Monsters: Scouting the Enemy

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

THREE FOUR. And, now that the Drew Carey Show theme song has been properly placed, let’s get right into discussing the Cleveland Monsters for the first time in the 2017-18 season. The Milwaukee Admirals haven’t seen them through the first month of play but are about to get incredibly familiar with them.

Tonight and Saturday night these two lock horns at the Quicken Loans Arena. Both then travel back for a Wednesday night tilt at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena. It’s one thing to see the Rockford IceHogs every other game. It’s another thing to outright see the same team three consecutive games in the regular season. This could get fun.

The Monsters enter this three-game set against the Admirals with a record of 5-4-2-1 (13 points, 0.542 points percentage). That puts them right behind the Admirals (0.615) in the Central Division standings. The Manitoba Moose (0.625) are currently leading the way in the division for -I believe- the first time since they’ve returned to the AHL in 2015.

When looking over the Monsters roster there are very few names remaining from that Calder Cup winning team in 2015-16. A great many have elevated their way into the Columbus Blue Jackets organization or moved on. There are still a good few remaining from that squad though. For example: Alex Broadburst, Brett GallantDean Kukan, Nick Moutrey, and John Ramage. Thankfully though they’re not quite Josh Anderson, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Markus Hännikäinen, Joonas Korpisalo, or Sonny Milano.

Whilst those last names listed are all with the Blue Jackets in the NHL – you can also include the Monsters current leading scorer right now in that same mix. Tyler Motte currently leads the Monsters with 7 points (5 goals, 2 assists) in 7 games but he was recalled by the Blue Jackets at the end of October. In that exact same roster news out of the Monsters camp was the PTO signing of -Alex’s older brother- Terry Broadhurst. Those two were last teammates as members of the IceHogs during the 2013-14 season.

As far as Motte goes – you might be looking at what he’s done, where he is, when he was recalled, and wondering how that’s possible. Well, the Monsters have only managed to produce 27 goals as a team so far this season. That is the second fewest in the entire AHL with only the Ontario Reign (22) scoring fewer.

How then do the Monsters get away with that ice cold offense and still produce a record within the same shout as the Admirals? With very solid defense and goaltending. The Monsters are the sixth best team in the league in goals against having only conceded 34 goals in 12 games. They aren’t playing stupid, either. They have only been shorthanded 56 times so far – that’s is tied for second fewest in the AHL. So, while the penalty kill hasn’t been one of the best (82.1% – 19th in the league), that can be masked given how little it is needed. Not to mention the tandem in net between a veteran, Brad Thiessen, and a youngster, Matiss Kivlenieks, has so far worked very well and the two are operating efficiently as far as net time goes.

I made mention early of seeing the IceHogs so often to start the season. This game should not be like the track meet format those games have been like for the Admirals this season. When it comes to playing against the Monsters expect a chess match. The evolution of this chess encounter will blossom from tonight, Saturday, and Wednesday. It’s going to be fascinating to see how both sides adapt.. because -on paper- they play a much different style of hockey but both know how to win when sticking to their strengths.

~UPDATE~

The Nashville Predators have recalled Anders Lindbäck and reassigned Juuse Saros to the Milwaukee Admirals. Saros has only made 4 starts this season with Nashville and holds a 3.93 goals against average and 0.855 save percentage. Lindbäck currently leads the AHL in wins having an 8-3-0-0 record with Milwaukee while maintaining a 2.46 goals against average and 0.918 save percentage.

Press Release via Nashville Predators:

Nashville, Tenn. (November 16, 2017) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced Thursday that the club has recalled goaltender Anders Lindback from the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals. Additionally, the club has assigned goaltender Juuse Saros to Milwaukee.

Lindback leads the American Hockey League in wins with eight and has helped the Admirals jump out to a Central Division-leading 8-5-0 record. He’s posted a 2.46 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage in 11 games with Milwaukee while recording one shutout on Nov. 8 vs. the Chicago Wolves.

Originally drafted by the Predators in the seventh round (207th overall) in the 2008 NHL Draft, Lindback returned to the organization this summer after signing a one-year contract. The Gavle, Sweden, native spent two seasons with the Predators from 2010-12, going 28-16-13 with a 2.53 goals-against average, .914 save percentage and two shutouts in 38 games. The 6-foot-6 goaltender spent last season with Rogle BK of the Swedish Elite League, where he posted a .916 save percentage in 23 games. Lindback has a 102-45-58 record in 130 career NHL games with Nashville, Tampa Bay, Buffalo, Dallas and Arizona.

It isn’t fully clear as of yet just how long this goaltending swap will take place. What is certain is that both goaltenders had been playing themselves into this change for awhile now and that Lindbäck has especially made a move such as this easier for Nashville to pull off given how excellent he has been in the AHL.

Saros has struggled this season to log games through no real fault of his own. Pekka Rinne has simply been that good out of the blocks this season. It would make sense then for Saros to start really picking up time between the pipes rather than sit out. He is still only 22-years of age and his AHL numbers are jaw droppingly good: 42 wins in 53 starts with a 2.13 goals against average, 0.924 save percentage, and 5 shutouts.

The last appearance for Saros with the Admirals came last season back on 2/15/17 when the Admirals defeated the San Antonio Rampage 5-1. For some entertaining perspective, we are literally one-day shy of Saros’ one-year anniversary of his last AHL shutout with the Admirals – which was a 1-0 victory – on the road – in Cleveland.

What are your expectations for this trio of games played against the Cleveland Monsters? After some sputtering results can a small road trip like this be beneficial for the Milwaukee Admirals? Did you know Joe Pendenza is still on their roster, too? That wasn’t a question so much as a “hey him” note.

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along on Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

Leave a Reply