Adjusting To Olympic Ice
During the Wisconsin series the Wolverines started the first game slow. It took half a game for them to adjust to a wider ice surface and almost cost Michigan a game.
There was no comeback in Minnesota. The Gophers execution was nearly flawless as they exploited Michigan's inexperience in all three zones on a bigger ice surface. They backed off the Michigan defenseman and opened up the neutral zone for easy carry-ins, attacking the middle of the ice and taking advantage of the Michigan defensemen unable to handle the extra responsibility.
In the offensive end Michigan did the opposite. They attacked the outside, trying to go wide down the boards with speed. The Gopher blueline had no problems using the boards to pinch the Wolverine forwards and they fired harmless shots all weekend from the outside lanes and the far edges of the faceoff circles. When they did get 2-on-1 opportunities in the Saturday game, none of them resulted in even a shot on goal.
The worst thing that could happen to this team right now was the reemergence of their Jekyll-And-Hyde goalie performances.
After three good games from Zach Nagelvoort it looked like he would lock down the starting job, then he imploded. The Michigan blueline didn't do a great job with their coverages, but when they needed a save he wasn't there. The saves he needed to make found the net.
Steve Racine looked great Saturday, but we'll find out Friday against Ohio State if it can be sustained. Their postseason future depends on it.
This series was an example of how important Travis Lynch is to this team. With 3 centers in the Friday lineup and Andrew Copp leaving the Saturday game, the Wolverines were worn out cycling centers to the 4th line and playing at a pace they hadn't seen since Lynch has been out.
This team will now have to wait on the status of Andrew Copp, who left Saturday's game after a collision into the boards. They didn't have a player to take Lynch's place as the 4th line center, but if Copp has to miss any time JT Compher will take over in his place.
There are eight games left in the season. Two at Penn State, one at Ohio State, one at Munn and four at Yost.
On the outside it looks manageable, but this stretch is much tougher than meets the eye. Michigan will have to head to Columbus for a Friday game then back to Yost for a Sunday game. They'll head to State College where PSU is 10-1-3 at home and face their final challenge at the formidable Munn Arena.
A 7-1 stretch gets them to the NCAA tournament, any worse than that or a loss to any team besides Penn State probably ends their at-large changes.