Just shy of the halfway point in the regular season, the No. 11 Michigan hockey team has so far been propelled largely by the strong offensive outpouring from its seniors.
Five of the top seven scorers on the team are seniors, paced by forwards Carl Hagelin (16 points) and Louie Caporusso (14). But the success of those veterans has exposed the lack of scoring from senior defenseman Chad Langlais.
Langlais, who is on the Wolverines’ top defensive pairing along with freshman defenseman Jon Merrill, has managed just a goal and four assists through 16 games.
Langlais’s lone goal was a can’t-miss opportunity against Notre Dame when every other player on the ice thought the puck was caught in freshman Luke Moffatt’s equipment. Langlais skated in along from the right circle and deposited the puck behind a bewildered Fighting Irish goaltender.
Such good fortune has been rare for the defenseman. He hasn’t netted any of his other 24 shots on goal.
“I’m putting the effort in, but sometimes the puck doesn’t want to go in,” Langlais said on Tuesday.
In the opening week of the season, Michigan coach Red Berenson voiced his desire for Langlais to assert himself more on offense to become a scoring threat.
Despite Langlais scoring just 12 times in his first three seasons, Berenson admits that he has been “surprised” with his head defenseman’s inability to score this year.
“The puck is just not going in and it’s not going through,” Berenson said. “That’s the dilemma with our defensemen, just getting pucks through. Teams are just doing such a good job of blocking point shots. Chad is one of those players who gets victimized by it, but he’s also had some good chances. I think it’s just a matter of time.”
Though Langlais isn’t lighting the lamp regularly, he hasn’t been completely absent in the offensive zone. He’s had plenty of success setting up goals for his teammates.
It’s said that every great goal is set up by an even greater pass — and if that’s the case, Langlais has thrived.
With an assist last Friday against Wisconsin, he moved to 20th on Michigan’s all-time defenseman assists list, only one helper behind former Wolverine Blake Sloan.
“I take pride in my passes. I think that’s what has gotten me here,” Langlais said. “I like to take the puck and score. Everybody likes to score, but I really take pride in my passes.”
Berenson suggested that Langlais’s lack of offensive production might be a direct result of Merrill and Langlais facing off against the top scoring lines on the opposing team every time they step onto the ice.
Going up against some of the most dangerous offensive lines in the nation is a tall order for the smallest defenseman on the squad, yet he consistently logs the most ice time on the team.
“He’s playing against the top players that our team sees night after night,” Berenson said. “That’s pretty good for a guy that’s 5-foot-whatever. He’s got a little bit of a warrior in him that doesn’t show up in the stats.”
In his three seasons manning the blue line duties for Michigan (7-2-1 CCHA, 8-4-4 overall), Langlais has never missed a game, accumulating 145 straight starts. That’s only 21 games short of matching former skaters Tim Miller and Travis Turnbull for the program’s Iron Man title — the team record for consecutive appearances is 166.
Barring an unforeseen injury or roster scratch, Langlais will match the record in the second round of CCHA tournament action in early March.
“It’s really special to be able to play that many games,” Langlais said. “That means that we are going far every year, deep into the playoffs, and that’s real special. It’s something I haven’t really thought about (the record), but I hope I can keep going.”