This is it folks. The beloved Monsters have 3 games in 3 nights to finish off the 2014-15 regular season. It all starts tonight against the Grand Rapids Griffins, tomorrow is the final home game of the year against Hamilton then Saturday we travel to Hamilton for the final AHL game there for the foreseeable future.
Playoff picture - #clenchtime
There are 3 teams mathematically alive competing for the 8th and final spot in the Western Conference:
Team (pts) (max pts) remaining schedule
Toronto (83) (89) at MKE [fri], at RFD [sat], at CHI [sun]
Hamilton (80) (84) at LEM [fri], LEM [sat]
Lake Erie (78) (84) GRG [thur], HAM [fri], at HAM [sat]
The Marlies have the tiebreakers with LEM so if they get a single point the Monsters are eliminated. Any kind of loss eliminates the Monsters or Bulldogs. If Hamilton ends up tied with Toronto and with 84 points/36 non-shootout wins, they have the season series tiebreaker. Toronto doesn't play until Friday night at Milwaukee and won't finish until after HAM @ LEM so if the Monsters keep winning they can't be eliminated until then at the earliest.
There are some fun scenarios like all 3 teams tying with 83 points or the Monsters winning out and then having to wait a day to see if Toronto can clinch on it's 3rd and final try. Obviously we're still bigtime longshots, but the fact we are alive with a puncher's chance going into the final weekend is encouraging given the mediocre play and questionable coaching decisions lately.
All that aside, Lake Erie can still finish anywhere between 8th and 12th place and the more teams in the rear-view mirror the better. Plus I really really like the idea of giving the 'Dogs a loss in the final game in Hamilton. Milwaukee is currently ahead of the Monsters in the standings but have already been eliminated.
- After the conclusion of the Avs season, Duncan Siemens, Joey Hishon and Freddie Hamilton were reassigned to Lake Erie to bolster the lineup for the final weekend
- Borna Rendulic has been out with a broken leg for the last several months but is now back in commission and was spotted at practice this week. I'm expecting him to play.
- With 3 returning forwards, LEM have gone from feast to famine on that part of the roster. Garrett Meurs was sent to the brother Komets this week as they prepare for their 1st round series vs Kalamazoo beginning Friday. This should be good experience for Young Garrett. He's going to be in the final year of his ELC next season and a long run in the Kelly Cup playoffs might give him what he needs to impress in training camp and next year in the AHL.
- In this year's final episode of "Get to Know" we meet Duncan Siemens and Kenny Ryan
Max Noreau is out for the season with shoulder surgery
Gabe Beaupre was finally added to the injury report after the Komets indicated he wouldn't be available for them this post-season, also due to shoulder surgery
Sam Henley has been on the injury report for awhile with UBI. Ne news there.
Dan Maggio has been on and off the injury report with UBI for the past couple weeks
Ben Youds left the last game and didn't return. No news there either.
Recap - Adirondack
On Saturday, the 1st started with a long segment of the Flames controlling the play and the Monsters having little to show for their few forays into the offensive zone. The Flames appeared interested in gooning it up so we had b2b fights early in the game with Mitch and Mags. Once everyone got that all out of their systems, the Monsters settled into a pretty even game until a third of the way into the 2nd when the floodgates opened. Bourke, Smitty, Vincour and Kenny Ryan all scored to secure a 4 goal lead heading into 2nd intermission. There was a bit of a turdle in the 3rd but not as severe as we’ve seen lately and LEM went on to a 5-2 win.
For Sunday's game, the Monsters staff decided to go with a traditional 12 forward/6 defenseman lineup and it seemed to solve a lot of issues the team’s been dealing with lately. Who knew?
Bruno Gervais, of all people, kicked off the scoring in the 1st when Chris Bigras had a nice keep in at the blue line then fed Colin Smith on the half-boards who found a wide open Gervais streaking to the net. ADK tied things up midway through the 2nd but Kenny Ryan got the lead back soon after by finding a silly turnover in the slot and burying it. In the 3rd, Troy Bourke found Vinny for a goal right after a PP expired then Reid Petryk capitalized on yet another silly ADK turnover for ENG at the end. Well-played, gentlemen!
Benny Youds left early in the 3rd period for undisclosed reasons and didn’t return. Erstwhile forward Markus Lauridsen returned to the blueline for the rest of the game.
Going back to the (only) 6 defenseman situation, it really seemed to solidify the play from the back end. Clark and Youds are good as a 1st pairing right now. Chris Bigras looks really good offensively so far and has made some very nice passes both out of the zone and in transition. Definitely a little bit dicey in the defensive zone and being paired with Elliott doesn’t help that. If Youds is out, I’d like to see him with Mat Clark for a game. This was Geertsen’s first game not being the 7th guy and he was steady paired with team albatross Bruno Gervais. It’s pretty doubtful he’ll get paired with anyone else for the last 3 games, which is a shame because he’s showing glimpses of ability that can’t be fully explored without a dependable partner, but I’m absolutely grinning about next season right now.
Preview - GRG & Hamilton
The Monsters have had the upper hand on Grand Rapids this year with a 5-3-1 record. I was really hoping the Griffs wouldn't have much to play for but unfortunately they do. They sit 3rd in the WC and only a point ahead of Rockford in the division so points are at a premium for them too. They've lost a few key players to the wingys and are only 6-4 in their last 10 so with the improved LEM roster I'm optimistic.
Strangely enough, the Monsters have also fared well against the Bulldogs this season with a 2-1-1 record and both teams' recent performances are similar. Other than calling up backup goalie Joey MacDonald for target practice, the Habs have left the Bulldogs fairly intact. As long as both teams remain alive this should be a great series.
Usually I post the most recent lineup but with 4 new players who will definitely dress, I'm going to post a wild guess as to what we will see this weekend:
Aggz - Street - Petryk
Vinny - Hish - Freddie
Schumi - Smitty - Borna
Cheek?/Mitch?/no one? - Ryan - Bourke
Scratched: Corbett, Lauridsen
Injured: Noreau (shoulder), Beaupre (shoulder), Henley (UBI), Maggio (UBI)
As I said in the recap, Benny Youds left Sunday's game early in the 3rd period and didn't return, no info on if he's back or not. Obviously we'd all like to see Coach Dean do the right thing and bench Gervais if Youds is healthy but unless someone has a knife at his throat I don't see that happening.
Looking at the positive side, getting Hish and Freddie back is going to be fantastic. Wow! 2 whole scoring lines! With the Schumi/Smitty combo lurking on the 3rd! GoalsGoalsGoals!
Thursday night vs Grand Rapids 7:00pm in the ET, radio on WHK
Friday night vs Hamilton 7:30 in the ET, radio on WKNR and TV on WUAB
Saturday night at Hamilton 7:00pm in the ET, radio on WHK
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Yes, there are thrilling NHL playoff games taking place concurrently with this weekend's final stretch, but this is the last chance to see our organization's up and coming stars in action until training camp. So stop by and hang out. I'll have all the updates here and on twitter and a series of articles reviewing the year in the coming weeks. Enjoy!