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Series Preview: Lehigh Valley Phantoms vs Providence Bruins

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It’s the baby Flyers vs the baby Bruins in round one.

Gregory Vasil/Getty Images

When the Charlotte Checkers’ won their final regular season game last Sunday, it was confirmed that the Lehigh Valley Phantoms’ first round opponent will be the Providence Bruins, and for a first seed versus a fourth seed, the two teams are surprisingly similar.

Team Stats

Team Wins Losses OT/SOL GF/GP GA/GP Goal Diff. PP% PK%
Team Wins Losses OT/SOL GF/GP GA/GP Goal Diff. PP% PK%
LV 47 19 10 3.42 2.87 42 17.45% 83.10%
PRO 45 26 5 3.04 2.46 44 16.72% 83.11%

Phantoms vs Bruins Head-to-Head

Venue Result GF GA 5v5 CF 5v5 CA 5v5 CF% 5v5 SCF 5v5 SCA 5v5 SCF%
Venue Result GF GA 5v5 CF 5v5 CA 5v5 CF% 5v5 SCF 5v5 SCA 5v5 SCF%
Home W 3 2 35 54 39.33% 19 20 48.72%
Home W 3 0 43 42 50.59% 20 15 57.14%
Away OTL 5 4 36 38 48.65% 19 19 50.00%
Away L 1 6 26 37 41.27% 9 16 36.00%
Home W 2 0 41 31 56.94% 19 10 65.52%
Away W 6 3 36 37 49.32% 17 17 50.00%
All 4-1-1 20 15 217 239 47.59% 103 97 51.50%

In fact, the teams are so similar that the Phantoms only won two more games than the Bruins in the regular season and the Bruins ending up with a better goal differential. Both teams kind of limped their way into the playoffs, each winning just five of their last ten games, so it will be interesting to see who rights their ship first.

While the Phantoms’ 4-1-1 record against the Bruins may suggest otherwise, the season series was relatively close. The Phantoms were out-attempted in four of the six games, and although score effects certainly played a role there, it’s still not a positive sign. What is positive is that the Phantoms were able to out-chance the Bruins at 5-on-5, even in games where they had an early lead.

With a sample size so small it’s hard to put too much stock into these numbers, but the Phantoms did dominate the special teams play over the course of the season series. Their power play scored on four of their seventeen opportunities, and their penalty kill allowed just two goals on the twenty times they were shorthanded. That’s a 23.53% power play and a 90% penalty kill. Surely a winning combination.

Home ice advantage could play a key role in the series as the Bruins only scored two goals at the PPL Center this season, and both came while their goaltender was pulled in a 6-on-5 game situation. (H/T Mark Divver)

Leading Scorers

Player Games Played Goals Assists Points Points Per Game
Player Games Played Goals Assists Points Points Per Game
Phil Varone - LV 74 23 47 70 0.95
Austin Czarnik - PRO 64 25 44 69 1.08
Kenny Agostino - PRO 64 16 37 53 0.83
Greg Carey - LV 72 31 22 53 0.74
Jordan Szwarz - PRO 52 21 27 48 0.92
Nicolas Aube-Kubel - LV 72 18 28 46 0.64

Phil Varone won the Les Cunningham Award as the league’s regular season MVP and now he’ll be facing the player that may have been his toughest competition for the award in Austin Czarnik.

From a per-game standpoint, the Bruins’ top scorers were more productive overall and on the power play, while the Phantoms’ top scorers were move productive at 5-on-5. This is especially true for Varone, who led the league in 5-on-5 points, and Czarnik, who finished third in the league in power play points.

The Phantoms have their work cut out for them trying to slow down the Bruins’ top scorers, but should have the advantage when it comes to depth goal scoring.

Goaltenders

Player Games Played Wins Losses OT/SOL SV% GAA
Player Games Played Wins Losses OT/SOL SV% GAA
Jordan Binnington - PRO 28 17 9 1 0.926 2.05
Dustin Tokarski - LV 39 20 8 7 0.915 2.65
Zane McIntyre - PRO 47 26 15 4 0.914 2.52
Alex Lyon - LV 27 16 8 2 0.913 2.75

Without knowing confirmed starters the best we can do is guess at this point, but whatever the match-up may be, it’s hard not to give the goaltending edge to Providence here. Jordan Binnington’s stats speak for themselves, as his .926 save percentage is fourth in the league and his 2.05 goals against average ranks second.

Scott Gordon and his staff have a tough decision to make when it comes to choosing between Alex Lyon and Dustin Tokarski, and I don’t think there’s a wrong choice to be made. You have two goaltenders with NHL experience, more recently Lyon, and they’ve both done well this season. If I had to pick, I’d go with Lyon, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see either goaltender start game one.

Phantoms’ Key Absences

Look no further than Philippe Myers. Myers missed the final eight games of the season with and injury and it’s unclear whether he will be back for game one. On April 2nd, Flyers GM Ron Hextall said that he would miss 3 weeks of game action, which would mean a possible return at or around April 23rd. With the series scheduled to start on the 20th, Myers’ status remains up in the air.

Much like Myers, we’re not quite sure if Samuel Morin will be ready for the playoffs either. The original plan, or the original hope at least, was that he’d get into game action in the final weekend of the regular season, but that never happened. The timeline given does line up for a possible game one return, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

Center Mikhail Vorobyev and defenseman James de Haas are also out with injuries and there has been no update on possible return dates. Goaltender Anthony Stolarz has been out with a minor injury as well, but even if he was healthy it’s hard to imagine him getting playing time in the playoffs after missing so much time this season.

Players To Watch

LV - Nicolas Aube-Kubel

Here in Lehigh Valley we’ve seen that Aube-Kubel can be a game changer at times. His production dipped a bit following two suspensions in the month of March, but for the majority of the season he led the AHL in 5-on-5 primary points. Among healthy Phantoms his +5.99 5-on-5 CF% Rel ranks second, behind only Carsen Twarynski who played in just five games.

PRO - Kenny Agostino

It feels a bit odd to suggest that a season where a player scored at a 0.83 points per game pace was a down year, but for Agostino it was. Last season with the Chicago Wolves he put up 83 points in 65 games and won both the Les Cunningham Award as league MVP, and the John B. Sollenberger Trophy which goes to the league’s leading scorer. With the skill he possesses he could steal a series almost by himself.

The series begins Friday, April 20th in Providence.

Series Schedule

Game Date Time Away Team at Home Team
Game Date Time Away Team at Home Team
One April 20th 7:05 PM Lehigh Valley at Providence
Two April 21st 7:05 PM Lehigh Valley at Providence
Three April 27th 7:05 PM Providence at Lehigh Valley
Four* April 28th 7:05 PM Providence at Lehigh Valley
Five* April 30th 7:05 PM Providence at Lehigh Valley

Data via Phancy Stats, and Prospect-Stats