The beloved Monsters season is in the books and so is their time as an Avs affiliate. Let's take a look at what improved this season and how.
Lake Erie finished up the year with a 35-29-12 record, good for 82 points and 9th place in the Western Conference, a solid if slight improvement on the 32-33-11 mark from last year. For those that are into symmetry, they had 41 points on the road and 41 points at the Q.
In regulation, the 24-29 record was a tentative step forward from last year's 22-33. Thanks to the AHL's new overtime rules, we saw 17 games decided in OT with only 6 in the shootout compared to last year's 3 in OT and 18 in the skills comp. That's a huge improvement in terms of deciding the games by playing hockey rather than farting around 1 on 1 with the goalie. Overall the Monsters earned 7 more points than last year and gave away 5 fewer to their opponents.
The Monsters netted a grand total of 211 goals this season, up from 197 in 2014. 144 of these came at even strength, 52 on the power play and they had a AHL leading 15 while shorthanded. Injuries to the Avs hoovered some good scoring talent for all or part of the year as well as the Monsters own injury issues, which seemed to affect mainly the forward corps.
Even though it seemed like the "power" play didn't score much they ended up 11th in the AHL at 17.8%, a nice improvement over last year's 20th place showing.
Lake Erie allowed 240 goals against this year, which is actually 8 more than 2014. 186 of these goals were allowed at even strength (ouch) but only 47 on the PK and they gave up 7 shorties. They also gave up 18 empty-netters so there's one reason the number inflated a bit. As in seasons past, the Monsters defense was mainly a collection of offensive defensemen that struggle in the defensive zone, especially in collecting the puck once the opponent gets set up. Deadline deals for Mat Clark and Benny Youds helped but along with some questionable coaching strategies it was a weak point for the team all year.
The PK was solid again this year with an 84% success rate and the aforementioned 15 shorthanded goals. Staying out of the box really helped too, they had to kill 67 fewer penalties this year.
Shots For and Against
There was a big improvement in shots for, over 2 per game over last season, but thanks to the turdle strategy and other factors we saw shots against rise by about 1 per game too. Obviously we don't get breakdowns but the Monsters being leading or at least in more games in the 3rd period was probably the main contributor to that. I'd love to have true Corsi stats because there some games where LEM were nowhere near 50% as far SOG/shots attempted. They miss a lot of shots, plenty of blocked shots too.
Shots for per game - 30.6
Shots against per game - 31.3
Shots for % - 49.4
Shooting % - 9.1
Save % - 89.9
PDO - 990
Even Str goals for % - 43.6
Special Teams % (PP+PK) - 101.8 (and +13 overall)
Year-over-year changes from 13-14:
Goals up 7.1%, 5v5 goals up 6.7%
Power play goals were down 8.8% but PP opportunities were down 16.8% so that's actually a net positive
Shots on goal up 7.3%
Points up 9.3%
Penalty minutes down 17.6%, PKs down 16.8%, PK goals down 27%, SHG up 200%
Goals against were unchanged if you take out empty-netters
Shooting percentage and Save percentage were unchanged somehow
Shots against up 3.6%
Moving from the goony North Division to the grindy Midwest translated into more even strength time and a more high-event style of play for Lake Erie. They played the good teams very well but still struggled with bigger teams with less skill. The organizational mantra of getting bigger & more physical players to complement the small skilled fellows will take a while to manifest but it's what is needed. I don't advocate on building a Rochester, but when your skill can get shut down by size too easily, you need to look at getting some larger skilled players rather than relying on a squad of sub 6 foot scorers to get the job done. Too much of anything is bad and I think the Avs are trying to balance things out rather than exterminate small forwards altogether.
The Defense was troubling of course but it's not something I'm worrying about going into next year. Getting rid of some dead weight and replacing it with Bigras and Geertsen should help a bunch. Duncan Siemens ended the year well and began to show signs of being the guy we thought we were getting when he was drafted. Cody Corbett showed that when the coach actually played him regular shifts he can be a good 2-way D going forward, hopefully he gets the chance. The right side is totally up in the air but the Avs have some good choices rather than bad for a change.
The Monsters goal differential on the road last year was abysmal (-37) and one of the things I harped on last year at this time that badly needed improvement. This year it was only -14, thanks mainly to a huge improvement in road scoring. LEM scored 11 more goals on the road than they did at home, but 125 goals against is still a bit much. Keep working.
As much as most of the forward corps other than Andrew Agozzino struggled to score, there was still a lot to be encouraged about. The team shot the puck a lot, now they need to learn how to get those on net more often. As much I dislike Coach Dean's player usage and late game strategies, he has developed a good forechecking and neutral zone system that was solid all year. That counterattack mentality flowed over into the PK and gave the team many many chances to score shorthanded. It's something the Avs have lost in the last couple of years and I think it's really hurt them.
Next time we'll take a closer look at the personnel, players & staff.
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A few thoughts from Game 76
- It took 75 games but the light bulb finally went on over Coach Dean's head and Bruno Gervais was a healthy scratch. I wasn't even mad that Bourke was scratched for a defenseman playing out of position!
- This was the first time Siemens anchored a defensive pair and he looked fine doing it. He and Corbett were pretty effective together and Corbett scored the 1st goal
- The game went to OT and on to the skills comp. Joey Hishon had the lone goal in the SO and Pickard was amazing once again to close things out.
- Bigras and Geertsen had a few shifts together, even one in OT. A little scary for sure but a great preview of things to come
- Besides scoring the first goal and having a solid game overall, Corbs was one of the D used in the 3v3 portion of OT. He's had a pretty forgettable year due somewhat to the fact he never played, but I really hope he gets a chance for regular time next season. He might not have full-time NHL talent but I'd really like to know that for sure before throwing in the towel on him.
- There were a few guys we watched for the final time in the org, although we won't know who for a while, but even so it was a good lineup and I'll miss those that part company in the off-season.
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That's it for now, don't forget to keep up with the brother Komets in their quest for the Kelly Cup. Roman Will, Garrett Meurs and Mitch Heard are our Avs reps in orange. Enjoy!