Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Colorado College Week

To appreciate the sun you gotta know what rain is
or cause I’m famous you don’t think I know what pain is
but I bounce back, would ya look at that
I take my spot at the top and I aint looking back

I’m coming home
I’m coming home
Tell the World I’m coming home
Let the rain wash away, all the pain of yesterday
I know my kingdom awaits, and they’ve forgiven my mistakes
I’m coming home, I’m coming home
Tell the World that I’m coming...

J.Cole ft. Skylar Grey-"I'm Coming Home"

In a season filled with the ups and downs of a theme park roller-coaster the Badgers are coming home to their kingdom at the Kohl Center looking to bounce back after being swept by St. Cloud State at the lowest part of the ride. The good news is that better days are ahead and it starts on Friday night versus the Tigers of Colorado College.

It's not worth it to rehash what went on in St. Cloud last weekend so let's immediately look ahead to the task at hand. If Wisconsin wants to go anywhere this season they are going to need their goaltenders to step up and play like seniors. Eaves has already announced that he will be starting Brett Bennett on Friday night and Scott Gudmandson on Saturday. I can't emphasize enough how important these two are right now. The Badgers are only as strong as these two, how far can they take this team?

Offensively for the first time in a while Eaves tried some different line combination's and some things worked and some didn't. Derek Lee saw extended playing time on scoring lines and he's one of the players that I had hoped would see an expanded role down the stretch. For a team struggling to put goals in the net 5 on 5 Lee is a player who sees the ice better than most and is finally playing with the confidence to succeed in the WCHA.

I would be remiss if I didn't bring up the role of the seniors this weekend as it could quite possibly be the last weekend of hockey they play at the Kohl Center wearing the cardinal and white. Besides the aforementioned Gudmandson and Bennett, forwards Patrick Johnson, Sean Dolan, Podge Turnbull and defenseman Craig Johnson will be honored this weekend. Those 6 have been vital members of this program for the past 4 years and I can guarantee that they will be leaving everything that they have out on the ice this weekend.

Defensively the Badgers have to be better, plain and simple. The defensemen who are regulars in the Wisconsin lineup have the ability to be a special group and there isn't a better time to step up and lock down CC. The offensive points are great and there is no doubt Wisconsin needs them to be successful, but with the skill of CC's forwards it's going to be imperative that the Wisconsin D have their best weekend of the season.

Speaking of those CC forwards, none are better than freshman sensation Jaden Schwartz. The 14th overall pick in the 2010 NHL Draft by the St. Louis Blues has been phenomenal in his rookie campaign in Colorado Springs. The Saskatchewan native is only 5 points behind CC's leading scorer Tyler Johnson despite playing 14 less games than the rest of the team. Schwartz missed some time when he was named to Canada's World Junior team and then broke his ankle playing in the tournament which has caused him to miss the past couple months of action.

CC is obviously not a one man show as Johnson who I already mentioned had found the back of the net a remarkable 20 times this season. He's dangerous in all facets of the game but especially on the PP where he has scored 12 of his 20 goals. Jaden Schwartz's brother Rylan as well as Stephen Schultz are two other big time forwards that will have the attention of the Badger D-core this weekend.

Defensively Gabe Guentzel is a kid that has been really impressive as a puck moving offensive defenseman. Guentzel's 22 points this season have him approaching his career high of 23 last season and he's no doubt going to surpass it before the end of the year. Guentzel has been paired up lately with Joe Marciano to form the Tigers top D-pair.

Between the pipes the Tigers go-to man is Sophomore Joe Howe. Looking at his statistics they look rather poor but I'm not sure it's indicative of the kids talent. I've seen him a handful of times this season play brilliant in goal. The past three weekends the Tigers have split their goalies so expect to see freshman Josh Thorimbert this weekend as well.

I feel like a broken record but the Badgers power play is going to be absolutely critical this weekend. If there was ever a weekend to get this unit back on track the time is now. CC has statistically the worst penalty kill in the WCHA with a 76.3% kill rate. Wisconsin's power play in conference games has dropped to 18.85%.

Needless to say this is far and away the most important hockey series of the year and the Badgers need points. It starts by winning on Friday. Forget about Saturday for now. Focus on getting those two Friday points and we'll worry about Saturday later. Friday night is the most important hockey game of the season for the 2010-11 Wisconsin Badgers. Both teams are fighting not only for home ice but for an NCAA tournament bid as well. Who wants it more?

COVERAGE

Friday night's game will be live on TVW and Charter Extra and the Saturday game will be live on FSN.

POLLS


Polls are irrelevant right now. All that matters is winning games.

INJURIES

Eric Springer has an undisclosed upper body injury. I don't think it's a secret that he separated his shoulder on Friday night. He tweeted today that he is back on the ice tomorrow but I'm not sure if he will be ready for Friday or not. Might be safe to give Joe Faust the spot this weekend and let him run with it. He was one of the brighter spots last Saturday night I thought.

PREDICTIONS


Winning games right now is absolutely critical and I think Wisconsin understands the position they are in. Unfortunately CC is in the exact same spot. I think the Badgers get the better of CC on Friday but CC salvages a tie on Saturday.

Friday: Wisconsin 4, Colorado College 2
Saturday: Wisconsin 4, Colorado College 4