The Cleveland Monsters are hitting the homestretch of the season and trying to make a dramatic push for playoffs. The race in the North is just tight enough for anything to happen. However, the Monsters are sitting on the outside looking in. With a little over a month left in the season, they have already reached do or die territory. Basically, every game is a must win. Any game against a divisional foe would be best wrapped up in regulation.
“We really have to learn if we want to be a playoff team to close these games out and secure two points before the extra frame,” – Mark Letestu
To consistently secure two points in regulation the team needs to do a few things.
First, the players need to get on the same page as their coaches. A great example of them not being on the same page as each other came in the Monsters win over the Belleville Senators on March 7th, 2019. The Monsters had the two-man advantage with a little over five minutes to play in the second period. They fired off shot after shot and made no attempt to crash the net. When asked about the situation in post-game presser Coach Madden made sure to note there was a little bit of a miscommunication between the players on the ice and the men behind the bench.
“We had a little miscommunication with one of our forwards down low who wasn’t on the goal line. That (attacking the net) was kind of the idea. We were looking for that. We were looking for a rollup with a leftie up high and that didn’t happen either. We’ll have to go over what our game plan is on the 5-on-3,” – Head Coach John Madden
Once they get everyone on the same page, the team will be able to focus on the areas in which they excel. All the right tools are in their toolbox. They just have to keep it simple and stop trying to dazzle everyone.
“We’re right there. Everyone believes in it. With the team we have there is no reason why we shouldn’t be in a playoff spot. So, I think if we stick to our game plan, we will be in good shape.” – Jean-Francois Berube
The loss of Paul Bittner during the game on March 7th left the Monsters with 11 forwards. This forced them to sign forward Greg Wolfe to a 25-game PTO on March 8th.
Wolfe has been playing with the Toledo Walleye of the ECHL. In 55 games this season, he has 48 points and 24 penalty minutes. Will he be the answer to some of their offensive issues? Probably not but adding him to the roster allows the Monsters to breathe a little.
With no wiggle room for injuries or illness it’s imperative that the Monsters get some rest during this final stretch.
“Rest is a weapon for us,” – Head Coach John Madden
If things don’t go smoothly for them during their playoff push, at least they have a fantastic goalie tandem of Jean-Francois Berube and Brad Thiessen to fall back on.
For Berube, staying playoff ready is all about being consistent. In his mind, preparation is the biggest key to being successful.
“I just prepare the same way no matter what. If I’m hurt or I don’t feel good, I think what makes a goalie consistent is the way he prepares. I know if I prepare myself the same way, I’m setting myself up for success,” – Jean-Francois Berube
It also helps that Thiessen has been a great netminder to model himself after this season.
“He’s been guiding us throughout the year giving us tips and kind of bringing his experience. Seeing him play, being in net it just shows that not only does he know the game but he can play the game. He’s huge for us too. I think it’s a plus having him back there,” – Jean-Francois Berube
While these keys to a successful playoff push seem different, the fact is they are all similar. It all boils down to playing your style of game and no one else’s. If they can do that, the Monsters might actually make it to the playoffs.