There wasn’t cause for concern following the game a piece split with Lake Erie a week ago, but judging solely by fan reaction, there was some disappointment. Even the coaching staff and players put themselves to task with the lack of full go, and using the words “we aren’t good enough”. So the team wanted to prove the hype of so many was due them, by kicking off the season of hockey in Oklahoma City, as well as a seven game home stand. First up, the San Antonio Rampage.
The Barons showed up, Justin Schultz continues to be red hot, and Jordan Eberle scored his first AHL goal of the season as the Barons beat the Rampage 5-2.
The first period was anything, but magical. However, it was efficient. The Rampage scored first when Chris Vande Velde and Curtis Hamilton didn’t collapse on James Wright behind the net. He received a pass from the wall, and skated right in front of Yann Danis for goal number one. Six minutes later, Teemu Hartikainen glided down the right wing, passed, and hit Martin Marincin mid stride. Marincin evens the game, and nets his second goal of the year. Justin Schultz did his typical “ease in” from the blue line, and scored a high shoulder shot on Jakob Markstrom that was deadly accurate. The Barons take the lead, 2-1, as the first period closes.
The second period featured a slightly altered top line, as Josh Green would not return to the game with what appeared to be a midsection injury (ribs/lower back). The new fangled scoring line was Hartikainen – Nugent-Hopkins – Jordan Eberle, and it sizzled. Greg Rallo evened the game for San Antonio, but then Hartikainen and Eberle scored a pair of goals that were eye poppingly exciting. Nugent-Hopkins assisted on both, and the top scoring line finally finishes on specific chances around the goalmouth. Two shots in the period for San Antonio didn’t help their chances. Sixteen for the entire game — again, not good. The Barons led 4-2 after the 2nd period, and seemed to be fully in command.
There were some fine scoring chances for both teams in the 3rd period, but the Barons defense tightened the screws, and finished strongly. Schultz would get his second of the game, again short-handed, but with an empty Rampage net. The game ended with a resounding home win for OKC. The 5-2 finish kicked things off in the right direction.
Schultz and Marincin were both +5 on the night. Marincin with a goal, Schultz with two goals and an assist. Something to consider is the fact that Justin Schultz makes others around him better. And when he’s playing good, so is the rest of the team. But don’t think that Martin is a goat. He’s gotten infinitely better in the offseason, and the twosome looks like the best in the league through three games.
Jordan Eberle finally scored a goal. This isn’t big news, but it’s worth noting how the goal was scored. Not with Magnus Paajarvi on the other wing or even Josh Green, but rather Teemu Hartikainen hanging around. In three games played, Teemu is clearly the best left winger to play with the NHL guys. Wish the best for Josh Green. Hope his injury isn’t serious. However, the line we saw for the last two periods against San Antonio is the line we should see for the remainder of the season.
Credit to San An for committing only one penalty last night. The Barons were unsuccessful on that power play opportunity, and are now a whopping 1-15 in three games. That’s under a 7% complete rate. Perhaps there is a philosophical problem here. Nelson needs to go back to the drawing board in this area. It has nothing to do with players or lineup, but rather execution. That’s not good.
Of teams playing three games in the AHL, the Barons rank 8th in penalty killing. They’ve not committed a ton of infractions (17), but it’s a mark of a good Todd Nelson team when they can kill with regularity. Also worth noting is the two short handers, both scored by Schultz.
Schultz has five points in three games, Teemu has three in three. There are four players with two points in three games, and one player with two points in two games. That’s a pretty solid start despite losing a bad one on October 12 in Cleveland. Those numbers go up quickly, one has to think.
Yann Danis is doing what I thought he might — taking a dip. Last night he let in two goals on only sixteen shots. He’s made two starts gone one for one, but Olivier Roy has looked the most mechanically sound of the two. He’ll get the start in OKC tonight against the familiar Erie Monsters. If the trend continues, we might find Roy ending the season with more starts than Yann. For now, they’ll still go 50/50 for a while.
Lake Erie plays tonight in OKC. It’s the third meet up between the two in the last four games. The Barons are hoping to put them away early, and help the home record get off on the right foot.
Last nights attendance was 6,323. Not franchise opening numbers, but still really good. Can they equal that tonight? Will be interesting to see how it pans out. It’s also early in Thunder preseason, so the Barons front office is trying to hook fans early. Winning always makes for good attendance as well.