In their first trip to the AHL playoffs since 2012, the San Antonio will have a chance to exact revenge on the team that knocked them out of those playoffs in 5 games, the Oklahoma City Barons. The best of five series starts Thursday and continues Saturday in OKC before the two teams return to San Antonio to finish the series at the ATT Center beginning Wednesday, April, 29th.
The Rampage won 9 of 12 meetings this season with the division rivals, with two of the three losses coming in overtime. Over the final 20 games of the regular season, the Rampage went 14-4-2, including a 2-0 record vs. OKC. Meanwhile, the Barons managed just seven wins in their final 20 games. The difference in records allowed the Rampage to catch and pass the Barons for the division title and three seed in the first round.
Here’s how I think the teams matchup with an official prediction thrown in for good measure:
The Rampage lost the regular season scoring title to Grand Rapids, by one goal, in the last week of the season. The loss of leading scorer Bobby Butler is devastating, but the team is deep and Vincent Trocheck has scored in both games he’s played since returning from Florida and could help offset that loss.
Oklahoma City can score goals in bunches as well. Led by Andrew Miller, who finished tied for 15th in the AHL with 60 points for the season, up front and Brad Hunt—who led the AHL in goals by a defenseman with 19—on the blue line, the Barons scored 2.95 goals per game, good for 7th in the AHL.
The Barons top line players are slightly more dangerous with Butler on the shelf, but I think the Rampage are more dangerous through all four lines and on the blue line offensively. EDGE: Rampage (Slightly)
The Barons were 0.20 goals per game better over the course of the season, but were decimated with injuries and callups down the stretch. The Rampage, meanwhile, seemed to get better defensively as the season went along. If the Rampage can continue to play the defense they played for most of the final 20 games, the Barons can be held in check enough to win. I’m not sure I can say the same about the Barons. EDGE: Rampage
This is where the Barons get a decisive edge, in my opinion. Broissot and Bachman have both been solid all season allowing around 2.5 goals per game and posting above league average save % (.918 for both). Even during the Barons slide, Broissot was still better than average, posting a 2.72 GAA and a .916% despite winning just seven times in twenty tries. (s/t to Topher for the numbers).
The Rampage, meanwhile, got fantastic play from both Michael Houser and Sam Brittain while Dan Ellis was in Florida. Houser won 14 times in his last 20 games with a 2.33GAA and a .917%. Brittain also posted terrific numbers in the final month, winning four times and saving 182 of 193 shots seen. So why do the Barons get the edge? Because Dan Ellis has been named starter for game one. Until that changes, I give the decided edge to OKC. EDGE: Barons
The two team’s power play numbers are so close statistically; I’ll call it a push. The Rampage convert 18.6% of their chances while the Barons convert at a 17.9% rate. Interestingly, both teams are significantly better on the road on the power play. Since the Rampage have home ice, this actually plays into the Barons favor the longer the series goes.
The Barons are a top five penalty killing team in the league at just over 86%. The Rampage are middle of the pack, killing 83.7% of penalties with no discernible difference between home and road rates.
The Rampage have two advantages in this series. As stated above, the Rampage are better on the road with the extra skater and the series starts in OKC. If they can win both on the road, it figures to be a short series and the dangerous OKC road power play could be minimized. Secondly, the Rampage are tied for second in the AHL with 12 shorthanded goals (only Lake Erie had more, ironically). The Barons managed just four all season. EDGE: Rampage (slight)
Tom Rowe has had almost two full seasons with most of these players and has seemingly pushed all the right buttons at all the right times. Additionally, Scott Allen has been fantastic with his pre-game scouting and special teams coaching.
Gerry Fleming took over for Todd Nelson when Nelson was promoted to take over in Edmonton on December 15th. Initially, the Barons played very well under Fleming, but it’s no secret how badly they struggled the last two months. EDGE: Rampage
The Rampage have home ice advantage in this series. This season, the silver and black when 4-0-2 in the ATT Center against OKC. Both losses came in 3 on 3 OT which is no longer a thing once the playoffs start. They have also played very well in OKC. If the goaltending can be “just good enough”, this series shouldn’t be that stressful. I foresee a split in OKC, with the Rampage winning games three and four on home ice to wrap up the series in four games. PREDICTION: RAMPAGE in 4