The Oklahoma City Barons begin their American League Western Conference semifinal series against the Texas Stars tonight. They are looking to reach the conference final for the second consecutive year and with the way 35-year-old captain Josh Green is playing they should give the Stars, who finished six points ahead of the Barons, everything they can handle.
Michael Baldwin of NewsOK.com has more on the play of Green who erupted for 3-6-9 in five games against the Charlotte Checkers in the first round after putting up 9-15-24 in 49 games in the regular season. He leads the AHL in playoff scoring after one round after recording a point in every game in the first round including three points in Game 4 to get the best-of-five series even at two games apiece. The 16-year pro is enjoying the goals, but just wants to see the Barons get by the Stars. From Baldwin:
Playing on OKC’s No. 3 line, Green leading the playoffs in scoring is a testament to his resolve.
“It’s nice to see your name at the top but if we don’t move on it’s not going to be there very long,” Green said. “The only thing that matters to me is getting wins. If I can contribute offensively that’s great. But I think I can help the team in other ways even when I’m not scoring.”
Green’s primary role is to be a hard-to-move pest around the goal. How the Barons fare in the crease could be critical against Texas goaltender Cristopher Nilstorp, who allowed only five goals in a first-round series against Milwaukee.
“We’d be kidding ourselves if we think we can score at the same rate we did in the first round,” Green said. “This will definitely be tighter, more of a low-scoring series. We just need to go to the net and get traffic in front of him.
Green has never won a championship in North America, he did win the Austrian Hockey League championship with Salzburg EC in 2007-08, and is hoping the Barons can be the team to earn him a Calder Cup. More from Baldwin:
Winning a cup, at any level, is a highlight of a hockey player’s career. Last year, the Barons were one step shy of the AHL finals when they lost to Toronto in the Western Conference finals. Green was on that team that played hockey until Memorial Day weekend.
“Greeny is getting older,” (Barons coach Todd) Nelson said. “He sees an opportunity with this team that some good things could happen a month from now. Any time you get to the playoffs it’s a special time. Any time you have a chance to win a championship you try to grasp that.”
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Say what you want about the quirks of Ilya Bryzgalov, and many do, he is one player who isn’t afraid to be himself in front of microphones and speak spontaneously and honestly. He recently did an interview with Russian reporters Pavel Lysenkov and Alexander Shevchenko, which was transcribed for Puck Daddy by Dmitry Chesnokov, where he talked Philadelphia media, his love of space and how he would run the media.
One of the questions was about the difference between the media in Philadelphia and in Phoenix with Bryzgalov responding about the difference in numbers between the two cities:
“There were two or three journalists there. They were great guys. Same can be said about people in California.”
Whether that’s a jab at the much larger collection of Philly media is up to the reader, but Bryzgalov may be less comfortable than he lets on in Philadelphia.
He also had a lot to say about how everyone has different interests and his just happens to be space and he should be left alone for it:
“Why do you call it the love of space? You say this is my love of space, but it is something that interests me. Like you, for example, do you like fishing? And I don’t think you are strange. Pavel [Lysenkov], for example, likes mushroom hunting. Someone may say ‘what is that? Is he sick that he goes and picks ticks?’ Every person is interesting because we are all so different. Everyone has their own interests and we must respect that.”
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France broke Russia’s 13-game winning streak in the IIHF World Championship by winning 2-1 to earn their second victory of the tournament for “one of the biggest upsets in international hockey history.”
Alexander Perezhogin opened the scoring for Russia 6:57 into the second period, but France would counter 2:55 later when Damien Fleury tied the game. Antoine Roussel scored the game-winner 16:48 into the middle frame with his first of the series. Florian Hardy stopped 28 of 29 shots, including 11 in the third period, to take the victory while Vasili Koshechkin, who stopped 17 of 19 shots, was tagged with the loss for Russia.
Lucas Aykroyd has more on the significance of this victory on the IIHF’s official website:
This was France’s equivalent of the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” where U.S. college players defeated the heavily favoured Soviets at the Lake Placid Olympics.
“It’s fantastic to beat the defending champions and the best players in the world,” said French coach Dave Henderson. “It’s so big for French hockey it’s hard to describe.”
“We have a lot of players who play in the French league, and there’s a big difference [between us and them],” said France’s Vincent Bachet. “But we stayed focused and disciplined, and everything’s possible. If we played them 20 times, we’d lose…19 times, I guess.”
Russia is currently tied with the United States at the top of their group with similar 3-0-0-1 (W-OTW-OTL-L) records for nine points each while France is fifth in their group with a 2-0-0-2 record for six points.