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Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Sorry about my somewhat prolonged absence. I hope no one did anything rash when deprived of the soothing glow of the blog's constant companionship, but I have excuses: everything I own is broken, including two different computers. Un-breaking them is a time consuming process.

So I'm a little out of sorts. Anyway, let's talk thrilling 6-5 victory over high-schoolers. Not just any high-schoolers, though, the National Team Development Program, who've been cutting a swath of destruction through DI-colleges this year... at least offensively. They tend to give up as many goals (lots) as they score (lots).

I chuckled when MSU lost to said team, but I changed my mind on that. The NDTP is for real. For really real. Michigan was probably playing against five top-ten NHL draft picks last night: Jack Johnson, Phil Kessel, Peter Mueller, Eric Johnson, and Jack Skille. Almost everyone else on the ice will be drafted at some point, and there are some late-first/second type players in Stoa and Mitera, etc. Keep this team together and in two years they'd be wasting everybody.

My impressions of the Michigan recruits on the NDTP:

Jack Johnson: Must have toned down his game to play his future teammates, because he didn't rip anyone's throat out and smash a now-lifeless carcass to the ground. He didn't even think about it. I was a little disappointed given the descriptions I'd heard of his play at the recent U18 tournament and games against UNH, MSU, and Minnesota. I wanted to see him run somebody over. Maybe that little Gerbe kid.

Johnson's non-physical game was very aggressive nonetheless. At one point on a USA PP he ended up in the corner of his offensive zone, battling for the puck for a good 10-15 seconds. When given open ice he rushed into the offensive zone without delay. He'll have to pick his spots doing that in college.

Mark Mitera: Happy happy happy. Mitera is mana from heaven for this Michigan fan: a big, physical defenseman who can skate and positions himself very well. He is exactly what Michigan's defensive corps needs for next year. Hell, he's exactly what they need this year. If he can go out and do nothing else other than mash people into the ground and keep them away from the goalie, I'll be ecstatic.

But wait! There's more! He's tied for second on the team for points by a defensman (5-12-17), behind Johnson. He's got a little two-way action in his game, too.

Jason Bailey: tbarr on the Wolverine predicted that people would love Bailey, and he's right. Bailey was absolutely flying all over the ice on Saturday, finishing every check he could and generally looking like Mike Brown at his most effective. He also made a couple of very nice passes that suggest his slim line of 5-6-11 on the year could be a function of his role on the deep and talented NDTP team and not indicative of his overall offensive talent. He'll be a player opponents hate to deal with.

Zach MacVoy: All right, I admit that MacVoy did not stand out to me in any way. I was trying to track two and sometimes three future Wolverines on the ice at all times while simultaneously watching every move Kessel made. With Johnson plunging into the offensive zone, Bailey smacking people, and Mitera making me giddy with his ability to not screw up, MacVoy sort of blended into the wallpaper. It'll have to wait.

Dan Fardig: Fardig scored on his first shift in Yost after Bailey wasted a Michigan player along the end boards. The puck popped out into the slot and he jammed home the first shot of the game. Instictively, I cried "Dammit, Montoya!" before realizing that Ruden was in net, at which point I decided I would best be served by impolite muttering instead of yelling.

Anyway. Fardig is going to be a walk-on, Charlie Henderson/JJ Swistak redux. That includes the Swistak on D experiment Michigan was forced into a couple years back, when a rash of injuries saw little JJ draw in for about five minutes a game on D. Michigan will have somewhere from 6 to 8 defensemen next year, depending on whether Reilly Olson returns and how capable BU transfer Adam Dunlap proves to be. If that number is closer to 6, Fardig may end up skating backwards.

Oh, yeah... Phil Kessel... sweet fancy Moses. Michigan managed to not get undressed by him (leaving that to Gerbe for the most part) but it didn't really matter. He got loose on a wing once, and stared at a sort-of bad angle shot with Ruden in decent position. Then he just put it in the most unsavable place he could, as if it was nothing. Red light. All I know is we had better keep beating the Gophers in football.

At least the Gophs will be heavily featuring goalie Jeff Frazee, who, to be blunt, sucks. Frazee handled almost nothing cleanly all night, leaving rebound after rebound in the slot on shots that hit his trapper, chest, etc. He let in an unscreened Tambellini shot from outside the top of the faceoff circle (a Tambellini special, to be sure, but still...). When Tamby completed his hat trick with 5.3 seconds left in the game, Frazee flipped out. Flipped out like Patton discovering his son wants to be a hairdresser. He tossed his helmet against the glass, swearing over and over again. When he returned to his net he assaulted it with his goalie stick and threw his water bottle across the ice. Serenity now!

In conclusion: Gopher games in the near future will all end 10-7.