Michigan’s season-long theme of “close, but no cigar” holds true once more. Coming into the Rutgers game, I thought the Wolverines would have a chance to pick up their second win of the year, but it would be tough to actually pull off the feat. That held true in Piscataway.
From the official box score, a look at the tempo-free stats:
|Faceoff Wins||8||Faceoff Wins||18|
|Offensive Efficiency||.346||Offensive Efficiency||.419|
Given that this game was played at a snail’s pace, Michigan’s nine-goal output is pretty impressive. Unfortunately, the defense similarly unimpressive. Both Michigan and Rutgers set season-highs for offensive efficiency, and only Denver, Air Force, and Mount St. Mary’s were better against Michigan’s defense than Rutgers was.
Given that Rutgers entered the game as one of the country’s worst offenses, that’s not a good thing. Of course, when both teams score more than you’d expect in a slow-paced game… sometimes weird things just happen.
Michigan got killed in the possession game by a very poor performance on faceoffs (about which more in a moment), and an inability to ride Rutgers into any turnovers on the clear. Since I didn’t have a chance to watch the game, I can’t speak to whether that’s a strategy intentionally employed or just the result of poor play.
In-depth tempo-free stuff from TempoFreeLax:
We shall start with faceoffs. Michigan performed pretty well through the first three quarters, winning eight of 18 draws (.444). However, in the final frame, during which Rutgers turned a one-goal advantage into the final four-goal margin, Michigan went 0-for-8 (.000), allowing the Scarlet Knights to dominate possession and put the game away. Neither Michigan nor Rutgers provides full boxscores with play-by-play, but I’m assuming RU switched up faceoff guys after the opening draw of the third quarter, and Blake Burkhardt dominated (12/14) where Joseph Nardella (6/12) simply couldn’t solve Brian Greiner.
For Michigan, assists were at a serious premium. This is something I plan to take a closer look at in the offseason, but I’m working on a theory that better offenses assist on a greater percentage of their goals. Michigan’s three assists (by Will Meter, Zach Dauch, and Jason Davis) on nine goals isn’t particularly strong. Seeing as how it was the Wolverines’ most efficient offensive day, it’s easy to say “shut up Tim, you’re wrong,” but I think the output could have been even better.
As for the goals themselves, Trevor Yealy, Willie Steenland, and Thomas Paras had two apiece. Zach Dauch’s goal made him the only Wolverine with each type of point on the day. While Yealy and Paras tied for the team lead in scoring, they took seven and nine shots, respectively, so they weren’t particularly efficient.
Emil Weiss got absolutely peppered in net, making 16 saves while allowing 13 goals. His defense hasn’t exactly done him a lot of favors this season, so going forward when they (presumably) improve, his experience in 2012 can either shatter his psyche or make him a better goalie because he’ll be used to standing on his head, and won’t have to do it anymore.
One area where Weiss was a liability was in the clearing game. The Wolverines failed four clears, and Weiss had three turnovers. My speculation is that three of the four failed clears were at least in part his responsibility. He’s still the better-clearing goalie of the two we’ve seen this year.
Kevin Hover and Scott Klimchak had big offensive days for Rutgers, with three and five goals, respectively, while each adding an assist. As mentioned in the preview, Nick DePaolera (4 assists) was the big feeder on the day.
This game was one of several in a row where the opposing goalkeeper was below .500 in save%. On this day, it was Joseph Donnelly saving just .400 of shots faced. I’m not sure of the reason for that, but there are a few likely hypotheses. Does Michigan get shots off so rarely that goalies are surprised when they do? Or are the goalies just surprised when those shots are on net? Is Michigan’s offensive scheme actually really good at creating open looks for shooters? It’s tough to say without seeing the games live, but it’s clear that something is going well for Michigan.
The Wolverines have a week off to rest (and for many of them, graduate from college) before they head to Chapel Hill, N.C. to close out the regular season. With Michigan’s talent deficit relative to the Tar Heels, I’m not certain that the extra week of rest does them many favors.
Since that’s the season’s final game (last I heard, the NCAA isn’t handing out at-large bids to 1-13 teams), I should be able to start putting a bow on the season shortly after it, and exploring where Michigan can improve – besides everywhere – and where they have building blocks in place.