Note: With me being unable to catch either of these games on TV I thought this week I would try a new format where instead of going with a goal-by-goal recap I would do a post with "big picture" takeaways from the weekend. Once games are more readily available on TV (and I am able to attend a few) it will be easier to write some better #Analysis with the eye test included.
This past weekend the Michigan State Spartans were treated to a show in top college hockey, as North Dakota swept the Spartans 3-1, 4-1 this past weekend. The Spartans finish their non-conference slate sitting at 4-7-2 without any marquee wins. With the B1G looking like a possible 1-bid league for the national tournament again (Only Penn State and Michigan are above .500 at this time) the Spartans will need to either get on a tear in the second half or win the league tournament to reach the NCAAs.
5 Takeaways from the past weekend
- This team still needs Jake HIldebrand to be All-World- You can't say the MSU offense has not taken some humongous strides this season. The Spartans currently sit 19th in the country, averaging 3.00 goals per game but have not seen their overall record improve like we all would hope. Now the defense has not helped Hildebrand out to be sure, they once again were victims of defensive zone turnovers leading to goals this past weekend, but Hildebrand has seemed off all season. As I have said HIldy is a sneaky slow starter and this is about the time of year that he turns it on and he needs to do that starting this weekend in Happy Valley. Michigan State will need HIldebrand to climb towards the .930 save percentage he is accustomed to, rather than the .900 he currently sits at.
- Depth scoring needed- The Spartans have seen great seasons by JT Stenglein, Mackenzie MacEachern, and Joe Cox in scoring goals but they need more from their 3rd and 4th lines. Villiam Haag has struggled with injuries and was moved back as a 6th defensemen Sunday. If the Spartans make a tournament run here they will need veteran scorers like Matt DeBlouw and Ryan Keller to work their way into the lineup and contribute.
- Power Play Needed- The Spartans went just 1-for-9 on the weekend in the phase of the game that was their only possible exploitable area. The only B1G teams in the top 20 of penalty killing are Michigan (7), MSU (9) and Wisconsin (19) so if the Spartans can get their special teams going that could be key for the stretch run. I don't understand why the power play is struggling as the top two lines have been performing well for the Spartans, and power play is giving those players even more space to create. I am sure coach Anastos will make this a key down the stretch here.
- Defense Wearing Down- The Spartans came into the season with just 6 defenseman on scholarship and the fear of that being an issue has already come to a head. Chris Knudson (Jr) has not played since the first game against Michigan Tech out with an injury. That Sunday the Spartans played with just 5 defensemen and the fatigue may have played a role as the Spartans surrendered two third period goals to the Huskies resulting in a tie compared to a win. This past weekend on Friday Matt DeBlouw played defense moving back from his normal forward spot and the Spartans moved Haag to defense on Sunday. Both of those players have played defense in power play situations in the past but that is a different beast than marking a man down low in the defensive zone and playing your role on a normal shift. Hopefully Knudson can return to the lineup soon or the 5 defensemen from MSu can be Ironmen because there will be plenty of ice time to go around.
- BTN Plus serves no academic purpose and should be banned- We pay for BTN already in our cable packages. ESPN offers streaming games on their website for free. The fact that BTN makes a cash grab by relegating hockey to BTN Plus for $$$ rather than streaming free is a farce. I am jealous of other programs streaming all their games online while MSU lags behind but that feels more like a Hollis/MSU thing or a BTN contract problem. The B1G Hockey Conference has been a disaster, there is no way around it and the one carrot they hold in front of hockey fans is that we are supposed to be able to watch more games on BTN because of it. Well that's not exactly true and I am ready for this conference to be blown up but that is a long rant for another day.
- The best team in the league #12 Michigan (7-2-2) beat Dartmouth (2-5-1) 7-0 Friday but apparently were downtrodden by the football result on campus Saturday as they could only manage a 1-1 tie.
- Ohio State (3-9) was swept by #6 Nebraska-Omaha (11-2-1) in Omaha 3-1, 6-4.
- Minnesota (4-7) was swept by #7 St. Cloud State (11-3) 3-2, 7-4.
- #19 Penn State (8-2-3) played a single game on Sunday in Philadelphia defeating Vermont (3-9-2) 4-0.