Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Feb. 21

Posted by: Jashvina Shah

All the usual suspects won out in the Big Ten. Minnesota swept Penn State, Wisconsin swept Michigan and Ohio State swept Michigan State. The Gophers and Nittany Lions played to a close, overtime thriller on Saturday and it may indicate that Penn State has a chance at winning the Big Ten tournament. Wisconsin beat Michigan easily on Friday but followed with a victory by a margin of two goals the next night.

The closest series was, oddly, the Ohio State-Michigan State series. The Buckeyes are supposed to be a good team but could only beat the Spartans by a goal in each game.

The Gophers, Nittany Lions and Buckeyes are currently on the inside of the Pairwise, but more on that below. The Gophers hold the No. 1 spot in the confernce

(After the jump: A Pairwise look, Ohio State things and bad Big Ten goaltending)

A Pairwise Look

CHN published its Pairwise probability matrix and Minnesota is pretty much a lock for the NCAA tournament. There’s a 100 percent chance, according to the matrix, that the Gophers will be in. There’s an 83 percent chance Penn State will make it and a 54 percent chance they’ll get an at-large bid.

The two outlying and questionable teams are Ohio State and Wisconsin. The Buckeyes are currently ninth and have a 54 percent chance of making it but just a 29 percent chance of getting an at-large bid. But considering they’re wildly inconsistent and struggle against Michigan, I’d say there’s a good chance they don’t make it.

Now let’s go to Wisconsin. The Badgers have dropped to 19th and now have just a 32 percent chance of making the tournament with a 20 percent chance of getting an at-large bid. Their chance of getting in through the Big Ten tournament is just 13 percent but I’d say that’s an easier path than at at-large bid for them (because they’re in the running for a top two seed and I could see them winning those two games in the tournament.)

Anyway it’s college hockey so anything can happen.

Ohio State Things

Ah, the Buckeyes. They’ve flipped this year and were really good in the beginning of the year but have struggled lately. There are a couple of questionable games the Buckeyes have played, like the tie against Arizona State and losing to Michigan. The Buckeyes are always really inconsistent, and that has not changed this year. Who beat Minnesota by five goals and ties Arizona State? Or loses to Michigan?

Most notably, though, is the fact that the Buckeyes couldn’t demolish Michigan State. Maybe you can make a slight argument the Spartans are better this year (they have a couple of impressive wins), but it makes no sense for the Buckeyes to only beat Michigan State, a Michigan State team with no defense, by just one goal in each game. Even I wouldn’t have expected that.

Bad Big Ten Goaltending

My conversation with INCH’s Mike Eidelbes reminded me how bad the Big Ten goaltending has been this year. What I hadn’t realized, though, is that Peyton Jones’ save percentage has dropped to below .900. That’s probably a product of the increase in competition than earlier in the season, but it’s still surprising to me since I thought he was one of the best netminders in the conference.

The only good ones left, numbers-wise, is weirdly Christian Frey. Frey has a .911 save percentage. Yes, that’s the highest in the Big Ten. Hayden Lavigne is second with .908, but his save percentage – along with Jones’ – has dropped drastically since the start of the season. Minnesota’s Eric Scheirhorn is back up to .900. Of all the goaltenders who’ve played more than 10 games, those three goaltenders are the only ones with save percentages over .900.

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