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Phantoms 5, Checkers 1: Conference Finals, baby!

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There are more playoffs to be had, everybody!

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

You guys! The Phantoms did a good thing tonight! After the longest five games maybe in the history of ever (or at least it felt like it), the Phantoms closed out their series against the Checkers and advanced to the Eastern Conference final. This is exciting stuff! Let’s take a look at how we got here.

The Phantoms kicked things off with a bit of speed and, well, not a lot of consequence. Somehow, after playing just about 147 minutes of hockey on Wednesday, they still had their legs going, which feels like a huge feat in and of itself. I know this is a story that we’ve had beaten into us by now, and would continue to, listening to the broadcast, so we’ll leave it there. They played a Long Game. Somehow they are still alive after it. And they are playing another game. Now let’s move on.

It took until about seven minutes into the period that the Phantoms were able to actually get a very good look, after all of that back and forth. This one came from Cole Bardreau in front, but he just couldn’t close on it. But they were setting a tone, as they hit the middle of the period—it was all about doing work down low and trying to generate chances in front.

And, oh, would you look at that! The results from that work weren’t too far away! They would come in the form of a bit of traffic in front creating some confusion, leaving room for Corban Knight’s shot from the outside. It was, to be fair, a bit of a soft goal for Alex Nedeljkovic, but we’ll still take it.

And then we had more good things! On the shift after Knight’s goal, the Phantoms were able to draw a slashing penalty, and bought themselves their first chance on the power play of the evening. A bit of initial pressure showed some promise, but quickly turned not so great—with the Phantoms giving up two shorthanded chances and failing to get much more going in the way of tremendous pressure. And they went back to even strength with little to show for their efforts.

Inside the last five minutes of the period, the Checkers were finally able to sustain a bit of offense, and it looked ugly for a minute there, folks. The Phantoms couldn’t seem to hold onto the puck long enough to get a clear, and gave up a point blank chance for Valentin Zykov, but Alex Lyon was able to stop it and help them maintain the lead (thanks, pal).

We closed out the period with a gathering in the corner, after Lyon took a bit of a nudge, you know how it goes. No penalties were handed out, but the tone was starting to be set—it wasn’t going to be a hugely physical game, but we could expect a bit of chipiness.

AFTER ONE: Phantoms 1, Checkers 0

The Phantoms took momentum back at the start of the second, getting set up in the offensive zone and starting out their cycle game. They kept up the energy and had the Checkers chasing, firing from the get go and leaving them to try to find a way to react. They were right on the doorstep, but couldn’t get anything to go, not right away, at least.

But the Phantoms’ possession was broken, and they gave up a breakaway chance for Warren Foegele, but they were able to negate the danger just in time. Still no goals for Charlotte. Okay. Cool.

And now it’s back and forth and I wish I could update you on a Big Thing but it just hasn’t really happened. Both sides are still moving with speed but struggling to generate any very high danger chances.

But maybe we spoke too soon! The Phantoms had their next best chance on a breakaway for Tyrell Goulbourne, but shot it straight into Nedeljkovic. Sigh.

And because the universe loves equalizing playoff hockey (or something like that, I guess), we had to have a breakaway go the other way. It was still no goal for the Checkers, in part because of a nice save by Lyon, and in part due to a slash by TJ Brennan taking away some of the danger on the shot. And then it was a power play for Charlotte because of that second part.

It was a very effective penalty kill for the Phantoms, punctuated by a very nice defensive play by Vorobyev to eat up time and keep the puck away from the Checkers. How nice was it? Have a look for yourself.

The back half of the penalty kill didn’t bring nearly as much flash, but it saw them get the job done. They broke up the Checkers’ pressure and prevented a goal. And back to fives we went.

And we are still talking breakaways, folks! Just after the penalty expired, it was Chris Conner to collect the puck and zip into the zone all alone, finally one to break the scoreless on breakaways streak, and propel the Phantoms into the two-goal lead.

And it continued to be all Phantoms from there. Smelling blood in the water, they set up in the offensive zone and got to work again. It was a bit of cycling, and then a feed by Oskar Lindblom, and it was Goulbourne in the crease to knock it home. That’s a three goal lead, folks. Things are going well, I don’t know what’s happening.

With another altercation towards the end of the period which sent Reece Wilcox and Greg McKegg off, we had about a minute of 4-on-4 to close things out for the second. It went just about as well as we could have expected from this team—giving up a couple of chances but having each of them stopped by Lyon.

AFTER TWO: Phantoms 3, Checkers 0

We’re back for the third and things are happening! Killing off the 4-on-4, the Phantoms kept up the jump they held at the end of the second period. After having the assist on Goulbourne’s goal taken away (booooo), Lindblom got one back, this time collecting the puck in the offensive zone and connecting with Phil Myers on the right point, who lazered it in.

And then it was more activity, but of the less ideal variety. The Checkers got set up in the zone and it was Roland McKeown to zip it in on an at least sort of screened Lyon, who would not be getting his first shutout of the season, despite how much the broadcaster talked about it. (Is that a jinx? Should we be mad about it?). And the Checkers got one back.

But not to worry, everybody! The Phantoms weren’t without the four goal lead for long. Getting the puck back in the offensive zone, it was Colin McDonald looping around the net and shooting it from the angle. He had nothing but open net to work with, and it was a Good Hockey Goal.

And a bit of weirdness! The Phantoms are in Charlotte’s zone and moving the puck around, trying to make something happen. Mark Friedman is being checked into the boards. He’s being checked through the boards. The door’s come open and he’s half off the ice. He’s okay, but what even? Sure.

It was a slow fizzle out from here. We hit a bit more back and forth with not a whole lot of legitimate pressure. And then it was the last minute of play, and the Phantoms just kind of held onto the puck and circled around. Time ticked down.

And that’s all she wrote! A clean win in regulation! I did not have to call the police because of overtime happening! And the Phantoms are off to the conference final! Woo!

FINAL: Phantoms 5, Checkers 1