Photo courtesy of Steven Christy
One game does not a series make, but one game does tell us a whole lot of things worth discussing. The Oklahoma City Barons defeated the San Antonio Rampage by a score of five goals to two on Thursday night to snatch the first go-round in a best-of-five series. The familiarity these two teams have with each other dictated a sure battle. The outcome, however, was quite different than I expected.
How’d they do that?
The 5-2 score is a bit of desert mirage. The games final two goals were empty netters (still count, of course) which means the actual score was closer than one sees instantly on paper. It is worth noting that the Oklahoma City Barons were down a goal with under ten minutes remaining in the game, and that the team also wouldn’t secure the lead until the final five minutes. That’s impressive.
The biggest stat in game one, and it comes as no surprise to most, was penalties. The Rampage were mid-pack in the entire league in penalty killing to end the 14-15 regular season. This, of course, means that when they gift a man advantage to teams like the Barons, 16% of the time they give up a goal. For a team that was so dominate in the Western Division it is remarkable they survived. And while that 16% seems very small on a grander level, that accounts for 51 goals against in a 76 game season. By comparison, Oklahoma City let in 36 on the kill.
Those goals add up, and last night was exhibit A.
The Barons scored three times if you exclude the empty netters. Two of those goals were with a man advantage including the games opening goal for either team (Brad Hunt), and the Barons tying goal at 10:22 of the third period (Josh Winquist). Both were monumental moments for the Barons, and completely debilitating for the Rampage. This one stat alone – penalty kill vs. power play – might be what causes the Rampage to come undone.
But wait, there’s more.
San Antonio remains a highly skilled, highly pressurized team. They like to push the puck up the ice quickly, shoot quite a bit, and really attack the seams of opposing defenders. The Barons kept them at 31 total shots, which is quite a remarkable feat, and also killed all four penalties. I feel like Laurent Brossoit is probably in a really good place these days, but I imagine he will falter just a bit. When he does, things could get dicey.
I don’t anticipate the Rampage hovering near 60% on the kill for the entire series which tells me the Barons struck gold in game one, but if the penalties keep coming for the Rampage, and the Barons continue to score on the power play, this could be a quick series.
Hindsight is always 20/20. We know this. Both teams struggled to stay out of the box at important times, but the special teams award after sixty minutes of this series clearly goes to the Oklahoma City Barons. That is how you win a series. (five on five scoring still up for debate; more on that to come)