Who will be the Lake Erie Monsters' goaltender come playoff time?
Korpisalo has the credentials, Forsberg increasingly has the confidence, and Thiessen has the resume
The Lake Erie Monsters' goaltending situation – both now and looking toward the immediate future – is intriguing.
Joonas Korpisalo, who seems to have found a long-term home in Columbus with his play in the big leagues, is officially on the Monsters' playoff roster. The assumption is that he'll come to Cleveland once the Blue Jackets' season is over.
Anton Forsberg is playing with increasing confidence, and he started three of Lake Erie's four games last week (and actually ended up seeing the ice in all four).
Brad Thiessen, who got all the minutes a goalie could ask for in January and February, was shelled in his only start of the week and is going through what I suppose you could call a bit of a rough stretch (at least for him, and at least in comparison to the high level at which he has been playing).
In Thiessen's defense, Lake Erie Coach Jared Bednar is clearly trying to get Forsberg back to his old self, and he's doing it by giving Forsberg quite a few starts. Whether he's doing that at the direction of the Columbus coaching staff or whether he has simply decided himself that Forsberg gives his team the best chance to win right now, it almost doesn't matter. The fact is that Forsberg is getting consistent opportunities to play in the AHL and refine his game.
So what happens come April, when the Monsters will presumably be in the AHL playoffs, assuming they don't have too many more poor weeks like the one they just finished? Coaches usually like to ride one goalie in the playoffs. Should it be the NHL-hardened Korpisalo? Should it be the improving Forsberg? Should it be the proven Thiessen?
I don't know. But then, it's not my job to know. My job is to report to you the fact that the Monsters, who had been playing so well of late, turned in a lackluster 1-2-0-1 week in four games against Central Division opponents Milwaukee and Rockford. They didn't score a lot of goals (just six in the four games), which has been one of their problems all season long. It's just that at times, solid defense and reliable goaltending have masked their offensive woes.
Speaking of offense, Sonny Milano and Daniel Zaar recorded two goales apiece on the week, while Alex Broadhurst and John Ramage each had a pair of assists. Zaar has pretty much been producing since the start of the year, but the bulk of Milano's output has come during his recent hot stretch of play. He tends to opt for his go-to backhand shot a bit too much, but hey, when something works, you keep doing it until it doesn't. Let's see if Milano can adjust as AHL goalies begin to adjust to him.
Here, then, is our customary look back at the week that was:
Tuesday, March 1
Lake Erie 2, Milwaukee Admirals 0
Forsberg made 36 saves in recording his first shutout of the season. More importantly, it was the Monsters' fourth consecutive victory, with goals off the sticks of Milano and Zaar. Milano's marker, coming in the last minute of the second period to break a scoreless tie, was another in what has lately been a string of impressive, top-shelf backhanders by the young winger. He had little room to work with from a sharp angle but still managed to find room on the far side.
Thursday, March 3
Milwaukee Admirals 4, Lake Erie 3 (SO)
Lake Erie let this one slip away, giving up a goal to Milwaukee's talented Kevin Fiala with three minutes to play in regulation, missing on a few good chances in the overtime, and going down quietly in the shootout. Milano and Zaar again found the back of the net for the Monsters, as did Josh Anderson.
And hey, you know who had an assist? Oleg Yevenko! I just like Oleg so much that I get excited when he gets rewarded on the stat sheet. His value in this game, though, was as usual in the form of finished checks and consistent hard work. He's a good kid who needs to keep getting better.
Saturday, March 5
Rockford IceHogs 5, Lake Erie 0
Forsberg had been in net for the previous two games, so Coach Jared Bednar gave Thiessen a chance to play again. And Thiessen kept first-place Rockford off the board until the second period, at which point the wheels came unhinged and the IceHogs put up four goals on Lake Erie by the second intermission. Thiessen was subsequently pulled and Forsberg came on to start the third period, and he gave up just one more. Thiessen, I have a feeling, is one of those goalies who has to get most or virtually all of the playing time in order to stay on his game, and he's having a hard time keeping his rhythm now that Forsberg is getting a chance to play.
Sunday, March 6
Rockford IceHogs 2, Lake Erie 1
The Monsters managed to score in this one. Once. It wasn't enough.
Oliver Bjorkstrand got the goal on the power play, with Ramage getting his second assist of the week. Forsberg, meanwhile, was back in net in this one and stopped 19 of 21 shots. It wasn't enough. So it goes...
- The Monsters travel to Texas to take on the San Antonio Rampage in games this Friday and Sunday.
- Brett Gallant played in three of the four games last week and got into fights in all three. He ran his PIM total to 122, which is still second on the team to Yevenko's 142.
- Not-so-fun fact: Rockford goaltender Michael Leighton was the author of Saturday's 5-0 whitewashing. It was his 46th career AHL shutout, making him the league's all-time leader in that category. He previously shared the record with Cleveland Barons legend and Hockey Hall-of-Famer Johnny Bower.