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Phantoms 2, Checkers 1: We’re all actually dead right now

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Some observations for your morning...

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Oh my god. Did anyone else stay up for that game? If you didn’t I wouldn’t blame you. It was so. long. Like actually the longest in AHL history. Five overtimes. (And they won it, too!) I think in lieu of actual observations, we should use this time to draft notes of awe and appreciation to the Phantoms for actually surviving that game. Like, physically surviving, not keeling over right before our very eyes. I’ll let you guys take that over in the comments section.

I however, did not draft such notes, and instead went with my usual ten observations. That’s what I have for you on this fine morning. Cool.

1.Jumping early

We keep hearing, through the course of this series, that Charlotte is the highest scoring team in the AHL, how dangerous they can be offensively, if given enough space to work with. We saw it in Game 2, where they took an early lead and ran with it. What did we learn, there? The Phantoms can’t really afford to come out flat and give up an early lead. It’s going to hurt them if they do. So they didn’t.

The Phantoms didn’t quite establish full dominance through the first period, but they came out with some jump—a feat in and of itself on the back end of a back to back—and got right to work in setting up in the offensive zone and generating some chances for themselves. When they notched their first goal (more on that later!) we weren’t surprised—the Phantoms came out with intensity and were ready to work, and they were rewarded for it.

2.Phil Myers is Doing Things

This has been the story of his playoffs, it seems like, right? “With [insert defenseman’s name here] injured, Myers really has the chance to take a step up and make some noise for himself. With Travis Sanheim out, it was figured his ice time would increase already, and with Morin leaving the game early with what looked to be a knee injury, Myers had another chance to step up even further. Let’s talk about it.

The good: he was good at what we’ve more or less come to expect from him—dipping low in the zone to contribute offensively and also being active on the rush. Through the first few and last few minutes of the game he was very active in these areas, just all over the place trying to make something happen. He didn’t get anything, but he was right there.

The less good: he took two penalties and, as such, gave a dangerous Checkers power play two chances. They didn’t score on either of them. But still yikes.

The excusable: the first penalty was a slash taken while he tried to defend a would-be breakaway. Did he absolutely need to take that penalty? Maybe not. But he prevented a shot on that rush, so maybe we forgive it? Maybe. Sure.

3.Lyon time continues

We shouldn’t be too surprised by this, that, after a huge performance in Game 3 on Tuesday, that Alex Lyon should get the start again for Game 4. He came up huge in his first showing and did well to repeat that performance last night.

Over the course of the evening, Lyon stopped 94 of the 95 shots he faced. And while these numbers are good (they are very good, in fact!), what’s even more important is what they mean. We’ll talk more about this later, but through the middle of the game, the Phantoms hit these stretches where they were hemmed into their own zone and just could not seem to control the puck or break up the Checkers’ pressure, and it was all Lyon the whole time, standing his head and doing everything he could to keep his team in the game.

And this was really the story of overtime, too. All of the overtimes. Lyon kept them in it through four (4) sessions, and then some. The Checkers were really firing on all cylinders in overtime, but Lyon made every save he was tasked with, and in many cases did it with style. He bought them the time to get the game winner for themselves, just like in that Game 4 overtime against Providence. Alex, thank you.

And Ron, I hope you were watching.

4.Danick Martel, hello

We said more on the first goal later, and guess what, it’s later! That first goal came from Martel, and it was pretty nice. Let’s have a look.

We’ve been talking about his series as a whole, and how he’s been all over the place for much of it, and last night wasn’t much different. He closed out the night with six shots (tied for the team lead) and was doing the usual thing of skating circles around just about everybody.

But beyond the flash of picking up the team’s only regulation goal, Martel was also a force in all of the overtime. Our broadcaster kept talking about how many chances Max Lamarche was getting (which was still a lot for him!) but Martel remained one of the more noticeable Phantoms on the ice during bonus hockey. Despite the fact that they had played for approximately seventy years, he still had the legs go and was positively skating around Checkers. He took a huge open ice hit (he’s okay, don’t worry) as they tried to slow him down. He didn’t close out any of those overtime chances, but he was really right on the doorstep a handful of times.

5.Time to talk about the power play

You had to know this was coming, right? We literally cannot help but talk about special teams. The power play hasn’t been great so far this series, so we should take a moment to check in with them. It’s not great news. It’s not horrible news, but it’s not excellent, either.

The Phantoms only had one chance on the man-advantage during regulation, and it was something of a lackluster attempt. The bad news is that it saw the Phantoms spend two stretches in their own zone, trying to fend of shorthanded attempts. The good news is that it also saw two individual scoring chances for Oskar Lindblom that just missed. And then it was over.

