Rest versus rust.
Any time a team wraps up a best-of-seven series early, there are pros and cons.
“For me, at my age, I'd take rest 10 times out of 10,” said 33-year-old Barons team captain Josh Green. “The key is when you practice you have to work hard. If you don't there's a risk you get lackadaisical and you're not at your best when Game 1 comes around.”
The Barons will have eight or nine days off between series after eliminating the top seeded Texas Stars in five games. Oklahoma City swept the three games at the Cox Convention Center by a combined 16-4 score.
In the other Western semifinal, Grand Rapids leads Toronto 3-2 with Game 6 and 7 (if necessary) in Toronto.
If OKC plays the Griffins, the series starts Friday in Grand Rapids.
If OKC plays the Marlies, the series starts Saturday in Toronto.
Since the Barons gained momentum by winning three home games 4-0, 7-3 and 5-1, is there some concern they could lose momentum?
“Both can be true,” said goaltender Yann Danis. “Rest is always good. We've played a lot of games, a lot of tough games. We just have to make sure we have that intensity when we practice and not go through the motions.”
The Barons played 76 regular-season games and have played 10 playoff games.
“It definitely helps to get our rest,” said rookie defenseman Taylor Fedun. “It's not that long a break. We have a lot of veteran guys and a great coaching staff. They know what the proper balance is.”
Coach Todd Nelson gave players Friday and Sunday off.
“Time away from the rink is very important. We're staggering the days off,” Nelson said. “I think the guys will be itching to play and will be really hungry going into Game 1.”
In the weekend-heavy American Hockey League, players are accustomed to lengthy layoffs.
AHL teams often play back-to-back games throughout the regular season. On rare occasions, they even play three games in three nights then have five or six days off.
“In the playoffs we're getting a few more days off,” Fedun said. “When you play it's more in bunches. We feel we can keep rolling and maintain our momentum.”
Opening on the road might be an advantage.
The past two months, including the playoffs, the Barons are 13-4-2 on the road.
In a best-of-five first-round series, the Barons lost Game 3 at Charlotte. With their season on the line, the Barons dominated two must-win road games 8-1 and 6-2 to advance.
In their best-of-seven series against the Stars, the Barons grinded out a 2-1 overtime win in Game 1 to gain a split before returning home.
“We play a real simple game, try to get pucks in deep, finish checks and play good defense in front of Yann,” Green said. “That's worked well for us at home and on the road. We'd love to get that first one and at least get a split on the road.”
As for the rust-versus-rest discussion, most teams prefer the rest.
“You want your guys to enjoy the series win,” said Barons general manager Bill Scott. “We'll have a couple of practices then travel in early to get acquainted to (Grand Rapids) the city we're playing in.
“Nine days is very manageable for our group. Now if you told me that we'd be off for two weeks, that could be detrimental. That would be a lot harder to manage. The way it is we can heal up bumps and bruises which will only help us.”