Oklahoma City, OK - Following a disappointing loss on home ice to open the Western Conference Final, the Oklahoma City Barons find themselves in a familiar position: down a game in the series with three of the next four games away from the Cox Convention Center.
Last round, the Barons also lost the series opener on home ice before bouncing back to win the next four and defeat the San Antonio Rampage in five games.
"We are (in the same position) but I think just looking at last night's game we have to be better. Toronto played a really good game. They played an excellent hockey game. Right from their goaltender to their defence to their forwards they played very strong. We have to be better if we want to compete," Barons head coach Todd Nelson began.
"Moving into tonight, it's game-by-game. We dropped the first one. Right now we're focused on Game 2"
The biggest adjustment that the Barons have to make is adapting to Toronto's attack and forecheck. While the Marlies are aggressive and push the play, the Barons' previous round opponent -- San Antonio -- were content to hang back and wait for turnovers.
"We're sticking to our game plan. We're not going to deviate from that," Nelson began. "When you look at the last series against San Antonio and going into this series, there's two different game plans that both teams have. Against San Antonio we had more time to operate. They sat back. Toronto is aggressive. They forecheck aggressively, they have guys who can skate up front. That means we have to make quicker decisions. We have to have good support and be quicker with the puck."
Centre Mark Arcobello, who leads the Barons with 11 points so far this postseason, agreed with his bench boss.
"He's right. We have to make the adjustment. We're not playing San Antonio anymore, we're playing Toronto. We need to take it from there," noted Arcobello.
"Two completely different strategies, both work in their own different ways," began blueliner Alex Plante. "We have played Toronto before in the past. We knew that's what they were going to bring. I can't say we were surprised."
"That's the best part about a seven-game series, we know what to expect now and we've just got to adjust and simplify our game a bit."
One of the keys to the game for Oklahoma City will be getting off to a good start. It was not a good start last night.
"You saw what they did last night off the opening draw, they won the draw and got it into our zone then established their forecheck. Tempo is very important for both hockey teams," said Nelson.
The Barons took a penalty in that opening shift and then another which eventually led to Toronto's opening goal. It wasn't until the second period when OKC started to dictate the play but then the Marlies' Frattin scored a backbreaker.
"Last night we started getting things going with a couple shifts in the second period and they popped that third goal. It's going to be a series where both teams play with high tempo and it's going to come down to execution," stated the coach. "I don't think we executed well yesterday. I don't know if it was nerves or the way Toronto played against us. We have to have good execution tonight with the puck and play our system well."
As the Barons go deeper into the postseason, Alex Plante's importance on the team grows, particularly with a physical defenceman like Colten Teubert likely out for the balance of this playoff round.
"Nobody wants to get hit," said Plante. "If you make it tougher on their forwards it definitely makes for a long series."
Plante had a breakout season of sorts, despite it being injury shortened to 41 games. He was named an AHL All-Star for the first time and put up a career-best +16 rating along with 14 points. His career high in points is 17 from last season though that was achieved in 73 games.
Nelson was non-committal when it came to lineup changes but did hint at some possible changes.
"Possibly. Right now I'm undecided. We have to see how everybody is and we'll go from there."
One insertion may be Josh Green, who has been out since the fourth game last round. He skated today and also yesterday and looked nearly ready.
"He's looking good. He's day-to-day right now so the thing is we don't know if he's going tonight. We're going to talk about that as we go along here."
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
(2) Toronto Marlies at (1) Oklahoma City Barons Calder Cup Playoffs | Series “N” Western Conference Finals, Game 2 | Toronto leads 1-0 May 18, 2012, 7 pm CDT | Cox Convention Center, Oklahoma City, OK Broadcast: KXY 96.1 FM; NHL Home Ice on SiriusXM Satellite Radio
TONIGHT: The Barons host the Toronto Marlies (Toronto Maple Leafs) in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals. This best-of-7 series continues on Monday afternoon at 2 pm CDT on Victoria Day in Canada. Games 3, 4 and (if necessary) 5 will take place at Ricoh Coliseum in the 2-3-2 series format. These teams split a 2-game regular season series with the home teams winning both. Late empty-net goals made each final score a 2-goal margin. OKC secured the No 1 seed in the Western Conference with 99 regular season points. Toronto is the No. 2 seed with 96 points.
