Three Things I Think: Big Ten, Dec. 10Monday, December 10th, 2018
It was the weekend of offenses. Well, only if it was the Notre Dame-Penn State series, which saw 19 goals on the weekend. Most of that came from Saturday’s game whe Penn State score nine goals.
Yes, nine goals. On Notre Dame.
Wisconsin swept Michigan State, which sounds correct. Minnesota and Michigan tied on the first night before the Gophers defeated the Wolverines.
Penn State’s offense is really good
It’s one thing to score goals and another thing to score goals on Notre Dame and Cale Morris. While I have said before that it’s very difficult to sustain high-scoring offenses for a long time, there’s no question Penn State’s is quite powerful.
Evan Barratt leads the country with 13 goals and 29 points. Next is Alex Limoges, who has 29 points. The Nittany Lions are averaging 5.29 goals per game — over a goal per game more than the runner-up, Minnesota State.
The question always remains how good a team’s shooting percentage actually is, though. Because Penn State still leads the country in shots on goal and averages 41.06 shots on goal per game, almost 13 shots more per game than Minnesota State takes.
Even so, Penn State still ranks second in goals per shots on goal with a 12.9 percent conversion percent. In that department the Nittany Lions trail Minnesota State by less that two percent.
This is an interesting statistic to keep an eye on, because in previous years Penn State was still shooting and still scoring, but not at nearly as high of a rate. In 2016-17, when Penn State led the country in goals per game with 4.10, they also converted 9.3 percent of their shots on goal. But again, that was for the whole season.
In 2016-17 through Dec. 10, Penn State was averaging 4.87 goals per game and taking 48.27 shots on goal per game. The Nittany Lions converted 10 percent of those shots.
The Badgers are quietly getting better
Between the power of Penn State’s offense, the high expectations for Ohio State, questions about Michigan, a new coaching staff in Minnesota and the return of Cale Morris, other teams in the Big Ten were almost forgotten. Wisconsin was one of those forgotten teams and it’s easy to see why.
The Badgers were a good team with a bright future, but all of that collapsed after 2014. Since then Wisconsin struggled to win, even with high-end talent. Goaltending was supposed to solve any issues, but Kyle Hayton’s arrival last year fixed nothing.
So this year, no one really knew what to think. But right now the Badgers are tied for first place in the league with Ohio State. They’ve won eight games overall and four in the conference. The Badgers also haven’t lost in their last six games and are on a three-game winning streak. Daniel Lebedeff’s save percentage isn’t great, but it’s above .910, which isn’t bad.
Ohio State is the best team in the Big Ten
It’s strange that the Buckeyes have been using a goaltending tandem, but it seems to be working. Ohio State is tied with Wisconsin for first has played just eight games, two less than the Badgers. Ohio State has just four losses this season and only two in the conference.
The important thing is the Buckeye defense and goaltending is still really good. That’s no surprise since Steve Miller is still there, and the team’s commitment to defense from last year is still there.
Ohio State has only allowed more than two goals in a conference once this year when it gave up four goals to Penn State. Overall the Buckeyes have surrendered just 13 goals in eight conference games. And Tommy Nappier’s .951 save percentage is second nationally.