Who: Michigan (8-11-1) vs Michigan State (4-15-1)
When: Friday, 6:30pm EST - Saturday, 7:00pm EST
Where: Friday, Yost Ice Arena - Saturday, Munn Arena
About Michigan State
It is year six of the Tom Anastos tenure at MSU and things have gone predicably bad. With four wins this season the Spartans are fighting an uphill battle to avoid being the worst MSU team since the late 70’s.
Michigan State started their season losing 4 games in a row before going on a 4-2-1 stretch and then proceeded to lose nine straight. Sitting at 4-15-1 and 0-6-0 in Big Ten play it’s been two months since Michigan State won a game and eight of those nine losses have been by two goals or more.
Offensively the Spartans once again rank near the bottom of college hockey with a 2.25 goals per game average. Their 1993 cycle and grind offense has been as ineffective this season as it has been for the last five seasons that Tom Anastos has been the coach.
Sophomore center Mason Appleton has been their best player and he leads the team with nine goals. The senior trio of Joe Cox, Thomas Ebbing and Villiam Haag are still around and have each put up alright numbers, however, none have been consistent enough to bring this team out of the cellar offensively. Freshman Patrick Khodorenko is a future star.
On the blueline the Spartans are a mess. I have never been a fan of their ultra-conservative approach to forechecking and defense that features neutral zone jamming and forming a wall in front of their net. It worked early on in the Tom Anastos era but this particular system requires a ton of shot blocking and a goaltender who can shoulder a heavy workload game in and game out.
They don’t have that this season. Their blueline is very young, shot blocking numbers are way down and in net Ed Minney and John Lethemon haven't been able to handle the higher shot totals. With both goaltenders posting save percentages in the .800’s the Spartans rank 57th in the country in goals allowed and they’re dead last on the penalty kill.
If there’s a bright spot on the blueline it’s Zach Osburn, who has three goals and eight assists but has only scored once since November.
As bad as the Spartans have been the Wolverines haven’t fared much better. Michigan has two wins since December and one came against this MSU team in the GLI, a game that they barely won.
This team is still trying to jam a square peg into a round hole by playing transition hockey instead of slowing it down and working possessions. As a result they have obliterated their offensive zone time and placed even more pressure on the already beleaguered blueline and goaltenders.
The only thing that Michigan has going right now is goaltending, which has been outstanding in the face of enormous pressure and probably gives the Wolverines the edge in this series.