Workin’ For The Weekend: Houston, We’ve Gotta Solve ‘Em “Into The Groove”

AHL Hockey: Oct 26 Barons vs Aeros
Photo courtesy of Steven Christy.

I’ll get right to the heart of the matter. I’m a God-fearing, OKC-pastoring, mild-mannered individual. Yet, Madonna’s “Into The Groove” is my jam. It’s not that I love Madge’s entire catalog of sugary pop candy, it’s that this song in particular gets glued to your inner ear from the first millisecond the song begins. If I were in a John Hughes film, my character would make his onscreen debut jogging at 6:30 in the morning, in a slightly fall scene in a suburb of Chicago, gloriously wearing a pair of beat up Nike running shoes, yellow Sony Walkman attached to my hip, with matching ear phones blaring “Into The Groove” as I rounded each corner in a sweaty fervor. If that doesn’t paint you a picture of my favoritism towards this song (and 80’s music in general) I don’t think much else will.

Originally featured in the Desperately Seeking Susan soundtrack lineup, the track would eventually become one of Madonna’s earliest truly great pop songs. Partially written by her, all the typical Lady M trademarks are there. But the synthesizing over the drum machines, the double-tracked vocalizing, and the overall entertainment value of the whole thing sticks out as a true 80’s classic.

“Get into the groove”, “Get up on your feet, yeah” – it’s a song that demands action. And there’s no double-entendre here, the song is about suggestive things. But this should not take away from the pure enjoyment of a dance track that gets you moving, grooving, and perspiring.

The Barons need to find a groove. They’ve not entirely hit the skids. As a matter of fact, they are 5-3-0-2 in the last ten games with the two most recent losses coming at the hands of the league’s best team at the moment, the Texas Stars. The groove that I speak of needs to be specific, and I have a suggestion.

Starting this weekend, the Barons begin a six game swing that features opponents from the South Division, where winners are made and losers are embarrassed. They’ve got to win those games, or at least 60% or higher to even be considered a playoff contender.

And that six game sprint starts this weekend against the Houston Aeros – one in Oklahoma City on Friday, another in Houston on Saturday. And for these two games in particular, the narrative is ferocious.

The Aeros are currently eight games better than the Barons. They’ve posted six wins and four losses in the last ten, but those “W’s” came against Rockford, Milwaukee, Rockford, Rochester, Hamilton, and Texas. Only one of the six is from the South Division, and five of those have worse records than the Aeros themselves. At 61 standing points, the Houston Aeros are the fifth best team in the Western Conference, but ironically third in the South Division made up of five teams. If you’re trying to make a run at a playoff spot, the South Division is not where you want to be, but that’s where the Barons live.

Keep in mind, this is a Houston squad that has dominated the Barons this season. They’ve only lost once to them in regulation, but won the other six. The same goes historically. The Aeros dominate the Barons almost 60% of the times they face each other. But the further you dig, and you realize that the games of late have been close. So close, that five of the seven games have been decided by a goal. That’s huge. But it also greatly favors the Aeros who can close a game, something the Barons are capable of doing, but didn’t in Cedar Park a week ago.

But there is some good news for OKC. Jason Zucker and Johan Larsson are up with the Minnesota Wild. That’s a whopping 68 points between the two that are now absent from the farm team in Houston. Likewise, solid goaltender, Darcy Kuemper, is playing back up in the NHL, and that leaves Matt Hackett to do the bulk of the heavy lifting for Houston.

Of course, the Aeros were able to beat the Barons with the lockout guys, and that’s saying something. And somehow they manage to reload, even without their own key players gone.

Another intriguing storyline is the goaltending battles. Yann Danis, Mr. Sturdy himself, has one win, two losses, and three shootout losses to his credit against the team this season. Olivier Roy chips in another loss to the trash heap as well. On the other side, Matt Hackett has been magical. 5-0-0 while giving up fifteen goals against, might be the oddest sidenote I’ve seen from a goaltending opponent in a while. But the wins are what matter, and Hackett gets them.

Those players that have seen success against the Aeros this season are Mark Arcobello and a slew of other guys not currently playing with the Barons. Six, to be exact, and that’s bothersome. But again, this Barons team is vastly different to the one that the Aeros squared off against earlier this season. There’s better defense in Brett Clark and Randy Jones. There’s scoring depth in Jonathan Cheechoo, Toni Rajala and Kristians Pelss. Thus the Barons lineup is fully capable of scoring, just not as dynamically as the lockout squad had done.

The Aeros always frame a fantastic game plan against OKC. They have the team’s number. And so the compete level in these games are typically high octane, and rarely dull. Couple that with the bad blood this season (c/o Taylor Hall on Jonas Brodin and Taylor Hall on Cal Clutterbuck last night), these rivalries run deep and strong. Should be an interesting tilt, and worth the price of admission.

Likely Oklahoma City Barons Starting Lineup:

Philippe Cornet – Mark Arcobello – Jonathan Cheechoo
Toni Rajala – Josh Green – Kristians Pelss
Dane Byers – Ryan Martindale – Curtis Hamilton
Darcy Hordichuk – Tanner House – Erick Lizon

Out: Antti Tyrvianen (back), Tyler Pitlick (knee)

Brett Clark – Taylor Fedun
Randy Jones – Colten Teubert
Nathan Deck – Martin Marincin

Out: Dan Ringwald (arm), Alex Plante (healthy)

Yann Danis

Out: Niko Hovinen