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Friday, June 21, 2024
Wisconsin Mens Hockey vs Michigan State

The Bird’s Chirp: Playoff bound, consistency questions

Can the Wisconsin Badgers men’s hockey team survive playoff pressure? Not if recent games are any indicator.

Playoff hockey: it’s scintillating, nail-biting, record-breaking and absolutely unforgiving. 

All it really takes to lose everything is a bad performance and, before they know it, their season is over. It’s only reasonable that expectations are high as this Wisconsin Badgers men’s hockey team comes out with a 25-win regular season. The only thing that has fans worried is whether or not Wisconsin can find consistency.

The Badgers struggled to find consistency in the past few months. In 2023, they built together a streak of nine wins and were putting together back-to-back solid performances. They haven’t been nearly as consistent since then. 

They lost to Alaska Anchorage, tied Lindenwood and were most recently swept by Ohio State, a team that had won only one Big Ten game coming into the matchup. To make matters worse, Ohio State stands in their way in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.

What will this team look like in the playoffs? My answer has always been the same: the Badgers can win a game or two, but I’m not sure they had the consistency for a deep playoff run.

In all fairness, no one expected them to be in this playoff position at the start of the season, myself included. Even if they drop out of the Big Ten Tournament in round one, this season was a resounding success and a sign of better things to come under head coach Mike Hastings.

Speaking of which, Hastings has emphasized learning all season. It’s done wonders for this program and is undoubtedly a big part of Wisconsin’s success. Playoffs can be a learning opportunity, too, especially for the younger players. You want to take something away from every game. 

But that learning mindset has to shift over into playoff learning. There isn’t always a second chance in the playoffs. You have to learn while not letting the pressure get to you. It will be interesting to see if the players can make that transition.

The frustrating part is that Wisconsin has the quality to be a solid playoff contender, even at the NCAA championship level. That doesn’t happen every year. It may not happen again for a few years. 

Yes, fans have a lot to be happy about this season. That doesn’t mean they want to watch a playoff run wash away into the ocean like a child’s sandcastle being swept away by the rising tide.

Can Wisconsin fight the tide? Absolutely, as long as they have a good foundation to weather the storm. Playoff hockey is a storm. There’s so much they can’t account for, and they have to want it more — much more — than the guys on the other side of the puck.

Only time will tell if the Badgers have a strong enough foundation. If the past few weeks’ performances are an indicator of anything, it seems that foundation may crumble under pressure.

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The Bird’s Chirp is The Daily Cardinal’s hockey column. Ian Wilder is the Cardinal’s hockey beat writer for the Wisconsin Badgers men’s hockey team. Do you feel this team is a playoff team? Send all comments to ian.wilder@dailycardinal.com

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Ian Wilder

Ian Wilder is a Sports Editor and former senior staff writer for The Daily Cardinal. He’s formerly covered the men’s hockey beat, state politics and features. Follow him on Twitter at @IanWWilder.


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