Passing has been a problem for the Gophers all season, especially in their defensive zone. They continue to turn the puck over in front of their own net and Wilcox is left hung out to dry. A lack of experience on the back end with three freshman and two sophomore defensemen could be the problem. Associate head coach Mike Guentzel has said there isn't enough talking on the ice and that eventually leads to communication problems.
Minnesota State, Michigan, North Dakota, Nebraska-Omaha. But who knows with the one-and-done format. The Gophers could get hot, win the Big Ten tourney and make another run to the national title game.
This team is very talented. Lots of speed, lots of skill, a proven goaltender, and postseason experience. It all sounds like the recipe for success, right? There's a theory that this team peaked a year early while the expectations were low, and now that everyone is expecting a national title, the pressure is too much.
The locker room can't be happy place right now. We'll dig into that a little bit more with our preview this weekend, so be on the lookout for that on Friday. In the meantime, the mood after Saturday's game wasn't pleasant. Ben Marshall used some choice words before saying the group was "angry." Kyle Rau said the team was "deflated." Two weeks ago, Boyd tossed the word "embarrassed" around. So things aren't good.
Wilcox would never throw his defensemen under the bus, but it's obvious there is a lack of experience and some communication issues back there. There's only so much Wilcox can do when he's left to save a handful of breakaways and odd-man rushes each night. I'll agree that Wilcox hasn't been as consistent as he was last year, but over the last month he's shown signs that he can carry the load. If the Gophers can clean up their play in front of Wilcox, expect him to revert to last year's form or even better.
Any time you have a team full of high-end talent, there needs to be someone within the group to manage it. The coaches obviously play a role, but this is where a mature player steps in to make sure everyone remains levelheaded and fulfills their role. Last year that was Tom Serratore, Jake Parenteau, Justin Holl and Nate Condon...all well-respected role players. Otherwise, there can be a lot of selfish play.
The way the series ended at Mariucci Arena with the last-minute brawl will add to the rematch in Madison. Expect a very physical series. The Gophers could very easily lose in this environment (they were swept at the Kohl Center last year), but they need at least a split to keep some confidence stirring among the group.
The hour went by too fast. I'll read over any questions I missed and try to address them in future live chats and blog posts in the coming weeks. Feel free to tweet or email me any questions and I appreciate your time. We'll see if the Gophers can turn it around.