The Oklahoma City Barons, in the second of three in Toronto, lost last night 3-0 to the Marlies who have proved they are the much better team through four games. Better overall goaltending, better overall scoring, just a better overall team. And this is a tough pill to swallow for Oklahoma City fans because we know this team can play better, we've just seen the ugly side of it. To be honest, the Marlies have scripted a gameplan that has frustrated OKC from the beginning. Their defenders have found a way to keep the puck in front of them even on the PP. Oklahoma City is a "pucks in deep" team that salivates at opportunities directly in front of the net. To combat this approach, the Marlies defenders play less chancy hockey in front of them, and keep the scoring chance box free from wandering Barons players. Dallas Eakins, and the rest of the Marlies coaching staff, should be commended for how they have approached their opponent.
Without Nazem Kadri, Marcel Mueller, or Mike Zigomanis you'd expect the Marlies to be knocked down a peg. And perhaps they were, but they certainly didn't show too much regression. They simply stuck to their game plan, produced offense when necessary, and relied on their goaltender to be really good (he'd make 30 saves).
The game began with some high energy from Oklahoma City. They were trying to crash the net, attempting to rattle Ben Scrivens early. For all the great chances in that first 10 minutes of the game, the Barons had nothing to show for it. Over the duration of the game, there were at least three shots that hit the post behind Scrivens, including a sweet backhand by Triston Grant. It was going to be that kind of night.
Nonetheless, Scrivens came to play, and stopped OKC early and often. With a surge down the left wing, Nicolas Deschamps passes the blue line and immediately takes a slap shot on Yann Danis. The hard shot forces a rebound of Danis, and Philippe Dupuis whizzes it back in around Danis. The Marlies lead 1-0 at the 6:18 mark of the 1st period. Taylor Chorney and Bryan Rodney were in position on the goal, but with little awareness of the Marlies offenders around them. Not a highlight moment for either of those two.
The second period was more of the first -- Barons and Marlies both trucking hard -- but the sullied night continues for OKC. After 12 minutes of play, Ryan Keller apparently pokes in a shot from the boards by Mark Arcobello. At first ruled a goal, then perhaps a high stick, it was eventually ruled a gloved puck and thus nullified. This was the moment where the wind completely left the sails for Oklahoma City. They just weren't able to bounce back after shedding a little light on the game.
Moments later, Jake Gardiner wheels the puck closer to the net as the puck eventually slips behind Danis. Nicolas Deschamps banks the shot in off the back of Yann. The Marlies take a 2-0 lead that feels more commanding than it should.
But they weren't finished. With the third period upon us, Coach Nelson attempted to find a spark from somewhere. He pulls Danis in favor of David LeNeveu. Which is an interesting move. But 2 goals in 12 shots for Danis wasn't pretty, and sometimes these changes cause a reaction. However, it wasn't meant to be for OKC.
The third period found the Marlies protecting the puck, not threatening any sizable scoring, but pulling hard on the reigns defensively. The Barons gave little to no fight, frustrated by the first 40. The Barons would have 10 shots on net, but nothing around the goal mouth.
Under two minutes, LeNeveu is pulled for the extra attacker and the Marlies get the empty netter with 1:43 remaining in the third.
The Barons were soundly defeated in all regards. Danis looks tired, Scrivens look sharp. The Barons defense looks out of sorts, the Marlies' poised. OKC offense is "at a distance", Toronto's is "in close". In a series where the little things matter, it was the big things that looked atrocious for Oklahoma City. Again, these two will play in Toronto on Friday night with the Marlies looking to punch their dance card for the Calder Cup Finals.