GDB: Battle of Alberta, AHL-Style


Time: 8:00pm

Location: Abbotsford Entertainment Sports Complex

Broadcast: SNET

Edmonton/Baron view (courtesy Jonathan Willis)

The Oklahoma City Barons enter tonight’s contest reeling from consecutive shutout losses, most recently on Friday at the hands of the Abbotsford Heat.

Todd Nelson entered Friday’s game attempting to diversify his attack – splitting the trio of Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall over three separate lines. Ultimately, rather than diversifying he diluted; Hall’s still well back of his form from previous years, Nugent-Hopkins proved unable to turn Tyler Pitlick and Antti Tyrvainen into scorers, and even Eberle’s line struggled to generate offence depsite strong efforts from himself and Teemu Hartikainen.

Special teams, as they have been all season, were a problem for the Barons. They allowed three power play goals in nine shorthanded situations, while failing to tally a single goal in five attempts of their own with the man advantage. It’s been a trend this year; the Barons’ penalty kill ranks 29th of 30 AHL clubs, and despite a wealth of talent, their power play has been just average.

There’s no questioning the team’s talent, but it hasn’t clicked yet this season. Tonight would be a good night for them to find their rhythm; it’s the first televised game of the year, and the opponent is Calgary’s farm team. They should be plenty motivated anyway: they are on a season-worst three game losing streak, and doubtless they will be looking to even the score against Abbotsford after last night’s humiliating loss.

Lines are unavailable at this point in time but will be posted later.

Update: Lines, as per the Barons Twitter feed:

  • Hall – Nugent-Hopkins – Eberle
  • Paajarvi – Lander – Hartikainen
  • Hamilton – Arcobello – Pitlick
  • Byers – VandeVelde – House
  • Fedun – Schultz
  • Zahn – Teubert
  • Plante – Henry
  • Danis

The Fedun/Schultz pairing is a new one, and one that makes a good deal of sense; it will be interesting to see how they work together tonight. The VandeVelde line is likely to get defensive zone work.

Calgary/Heat view (courtesy Kent Wilson)

The Abbotsford Heat’s season has been the exact inverse of the Barons so far: despite entering the year with only moderate expectations, their goaltending has been above average and their special teams are the best in the league. Last night’s victory was a microcosm of their first 10-games: a shut-out from current incumbent starter Danny Taylor, three power play goals and a perfect 5-for-5 on the PK.

Abby has been paced by a couple of the Flames more notable prospects in Sven Baertschi and Roman Horak, who are currently 1-2 in Heat scoring. Baertschi’s performance isn’t terribly unexpected given his break-out season in the WHL last year, but Horak’s goal per game output is a pleasant surprise for the club.


Troy Ward never tips his hand before the game, but we can guess at the Heat’s possible lines based on past contests.

  • Baertschi – Horak – Walter
  • Kolanos – Byron – Sylvester
  • Ferland – Reinhart – Street
  • Olson – Laing – Bancks
  • Brodie – Piskula
  • Breen – McCarthy
  • McKelvie – Lamb
  • Brust

It’s probable Barry Brust will be the Heat’s starter tonight. The Flames former first rounder Leland Irving has only played two of the Heat’s first ten contests and has the worst SV% of any of the Abbotsford puck stoppers so far. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: don’t pick goalies in the first round.

Other players the Barons defense will have to be aware of are AHL vets like Krys Kolanos (Heat’s leading scorer from last year), Ben Walter (tied for the team lead with Baertsci) and Ben Street, who managed 27 goals and 57 points for Penguins farm team last year.

Sum it up

So that’s how things stand heading into tonight. This article has been posted to both FN and ON, so make sure to stop by to talk some smack tonight.

    • RedMan

      what makes me chuckle about this is that it was the Edmonton writer who was already whining about how rough and mean the boys are in the AHL, picking on the oilers’ “stars” hahaha

      so typical of edmonton – trys to dish it, but definitely can’t take it without whining! hahaha

  • GVBlackhawk

    I had the good fortune of attending the game…. Hall sure ripped that goal and missed on a couple other chances. He looked a little rusty at times and gave the pic away a couple of plays. He doesn’t quite have his legs back yet. Shultz shot was a perfect wrister in ot. Hard and high and on net…. He beat the goaltender clean. Harti was interesting to watch…. A couple of nice plays and he likes to hit….. Paajarvi looked big and raw. Nuge and Ebs made a couple of nice plays…. Ebs was all over the puck and Nuge quietly made a couple of beauty passes to hall.
    A great game to see live…. That rink in Abbotsford is nice…. Like the lower bowl in any given NHL rink. Nice screen and good beer. It was a full house which always makes it loud and fun. Really glad I saw the boys live, the one good thing about he lockout I guess.

