Tanner House puts on his angry eyes. Photo courtesy of Rob Ferguson. All rights reserved.
I'm the meanest man that ever had a brain, All I scatter is aches and pains. I'm carbolic acid, and a poison face, And I stand flat-footed in favor of crime and disgrace. If I ever done a good deed -- I'm sorry of it. - "Mean Talking Blues" Woody Guthrie
Woody was a mean man. Mean with his lyricism. Mean with his poignancy. He was one wicked songwriter. The man that referred to his guitar as a weapon, had a seedy past -- one that he was seemingly proud of -- but he also realized the mean talk came with a price. Metaphorically speaking, the last game between the Barons and Marlies was even keel, until the mean talk, carbolic acid, and poisonous face appeared in the final three minutes of a lopsided OKC victory. Tanner House can appreciate that sentiment.
It's Victoria Day in Canada which means that summer is quickly apporaching for those in the Great North, and that playoff hockey is inching closer and closer and closer to an end. But before that end arrives, there is a lot of hockey to be played as the Oklahoma City Barons travel northward (via a chartered jet) to Toronto to face the Marlies in Game 3 of the AHL Western Conference Finals.
We discovered that the Marlies are a good team. They have offensive weapons, solid goaltending, defensive pairings that rival the best in the entire league, and the ability to be outplayed in the exact same fashion with which they themselves play. As fans, and followers of the game, we recognized how even these two opponents were. After all, they split both regular season games, two seasons in a row. And again, in the postseason, the stakes get higher, but the split continues.
As the Marlies upended the Barons 5-0 in game one, the Barons were able to adjust, come back to life, and play as good as their opponent. 24 hours after being shut out, and giving up 5 goals, they themselves got good, and unleashed 5 goals of their own. The series has been ferocious offensively, and even in defeat Toronto showed how talented they truly can be.
And this is quite disconcerting. Game one, the Barons had no life. Goaltending was so-so, the defense was terrible, and the offense was not entirely stagnant, but weepy. In game two, the Barons went really hard offensively, played smart defensively, and propped themselves up on Yann Danis in net. And although the Marlies lost by a margin of 4 goals, they still never fell asleep. Thus we've yet to see a painfully bad game from Toronto, but we have seen one from Oklahoma City.
As game two ended, the Marlies were bent on making a statement. They weren't going to be shoved around in the future. Tanner House vs Will Acton. Triston Grant vs. Korbinian Holzer. And a slew of other scraps and tangles. In a tied series, with an inevitable turn towards three straight on your home ice, I can't blame the Toronto Marlies for going out like that. But whose fire was stoked more by the incident? We'll soon find out.
Yesterday, the league announced that Triston Grant would be suspended a lone game (game three; today) for an illegal check to the head. I assumed that it was the check towards the end of the game that fueled the brief melee that ensued. However, after watching the game again that wasn't the hit (which was clearly shoulder-to-shoulder into the boards). So I'll assume that it occurred at the end of the first period where he was issued his first of two 10-minute misconducts. Ironically, I've still yet to see the actual hit, but I'll take the league's word (ha! that's funny to say).
Thus we hear reports that Cameron Abney, Tanner House, and Curtis Hamilton will round out the fourth line in Grant's absence. Hamilton and Abney had been rotating into the winger spots on the fourth line, but they've yet to play on a line in the post season as one unit. This is scary. But in all likelihood we will see very little of this threesome as one. House is a utility guy that can kill penalties, roll into the third line, etc, etc. So he will likely get more ice time than the other two. But with injuries to Josh Green, Hunter Tremblay, and the suspension of Triston Grant -- the team has no choice (although I'd recommend seeing Kirill Tulupov back on the wing, but that's just me *only sorta joking).
A few nice tidbits from the AHL on the series to this point:
Oklahoma City rebounded from a 5-0 loss in Game 1 to even the Western Conference Finals with a 5-1 win over Toronto in Game 2 on Friday night
The series now shifts to Ricoh Coliseum for the next three games, beginning with today's Victoria Day matinee
Mark Arcobello (5-8-13) and Philippe Cornet (2-5-7) each had a goal and an assist and Yann Danis (8-3, 2.19, .908) made 27 saves in Game 2 as the Barons avenged their most lopsided loss since opening night
Arcobello's power-play goal, which opened the scoring 4:23 into the game, ended Toronto's streak of 39 consecutive successful penalty kills; the Marlies had not allowed a PPG since the third period of Game 1 of their opening-round series vs. Rochester
Ryan Keller (5-5-10), Teemu Hartikainen (4-3-7) and Chris VandeVelde (4-0-4) also scored for the Barons, while Magnus Paajarvi (1-7-8), Bryan Rodney (1-7-8) and Bryan Helmer (0-3-3) all recorded two assists
Will Acton (1-0-1) broke up Danis' shutout bid at 9:21 of the third period
Ben Scrivens (8-2, 1.69, .941) stopped 22 of 26 shots in the loss, allowing four goals in a game for the first time in 10 postseason stars and for just the fifth time all season
Toronto had been 5-0 on the road in the playoffs before Friday's defeat; Oklahoma City brings a 5-0 playoff road record into Game 3... The teams combined for 154 penalty minutes in Game 2, the most in an AHL playoff game since 2008 (Toronto and Syracuse, 163).
Oklahoma City Barons
Game starts at 2pm/3pm Eastern and can be seen on Rogers TV (Toronto), ESPN America, AHLLive.com ($), 96.1 KXXY, iHeartRadio, and SportsJuice.com. Join the conversation below and GO BARONS!