The Barons have killed off 43 of their last 44 penalties, an insane 97.7 penalty kill percentage the past 17 games.
“Everything is clicking,” said VandeVelde, a key member of last year's team that advanced to the Western Conference finals. “It's starts with Yannie and the D-men. They've been improving all year. We're playing well at the right time.”
It's been an odd season.
Young Edmonton Oilers stars Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Justin Schultz and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins played the first three months in Oklahoma City during the NHL lockout, but it didn't make a huge impact in the standings. A young, suspect defense negated those players' offensive star power.
“The first half of the season we were losing games (by losing leads), it was like your heart got ripped out,” said coach Todd Nelson. “Even in some wins we weren't doing the right things. Our defense has really improved. We've come a long ways.”
Nelson was an assistant coach on Chicago's 2008 AHL Calder Cup championship team. He was the head coach when Muskegon won Double-A titles in 2004 and 2005.
“This has a similar feeling,” Nelson said. “I like the way our team is playing. It's not like I'm foreseeing anything, but I like our chemistry. We have a good feeling in the locker room right now. Obviously our goal is to win the championship.”