The hot and cold approach to special teams continued over the weekend with a dismal 0/4 power play night in Columbus against a Buckeye penalty kill ranked dead last in the country. They followed that up with an outstanding night scoring on their first chance and netting a second as penalty time expired.
The 1-3-1 is the way to go for this team. Michigan has an abundance of skill at forward to run that formation but they only pull it out sparingly, instead favoring the umbrella that puts the puck on the tape of their defenseman.
Penalty killing has been a bright spot lately. The unit is 11-for-12 since allowing a Kyle Rau goal against Minnesota.
It was wishful thinking to believe that after three quarters of a season goaltending would suddenly become consistent but there was still a shred of hope that when they needed it most Steve Racine or Zach Nagelvoort could break through.
In the end, Michigan's weekend in net was everything it has always been this season. Racine was solid against Minnesota and Sunday against Ohio State, but Friday's game was not good enough to get a win. The Michigan defensemen didn't do a great job clearing the crease, but Racine's rebound control was below average and he didn't look sharp.
If there's any chance of making a run, the Wolverines need seven solid performances. Not alternating good and bad nights.
It was a nice surprise getting Andrew Copp back Sunday after missing the Friday game. Copp was supposed to miss this weekend and be questionable for next week, but after the Friday loss he wasn't going to miss another game.
Noticeably absent from the lineup was Travis Lynch. Lynch has missed the last nine games with a broken hand but was expected to play. He didn't and Michigan again went with three centers in their lineup.
Dexter Dancs has been steadily improving his game and earned a promotion to the 3rd line. Dancs spent most of the season as a 4th liner in Berenson's doghouse, but he's been playing his best hockey as of late.
It was interesting decision for Berenson going with Steve Racine, a night after he allowed four goals. They needed a win and Red went with Racine. I think barring another bad loss, Racine is the go-to-guy and will get the majority of starts from here on out.
The Downing hit will be a talking point in the coming week. Downing was given his 3rd game misconduct for head contact and will be suspended for Friday's game against Wisconsin. I understand that wearing #5 gets extra attention from the officials, but everyone knows that if one of his hits is even borderline a call is coming. At some point Mike Downing is going to have to stop making these hits or keep getting suspended.
Michigan came into the Friday game tied for 16th in the PairWise. They ended the weekend at 20, effectively putting an end to their at-large chances.
If you're still holding out for for an at-large bid, which is still possible by the slightest margin, they need to go 6-0-0 to get it.
Can it be done? Yes, but I'm not holding my breath. If this team can take two at Pegula Arena where the Nittany Lions have lost two games the entire year, we'll revisit the possibility.