Friday, June 17, 2016

The Fight That Saved The Calder Cup

Fighting in hockey has always been a rather controversial topic. On one side you have the fans of fighting that say fighting is a necessary part of the game. Fighting helps the refs police the game better and it changes momentum, giving a team new life. On the other hand, you have the people that think fighting should be taken out of the game. They say that its unsafe and leads to health problems later in life. While I like a good fight, we can't ignore the toll it takes on players. Sometimes, just sometimes there is a fight that changes things for the better, and that also cannot be ignored.

Our story starts in the second round of the Calder Cup playoffs. It is the Lake Erie Monsters vs. the Grand Rapids Griffins. The Monsters took the first three games of the series. Each of the Monsters' wins were by one goal, so they were all close games. Grand Rapids won Game 4, 5-4, and whipped the Monsters 6-1 in Game 5. The Monsters were losing momentum in the series, and giving up many, many goals.

Game 6 had that familiar feel as well, after the first period the Monster found themselves down 2-1. A quick goal to open the second period by the Griffins, made it a 3-1 hole. It was at this point that Korpisalo was pulled and Forsberg was given the net. This is important to note because sometimes a change in goalie provides a spark for a hockey team.

Well the spark quickly turned into a flame because at the 5:51 mark into the second period, Kerby Rychel fought Mitch Callahan:

What seems like a minor part of the hockey game, changed the course of the game for the Monsters as well as the playoffs. Not even three minutes later, Chaput scored his second goal of the playoffs to make it 3-2. The comeback was on.
#Battletogether #Allin216

The Monsters opened the third period with a quick goal from Sedlak, just 1:43 had vanished from the clock. Werenski and Anderson had the assists. The goal knotted the game at three. Neither team could score in the rest of regulation so the game went into a sudden death overtime!

Lightning struck at the 12:32 mark of overtime when defenseman Zach Werenski cut to the front of the net and scored the game winning goal! A talented defenseman, known for jumping into the play at the right time, completed the comeback. The Monsters took the game (4-3 OT) and series (4-2).
Western Conference Champions

The Monsters faced the Ontario Reign in the Western Conference Finals, and the Monsters carried the momentum. They swept the Reign, winning the first two in Cali, and the last two at home. The series was capped by a double overtime thriller where Sedlak got the goal to send the Monsters to the Calder Cup Final.

The Monsters squared off with the Hershey Bears in a seven game series for the Calder Cup. It was more of the same, just like the series against the Reign, the Monsters swept the Bears for the Calder Cup. The series was capped by another overtime thiller, this time it was Bjorkstrand with the game winning goal. It was the first Calder Cup for Cleveland since 1964.
The Monsters With the Cup!

Now you can argue that fighting does not matter. You can argue it just causes injuries and problems later in life. This fight, Rychel vs. Callahan, changed the game and the series. Dare I say it refocused the Monsters because they played great hockey in the games/periods after the fight. Since the fight, they still have not lost a game 9-0, and oh yeah, they have the Calder Cup!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Lake Erie Monsters Resemble the Chicago Blackhawks

As I watched the Lake Erie Monsters play the Ontario Reign in the Western Conference Finals of the AHL playoffs, I started to notice something; the Monsters look much like the Chicago Blackhawks. The players, the game, and how the team played were eerily familiar. As I have continued to reflect on this thought, more and more evidence came to light that really helped me piece together this post.

Since I opened talking about the Monsters playing the Reign, let's discuss that for a moment. The Reign are the farm club for the LA Kings, a team that the Chicago Blackhawks know all too well. Between the Blackhawks and Kings you can account for the Stanley Cups won in '10,'12, '13, '14 and '15. The two teams met in the Western Conference Finals in almost all of the years mentioned. They had some very thrilling series over that span, and it was really great hockey to watch.
Quick (Kings) and Crawford (Blackhawks)

What makes this more eerie and more similar about the Blackhawks - Kings reference is they played against each other in the 2013 Western Conference Final. That year the Kings were the defending champions, just like the Reign were the defending champions. Both the Blackhawks and the Monsters used their speed and scoring as an advantage. The Kings/Reign could not keep up as the Blackhawks won the series 4-1 in 2013 and the Monsters won 4-0, sweeping their series in 2016.

