Three things as the regular season wanes

Two of my observations this week come from a single post-game press conference.

1. Red Berenson thinks that this Michigan team has potential — as in postseason potential.

The Michigan coach never said as much outright, but the way he talked about his squad after the Wolverines completed their sweep of the Badgers Saturday evening said everything that wasn’t articulated. While Berenson called the team “a work in progress,” he also said, “We’ve had some really good moments and then some not-so-good moments, but I think you can just see it getting better month to month. Penalty killing has been a concern. It’s getting better as well. The power play can be dangerous. It certainly looked like an old-time Michigan hockey team.”

An “old-time Michigan hockey team” is code for a team that can pour the puck into the net — and that’s what this team has the potential to do. The Wolverines scored eight goals against Wisconsin, turning up the heat in Saturday’s win with three third-period tallies. The Wolverines are averaging 3.97 goals per game — down from the four-plus they were scoring for weeks on end, but still top in the country — and if Michigan gets the goaltending it needs, the team will indeed be dangerous. That power play, incidentally, is third-best (25.2 percent) in the nation.

More than anything, it’s the look in Berenson’s eye when he talks about old-time Michigan hockey that is intriguing. He’s a man who believes.

2. Mike Eaves is feeling a little bit like a broken record.

Don’t believe me? Ask him. “It’s like a broken record and they’ve heard it many times before. We just didn’t go out and execute.”

That’s what Eaves said after Wisconsin was swept by the Wolverines. It’s not just that Eaves was conveying to the press — which consisted of Wisconsin State Journal reporter Andy Baggot and me — that he and his coaching staff have delivered the same message repeatedly to the Badgers, but that Eaves feels as though he’s answering the same questions over and over and over again about the team, after nearly every game. It was a palpable frustration from a man whose program won the first-ever Big Ten playoff championship a season ago, a team that now sits in the cellar of league standings.

The Badgers didn’t play poorly and they’re certainly improved from where they were in the first half of the season, but Wisconsin is still making rookie mistakes — for lack of a better phrase — when possessing the puck. Leaving goaltender Joel Rumpel out in the cold doesn’t help them, either.

3. The Big Ten Tournament is anyone’s game — still.

After Minnesota split with Michigan State and Ohio State swept Penn State, it should be pretty clear that the tournament in Joe Louis Arena just shy of three weeks away can go to anyone in this league. Yes. Even Wisconsin. My money’s still on Michigan State.

And a bonus observation.

The renovations to Yost Ice Arena are stunning. All of the technical updates to the arena are impressive, but the crowning jewel is the highlighting of the architecture itself. Exposing the arched windows after they’d been bricked up for decades was one of the smartest decisions the university made. I brought someone to his first game at Yost Saturday afternoon, and he stopped dead in his proverbial tracks when he walked in and saw the place, light filtering in through the windows.

55 COMMENTS

  1. hey Paula ganafu is right, there is no way Miami can take 2nd in the ccha. Miami is locked into third. Michigan will finish 2nd or first depending on tonight’s results. I think you should look into AARP…

  2. Wow how does the Shephard family keeps thier jobs….Someone need sto tell me what they have on Mcleod. Oh yeah Mcleod is equally incompetent. 

  3. Is the glass slipper coming off the Cinderella season of Penn State or is it because they were not playing at Pegula this past weekend? Tough final two weeks of the regular season with MI at home and MN on the road. A six game losing streak is certainly possible.

    • As any hockey fan or someone who played the game it is waaaaaaay harder to win in late February and March than it is to win in October and November. It seems Penn State is experiencing some of that now. Also, I am impressed with Gadowski’s coaching other than his handling of the goalies. Play a guy until he loses and then switch, not only does not establish a #1 goalie, but also could effect long term confidence, make a mistake and lose and your out. I don’t see that as beneficial to the team, but I am sensitive to goalies having been one.

  4. Could not ask for a better season from the Big Ten and, especially, Wisconsin. Just an all out let down, top to bottom. Added to the fact that it seems like no one really cares about Big Ten hockey – you can get a t-shirt and a ticket to the Big Ten Championship for $19 on Groupon. Such a classic Big Ten gimmick. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

    • I love how hurt old WCHA teams (mainly North Dakota fans) still are about the Big Ten splitting off. Never missing an opportunity to relish in the B1G having an off season.
      It’s not your fault North Dakota….it’s not your fault…..it’s not your fault

    • A gimmick to create an affordable family experience? So Einstein what would be your marketing plan??? GS, it is ok to create entertainment for families, the working man, the less fortunate parent whose child wants to experience ice hockey, or God forbid, the betterment of the game. What makes this country great is that we are allowed to speak our peace, just please think next time prior to pressing enter…

      • If you think the Big Ten exists to cater to “the betterment of the game” or “the working man”, fair enough. Didn’t expect to offend you with my comment, apologies.

    • It goes both ways. They gave out free tickets to the NCHC tourney to all the coaches that attended a USA hockey clinic last year in Minneapolis. More than half the coaches still turned them down.

