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From the Monsters Desk: Week 26.1 - How to kill a season

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Cody Corbett on instagram

The beloved Monsters have taken 3 out of a possible 4 points from the Milwaukee Admirals so far this week and now face the hated Toronto Marlies in the latest edition of "The Most Important Game of the Season"

News

- Tonight is Autism Awareness Night at the Q and the Monsters will be wearing special jerseys (they look sharp too, can't find a pic right now however) that will be auctioned off after the game.

- Colin Smith made a surprise return to the lineup Wednesday night and looked nothing like a man that had missed the past 21 games with a broken leg, generated 5 SOG playing mainly on a makeshift 4th line. So nice to see him back.

- Mitch Heard also returned to the lineup on Wednesday night, nothing was ever reported but I have a feeling the past couple of games he missed were due to some sort of injury. Word on the street has Dan Maggio out with some bumps and bruises with no schedule to return. Sam Henley is officially injured with UBI.

- Andrew Agozzino was named AHL Player of the Month for March. 21 points, 6 more than any other player in the league. Nice goin'!

- Some of the Monsters were relaxing at the Q last night for a Cavs game:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Taking the <a href="https://twitter.com/cavs">@Cavs</a> game in tonight <a href="https://twitter.com/TheQArena">@TheQArena</a>. Hittin&#39; the ice tomorrow for Autism Awareness Night! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/AliveInCLE?src=hash">#AliveInCLE</a> <a href="http://t.co/ZwSkhInNNZ">pic.twitter.com/ZwSkhInNNZ</a></p>&mdash; Lake Erie Monsters (@monstershockey) <a href="https://twitter.com/monstershockey/status/583798004295061504">April 3, 2015</a></blockquote>
<script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

- Karl Stollery was called up to the Sharks yesterday and played last night. Former Monster & Cutthroat Kent Patterson signed a PTO with the Oklahoma City Barons.

Playoff Picture

The Monsters currently sit tied for 10th with the Marlies, with one more game played, and 5 points in back of Milwaukee in 8th. The playoff cutoff projects to 85 points right now (more like 84.5) so to make the chase for the Calder Cup, Lake Erie will need to go:

6+ wins or 5-1-2

3 losses and it's all over (theoretically).

Anatomy of a Major Screwup

To set the stage, Lake Erie won in overtime Tuesday night in a close fought game that ended on a fantastic shot from Cody Corbett. Great confidence booster for a guy that's been used sparingly over the season and usually as a 7th D/power play specialist.

Wednesday night, the Monsters played an even 1st period but managed to take the lead when Trevor Cheek gritted out a goal with 9 seconds remaining. The 2nd period was all Monsters, 20 SOG to Milwaukee's 9 and a fantastic goal from Reid Petryk, capitalizing on a turnover high above the slot and converting a lurid wrist shot into a 2-0 lead going into the 2nd intermission.

During that intermission, the coaching staff decided to make some changes and in doing so the game was lost before Lake Erie even returned to the ice.

The defensive parings for the first 40 minutes of the game looked like this:

Youds - Clark
Siemens - Elliott
Geertsen/Corbett - Gervais

Markus Lauridsen was dressed but played forward for the 2nd night in a row.

For the 3rd period, they looked like this:

Youds - Clark
Lauridsen - Gervais
Elliott

Geertsen and Siemens had a few shifts between them, Corbett was benched after one shift and Elliott played noticeably fewer minutes than he did in the first 2 periods.

The period started out with this little gem from Pickard 13 seconds in:

Less than 2 minutes later, Gervais lost track of his man (again) and the game was 2-1. Gervais was rewarded with even more PT, his defensive partner on the shift, Cody Corbett, was rewarded with being benched. Corbett's loss was Lauridsen's gain as he played what seemed like the rest of the game. I like Moose but he's a 3rd pair AHLer on his best day and he hasn't played well recently, hence getting benched and only getting back into the lineup as a forward due to injuries.

But wait, he was still in the lineup as a forward Wednesday even though Garrett Meurs was a healthy scratch. Meurs has spent most of the season in Ft Wayne but clawed his way into the lineup and has been playing well lately. Playing better than he ever has really, why was he scratched for a D playing out of position? It's almost like the staff were waiting for a chance to bench the D prospects they almost assuredly have been instructed to play by the Avs staff and play him instead. Why would any coach do this?

Anyway, here we are with 2 terrible defensemen playing big minutes and chasing the puck constantly while Milwaukee owns the LEM zone. Super. Now the forwards are tired from being trapped in the zone every other shift and the inevitable tying goal gets scored with a little over 5 minutes remaining in the game, this time with Youds & Clark on the ice.

Soon after, crisis met opportunity when Calvin Pickard was violently run over and a 5 minute major penalty was awarded. Instead of putting the league's top PP scoring defenseman (Stef) out and letting him work his magic we were subjected to several minutes of futility once again with Bruno & Moose. Milwaukee's PK got in a rhythm and closed out regulation still tied. After 35 seconds more PP time in OT without a goal, the Admirals returned to full strength and promptly ended the game 13 seconds later. Absolutely horrifying.

The Lake Erie coaching staff deserved to lose this game but the players deserved much better. This was an absolutely criminal level of incompetence, and Coach Dean had the gall to call out his players afterward in his steaming turd of an interview after the game. He freely admitted that the first 2 periods were just swell but for some reason, like the fact that HE changed up the defense pairs, the 3rd was awful and guys were losing battles, turning the puck over, blah blah blah.

If Coach Dean and Coach Ladouceur want to bench the less experienced but more talented prospects in favor of their guys, that's their prerogative. They run the show. But to obliviously blame the players for those moronic decisions and the ensuing consequences is inexcusable. These very same issues cropped up at the end of last year when Chynoweth publicly blamed players (by name in one case) for losses, something I find hard to believe Patrick Roy has even the slightest amount of tolerance for from a coach in a developmental league.

I consider myself far more tolerant of Chynoweth's coaching than most Avs/Monsters fans, but this is too similar to last year's ridiculous moves at the end of the season and much more damaging because there's still a chance to make the playoffs at this point. This was a huge game, Lake Erie gave away 2 points to the 8th place team and threw away a point for themselves. Right now they're on pace to miss the playoffs by maybe 2 or 3 points, decisions like Wednesday's are the difference between 8th place and 11th place.

Last year I gave Coach Dean a bit of a pass on his seemingly insane behavior down the stretch, there were big injury and personnel issues plaguing the team all year and the team was fragile and fractured by the end. This year, he gets no pass. There are coaching decisions that have chronically and actively hurt the team's chances of winning games all year and prospects are not given the playing time they need to develop in many cases. In my opinion the Avalanche should move on and find a more professional and competent guardian for their minor league system.

Preview - Marlies

What else needs to be said? Both teams have 73 points and are 5 points out of a playoff spot with 2 weeks left in the season. Time to make the donuts.

Schedule

Friday night vs Toronto 7:30pm in the ET, radio on WKNR

Links

Stats

Standings

Preview from LEM

Next up

A quick trip to Chicago on Tuesday followed by a home game against the detested Amerks on Thursday.

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The Marlies game should be finishing up right before the Avs take on Anaheim tonight so stop by and pre-game with the Monsters. I'll have updates and recaps here and on twitter. Enjoy!