After two relatively easy rounds for both the Oklahoma City Barons and Toronto Marlies, the two squads are likely to be put to the test here in the third round as the series kicks off Thursday.
Unlike the NHL, which has seen a lot of upsets this spring, the AHL's Calder Cup Playoffs have gone pretty much according to plan.
In both the Western Conference and Eastern Conference, the top two seeds have advanced to the league's final four. Oklahoma City gets home ice advantage having finished with 99 points in 76 games, three more than Toronto.
The two sides were close in points and pretty much every other category, indicating that this will be a very tight series. The Barons had 213 goals scored this season, Toronto 217. The Barons had 175 goals against for first in the AHL, Marlies were second with 176 goals against.
Both teams struggled on the power play this season, Toronto 27th in the league at 14.6% and OKC 24th at 15.4%. However, the Marlies were first in the AHL in penalty killing at 88.1% and the Barons were second at 85.6%. The two teams also ranked near the bottom of the AHL in shots for and near the top in fewest shots against.
The similarities don't end there. Both teams are affiliated with Canadian clubs who are rebuilding and arguably on the cusp of taking that next step at the NHL level. There are young players on either side trying to find their way such as Nazem Kadri of the Leafs/Marlies and Magnus Paajarvi of the Oilers/Barons.
Regardless, this will be an entertaining affair and edmontonoilers.com will be on location every step of the way starting with the puck drop Thursday night at 6:00 p.m.
Over the course of the entire season, a quick look at the scoring stats for each team would make one think that it was the Toronto Marlies which had the edge up front.
After all, the Leafs had a player -- Mike Zigomanis -- with over 60 points and another -- Ryan Hamilton -- with 51. In all, the Marlies had 12 forwards who finished the season with 30 or more points while the Barons had six.
However, that doesn't tell the whole story. Oklahoma City received reinforcements midway through the year. Magnus Paajarvi had 25 points in 34 games and Anton Lander played the majority of the season in Edmonton with the Oilers.
For the Marlies in the playoffs, Jerry D'Amigo has led the way with 6 goals and 9 points and Nazem Kadri has put up 8 points in 8 games after only netting 41 during the regular season. Zigomanis has struggled a bit with only 3 goals in 8 playoff games. Hamilton has only 4 points in 8 games.
Oklahoma City's regular season scoring leader was Ryan Keller, who had 49 points in 71 games. Keller has 9 points in 9 playoff games. Mark Arcobello has had an outstanding postseason with 11 points (4 goals) in 9 games.
After only 23 points during the regular season, Tyler Pitlick has emerged in the playoffs with 7 points in 9 games to rank third on the team. Also, one can't talk about the Barons' forward core without mentioning Hunter Tremblay. He has 4 goals and 6 points in 8 games with a team-leading +8 rating. Tremblay also has a shorthanded marker adding to the 5 he notched in the regular season.
Overall, it would have to be determined that the two sides are even up front. Both teams are deep and can roll four lines plus get production from unexpected sources such as Chris VandeVelde's back-to-back overtime winners in the previous round.
Tyler Pitlick is third on the team in scoring in this postseason.
The blueline has been a strength for the Oklahoma City Barons nearly all season long but in the playoffs they have been tested with injuries to key players.
Colten Teubert has been out since round 1 and Taylor Chorney has also missed some time which has resulted in the Barons using Dan Ringwald in each of its nine playoff games to this point. Ringwald had been steady, tied for the team lead with a +8 rating.
However, with the adversity Dylan Yeo has stepped up his play to emerge as a real contributor on the back end. He is first among team defencemen with 7 points in 9 games, which is also third in the AHL among rearguards in the postseason. Yeo is also a very solid +6.
Rounding out the core is Bryan Rodney, an offensive blueliner who has acquitted himself well since being acquired from Anaheim in exchange for Ryan O'Marra. Alex Plante and Bryan Helmer both provide a steady presence on the blueline.
Toronto's blueline begins and ends with Jake Gardiner. Gardiner had an outstanding rookie season with the Maple Leafs, netting 30 points in 75 games. He then joined the Marlies for their playoff run and hasn't missed a beat. Gardiner leads Marlies defencemen with 5 points in 8 games.
Beyond Gardiner, Mark Fraser has been steady with a +8 rating to rank second on the team behind D'Amigo.
After 13 points in 48 games during the regular season, Dylan Yeo leads all Barons defencemen in the playoffs with 7 points in 9 games.
Against any other team, the Barons would have the edge in goaltending. Likewise, against any other team, the Toronto Marlies would boast the edge in net.
But head to head, the Marlies and Barons are in a dead heat. The two teams were first and second in the AHL in fewest goals against with Oklahoma City allowing 175 and Toronto 176.
Ben Scrivens had a 2.04 goals-against average to rank first in the league and his .926 save percentage ranked sixth. Yann Danis - who took home the hardware as the AHL's top goaltender - was second in GAA with 2.07 and eighth in save percentage at .924.
The strong play for both goalies has carried into the playoffs. Scrivens is first in GAA at 1.61 while Danis is third at 2.02. Scrivens also has an out-of-this-world save percentage of .944.
Ben Scrivens had the best goals-against average in the AHL during the regular season and has continued that strong play through the playoffs.
With two such good penalty killing teams, it's hard to say how much special teams will be a factor in this series.
During the regular season, neither team had a particularly adept power play as Oklahoma City ranked 24th in the AHL at 15.4%. and Toronto was 27th at 14.6%.
OKC has been better with the man advantage in the postseason, ranking 7th at 18.9%. Toronto has still struggled at 11.1%.
However, the Marlies have been dominant on the penalty kill. Through two rounds, they have only allowed one power play goal and have a 97.2% efficiency rating. Oklahoma City has struggled at 78.8%.
During the regular season, the Marlies were also first at 88.1%. OKC was second, though well behind at 85.6%.