May 18, 2018
By: Steve Degler
It would be nice if the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and Toronto Marlies would be meeting for the Calder Cup. Instead, the top two teams in the American Hockey League are squaring off in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Finals. The winner of the series will face either Rockford or Texas for the championship.
This is a very big challenge for the Phantoms. But, the Marlies are no doubt thinking that they do not have an easy path here either. Both teams have won seven of their nine playoff games. They each feature high powered offenses. Toronto won both regular season meetings with the Phantoms: 5-1 at PPL Center and 3-2 in a shootout at Ricoh Coliseum.
The Phantoms won three straight in Charlotte without MVP Phil Varone, Travis Sanheim and Nic Aube-Kubel. Hopefully, they all return to face Toronto and can have a major impact on the series. Perhaps the most important thing for the Phantoms is to have Alex Lyon stay hot between the pipes. Toronto allowed the fewest goals per game (2.24) during the regular season so the Phantoms will be challenged to score goals. That means they need their goaltender to continue to play at a high level. Lyon was otherworldly in the Charlotte series.
Some interesting tidbits to consider for this series:
*Toronto was 30-5-3 on the road this season...the most road wins in the league...and 24-13-1 at home.
*The Marlies are 5-0 at home during the playoffs, the Phantoms are 4-1 on the road.
*The Phantoms penalty kill was third-best at home in the regular season (86.9%). But the PK is at just 72.2% at PPL Center during the playoffs. And the power play is only 2-17 at home but 4-14 on the road.
*Toronto was the best penalty killing team in the league at 88.9% but it is at 84.4% in the postseason.
*Lehigh Valley was 33-1-5 when leading after two periods during the season; 5-0 in the playoffs.
*The Marlies were 36-1-1 when leading after two; 6-0 during the postseason.
*Lehigh Valley (3.42) and Toronto (3.34) were second and third, respectively, in goals per game.
*Each team is 2-0 in overtime (The Phantoms are 1-0 in five overtime games!).
*Including the regular season, the Phantoms are 20-2-2 in their last 24 games at PPL Center. They are 27-7-4 in their last 38 games overall.
*The series features two of the least penalized teams in the league during the regular season. The Marlies (10:63 minutes per game) were 29th out of 30 teams. The Phantoms (11:05) were 27th. Lehigh Valley is averaging 14:89 minutes per game in the playoffs, the Marlies 9.11 per game.
*In the postseason, both teams are undefeated when scoring the first goal of the game. Toronto is 6-0; LV 5-0.
This has the chance to be a fantastic series. Both teams are rested. In fact, Toronto will have 10 days off since the Marlies swept Syracuse in round two. Toronto is a young and fast team with stellar goaltending and several quality veterans to solidify things. They are 15-2-2 in their last 19 games. The Phantoms face a tough task but they are a tight team that should be brimming with a lot of confidence right now. I can't wait for the series to start Saturday in Toronto.
Here is the schedule:
Game 1 – Sat., May 19 – Lehigh Valley at Toronto, 4:00
Game 2 – Sun., May 20 – Lehigh Valley at Toronto, 4:00
Game 3 – Wed., May 23 – Toronto at Lehigh Valley, 7:05
Game 4 – Fri., May 25 – Toronto at Lehigh Valley, 7:05
*Game 5 – Sat., May 26 – Toronto at Lehigh Valley, 7:05
*Game 6 – Mon., May 28 – Lehigh Valley at Toronto, 7:00
*Game 7 – Wed., May 30 – Lehigh Valley at Toronto, 7:00
*if necessary… All times Eastern
And remember, ALL games of the series will be live on TV2/502 HD. We look forward to bringing you all the action between the Phantoms and the Marlies on Service Electric.