Monday, February 12, 2007

Just Open It Up

If a 1-8-1 record in 2007 isn't disappointing then I don't know the definition of the word. If there is any single element with some causality relationship, I think it's pretty clear that it is a lack of scoring. I've thought about it enough that I've come to the conclusion that it isn't a lack of talent since they finished 10-8-3 in 2006. So let's see ... in the first half of the year they scored 3.55 goals per game. So far in 2007 they've scored 1.4 goals per game. What happened? Lots of things. The schedule in the first half included 6 non-conference games that where the Seawovles averaged 3.83 goals per game. In conference they were scoring 2.7 goals per game giving a net loss of 1.3 goals per game. That's more than a 50% drop against WCHA foes. Why? Naturally, I don't ask a question when I'm writing that I don't intend to answer.

In my mind there are 2 possible causes. Either the players aren't producing or the system isn't producing. It's no big secret that UAA intends its physical play to "spur" offensive opportunities. It's a good use of the size advantage that UAA has over most of it's competition. It's a possession game deep in the other teams zone; it's grinding and working and counterattacking. They've played that style game all season and in my eyes they've all given it their best effort on a good majority of nights. And I'm saying?

With a post title like "Just Open It Up" I bet you don't need a psychic to tell you what's coming next. Hey ... there's four regular season games left before the playoffs. The horse you rode to get here is plum tuckered out. So it's time to get a new horse ain't it? Is there really anything to be lost by opening the offense up? What would be wrong about trying to skate up and down the ice with the other 2 of the bottom three teams in the league? There are more than a few good playmakers (Clark, Crowder, Waldrop) and more than a few reasonably good finishers (Lunden, Beagle, Bourne) that are playing in a system right now that quite frankly doesn't utilize their strengths. There's untapped offensive potential on the blueline. Anderson and Smith have both been contributing but Mat Robinson is underutilized as an offensive threat. He's been excellent especially in the last 10 games. Backstrom's good skating and heads up play always looks good moving forward. So why not try to encourage these strengths over the last four (less meaningful) regular season games? Just Open It Up. Let's see the team skate. Wouldn't it benefit the team and staff to do an "about face"? If there is a loss of confidence with some players couldn't opening it up rebuild some confidence? Wouldn't you rather lose 8-7 than 3-1? I don't see as much fun out there as I saw earlier in the season.


Anonymous said...

I agree that the system might be partly to blame, since the other teams are able to game plan better with a better knowledge of what we want to do. But the question is how many teams can we actually skate up and down with??? Do we want to take that chance? I think that Duluth can probably out skate our wolves for the most part Mankato we might get the better of in and up and down game, but i am still not certain of that by any means. The thing to remember is that as you said we are a big team and not always the fastest. Even though the team has looked much faster this year than in year's past.

Donald said...

I guess i'm thinking it doesn't matter if we can or can't skate (in an overall sense) with Mankato or Duluth. It's only for playoff positioning and pride at this point. I don't think there's much of difference playing at Mariucci or the NHC in the playoffs. I don't think there's much difference between going to CC or DU. So I'm all for just balls to the wall pond hockey if for no other reason than to let the kids have some fun before the playoffs and maybe get some confidence in the process.

I also think any impressions that a team outskated us were determined by the style we've played. There's plenty of wheel on the team and it just needs to be turned loose for a few games to see it.

dude said...

You always seem to say what I am thinking about UAA hockey. It's been damn frustrating the past 6 weeks. I am still confident that the boys can right the ship.

Jeff said...

Why open it up against MSU and UMD, when we know we wont be able to do that against any of the top 5 wcha teams? If we go into another system that will only have a chance of working against our next two opponents, then we'll have to get used to the old system again, when we head into the playoffs. I say stick with the system we have right now,but make some minor adjustments. We've had plenty of scoring opportunities; we just need to capitalize on them and stay out of the box.

Donald said...

UAA's offensive system has been a helluva lotta work without a helluva lotta results in the second half. My suggestion is based in the theory that you allow the players to play to their natural tendencies some (less regimentation) and they'll gain confidence. The system Shyiak is playing will serve the team well in a playoff atmosphere and the experience the team has playing wouldn't likely be lost because they played four games skating rather than checking. It might however result in more successful offensive chances and give a forward or two the belief in themselves to take a chance or shot. Nick Lowe had a breakaway against the Gophers. It was classic for Nick's skills as he streaked up the right wing on the outside and angled for the net. When he got to a good shooting spot near the top the circle he dished the puck BACK to someone trailing in the slot. It was clear he didn't have the confidence to take the shot. It's just one example.

As far as UAA's skating goes ... clark, beagle, lunden, crowder, tuton and waldrop can all skate at the same level as any other top WCHA player. So then maybe just have the top two lines "open it up"? That's the question. Change something big or tweak?

I'm not conservative by nature. Make a big change.

MeanEgirl said...

So wait... Tech is the Seawolves' only victory so far in '07? Boo to that!!!

Anonymous said...

In what I've seen of the 2nd half UAA hockey, our offense tries to play the grind it out cycle game low on the boards, the problem is we only have maybe 2 guys that bring the puck off the boards and try to create something with it, normally we turn it over. Our other offensive ploy is to skate in and shoot from inside the blue line before the top of the circles, most goalkeepers in this league will stop 9,999 out of 10,000 of those shots. We seem to suffer some discpline problems through out the course of a game and it has really hurt. Not sure of where they stack up with PK and PP but it can't be all that great. Donald's suggestion is right on, let it rip and see where you end up. What have we got to lose? The basement is only 1 point away.

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