Have the Cleveland Monsters turned a corner?
Based on their performance over the past few weeks, it would certainly seem that way. We've mentioned their slow start previously - and you would be correct in attributing part of that to the several new faces on the roster - but the Monsters are doing their part to make that conversation a thing of the past.
Much like their NHL affiliate, the Monsters ended 2016 on a high note with a convincing win.
Anton Forsberg made 27 saves to record the first shutout of the year by a Monsters goaltender, and Cleveland beat rival Grand Rapids by a 4-0 final at Quicken Loans Arena.
The Monsters got balanced production in that game, with offense from places they're going to need it. Sonny Milano scored a power play goal, veteran defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron chipped in with a goal, Justin Scott scored again, and Markus Hannikainen showed no sign of jetlag while scoring a beautiful goal off the rush.
Lately, things have come together for the defending Calder Cup champions. Their record stands at 16-12-1-2 entering a weekend series against the Texas Stars on Friday and Saturday, and next week, they'll head to Charlotte to face the Checkers.
Some other notes:
- The Monsters have three players (TJ Tynan, Alex Broadhurst and Daniel Zaar) to reach or surpass the 20-point plateau so far this season. Zaar has been consistent of late, and is far and away the Monsters' leader in shots on goal. Through 31 games, Zaar has 90 shots on goal, and Hannikainen is next closest to him with 67.
- It's hard to believe, but Hannikainen's most recent call-up to the Blue Jackets was his fifth of the season.
- Cleveland is getting goal production from two key people: Hannikainen and Oliver Bjorkstrand. Bjorkstrand, who you'll recall was a bit of a surprise in being sent back to the Monsters early in the season (but who John Tortorella says will absolutely be part of the big club at some point soon), has been solid with 10 goals and 15 points in 22 games. His 10 goals are tops on the Monsters. Hannikainen has nine goals in 24 games.
- Forsberg appears to be taking steps toward solidifying the No. 1 goaltending spot, at least for the time being. His numbers have rebounded since the start of the year, and through 20 games, he's 11-6-1 with a 2.23 goals against average and rock-solid .927 save percentage.
- The Monsters unveiled their "Cleveland Indians Tribute Night" jerseys last week, and they're pretty great. Cleveland will wear the special jerseys during its game on Jan. 28 against the Chicago Wolves at Quicken Loans Arena.