In what was clearly a departure from both last Friday’s game against Michigan State, and the celebratory mood that surrounded the old barn tonight, the dour finish has left a bad taste in just about everyone’s mouth. Defensive collapses, a stagnant offense with several key players making little-to-no impact, and surprising lack of urgency late in games has doomed this season’s edition of Michigan Hockey. I refuse to apply any type of label to this team, as we are only 10 games or so into this young season, but I will say a lack of leadership, clutch goal-scoring, and general awareness of defensive play has got me concerned. I’ve been going to Yost since ’98, and never have I seen a series of games this subpar. Who will be there to provide the “anchor”? What is this team? Where are they going? We don’t know just yet, but Red can work wonders, and I firmly believe that this Michigan team, or any one for that matter, will never just lay down and call it quits. Yes, improvements need to be made, morales need to be raised, but it can be done.
In what was obviously a very brief post-game press conference, here are some quick snippets below.
Red on his team’s play…”Obviously, we’re not in a very good place right now. I liked how we started the game, it was a very tight game, and then we make some really bad plays late in the 3rd, and it killed us. One of our defenseman (Moffie) made a bad pass behind our net, and that gave them the lead. Will we panic? No, we won’t. But this team has to start making better decisions with and without the puck.”
Kevin Lynch on if the team is fighting confidence…”I wouldn’t call it confidence issues. I would say that we just had some tough plays in the 3rd period that really hurt us. We have a lot of talented guys, we know what we do can, but what’s really rough is that half the guys are playing well, the other half aren’t. We’re not putting together a full 60 minutes right now, and that’s extremely frustrating.”
- The first period started our really well for Michigan, with some quick chances with Copp generating several quality chances; Daniel Milne just missed setting up PDG with a sweet backdoor pass on the PP. Unfortunately, “just missed” became the theme of tonight’s game. On the other side of the puck, the PK did some solid work getting sticks in the passing lanes, and denying the Notre Dame forwards easy access to the blue line. Notre Dame opened the scoring with a wrister from the circle that Racine would probably like to have back; alongside Trouba, he was probably our best player tonight. Copp and Selman also earned their ice time with a handful of scoring chances that by themselves represented our offense for tonight. Yes, it was bad. I won’t get into a full recap, but I wanted to use this bullet to discuss the offense. I don’t know if this team has an offensive identity, or any kind of recognizable cohesion. Oftentimes, they appear lost, confused, and lacking hustle to get to loose pucks; Notre Dame routinely beat us to loose pucks, won battles along the boards, and outskated us tonight. I feel as though we lack the go-to scorer; other than AJ, who can we count on? Guptill and PDG often disappear for periods on end, and the freshmen are still finding their way around out there. Chris Brown’s absence is cavernous. The PP went 0-5, and was pedestrian and predictable in its execution. More movement is desired, please.
- Jacob Trouba’s goal in the 2nd period may have escaped radar. Jack Johnson even tweeted about it. Trouba picked up a loose puck and deployed a rocket launcher into the top corner of the net. JACOB TROUBA, THE DESTROYER OF WORLDS.
- Defensive zone awareness of this team is its’ achilles’ heel, which is ironic, considering that before the season started, we all thought it’d be the strength. More than anything, I’m looking forward to Merrill bringing some veteran presence and stability to the pairings. We need it, SEVERELY. The defense is not physical enough, they don’t fend off forwards very well, and they’re not appearing to communicate and make the smart play out of the zone. As it turns out, for the majority of the time, the exact opposite occurs. A puck is passed right to the opposition; a no-look pass lands squarely on a forward’s stick; pucks that should be going out along the wall are instead sent right into traffic. DeBlois, Clare, and Trouba all contributed positively with active sticks to knock the biscuit out of harm’s way. But other than that…sheesh. Passes that didn’t connect to a teammate; blind feeds that went to Notre Dame forwards; odd-man rushes where Racine had to bail them out. Coup-de-gras had to be Moffie’s head-scratching giveaway that sealed the win for the Irish. As Racine plays the puck, he gives it to Moffie, who decided to backhand it right to the Notre Dame forward, who promptly deposited the puck into the cage. Not long after, Michigan’s defense is caught standing around again, and the Irish make them pay by firing a loose puck into the top of the net to put the nail in the coffin. In a few words: this blue line is oblivious and leaderless.
I try to be as honest and objective as possible, and I delivered that in my opening. I can’t recall a Michigan team playing this poorly in their own end. As I’ve grown and matured, I’ve made the effort to take off my Maize and Blue goggles more and more. But I will end by saying that this Michigan Hockey team is leaderless, mistake-prone, cannot finish games, and astounds you with some of its poor decisions. There is a lot of season left to be played, and certainly, time to fix what an awful start to the season this has been, losing games at home. The team needs to be sharper, focused on details, and communicating and doing what countless other Michigan teams have done to achieve success. In the words of one of those great sports cliches: one step at a time.