Photo by Steven Christy
The weekend has arrived and so have the Monsters. Not Godzilla. No Bigfoot. No Babadook (if you’ve not seen this film, see it with the lights on). Instead we get the always ferocious group of hockey folk from Ohio (God’s country) where there just might be a scary creature hiding in the waters, but most certainly on the ice.
The Lake Erie Monsters are having a rough go this season. Just barely over .500 mid-way through the season, the team from the Cleveland area can’t seem to pull the strings to get Pinocchio to dance. Coming off two big wins against San Antonio, and two losses against the Iowa Wild, the Monsters are attempting to gain as many points as they can before the hunt for playoff spots officially begins.
Nestled in eleventh place in the Western Conference just behind Hamilton and Texas, they are the only team in the league who haven’t passed the 41 game mark. This means they have games in hand on everyone as we march in to February, and that’s good news even for team’s with the worst of luck.
The Monsters are a team that can score (115 goals on the season), but struggle to keep the puck out of their own net. Tied for the second most goals allowed in the Western Conference, the squad is really out-matched defensively. Those same defenders love to score, they just don’t love to defend, and that’s a problem (also see Brad Hunt).
Led by two defenders (one currently with the squad), the point snatchers for the Monsters are Maxim Noreau and Stefan Elliot (the latter with Nashville at the moment). Behind them are five Monsters with twenty points or more including three with ten or more goals a piece. While strong defending is usually a mark of the Monsters, the forwards on this squad have a tendency to be burned. Not good.
With save percentages above .900 the two Monsters tenders to watch are Calvin Pickard, who gets the most starts, and backup Sami Attokallio. While the percentages suggest they aren’t entirely awful, they both are very close to allowing three goals a piece per game, and that’s probably a big problem. Again, both blue line defending and offensive posturing are issues, so these goaltenders aren’t entirely to blame.
Agozzino had a goal and an assist last time out to help the Monsters to a win, and he has become the second Monster this season to notch goals in three straight games. Agozzino has 10 goals on the season. Agozzino is also plus-four over his last two games and plus-six over his last five games.
Look for a Bachman / Brossoit double-take at home this weekend. Bachman is in the top ten in the most important statistical categories in the AHL (Saves, Wins, SV%), and Brossoit has show flashes of brilliance. Both have things to prove, and will look to further enhance their teams chances of remaining the best team in the West.
Ryan Hamilton, Josh Winquist, Kale Kessy, and Kellan Lain remain on the injured list for the Barons, but luckily all seven defenders on the team are healthy. No news on whether or not a call-up is coming to replace the injured Nikitin in Edmonton, but I assume it happens sometime this weekend. Assume for a moment that Davidson goes, that allows Gernat/Musil to play more consistent minutes without healthy scratches. That’s good news.
Gernat / Musil / Marincin have all been wildly inconsistent, but a good break might have done them well. Look for these three specifically to prove themselves down the stretch. They need to make good on some sideways play for the last three weeks.
Big things are happening for the underdog, Iiro Pakarinen. He responds well to being centered by Bogdan Yakimov which points every bit to the sensational play by the centerman that Edmonton really really wants to be a good one.
From the team:
“It was important to get back on our skates after a well deserved break. We have a lot of guys banged up, and the break has given us a time to get them back in.” – Gerry Fleming
The game begins tonight at 7pm. See you then!