Three Things I Think: Big Ten, March 11

Posted by: Jashvina Shah

With just two games left in the regular season, Minnesota and Wisconsin have clinched a first-round bye. Wisconsin is five points behind Minnesota and still has a chance to win the Big Ten title.

If Minnesota wins one game next week, they will clinch the title.

For Wisconsin to earn a share of the title, the Badgers must win at least one game in regulation or overtime and another game either in regulation or a shootout — and Minnesota would have to lose both games.

There is another scenario where Minnesota can lose and tie, and Wisconsin would have to win both games in regulation or overtime.

Michigan is locked into the third seed, meaning it will face Penn State in the opening round. Ohio State is currently fourth and Michigan State fifth, but the Buckeyes are two points ahead of the Spartans. Michigan State closes out the season against Wisconsin, while Ohio State will face Penn State.

Last weekend was an interesting one in Big Ten hockey. The Gophers destroyed and out-played the Buckeyes in the first game of their series, winning 5-1. But the next night Ohio State played much better. The teams skated to a 2-2 tie before the Buckeyes won in a shootout.

On Friday, Michigan — backed by Andrew Sinelli’s hat trick — beat Michigan State 7-1, but the Wolverines lost to the Spartans 4-3 on Saturday. Steve Racine started both games for the Wolverines.

Wisconsin won both games against Penn State, 4-2 on Friday and 3-2 in overtime. The games were close, but the Badgers now have a three-game winning streak on the road.

(After the jump: First-round matchups, Big Ten inconsistency, Badgers on the road.)

Badgers on the road

Wisconsin’s series against Penn State was an important one, sine there were still questions of whether or not the Badgers could win on the road. It’s not guaranteed, like it almost was at the Kohl Center, but it’s more likely they can win away.

The Badgers are on a five-game winning streak and have been playing much better of late. They’ve won three games in a row, beating Ohio State and Penn State. Last week’s games were close, but the Nittany Lions are better than their record indicates.

It’s been a long time since the Badgers were destroyed in their road trip to Boston. I mentioned this before, though, Joel Rumpel was not in net in those two games. Since then, the Badgers haven’t been grossly outplayed in a road game, and last weekend’s series proved it. 

Big Ten inconsistency

With the way Wisconsin’s been playing lately, its no longer an inconsistent team. Minnesota isn’t either, but Michigan and Ohio State are two of the biggest question marks in the league.

Earlier I thought Ohio State had the potential to be one of the better teams, and a candidate for the third seed. The Buckeyes could tie for the third seed this weekend, but they’d lose the tiebreaker to Michigan.

I wasn’t expecting Minnesota to dominate the Buckeyes the way they did in the first game. And after watching, I thought Ohio State would lose the second match. Goalkeeping hasn’t helped the Buckeyes find consistency, and Christian Frey was pulled on Friday. He looked less than stellar,  but he played on Saturday.

The only two teams Ohio Sate has really struggled to win against are Minnesota and Michigan. The Buckeyes split the season series with the Badgers, and won a game at the Kohl Center.

It’s odd Ohio State hasn’t beaten Michigan this season and is 0-3-1 against the Wolverines. After last week’s series between Ohio State and Michigan, I thought the Wolverines might’ve finally found some consistency.

But turning around and losing to Michigan State 4-3 after a 7-1 win doesn’t help Michigan’s case. The Wolverines had lost to the Spartans once this season, but that was outdoors at the Great Lakes Invitational. 

Netminding hasn’t been stable for the Wolverines either this season. But, Steve Racine has started the past three games and six of the last eight.

First-round matchups

The inconsistency in Big Ten lends itself to an interesting inaugural tournament, especially in the first round.

After the past month of Big Ten play, seeding in the tournament does matter. I think the Wolverines have drawn one of the worst matchups, facing the Nittany Lions in the first round.

Penn State won its two conference games against Michigan, but the last series between the two teams was closer than the first.

Leave a Reply