Overtime saw two more chances, the first which was a whole lot of nothing, and the second which saw more pressure but no conversion. And maybe that part you get—it’s triple overtime by then and it’s hard to get the same quality of chances that you do when you haven’t been playing for more than 100 minutes. We want to see more—we’ll need to, down this stretch—but we understand the late-game struggles, too.

6.Misha Vorobyev is also Doing Things

We had some flashy performances last night, friends, but I want to take a moment to acknowledge one that was quietly very solid.

Should we be surprised by this, coming from Vorobyev? This is kind of his thing. He’s not a super flashy player, but he’s producing and he’s doing so consistently. Since his return for the start of the series, we’ve been praising his play on the penalty kill, and again this was an area where he came up big again. With the Phantoms holding onto the tie game and the Checkers on the power play again, it was Vorobyev running around half of the penalty kill virtually all on his own, getting after the puck while still blocking potential shooting lanes, and eventually getting to the puck to get the clear. And they dodged another bullet.

But at 5-on-5, his work remained solid—we talked about how Martel was zipping around and generating chances a few points back, and who was setting up these chances? That’s right, his center Vorobyev. It’s all coming together here, folks. It’s all connected.

7.Ebb and flow (putting it gently)

We talked a few points ago about the Phantoms’ strong start, and how important that was, to come out swinging and just attack. How they were rewarded for that. But, unfortunately, they just couldn’t keep that up.

After scoring the goal late in the first period, we really saw the Phantoms sitting back and coasting. They hit that “protect and prevent” mode, letting the Checkers get to work and just hoping they could make the block or save. We made it through more than ten minutes of the second period with only one Phantoms shot, and only hit five across the whole of the period. As such, the game tying goal wasn’t much of a surprise—with so much time spent in their own zone, you could see some kind of conversion coming. It was a shot from a tough angle, and would have been a difficult save to make for Lyon. He kept them in it through the onslaught, and we’re not mad at him for giving that one up. This isn’t a new pattern—we saw them doing this same sort of sitting back as recently as *counting fingers* Tuesday. They keep managing to come away with a win in spite of it, but they absolutely cannot expect this to be a sustainable model.

8.Opportunism

If you’re looking for one particular sequence that pretty well summed up the Phantoms’ evening and play, it would be this: late in the second period, still tied at one, the Phantoms had a chance at a four on two, which looked very promising and very exciting, but then they couldn’t even get a shot off. Too many passes. Nothing else happened. I’ll let you sit with that for a moment.

So the Phantoms were very well outchanced last night (to the tune of 53 shots to 95 for the Checkers), but the Phantoms still did have their chances to work with, and a number of high quality chances, at that. We saw them positioned point-blank and either it was a big save or a shot that sailed wide or straight into a pad, and each time, they just couldn’t seem to capitalize when it mattered. Are we a little bitter about this? That they couldn’t close this out in regulation and kept us watching until well after midnight? I mean, yeah, a little but. But it’s a larger issue, still, and in tight games such as these, the Phantoms are going to need to find a way to close on these chances, going forward.

9.Loose ends: overtime edition

We’ve had so much overtime, fam. Like, so much. Nearly 87 minutes of it. I am so tired. But we’ve got a lot to talk about and not a lot of time. Let’s go to the quick hits.

First, we talked way back at the start of this article about Myers’ offensive contributions specifically, and we got some more of that in overtime, but more than anything, we saw his defensive side really shining.

I also don’t know how he’s still alive. We don’t have time on ice, but he was out there a lot. And I mean a lot. So we’ll also extend a nod to Myers for his endurance. Well done, buddy.

Second, the stretch of run and gun during the last five minutes of the second overtime was at once very fun and also astounding. They were moving back and forth with speed! It was a lot of pressure happening quickly! How can you all even stand after playing nearly 100 minutes of hockey. Oh my.

Third, when we hit our fifth overtime (RIP), there was a pretty palpable feeling that whoever scored the game winner, that it would be some kind of ugly, garbage time goal because everyone was just so dead tired. But it wasn’t. We actually got a nice little play. Thanks, guys.

Finally, I don’t think I realized how shell shocked I was about injuries to key pieces until we had a false alarm on an injury to Lindblom—he blocked a shot with his foot and hopped off the ice, looking like he might be hurt, but he’d actually just lost his skate blade—and I almost yelled in my living room. No one else is allowed to get hurt. The Flyers will have no prospects left. I can’t handle any more.

10.The only damn thing I know

I know sometimes these sections are very long and drawn out jokes, but I will be brief today. The Checkers have a player whose last name is Wallmark, and every time the Phantoms’ broadcaster says his name I think he’s saying “Wal Mart” and this has somehow been very distressing for me. Someone. Please stop the madness.