It looks like as we get closer to the end of the regular season there has been some separation between the top 5 teams in the country and the rest of the teams in the country (though if I had to bet on the national champion being either one of those 5 or a team currently not in the top 5 I would take the field, but I digress). My current view of the top 5 is a bit different than the national polls, so I thought I would take some time to explain why I have them where I have them right now.
Let’s start with my #1 team, Minnesota-Duluth. The Bulldogs have the most talented forward trio in the conference with the Connollys and Justin Fontaine (though Wisconsin would likely argue with that), and I like their consistency, given that they’re ranked 2nd in the WCHA in both offense and defense. Kenny Reiter and Aaron Crandall have been a good tandem in net and that little extra rest they give eachother should help the Bulldogs in the long run.
Next I have Boston College. I have my worries about BC, namely that they allow a lot of shots on goal, but there is no doubt they are extremely talented. Cam Atkinson has made a nice Hobey charge and it looks like he’ll hit the 30 goal mark for the 2nd straight year, but while John Muse has been awesome in net (.933 save percentage, 1st in Hockey East), 1 off night with all of the shots that BC allows and they could be an upset victim. Still with all of their veteran talent they look like a very good bet to get back to the Frozen Four.
Third is North Dakota. The Sioux might have the best statistical argument for being ranked #1. They have played more games than any other team vs. ranked opponents, and they are 10-7-1 against those ranked opponents. KRACH also has them as having the toughest schedule in the country. The Chay Genoway injury (and now the Danny Kristo situation) puts them at a disadvantage, but the Sioux are probably the deepest team in the country, especially on the blueline, and while they haven’t been on their typical 2nd half run I expect to see them in St. Paul.
Denver has probably the worst statistical profile in the top 5. They are just 5th in the WCHA in offense and 4th in defense, and although I think Sam Brittain is probably the most talented goalie in the WCHA, he hasn’t gotten a ton of help from his defensemen. Likewise Drew Shore, Anthony Maiani and Jason Zucker have been a great trio, but the secondary scoring just isn’t there for the Pioneers right now. I still like them quite a bit, but I like them a lot less after looking closely at their stats than I did before.
And finally, Yale. I think Yale is a very good team and right now I think they are a Frozen Four team, but my rankings are built just as much on what a team has done as it is on how good they are, and Yale doesn’t measure up as much as the other four teams. It’s not as though they only play cupcakes, and you can only play who is on your schedule, but Yale’s resume is still less impressive to me than other top teams. Though they are still #1 in the pairwise, and at the end of the day that is a lot more important than what I have to say about them.