Monsters: Scouting the Enemy

(Photo Credit: John Saraya)
(Photo Credit: John Saraya)

Now that our group therapy session is over we can get back to action. The Milwaukee Admirals completed their season long five-game homestand by going 4-0-1-0 and currently ride a six-game point streak heading into a three-game road trip. The first stint sees the defending Calder Cup Champions for the opening two-legs and the first meeting under their new designation. The Lake Erie Monsters are no more. The Cleveland Monsters is the new title.

I actually far prefer them actually being called Cleveland, as much of a minor league charm as there is to Lake Erie, but when you are -in- Cleveland and play -in- The Q you might as well call it like it is. Besides, the ownership group is the same as the Cleveland Cavaliers. Why not change the name to Cleveland and make them look like the Cavaliers On Ice- oh my gosh they did.

(Photo Credit: @monstershockey // Twitter)
(Photo Credit: @monstershockey // Twitter)

In reality, the Monsters have had a boring look in the first place. Their retro themed uniforms were a step up and -hey- said Cleveland on the front. But they needed a rebranding effort regardless of last year’s success. As far as hockey goes it is a unique look for the team. That’s always a win in my book to have the minor league affiliates creating their own unique identity to that of the NHL parent club. It’s not to say that they don’t still dabble in that territory but it’s fine enough. If only a bit too blatantly cavalier in design. … That was a pun. … Well, I laughed. You can read more about the Cleveland Monsters off-season rebranding at Icethetics.

Aesthetics addressed. What about that team? The Monsters retain plenty of the group that saw them storm their way to the 2016 Calder Cup. It is a nicely balanced mix of veterans and prospects – some of whom are teetering on that NHL cuff. It all actually sounds not too dissimilar to the Milwaukee Admirals. Perhaps then they are on the receiving end of the results column that the Admirals have managed to avoid getting burned in thus far.

The Monsters enter tonight’s game with a record of 5-7-0-1 (11 points, 0.423 points percentage). They have played one fewer game than the Admirals have but have allowed 12 goals more while scoring a goal less. Something tells me that’s a problem.

In part the Monsters last road trip really was taxing. They went 0-3-0-1 and were outscored 20-11. They were outshooting the likes of the Chicago Wolves, Manitoba Moose, and Grand Rapids Griffins by a narrowly combined 142-139. Still, that’s allowing 34.8 shots on goal per game. The Admirals have averaged 30.4 shots on goal per game this season. That sort of trend on the part of the Monsters would be a welcome sight.

That all being said, the comforts of home ice have already found the Monsters getting pieces back together on the ice. Since that underwhelming road trip they have played two games at home and defeated the Wolves on both occasions: 2-1 on 11/11/16 (Video Highlights) and 4-2 on 11/12/16 (Video Highlights).

The first of those contests against the Wolves has a moment that you can bottle up and carry the momentum from it for awhile. The Monsters came back from 1-0 midway through the third period and scored the game-winning goal with 15 seconds left in regulation. The momentum didn’t 100% carry over to the start the next time out, Wolves took a 2-0 first period lead, but the Monsters scored four unanswered goals to polish off a comeback performance. It almost sounds a little familiar. It’s just being done -in- regulation is all.

(Photo Credit: John Saraya)
(Photo Credit: John Saraya)

Another thing that catches the eye is the amount of penalty minutes that the Monsters have accumulated this season, 206. That is second only to the Manitoba Moose (213 penalty minutes) in the Central Division. Why is that? Well, I’d imagine having double the amount of fighting majors as the Admirals goes a small way to helping that total. The Monsters have 8 fighting majors in 13 games this season. Brett Gallant, Jordan Maletta, and Nick Moutrey already have two strikes against them. With an emphasis on limited fighting majors this season in the AHL thanks to the new disciplinary rules in place it is surprising to see a team such as the defending champions loading up in that department. They had 49 fights last season and Gallant was part of 11 of those fights. That just won’t fly this season. Not without suspension by the AHL. It’s why someone such as a Mike Liambas has seemingly kept a much cooler head in earlier games this season. Teams, and players for that matter, almost have to save fighting majors for later in the season if it can be afforded to do in the energy department or even the when the game calls for it category. Monsters are jumping the gun a touch, there. It could hurt them a whole lot more later in the season if it continues.

The leading scorer for the Monsters right now is a familiar name in Alex Broadhurst who has 11 points (4 goals, 7 assists) in 13 games. He and his older brother Terry have come across the Admirals often enough over the years either with the Rockford IceHogs or Chicago Wolves. These past two seasons Alex has been a member of the Monsters organization and has performed well. His current season sees him second on the team in goal scoring and tied for first in assists with T.J. Tynan.

According to the AHL website at the moment it appears the Monsters are lugging around three goaltenders. As nice as that might be the true go-to option this season has been 23-year old Swede Anton Forsberg who has 10 appearances from the Monsters 13 games. Both Joonas Korpisalo and Brad Thiessen have 2 appearances each. Forsberg holds a record of 5-3-1-0 with a 2.35 goals against average and 0.921 save percentage.

A storyline for the Admirals will play out in the form of their goaltending. Juuse Saros is back after a cuppa coffee in the big time. He spent the past week with the Nashville Predators and served as a back-up for four straight games. With the Admirals Saros has made 7 starts and holds a record of 6-1-0-0. He has a 1.99 goals against average and 0.929 save percentage. Will the small departure from in-game activity impact his performance? We shall see tonight.

Expectations for the first meeting against the defending Calder Cup Champions? Now that the Admirals are in for 12 road games from their next 18 overall contests how important is it for them to set the right tone early as to not stagger on the road?

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