The key matchup in the Barons' Western Conference semifinal series against top seeded Texas could be the Barons' offense versus Stars' goaltender Cristopher Nilstorp.
The Barons scored 23 goals in a first-round series against Charlotte. Nilstorp allowed only five goals in four games against Milwaukee.
Oklahoma City won the regular-season series, taking eight of 12 games against Texas. But you can disregard six pre-New Year games.
The Barons won five of six when Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Justin Schultz were in OKC during the NHL lockout.
The South Division rivals split the six 2013 matchups when the Oilers' young stars were in Edmonton.
A best-of-7 series starts Thursday night and Saturday night in Cedar Park, Texas, an Austin suburb. Games 3, 4 and 5 are scheduled next week at the Cox Convention Center.
“Each series is different,” said Barons coach Todd Nelson. “Charlotte didn't have their regular goaltender. Their top goalie from the season stayed up with Carolina. Texas is a different hockey team.
“Nilstorp is a quality goaltender. We'll have our hands full trying to beat him. We'll have to try and put some traffic in front of him and see what we can get going. He gave up only five goals. But the way our offense is producing we should have some success.”
Led by team captain Josh Green's nine points, the Barons have four of the top five scorers in the playoffs. Nilstorp, though, posted a 0.96 goals against average and an off-the-charts .963 saves percentage.
Nilstorp's first-round series stats against Milwaukee were vastly different from his 1-4-1 regular-season record against OKC that included a 4.43 GAA and .846 saves percentage. But five of those six outings were when Eberle, Schultz and Hall combined for 16 goals.
Barons goaltender Yann Danis played well against the Stars (6-1-0, 2.58 goals against average, .918 saves percentage). But all but one of those games was pre-New Year.
Danis finished the regular season red hot. He allowed six goals in a Game 3 loss against Charlotte but recorded a franchise-record 49 saves in Game 5 to help OKC avoid elimination.
“It's a whole new ballgame,” Nelson said. “Both teams aren't the same teams they were when we played a lot of those games. I don't think you can look at stats from the regular season because there was so much movement. It should be an interesting series.”
The Barons have some momentum.
Trailing two games to one in a best-of-5 series against the Checkers, Oklahoma City had to win Friday and Saturday on the road in Charlotte to keep its season alive.
The Barons not only won, they outscored the Checkers 14-3 to romp in both games. They won 6-2 in a winner-take-all finale despite being outshot 51-30 the final game.
“We felt we had our backs against the wall just to get into the playoffs,” Nelson said, referring to a 13-3-3 finish.
The Barons didn't clinch a playoff berth until the next-to-last day of the season.
“Our team responded late in the season and late in the Charlotte series,” Nelson said. “Texas is the No. 1 seed. They're the favorites. But if we go in there with out best effort, let's see what happens.”
AHL Playoff leaders
Pts. Player, team
9 Josh Green, OKC
8 Teemu Hartikainen, OKC
8 Toni Rajala, OKC
8 Justin Fontaine, Houston
7 Mark Arcobello, OKC
7 Ondrei Palat, Syracuse
6 Greg Scott, Toronto
6 Zach Boychuk, Charlotte
6 Tyler Johnson, Syracuse
GAA Player, team (save pct.)
0.96 Cristopher Nilstorp, Texas (.963)
1.62 Drew MacIntyre, Toronto (.949)
1.74 Curtis McElhinney, Spring. (.943)
1.83 Petr Mrazek, Grand Rapids (.924)
1.87 Jeff Zatkoff, WB/Scranton (.945)
2.33 Cedrick Desjardins, Syr. (.884)
2.97 Yann Danis, Okla. City (.913)
3.61 Philipp Grubauer, Hershey (.907)