With three-quarters of the season in the books, the beloved Monsters sit pretty much where they've been for most of the season in the bottom third of the Western Conference. While the playoffs are out of range, there's still plenty to play for: 3rd place in the North Division, a .500 record, hassling playoff teams, etc. as well as players fighting for new contracts and expanded roles next year. A couple months ago, I wrote mid-term evaluations of LEM and drew some conclusions about what needed to change, let's take a look at how those turned out.
1) Needed to be better in regulation, at that point they were 12-18. Since then they've gone 5-9 which technically is an improvement, but not what I was looking for.
2) Needed to play better on the road, and they did, scoring 4 road victories compared to 5 in the first half of the season.
3) Even strength scoring needed to improve, but it stayed roughly the same, although that's somewhat of a victory considering how the power play fell off a cliff.
4) Needed more discipline in taking minor penalties, and they have, cutting almost a half a PK out of each game.
5) Needed to shoot more, and they have. Shots per game went up 8.2% and shots per 60:00 went up 7.2%.
Here are some stats I ground out, first number is what it was on 1/22, second is what it is now:
Rough possession (Sh/SA ratio): 48.9%, 48.9% - Wow, exactly the same
Shots/60: 27.6, 28.8 - Better!
Shots against/60: 28.8, 29.6 - Not better
Even Strength Goal Diff per game: (-0.47), (-0.43) - Slight improvement
PDO: 988, 974 - This is a particularly telling number, it's team Sv% + team Sh% and it's a zero sum stat, the PDO for the entire league is exactly 1000 at all times. The fact that this went down is especially amazing given that the Monsters Sv% actually went up significantly.
PP% + PK%: 101.2%, 99.3% - The PK has remained pretty much the same, big drop in the PP
So what happened?
Two things have really hurt LEM in the last 20 games. First, the power play completely disappeared for a while and although it's showing signs of life recently it still is only good for 12.9% over that stretch, basically losing more than a goal every 3 games compared to the first half. Second is the Monsters only shot at 7.2%, dragging a pretty average 9.6% down to a weak 8.7% for the year. They have more or less swapped average shooting and sketchy goaltending for bad shooting and average goaltending and achieved the same results in the standings.
Conclusions: Losing Bryan Lerg for the season has really hurt. Most of the top scorers have been slumping (or out) since, Aggz, Hunwick, Olver, Hishon are all way behind their first half scoring pace.
On the other hand, the defense has settled into established pairs and are playing fundamentally well. Getting Siemens back from injury has helped out a lot, he's playing better and better each game. Pickard has played 7 of the last 8 games since Sami was hit in the face with a puck putting up a 4-2-1 record in one of the better stretches all year for the goalies. So there's hope.
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This weekend we take a trip to the Queen City of the South for a pair against the Checkers. LEM split two games at home vs Charlotte at the end of January which included Picks best game of the year, a masterful 1-0 shutout in the first.
Last weekend's games featured 2 brutally violent games against the Marlies plus a 3rd-in-3 on Sunday at Hamilton. Friday's brawl ended up with 200 PIMs for both teams and a plucky 3-2 win for the Monsters. Recap here. The two teams moved to the GTA for the next day's battle and followed up with 143 more PIMs in the 4-1 loss for the good guys. Recap here. It would have been understandable if Lake Erie came out flat on Sunday after smashing faces with Toronto for 120 minutes, but they didn't. Vandy had 2G/1A and the Monsters beat former NHL goaltender Devan Dubnyk and the Bulldogs 4-1 in pretty dominating fashion. Recap here.
Injury/Roster Report: Coach C commented last Friday that Sami and Mark Olver should be back in action this weekend. Olver, along with Gabe Desjardins, was spotted at practice Tuesday by lostgirlwendy wearing non-contact jerseys. Lauridsen was on the ice Friday morning, also in a non-contact jersey, very good news on Moose there. Brad Malone and Paul Carey have been called up to Colorado and I don't think we'll be seeing them anytime soon. The Monsters signed Center Trent Daavettila from the Colorado Eagles to a PTO this week, he's had 60 points in 52 games this year in the ECHL.
Thanks to Ryan Boulding for this vid of Paul Carey before making his Avalanche/NHL debut:
Carey played well against Chicago, getting 1 SOG and 1 hit in 6 minutes of ice time. Also smoked Nick Leddy for a semi-breakaway in the 1st period, lots of Avs fans were impressed with his speed.
Found this Sami Aittokallio compilation by thebloodlosslock on the tubes. Footage from the Avs, Monsters and Finland:
Finally getting some love in the Weekly AHL Power Rankings from The Hockey Writers, Monsters up to 24th!
Vincent Arseneau has been nominated for Rookie of the Year in the Central Hockey League for his work with the Cutthroats. He's put up 17G/9A and 112 PIMs in 37 games down there. I still like Arseneau, he got in Chynoweth's doghouse and hasn't been seen since but he's got some talent other than punching faces.
Monsters at Charlotte Saturday 7:00pm ET, radio on WHKW
Monsters at Charlotte Sunday 1:30pm ET, radio on WHK
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I guess the idiots that run Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte hate money because they only sell lower bowl tix for hockey games. Saturday's game is sold out, so I will miss my best opportunity to see the beloved Monsters live until next year. Fuck those guys. Anyway, that means I will watch the games this weekend from home as usual. Join in all the fun Saturday night or before the Avs play Ottawa on Sunday afternoon.
Poor Trevor Cheek...
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Captain Pink Eye. <a href="http://t.co/BdbqagRvym">pic.twitter.com/BdbqagRvym</a></p>— Trevor Cheek (@trevorcheekAZDK) <a href="https://twitter.com/trevorcheekAZDK/statuses/443216771680452608">March 11, 2014</a></blockquote>
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