College hockey rosters are relatively dynamic. In any given year, a single team typically loses 6 or 7 or perhaps 8 players from the season before. A reasoned assessment of a team's potential includes looking at who they lost from one season to the next. And the Badger's losses to graduation and/or the professional ranks were substantial from last season to now.
Gone are the top 4 scorers; Derek Stepan (54 points), Michael Davies (52 points), Brendan Smith (52 points), Blake Geoffrion (50 points) ... along with Ben Street (30 points), Andy Bombach (24 points), Aaron Bendickson (22 points). They return only 1 player from their top 8 scorers in sophomore Craig Smith who scored 8 goals and added 25 assists last season.
Badger experts, bloggers and media writers will tell you that Wisconsin is a young team this season. I'd call that a bit of a fudge. They have 6 freshman that have played more than 10 games apiece. That's more close to an average amount in WCHA terms this season. Nevertheless, they aren't overloaded with veteran talent as compared to their youth.
In goal though they've got two experienced netminders in juniors Gudmandson and Bennett. So yeah, again "young" is a slight misnomer. If you qualified the description with "relative" and "compared to past Badger teams" then I can accept it. But compared to other WCHA teams this season ... they're not really younger than any number of squads.
Currently their top scorer is freshman Mark Zengerle with 3 goals and 19 assists. Sophomore Justin Schultz has 9 goals and 10 assists. Leading returner sophomore Craig Smith has 6 goals and 12 assists. Junior Jordy Murray is leading the upperclassmen's efforts for Bucky this season with 10 goals and 5 assists. Beyond those guys it's pretty much scoring by committee in Badgerland. Senior Sean Dolan has 5 goals, Derek Lee has 3, Michael Mersch has 6, Tyler Barnes has 4 and 7th year Senior "Podge" Turnbull has 3.
Overall the Wisconsin lineup is smaller than UAA. Not a significant difference overall though I'd have to give the nod in size terms to the UAA forwards versus the UW defense.
Going from past experience we can probably guess that we'll see a pretty disciplined effort from the Badgers this weekend. They play pretty much exactly how Mike Eaves wants them to play. To do otherwise risks his wrath apparently. And Eaves philosophy starts in their own zone.
The Badgers under Eaves have always been oriented from the defense. And it hasn't always been necessarily just a defensive-minded effort. They've had a slew of elite level talented defensemen go through their program on the way to the NHL over the past five or six years and all of those guys were solid offensive threats.
That hasn't changed much this season. Defenseman Justin Schultz is 2nd in scoring with 9 goals and 10 assists Jake Gardiner is 4th with 4 goals and 14 assists from the blueline. 9 of those 13 goals have come during power plays. So yah .. they're dangerous as hell from the top while up an extra man. 24 of the Badgers 60 goals this season have come on the power play. My calculator confirms that's 40% of their scoring. And with 13 of those 24 coming from the blueline ... well I think you see where I'm going with this.
Their power play is most dangerous weapon they have and their efficiency with it is pretty much fucking skerryville. 29.3% of the time they have an extra man they score a goal. Fucking MEOW.
The excellent discipline at not taking penalties which the Seawolves have shown so far this season is going to be a key factor this weekend. Learnin' our boys to play 5-on-5 as much as possible will certainly be a coaching staff priority this week during practice. I know said lesson has already been a focus over the first part of the season which is great since it will be doubly important this weekend.
I'll be back tomorrow and take a fairly extensive look at how I think our guys have been doing and what they need to do to get a sweep this weekend.