Saturday, February 21, 2009

Futility in OT

Anyone out there remember the last time Wisconsin actually won a game in OT? Anyone? If you can't you shouldn't be too surprised; it's been almost two years. Likely you had a guess unlike the girl representing the students in the 200 level who couldn't name a single Badger player last night during the 2nd intermission. I'm blaming the loss squarely on her.

But I'm off topic. The answer to the question is: Ben Street's game winner w/ 10 seconds left over St. Cloud in the 2007 Final Five 3rd place game. March 17, 2007 was the date, about 23 months ago.

Since that time, Wisconsin has played 15 OT games and not won a single one. They are the only team in the WCHA not to win an OT game in the last two seasons. I don't think this is coincidence either. The team seems to take their foot off the pedal when they are up or tied late in a game, playing not to lose instead of playing to win. A great example is N. Michigan several saturday nights ago. W/ 10 minutes left, the Badgers up by 3, they start to coast. It was brutally obvious to anyone in attendance that N. Michigan gave it their all while the Badgers were sitting back letting the game come to them, to their eventual DOOM. Worry about who's buying the first round at the KK after the game perhaps?

The minnesota game last friday and CC five saturdays back ring a bell too. Thinking back to last season, I could start listing off home games that went to OT and the Badgers played not to lose. When the Badgers are aggressive (especially this season) good things seem to happen. I think they almost make less mistakes when they are taking it to the opponent than sitting back waiting for the game to come to them. More puck battles won, less flat footedness in the defensive zone, better decision making.

Ok, the Badgers haven't won an OT game in almost two seasons, how does that compare to the rest of the WCHA? Not good. Here are the Badgers record in OT the last four seasons:

08/09: 0-2-3
07/08: 0-3-7
06/07: 2-3-4
05/06: 2-1-3 (Skille from Engel in 3OTs in GB)
Total: 4-9-17

I used the last four seasons, since that is a good reference point back to the seniors on the team. No one on the current team was playing in 04/05.

Let's take a look at the rest of the WCHA over the last four seasons. Their 08/09 OT record is in ( ). I've listed them in order of OT winning % over this time period.

Denver: 7-3-12 (2-1-4), 0.590 %
North Dakota: 9-5-11 (2-0-3), 0.580%
Colorado College: 9-6-16 (1-0-8), 0.548%
Mankato: 9-6-17 (1-0-3), 0.547%
Duluth: 8-5-21 (1-0-6), 0.544%
St. Cloud: 8-6-18 (0-0-2), 0.531%
minnesota: 6-9-23 (1-0-6), 0.460%
Michigan Tech: 5-8-22 (0-2-6), 0.457%
Alaska Anchorage: 4-7-19 (1-2-5), 0.450%
Wisconsin: 4-9-17 (0-2-3), 0.417%

Winning in OT doesn't mean everything, especially if you are winning games in regulation. The problem is, the Badgers have been riding the NCAA tourney bubble the last two seasons. In 06/07 they were the first team out, last season the last team in, this season...well that remains to be seen. I'm no RPI expert, but I'm thinking W's count for more than T's (sarcasm intended for DU fans who are unable to decipher it). On top of that, last season when the Badgers went 0-3-7, if they turn one of those WCHA T's into a W, they host St. Cloud in the 1st round of the WCHA playoffs.

I'm guessing the "hold on for the tie" attitude is something that is coached. At this point, their is no more holding on for anything. Wisconsin needs to make it happen and make it happen now! Whether its regulation or OT, the Badgers shouldn't be taking their foot off the accelerator until the final buzzer sounds of the final game of the season. I'm still hoping that is saturday night April 11th in Washington DC at the Frozen Four.

60 minutes, no alibis, no regrets; time for the Badgers to start playing to win every shift.