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Phantoms 4, Bruins 3: Round 2, baby!

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Some observations for your morning...

Washington Capitals v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

You read that right! The Phantoms pulled off another win at home last night to advance to the Atlantic Division Finals. There’s more hockey to be had, folks!

It wasn’t the prettiest effort that got them there, and it was certainly telling in a lot of ways. And, as always, we’ve collected some observations on their eventual overtime winning effort.

1.A less excellent start

With Friday’s start seeing the Phantoms playing like they were on fire, hopes for a similar performance in last night’s game were high. You could reasonably expect things to slow down a bit—it was the back end of a back to back, after all—but the initial hump the Phantoms had to get over before they could start doing much of anything was more than this expectation. Even their close passes weren’t connecting cleanly, and the longer East-West passes that had worked for them so well early in Friday’s game were broken up easily. It took them more than a minute and a half to break into their own zone to do so much as put a shot on goal. In short, it wasn’t very pretty.

The good news, of course, is that their first period play took a big step forward after this (but more on that later), but it set a tone of slippage, of space allowed for the Bruins to get to work, and this would come back to bite them later.

2.The flip side

But let’s not get too bogged down in the negatives of their start, because even when they were struggling to produce offensively, there was solid defending happening, still. Despite being caught in their own end in that first minute and a half of the period, the Phantoms didn’t allow the Bruins to get a shot off during this time. Indeed, they didn’t allow them to do so at all until after the five minute mark, and after they themselves were getting more settled. Their success in this came largely from two particular areas—their ability to match the Bruins’ speed on the rush and keep with them, pushing them past the net before they could take the shot, as well as their poke checking when they were already set in the zone. This served them well through the aforementioned early part of the period, but continued to do so across the whole of the period, which saw them only allow six shots across 20 minutes. And while they had some help at this in the form of some extended power play time, their solid defensive work remained.

3.Lindblom again

And now we return to talking about our old pal Oskar. We did so yesterday, after his two-goal game helped to lead the team to victory, but he had another night worth talking about, even if he didn’t put up the same numbers.

At 5-on-5, he pick up another point with a secondary assist on Conner’s first goal, but continued to create chances for himself—in the first period alone he was responsible for two of the Phantoms’ five high danger chances, as he kept with his model of getting set up around the net-front to generate chances and look for rebounds.

But perhaps his best work, again, came defensively. While the Phantoms had to kill off another penalty in the second half of the game, Lindblom intercepted the cleared puck in the Bruins’ zone and took it into the corner, eating up expiring time as it took three Bruins to get the puck off of him. He came up big for them again in overtime, as the Bruins hit a shift where they were rolling and just throwing everything at the net. With the Phantoms looking a little scrambly, and Lyon having to do quite a bit of moving to keep up, it was Lindblom, not a defenseman, to dip into the crease, right into the net, to help defend. They saved what might have been a game winning goal, and helped to get the puck moving in the other direction for a push of their own.

Oskar Lindblom: back-up goalie. Kid can do it all, folks.

4.The Sanheim-Myers pair is everything

We talked a bit about these two individually after Friday’s game, but it seems worth circling back to talk about these two as a pair because, you guys, it is really working.

Stylistically, it’s a match made in heaven—they’re both mobile, very good puck movers, able to be active on the rush and help generate in this way, while also remaining steady on the defensive side (with Myers, the better of the two defensively, keeping this side anchored). We saw them thriving particularly during regulation in cutting off rushes and sealing off the crease to the Bruins, keeping them to the outside. And then, in overtime, they brought it. We don’t have time on ice available to us, but they were out the a whole lot. Gordon noted that Sanheim played 34 minutes, and one can imagine Myers wasn’t too far behind. But even facing fatigue, they were kind of running the show when they were on the ice during the extra inning—while the Phantoms struggled to get something going offensively, it was their defensemen helping to break them out of their own zone and keep them moving. Neither picked up a point, but their work to keep their team on track was solid.

And Myers talked about it after the game on Friday, how being put back together after Sanheim’s absence has been pretty much seamless, how their good chemistry helps with this and their production. It’s a good pair, one that I know I wouldn’t hate seeing down the line sometime in Philly.

5.Quick strike

We talked above about how the expectations for the game and the start to the period left us wanting a little bit more, but we didn’t have to wait too long to get it.

We saw the Phantoms doing well to generate flurries of chances in Friday’s game, but last night saw them bringing the quick strike approach to a whole other level. It started with Brennan opening up scoring for the night on a shot on a screened Binnington from just past the right faceoff circle. And then, on the very next shift, it was Lindblom finding Wilcox who was just starting the rush, who then took an initial shot which was blocked but not controlled, and Conner there to pick up the rebound. Two shifts. Two goals. And the place was rocking.