  • book¡e

    This sucking with a lot of talent on the team is a great experience for these guys. The lesson that effort and teamwork matters is a good one that will play dividends when they find themselves in the same situation in the NHL.

  • kdutton66

    I was only able to watch the last 10 min of the 3rd period.

    The OKC defense was playing very well together last night from what I saw.

    The first transition is starting from really high in the defensive zone,and this looks to me like a hurry-up type of first transition,which I am all for,however in the interests of mixing it up and remaining unpredictable maybe its time to look at a second approach or maintaining two basic gameplans,opposition teams are keying in to our transitions so we need to scout them better and develop an alternative look so we can begin to mix it up from period to period and game to game.

    We might want to start our transitions deeper in our own zone and compensate for the transition start position change by having our d-men wait for the forcheck to clearly engage then after they are committed and spread out we threaten with the straight up the ice sprint –just ten or twelve feet– to back the forcheckers off,this mean good communication between the d-men,try Fedun and Schultz,let them work a short sprint off the end boards backing the forcheck down and turning it into a give and go but dont let the forcheckers engage,thats why we need to head straight at them right off the hop——forchecking is most sucessful if the d-men are on their heels and try to pass the puck——–if the d-men immediatly come at you full speed for ten to twelve feet you are forced to reset your onice timing,and you lose the momentum you were trying to generate with the forcheck.However if the d-man sprints to far into the forecheck and engages he risks getting burned ,hence the ten to twelve foot limit and the give and go–this is important so the speed generated by the short sprint is utilised and not wasted,this first short sprint changes the face of the give and go with the defense partner –it makes it a very high speed neutral zone exit play,the difference seems small and it is but it is also critical.

    We need to focus on the speeds our forwards are exiting the zone at as well because they are the ones setting the opposition defenses initial posture and positioning until they again key on the puck carrier–we need the forwards to not use top speed as they get set up around the neutral zone do a little East/West cycle or a criss-cross–hang it up a wee bit and make the opposition d-men slow down their backwards movement and posture dont let them get set so early and so far back or they will be in a set zone position when our offense arrives .

    This is to set up the opposing d-men better for our coming offensive transitions,remember to note WHEN the opposition defense is forced to make their first assesment and adjustment of the developing play and then use the forwards to dictate how the opposition defense makes that critical first choice.Draw the opposition defense into a longer more drawn out backwards posture so when our high speed offensive transition hits them they are out of position and flatfooted.

    I dont know what to change if anything,this is just an adjustment suggestion.

    This should bring our initial shots and our rebound recovery a bit closer in timing and give immediate second shot results.We just have to remember to allow Schultz to decide when we use this tactic—-we must remember to key OFF OF HIM ,let him communicate with his guys make a code word or a certain sign he can use to let the boys know when he wants to bust it through and then they can hang the defense up for him to burst through on his way to the net.

    I just think we need to see J Schultz starting to catalyse his plays from deeper in his own zone as he will be forced to do by the speed and elite forchecking at the NHL level.And because of the way he can control the game at the level he is at he isnt learning everything he needs right now.We shouldnt change anything maybe ,but we should have an option to our current first transition of the puck wether it starts in the neutral zone or behind our net—yes we want a lot of shots but its easier to generate elite shot numbers when half are rebounds you recover after initial shots—this is where we have been lacking.

    I only watched ten minnutes of the third and the OT so how much can I really be seeing eh??

    Besides if we pay more attention to using three distinct zone transitions our passes shorten and our speed increases and our communication is better because of all the give and goes,three transitons will force better teamwork and set a slightly slower more controlled pace that will give us room for another gear change at a different time,instead of coming out full speed we sprint–pause-and let the give and go recipient blast through the neutral zone at exceptionally high speed .Its a varient to the upspeed man setup we are already using successfully.To be blunt we have been using the upspeed man a wee bit incorrectly–not wrong just for the wrong reasons–we are trying to use the upspeed man to scoe on a rush play,when we need to use that man and that dynamic as a second shot generation dynamic,we need to use the upspeed man to penetrate a spread out opposition after the initial shot has been generated–UNLESS Schultz lets the boys know he wants to steamroll it through—we keep using the upspeed man but we change the man to a d-man and the timing and dynamic result from rush type scoring chances to rebound recovery and second shot generation–.We lose nothing we simple add to what we are doing.A baseline for Schultz to work off of and to keep the rest of the guys focused,everyone needs to know when Schultz is going to bolt and they all need to help him set it up upice—so so moma2 says we need a stable steady three transition approach using the upspeed man to generate second shots UNTIL J Schultz signals the option play,or any d-man decides to signal the option play.We just need to add another level of communication.

    Good thing I didnt see the entire game eh???