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Phantoms 5, Checkers 1: What we learned from a series clinching victory

What went into a game 5 victory for Lehigh Valley.

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Strong games from Oskar Lindblom and Alex Lyon led the Lehigh Valley Phantoms to a game 5 victory to wrap up their round 2 series with the Charlotte Checkers. Here are five takeaways from last night’s big win.

1. You need to finish your chances

When the game was still close, especially in the first period, Charlotte whiffed on a lot of quality chances. Most notably a 3-on-1 odd man rush where the puck just rolled off the carrier’s stick. Just minutes later another Checker came in on Lyon with a mini breakaway and missed the puck when he went to take the shot! You can never afford to miss so badly on your best chances, but there’s even more truth to that statement in an elimination game.

The game may have ended 5-1, but in no way was the game as lopsided as it looks. The Phantoms did have the better of the chances, but the Checkers really did hurt themselves by failing to generating even a shot attempt out of a few of their odd man rushes. That may have made all the difference in the game.

The Phantoms, however, were able to convert their chances into goals. Chris Conner finished his breakaway chance with a goal, Colin McDonald turned one of his high danger shot attempts into a goal, and Tyrell Goulbourne was able to score off a rebound in the slot. Not only did they score on their quality chances, but their low danger shots as well! Both Corban Knight and Philippe Myers scored on shots from the point with little traffic in front.

It was a very opportunistic night for Lehigh Valley.

2. The heavy hitting continued

It didn’t continue as much in the third, but for the first and second periods, the physicality was noticeable. Coming into the game I wasn’t sure what to expect when it came to physical play. Both teams were coming off a brutal five overtime game just two days prior and had to still be feeling the effects. However, the game was played quite physically, with both the Phantoms and the Checkers knocking each other down all night. Mark Friedman was the target of two of the biggest hits in the game, one where he was actually hit through the boards. Well, not really through the boards. You know how in the corner of the rink there’s a door? Yeah, well, he got hit into the door and it opened. It didn’t look fun! He was fine though, no big deal.

Unsurprisingly, it was Cole Bardreau and Colin McDonald that led the way for the Phantoms in this regard, constantly getting in on the forecheck and making the defensemen pay for moving the puck. That’s actually exactly what lead to McDonald’s goal in the third period; a strong forecheck.

3. Defending the net was a priority

Something that has been happening all series long was on full display tonight. If a Checker got near Alex Lyon, they were going to be dealt with. From players like Max Lamarche and Philippe Myers knocking players over to others simply dragging them away from the crease, defending Lyon was a clear focus point of the team.

This was all for good reason, not only because it’s a team’s normal response, but because of just how incredible Lyon was. More on that in a moment. Charlotte continued to crash the net all night desperately trying to score and extend their season.

4. Alex Lyon is an absolute stud

Okay, this isn’t something we learned, rather a thought we already had that continued to get reaffirmed. He made another 27 saves last night and was forced to stop some high quality chances along the way. In four games this series Lyon made 184 save on 188 shots, a .979 save percentage.

His GSAA in this series was 11.10, a ridiculous number to put up across just four games. Of course, only calling it four games might not be all that accurate, given that he played over 326 minutes in the series, close to five and a half games.

5. Depth reigns supreme

For a team that came into the playoffs stacked with top end talent, injuries to Travis Sanheim, Samuel Morin, and AHL MVP Phil Varone were all huge losses. However, it’s games like this that can really showcase the depth on this team. The Phantoms had five different goalscorers tonight, three of which scored their first goal of the playoffs. Ten different forwards and all six defensemen were on the ice for a Phantoms goal in this game.

The “fourth” line of McDonald, Bardreau, and Krushelnyski scored in two games in a row, and Lindblom continued to rack up the points alongside his linemates Knight and Swavely. Lindblom added two more assists last night, giving him four points in five games this series, and seven points in seven playoff games overall.

Continuing to have four lines with the ability to create offense should go a long way against the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy winning Toronto Marlies.