One man does not a team make, but as Oklahoma City sports fans know, one man a team can break (Russell Westbrook shoutout). Anton Lander could be one of those men.
First and foremost, his worth to his linemates is hard to discount. Toni Rajala and Teemu Hartikainen clearly benefit from Lander in ways that we don’t even understand as fans. On the ice, Lander is the glue holding the uber-crafty Rajala and the uber-sturdy Hartikainen together in one seamless piece of fabric. That’s the centerman’s role, after all. In his absence, things might seem a bit discombobulated, but remember, Todd Nelson is a smart man. He’ll figure something out, and he’ll likely tweak with it if things go south quickly.
Second, he’s a special teamer. Both on the kill and the power play, Anton Lander has a gifted sense of open ice, spacing, and timing. This instantly makes me question who steps into his role. CVV, Tanner House, Pitlick? All of the above? Watch this, it will be interesting.
Third, he’s a game changing five on five player. Even though he didn’t hit the Barons post-season lineup until the middle of the quarterfinals, he had already built up a rapport with fellow players. He’s acutely aware of how teammates function on the ice, where they will be, and how the system handles his skill-set. I’m not just blowing smoke, he’s doing some really nice things at five on five.
In the end, the big talk will be the lineup. Who steps in or out because Lander is gone at least for the immediate future?
Here is last game’s lineup for OKC:
Tanner House was inserted for two reasons. One, Ben Eager is still nursing an injury, and two, Darcy Hordichuk doesn’t have the same bag of tricks as young House. Tanner gives you a player that can play left, right, in between and change from shift to shift. He’s also a very solid penalty killer, and that’s priceless in a close series like the Barons have played against the Stars.
Here’s the list of healthy forward scratches:
Martindale, Pelss, Hordichuk
I think the obvious tweak with the roster is to move C.J. Stretch to the second line with Rajala and Hartikainen. You can then do two things. Bring in Ryan Martindale on the fourth line, promoting CVV to the third. OR you can move Josh Green to center, and promote House to the third line, and insert Darcy Hordichuk. Kristians Pelss hasn’t played much hockey in quite some time, and although listed as semi-healthy, I’m not sure he’s taking any chances (nor is the team).
The other weird wrinkle is Travis Ewanyk. The Oklahoma City Barons lose one more center (in addition to Lander), and they may have to consider bringing in the Oil Kings alum and Oilers prospect who is in town alongside David Musil and Martin Gernat for a look around professional hockey. THAT would be interesting. Scary, but interesting.
Note: The Barons used Brandon Davidson in one postseason game while he was still a member of the Regina Pats. It’s happened before.
Game four is tonight in the Cox Center. Game begins at 7:00. Tickets are really cheap, incentives are high, hockey is really really good. Be there OKC!