What's up, Bucky's 5th Quarter. My name is Charlie, I'm a student at UW-Madison and second-year Crease Creature. I write about hockey and some other sports on a few places on the Internet. You can learn what those places are in my Twitter bio, which is CharlieWisco.
I'm an East Coast kid who came here because I shared your state and school's affinity for drinking beer and watching hockey (often at the same time, actually). Now that we're best friends, here are my thoughts about where we are in the Wisconsin hockey season.
-- Clearly, the season hasn't started in ideal fashion for the Badgers, who are currently 0-6 through their first six games. The last time that happened was 1932, when Wisconsin dropped its first five games to powerhouse squads Milwaukee Rowing Club, Michigan School of Mines and Minnesota.
Uncle Eaves (I call him Uncle Eaves) warned us in the preseason that this team was young and would experience some growing pains. No kidding. But here's the thing about this Wisconsin team: there is plenty of top-tier talent in the first, second and third lines. Enough talent to create scoring opportunities and flip a game. The problem is having the discipline, patience and team organization in order to either capitalize on those opportunities or sustain them for a meaningful period of time.
One thing that struck me during Friday and Saturday nights' games was how short and sudden most of Wisconsin's opportunities were. I bet if you took a stopwatch and timed every Wisconsin and North Dakota scoring opportunity, North Dakota's time would be three times longer.
Saturday: UND sweeps Wisconsin with 5-1 win
Wisconsin remains winless on the season as they fall on Saturday to former WCHA rival North Dakota, 5-1.
But the actual raw talent is there, and the coaching to develop that talent is there as well. It is just going to take time and experience to put everything together, which the Badgers have been short on so far. But that will change. Expect less of the quick-strike opportunities and more sustained flurries of offense from the Badgers the further and further into the season they get.
-- Wisconsin is a young team without a Jack Eichel-esque wunderkind, which makes it hard to manufacture offense. Without someone who is capable of settling and distributing the puck, dictating the flow and pace of the game and creating plays instead of just finding them, it's hard to have consistent offensive output. Wisconsin hasn't quite found that player yet, but he exists. He just has to emerge sometime this season -- it'll probably be Grant Beese. My dark horse: Adam Rockwood.
-- Joel Rumpel continued the Jekyll and Hyde act he's had all season. One second he's making acrobatic saves to stuff 2-on-1 opportunities, the next he's letting in a slap shot from halfway to the blue line.
I've heard more than one fan calling for Landon Peterson to receive more starts, especially after an impressive scrimmage showing. I think this is ill-advised -- this team has to be realistic about what it is this year.
Have you watched any Notre Dame football this year? If you have, you'd know that the quarterback, Everett Golson, spends his time deciding if he's going to be a mistake-prone turnover machine or a Heisman-caliber play-maker. And his mistakes are maddening enough to make any Irish fan pull his/her cap over their ears and scream for him to be benched. But Brian Kelly doesn't bench him. Why? Because he knows Notre Dame isn't good enough to win unless Everett Golson is "Good Everett Golson." Bad Everett Golson will lose Notre Dame a game, but the team by itself isn't good enough to win with an average backup quarterback, either.
So Wisconsin has to take the good with the bad and hope the good will eventually outweigh it. That's Joel Rumpel. Yes, he looks shaky at times, but at the end of the day he's still a former Hobey Baker finalist, and Wisconsin is a team starting mostly underclassmen with an undisciplined defense. The team just isn't good enough to win without him. The best course of action is let him play and hope he finds the form we know he is capable of, because that's really the only way this team can make any sort of run in the postseason.
-- Power play and penalty kill need to be better. They just need to be. They are currently operating on unacceptable levels. Far be it from me to question Uncle Eaves, but not putting your best talent on your No. 1 special teams units is an interesting decision. I feel like the coaches are over-thinking this one.
-- If college hockey was more popular, any of those stupid Buzzfeed/Bleacher Report/random blog "Top 10 Best/Worst Whatever" lists about the Worst Fans In Sports would absolutely include North Dakota hockey fans. This weekend was my first time being treated to an entire weekend of Sioux fans, and by Saturday night I was starting to miss when Ohio State people come to town.
It had an odd blend of Boston obnoxiousness, St. Louis Cardinals know-it-allness and the annoying propensity of Chicago fans to travel really well and attempt to take over a stadium. I would be worried about a lot of hate tweets after writing this, but I am pretty sure most of North Dakota's fan base doesn't have electricity, so I'm good.
-- Luckily, while Wisconsin might not have its act together just yet, neither does anyone else in the Big Ten. Currently, the Big Ten is a combined 13-23-2 against Non-Atlantic Hockey. Without Minnesota (6-1-0), that number goes to 7-22-2. The only teams with winning records are Minnesota and Penn State, with the rest treading water below .500.
Wisconsin has plenty of time to catch up to speed with the rest of a struggling conference and a Penn State squad that is playing about six miles over its head -- the Nittany Lions out-shot every opponent they've faced so far; I want to see how they play a stronger opponent, the talent deficit starts showing and they have to win a game even when being out-shot by 15.
Minnesota is clearly the team to beat, but we all knew that would be the case going into the season. In the words of Aaron Rodgers, everyone panicking about this being a lost season can R-E-L-A-X. The year is a long one, and there's plenty to be optimistic about by the time the postseason rolls around.
Follow Charlie on Twitter @CharlieWisco.