The regular season is in the books. It’s history. Forget about it!
The postseason has arrived and it is a whole new ballgame…or puck-game…whatever. The inaugural Big Ten hockey tournament is here, and the Spartans will have to win-out in order to continue their season.
This season has not been too kind to the Spartans. They have struggled to find the back of the net (which they seem to be fixing as of late), their quality of play has been inconsistent, and games have slipped away by the narrowest of margins.
Michigan State finished the regular season with an 11-17-7 record, their second sub-.500 season in three years under coach Tom Anastos. The Big Ten tournament offers the Spartans a chance, albeit a small one, to salvage some success from a disappointing season.
In a single-elimination format like the Big Ten tournament, anything can happen. And this is the best place for MSU to be in, especially with the wave of confidence they have been riding on the past few games (two wins out of the last three games played against ranked opponents).
The Spartans have Ohio State in the first game, which will be played at 8:00 p.m. EST on Thursday. The Buckeyes and the Spartans are pretty evenly matched teams, so this one could go either way. Special teams will be an important factor in this one, as MSU has been 5/6 over the past three games while OSU has been 3/14. Playing a full 60 minutes will also be a critical factor. Too many times this season, the Spartans have learned that they do not win games by taking a shift off. MSU should consider that lesson learned if it hopes to go anywhere this postseason.
We should not count the Spartans out of this season just yet. All you need for a deep playoff run is a hot goaltender and a consistent powerplay. It seems that the Spartans are starting to get that. Anything can happen in the postseason, and Tom Anastos needs some success to draw back on as he enters a critical evaluation year next season for him and his program.
This late season surge by MSU has provided more questions than answers. Where was this intensity earlier in the year? Is this just a one-time deal? Will it carry over into next season? Has this program turned the psychological corner? I think the biggest question that needs to be asked is this: Will this sudden upturn be enough to carry Michigan State through the postseason? We will have our answer in the coming days.
Jason Ruff is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports.
Photo: Jonathan Yales/Impact Sports