Michigan goaltender Josh Blackburn is not used to surrendering five goals in a game. Last Friday against No. 1 Minnesota, though, that”s exactly what the senior netminder did. Blackburn allowed five goals in two periods three in the first eight minutes.
But Blackburn shouldn”t receive all the blame for Michigan”s defensive blunders against the Golden Gophers. The Michigan defense left him out to dry countless times Friday, giving offensive juggernaut Minnesota point-blank scoring opportunities.
“I can”t tell you it was strategy, but it was breakdowns,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “It was a poor pass in our zone, or poor coverage. Two of their first three goals were not earned goals. They weren”t good plays by the other team, they were bad plays by us. That”s something we should have been able to prevent.”
Yesterday, the Wolverines held a video session to try and find a remedy for the defensive miscues that continue to crop up this season.
“I”ve looked at (the video) 100 times,” Berenson said. “Our players know better. They got caught and they just weren”t sharp, and bang, bang, bang it was in the net.”
Said sophomore defenseman Andy Burnes: “Sensing danger is one thing we”ve been working on, and communication with our forwards. Coach has been talking to our forwards about getting back and identifying their man, and standing them up at the blueline. The biggest thing is keeping your head on a swivel and knowing where everyone is. Sometimes you get so focused on the puck that there may be two guys open in front of the net.”
Missed Opportunities: Last weekend, the Wolverines shot 41 times against Wisconsin and 32 times in their loss to Minnesota. With so many shots flying at the opposing goaltender, Michigan knows it should be scoring more points than it is. The Wolverines are currently ninth in scoring in the CCHA with an average of just over three goals per game.
In the Minnesota debacle, Michigan had the first two legitimate scoring chances of the game one on a pass from Mike Cammalleri to Eric Nystrom, and one from Cammalleri to fellow junior Jed Ortmeyer. If the Wolverines had been able to find the net on just one of those opportunities, the game probably would have unfolded much differently. Michigan also was unable to light the lamp on several breakaways.
“In the Minnesota game, we had the first two grade-A scoring chances, and had we scored those goals, we would have had an easier time scoring on the breakaways,” Berenson said. “We are missing good chances that we need to capitalize on.”
PULLING THE SWITCH: In the middle of Friday”s game, junior forward Mark Mink was demoted from the second line to the fourth line in favor of freshman forward Milan Gajic.
Mink, a player the Wolverines are counting on to score, has only tallied one goal since his return from an injured hand on Oct. 19. Gajic is one of Michigan”s most natural scorers, but has yet to play to his full potential on the fourth line. Berenson served two different motives by making this change.
” Mink has struggled,” Berenson said. “We were hoping that he would score 15 or 20 goals for us. He”s putting a lot of pressure on himself to score, and so I”m taking a little pressure off of him. Mink has always played with (junior forward John) Shouneyia, but it hasn”t been clicking. I want to see if Gajic can get something going with him.”