By John Lachmann
I'd like to try to do a state-of-the-team piece each week in addition to the gamers and occasional alumni reports.
I apologize to those of you who are disappointed in the lack of recent content. WCPO pays me for my high school sports content, which ballooned this fall, and that left me little time to watch or even follow Miami’s away games. I’m also compensated considerably less for posts on this site.
But with Northern Kentucky’s fall prep sports done for season I should be able to provide more content here the rest of the season.
I always look at this page as Miami Hockey 201. You the reader are smart enough to get the press releases about the weekly awards and updated rankings everywhere else. The purpose of this blog is to analyze the important stuff.
Admittedly, at some point it would be nice to become a one-stop shop for all news Miami hockey, but right now it’s just me creating content and I’m being spread rather thin. I promise to be there for the important games and write player features the second half of the season.
So back to the purpose of this post...
Despite Miami’s ability to hold a 1-0 lead at St. Cloud on Saturday, the first 10 games have gone as well as expected considering the RedHawks lost three starting defensemen and have no seniors and one junior on the blue line who played 12 games last season.
Miami enters this weekend 6-3-1 with losses coming at home against North Dakota, at Providence because of bush-league officiating and at the third-ranked team in the country.
Considering the schedule strength and the blueline youth, I’m happy with the start.
Let’s take a look at some early statistics…
It’s still weird seeing a coaching staff so committed to defense shifting to a smaller-and-quicker ideology, and obviously if it works Coach Enrico Blasi is a genius.
The biggest improvement statistically has been Miami’s power play. The RedHawks underachieved on the man advantage last season, converting just 15.9 percent of its chances. But this season Miami is scoring at a 27.3 percent rate on the power play.
To be fair, Blasi has taken a huge risk to improve his success rate in this area. Miami has regularly gone with five forwards on 5x4 power plays the last couple of weekends.
That concept worked on the 5x3s the RedHawks had against Ohio State in the season opener in Columbus (junior Alex Wideman buried a one-timer between the faceoff circles), and Blasi must’ve liked that unit’s performance in that series to carry it into the much riskier 5x4 realm.
Junior Austin Czarnik and sophomore Riley Barber have been the “defensemen” on this top PP unit, and of course both are amazing players who are among the team’s top defensive forwards as well.
It speaks volumes about Blasi’s opinion of these two as all-around players well as his goaltenders that he would run five forwards out for 5x4 power plays. Miami has not allowed a shorthanded goal this season.
Because of the team’s shift to speed and offense, Miami is averaging 3.7 goals per game in 2013-14, as opposed to 2.5 last season. The RedHawks are allowing an average of 2.2 goals after finishing 2012-13 with a 1.72 goals-against average.
The team shots reveal that difference is not an aberration. Miami is generating 5.3 more shots per game (37.5 vs. 32.2) this season, and are opponents’ average of 30.5 is 4.6 more than last season.
Those differences do not account for all of the scoring differential, since the basic axiom of hockey scoring is 10 percent of shots find net, and five shots difference should not account for 1.2 addition goals per game, but Miami has also been more aggressive and as a result both the RedHawks and their opponents have seen better scoring chances.
One problem Miami continues to face is its power play disparity. The RedHawks have been shorthanded 5.1 times per game this season. In 2012-13 opponents had 17 more power plays than Miami, which is baffling since the RedHawks were more talented than most of their opponents last season.
But the bottom line is: Miami has a .650 win percentage through 10 games with a very difficult schedule and a very young blueline corps. If I was asked before the season what I thought the RedHawks’ record would be through 10 games, I would’ve said 6-3-1 would’ve been optimistic considering their opponents.