The second-to-last weekend of Big Ten play is in the books and the only thing we know for certain is that the last weekend is going to be drama-filled. Michigan State swept Wisconsin and now occupies the top spot in the conference standings. The distance between the first-place Spartans and fourth-place Penn State is three points.
Here’s how things played out this weekend:
- Michigan State swept Wisconsin at home with two 3-0 victories
- Minnesota and Ohio State split a series in Columbus. The Gophers won 4-2 on Friday and the Buckeyes won 5-2 on Saturday
- Penn State swept Michigan by winning Friday’s game 6-4 and Saturday’s contest 4-3
Here are three things I saw this weekend:
1. Michigan State did what it was supposed to
Two shutout victories against Wisconsin may not be something to brag about but with the parity in this conference the two victories are a feather in the Spartans’ cap heading into the final weekend.
It was a very workman-like performance for the Spartans, who scored three power-play goals this weekend. Jake Hildebrand had a relatively-easy-21 saves on Friday but was stellar in Saturday’s game and stopped 38 shots. His performance will more than likely net him the first-star award this week, unless it goes to his teammate Matt Berry and his three goal and one assist weekend.
This wins against Wisconsin this weekend also remind me of the missed opportunity that Michigan State had a couple weeks ago when it dropped Friday’s game against the Badgers at the Kohl Center 2-1. Had the Spartans found a way to pick up three points in that game they’d be in a very comfortable spot heading into the final weekend.
2. The curious case of Michigan
At this point I feel like picking Michigan games with a coin flip might yield better results than actually trying to figure out what kind of effort you will get from the team.
Now I’m not trying to take anything away from Penn State, the Nittany Lions are an extremely tough team to play especially when they’re at home, but Michigan not being able to at least put together one complete effort this weekend is kind of ridiculous. We saw the defense that struggled to stop anything on Friday night and an offense that, outside of one player, couldn’t get anything going on Saturday.
The losses dropped Michigan’s road record to 4-10. The Wolverines and Spartans will play a home-and-home series next weekend.
3. The standings
Here’s what the standings currently look like with two games remaining:
1. Michigan State — 34 points
2. Michigan — 33
2. Minnesota — 33
4. Penn State — 31
5. Oho State — 21
6. Wisconsin — 10
Minnesota will host Penn State at home to close out the regular season. Like I mentioned before, Michigan and Michigan State will play a home-and-home series and Wisconsin hosts Ohio State.
I picked Minnesota to win the league during the preseason and expected the Gophers to have things wrapped up by the last weekend. Paula and I will, of course, reveal our revised predictions in Friday’s picks blog.
Spoiler: Mine hasn’t changed.