There is now just one weekend left in the Big Ten regular season. Minnesota is first in the conference but has just a three-point lead over the Badgers. That will make for a fun conclusion to the regular season since there are a few things on the line: That regular-season title, a shot at a bye day and a possible NCAA tournament at-large spot for the bubble teams.
Last weekend’s split with Penn State helped the Badgers in that regard. They’re 13th, so still on the bubble. Losing to Michigan State did not really help Ohio State’s cause, as now the Buckeyes are back on the wrong side of the cutoff line. The Gophers split their series with Michigan and while that looks bad, it didn’t have much of an impact for the Gophers. Except for in the standings, where that loss allowed Wisconsin to creep a little closer to the first spot.
Here are the standings:
3. Penn State
4. Ohio State
6. Michigan State
(After the jump: What to watch, why does no one talk about the really good forwards and is Michigan good)
What To Watch
The biggest games of the upcoming weekend will be the ones for Penn State, Wisconsin and Ohio State. So pay close attention to the Buckeyes-Badgers series because that has a lot of meaning in the Pairwise for big teams. Ohio State is now outside the Pairwise bubble while the Badgers are close to the edge. The Badgers are also just three points away from the No. 1 conference spot and five points away from dropping out of the second spot.
Which brings us to Penn State. The Nittany Lions should have an easy time defeating Michigan (should, but the Wolverines just beat the Gophers). For Penn State, a possible Big Ten tournament title is on the line, since they’d need a bye day if they want to win.
Penn State is just five points behind the Badgers, which means they’d need at least a regulation/OT win and a shootout win and the Badgers to lose both games. But if the Badgers win one of their contests against Ohio State, the bye day will be out of reach.
And as I mentioned before, the Badgers have a lot riding on their series – a potential regular season championship, a bye day for the tournament and an at-large bid.
As for the Buckeyes… this is their last hope.
Why Does No One Talk About The Really Good Forwards
Over the weekend, Minnesota’s Tyler Sheehy passed the 50-point mark. Actually he did it last Saturday after scoring two goals and an assist. But no one is talking about it. And no one is really talking about his linemate, Justin Kloos, who has 41 points. And then there’s Ohio State’s Nick Schilkey and Mason Jobst. All of those players are in the top-20 nationally in scoring, yet they’re rarely talked about.
I can’t really answer that, aside from maybe it’s East Coast bias for Sheehy and Kloos. As far as Schilkey and Jobst are concerned, I think that’s just a side effect of paying for Ohio State, a hockey program that will always kind of be in the shadows. Either way, it’s odd that these players aren’t getting much attention since they’re have great seasons.
Is Michigan Good?
Of course not. Michigan has an offense that’s struggling and minimal defense, but oddly have good goalkeeping, finally. Although having a three netminder rotation seems odd, that’s niether nere nor there. But the Wolverines have gotten a few spoiler wins against some of the Big Ten’s better teams.
Michigan’s win over Ohio State could be a reason their rival Buckeyes don’t make the NCAA tournament. Michigan’s win over Minnesota could be a reason why the Gophers don’t win the Big Ten regular season title.
They were big wins, but are they indicative of an upward trend for the Wolverines or just a couple of odd wins? I think they were just a couple of out-of-the-ordinary wins, but the Wolverines won’t struggle like this for long.