After dropping both of their games last weekend, the Cleveland Monsters hit the open road in hopes of turning their season around. Along the way, they gained defenseman Adam Clendening and forward Liam Foudy from the Columbus Blue Jackets taxi squad. In the process, the taxi squad became home to defenseman Gavin Bayreuther for a little bit of time.
Despite the added fire power of Foudy and Clendening, the Monsters couldn’t get anything going and fell to the Grand Rapids Griffins in overtime, 2-1.
It took a bit for things to get going for the Monsters and the Griffins. By a bit, I mean two whole periods. A low-scoring game doesn’t always mean low action. In the case of this game, it did.
Regardless, there were things the Monsters did well and things they did not. Below are a few takeaways on Saturday night’s loss.
Monsters Thrive on the Faceoff, But Could Be Better
Players such as Justin Scott gave the Monsters a much needed edge with their ability to come up with the puck on draws. This season, we have seen Scott dig deep to come away with the puck off the draw, while the players on the flanks have been working hard to maintain possession of the puck.
Unfortunately, they are struggling to win defensive zone draws, especially on the power play. If the Monsters can tighten that up, the next two games on the schedule will be a lot easier to manage.
The Plus Side of Jake Christiansen
Jake Christiansen struggled a bit during the Monsters opening weekend. However, against the Griffins on Saturday, some of the skills in his toolbox were on display.
A bit of spice is added to faceoffs by Christiansen. He sits behind Scott on the draw, waiting for the puck to be thrown his way. Christiansen will then wind up as the puck glides towards him, allowing for maximum velocity upon contact. It’s a wicked shot that left Griffins netminder Pat Nagle stunned on a few occasions.
Another thing I found interesting was the way he worked with Clendening. The Griffins knew Clendening was going to fire shot after shot from the right point. So, they made sure to clog the shooting lane and push the Monsters offense away from the net so they couldn’t pick up the rebound. Christiansen began to set up shop at the left point, giving Clendening another person to pass the puck off to. His ability to read the Griffins’ defensive plays allowed the Monsters to maintain control at the top of their offensive zone.
Also, Christiansen spent a lot of time audibly and physically communicating with his teammates on the ice. When there are no fans in the building, non-verbal cues become incredibly important to controlling a game.
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Brad Thiessen and His House Need a Better Security System
Another weekend, another stand out performance for Brad Thiessen. There is no doubt that Thiessen kept the Monsters in the game against the Griffins with his defensively aggressive style of play. He constantly flew across the crease to stuff point blank rebounds and quick release shots from the near faceoff circle.
With that being said, Thiessen cannot do it alone and needs help from the defense. An example of one of the breakdowns is this: Grand Rapids centerman Michael Rasmussen spent a lot of time sitting at the top of the crease, screening Thiessen and waiting for a chance to gobble up rebounds. For the bulk of the game, the defense allowed him to camp out on the doorstep. At some point, a concerted effort needs to be made to not let players like Rasmussen sit in front of the goaltender for an extended period of time.
The Monsters are not the only ones that deal with this type of defensive breakdown. Their parent club, the Columbus Blue Jackets, deal with this every time they play against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Yanni Gourde will sit on the doorstep waiting for his chance to break into the house and score.
Lack of Emotional Control is a Weak Spot
Playing in a division as intense and aggressive as the Central, a team must have control of their emotions to have a leg up on their opponent. As the Griffins kicked it up a notch in the third period, the Monsters began to lose control of their emotions. The refs were constantly jawed, penalty box doors were slammed, players were hit in the numbers, and three 10-minute misconducts were handed out during the third period and overtime. According to rule 22.4, since those 10-minute misconducts were for “abuse of the officials”, they will be reported in detail to the league office.
Cooler heads will prevail in a condensed season.