Monday, March 22, 2010

Current Wisconsin Lineup Analysis

After rolling out the exact same 20 players for 12 straight games, including the exact same lineup for 10 straight contests, Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves changed things up on Saturday afternoon during the third place game of the WCHA Final Five vs Denver.

Under performing winger Junior Patrick Johnson, who has managed a meager 1 assist over his past 19 games and hasn't scored a goal since December 4th was benched in favor of Junior Podge Turnbull. While Turnbull didn't show up on the scoresheet Saturday, his presence was immediately felt. #8 was flying around all afternoon and generated some shots and threw his body around as well.

Not only did Eaves swap Turnbull and Johnson, but he made a change to every single forward line. Andy Bohmbach was promoted to a familiar role as a wing with Blake Geoffrion, Jordy Muray was paired up with old Shattuck teammate Derek Stepan, and Ben Street hooked onto a line with fellow seniors Aaron Bendickson and Ben Grotting.

Eaves spoke to the media on Sunday afternoon and told reporters that he just felt his squad needed a shakeup. "What we did was coming because of the staleness that we had been seeing kind of creep in,'' he said. "We changed at the right time, got some good jump. So we'll start the week with the lineup that we had.''

The last part of the quote about keeping the same lineup heading in to this week is music to the ears of many Badger fans who have been calling for a change to be made for weeks. At this point in the season you need to be firing on all cylinders and this was a move that needed to be made.

Andy Bohmbach-Blake Geoffrion-Craig Smith
My favorite part about this line is that it gives you a player in Bohmbach that can step in and take an important faceoff in a crucial time in case Blake Geoffrion gets kicked out of the circle. Blake is obviously great and Smith has been phenomenal. Blake and Bohmber spent a lot of time playing together last season and hopefully they can pick up where they left off. This is going to be an important line also on the defensive side of things.

They are going to be matched up with top lines from other schools and Bohmbach and Geoffrion are arguably our best two defensive forwards. The most amazing thing about Bohmbach this season is that he was still producing even though he's been in a limited roll on the fourth line. I challenge someone to find me another fourth liner in the country with over 20 points. It just simply does not happen.

Jordy Murray-Derek Stepan-Michael Davies
I have a hard time believing that there is a higher second line scoring combination in the entire country. 117 points out of three players matched up on a second unit is un-real. Especially with 98 of those points coming from two players. Stepan and Davies has been an absolutely dynamic unit all season so I was glad that they were kept together. Davies is a threat to score anytime he is on the ice and Stepan knows how to feed him the rock. Hell those two even combined to score a goal by Stepan shooting it off Davies. Murray is a guy who has played a lot with Stepan in the past at Wisconsin and in high school at Shattuck St. Marys. The two are comfortable with each other and should immediately make an impact.

Ben Street-Aaron Bendickson-Ben Grotting
Interesting line here as I can't recall Street ever playing with either of these two. We've got three seniors locked in an a very important line. One of the Badgers advantages is the depth they roll out offensively. Most teams are happy to be a plus/minus even when it comes to the bottom two lines, the Badgers are looking to take advantage of that and score with this line. Street is sitting just below the 30 point mark and Bendickson has been hot as of late notching his 9th, 10th and 11th goals of the season two weeks ago against Alaska Anchorage. Bendickson and Street didn't take much time to get rolling as they notched the Badgers first goal on Saturday on their first shift together.

Grotting is an undervalued player that this team needs more of right now. Physically he's a beast and he'll run through a brick wall for his team. Not many players had great weekends when the Badgers split a series with Minnesota a few weeks ago but I felt Grotting really played well. He didn't score that weekend but he took the puck hard to the net multiple times and created opportunities for teammates.

John Mitchell-Sean Dolan-Podge Turnbull
A bit of a hodge podge (no pun intended) from this line here. Couldn't be more excited to see Turnbull finally get a fair shake at a lineup spot. Dolan picked up a goal with this line on Saturday and has been a fairly consistent pivot on the fourth line. Mitchell and Dolan have played a great deal together during their careers at Wisconsin and that seems to be a common trend in the new lines. Mitchell has proven that he can score goals in bunches and hopefully this move wakes him from his season long slumber.