    • Hard to disagree with GeauxSioux here, and the multitude others, on the disappointment of the B1G hockey experiment. I miss the old WCHA. And am a bit jealous of the NCHC level of competition. But I’m most disappointed in the tv coverage and broadcasting, pretty bad. Oh well, nothing a darn thing anyone that posts to these boards can do about it. The tides of public opinion always swing and memories are short, so I’m sure there will be a day when the tune will be different. On another note, I’m highly impressed with that shrugging-smiley-meh-face that GeauxSioux busted out. Points for originality and mastery of the US-english keyboard haha

  5. At this point it looks like Minnesota is most likely to win the Big Ten. I’m a Michigan fan so I’d love for that to not be true, but with Michigan @PSU and then home-and-home with MSU versus Minnesota being @OSU and then vs.PSU, it looks likely Minnesota may go 4-0. Michigan will be lucky to go 3-1

    • Given the inconsistencies of both teams during the course of the year, I think that the title is up for grabs. OSU is playing their best hockey of the year and I don’t think those point on the road are gimmes as they may have earlier in the year. I do think that the Gophers will be motivated against Penn State given what happened to them at Pegula.

      • The Gophers need to focus on Ohio State first in my opinion. The last two weekends they’ve had chances to either widen their lead or keep pace with Michigan and they’ve lost both times. They’re simply not good enough to overlook anyone at this point. Add the fact that OSU just swept Penn St and I’m more concerned about this weekend than I would have been 1 or 2 weeks ago.

        • Couldn’t agree more. While the Gophers have played very well as of late and were robbed of points in the Saturday game against Penn State, they did not play a good game Friday night against Michigan State. Many turnovers and a lot of uninspired play. Michigan State did play better, but we played worse. I will give them a pass on that game as you can have a bad game now and then, but they do need to play well as 5 on 5 scoring, penalty killing and team defense all remain concerns for this team.

    • Minnesota would have to go 4-0 and Michigan would have to be at best 2-2 for Minnesota to win the conference. I don’t see either of those things happening.

    • Hey, if MSU can go 4-0………. Two with the WISCO Badgers and then a home and home with the AAJC. How nice would it be to deny the weasels a championship in their barn. That would just make my year. I do respect Red. I really do, but that doesn’t mean I have to like them.

  6. A few items about the week-end.
    Item 1: MSU, time and time again is proving to be a Jekyll and Hyde team. Just don’t which one we will get. The only constant is Hildebrand’s play.

    Item 2: The announcers for the B10 are beyond bad. One was talking about coach Woog helping him (which is a great, great story), but was doing it for over thirty seconds while play was going on. Come on, that is a between period or play stoppage item.

    Item 3: Why are there not ‘Arena Reporters’ at all of the B10 arena’s?
    It would seem that an intern or two could be found, who could provide USCHO recaps for ALL the B10 games. Not just the ones that Paula and Drew can make it to.

    Item 4: I’m old, yes I know that, but I do miss first round conference tournemant play at the campus sites. It was electric. Fun. Energizing. And now, not so much. That is one bad thing about the B10 and just six teams.

        • I liked Hankinson the best, but sounded like he didn’t really want the job, and was just filling in when they needed him.
          Despite the poor announcing, I would prefer to see the beginning of the game on the tv I spent good money buying, including the first three goals without having to go get my tiny laptop, log on, find the game, then plug into the tv, only because the geniuses at the little 6 network can’t figure out how long a BB game lasts, schedule a buffer for OT, or delay the broadcast …

    • I think Michigan, Minnesota and Penn State suffer the same affliction. Inconsistency.
      They are terrible, the only consolation for Gopher fans is when they are on FSN, those announcers are worse. Clymer overlaps. What is funny is that while he was a Gopher player he was one of the largest detractors about playing for him. Also that is my major gripe with most of the announcers, is that they go off on their little stories about other things, which would be fine between plays, but during the play they always miss out on important action. I timed the current Gopher announcer a few years back against UNO and he called play-by-play for just under 3 minutes of the first period. The rest was garbage about nothing.
      Also there used to be recaps for jyst about every game now we are hard pressed to get them at all, let alone important games.
      Six team leagues are not really exciting, it was that way when the CCHA started out and it is that way now with the B1G.

    • I look forward to the online game recaps also, since the big daily papers sometimes publish little more than a scoring recap. I think some college student would find it fun to have their own byline,

  7. Could Omaha get swept this weekend, not make it to the target center, and still make the NCAA’s? Seems that if that happened they wouldn’t, being at 13th in the pairwise already. Wow, they had a good start to the season and obviously have talent

    • Omaha will lose two and be out of the NT. UMD wins both games and gets into the NT. The bigger question will be the NT regionals. I did not like the last hypothetical West regional at all, I don’t care if MN is having a bad year. Btw, is it possible for DU, UND, and SCSU to end up in the same side of the NT? I.e., could all 3 end up in the FF based on tourney seating? Let’s assume all three teams sweep this weekend.

      • You wouldn’t want to crush Minnesota in St. Paul in front of thousands of MN fans?! That sounds like a good time to me! haha Well if SCSU and UND both stay as #1 seeds and Denver continues its hot streak, they could join us as #1 seeds thus we would all be at different regional’s thus we could all be in the FF together :) That is if Providence, Michigan, and BC have a bad showing in their own conference playoffs…

    • Yeah, they started out great, but against the weaker part of their conference schedule, and their non-con isn’t anything special.
      Omaha’s saving grace is the strength of the conference they play in. They’re on the verge of being swept by 3 of the top 6 teams in the country, three weekends in a row. If UNO can manage a split or tie tonight and split or win a first round series, again vs, one of those Top 6, they could still get in.
      Teams below keep winning, but haven’t jumped them yet. Just crazy.

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