Lots of chatter online last night about the Barons and their 2-1 loss in Cleveland. I think logic and good sense tell us this version of the OKC Barons are going to set towns like Cleveland on fire this winter–but there is a certain amount of patience required for Oilers Nation.
Justin Schultz is another human highlight reel. On a team with dashing Taylor Hall, passing Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and flashing Jordan Eberle, Justin Schultz "announced his presence with authority" last night in his first pro game. Flying sorties seemingly every shift, the young man is calm, cool and collected with the puck. His pass on the OKC goal showed vision, patience and touch, and he also showed defensive acumen last night. One play–in which he was surrounded by Monsters and stickhandled in a phone booth and then made a sublime outlet pass to relieve the pressure–was perhaps more impressive than his assist. He had five (five!) shots on goal; the only negative was a -2, but in my opinion that had more to do with mistakes by others.
Jordan Eberle looked just like he should have–like a man who belonged in a higher league. On another night, with the same number and quality of chances, he might have popped 2 and then an empty netter. Alas, the Hockey Gods decided Cleveland had suffered enough just for being Cleveland and the town team won the day. Eberle is going to drive opponents crazy in this league.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins made several of his patented ridiculous passes and had a couple of outstanding chances of his own. As with Eberle, the tumblers didn’t click last night. As I recall, the Nuge scored a huge goal in his NHL debut against Pittsburgh last fall, and he could have had at least one last night.
Magnus Paajarvi has his smile back, and was a feature player last night. He drove to the net twice, and while still lacking what one might call "Glenn Anderson ran over the goalie and now the goalie isn’t moving" ability, the young Swede-Finn was all over the place last night and put a crooked number in the assist column.
Yann Danis allowed 2 goals but he also made some huge saves and covered up several times for defensive mistakes. 27 saves out of 29 is a solid night for a pro goaltender and Danis is likely to have a few nights just like that one this winter.
OBSERVATIONS–THE NOT SO GOOD
Photo courtesy of Rob Ferguson. All rights reserved.
I don’t believe anyone failed in last night’s game. Why? You can’t blame someone for lack of experience or for playing a role that they are perhaps unable to fill. The OKC Barons went into last night’s game with four players–Justin Schultz, Taylor Fedun,Martin Marincin and Brandon Davidson–who had never played a regular season game as a signed professional.
The two college men–Fedun and Schultz–performed well and I would suggest those two along with Colten Teubert and Alex Plante will form the heart of this year’s blue.
The other two–Marincin and Davidson–are taking an enormous step from junior to the AHL–a strong AHL at that. We can’t forget that, because we’re about to observe the education process in action. Marincin’s pinch last night on the 2nd goal was a small error–a split second–and I’d bet money he could have recovered (at least somewhat) at the junior level. In the AHL? It was over in a heartbeat.
Davidson too had his moments–one in which he was passed like a house on the side of the road. These men also did good things–Davidson handled an opposition sortie very well in the second period (as an example). The onrushing RW had a step on him and pushed the puck along the wall. Davidson took a good angle, battled all down the backboards and finally removed player from puck behind the net. Now, Davidson will learn to do that using less real estate in the future, but the bottom line is he was challenged and had success.
We’re going to see this a lot over the winter. Defensemen develop slowly, because it is such a damn difficult position to play. Mark your man, keep him in front of you, separate him from the puck at your earliest convenience. Oh, he’s faster than you, has made this play 400 times at this level and just for fun its all on skates, your partner is also a rookie and players in your position get hurt often enough that you should be concerned every game you play.
Patience. This defense is going to require some. And maybe an additional veteran.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
First, we’re talking hockey so it’s a beautiful day. Second, the OKC Barons lost a 2-1 road game and have a chance to change the topic of discussion in an early game today (11am our time, lordy).
Hockey is back! We can talk about something that matters. Thank you OKC Barons!