Friday, January 29, 2010

Some Extra Friday Reading Material

I never like to post over 60's "It's Friday, I'm in Love" because she does such a great job and it's such a valuable resource but I just wanted to give you some more reading material before the game starts tonight.

Yahoo! Sports has an NHL hockey blog called "Puck Daddy" and on Fridays Ryan Lambert (no relation to Adam that I know of) writes an NCAA Hockey column. If you are not familiar with the blog, every week he asks a college hockey blogger 5 questions and this week the Sixty Minutes. No Alibis. No Regrets. blog was featured. We feel very lucky to be featured on such a great blog like Puck Daddy so I figured I'd re-post my answers.

Thanks again to Ryan and go check out Puck Daddy, especially on Friday afternoons. Post a comment if you have anything additional you would add or if you think my answers suck.

1. How do you like the Badgers' chances to get to the Frozen Four this year as opposed to others? Is this team as good as the national title team a few years ago?

I've been telling everyone who will listen that this season is Frozen Four or bust for the Wisconsin program. The talent/experience level on this years team trumps every Badger team of the Eaves era with the exception of the ‘06 championship team. The "X" factor that separates the two teams is goaltending, and we all know the ‘06 team had Hobey finalist Brian Elliott(notes). The current Badgers will only go as far as goaltenders Brett Bennett and Scott Gudmandson will take them, and they have been pretty solid so far.

2. What's the feeling now that Duluth is breathing down everybody's necks?

It's really no surprise in my opinion. Everyone knew coming into the season that they would be able to put up points with Connolly, Connolly and Fontaine. It was really just a question how they could handle the loss of Stalock in net. This is one of the closest races in the history of the WCHA and there is no doubt that Duluth is going to be in it right to the end.

3. The Badgers have lost just once since the start of December. What's the key to keep them rolling like this?

There is no question about it: keep scoring goals. This isn't your usual Mike Eaves boring, trap-style hockey team. The Badgers are second in the nation in scoring this season. When Wisconsin scores three goals or more it's 14-1-2. When they score two or fewer they are 0-5-2. The top six forwards need to continue playing like the elite scoring forwards they are. If our bottom two lines can play even hockey plus/minus wise, we're going to have chance to beat any team in the nation on any night.

4. Is there any concern for next season given the reports about Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh potentially leaving school at the end of the year?

It's really the nature of the beast when recruiting players like McDonagh and Stepan that there are going to be rumors of them leaving. I think it's been a gift that we've had McDonagh in the program for three years and no one expects him back for another season so the recent rumors are no surprise. Stepan has been quoted on two radio shows, and in two different newspaper reports to be staying for next season so I would hope that issue is dead.

5. What has been the most pleasant surprise for the Badgers this year? What about biggest disappointment?

I think the most pleasant surprise would probably be a tie between the play of the goaltending tandem of Bennett and Gudmandson as well as the play of the two freshmen defensemen John Ramage and Justin Schultz. There is no question that the biggest disappointment has been senior forward John Mitchell(notes). Mitchell almost signed a free agent NHL deal in the summer is on pace for only 16 points after a 26 point season as a junior. The Badgers are going to need his scoring touch down the stretch if they want to make noise in the NCAA's.