This piece of land that I stand on
Is my battlefield and home;
My plow and my hoe is my gun.
Clothes don't make no difference at all
We are workers and fighters all;
My uniform's my dirty overalls.
- "Dirty Overalls", Woody Gutrhie
It's time for the Oklahoma City Barons to get a little dirty. Not goon-like, but in-the-trenches dirty. Grab game two by the horns, dig in, and wrangle that beast known as the steer into the ground. It's sometimes not pretty, and sometimes it costs you, but in the end sometimes hard work and grit gets it done.
To say that the second game of a seven game series is a "must win" is probably a little overzealous. Instead I'll refer to it as a "win now or else" situation for the Oklahoma City Barons. After losing the first game of their Western Conference semi-final against the San Antonio Rampage, where they had a two goal lead at two different times in the first half of the game, the Barons will need to address some things...or else.
When the game was finished the Rampage were the ones who owned the two goal lead, and a little bit of swagger going into the second game of the series.
The Barons gave up four straight goals with little to no answer in terms of rebounding their offense to combat the Rampage onslaught of scoring. But in a system where defense is key, it was the Barons' blue line that is responsible for that first game loss. Yann Danis, usually unshakable, was tested constantly with the crowds that gathered in front of his net. But he didn't get much help from his defenders, who were unwilling to keep those Rampage forwards from hanging out in Danis' crease. And so the game went from bad to worse as the time on the clock expired.
Coach Todd Nelson and the rest of his crew are well aware of "the fade" that occurred towards the end of the game. In his post game comments he was absolutely clear about what went wrong. "We need to be better in front of the net defensively," he said, "We also need to not turn the puck over when the game gets close. Our guys need to play smarter." Short and sweet. Direct and honest. Defense, the motor that runs the Barons machine, had some major hiccups in game one.
So our attention turns to game two in Oklahoma City before the series shifts to San Antonio for what could be three straight games on Rampage home ice. Which really isn't that big of a deal if we look at the away record by the Barons. Then again, this San Antonio team seems to be motivated to kill the giant of the West.
Tonight's lineup will likely go unchanged. However, I'd plea strongly for Taylor Chorney to not play alongside Bryan Rodney. After returning to the lineup after six weeks on the IR for a knee injury, Chorney seemed to skate fine, but was definitely shaky. And instead of easing Taylor into the lineup, he gets Rodney'd and forced to get really good, really fast. It didn't work. At least twice, Rodney and Chorney were on the ice for really ugly defensive postures that led to Rampage goals. First it was Mark Cullen looking like a superhero -- winning the face-off, nabbing his own face-off won puck, whipping a shot through traffic, and then it was Tyson Strachan dropping a shot through both players who were half-heartily defending their net on the power play. Just all kinds of bad.
There's also some concern from fans that Danis might be rattled. And given LeNeveu's strong play against the Rampage early, some even believe he should get the go in game two. But remember, LeNeveu's stretch of wins against the Rampage were when that team was depleted, mainly in the goaltending department. Needless to say in those games, the Barons had their way with San Antonio. I'd roll with Danis, but with David LeNeveu prepped and ready to go if Yann lets in a few stinkers early.
This series is unlikely to feature tons of power play opportunities, so it's on the shoulders of each team to accelerate in those brief moments. In game one, both teams surrendered three power play opportunities. The Rampage went 2/3 and the Barons went 1/3. Also note that both San Antonio power play goals came when they were behind at least one goal. Winning that battle with the extra attacker heavily points to the winner of the series.
Projected Barons Lineup:
Tune into KXXY 96.1 in Oklahoma City (Puck drops at 7 Eastern, 7 Central) or via the iHeartRadio landing page online (or via the app). Also check the SportsJuice.com feed keyword "Oklahoma City Barons".