Six Straight Wins

Anton Lander scored a goal off a wicked shot (it’s in the highlight package above) with 20 seconds left to play against the Lake Erie Monsters to give the Oklahoma City Barons their sixth consecutive win. After looking like they were done around the midpoint of the season, Oklahoma is now only four points out of a playoff spot in the AHL’s Western Conference.

Fenwick Numbers

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For those who aren’t familiar, “Fenwick” is shorthand for unblocked shot attempts. In other words, a player like Anton Lander (who played primarily in a power-vs.-power role) was on the ice for 14 shots or missed shots for and 15 shots or missed shots against at even-strength. It gives a snapshot of where the puck was with any given player on the ice in this particular game.

The Second Line

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C.J. Stretch scored the first goal for Oklahoma. This is his first full AHL season after working his way on to the roster last season. He’s a useful player, a guy who can do (and has done) a little bit of everything, play centre or right wing on any line from top to bottom and add a little offence and a little chippiness. It’s easy to understand why the Barons find him useful.

After the game, Stretch had nothing but positive things to say about linemates Roman Horak and Steve Pinizzotto.
“They’re both skill guys,” he said. “Both of them played in the NHL for almost a full year. Pinizzotto creates a ton of room for me; he just hits hard. Horak can get that puck in and find it and we both do the same thing, we’re both playmakers. I always look at them; they played at the next level and that’s where I want to be so I try to learn from them.”

Things Worth Noting

Todd Nelson

  • Austin Fyten, the 22-year-old ECHL call-up, played well on the top line (and has looked good all season when called upon). He brings a bit of size to the lineup (6’2”, 200 pounds) and plays an intelligent defensive game. Team captain Anton Lander praised his work ethic, ability to win puck battles and shot before concluding that he’s “a really smart player who makes good passes.”
  • Asked about the value of Fyten winning puck battles, Lander channeled Detroit coach Mike Babcock’s philosophy on puck possession: “If you win the battles for the puck you have the puck. That’s really what it’s all about; it’s all about possession. If you have the puck they can’t do much.”
  • The Barons had to run with 11 forwards and seven defencemen thanks to injuries, Mark Arcobello being prohibited from playing during the Olympic break and Steve MacIntyre being stuck on the East Coast. Pitlick is expected back from injury next week, but as head coach Todd Nelson said, “We expected him 10 days ago.”
  • Denis Grebeshkov didn’t have a particularly good game, but assistant coach Gerry Fleming (who runs the defence) did a nice job of keeping him involved, mixing him in on seemingly every pairing at some point or other. Matt Ford mostly got duty double-shifted on the fourth line, though Neslon occasionally used a different forward there and mentioned after the game he likes having the option of double-shifting an offensive player on the fourth line.
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  • Richard Bachman had a stellar outing ,as did Sami Aittokallio at the other end of the rink. The Lake Erie goaltender stopped 32 of 34 shots but Bachman outplayed him, turning aside 39 of 40.
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  • I’m forever praising the play of Taylor Fedun, because he’s an exceptional AHL defenceman (and that shows in his numbers here). I am a little concerned about his ability to translate that play to the NHL long-term; he isn’t especially big or strong and can be run off the puck (as he was in one especially memorable sequence against Lake Erie that led to a great opposition scoring chance). The Oilers really ought to give him a shot after the deadline to see whether his smarts can compensate for his size.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

  • Retsinnab5

    I love Fedun but why does this team always have to answer the size question? Every good to great player edm has is small. outside of a few guys. Enough already

  • BLAKPOO

    If Bachman continues to impress on OKC, I can see him pushing for a back-up spot on the Oil. Not having to resign Bryz not only saves us money, but allows for Brossoit to see some more starts in the AHL.

    Of course, this is contingent on Scrivens continuing to impress during this final stretch, and hopefully resigning with the Oilers.

  • Randaman

    The Oilers obsession with speed/skill will take a few years to deal with. Now that they have started choosing players based on size/skill like ( Chase, Kaharia, Moroz) these type of players will eventually change the make up of the team.

    • Randaman

      Eventually is what the problem is! There has to be some deals made that people are not going to like. How do I know this? Every time someone mentions trading Eberle or Yak, the walls come crashing down. Overvaluing our players both by management and the fans will hold the TEAM back for years to come unless something is done. Ekblad is not going to fix this mess we are in.

      • Randaman

        I have faith in Mac T making a deal/deals that will help the make-up of the team. Where I lose faith is Eakins doing his job and moulding these players into a cohesive well functioning group.

        Both situation will be on display over the next few weeks. If the trades are made and the team continues to win, then all is good.

        If trades are made and the team starts to lose, we know that we need a new coach……..someone who is not in love with his own voice.

        • Randaman

          You do realize that it was MacT that signed Gagner to this ridiculous contract?
          I think he over values him along with Hemsky and Eberle to the point that there will be minimal changes made at the deadline. The return won’t live up to his lofty expectations. Then the fans will roast him for not being active. He has to swallow some pride and make the BOLD moves we have been hearing about for seven months now.

  • #ThereGoesTheOilers

    Even if Fedun gets his call up and works his ass off, I fear it won’t matter. Obviously the brass have their idea of what they want and it isn’t always congruent with what we the fans see.

    Case in point – Arcobello – and with that, I’m annoyed.

  • JW: In your opinion, and I realize this is a bit of a shot in the dark, but would Fedun have enough offensive acumen to fill into a 3rd line pairing with a bigger, stay-at-home partner?

    I just see a smaller Dman, who doen’t excel in one specific aspect, but being a very intelligent player, filling in that role.

    It obviously comes down to who that “physical” Damn is (insert Fraser vs Belov argument here) but that would be an effective pairing.

  • Spydyr

    One other prospect that I wonder about is head coach Todd Nelson. It seems to me that he always manages to squeeze the best out of the prospects and veteran AHL’rs he has to work with. What is your take on his potential as an NHL head or assistant coach, JW?

  • Sevenseven

    Its been really good to see some strong points coming from okc. If the organization can start winning at the ahl, that will only help development of the prospect pool. Having ahl vets like horac at the ahl level is great to help these young kids develop. Now we need some of those on the nhl club.

    If okc makes the playoffs, it might even make sense to send down some players from the big club. With this season shot, could it be more beneficial for development of players to experience some playoff games?

    Thanks jw, great article. I criticize this organization a lot, but I believe they really are starting to get strong at development. A winning ahl franchise and the purchase of tge condors are steps in the right direction.