Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Dec. 7

Posted by: Jashvina Shah

The first weekend of Big Ten play concluded in interesting fashion. The Wolverines participated in a high-scoring shootout with Wisconsin, Ohio State hung in with Minnesota and Penn State demolished Michigan State.

The Nittany Lions defeated the Spartans by a combined score of 10-3. The Wolverines sneaked by the Badgers on the first night, and then tied ina 6-6 contest the next night. Minnesota swept the Buckeyes, but both games were one-goal contests.

While I didn’t know what to expect last weekend, I definitely wasn’t expecting that. The Gophers and Nittany Lions are tied for first place right now, while Michigan State and Ohio State are tied for last.

It’s really early to jump to conclusions (and the PairWise, stay away from the PairWise) but there are some things we can infer – like Michigan’s lack of defense and goaltending.

(After the jump: Michigan’s weakness, bad defenses, World Junior rosters)

Michigan’s weakness

Well, Michigan’s weakness is the same thing it’s always been. I know offense was a big reason behind Michigan being picked to finish first in the Big Ten (it’s why I picked them, too) but I wonder if the holes on defense and goaltending were overlooked. The Badgers aren’t the worst team in the country, at least not in scoring terms. They have some talented players who can score, but the Badgers aren’t elite either. And scoring 10 goals against Michigan is a little alarming.

Before the season started, Wolverine coach Red Berenson said he thought the team was in better shape defensively. But that doesn’t appear to be the case. It hurts Michigan that neither goaltender has been stellar. Michigan’s offense is good, but it was good last year too – and the Wolverines proved last year that you need more than a good offense to win.

Bad defenses

While we’re on the topic, it seems like a good time to bring up that the Big Ten has five teams with defenses in the bottom 30 in the country. The only team that isn’t there? Penn State. Despite Guy Gadowsky saying the Nittany Lions need to limit opponent chances, Penn State has the nation’s 14th-best defense.

For the other schools, the defensive picture isn’t as good. Wisconsin has the league’s worst defense, allowing 3.50 goals per game. But the Badgers are just one of three Big Ten teams in the bottom 15. Michigan State is tied for 48, Ohio State is 45th.

The World Junior

Ah, the best time of the year. Or second best, if you like the Frozen Four better. USA released its preliminary WJC roster, which featured two Big Ten players – Minnesota’s Ryan Collins and Michigan’s Zach Werenski. One surprised left off the roster could be Michigan’s Kyle Connor, the freshman sensation who was the USHL’s best player last year. He leads Michigan with 16 points, and ranks T-5th amongst all Division I freshmen scorers.

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