Last weekend, the Cleveland Monsters experienced the dreaded back-to-back-to-back series for the first time during the 2019-20 season. They took home three points over the course of the weekend.
On Friday, October 18th, the Monsters took down the Rochester Americans in a normal size shootout, 4-3. Nathan Gerbe was the lone shootout goal scorer of the game. Afterwards, the Monsters hopped on the bus and headed straight for Canada where they lost both games to the Toronto Marlies, 2-0 and 6-5 (so).
With the exception of Saturday’s game, the Monsters had a very solid weekend. A lot of players displayed great qualities which will come in handy the rest of the season.
So, let’s break down how each line, pair, and player produced during the strenuous back-to-back-to-back roadtrip.
Nathan Gerbe - Kevin Stenlund - Stefan Matteau
On Friday, the first line spent a lot of time picking up each other’s rebounds and setting up plays for one another. In fact, they were the only line to score against the Americans. They were the most consistent line of the weekend.
Nathan Gerbe notched five assists throughout the weekend and scored the game winning goal in Friday’s shootout win over the Americans. He is quietly putting together a banner season.
As the season goes on, Kevin Stenlund becomes more aggressive and protective of his linemates. For the most part, he is smart about when he hits or retaliates. Sometimes Stenlund goads the opposition into doing something reckless in front of the refs.
Stenlund only had one downfall during the roadtrip. The more amped up he got, the more he waved his stick around. Obviously, the refs were not pleased with this and collared Stenlund with slashing a few times.
Stefan Matteau is having himself a season. He had a two goal night on Friday and set up multiple key plays throughout the weekend. Sunday was a rough night for him on the faceoff as one of Matteau’s faceoff losses ended up as a goal for the Marlies.
Marko Dano/Markus Hannikainen - Zac Dalpe - Eric Robinson
Marko Dano did not seem confident this weekend. He missed his man a lot and made multiple rookie mistakes. For some reason, he couldn’t take a hit and didn’t seem as aggressive as normal.
On Sunday, Markus Hannikainen returned to the lineup for the Monsters. This time he slid into Dano’s spot on the second line. It hurts to watch Hannikainen play because you know he does not belong in the AHL at all. The way he sees the ice and can predict the future is a beautiful thing. His movements are quick and each shot on net has meaning.
Zac Dalpe spent the weekend on the hunt for a goal. Five minutes into the first period of Sunday’s game, Dalpe finally threw the scoring monkey off of his back. This weekend was also full of amazing defensive plays from both Dalpe and Eric Robinson.
Yet again, Robinson spent the bulk of his weekend creating chances for Dalpe. You can tell Robinson’s skill set is growing because every game he reads the ice just a bit better. However, Saturday was a rougher game for him. He looked tired and skated slower than usual.
Pretty much everyone had an off game on Saturday. So, I’m not going to read too much into it.
Sam Vigneault - Justin Scott - Kole Sherwood
Sam Vigneault had a phenomenal weekend. His positioning and quickness led to many solid plays. One of which was the Monsters third goal in Sunday’s game. He did struggle a bit with passing on Sunday. However, part of that had to do with the amount of pressure the Marlies applied to the Monsters the last half of Sunday’s game.
Justin Scott is a power play wizard. Between his continuous faceoff wins and two power play goals, Scott has come into his own this season. Plus, he’s unafraid to step up for himself and his teammates when things get punchy.
Kole Sherwood spent the weekend skating at top speed and firing off heavy handed one timers. He also continually busted through traffic to breakup and create plays.
This weekend Sherwood posted himself at the top of the crease while his teammates skated around the net with the puck. When the opposing team's defender tried to push him away from the crease, Sherwood would drop them on the ground. As odd as this play may seem, it worked quite well for the Monsters. There was always someone to pick up a rebound or redirect a shot gone awry.
Paul Bittner - Ryan MacInnis - Calvin Thurkauf/Derek Barach
Paul Bittner seemed very quiet and not like himself during the first two games of the roadtrip. He also struggled to pick up rebounds. On Sunday, Bittner was back to normal speeding down the ice and creating plays.
Ryan MacInnis was the rebound king. If a shot didn't go into the net, MacInnis scooped it up.
Calvin Thurkauf had a slow start to the weekend but turned things up before the end of Friday's first period. Despite doing a good job on special teams, Thurkauf was scratched on Saturday allowing Derek Barach to enter the line up. The only reason I could think of for why they scratched Thurkauf was to give a younger guy some reps on the fourth line for a night.
On Sunday, Thurkauf entered the lineup without missing a beat.
Other than laying a few heavy hits, Derek Barach did not provide much to the fourth line on Saturday. He struggled to quarterback plays and was easily stopped by the defense. This is not normally how Barach plays. Hopefully, his struggle was just from being rusty while riding the pine.
Gabriel Carlsson - Adam Clendening
Gabriel Carlsson excels at keeping the puck away from the opposition, setting up Adam Clendening with dreamy plays, and causing a ruckus behind the net. It is great to see Carlsson coming into his own as a defender.
Adam Clendening is a super patient defender. He will stand behind the net with the puck for upwards of 10 seconds waiting for a teammate to become open or to allow a line change to happen. He is also really good at forcing forwards off their path.
Dillon Simpson - Andrew Peeke
Dillon Simpson and Andrew Peeke communicate well together. Pairing the young gun with the faithful veteran has proved fruitful for the team.
Molding Peeke into a high performing defenseman has improved the way Simpson plays. Over the past few weeks, Simpson continues to make smarter plays and less egregious errors. Also, his one timers are hard, heavy, and terrifying.
Peeke was incredibly solid and did not back down from the Americans' forwards. Multiple times he appeared out of nowhere to throw his body in front of shots.
One thing Peeke needs to work on is keeping his stick down. Sometimes he flails it about like a butterfly net.
Doyle Somerby/ Anton Karlsson - Ryan Collins
Last week I said Doyle Somerby and Ryan Collins had some issues communicating with one another. This weekend was a lot different. The old Collins and Somerby were back in action.
On Friday, multiple Americans avoided getting hit by Doyle Somerby. This allowed him to force turnovers and steal pucks.
Ryan Collins has been making smarter plays this season. Although, the opponents have been able to score some weird goals around him and, in one case, off of him.
Anton Karlsson drew into the lineup on Sunday in place of Somerby. He showed a lot of great work on the penalty kill and was great at keeping the opposition from leaving the neutral zone.
Matiss Kivlenieks/Veini Vehvilainen
One of Matiss Kivleniek’s bright spots is the fact he does not flinch at point blank shots. He faced a lot of heavy handed slappers and didn’t bat an eye while stopping them. Sunday was an interesting day for Kivlenieks. The net kept being left unattended and the defense didn’t seem to be around often enough to sneak in to fill up holes. This could be a communication issue between Kivlenieks and the defense. OR it could have just been a slight oversight during that particular game.
Despite all the crazy shots Veini Vehvilainen seems to see, he somehow manages to not over exert himself while stopping the puck. Every move Vehvilainen makes on the ice has meaning and control. He rarely flails about and almost always seems to be in position. The defense responds very well to him and often works as an extension of Vehvilainen’s body.