Monday, May 30, 2016

AHL Western Conference Champion Monsters Face Hershey in Final

Lucas Sedlak with 2 goals in Conference Final 2OT Win
The match-up for the AHL Calder Cup final has been set, with the Lake Erie Monsters squaring off against the Hershey Bears starting Wednesday night June 1 at Hershey.  That is followed by a Friday night tilt at Hershey, then 3 games in the Q at Monsters' home ice.  Those games have not been scheduled yet as the NBA finals schedule has not been set.

Best of luck to the Monsters as they embark on their run at the Calder Cup.  As Western Conference champs they have already accomplished something significant.  A new challenge awaits them in the finals, as the Bears, the Washington Capitals affiliate, have proven to be explosive.

The risk for the Bears, however, is that if they are somehow successful in chasing Anton Forsberg from the net, Joonas Korpisalo is waiting in the wings with something to prove.  How awesome for the organization to have two young goal tenders playing so well.  I'm really looking forward to this final.

Just wanted to make a quick shout out to Fox Sports Ohio for televising game 4 of the AHL Western Conference final.  It was amazingly fun to watching a.) a team you root for, playing b.) meaningful hockey.  The 2 OT winner was really fun to watch.  Here's hoping Fox Sports Ohio can pull off another broadcast of one of the finals games!


Sunday, May 22, 2016

Checking the Box Score - Lake Erie 4, Ontario 3

Anton Forsberg with the win in goal last night.
Last night the Lake Erie Monsters opened their first ever third round playoff series by defeating the Ontario, CA- Reign by a score of 4-3.  With goals by Sedlak, Anderson, and Craig in the second period, Lake Erie took a 3 to 1 lead into the third period.  Ontario answered with 2 goals in the third to tie the game, but 19 seconds later Broadhurst scored the game winning goal off assists by Werenski and Emminger.

Most important for Blue Jackets fans was the fact that Anton Forsberg was in the net for the Monsters.  Forsberg has had some ups and downs this year, and has struggled at the NHL level.  However, he is still a young and developing goal tender.  After being sent down from the injury call up where Korpisalo established himself in the Blue Jackets net, Forsberg responded with sterling play down the stretch to help the Monsters clinch their playoff berth.  With Korpisalo coming down to the AHL at the end of the Blue Jackets season, Korpisalo was given the net going into the playoffs due to his strong play in the NHL.  Following the first round sweep, Korpisalo appeared to be faltering late in the second round playoff series.  Enter Forsberg, who iced the second round win by keeping Grand Rapids off the board, and allowing the Monsters to tie the final game, and subsequently win it in overtime.

I was wondering how Coach Bednar would handle this situation, and I am pleased to see that he rewarded Forsberg with the start.  It makes sense, and has huge long term implications for the Blue Jackets.  More and more in this league it is looking like you need an effective tandem of goal tenders to be successful over the long term.  Forsberg and Korpisalo are developing into a very effective tandem, which is being forged in the heat of a playoff run.  This is very valuable experience that will help both players develop further and has this fan very excited about the young pair's future.


Saturday, May 7, 2016

Watching A Game That Actually Counts: Monsters 4 - Griffins 3

Daniel Zaar With the Game Winning Goal
Today we journeyed to Cleveland to join my buddy Mike, a long suffering Cleveland sports aficionado to take in Game 2 of the Lake Erie Monsters second round of the Calder Cup playoffs.  The Monsters were facing off against the Grand Rapids Griffins, the Detroit AHL affiliate, and with names like Cleary and Bertuzzi on their roster this was familiar stuff for Blue Jackets fans that made the journey.

Tragically, the thing that was unfamiliar for Blue Jackets fans was seeing a game in which the outcome actually counted for something.  Jackets fans have watched a lot of hockey since October, 2015, the last time the NHL franchise played a meaningful game.  So it was fun and refreshing to see these Monsters ply their trade in a playoff atmosphere.

First of all, the folks at the Q (Quicken Arena) pulled out all the stops, and put on a good show.  Secondly, we got to watch a compelling hockey game, with lots of texture.  It started out swimmingly for the Monsters, when Sonny Milano scored by deflecting the puck in off his skates as he was slamming on the brakes going into the crease.  It was not a DKM (distinct kicking motion) and the goal stood the review.   Then Steve Hemminger scored on a really sweet tic-tac-toe passing play to make it 2-0 Monsters, and all was well.

Then in the waning moments of the first period, the Griffins ramped up the physicality, and the Monsters started drawing penalties.  So all of a sudden a late period penalty kill for the Monsters becomes a 5 on 3 for the Griffins.  They promptly scored on the 5 on 3, to make it 2-1 at the end of one.  This was a demarcation point for approximately 20 minutes of hockey where the Griffins really dominated the play.  At the 2 minute mark of the second period, Grand Rapids tied the game, and then with about 15 minutes gone in the second period they took a 3-2 lead, and things looked bleak for the Monsters.  However, there was a lot of hockey left to be played.

Late in the second period, and on into the third period, the Monsters started to slowly tilt the ice back their way.  Just before the 15 minute mark in the third, Lake Erie generated a really nice chance at a screened Griffins goal tender, but he blindly stuck his glove out and the puck found his glove.  Immediately thereafter, the Monsters repeated the play, quickly moving the puck around behind the net, and Trent Vogelhuber found Ryan Craig with time and space in front of the net, and he did not allow the goal tender a chance to glove it, going top shelf for the tying goal.  This gave Lake Erie great momentum, and less than 2 minutes later, Daniel Zaar buried the game winner.  But before it was over the Monsters had to kill a 6 on 4 penalty, as the Griffins pulled the goal tender.  But Joonas Korpisalo was strong in goal, and they preserved the win to take a 2-0 series lead against Grand Rapids in the best of 7 series.

This was a great team win for the Monsters, with lots of contributors.  It was a really fun game in a hopping atmosphere.  And, as an added benefit we got to watch the guy who was in charge of game operations sweating the possibility of overtime, as there was an arena football game in the Q that night at 7.  A couple of OT periods could have really put some pressure on that, but the Monsters just went ahead and won in regulation.

A 2-0 lead in a best of 7 series is nice to have, but it won't get you anywhere.  If you want to get somewhere, you need to win on the road, and the series returns to Grand Rapids now.  It will be fascinating to see how this plays out.  What a great opportunity for the guys developing in the organization to experience a playoff.

It was fun to watch a game that was actually counted towards some outcome other than draft position.  Let's hope we see a few more of those in Columbus next year.