Monday, October 19, 2009

Thoughts on Opening Weekend

I’m disappointed after the opening weekend. I’ve never felt this deflated two games into a season, usually it doesn’t even happen. The past few seasons, I was very positive until the very end. I think the Drive for .500 by Christmas proves that.

I have to wonder why Eaves didn’t schedule a real exhibition last weekend in preparation for the opening weekend of play. CC already had three games under their belt and while that didn’t matter on Friday, I think it did Saturday night. Instead of playing a Red/White scrimmage, why not play someone, even St. Norberts. Get the team ready for 60 minutes of a real game.

The real reason I’m disappointed is that Friday was a continuation of the 2nd half of last season: pissing away a game that the Badgers should have won. I don’t care if it was the 1st game, they can’t afford to lose these games this season or any season, first game or last game of the season. You can’t outplay the opponent consistently and come away w/ a loss. Saturday they came out flat, seen that too many times for my enjoyment as well.

I’m sick of the dump and chase. Anyone else out there feel the same way? Why don’t other teams do this every time down the ice? Why do our forwards or dmen skate to the blue line w/ open ice in front of them and still dump it into the corner? Countless times this weekend I watched guys get to the blue line w/ space to still carry the puck in and make something happen, but instead its dumped in. Also, someone correct me if I’m wrong, but it looked like CC did a great job of defending the dump and chase Saturday, the Badgers couldn’t get anything going. They knew it was coming, because what else would Eaves do? Where is the adjustment in offensive strategy?

Speaking of strategy, the PP was horrible. No one in front of the net, and in typical Badger fashion pass the puck around and around and around until it skips over a stick and over the blue line. When I watch other teams’ PPs I never see this. Teams like Denver or North Dakota have dynamic PPs where guys are moving around and the passes aren’t moving solely on the outer boundary of the offensive zone. I’m beginning to realize how important Jamie McBain was to the PP last season, he ran it like a well oiled machine. One of the offensive blue liners needs to step up ASAP and be that guy and I didn't see it this weekend.

I’m worried about the offense too, after Geoffrion went out w/ injury on Friday, the only line gave me any hope was Bohmbach/Stepan/Smith. On Saturday, it wasn’t much better. Street’s line wasn’t bad, but John Mitchell looked lost out there, Grotting was doing more for the team than Big John. The team needs to finish, I’m always amazed that all the other teams have a bunch of guys around the net regularly on rebounds, and Wisconsin players are still standing by the boards.

Michael Davies needs to pull himself together and get in the lineup right now until the lines click and the goals start flowing the team needs all the skill it can find, but it starts w/ the player. If Davies isn’t going to do it in practice, well that sucks for him. This is his last chance, not only at Wisconsin, but I can’t believe that an AHL contract will be sitting out there for a lazy, apathetic player who doesn’t bring their best effort every night. Come on Michael!!! The fans want to see you out there, time for you to want to see yourself out there and start busting ass.

As for goaltending, I liked Gudmandson on Saturday night. Only goal he let in was on a 5 on 3. Bennett wasn’t bad, but his glove side appears weak, and I’m not a fan of his wanderings. As I discussed w/ 60 and Mr. 60, he reminds of Alex Stalock. If you read the blog, you know I’m not a fan of his wanderings. It doesn’t help when teammates aren’t ready for a long pass from their goalie.

I should cover the positives too. The freshman looked good. Huge fan of Craig Smith, he plays much bigger than his size and like 60 said, he isn’t outstanding at anything, but good at everything. Justin Schultz and John Ramage did not look like the freshmen on the blue line this weekend.

Andy Bohmbach was arguably the best player on the ice throughout the entire weekend. As I mentioned earlier, his line was the best all weekend too, and the only one getting regular chances against CC. It looked like Ben Street was trying too hard on Friday, but it was great to see him back out there. He just needs to find some linemates to get going. Derek Stepan had some sick moves throughout the weekend, he is a special player.

I loved the intensity to start the game on Friday too. Ryan McDonagh’s huge hit set the tone, but then they didn’t keep it up. Things started to unwind after the intensity was benched; that intensity shouldn’t be getting a breather until the final buzzer.

All in all, starting the season out by losing a game like they did regularly down the stretch last season is a bad omen. I know it’s the opening weekend, and things will get better, they have to w/ so much talent on the team, but it needs to click quickly. While Mankato isn’t anything special the season, the Badgers don’t play well there, and then they return home for some tough games against New Hampshire and minnesota. I’m beginning to question Eaves’ coaching too, I want to see some creativity on the PP and something other than the dump and chase. If the well is dry, do you keep going back to it hoping there will be water?

I guess it all came to a head for me Saturday night sitting there, because it was like I was watching last season’s team, struggle w/ the same things that last season’s team struggled w/ and the memory of another game handed to an opponent (Friday night) was very fresh in my memory instead of months in the past.