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The Numbers Behind MSU’s 0-6-0 Record in Big Ten Play

Michigan State’s play has been disappointing all season. However, the winless, tieless record in Big Ten Play is perhaps the most disappointing stat.

NHL: New York Rangers at Dallas Stars Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

On 26 November the Spartans left Grand Forks, North Dakota with a win and a tie against a strong North Dakota squad.

This weekend could have been a turning point for an MSU team in desperate need of momentum heading into Big Ten play after a lethargic non-conference performance. Since then, MSU is 0-6-0 with only one loss coming by a goal (a 5-4 loss to Michigan in OT at the Great Lakes Invitational).

The 0-for record is obviously alarming. But the play that has contributed to this record is even more alarming.

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Date opponent result PP Opponent PP
Date opponent result PP Opponent PP
12/9 Minnesota 2-4 L 0/2 0/5
12/10 Minnesota 2-4 L 0/2 2/3
01/06 @Wisconsin 1-5 L 0/4 1/4
01/07 @Wisconsin 1-5 L 1/3 1/6
1/13 @PSU 2-5 L 1/3 0/3
1/14 @PSU 3-5 L 1/5 2/5
PP% 15.7 PK% 76.9
MSU Big Ten Performance. Game vs Michigan in GLI not included. All stats courtesy of the USCHO.

There are a few things to work with here. One of the more optimistic stats is that MSU’s penalty killing unit has kept some games from being flat-out embarrassing. On the other hand, the power play unit has no punch to speak of. That is a major problem for a team that struggles to score at even strength. If Michigan State cannot figure out the power play moving forward, an 0-for performance could be a harsh reality for the Spartans.

The glaring issue for me is in net. Goaltending has been an issue all season. In conference play, MSU allows an average of 41 shots per game. That is a big part of the problem. SPG could be inflated due to being on the penalty kill as often as the Spartans are but 41 is still a ton of shots, and the goaltending simply is not good enough to win games when the other team takes that many shots. Junior goalie Ed Minney has a save percentage of .893 through the first six conference games. You can blame defense to a point; but at this level of hockey, your goalie simply has to play better.

Now for the forwards. In my three years of watching MSU hockey, even strength scoring has been the most frustrating issue. That being said, MSU has two promising young players in sophomore Mason Appleton (9G, 10A) and freshman Taro Hirose (4G, 10A). Their performances are certainly cause for optimism moving forward. Aside from them, there have not been many stand-out players in the offensive zone. Sophomore Zach Osburn has been solid offensively from the blue line. While it does say something that MSU has yet to be shutout this year, the offense needs to produce more. You won’t win many games when you’re consistently scoring less than three goals.

Looking at the roster, there are quite a few young players on a team that certainly has upside moving forward. However, this year has been rough in all phases of the game. Improvements from the net-out need to be made starting with this weekend’s home-and-home with Michigan. At just 1-5, the Wolverines are in the midst of a down year. This weekend is the perfect opportunity for the Spartans to turn it around and finish the season strong.