The nightly rotation of eighth seeds in the Western Conference continues. Today we find the Americans in that final spot with close to ten games remaining this season. Hovering around that same spot is Lake Erie and San Antonio. With two games in hand for both San Antonio and Rochester, the spot is anything but tied down. If the playoffs began today and the Americans met the Barons in the first round, we’d find a very interesting matchup. One that just might favor the team with the higher seed for the benefit of home ice advantage.
The Americans of Rochester or Amerks, can be a sensational team when they want to be. They find themselves just consistent enough to be in playoff contention. With a winning streak no longer than four games, the team plays extremely well at home, and pretty abhorrent on the road. Their 20-9-2-2 is an impressive home record up until this point, and is slightly better than the 17-9-3-2 that the Barons own. However, Rochester hockey fans cringe when this team goes on the road as evidenced by the 11-14-4-2 record. That’s not good news for a team that likely won’t have home ice advantage in any playoff series. It’s not just wins and losses that effect this team on the road either. Their powerplay unit at home is well above 18%, but only 12% on the road.
With the conference realignments in the offseason, the Rochester Americans and Oklahoma City Barons have only just begun to see each other in the regular season. In four meetings this season, the Barons have tipped the scales in their favor by going 2-0-1-1 on the Americans. OKC has also burned them for 15 goals and allowed only 11. For some reason these two teams don’t score consistently nor on a regular basis, but when they meet up it’s an offensive outburst.
There are two players that are known to light up the Barons when they tangle. Jacob Lagace, the Sabres 5th rounder in 2008, with his slight build, but accurate shot has scored three times in four games. He’s persnickity with the puck, and is not prone to score a lot of goals (10 on the season), but finds another notch when playing OKC. The other name to watch if the two teams were to meet is Paul Szczechura, a right shot with a seasoned presence. In three games played, he’s scored three goals and recorded three assists. He too can bumble the plans of the Barons defensive core.
With Zack Kassian no longer on the Rochester squad, they do lose a full throttled player. But guys like rookie center Phil Varone and Derek Whitmore are more than capable to get it done in the scoring department.
Drew MacIntyre and David Leggio round out your Rochester goaltenders. Both have played twice, both have one a game, both have lost a game. Although both have identical records against the Barons, there is a bit of seasoning in Drew MacIntyre’s game that adds a bit of an upper-hand on David Leggio. MacIntyre has seen American League play in six post seasons with five different teams. He knows a thing or two about postseason, minor league play. But both will likely get starts against the Barons.
You have to wonder about the defensive play of the Amerks. They’ve allowed 188 goals to date which is the fifth worse in the Wester Conference. The Barons by comparison have allowed 30 less.
In the end, Rochester is a team of possibilities. They can play good defense when they will themselves to do so. Their goaltending can step up to the plate, but sometimes disappears. If they can remain healthy and heady, they can take a stab at the Barons in the first round. But in the end, the edge will go to Oklahoma City in the goaltending and defensive posturting roles. But it might be a tougher-than-imagined matchup if the Amerks can flex some scoring muscle.