There's 8 games in the book and it's an off-week. As promised, this is an early season evaluation of the team. I've decided rather than just go with descriptions and analysis that I'd add some grading criteria. Of course I could go with scholastic grading A thru F or a standard 1-10 system but that's boring and it's all been done before. I'll be using the just created on-the-fly copyright protected undeniably accurate super-duper ranking system.
I'll break everything down into several categories. Offense, Defense, Power Play, Penalty Kill, Goaltending and Desire.
AHS - Absolute Head Shaker
NGID - Not Getting It Done
IASB - It Ain't Stinkin But...
NQE - Not Quite Effective
BTLY - Better Than Last Year
DGMA - Definitely Got My Attention
FMB - Floatin My Boat
WMCYW - What More Could Ya Want
Offense: DGMAPerhaps the biggest piece of the offensive puzzle to get my attention so far this season is the play of the blueliners. In every game so far this season the defensemen (bar none) have created numerous chances with excellent starts on the transition and well-timed rushes. For the past couple of years opponents have been effective bottling up the Seawolves in their own zone. So far this year (with only Mankato's trapping in game one being the exception), the D-men have effectively started the offensive flow. The next thing that's been going mostly good is the physical play deep in the opponents end. The cycling and forechecking behind the net has been pretty effective. Some work remains getting the puck to the net a little more often perhaps; but I wouldn't focus too much on that. With time and experience together I'm sure we'll all see more chances come to the front. I also like the way the offense has been gaining the zone on the fly. When forced to dump the puck the wingers have done a good job of getting to and challenging. When they've carried the puck in, the forwards have done a good job of going to the net and we've seen a lot of close chances at tip-ins. They've also found the trailing player more often than we've seen in the past. The forwards are mostly choosing good times to shoot waiting for screens to develop instead of just throwing into the netminders glove. I say mostly because I'd like to see a few more low shots that create rebounds. The early freshman production has been great to see and only bodes well for the rest of the season. So with good support from the back end, reasonably good shot selection, good play deep and guys going to the net well it all looks pretty good to me. My boat may not be floatin yet but it's damn close to that. I guess the only thing I could ask for would be to see more rubber meeting some twine.
Defense: FMBI'm going with Floating My Boat for a number of reasons (even though the goals against isn't the prettiest statistic so far). Number one is the veteran-like play of all the freshman blueliners. These guys as a group are doing a stellar job. They've manned-up nicely and maintained good positioning. They've hit and controlled play along the boards well. Backchecking by the forwards has been mostly good. Guys have gotten back and covered well but perhaps could improve some. Not to single anyone out but there were several instances I remember where a extra forward or two's presence in the D end would have been helpful. I don't think that second chances for opponents have been too frequent. The other main reason for the FMB is the quality we've seen clearing the zone. I mentioned this in the evaluation of the offense but reinforce it here because it is so much improved from the past. Whether its a good tape to tape cross ice pass or an individual rush to neutral ice it has been Floating My Boat.
Power Play: IASBIt Ain't Stinkin But it ain't clicking either is it? At 18.8 percent so far the power play doesn't quite measure up to the standard of 20% that coaches would like to see. Puck possession and movement have been good. And I'd like to think that we're seeing more shots from the point than last year when we almost never did. But perhaps we could be seeing more shots? The Seawolves set up with an umbrella up top which allows the two flanking point men to drop down as necessary. Maybe it doesn't encourage shooting from the point though? I'm not an expert in such things but it seems to me that spreading the puck from point to point without the guy up top in the middle provides better angles for shooting. If and when the shots come from the middle there certainly are more chances for the "greasy" kinds of goals that are necessary but I think there's something to be said for spreading the shorthanded team out with passing. The down side might be that you open yourself up to more breakaway chances? In any case, the number has to climb. Cashing in on power play chances is one of the most important factors for success.
Penalty Kill: BTLYPerhaps it should be rated more than just Better Than Last Year but I'm sticking with my first thought. An 84.4 percent effectiveness is reasonable when every other team wants to achieve that 20 percent rating against you. The only reason I don't go with a higher rating is because the team has simply taken too many penalties. It may not be perfectly fair to give a less than great rating to the PK because the team has taken more penalties than it should have but I've got to mention that fact somewhere. WCHA success comes and goes with special teams. The penalty killers have been asked to do more than they should. So far they've done a good job of it but I have no doubt the numbers would be better if the number of penalties taken would go down.
Goaltending: NQEAn effective save percentage is one above .900. GAA isn't a good measure of a goalies play. Jonny O's sv% so far this season is .872 in all games and he's given up 22 goals. And now for the difficult part for me; I don't like saying it but he's given up at least 5 softies. My favorite part of having him in the crease is that he is unflappable. If he does give up a soft goal he doesn't let it affect his play. No matter how good a defensive effort is, the other WCHA team is going to get some quality scoring chances. What your goaltender does with those quality chances is important to success. Inconsistency is a word that I'd prefer to stay away from because I don't think it paints a really accurate picture. We've only seen Matthew Gordon once so far this season but I'd expect him to play again soon. He was solid enough in that game to come up with a win but he did give up 3 goals on 15 shots.
Desire: FMBThere's only been one real game where I'd classify the effort as less than acceptable. There is always a natural ebb and flow in game situations and the Seawolves have seen a few minutes here and there where they didn't seem to be at full stride. That said, those minutes haven't been overly detrimental to success. So I guess I'd say that out of 60 minutes per game the Seawolves have been playing at 100 percent for around 50 minutes. That's good. It can be better.
Overall: BTLYWith no AHS ratings and no NGID's I'm pretty optimistic about how things have gone. There's room for improvement. The team wouldn't have to be undefeated and/or tearing it up for me to give a WMCYW rating. As a "die-hard" fan though I honestly believe they could be undefeated at this point with a couple of breaks. So I think they're on the cusp. I think they're close. I like what I hear the coaching staff saying in the media. I like what I hear the players saying. I mostly like being 3-2-3 overall. I'm not all about being 0-2-2 so far in the conference. The saving grace at this point is that there are another 24 conference games to be played.
I'll be back on Sunday with a Potpouri entry. And before or after (depending on nothing other than my desire to sit in front of the computer) I'll give my thoughts on each player. Don't expect "ratings" on the players.