It’s that time Cleveland. The Monsters are on the cusp of clinching a spot in the Calder Cup Playoffs, but they’ll need a little help from their..umm…friends (?) in Grand Rapids. The Monsters take on the seventh-place Manitoba Moose at 7pm tonight at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland and the team will obviously need to handle their business at home to give themselves a good chance of locking up the final playoff spot in the Central Division. They will also need the Charlotte Checkers to drop their game tonight, which is where the Grand Rapids Griffins come into play. The Griffins held the top spot in the Central for most of the home stretch before suffering a losing six of their last eight games to drop to second place in the division, allowing the Chicago Wolves to claim first place. Tonight, they are Clevelanders’ second favorite team as both the Monsters and Griffins play for something at the end of the season. For the Griffins, the stakes are low: Win their last two games while having Chicago drop their final two games and they grab the top spot in the Central. If they lose one of their final two games and/or Chicago wins one of their two games, the Wolves claim the Central’s top spot.
Tonight, they are Clevelanders’ second favorite team as both the Monsters and Griffins play for something at the end of the season. For the Griffins, the stakes are low: Win their last two games while having Chicago drop their final two games and they grab the top spot in the Central. If they lose one of their final two games and/or Chicago wins one of their two games, the Wolves claim the Central’s top spot. For the Monsters, it’s all on the line: Win tonight’s game against the Moose and get help with either a Griffins win tonight or Wolves win tomorrow against the Checkers and the last spot in the Central Division’s playoffs belongs to them.
With both games starting at 7pm tonight, here are the keys to a Monsters win along with a helpful hint for the Griffins in their effort to defeat Charlotte.
1. Power Up– The Monsters struck for three power play goals yesterday, all coming in the second period. Cleveland had seemingly been counted out before the tirade of goals which evened the game at three at the time. The Monsters have been known this season for having a rather rough power play, so last night came as a welcomed surprise. A big key tonight will be the 21st-ranked power play unit in the AHL scoring at least one goal on the power play. Power play goals are truly a momentum-booster and can take the life out of the opposing team. The Monsters should look to take the fight out of Manitoba early with a man-advantage marker.
2. Dalpe Dagger– Zac Dalpe was picked up near the end of February and has been one of the best pickups for the Monsters, if not the best pickup. Dalpe has played with the first line of Ryan Craig and T.J. Tynan and has been super successful, scoring eight goals and seven assists in his time with Cleveland. For a guy that was becoming a journeyman in the league, it’s hard to understand how a team never figured out how good Dalpe truly is. The second key to the game is getting Dalpe the puck to make a play. In games where Dalpe either scores or lands an assist, the Monsters are 11-2. If you’re Cleveland, find number twenty-eight early and often.
3. Trust In The Fors– Anton Forsberg is pretty good, in case you didn’t know. Forsberg is tied for fourth in goaltender wins this season with 27 as well as sitting in second place in total saves this season. A guy who carried the team down the stretch of their Calder Cup Championship run, it’s time for the Monsters to put their faith in the netminder who has helped them all season and has the experience to take them far into the playoffs.For Grand Rapids, the key is rather cut and dry. The Griffins are crazy good on the power play, as they rank second in the AHL behind San Jose. If the Griffins get guys like Lorito and Frk involved while sending the Checkers to the sin bin, the game could be over early.
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