It’s go time.
The Lehigh Valley Phantoms will begin their series against the Toronto Marlies on Saturday afternoon. The Eastern Conference Finals will begin in Toronto on Saturday and Sunday, then shift to Lehigh Valley for Games 3, 4, and a potential Game 5.
How they got here
The Phantoms won the Atlantic Division in the regular season with 104 points, the second most in the AHL. They played the Providence Bruins in the first round, winning the best-of-five series in four games. They split the two road games in Providence and won both of their home games, with the series-clincher coming in overtime.
Then they took on the Charlotte Checkers in the second round. That series got a lot of attention for the pivotal Game 4, a five-overtime thriller that became the longest game in AHL history. The Phantoms won that game, and the series. They lost just one game in that series as well, with Alex Lyon putting up incredible numbers throughout the series.
The Toronto Marlies won the North Division and were the best team in the AHL with 112 points and a .737 points percentage. They got tested in the first round by the Utica Comets, as they took the Marlies to five games in the best-of-five series. However, the Marlies easily dispatched the Syracuse Crunch and swept them in the second round.
The Marlies have been off since May 8th, when they won Game 4 to clinch the series.
How they match up
The Marlies won both matchups against the Phantoms in the regular season. They beat them in Lehigh Valley, 5-1, in November, but the Phantoms took it to a shootout in a 3-2 loss in Toronto in January.
The Phantoms (19.4%) and Marlies (20.8%) have both been converting on around one-fifth of their power plays in the playoffs, with Toronto (84.4%) having the upper hand over Lehigh Valley (77.8%) on the penalty kill.
The Phantoms have outscored opponents 28-21 through nine games this postseason, while the Marlies have outscored their opponents 33-21, also through nine games.
Trevor Moore (9 points) and Andreas Johnsson (8 points) are the leading scorers for the Marlies, while Chris Conner (8 points) and Oskar Lindblom (7 points) are the leading scorers for the Phantoms in the playoffs.
Players to watch
Lyon has been a beast for the Phantoms in these playoffs, and he’ll be getting the nod for Lehigh Valley in this series. He is 6-1 this postseason with a .959 save percentage (303 saves on 316 shots) and a 1.49 goals against average. He has the best GAA among goalies with at least two starts, and leads all goalies in save percentage.
Lindblom is the Phantoms’ leading goal-scorer in the playoffs with four goals, and is right behind Conner for the lead in points as mentioned above. The Swedish forward got valuable NHL experience this season and these playoffs are just adding on to that. Every game he plays in is a new career-high for games in a season for the young winger, so fatigue could play a factor. However, he hasn’t shown much yet given his point totals.
Like Lindblom, Sanheim is gaining a great foundation to build off of this year. He got hurt in the second round, but all signs point to him returning for this series. He will be relied upon to play on the top pair and in all situations. Playoff teams need a great goalie, a great defenseman, and a great forward, and Sanheim could be that blueliner for the Phantoms.
Sanheim has gotten most of the attention due to his visibility with the Flyers, but Myers has been that number one defenseman for the Phantoms. He played in over 60 minutes in the five-overtime game and has been a workhorse for Lehigh Valley all season long. Myers is showing that he can handle big minutes and can play in tough situations.
- Game 1 – Saturday, May 19, 4:00 p.m at Marlies
- Game 2 – Sunday, May 20, 4:00 p.m at Marlies
- Game 3 – Wednesday, May 23, 7:05 p.m. vs. Marlies
- Game 4 – Friday, May 25, 7:05 p.m. vs. Marlies
- Game 5* – Saturday, May 26, 7:05 p.m. vs. Marlies
- Game 6* – Monday, May 28, 7:00 p.m. at Marlies
- Game 7* – Wednesday, May 30, 7:00 p.m. at Marlies
This is the first Eastern Conference Finals appearance for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms as a team, and the first time for the Phantoms franchise since 2004-05 when they won the Calder Cup.
Photo by Casey Liberatore/Sons of Penn
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