Well folks, we're eight games into this hockey season, which seems like a good sample size to start making some determinations of what this years Spartans team is. Unfortunately, this team seems strongly similar to last year's, anemic on offense and struggling to find any success consistently. This weekend, the Spartans were swept by the Michigan Tech Huskies 3-0, 3-2 (OT), to drop their record to 3-5 on the season. MSU is now 0-4 on the road this season and looking like they will struggle to finish anywhere besides the B1G basement.
On Friday night, the Spartans never seemed to find their road legs and were outworked to a 30-19 shot margin. Now a quick disclaimer here: Neither game was on TV, so my judgments on play are based off of raw stats and the Spartans radio broadcast. Listening to the game, it never seemed like the Spartans were a threat to beat the struggling Huskies. The Huskies took the lead at 5:49 of the first period on a goal by former MSU commit David Johnstone and added two more goals in the third to get to the 3-0 victory margin. Jake Hildebrand in net had nothing he could do on the first and third goals. However, I'm sure he would like the second one back. A shot from the circle found its way between his pads and took the Huskies lead from 1-0 to 2-0 just two minutes into the final frame. With the struggles of this team offensively, a two goal deficit in the third period is a like a death sentence.
Now, for a young team still learning to play on the road, against a team that is jacked for a B1G program on campus, a loss Friday night is not all that surprising. To the Spartans' credit, they showed some resolve and brought a better effort on Saturday to force an overtime game and have a legitimate chance to earn a split. Lineup changes were made as Tanner Sorenson and Brent Darnell were healthy scratches. Inserted into the lineup were forwards David Bondra and Matt Deblouw. Bondra rewarded his coach by getting his first collegiate goal a minute into the second period to knot the score at one. The Huskies scored a power play goal goal with 2.9 seconds remaining to head into the third period up 2-1.
The Spartans once again were resilient as Lee Reimer tipped home a power play goal for the Spartans four minutes into the third to tie the game again at 2. The Spartans held on for the rest of the period and went into overtime with a chance to earn a road split. However, an unfortunate bounce cost the Spartans the game. Blake Pietela threw the puck into the slot from the corner and after a bounce off of Travis Walsh's skate the puck fell right onto the stick of Alex Petan. The talented sophomore made no mistake as he snapped a wrist shot past Will Yanakeff on his blocker side.
Here is where I can fit in among The Only Colors writing fraternity by going a little deeper and using some statistical analysis on this hockey team. Now I won't glaze your eyes over talking about the virtues of Corsi or Fenwick statistics. Both because I know I am a nerd for reading advanced hockey stats and there aren't easily available Corsi stats for college hockey. So I wanted to focus on 2 statistical categories to point out the offensive problems the Spartans have had so far and look ahead to competing in B1G Hockey.
The first thing I wanted to do was look at the goals per game statistic. I decided to throw out the series against American International, since they represent one of the worst teams in college hockey and are not representative of the level of competition the Spartans will play in the B1G. In the six other games this season the Spartans have scored a total of nine goals for an average of 1.5 goals per game. This would rank 57th out of 59 teams nationally and last in the B1G Conference by a full goal. Even with the AIC series (58th nationally giving up 5.40 GPG), the Spartans would still be last in the league at 2.25 GPG. All this while playing the 15, 16, 25 and 49 ranked defenses nationally.
B1G Goals Per Game
- Minnesota 4.38
- Wisconsin 3.83
- Ohio State 3.44
- Penn State 2.71
- Michigan 2.75
- Michigan State 1.5 w/out AIC series, 2.25 with AIC series
Next, I decided to look at the shooting percentages of the B1G hockey teams. Once again I did an analysis including the AIC series and one not including that series. This stat is computed by taking shots taken and dividing that by goals scored. For reference, the average shooting percentage in the NHL in 2013 was 8.85%. The Spartans without the AIC series have taken 161 shots resulting in 9 goals for a shooting percentage of 5.5%. With the AIC series the Spartans have taken 248 shots with 18 goals for a shooting percentage of 7.2%. Unfortunately for the Spartans, no matter which statistic you choose to use they are in the cellar of the B1G.
B1G Shooting Percentages
- Minnesota 12.2%
- Ohio State 11.2%
- Wisconsin 10.5%
- Michigan 8.2%
- Penn State 7.8%
- Michigan State 5.5% without AIC series, 7.2% with AIC series
So, Tom Anastos has his work cut for him trying to get a better offensive output out of his players. One way for a struggling offense to get going is to take advantage of their man advantage opportunities. So far, the MSU power play is 4-39 for a 10.26 PP %. Once again this is good for last in the B1G and trails leader Michigan by more 14 percentage points, as they are operating a 25% PP.
Next Up: After a bye week this week the Spartans play a home and home series with Western Michigan University. Look here this week for an update on MSU's future recruiting classes to try and help cheer us all up.