Going North: Monsters back in the basement, but control their own fate
It's make or break time for Cleveland
It has been an up and down month for the Monsters since we last checked in. The same can be said for the players, as the I-71 route to Columbus has been getting plenty of usage with all of the call-ups we've seen lately. Cleveland had lost their top scorer and a top defenseman in the biggest stretch of their season and it showed this pas week.
The Cleveland Monsters currently sit at 29-29-5-2 which is good for 65 points and 7th (last) in the North Division. They found themselves in playoff position after a sweep of division leading Toronto in the last week of March. Sadly since then, Columbus has suffered yet another wave of injuries, further decimating the Monsters roster. Cleveland has since lost 3 of their last 4 games, including a weekend sweep by perennial AHL juggernauts, the Hershey Bears, and once again find themselves out of the playoffs and in the basement of the division.
Thankfully, all hope is not lost!
Cleveland has 65 points and 7 games remaining and the teams they are chasing both have 68 points but only 5 games remaining. If the Monsters can take care of their own business, they still control their own destiny. The best part of all this, is that the next three games for Cleveland are against Belleville (x2) and Laval – the teams they are chasing – and will undoubtedly be the most important games of the season. It really is put up or shut up time for the Cleveland Monsters.
It all starts tonight against the Belleville Senators north of the border. They will have some reinforcements this week after playing a seriously depleted lineup recently. Justin Richards, Jake Christiansen, and Jet Greaves are all back with the Monsters after their most recent stint in Columbus. Perhaps a more filled out lineup can get them a crucial win tonight. That paired with Cole Sillinger getting more comfortable should not allow any excuses as to not being able to get the job done. Sillinger has only posted 3 assists in his 6 games with Cleveland, and needs to get it going if the Monsters want to make the playoffs. Right now, that isn't getting the job done as the #1C. With Yegor Chinakhov still on the shelf with his ankle injury, they need all the offense they can get.
It sure sounds like the Monsters' best player is in the coach's doghouse in Cleveland as well as Columbus. We all know that TFW was sent back down to the Monsters after he overslept and missed a team meeting last week, but things didn't get much better for him back in Cleveland.
Fix-Wolansky was benched in the Monsters' most recent loss during the third period. He was taken off the power play unit where he has shined this year. All of this in a must-win game, must mean the coach was not liking what he was seeing from his leading scorer.
Head coach, Trent Vogelhuber, did not really mince words when asked about his decision in his post-game press conference:
Cleveland is going to need their best player to actually be their best player if they want to grab that last playoff spot. Hopefully he can shake off the rough week. I am expecting another gear from TFW in the home stretch.
Last in standings, first in attendance
Similar to their parent club, the Monsters still draw great crowds to watch a last place team. Granted the situations are a bit different considering that Cleveland is still playing meaningful games, but it still says a lot about the healthy state of hockey in Ohio. For the second year in a row, the Cleveland Monsters lead the AHL in attendance, and both of those years saw a team that was in last place for majority of the season. Just imagine how much more the attendance would grow with a dominant team.
The Blue Jackets will hopefully bolster this by finally getting up to Cleveland to play some preseason games in the coming years as they have been hinting! I've always said more can and should be done for the relationship between the two teams. Maybe next year is finally the year it happens.
Let's go Monsters!