Thursday, April 10, 2008

WTI: Frozen Four

Craig:  Hello all, and welcome back once more to "Whatever This Is" our irregular conversation about whatever. I'm Craig Barker...
Geoff:  And I'm going to Denver tomorrow
Craig:  And I'm hating you a little bit more each day...
Geoff:  I know. Who wouldn't want the opportunity to see a gut-wrenching loss in person?
Craig:  Wow, more stuff Maize and Blue people like...
Geoff:  I'm trying to manage my expectations. I'm barely hanging on as it is. Anyone on the American 10:45 out of O'Hare tomorrow, remind me to breathe
Craig:  I was pondering what the appropriate expectation is, and sadly, I'm not even close to "tempered"
Geoff:  Neither am I. You don't buy a plane ticket in January with tempered expectations.
Craig:  But let's start by hopping in the way back machine for a bit and looking at the CCHA playoffs, briefly.
Craig:  I think that we saw in the UNO series that Michigan can score in bunches, in the NMU game that it can win a barnburner, and in the Miami game, can win a tight one.
Geoff:  We got a chance to rest on our laurels for one weekend before going up against a Nebraska-Omaha team that had barely survived against Alaska. Our series showed how different a pair of hockey games can be.
Craig:  Agree. Also, that fighting is never the answer.
Geoff:  The NMU game was frightening. We weren't responsible in the neutral zone. And it seemed like every turnover ended up in the back of the net.
Craig:  Exactly. And yet, there it was and Michigan was able to match and then eventually surpass. But I want to give a lot of credit to NMU, they may have been one of the best teams in the country since the New Year.
Geoff:  They definitely were peaking at the right time.
Craig:  The NMU game, by the way, also had the awful weather, which restricted the walkup crowd and I think contributed to the weirdness of that night.
Geoff:  If I hadn't driven down for the last couple periods of ND/MU, I might have reconsidered.
Geoff:  The championship game felt very different to me. I felt like Sauer was on the top of his game and that it was only a matter of time before we took the RedHawks down. Which is ridiculous, but there you have it.
Craig:  And what I liked about that championship game is that, while evenly matched, I never doubted that Michigan would win it.
Craig:  But Tim Miller man, he loves the Joe.
Geoff:  We're going to tell Tim that the Pepsi Center is just another NHL rink, right?
Craig:  Works for me!
Geoff:  I still can't believe what Matt Rust did on a broken leg.
Craig:  Yes, Matt Rust, that's pure guts.
Craig:  Now, in the NCAA Regionals, we saw a little bit of everything. Michigan did what it was expected to do, which, in and of itself is a surprise, as that is not the usual Michigan MO of late.
Craig:  The Niagara game looked like a potential trap until Kevin Porter decided he really really wanted the Hobey.
Geoff:  Porter proved anyone who doubted him that it should be his.
Geoff:  The week leading up to the Niagara game was worrisome. The flu sweeping through the team, poor practices, and Niagara well-rested and going in off a good week of their own.
Craig:  The flu on the team is one of those things where you can't defend against it, but it's not an excuse either. And if it was the flu I had, I am surprised any of those guys could stand, let alone skate
Craig:  But then Clarkson, other than the parade of two minute penalties, Michigan looked excellent. Sauer looked like a goalie possessed.
Geoff:  The Clarkson game was a nail-biter. Sauer was un-frickin'-believable. That sequence of six saves, one block, and a post has got to be on everyone's top plays.
Craig:  Oh absolutely!
Craig:  And while the East held to form during Hockey Christmas, chaos ensued around the rest of the country.
Geoff:  I've freely admitted it before, when I saw New Hampshire score in the first minute, I declared game over.
Craig:  Yes you did, I was there, I heard you, I agreed with you.
Geoff:  And when they went up 2-0, I thought the Irish had packed it in
Craig:  And then, well, chaos!
Geoff:  Holy crap, was I wrong!
Craig:  I know, next thing we have, 7-3 win for Notre Dame!
Geoff:  They hung 5 on Regan and added a pair of empty-netters for good measure
Craig:  And then, in what I think was a bigger shocker, Michigan State beat Colorado College, on their big home ice, to ensure at least one CCHA team in Denver. But in the MSU/Notre Dame Final, Jeff Lerg came up short.
Geoff:  *rimshot*
Geoff:  Again, I underestimated the Irish. You figure Lerg is the goalie you want in the biggest games.
Craig:  And yet, The Pope of South Bend, Jeff Jackson, gets his team back to the Frozen Four.
Geoff:  In one-and-done hockey, anything can happen tomorrow.
Geoff:  Last week I heard Frank Deford say one of the dumbest things he's yet put on NPR. He was arguing that the NHL and NBA should go to a single-elimination tournament. NBA, whatever. But hockey is subject to what a hot goalie can give you on any night.
Craig:  Exactly. Exciting, perhaps, but not meaningful.
Craig:  And so here we are in Denver. Facing the Irish.
Geoff:  Scoring the first goal in this game would be huge. You know ND won't give up, but we've been excellent this year when playing with a lead.
Geoff:  The other thing is not letting them win *every* faceoff. We got murdered on them in the first period of the 3-2 win at Yost, and Tim (link to TBtYB) showed how we got destroyed on faceoffs in our own zone.
Craig:  So basically, control the zone, control the game?
Geoff:  I think so. ND is without their top scorer in Condra. Van Guilder and Hanson have been playing good hockey, but our blueliners played one of their best games of the year a couple Saturdays ago.
Geoff:  Now, not to get ahead of ourselves, but just because I'll be watching it tomorrow, we also have North Dakota vs. BC to look at. It sounds ridiculous, but this is the third time in a row NoDak and BC have squared off in a national semifinal.
Craig:  That is mildly insane. Will the third time be the charm for the Sioux?
Geoff:  I think they have the better team, with Lamoreux in net, Duncan and Oshie up front, and Joe Finley being 6'7" of pain.
Craig:  I think that it should be a fantastic game, and somehow, I suspect, BC will find a way. It's what they do.
Geoff:  Gerbe's a phenomenal college player, though. I'm excited to be able to watch him.
Geoff:  Whichever one gets through, it's not someone you really want to face in a final. As Friend of HSR Mike said, BC will be hungrier than Marlon Brando at a one-trip salad bar.
Craig:  But, if you want to be the best, you've got to win when it counts.
Craig:  Thank you ESPN featured commenter!
Geoff:  Whatever happens, it should be a great end to the best tournament of the year.
Craig:  Agree. Well Geoff, I wish you a safe trip, fair winds and following seas. Let's go Blue!
Geoff:  Thanks. Hopefully I'll see Michigan climb another mountain. Go Blue.


Tim said...

(insert link to TBtYB)

Craig said...

Sorry about that Tim, done and done!