The downside is that, while this established a bit of very nice pace for them, it wasn’t one they were able to keep up with through the whole of the game. And maybe it was fatigue, maybe it was just them sitting back, but they’ve shown that their offense his high-powered, can do some damage and do it quickly, and it’s something they’ll have to get back to, in facing off against Charlotte this week.

6.Lyon time!

This likely didn’t come as much of a surprise, that Lyon got the start on the second night of the back to back after Tokarski played on Friday. But it was an important start—with a chance to advance then and there on the line, and with how the Bruins would ultimately bring their best game, Lyon had a big task ahead of him.

Hot take alert: Alex Lyon was the best Phantom last night.

Okay, maybe that’s not so much a hot take as a true statement made confidently. But it’s still right.

He didn’t face much activity in the first period—just six shots—but the real onslaught was left to come. In total, he stopped 49 of the 52 (!!!) shots he faced, and did everything he could to keep his team in it, even as they were sitting back in front of him. The three goals allowed don’t sound excellent, but two came on redirections, and the third through a mess of traffic, and it’s hard to say that the blame for those falls on Lyon. His peak, of course, was overtime, where he made a handful of huge saves to again keep his team in the fight long enough to capitalize on one of their chances. He was given the first star of the night, which is usually “yeah, yeah, whatever”, but he absolutely earned it.

7.The power play

And this is about the time in the article where we start to grumble, when we have to talk about the wheels starting to come off and the chances not taken. And at the center of this? Another lackluster power play showing.

They had their first chance on the man-advantage after the scrum that broke out at about the midpoint of the first period, and it wasn’t really much to look at, as they struggled the whole way to get much going in the way of pressure. But we refrained from getting too upset, maybe it was just an issue of personnel, what with Varone out for the game and players serving 10 minute misconducts at the time. Things were a little scrambled and they had to adjust. Maybe it would get better later.

Except it didn’t. In fact, it got worse—as later attempts saw them still struggling to get set and generate offense, chased out of the zone, and then chased so far out that they were caught in their own zone trying to fight off a shorthanded attempt. And Gordon talked about this after the game, how those could have been the chances to pad their lead and keep them out of overtime, but they just couldn’t get it done. They’re going to work on it, but they need to be better.

8.Killing penalties

On the other side of the special teams coin is the penalty kill, which had a much nicer showing than the power play. We talked about Lindblom’s particular good work on the penalty kill, but on the whole, they did well. The Bruins had three chances on the power play and came away with zero goals, as the Phantoms worked well to chip the puck out of the zone and break up their passes and disturb shooting lanes. It wasn’t the prettiest effort, as the Bruins still had their chances, but they did well enough to stop them.

But, the fact remains that they were still caught taking penalties, and especially in the later parts of the game. During the first intermission Gordon warned them to stay focused and not get into any more drama like the scrum in the first period, but they still weren’t able to button up, completely. With momentum turning in the Bruins’ favor, the Phantoms were giving them extra chances on the power play that they just didn’t need to. And in a way that all feels very familiar…

9.Watching reruns

And this brings us to our next point—the trajectory of this game felt familiar, yeah? Of sitting back, giving up chances, taking penalties and giving up more chances, and winding up chasing the game after you’ve already handed over the momentum? Regular Flyers watchers have seen it all season, but we also saw a bit of it from the Phantoms as recently as Friday.

In part, you almost understand why it happens—you take a three goal lead and think you have this thing in the bag. But you also saw how Providence was able to storm back in Game 3, and you’d think they would have learned, that the chance of this happening would be higher still, despite fatigue, with their season on the line. The Phantoms sat back and let the Bruins take them to overtime, where their unsettled look carried over from the end of regulation into the extra period. They were lucky, in a way, that Lyon was on and stopped everything was thrown at him, and that one unconventional but good shot from LaMarche turned into the game winning goal, because the Phantoms were outplayed just about the whole way. They got the win, what they needed to happen did, so you can’t be too upset about that, but this is another area they’re going to have to clean up, one that Charlotte will be sure to exploit, if given the chance. No sitting back, dudes. No way.

10. The only damn thing I know

The PPL Center is a very cool and very nice building in general, but undoubtedly its best feature is that fact that it houses a Tim Hortons. I don’t know if I’ve waxed poetic about Tim Horton’s on here, but I just need you all to know how important it is to me. Inject double-double straight into my veins. Thanks.