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Stuck In Limbo

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The Wolverines fell flat Friday night, but earned a series split with a dominating performance Saturday.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Michigan 2 - Penn State 3
Michigan 8 - Penn State 1

Eleven games into the season the Wolverines still find themselves searching for an identity. On any given night they can skate with the nation's best, or come out flat and look average. Who is this team? This series was supposed to answer that but after falling short on Friday and winning Saturday in dominating fashion, we find ourselves in the same position asking the same question.

It was almost a feeling of déjà vu. On consecutive nights the Wolverines came out guns blazing getting quality scoring chances on Eamon McAdam but weren't able to finish, before sending Penn State on the power play. That's where the similarities ended. Michigan would succeed a power play goal before watching their wheels fall off, allowing a breakaway and a 2-on-1 to give Penn State a lead they would not relinquish.

It was a different story on Saturday. The Wolverines clamped down on the penalty kill and avoided giving up that momentum killing goal, before a 5 goal third period started by Andrew Copp shorthanded put the game away.

It was a dominating performance offensively but Zach Nagelvoort had to come up big to bail out his blueline, who look slightly improved but still are prone to positional mistakes. The team did respond in a must win game giving some hope this team can finally get started in the right direction. They'll need to build on that with a Rensselaer team who can play just as hot and cold as Michigan coming to town.

Three Keys
  1. Penalty Killing: This area of the game is still not good. The Wolverines only had to kill two penalties on Friday, but the first came at a point in the game where Michigan was dominating Penn State. The Nittany Lions scored just seconds into the power play and 3 minutes later had a 3-1 lead. Saturday they killed 7-of-8 power plays, but the lone power play goal still gave Penn State life before Michigan put them away.
  2. Power Play: The power play was dismal, going 0-for-9 this weekend and falling to 5-of-43 on the season. The stubbornness of sticking with the umbrella formation by putting the puck on the sticks of the defensemen has been hurting this team for the past three years. This team has size and skill to play lower formations closer to the net working through their playmakers, but instead the play continues to be worked high. A year ago Berenson faced a similar dilemma and responded by switching formations, mixing in overload and a 1-3-1 that rejuvenated a dead power play but here we are back to umbrella.

  3. Breaking Out: It was an important weekend for the top three lines and for Mike Downing. JT Compher and Mike Downing finally broke through with two goals each; Boo Nieves scored on a beautiful rush move and Tyler Motte, Andrew Copp, Alex Kile and Max Shuart all continued to get on the scoresheet. After scoring 4 goals a season ago, Alex Kile shares the team lead in goals with Hyman and Copp with 5.