Since the last edition of this particular column Michigan was swept in the Showcase and on the road against CCHA leader Miami before turning it around with 4-2 and 7-3 victories over Nebraska-Omaha. Michigan now stands 11-5-1 on the season at the Christmas break. Their record is a realistic reflection of how they've played.
Argh! Pending; somehow I got two copies of the Friday game on my DVR, and I forgot the magic incantation that makes Conversion Step 2 go. Will update this space and notify on the front page when they become available.
- I think Michigan's problems in the defensive zone have more to do with Eric Werner's departure than anyone could have logically anticipated. Werner tended to gamble when posted at the point, but in his own zone he was at least adequate and when the puck got on his stick and his smooth skating and clean outlet passes were the kind of thing you don't miss until they're gone. Right now Michigan has two, maybe two-and-a-half guys who can come close to replicating that ability: Hunwick, Johnson, and possibly Dest, though he's no Werner. UNO's first goal came after Dest flubbed an easy clearance attempt.
- I'd like to reiterate my seconding of Yost Built's "split Hunwick and Johnson" campaign. I think they'd work better paired with less rambunctious partners, and splitting their ability to do that Werner thing over two pairings would probably help Michigan's breakout issues.
- Andrew Ebbett has been the best player on the team in recent weeks, living up to the C on his chest. Dest's shorthanded goal on Friday was set up by Ebbett's effort and clever passing; Kal's powerplay goal was off an intelligently soft shot that was intended to be deflected on its way in; he kills penalties and gives effort every shift.
- Good to see Kal blast one past the poor, shelled UNO goalie on Saturday. Kal's rumored to have Steve McNair-level nagging injuries, but he was very good this weekend.
- If the video had gone to plan you could have seen Cogliano's shortie on Saturday, which was straight freak nasty: one on one with a defender, Cogs manuevers into position to get a shot off using him as a screen, then rifles top corner against the flow of the goaltender's motion. Ridiculous.
- Yost Built has his own notes for both Friday and Saturday.
Note: now that there's somewhat meaningful data for the numbers, any and all references to polls will be dropped in this space. They're irrelevant since the NCAA hockey tournament's selection and seeding is a strictly mathematical affair. In their stead come KRACH, which is really fleebing complicated, PWR, which is mildly fleebing complicated, and RPI, which isn't complicated at all. PWR is the money rating, the one the NCAA uses for the tourney.
Surprisingly, Michigan stands third in each ranking system, probably because KRACH rates the Michigan schedule #2 in the nation at the moment. Michigan's losses to Wisconsin and Miami don't matter much because no one has been able to beat either team (they stand #1 and #2, respectively)--outside of those ignominious events Michigan features a loss to Minnesota, a loss to UAF, a tie against MSU, and 11 wins.
There are four number one seeds given out by the NCAA each year. Obviously, if the season were to end today Michigan, Miami, and Wisconsin would get three. Guess who would be number four? You get nine chances. Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong.
Lake State(!). Apparently unyoking the Lakers from Crazy Frank Anazalone had a liberating effect not unlike that experienced by the post-Larry Brown Pistons. LSSU is 9-5-4 against a decent-to-good schedule. In other news, Rutgers is in a bowl... they are? Goddammit. In other news, the basketball team is undefeat... okay, okay. In other news, something extremely unlikely but unspecified happened!
Michigan's sweep of UNO draws them four points closer to the league-leading Miami Redhawks. Michigan now trails by six points with a game in hand. Four teams trail Michigan by two or three points in the CCHA's traditional "we almost made the tournament yay" middle. Everyone's chasing Miami, essentially.
More important is the following earthquake-inducing statement: nine CCHA teams have above .500 nonconference records. Seriously:
- LSSU: 4-0-2, including three-point weekends against Bemjidi State(9-4-1) and Colgate(10-2-3)
- Miami: 2-1-1, loss to Nodak, win over 10-5-1 Clarkson
- OSU: 3-2-1, split with CC on the road, but dropped 3 of 4 to Alabama-Huntsville.
- Ferris: 4-2 with a win over Bemjidi
- MSU: 3-2 with a win over Nodak and a split against 8-3-1 Cornell
- UNO: 4-1 with a win over UNH.
- NMU: 3-1
- UAF: 2-1-1 with a win and a tie at Minnesota.
The upshot of all this is great for the CCHA and Michigan in particular. There's a smattering of very good wins, but more important is the regular smacking around of teams like Bemjidi, the ECAC contenders, and Mercyhurst: all those teams have good records against weak competition. The RPI takes both your opponents' record and your opponents' opponents' record into account. Michigan gets bonus credit for playing a team like LSSU because they beat a team with a good record; they do not get the RPI drag the Lakers do for Colgate's trashy schedule. For the first time in years Michigan will be propped up by the relative strength of the league, not dragged down to a #3 seed by it. Now there's the matter of beating 'em with that wonky backline.
The Nonconference Opponents
Uh, yeah... Qunnipiac's quick start (an eight-game winstreak following a season opening sweep at the hands of Michigan) came to a screeching halt. Since that time the Bobcats have lost 7 of 8, the bastards. Play better!
Boston College, on the other hand, is still Boston College. They're 9-4-1 and one of the HE favorites. That win will help us all year. Both Wisconsin and Minnesota are very good teams; our losses to them won't hurt us much against the rest of the world as long as they continue to win. It would be nice if Minnesota's RPI remained securely below ours. That combined with the divergent UAF results will probably keep us in front of them despite our H2H loss.
- In case you were wondering if the SE Michigan sporting zeitgeist extends to Ann Arbor, yes, there were "Fire Millen" chants at both Friday and Saturday games.
Michigan is off until the GLI, at which point whoever's left will wave helplessly at Colorado College forwards. Expect Matt Hunwick and Jason Dest to get run into the ground and Michigan to shift one forward or another back to defense, maybe Ebbett or Fardig. Without five regulars, it'll be an uphill battle all the way.