OFF THE TOP: Last night’s 5-0 Toronto victory marked the first road win for a team in the 5 combined regular season and playoff meetings between the Barons and Marlies. These teams share a league-best 5-0 road record during the post-season. Two of OKC’s 3 playoff losses this season have been shutouts. Houston’s Mike Brodeur stymied the Barons 1-0 on April 22 in the opening round. OKC has been blanked in 2 straight against the Marlies dating to their most recent regular season matchup Jan. 6 at Toronto, when Jussi Rynnas logged a 2-0 win. The Barons have gone 121:16 of playing time without scoring against the Marlies in the past 2-plus games. The 5-goal losing margin last night was the largest in OKC’s 16-game Calder Cup history and the biggest since a 7-0 setback on this season’s Oct. 9 opener at Texas.
UPPER ECHELON: The Barons and Marlies finished the regular season with the second and third best records in the AHL. OKC had 99 points and Toronto 96, behind only Norfolk’s 113. The top 2 seeds in each conference have made the league’s final 4 for the first time since 1987, with No. 1 Norfolk leading St. John’s 1-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals after a 6-1 win last night. OKC and Toronto each won their previous series with 4 straight wins after dropping series openers against San Antonio and Abbotsford, respectively.
PLAYOFF PATTER: The Barons have out-shot their opposition in 8 of 10 playoff games by a total margin of 338-245. Toronto out-shot OKC last night 32-31. Opponents are averaging 24.5 shots per game against OKC, which matches Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for the league lead in fewest shots allowed. The Barons have scored the first goal in 8 of 10 playoff games, the only games where they haven’t scored first were their 2 shutout losses. The Barons are 7-1 when scoring the first goal.
DEFENSE FIRST: The Marlies and Barons finished 1-2 in goals against and penalty killing during the regular season. Toronto’s PK rate was 88.1, while OKC’s was 85.6. Overall, the Marlies allowed a league-low 175 goals to OKC’s 176. Yann Danis, the AHL’s Goaltender of the Year, was second only to Toronto’s Ben Scrivens in goals-against average, 2.07 to 2.04. Danis went 1-1-0 with a 1.01 GAA and .959 save percentage in 2 meetings with Toronto this regular season. Last night was the first time OKC had faced Scrivens.
FRONT-RUNNING: The Barons did not trail during any of the 3 games at San Antonio (all OKC wins) during the previous series. OKC had a lead or tie for 310:49 of the 328:35 playing minutes during the 5-game set with the Rampage. OKC trailed for 4:39 of Game 1 (a 6-4 home loss) and 13:07 of Game 2 (a 5-4 home OT win), a total of 17:46. Seven of San Antonio’s 15 goals during that series came on the power play and 8 of the Rampage’s goals were scored in the third period. The Barons have out-scored the opposition during the playoffs 8-5 in the first period and 12-8 in the second, but have been out-scored 8-11 in the third.
RARE COMPANY: Chris VandeVelde scored overtime goals in consecutive games of the previous series at San Antonio, ending Games 3 and 4 by 2-1 final scores. VandeVelde is the second player in AHL history to record back-to-back overtime goals in the same series and the first since Rochester’s Jim Wiemer in 1983. VandeVelde is the eighth AHLer with 2 OT goals in a single series and he shares, with 30 others, the all-time mark for overtime winners in a playoff season.
Recent Results: Date Opp. Result OKC Goalie (GA,SV) Opp. Goalie Attn. May 3 SA L, 4-6 Danis (6, 23) Markstrom (4, 26) 2,833 May 5 SA W, 5-4 OT Danis (4, 22) Markstrom (5, 32) 2,962 May 7 @ SA W, 2-1 OT Danis (1, 25) Markstrom (2, 34) 3,678 May 10 @ SA W, 2-1 OT Danis (1, 30) Markstrom (2, 28) 3,836 May 11 @ SA W, 4-3 Danis (3, 22) Markstrom (4, 27) 4,775
May 17 Tor L, 0-5 Danis (5, 27) Scrivens (0, 31) 2,596
Upcoming Series Schedule (all times Central): Date Opp. Site Time Broadcast May 21 @ Tor Ricoh Coliseum 2:00 KXY 96.1 FM May 23 @ Tor Ricoh Coliseum 6:00 KXY 96.1 FM May 25* @ Tor Ricoh Coliseum 6:00 KXY 96.1 FM May 28* Tor Cox Center 7:00 KXY 96.1 FM May 30* Tor Cox Center 7:00 KXY 96.1 FM * If necessary -- Jim Byers, OKCBarons.com