

Kevin Holt said...

Since Hunwick needs to come so far out, our defense HAVE to be in the passing lanes and protect the net. We protected him SO well last year during the big run, because we had to. Now he's the starter, so it seems like they've forgotten he's a walk on. He's amazing, but the defense needs to help him out for what isn't his fault. For what it's worth, Pateryn shouldn't have challenged and lunged so far at Cannone during that toe drag, but it was a sick move. He went for a check where he wouldn't have been able to lay anyone out instead of playing more solid D.

I now realize why Red didn't prefer the penalty over the penalty shot when given the choice against FYS. Our PP is basically a disadvantage now because it just allows the other team to ice the puck freely. Add that to the fact that Lynch needs to get going, and there you have it. Red's a genius. It's kinda like picking between two evils, a shitty recent PP or a shitty recent breakaway history.

I never thought in my 21 years of hockey-laden life that I would ever say having a powerplay or penalty shot would be a bad thing. Screw this.

I have hope though, we DID just have a long streak, and Friday looked good. We just needed to go ahead by about 4 in the first period while we were trouncing them. I disagree about Reichard, I thought he looked like a fish out of water on Friday. He kept flopping around and getting lucky. And, I don't know if I'm crazy or if anyone else saw it, but I saw a shot that we took and could SWEAR he made a toe save INSIDE the net. They never showed a replay, but it was a ridiculous toe save that might have been his best of the weekend. My eyes told me immediately: "WAIT, wasn't his pad IN THE NET??" They never showed it, though. Maybe because it went in? /tinfoilhat