Petrielli: Expect a tight battle between Marlies, Barons in AHL Western Conference Final

By: Anthony Petrielli, Contributing Writer
@APetrielli

It’s the Marlies versus the Barons. It’s the Leafs versus the Oilers. It’s progress versus progress. But really, it’s the American Hockey League Western Conference final.

Slated to start Thursday in Oklahoma, the aforementioned series is a battle between two organizations who have both been terrible at the NHL level for the past several years. Thus, it’s no surprise to see the average age of the Barons is 24.4, well the Marlies are slightly younger at 22.9 years of age.

(CatherineJoy/Flickr)

The Marlies have only lost one game so far this playoffs, while Oklahoma has lost twice — once in each round. During the regular season the Barons finished first overall in the conference well the Marlies were second, so this was a series many thought would possibly happen before the playoffs even started.

During the regular season the teams split their two games with regulation wins apiece. Although, in fairness, it’s not really noteworthy when applied to this series because the games were in November and the first week of January and both rosters have changed tremendously since then. For one, the Barons have never played the Marlies with Jake Gardiner or Matt Frattin in the lineup, and those are two of Toronto’s top prospects and players at the moment. Meanwhile the Marlies never played an Oklahoma team icing some of their veteran leading scorers this playoffs in Dylan Yeo and Josh Green.

Currently, the Marlies playoff scoring leader is Jerry D’Amigo, with nine points in eight games, including six goals which is tied for the playoff lead. On top of that are the eye popping numbers of goalie Ben Scrivens. The 25 year old goalie who saw his first taste of NHL action this season leads the playoffs in both goals against average at 1.61, and save percentage at .944% thus far. This comes on the heels of a season in which he had the best goals against average of any goalie this season, too.

The Marlies have also received a boost this playoffs when the Leafs sent down Matt Frattin and Jake Gardiner for the playoff run and they’ve responded. Frattin is third on the team in points with seven and second in goals with five, while Jake Gardiner has been the Marlies number one defenceman so far in the postseason, logging heavy minutes in every situation and also chipping in five points in his eight games so far.

Toronto does, however, have some injuries that they have been dealing with. Joe Colborne sliced his hand in the Marlies’ first round series and has been battling through it ever since. He has sat two games due to it as the stitches on his hand have been ripping open during the game and he has not been taking any faceoffs. On top of that, Carter Ashton suffered a concussion in round one and has yet to play since, meanwhile Jesse Blacker is returning from a regular season injury that at times looks like it still bothers him.

Conversely, the Barons have been led by leading scorer Mark Arcobello who has 11 points in nine games while some of their younger players such as Tyler Pitlick (seven points in nine games) and Magnus Paajarvi (six points in nine games) have been chipping in too.

On the whole, in one more game played, the Barons have scored four more goals than the Marlies and have allowed five more against. Their goalie is veteran Yann Danis whose been solid if unspectacular so far.

You probably have to give the Marlies the edge in net, and arguably talent-wise too with guys like Kadri, Gardiner and Frattin in the lineup. Oklahoma has a bit more of a veteran team, they did win the conference and they do have home ice, though.

It should be a fun series and after both teams made relatively quick work of their first two opponents, we should all expect a long battle between two of the top teams in the AHL this season.

For more on the Marlies, Barons and the AHL playoffs, check out my latest at Maple Leafs Hot Stove where I give 15 points on the playoffs so far.

*Editor’s Note: This article is the second and final preiview of the AHL Conference Finals at CoincidentalMinors.com. Part 1, written by @stephenleth,  focuses on the Eastern Conference (St. John’s IceCaps vs. Norfolk Admirals). Also check out Anthony Petrielli’s intriguing piece on the connection between Calder Cup and NHL success for more AHL-related analysis.

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