Is Michigan State For Real?


A year ago, Michigan State suffered through one of the worst years in the history of their program. They fell a long way from winning the 2007 national title, as they won just 10 games in 2008-09. Even though they had one of the best goalies in the country in Jeff Lerg, they still had 118 goals scored on them. And they were outscored by over 40 goals.

But this year the Spartans have 6 victories in their first 8 games, including a win over #1 ranked Miami, and are ranked 6th in the USCHO, USA Today, and INCH polls, and our 7th in our power rankings. They currently lead the CCHA with 19 points, and have 9 wins overall. Last year their 9th win came on Valentines Day. With just 1 more win, they will equal their conference win total from last year.

What happened?

1. Special Teams

So far this year, Michigan State leads the CCHA in power play at a 21.7% clip. They aren’t as good in the PK as they are 9th, but last year they were 11th in the country, so I expect that to improve. Their power play, meanwhile, was 55th out of 58 teams in the country last season, so they have had a tremendous improvement there.

2. Offense

Michigan State absolutely could not score last year. The CCHA was a very defensive league last year, but even keeping that in mind the Spartans were abysmal. They were tied for last nationally with only 1.63 goals per game. No matter how good your defense is it’s tough to win that way. This year not only is Michigan State scoring 3.33 gpg, they have the conference’s leading goal scorer in Corey Tropp, who has 9 goals in 12 games (sidebar: isn’t it interesting that both he and Nathan Gerbe are Buffalo Sabres?). Tropp’s resurgence is a big part of the Spartan resurgence.

3. The CCHA is down this year

Last year the CCHA had 4 teams in the NCAA Tournament. Two of them were #1 seeds, including #1 overall seed Notre Dame. CCHA member Miami made the national title game and almost won it. This year, Miami looks to be back, but Michigan and Notre Dame have taken huge steps back so far. Ohio State, who made the NCAA Tournament last year even though they were the youngest team in the country, has scuffled starting with a sweep at the hands of Quinnipiac, although they are on a 3 game winning streak. With the steps back of Notre Dame and Michigan, and the standstill of Ohio State, perhaps Michigan State is the team to step forward and fill that void.

It’s too early to say with certainty whether or not Michigan State is for real, but they certainly look to be much improved from last year and they will be looking to get the first weekend of the CCHA playoffs off.