Friday, March 8, 2013

Know Thy Playoff Enemy: Alaska The Sequel

The Spartans once again are making the long trip out west, but this time there is a lot more on the line - an entire season. Everything up to this point becomes moot. Everyone is 0-0, and they don't even have to win two straight games to advance - just two out of three.

Of course, they will be fighting recent playoff disappointments. Michigan State has lost ten straight post seasons (CCHA & NCAA) games. Their last CCHA playoff victory came all the way back in 2008 - game 1 of the quarterfinal series with Northern Michigan. The 10 game streak started that year as well after MSU defeated Colorado College in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Add in the fact that Michigan State has yet to win two games in a single weekend, and Michigan State has only won three road games all season, the odds seem stacked against the Spartans. Despite all this, the people that visit this blog seem confident as over half believe MSU can win the series.  And even if Michigan State does win the series, what does that mean? It means they'd head down to Oxford for the quarterfinal series - playing a team that simply has had Michigan State's number of late.

So really, there's no reason to even show up right? MSU can't win. It's just not possible.

Playoffs - The Second Season, A Second Chance

Was it possible for Bowling Green last season, a team that won 5 conference games all year and only 10 games overall (going into the playoffs) to make it to Joe Louis Arena? No, but did it stop them? No. Bowling Green stunned sixth-seeded Northern Michigan in three games, then upset the conference champion Ferris State Bulldogs in three games.  Bowling Green then held a 2-0 lead in the CCHA semi-finals before finally losing in double overtime - a dream ending coming up just a little bit short.

Was it possible for the LA Kings to barely make the NHL playoffs as the eighth seed in the Western Conference to win the Stanley Cup? Heck no. It's funny how sometimes the underdog forgets that they are just that - underdogs.

There are examples all over the place - and let's not forget that Michigan State did win one of their three road games in Alaska, and nearly had the second game of the series in overtime. How about the potential with two great goalies keeping the Spartans chances of stealing a road series? Hildebrand and Yanakeff have both shown they can steal a game this year. 

While the play will certainly need to be sharp, a win over top 10 Western Michigan had to build up some confidence, and if it takes an 'us against the world' mentality, then so be it - shock the world.

2012 - 2013 Leading Scorers:

Andy Taranto   14 goals, 27 points
Cody Kunyk     9 goals, 26 points
Colton Beck    11 goals, 20 points
Tyler Morley    10 goals, 19 points

Nanooks Goaltender

John Keeney   12-9-3, 2.33 GAA, .910 save %

Team Comparison:

Alaska Offense:  4th - 2.56 GPG 
MSU Defense:  9th - 2.75 GAPG

Alaska Defense: 7th - 2.65 GAPG
MSU Offense: 11th - 2.08 GPG

Alaska Power Play: 7th - 14.5 %
MSU Penalty Kill:  7th - 83.6%
MSU Penalty Minutes:  T-3rd Least 12.4 PIM/G

Alaska Penalty Kill:  1st - 89.5%
Alaska Penalty Minutes:  T-4th Most - 13.4 PIM/G
MSU Power Play: 9th - 14.1 %

Series Thoughts:

The immediate thought is MSU needs to get more rubber on goal. The Spartans only had 38 shots on goal for the entire weekend - 14 in the 1-0 win and 24 in the 4-2 loss. Yanakeff played very well all weekend keeping Michigan State in the game. The Spartans will need another strong goaltending effort in order to win this series, but it's going to take some help in the offensive end as well. 

While Alaska might be the favorite, if the Spartans have their legs going - which won't be easy because of the travel - MSU will be in this series. It's a matter of out-working the Nanooks in front of the goal, in the corners, and limiting the turnovers crossing the blue lines. 

Gut feeling says it goes the distance - which will make for a lot of late night listening. All the games are scheduled to start at 11:05 pm Eastern time and can be heard on 1240 am in Lansing or on the Spartan Sports Network. We'll be looking to do a very late night live blog as well.

Go Green!

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