Michigan coach Red Berenson wasn’t expecting much from his power play in last weekend’s exhibition games.
It’s a good thing he didn’t expect perfection, or even mediocrity.
Michigan went 1-for-7 on the power play Sunday against Western Ontario, garnering just five shots.
“We had a few good chances, but I think we were trying to be too fancy,” senior captain Kevin Porter said following the game. “There were a couple times where there were guys in the slot and they could’ve shot, but we tried to make the backdoor play.”
In Sunday’s game, there was no better example than when freshman Aaron Palushaj passed up a shot in the slot and slid the puck to senior Chad Kolarik on the back post. The puck bounced over Kolarik’s stick and was cleared out of the zone.
Palushaj is one of three freshmen currently on Michigan’s first power-play unit (Max Pacioretty and Chad Langlais are the others). The trio will have to adjust quickly – preferably by Friday’s game against Boston College – to the speed and intensity of Division I college hockey if the Wolverines hope to succeed with the man advantage.
“Sometimes they’re worried about getting the puck to the older guys,” associate head coach Mel Pearson said. “As they go on they’ll understand – if you have the shot, shoot it.”
Having three freshmen on the first unit won’t necessarily spell doom for the Wolverines’ power play, just as having potent offensive players didn’t always equal success for the man-advantage unit last year.
Even with Porter and now-departed teammates T.J. Hensick, Andrew Cogliano and Jack Johnson, the 2006-07 version of the Michigan power play was inconsistent at best. It scored just 17.4 percent of the time and was second in the nation in shorthanded goals allowed.
And you can’t question the correlation between a successful power play and winning. In games Michigan won last season, its power play succeeded 22.4 percent of the time. In games the Wolverines lost, the rate dropped to 9.4 percent.
Michigan wants a number closer to the former this season, but the trick to developing a solid power play, by all accounts, is time – a commodity Michigan is short on at the moment.
The Wolverines spent much of yesterday’s practice working on the extra-man attack and plan to do the same each day leading up to the weekend.
“There’s so many parts of the power play,” Berenson said. “You’re trying to get some personnel that compliments each other, and then some leadership, poise and patience.”
While building a power play is a long and complicated process, Porter gave a simple critique of himself and his teammates after the Western Ontario game.
“We should’ve just made the simple play and taken the shot,” he said.
Notes: Berenson named Kolarik an alternate captain yesterday. Kolarik is the second Wolverine with an “A” on his jersey, along with junior Tim Miller.
“Chad has done a good job as a senior,” Berenson said. “He is a responsible, articulate player.”
Andrew Cogliano had been named as an alternate captain in April before leaving Michigan to sign with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers.