Going North: Monsters’ path to playoffs in plain sight

Just win baby!

Sixteen games are all that remains in the Cleveland Monsters’ season. They essentially have a playoff run’s worth of games left to try and jump at least two teams in the North Division to claim the fifth and final playoff spot.

A few weeks ago, the Monsters moved into playoff position and almost immediately tripped over themselves with 4 straight losses (0-3-1), sending them back into the basement. Thankfully the losses did not come against any of the teams in direct competition for one of the remaining playoff spots, and did not set them back too much.

The Monsters have stopped taking on water, and have steadied the ship after that rough patch. Since those four losses, Cleveland has answered with wins in 3 of their last 4 games, including a thrilling overtime winner in their outdoor matchup at First Energy Stadium after a five hour(!) delay to the start of the game.

The Monsters wrap up March with seven games in the final two weeks of the month, four of those games coming against teams (Laval and Rochester) who are also competing for the final playoff spots in the North. In fact, of the Monsters 16 remaining games, 9 of them are against divisional rivals within striking distance of the Monsters.

With their games in hand on both Laval and Belleville, it is truly safe to say that Cleveland’s path to the playoff is squarely in their own hands. If they can continue this recent stretch of solid play, there is no reason why we can’t have some playoff hockey in Ohio this spring.

Top Line Terrors

The Monsters new look top line has been terrorizing opponents recently. Newly healthy Yegor Chinakhov has added a much needed extra scoring punch to Cleveland’s lineup. Since arriving in Cleveland on his rehab assignment, he has posted 6 points (3G, 3A) in the 4 games in which he has appeared. I know management wants to get him back to Columbus eventually, but at this point he means far more to the Monsters than he does to the Blue Jackets.

At least by being with Cleveland at the time of the AHL playoff roster deadline, he is automatically eligible to play should the Monsters return to the Calder Cup Playoffs.

Trey Fix-Wolansky has been carrying the Monsters offense all year, and has already eclipsed the record for most points by a Blue Jackets’ prospect the AHL since the Blue Jackets and Monsters affiliated back in 2015. He is on the cusp of eclipsing the all-time franchise record for minor league points, set by Jonathan Marchessault. In just 49 games this year, he’s posted a statline of 25-37-62, which is far and away best on the team and 4th in the entire league. Jarmo Kekalainen has stated that he knows TFW is deserving of a call-up and would like to get him some games before the season ends. It’s a tough decision to pull a team’s best player out the lineup in the middle of a playoff push when you consider what the Blue Jackets are playing for: nothing.

Look for one of these guys to be called up before the Jackets hit the road tomorrow. Either way, it will be a tough blow to the Monsters. Both Chinakhov and Fix-Wolansky had multi-point games in the team’s last two wins, with them factoring on all goals scored in their most recent 3-2 shootout win over Grand Rapids, including the shootout goals themselves.

Ceulemans Coming

Today is the day that newly signed defenseman, Corson Ceulemans, will meet his new teammates with the Cleveland Monsters. After arriving in over the weekend Columbus to take in the most recent Blue Jackets’ loss, Ceulemans is slated to participate in his first practice with the team today prior to potentially making his debut in professional hockey on Thursday night.

Ceuelemans is more than likely going to jump directly into the fire for the playoff push. The Monsters do have a full stable of defenseman, but if his talent level is truly what management is leading us to believe, than he should be able to step right in and be another solid two-way defenseman that will make the roster better.

Help wanted?

In the lead-up to the deadline for sending players to the AHL in order for them to be playoff eligible, the question was exactly how many of the current Blue Jackets would be “sent down” to help the Monsters reach the post-season.

Well, when the time came, we got the answer: one. Just one player was made eligible for the AHL playoffs, and it was one who has never played a single game in the American Hockey League.

Cole Sillinger, amidst all of his struggles this year, was the only one to be “sent down” in a paper move to be able to suit up should Cleveland climb back into the playoffs. Other young players like Kent Johnson, Kirill Marchenko, and even Tim Berni will finish out the season with the Jackets and end their season in April, rather than play on with the Monsters.

It was reported that Jackets’ management had pondered sending Sillinger down for a while now as his struggles dragged on, but never did so simply due to lack of warm bodies, particularly down the middle. To his credit, Sillinger had a good attitude about potentially being “demoted.”

It was a head scratcher as to why others were not at least made available, and almost seemed like punishment for the kid. Yes, it has been a long time coming and will no doubt be beneficial, but I wonder if he took it as a message.

On the bright side for Cole and the rest of the Sillinger family, both he and brother Owen could get the chance to suit up together in a professional game for the first time. Not many hockey players get that chance, and I’m sure it would be a big moment for the family.

Up Next

Cleveland will play Grand Rapids for the third time in a row on Thursday at home before welcoming the Belleville Senators for a HUGE weekend back-to-back.

Rooting for wins is way more fun than hoping for a well played loss, so I’m glad I can really mean it when I say...

Let’s go Monsters!

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