Tony Brown's Playoff Notebook (4.17.19)
Tony’s Playoff Notebook
Wednesday, April 17th
Practice – OBM Arena, Strongsville, OH
With the start of their first-round series vs. the North Division champs, the Syracuse Crunch, just two days away, the Monsters continued prepping for postseason action on Wednesday at the team’s practice facility, OBM Arena in Strongsville, OH.
Cleveland received a major boost with the announcement Wednesday morning of leading scorer Zac Dalpe’s return to the Monsters from his recent recall to the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets. Dalpe had a front-row seat Tuesday night as Columbus made franchise and NHL history by dispatching the NHL’s top team in the regular season, the Tampa Bay Lightning, in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Jackets’ first-ever postseason series win and the first time in league history that a President’s Trophy winner has been swept in the first round.
23 Derek Barach, 28 Zac Dalpe, 25 Alex Broadhurst
22 Sonny Milano, 55 Mark Letestu, 10 Dan DeSalvo
72 Ryan MacInnis, 20 Justin Scott, 88 Kole Sherwood
27 Calvin Thurkauf, 21 Sam Vigneault, 82 Kevin Stenlund
44 Brett Gallant, 38 Nikita Korostelev, 57 Paul Bittner, 16 Miles Koules
- Defenseman Tommy Cross and Garret Cockerill didn’t skate (maintenance day for both).
- On the ice for the first time with Cleveland was goaltender Jeff Smith who signed an amateur tryout (ATO) contract with the Monsters on Tuesday (see below) following his collegiate career at Minnesota’s St. Cloud State University.
- Team captain Nathan Gerbe and goaltender Jean-Francois Berube remain on the shelf with long-term injuries.
As mentioned, Zac Dalpe returned to Monsters practice Wednesday following a brief recall to Columbus and Cleveland’s team-leader in goals (33), points (55) and power-play goals (10) during the regular season is expected to play for the Monsters on Friday in Syracuse.
Inked by the Monsters on Tuesday was net-minder Jeff Smith, who participated in his first AHL practice on Wednesday. After spending the 2014-15 NCAA season with UMass Lowell, Smith transferred to St. Cloud State where he posted a 27-16-5 record in 58 appearances spanning three seasons with the Huskies from 2016-19, adding three shutouts, a 2.57 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage.
COMING TOGETHER AT THE RIGHT TIME
The Monsters’ dressing room has been close-knit all season but on Wednesday, several players commented on how the team seems to have jelled even further over the course of the past several weeks.
Gabriel Carlsson, D
“The last couple games [of the regular season], we had a little bit of struggles, but before that we were really on a hot streak and when guys were injured, other guys stepped up and took the opportunity. The last win against Toronto was really good for us and I feel like we can just continue to build on that and it’s going to be really excited to get the playoffs going.”
Justin Scott, C
“As a team, everyone’s sticking together. I think we’re an optimistic group and playoffs is an exciting time, everyone’s excited and everything gets ramped up a little. That’s why you play the whole regular season is to get into the playoffs and we now have a real opportunity.”
Monsters forward Brett Gallant has played four full seasons in Cleveland with Monsters goaltender Brad Thiessen, who’s become a vital player for Cleveland down the stretch, yet again, while serving simultaneously as the Monsters’ goaltending coach. Gallant reflected on his teammate’s contribution on Wednesday.
Brett Gallant, LW
“I’ve been here with Brad since day one and we came in together. I’m close with Brad, I got to watch him through this and I’m so proud of him. He’s just such a gamer, he’s out here every day, the first one on the ice with our other goalies working trying to get better every day, even as an older guy, and to see it translate onto the ice for him and to see some success is really great and I’m so proud of him.”
THE BLUE JACKETS EFFECT
For the second straight day, Monsters players were blown away by their NHL affiliate’s historic playoff success as Columbus capped a first-round sweep of Tampa Bay Tuesday at Nationwide Arena by game-four final of 7-3.
Justin Scott, C
“It’s the talk of our locker room. Watching the games, it’s pretty cool to see…A team like Tampa Bay just to see [Columbus] knock them off in four straight, obviously that shows what buying into a system does and it shows that coming in as [a lower playoff seed] doesn’t really mean anything. It’s so good for them.”
Brett Gallant, LW
“I love seeing [the Blue Jackets] do well. You go up there in training camp and it’s such a great group of guys and then you’ve got the guys up there that you played with down here and they’re doing well. It’s exciting for the organization and it’s been fun to watch.”