Monday, November 3, 2008

Badger Men: a few concerns

I'm pretty encouraged about the Badgers after Saturday's win, but I figured I'd temper my optimism today with a few concerns.
  • The Madison papers have given a lot of love to Tom Gorowsky and Blake Geoffrion this weekend, as well as some kind words for Shane Connelley, Derek Stepan, Andy Bohmbach, and Brendan Smith. On a less positive note, however, Andy Baggot has a new blog post that talks about the 2 forwards relegated to the 4th line when Gorowsky and Bohmbach were elevated to the top line -- Mike Davies and Podge Turnbull.
    UW coach Mike Eaves said he rolled three forward lines during the five-goal third period that produced a 5-2 victory at Ralph Engelstad Arena. Junior left winger Michael Davies and sophomore center Podge Turnbull were left out of that equation.

    "The message was that we need to have everybody be able to use what they have to win puck battles -- 50-50 pucks and races and stuff,'' Eaves said. "The last nine forwards (playing) were those guys.''

    Although he remained on the top PP unit, Davies in particular was called out for his play:
    There was a moment midway through the second period Saturday that seemed to illustrate Eaves' frustration with Davies. While the Fighting Sioux staged a long, vigorous shift in the UW end -- cycling the puck in the corners and holding the zone effectively at both points -- Davies spent a good chunk of it in the neutral zone waiting for the play to come to him.

    If you want more ice time, that's no way to get it.

    You know, when you're winless after 7 games, you think you'd do everything you could to try to win the 8th. And after being dropped to the 4th line, you think you'd do everything you could to show that you shouldn't have been. Both Davies and Turnbull could provide a good scoring punch for the Badgers (heck, Turnbull had 2 goals v. minnesota), but you're not gonna score (and the other team just might) if you're not winning puck battles, 50-50 pucks, etc. This whole issue seems to have been problematic with both players in the past -- my memory is less-than-stellar, but I think Turbull was a healthy scratch at one point last year as Eaves was sending a message, and Davies' play away from the puck has been discussed in the past.

    While the Badgers seem to have found themselves during the 3rd period on Saturday and are turning things around, there are (obviously) still concerns, and they're going to need everybody contributing and on the same page to continue to move forward. Here's hoping that both players get the message that Eaves sent on Saturday and snap out of it.

  • Baggot had a blog post a couple days ago that pointed out a couple of statistics indicative of why the Badgers were winless after 7 games. Here's the first one:
    After making 42 saves in a 3-2 loss to the Fighting Sioux on Friday, junior goaltender Shane Connelly is averaging 35.4 stops in his five starts.

    No other goaltender in the Mike Eaves coaching era, which began in 2002-03, has averaged more than 28.
    After each game, it seems we've been lamenting the number of SOG allowed by the Badgers. On Saturday, the Badgers limited the Sioux to 33 SOG, which isn't fantastic but it's a whole lot better than 42. But what concerns me is the 26 shots allowed in the 1st two periods -- the Badgers are lucky Connelly kept them in the game through those 2 periods.

    On the bright side, the Badgers outshot the Sioux 14-7 in the 3rd, and I'm encouraged by their ability to limit the Sioux to just 7 shots in that period. But they need to demonstrate that ability for more than just 1 period.

    With his next stats, Baggot called out Mike Davies, as well as John Mitchell and Sean Dolan:
    Junior winger Michael Davies, whose 25 career goals are the most among available players, has two shots on goal in his last three games and 13 overall.

    In that same vein, junior winger John Mitchell, projected to be a major offensive contributor, has two shots in his last three games and 12 overall.

    Meanwhile, sophomore center Sean Dolan has gone consecutive games without a shot on goal.

    I'm a bit surprised that Baggot mentioned Dolan, as he's wasn't really expected to be one of the Badgers' top scorers -- he's a solid, physical 2-way player, and he does a nice job on the PK. And I'm willing to cut John Mitchell a little slack as well -- after he exceeded everyone's expectations last season, I'm not hugely surprised to see him fall a bit below expectations this year. I think he can step up his game from what he's been doing so far this season, and we need him to do so, but I'm wondering if perhaps our expectations were raised a bit too high.

    Davies lack of SOG is a concern. The 13 SOG listed was after 7 games; after 8 games he has 16, so he's now averaging 2 SOG per game. Combined with the issues discussed in the first bullet point above, Davies' play has been disappointing, especially as he was the top-returning goal-scorer (along with Ben Street, who's likely out for the season) coming into this season.