Greetings from the frozen tundra that Minnesota turned into this weekend. ‘Twas a perfect weekend to park yourself on the couch and never leave. All six Big Ten teams squared off against each other this weekend. Here’s how things played out:
- Minnesota swept Michigan State at home
- Penn State swept Wisconsin at home
- Ohio State and Michigan tied on Friday in Columbus with the Buckeyes winning the shootout. Michigan rebounded with a win on Sunday in Ann Arbor
Here are my three thoughts from the weekend:
1. The standings are starting to take shape
Now that we have a decently-large sample size, it’s a little bit easier to speculate on which teams will be fighting for the league’s championship come March. In my eyes, Penn State, Michigan and Minnesota are the clear-cut favorites to be in the picture. Ohio State will probably end up a couple points behind the big-three and Wisconsin and Michigan State will occupy the cellar.
Next weekend will be an interesting one in the Big Ten, not because two of the top teams are going agains each other, but because Minnesota and Penn State both go on the road to face Wisconsin and Ohio State respectively. Both Michigan schools will play U.S Under-18 once Team next weekend.
2. Michigan State is struggling mightily
It can’t be fun to be a Michigan State fan right now. The Spartans played what was probably one of their better games of the season on Saturday, and they lost 3-1 to the Gophers. Michigan State is now 5-17-2 (1-7-0 B1G) and has lost eight games in a row.
I knew Michigan State wasn’t going to be an offensive juggernaut this season, but I did not expect the Spartans to struggle this much. After losing in overtime twice at the Great Lakes Invitational, the Spartans have given up 15 and eight goals in their first two conference series of 2016. Michigan State had a strong spring last year and ended up with a 17-16-2 record, but considering the team only won 11 and 14 games the two season prior to that, you have to wonder how safe Tom Anastos’ job is.
3. Michigan’s defense still scares me
The Ohio State and Michigan home-and-home series was easily the most entertaining one in the conference this weekend, in my opinion. Friday’s game featured multiple late third-period goals, including one in the final 10 seconds to send the game to overtime. Saturday’s bout, a 8-6 Michigan victory, actually ended with the two teams exchanging some pleasantries.
Michigan took four of six point from the Buckeyes, but the Wolverines have now given up 10 or more goals on a weekend in half of their Big Ten series so far. Even with the high number of goals given up, Michigan has still managed to get good results. A team cannot win in the postseason with offense alone, however.
The Wolverines schedule is about to become more difficult, too, not only because of the opponents but also the fact that the they won’t play at home much the rest of the way. Nine of Michigan’s remaining 13 games will be played away from Yost Ice Arena. That being said, if the race does come down to the final two weeks the Wolverines play three of their last four contests at home.