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State of the Monsters Address : Big win followed by a little loss

Andrew Agozzino (WBS Penguins) checks on Matiss Kivlenieks (Cleveland Monsters) after flying into the net o Friday, December 13th, 2019. (Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, Cleveland, Ohio)
Photo Credit: John Saraya/Cleveland Monsters

The Cleveland Monsters split their series, 1-1, with the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins this weekend. On Friday, they shutout the Penguins, 4-0, to give Matiss Kivlenieks his first shutout of the season. Despite the big win over WBS, the Monsters played a sloppier game than usual. Coach Eaves made note in Saturday’s post game presser to say, “If you put the pucks in more than the other guy, you have smiles. Although, you probably make the same mistakes but the goals cover up a lot.” The goals definitely covered up a lot of the Monsters fundamental transgressions such as not picking up rebounds, missing passes, and turning over the puck in the neutral zone.

Saturday was a different story for the Monsters. They lost 3-1 but the effort was there. The first period was a bit rough as they didn’t make some of the best choices on their breakaways or passes. However, Coach Eaves made sure to point out that you have to trust the players will make the right decision in their, what he calls, “moment of truth”. “I thought, in the first period, there were moments of truth that weren’t very good, we mishandled it,” Coach Eaves explained, “That’s something you have to trust your players on. You have to understand what they’re looking at.”

With the exception of a few players, the lines and pairs remained the same against the Penguins last weekend.

Forwards

First Line

Nathan Gerbe (0g, 1a) - Kevin Stenlund (1g, 0a) - Markus Hannikainen


As a whole, the first line played very well together on Friday. They attacked the net on almost every play and scooped up man rebounds. Saturday, on the other hand, was a bit different. They struggled to make clean passes and opted to pass the puck instead of rushing down an open lane towards the net.

For the past few weeks, Nathan Gerbe has been back in his old position of winger. It has proved beneficial to the Monsters and the first line. He’s been able to set up plays for Kevin Stenlund to Fans saw Gerbe’s seven-game point streak which came to an end on Saturday.

Kevin Stenlund has a one-time slapper that will knock you over just standing in the vicinity of the shot. Goalies struggle to stop these heavy handed slapper. His 10-game point streak came to an end on Saturday.

Markus Hannikainen had five points over the Monsters last seven games. He has been able to set plays in motion all the way in the Monsters’ defensive zone.

Second Line

Stefan Matteau (0g, 2a) - Ryan MacInnis (0g, 1a) - Marko Dano (1g, 0a)

Stefan Matteau has been flying under the radar again. He notched two assists in Friday’s shutout win. Matteau’s ability to set up plays without being noticed on the ice has made him a player to watch for those sitting in the stands.

Recently, Ryan MacInnis has been quarterbacking a lot of plays for the second line. Plus, his ability to win defensive zone faceoffs have proven helpful to the Monsters in close games.

Marko Dano has been mimicking the opposing goaltender causing long screens which have led to multiple goals for the Monsters.

Third Line

Jakob Lilja (2g, 1a) - Justin Scott (0g, 1a) - Calvin Thurkauf (0g, 1a)

Jakob Lilja was on fire last weekend scoring two goals in Friday’s game and creating plays during Saturday’s game. After struggling the first seven games down in Cleveland, Lilja has become a faster skater, stronger hitter, and his shot accuracy is on the incline.

Justin Scott has flying under the radar making himself known by setting up plays or defending his teammates.

Calvin Thurkauf has a lot of spunk. However, to be a bit more successful at this level, he needs to turn the aggression down a bit. Sometimes it feels as though he’s haphazardly going in for a hit or looking for a fight. These hits are leading to penalties during times when the Monsters have all the momentum. On Friday, Thurkauf left his feet to hit an opponent. By the time Monday rolled around, Thurkauf was suspended for the games against the Milwaukee Admirals and Rockford IceHogs.

Fourth Line

Paul Bittner/Sam Vigneault - Derek Barach - Trey Fix-Wolansky

The fourth line did not mesh well together against the Penguins. They were easily pick pocketed and did not communicate well.

Defense

First Pair

Gabriel Carlsson - Adam Clendening (0g, 1a)

Gabriel Carlsson has been playing both sides of the puck quite well. His biggest assets have been clogging up lanes and rebounding shots from the opposition.

Adam Clendening is a really good player deserving of a call up to the big club. One thing he needs to focus on more is defense. Clendening has been playing fairly close to the net in the offensive zone. So, when a puck is turned over or coughed up along the boards Clendening has to high tail down the ice to prevent a goal from happening. This happens a lot when the net is empty.

Second Pair

Dillon Simpson (1g, 0a) - Jason Binkley

Dillon Simpson continues to never give up when on the ice. When Simpson puts his mind to something, he almost always achieves it. The proof is in his goal on Saturday. Once the first period ended, Simpson was on a mission to give the Monsters their first goal of the night. He attacked the net, forced turnovers, and foiled multiple shot attempts by throwing his body into every open lane possible. He was rewarded with a goal towards the end of the second period on Saturday. This goal unleashed stuffed animals and teddy bears from every corner of the arena.

This was Jason Binkley’s second stint with the Monsters this season. Despite skating faster and blocking more shots than his first stint back in November, Binkley still made a few rookie style mistakes such as turning over the puck in the neutral zone and passing the puck in such a way that caused it to bounce. There is a lot of potential in Binkley. However, Binkley was released from his PTO on Sunday, December 15th.

Third Pair

Anton Karlsson - Doyle Somerby

Anton Karlsson and Doyle Somerby continue to do solid work. This past weekend they focused more on the defensive aspect of the game over playing both sides of the puck. The focus on eating pucks saved the Monsters from a deeper goal deficit in Saturday’s 3-1 loss to the Penguins.

Goaltenders

Matiss Kivlenieks/Veini Vehvilainen

Kivlenieks seemed shaky upon his return to the Monsters last week. This week was a much different story. He was full of confidence and wasn’t making flashy saves. He stuck to the basics which allowed him to earn his first shutout of the season after stopping 23 shots on Friday.

Veini Vehvilainen was solid as ever this past weekend. The first goal scored against Vehvilainen on Satruday was an unfortunate fluke where he knocked the puck across the goal line with his skate.