The win against the Reign sent the Monsters to the Calder Cup Final. The Monsters are looking for Cleveland's first hockey title since 1964. The 2010 Chicago Blackhawks knew a little about a droughts for hockey titles; they had not won the title since 1961. The Blackhawks had not much to show for, besides being swept by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1992. Cleveland has been through a couple of franchises since 1964; the Barons, the Lumberjacks and now the Monsters; with limited success.

Ending the drought began in similar way, a changing of the guard. In Chicago, Rocky Wirtz took over and started building the team through the draft. Top draft picks like Toews and Kane helped to solidify the core of the Blackhawks in the latter stages of the decade from '00-'10. In Cleveland, a similar change took place as the Columbus Blue Jackets became the parent team for the Monsters. High draft picks like Sonny Milano and Zach Werenski were added to the team. They definitely have given the Monsters an infusion of youth for this year's playoff run.

Phil Simon
As you know a teams run to the playoffs is filled with ups and downs. The Monsters have recently mourned the loss of the beloved equipment manager Phil Simon. Phil died after a 6 year battle with Leukemia. The 2015 Chicago Blackhawks shared a similar loss with the apparent suicide of their equipment manager, Clint Reif. The Blackhawks dedicated their win in 2015 to his memory and made Clint's son part of the celebration after they won the cup. Our hearts go out to the Reif and Simon families, as they try to move on. We will keep you in our prayers.

Now, that we have talked about the teams a little bit, let's talk about the players:
Kane and Shaw

I think you have to start with Sonny Milano as Patrick Kane. Both of them have spin-o-rama goals to their credit. Both them have great speed and offensive abilities. Just give Milano some time and he might challenge Patrick Kane's numbers in the NHL.

Zach Werenski as Duncan Keith; both players have a great slap shot from the point. Not only that but both players have a great sense about when to jump in the play and when to hang back. Both have scored game winners in OT in the playoffs. Both played college hockey in the state of Michigan; Keith at Michigan State and Werenski at Michigan. They are very similar players.

Oliver Bjorkstrand as Patrick Sharp or Brandon Saad. This comparison comes with Bjorkstrand's speed and ability to score goals. Both Sharpie and Saader have this and you can see it in Bjorkstrand's game. You let this guy on a break away and it's good night sweetheart.

Michael Chaput as Andrew Shaw. Both players are always the first down on the fore-check. They're energy guys that get other guys involved. You are not always going to see them on the score sheet but their presence on the ice is greatly appreciated by their teammates.

Josh Anderson as Marian Hossa. Both are very good two way forwards. They are not scared to play physical if necessary. Both players are also known for timely goals. When they are out of the lineup, they are greatly missed.

That was just to give a little taste of what the primary players on the Lake Monsters translate over to the Chicago Blackhawks. As you can see they have quite a few guys that translate very nicely to some guys that have won multiple Stanley Cups with the Blackhawks. You just need to give these guys some time in the NHL and I am sure you will see the next generation of superstars.

Now that you understand that they have similar types of players, it is easy to see that they play a similar brand of hockey. Both teams, the Monsters and the Blackhawks, like to play with speed. They have many players that can get up and down the ice in the blink of an eye. The speed is a great tool especially against teams that like to play physical because sometimes they just cannot keep up.
Bruce Lee

Another thing both teams like to do is, wait for their opportunities to strike on offense. It is like Bruce Lee said, "When my opponent expands, I contract and when he contracts, I expand." Meaning you take your chances when you get your chances. If the other team is pressing, you contract in a defensive shell to prevent goals being given up. If you give either team a turnover, it's mostly going to end up in the back of your net.

Both teams have killer power plays. I think this stems from the amount of talent that the Blackhawks and Monsters possess. When you give either team a power play opportunity it is most likely that they are going to cash in. You might see a lot of passing at the beginning of the power play but by the end it is going to result in a goal.

Well, I just wanted to give you a flavor of how similar the Lake Erie Monsters and the Chicago Blackhawks are. As you can see they have a lot of things in common. Hopefully, it can translate into a Calder Cup win for the Lake Erie Monsters. The Chicago Blackhawks have captured three Stanley Cups and they are looking for more!