The beloved Monsters kicked off the season splitting a home & home with the familiar Grand Rapids Griffins. Friday night on the road, LEM played a solid 60 minutes and were rewarded with a 4-0 shutout. Saturday's home opener at the Q found the the team struggling in the first half of the game at both ends of the ice and a late comeback came up short with the game ending 3-2 for GRG.
This weekend finds the Monsters headed to the old Rosemont Horizon in Chicago for 2 games against St Louis' farm club the Wolves. Lake Erie has struggled against the Wolves in recent years dropping 13 of the last 16 matchups, so it's a good opportunity to see what we got.
Mitch Heard was assigned to Fort Wayne on Wednesday. Not a huge surprise, he played very little in Friday's game and with Joey Hishon's likely return in Chicago he wouldn't be seeing any PT for LEM.
Varly was injured sometime between Toronto and Ottawa, so Calvin Pickard was recalled right off the flight to Chicago and on to one to the Senators game. He ended up playing most of the game and did very well while the Avs were actually trying to win.
With Berra's injury in the game last night, the Avs suddenly need another goaltender. Enter Sami Aittokallio, who is off to join the Avs in Montreal today.
To make a spot for Sami, Dennis Everberg was sent down to the Monsters for totally inexplicable reasons. The Avs loss is the Monsters gain. I have no idea if he's on the way to Chicago or not but we might see him sometime this weekend.
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Week 1 Review
Goals: Stollery (2), Ryan, Noreau, Carey, Rendulic
Points: Carey (3), Sgarbossa (3), Stollery (2), Ryan (2), Aggz (2), Noreau, Rendulic, Bourke, Maggio, Henley, Smith
Goalies: Pickard (1-1-0) .952 sv%, 1.52 GAA, Sami was backup for both games.
First Line: Carey/Sgarbossa/Ryan
These three clicked right away and had a hand in 3 of the 6 goals over the weekend. Boss has shaken off the frustration of last year and was all over the place. Complementing him with Carey's speed and Ryan's experience and defensive positioning made for a fearsome trio until the Griffs made it a point to clog anytime they were on the ice.
Second Line: Schumacher (Smith)/Aggz/Rendulic
Came very close on a bunch of chances in game 1 but couldn't get on the board. Midway through game 2, Coach Dean started putting Colin Smith there in place of Michael Schumacher and the added skill seemed to do the trick. Rendulic scored from Aggz on the power play late in the 2nd game.
Third Line: Bourke/Henley/Smith (Schumacher)
I really liked this line in both games. Henley is a physical force out there and really plays well in front of the net at both ends. Bourke and Smith's speed and grit in the corners worked well with that. They set up Karl Stollery's second goal on Friday night.
Fourth Line: Heard(Fri)-Meurs(Sat)/Cheek/Maggio
This line didn't see a ton of time in game 1 as a group, but after swapping Meurs for Heard they seemed to get a fair amount of shifts in game 2. Most folks look at Maggio as a talentless goon, but his many years of playing defense have given him the ability to break out of the defensive zone and move the puck up the ice. Add Cheek's grit in the corners and underrated shot plus Meurs' speed and there's a lot to work with here.
First D: Stollery/Noreau
I like Noreau if the puck is moving forward but he scares me in the defensive zone. Stollery is still solid although he's still adapting to playing on his natural side after being on the right last year. They are very similar to last year's top pair with Karl and Hunwick, we'll see if that ends up being a good thing.
Second D: Siemens/Elliott
Siemens was solid for the most part, Elliott was Elliott. Even though these two played together in juniors I get the feeling the chemistry isn't really there sometimes. Elliott played really well with Beaupre last year and Duncan might be better with Gervais predictability.
Second Second D: Beaupre/Gervais
Beaupre was probably the most consistent LEM defensemen over the weekend IMO. Next year is his show-me year and he has little chance at a callup, but I really like the improvement of his game in the last 2 years. You could put him with any of the other D and on either side and he's going to do a good, consistent job. Gervais thankfully looks more in his element in the AHL and along with Stollery gets the most minutes by playing in all situations.
Scratches: Lauridsen, Will, Meurs(Fri), Heard(Sat)
Injuries: Hishon, Vincour LBI - Corbett, Street, Petryk UBI
All 5 of the injured fellows have been skating in practice this week. Hishon in non-contact and full contact, Petryk was wearing a healthy scratch jersey on Wednesday and Corbett, Vincour & Street in non-contact. Word on the street is that Hishon is good to go for this weekend.
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Chicago started the season with a pair of games against the Charlotte Checkers at home. The Wolves won on Friday 2-1 and got an OT loss Saturday, also 2-1. Colin Fraser, Petteri Lindbohm and Jeremy Welsh had the goals, no one has more than a single point so far.
Going off of the lines from practice this week, the Monsters are going to look something like this:
The addition of Dennis Everberg will change these up of course, he would be a great fit with Carey/Boss at RW and moving Smitty back down to the 3rd line.
Where last weekend's lines were fairly balanced, there's more of a skilled top-6/gritty bottom-6 look to this setup, so matchups are going to be more important.
No idea on the Defensive Pairs, but they should be the same or close to it.
Telling quote from Coach Dean on the 3-goalie subject in the Plain Dealer article linked below, "We need to make an evaluation,'' Chynoweth said. "We're not going to carry three [goalies] forever.'' Well, this situation seems to have solved itself for the moment with the losses of Picks and Sami to the Avs. Roman Will was going to be the starter in Chicago this weekend anyway and the Monsters have called up Francois Tremblay from the brother Komets to be the backup.
What happens with the goalies going forward is anyone's guess. Picks seems to be the current top dog playing both the opening weekend games and getting the first callup. After that it's murky. Sami got the second callup, whether that's because of his experience (probably) or not I have no idea. Both Coach Dean and the Avs staff seem to be very high on Roman Will so far, but he's never appeared in a professional game in North America so it's a little early to give him Sami's (or Picks') job right now. Stay tuned.
Friday night 8:00pm ET at Chicago, radio 1420 WHK
Saturday night 8:00pm at Chicago, radio 1420 WHK
Preview from LEM
Article from the Plain Dealer about Andrew Agozzino, the 3-goalie setup and yet another Joey Hishon update.
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The Avs don't play on Friday so feel free to take in a Monsters game for a change of pace and the Avs/Habs should end right before the 3rd starts in Chicago on Saturday. I'll have the usual updates here and on twitter and summaries the morning after. Enjoy!