Monday, November 09, 2015

Monday Musings: Bulldogs Swept Out of Omaha

Meandering blog on my day off. Hope you can follow along and make it to the end.

By now, you're well aware that UMD lost 4-2 Saturday in Omaha, marking the Mavericks' first NCHC sweep at new Baxter Arena. Freshman goalie Evan Weninger wasn't tested as much as he was Friday, but he was rock solid again with 35 saves as UMD outshot the Mavericks 37-21, 84-49 on the weekend.

I could shower you with "Patience and it'll come" stuff, but I know you don't want to read that. I'm not going to panic, though I know some of you are and maybe you think I should be. But I also won't go all "cheerleader" on the bit and act like things are all wonderful when the team is 3-4-2 and off to a 0-2 start in league play.

I'm not an idiot. I know things aren't rosy right now. But here are a few important and unimportant points to consider.

--> It's only nine games. Yeah, it's the quarter-pole of the season, but while many of you might think the sky is on the verge of falling, I'd think the same if the Bulldogs were playing at peak efficiency right now. As the coaches have said numerous times, it's a process. That process might not lead to super results in the early going, but the goals this team has can't be reached in October or November. While it's true you can blow title hopes by playing poorly early in the season, there's no way to reasonably argue this team has played that poorly. Not even close.

--> For a comparison, the 2003-04 UMD team went into the season with very high expectations after a hot finish to 2002-03 that saw the Bulldogs barely miss the NCAA Tournament. The 03-04 team started 0-2-1 and was 4-5-1 after ten games. Sitting at a meh 9-8-2 through 19 games, UMD ripped off 13 wins and a tie over the next 14 games. Made the Frozen Four that year. We won't talk about what happened there. The next year, under even higher expectations, the Bulldogs started 5-0-1 before mediocrity reared its ugly head and UMD finished under .500.

--> Last year, UMD went under .500 four times in October before getting hot in November. My point? Every team is different.

--> I will say that I'd like to see someone on the current team take the bull by the horns and step up in times of need. That's not to say guys aren't playing well, but when things aren't going right, who's going to be the one to stop the bleeding? Tony Cameranesi did it in the Saturday game at Notre Dame, which was fantastic, but without him last weekend, it was a missing element against Omaha. Maybe Cameranesi is that guy once he's back, but there are others on the team capable of it. Let's see if others prove capable.

--> Let's give credit where it's due. Weninger was awesome, especially on Friday, and he was strong on his fundamentals all weekend. He outplayed UMD's Kasimir Kaskisuo, who had his moments in both games, but also allowed goals I bet he'd like to have back. Also, UNO got a big weekend from Jake Guentzel, who was all over the ice and even got his name called by this idiot announcer while serving a 10-minute misconduct on Friday. That's how good he was.

--> Speaking of Weninger, saw a few tweets from UMD fans on Saturday -- before I basically stopped looking at tweets from UMD fans -- talking about how they were sick of the "hot goalie" excuse. I'm sick of hot goalies, but if you want to ignore how good goalies are in college hockey right now, you're burying your head in the sand. Weninger entered the weekend with a .955 save percentage, played two games, was really good, and his save percentage went DOWN. Not far (to .954), but it went down.

--> "How did the goalies UMD has faced fare against the Bulldogs and against everyone else?" Well, I'm thrilled you asked. Weninger's save percentage on the weekend was .952, compared to .954 overall. Bemidji State's Michael Bitzer was .933 against UMD, .897 against everyone else. Minnesota freshman Eric Schierhorn posted a .912 against UMD, and he's at .925 overall. Notre Dame's Cal Petersen was .929 in two games against UMD, and .909 overall. Finally, UMass-Lowell's Kevin Boyle was a .926 against UMD, and he's at .949 overall. I'm not too much into stats, but it doesn't appear UMD has been significantly worse statistically than could be reasonably expected against this batch of goalies.

--> UMD opponents have posted a .931 save percentage in nine games. UMD goalies are at .898, a number hurt slightly by the two open net goals allowed last weekend, but one that isn't nearly good enough. You can bet this will get addressed this week (purely my opinion). These losses aren't Kaskisuo's fault, but on the other hand, UMD can't live with every mistake it makes ending up in the back of the net, and that was basically life in Omaha. The Bulldogs aren't ever going to play mistake-free hockey. No one does, and as long as goals are hard to come by, the goaltending has to find a way to be better.

--> On average, UMD is outshooting opponents 28-19 at even strength. It's been outshot at even strength twice (opener vs Bemidji State and the Saturday UMass-Lowell game). UMD has been plus-10 or better in that department five times in nine games. The margin over the weekend was 59-33. I'm not saying definitively that things will turn around, but the possession UMD is generating is not going to be for naught over the course of a long season. Maybe it starts turning around against Denver. Maybe it doesn't.

--> That's about all for now. I'm not going to tell you not to panic, but I really don't think you should panic. There are things to figure out, for sure, but there is nothing happening that can't be corrected.

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