Barons-Bulldogs Series Preview
We take a closer look at the post-season matchup between OKC & Hamilton
Despite having to work around continuous roster movement and the loss of some dynamic scoring talent, Oklahoma City was able to continue an impressive inaugural campaign on the back of the team’s veteran core.
Combined, Brad Moran and Colin McDonald missed only one game this season. Although Alex Giroux made two appearances in Edmonton on separate call-ups, he was able to register 32 goals and 78 points in 70 games to lead the Barons in scoring.
In search of a breakout season and greater success at the professional level, McDonald skated through a remarkable 2010-11 season that saw him notch an AHL-best 42 goals. The 27-year-old winger entered the year without an NHL contract with Edmonton, despite being chosen by the Oilers in 2003.
Although McDonald is still without that coveted contract, his performance of late in addition to a strong post-season could potentially lead to another shot in the NHL. For now, McDonald remains focused on carrying his strong play into the spring.
In addition to the household names, Mark Arcobello continued his upward development with an incredibly strong conclusion to the season. Arcobello began the year with the ECHL’s Stockton Thunder, but has since produced 11 goals and 22 points in 26 games with the Barons.
Oklahoma City’s biggest advantage will come with the returning names. The Oilers’ season concluded this past Sunday, meaning players arranged on the clear-day roster have been assigned to participate in the Barons’ post-season quest. Linus Omark, Chris VandeVelde, Ryan O’Marra and Teemu Hartikainen are all poised for action.
All four will be an excellent and much-needed re-addition to this burgeoning Barons squad.
Although Oklahoma City has an impressive talent core up front, Hamilton responds with another dynamic scorer that turned heads across the league during 2010-11. Coming over from the Chicago Wolves mid-season, Nigel Dawes concluded the campaign with 41 goals and 72 points in 66 games to lead the Bulldogs in scoring by 15 points.
Aaron Palushai finished second with 22 goals and 57 points with two more games played.
Hamilton’s talent at the top certainly speaks volumes, but their balance across the lineup is what enabled them to achieve a first-place position in the AHL’s North Division. 16 players on the Bulldogs roster were able to register 20 or more points on the season, with six of those notching 40 or more points in abbreviated campaigns.
That being said, these are season totals. Unlike the Barons’ situation which sees them recoup the previous call-ups, three of Hamilton’s top-six scorers will either be out with injury or playing in the post-season with the Montreal Canadiens: David Desharnais, Ben Maxwell and Max Pacioretty will all be absent from the Bulldogs’ roster.
With Mark Arcobello looking to patrol a secondary scoring role in the series, Hamilton will respond with the potential dark horse of the best-of-seven matchup. In 47 games this season, Dustin Boyd has produced 20 goals and nine assists to provide a much-needed balance in the Bulldogs’ lineup. With speed to burn and a creative offensive touch, Boyd could be poised for a strong series vs. Oklahoma City.
EDGE: Oklahoma City – The AHL’s leading goal-scorer will be backed by several high-end offensive contributors, making the matchup too tough for the Bulldogs to match.
The Barons’ existing core will be a challenge for the Bulldogs to crack. Veteran Bryan Helmer has had an excellent season in Oklahoma City, having posted six goals and 25 points in only 42 games. Colten Teubert and Kevin Montgomery, who were acquired at the trade deadline in exchange for Dustin Penner and Shawn Belle respectively, have been solid additions as well.
Veteran leadership will come in a variety of forms. Richard Petiot will bring a balanced two-way game that will feature solid defensive play and helpful contributions on special teams. Alex Plante, who recorded 138 penalty minutes during the season, will be a physical force and will be looking to challenge to the skilled Hamilton forwards.
Much like the forward group, more help is on the way. Jeff Petry played 35 games with the Oilers this season where he was able to develop a more rounded style. In his return to the Barons, expect to see his offensive contributions accelerate, and his defensive posture improving to top-pairing material. In 41 games with the Barons this season, Petry notched seven goals and 24 points to lead the defence in scoring at the time of his recall.
Hamilton boasts one of the most rock-solid defensive groups in the league. Led by Kyle Klubertanz, Brendan Nash and Matt Carle, the Bulldogs have an established group of veteran defenceman that can lead in both ends of the rink.
Combined, that trio put up a collective 65 points and registered an astounding plus-91 rating throughout the course of the regular season. The Barons’ skilled forwards will be challenged to break through the defensively sound Bulldogs blueline throughout the series.
EDGE: Oklahoma City – Hamilton can match in veteran status and defensive play, but the offensive contributions will be key as the series progresses. The addition of Petry helps tip the scales into the Barons’ favour.
Martin Gerber provided excellent goaltending for the Barons all season. In 42 games, he was able to post 20 wins and four shutouts, which highlighted his 0.911 save percentage and 2.60 goals-against average. His stellar performances helped carry the load in the early portions of the season, in addition to some late heroics that spurred the post-season opportunity.
That being said, the tandem is now complete. Jeff Deslauriers struggled in the early portions of the season, winning only a fraction of his scheduled starts. Throughout the season, however, Deslauriers was able to improve his game and develop into a solid option for the Barons in the second slot. In total, Deslauriers concluded the 2010-11 campaign with 17 wins in 35 games, three shutouts, a 0.906 save percentage and a 2.81 goals-against average.
Deslauriers’ excellent play also earned him the AHL’s Player of the Week distinction in early April when his team needed him the most.
Although the Barons may have the edge in scoring talent, getting pucks past the elite-level Bulldogs goaltending will by an immense challenge throughout the series.
Drew MacIntyre and Curtis Sanford have combined to post some of the AHL’s best numbers during the course of the season. Sanford played in 40 games, posting 22 wins and an amazing five shutouts. In doing so, he was able to accumulate a 0.930 save percentage and a 1.93 goals-against average.
MacIntyre produced similar numbers, having played in 41 games and winning 24. His 0.922 save percentage and 2.37 goals-against average are strikingly different than Sanford’s personal numbers, but his work in Hamilton is what should be considered.
MacIntyre split the season with the Bulldogs and Chicago Wolves. In his 21 games with Hamilton, MacIntyre posted 12 wins, and saw a tremendous gain in his personal record. A 0.938 save percentage and 1.89 goals-against average with the Bulldogs is an incredible body of work highlighting his 2010-11 campaign.
EDGE: Hamilton – You cannot ignore the numbers. Oklahoma City's greatest challenge in this series will be overcoming the dominant Bulldogs netminders.