What's happening, guys? Lurker, rare poster. Figured with the lockout, I'd drop in and give some of my observations from the Monsters games this season. I've got a buddy who works for the team, so I get free tickets usually, probably go to 20-25 games a year.
Few thoughts from tonight...
Sami Aittokallio impressed me. I was shocked to see him get the first call ahead of Pickard, but if he played in camp like he did tonight, he earned it. Very clearly a Finnish goaltender. No unnecessary movements. Calm and poised. Good glove hand. Strong with the pads in tight. I was surprised at how in control he was. I know he's played on big stages internationally, but I was very impressed. Made a dandy of a save in the first period with the left pad in tight on a rebound that was lying just in front of the crease. Didn't look like a lot to most people, but it was a quality stop. No panic whatsoever. Nothing he could do on the 5-on-3 goal and nearly got the paddle there in time to make a phenomenal save.
Thought Stefan Elliott was the best player on the ice for the Monsters. Lot of good decisions, good agility. Very strong reaching with the stick on the rush. He drew some tough assignments against the Paarjarvi-RNH-Eberle line and looked confident and comfortable going up against them.
Gaunce was brutal. Out of position quite a bit, failed to play with enough physicality. Really looked lost when he had the puck. Slow in his decision making on the breakouts. Just looked all out of sorts.
Liked what I saw from Mitch Heard away from the puck. I was pretty surprised to see him take the first PK shift of the game, but he held his own. With the puck, he was pushed around with ease. Definitely needs to strengthen his core and lower body. He's clearly got Chynoweth's trust already though if he's killing penalties in his first game.
Liked the gameplan that the Monsters forwards had, though it wasn't as effective as it could have been. They were playing the chip and chase on OKC's defensemen. Not sure if that was a scouting report just for this team or if it's what they will do all season. That being said, because of the chip and chase and losing races, there was very little puck possession. Forwards got pushed out of the play very easily on the cycle. They used the defensemen a ton in the offensive zone by kicking it out to the points because time and space were limited. Elliott shined in that role as well. He did dangle a little too much at the blue line and will get caught with that a couple of times.
Sgarbossa and Olver were pretty much non-factors. Sgarbossa did hit a crossbar right after the Agozzino goal, but besides that, not a whole lot from him. He did make a nice play on a 2-on-2 rush when a defenseman got caught.
Was a little surprised to see Stollery scratched for Goers and Sullivan. He participated in warmups. Not sure if there's a nagging injury or not.
Unrelated to the Monsters, Eberle's got some slick hands. He was the best of the Barons. RNH and Paarjarvi looked pretty disinterested most of the game. RNH especially. No second gear from him.
Hope to contribute some observations throughout the season for you guys, especially until the Avs drop the puck.
A+ post. This sort of input about the minor league team has been needed for some time. Thank you.