Last weekend featured five Big Ten teams in action. Penn State defeated Princeton, Ohio State was on a bye and Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin and Michigan State participated in the only two conference matches.
Both series ended with splits, leaving little to glean from the weekend. We already know that Wisconsin is a better team than expected. And the quality of the conference isn’t great overall, and many of the games have been close so far. It’s still hard to figure out exactly what the deal is with Minnesota and Michigan, especially when it comes to goals allowed. Michigan beat Minnesota 8-3 on Friday night, but fell 3-2 on Saturday. Michigan State beat Wisconsin 4-3 but lost to the Badgers 3-0 the next night.
It’s still early and the standings don’t mean much, but Minnesota is currently in first place. Michigan is second, Penn State third, Wisconsin fourth, Michigan State fifth and Ohio State sixth.
(After the jump: Kyle Connor should be at WJC camp, what’s wrong with the Spartans and the problem with the Big Ten is…)
Kyle Connor should’ve been on the WJC camp roster
Connor was one of the questionable absences on the U.S. preliminary roster for the World Junior Championship. Connor was the USHL’s best player last season, and was expected to lead Michigan this year. He’s done that, along with fellow Wolverine freshman Cooper Marody. Connor had a breakout weekend, netting five goals and one assist. He had a hat trick in Friday’s win over the Gophers, too.
What’s wrong with the Spartans
I actually don’t know, but seeing them at the bottom of the Big Ten is… odd. They’re not a great team, and haven’t been for while, but they’re usually difficult to play against. The once-stingy defense has struggled, and Jake Hildebrand isn’t putting up the numbers that he used to. The Spartans, who finished in the top half of the conference last year, might end up in the Big Ten cellar.
The offense Michigan State has been producing is good, but the goals they’ve been allowing isn’t.
The problem with the Big Ten is…
Not “everything.” The main issue is having a small conference, a small and not so great conference, creates a bubble environment for all six teams. How Big Ten teams fare against each other makes it impossible to tell how they stack up against out-of-conference opponents and how the Big Ten champion will fare the NCAA tournament.
If Minnesota happens to turn the tables on the conference and win the Big Ten tournament, that won’t necessarily mean the Gophers are a great team (this is actually what happened last year). So, take some Big Ten wins, losses and goals for/goals against with a grain of salt.
While we’re on the subject of Minnesota, I actually wouldn’t be surprised if they won the Big Ten.