Weekend work-up, Nov. 27, 2011: ghosts of Michigan, Michigan State and Miami picks

I have to admit that I love Thanksgiving weekend — and, no, it’s not just because I love to eat. Most years I get to spend this holiday with my BFF and her family in Columbus, Ohio, and they’ve treated me like one of their own since I met them.
I had to skip Thanksgiving last year in Columbus and this year’s holiday with the old friends did not disappoint. I was greeted like a prodigal daughter, and the talk immediately turned to college hockey … in the half hour everyone could spare before turning all of their attention to Buckeye football. (“So, Paula, what’s the feeling up there in Michigan?” Sometimes, we tolerate a lot for those we love.) There was plenty of discussion of how well — and quickly — Mark Osiecki is revamping the Ohio State program, and one of my BFF’s brothers threw a little Miami hockey talk at me on behalf of RedHawk-loving friend.
When the meal was done and the visit with the whole family was all over, we went back to my BFF’s house where she tucked her small child into bed and I worked on my picks. While I was writing, we chatted about the hockey season and I told her three things that haunted me all weekend:
1. “I’m calling Michigan to win two, but I know the Wolverines will get swept this weekend.”
Being the logical sort, she asked me why I was picking the Wolverines to win twice if I “knew” they would get swept. “Because,” I said, “they’re at home, and I don’t remember the last time they lost four games in a row at home. Besides, I’m stubbornly clinging to the Wolverine team I saw in October — and they were good.”
What happened to that team is something I would like to know. Michigan is now winless in its last six. I thought the Wolverines would come back from their disappointing trip to Ohio Nov. 11-12 buzzing to get back into the thick of it, but they were tepid in their 2-1 loss to OSU Nov. 18 they’ve been lacking something ever since. They allowed four unanswered goals after leading 1-0 at the end of one against Northeastern and they allowed four unanswered goals to begin their 6-3 loss to Union. They still have the fourth-best scoring offense in the nation, so that isn’t the problem.
By the way, the last time UM lost four in a row at home was toward the end of the 1985-86 season.
2. “The Spartans looked really rough in October, but I suspect they’ve come a long way in a little time.”
I saw the Spartans twice in person in October, and they were absolutely a work in progress. There were stretches of MSU’s 5-2 loss to OSU Oct. 21 in which both teams looked like they were playing Midget hockey, with packs of players from each side crowding the puck. Something, apparently, has changed. Since being swept by Lake Superior State Oct. 14-15, the Spartans have earned points (or won, in the case of nonconference play) every weekend. In their last eight games, the Spartans are 6-1-1. This past weekend, MSU defeated and tied No. 3 Minnesota at home, 4-3 and 4-4.
The Spartans beat the Golden Gophers Friday without the help of team captain Torey Krug and forward Greg Wolfe — both key to the MSU offense, even though Krug is a defenseman — because each was serving a one-game suspension following the dust-up at the end of MSU’s 2-1 loss to Northern Michigan Nov. 19.
3. “I’m picking Denver to beat Miami, but I think the RedHawks will bring home the Denver Cup.”
Once again, I was dazzled by the shiny, ranked WCHA opponent when making my pick — against Miami — in the final game of the Denver Cup. After all, going into the week the Pioneers were No. 10 and Miami was unranked. Fail, fail, and fail again. Since their five-game losing streak (Oct. 15-28), the RedHawks are 6-0-2 with Cody Reichard in net for all but one of those games, Friday’s 6-2 win over Providence. That was Connor Knapp’s first action since Oct. 28.
Whatever it was that the RedHawks needed to do in that span, clearly Reichard — whose save percentage climbed above .900 during that stretch — gave them the confidence to do it. In their last two weekends, the RedHawks outscored opponents 18-8, and they netted 10 goals in Denver. If Miami’s defense has solidified and its offense has returned to levels of old, the RedHawks won’t be a mid-pack CCHA team for much longer.
And this haunts me still
After I made those picks and updated the CCHA blog, my BFF and I cracked open a bottle of Michigan wine (really — they make decent wine up here) and talked and laughed the rest of the evening away, the rest of the evening being relatively short because we are neither of us young.
As I sat there, I couldn’t help wondering: Is this what guys do, too, when they get together with their BFFs after a long absence? Open the wine, talk college hockey, complain about their hair?
Discuss below, do the Twitter thing (paulacweston) or email ([email protected]). Be nice, and I’ll respond in kind.