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AHL series preview: Lehigh Valley Phantoms vs. Toronto Marlies

It’ll be a battle between the top two teams during the regular season.

Solving Marlies goalie Garret Sparks will be one of the Phantoms’ biggest challenges in this upcoming series.
Gregory Vasil/Getty Images

Following an incredibly exciting round 2 series versus the Charlotte Checkers, up next for Lehigh Valley will be the Toronto Marlies. The Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy-winning Marlies were the only team to finish the regular season with a higher points percentage than the Phantoms.

Team Statistics

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%
TOR 54 18 4 3.34 2.24 84 17.97% 88.92%

Phantoms vs. Marlies Head-to-Head Series

Venue Result GF GA 5v5 CF 5v5 CA 5v5 CF%
Venue Result GF GA 5v5 CF 5v5 CA 5v5 CF%
Home L 1 5 44 66 40.00%
Away SOL 2 3 34 56 37.78%
All 0-1-1 3 8 78 122 39.00%

With only two games played between these teams, the last coming over four months ago, there really isn’t much to say about their head-to-head results. The Marlies were far and away the better team in both match-ups, but neither of these teams are the same as they were back on January 5th. Back then the Phantoms’ top defenseman was Mark Alt, now a member of the Colorado Avalanche.

Where Toronto does have a noticeably large advantage is special teams. Their 88.92% success rate on the penalty kill during the regular season was the best by far, a whopping 3.4% better than the second place Utica Comets. To put that into perspective, if the Phantoms 13th ranked penalty kill’s success rate had dropped 3.4%, they would have finished 25th in the league. While their penalty kill hasn’t been as good in the post season, it’s still above 84% and ahead of the Phantoms’.

Leading Scorers: Playoffs

Player Games Played Goals Assists Points Points Per Game
Player Games Played Goals Assists Points Points Per Game
Trevor Moore - TOR 9 3 6 9 1.00
Andreas Johnsson - TOR 5 3 5 8 1.60
Chris Conner - LV 9 4 4 8 0.89
Oskar Lindblom - LV 7 4 3 7 1.00
Dmytro Timashov - TOR 9 5 2 7 0.78
Danick Martel - LV 9 4 3 7 0.78

Both the Phantoms and the Marlies have enjoyed the benefit of having NHL talent on their roster. Since re-joining the Marlies following the Maple Leafs’ exit from the playoffs Andreas Johnsson has been nothing less than incredible. Averaging an assist per game and scoring three goals himself through five games is no fluke, as in the regular season he put up 54 points in 54 games. His on-ice shot metrics in his short stint in the NHL were quite impressive, posting a +5.98% CF rel and +7.46% xGF rel in nine regular season games.

Following a 27-game stay in Philadelphia, Oskar Lindblom returned to Lehigh Valley where his impact was immediately felt. He scored twice in his return and went on to put up seven points in his first seven AHL playoff games. Like Johnsson, his underlying numbers were fantastic during his time in the NHL. He had a team-best +10.89% xGF rel, three percent higher than second-place Claude Giroux.

These two players are all but guaranteed to be full time NHLers next season and their production so far in the playoffs has been just what their teams’ have needed out of them.

NHL data from Corsica.hockey and adjusted.

Goaltenders: Playoffs

Player Games Played Wins Losses SV% GAA GSAA
Player Games Played Wins Losses SV% GAA GSAA
Alex Lyon 7 6 1 0.959 1.49 12.94
Garret Sparks 8 6 2 0.920 2.22 0.38

The average save percentage in the post-season thus far is 0.918, which is why Garrett Sparks’ goals saved above average is just a mere 0.38. During the regular season Sparks led all AHL goaltenders with a GSAA of 38.48 and he also won the Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award for being the league’s top goaltender during the regular season. It really wasn’t a tough choice to make, either — nobody that had a big enough sample size compared to his came even close to matching his .936 save percentage and 1.81 goals against average.

For the Phantoms it’s really been the Alex Lyon show. He’s far and away been the best goaltender through the first two rounds of the playoffs and his numbers since returning from the Flyers have been close to unbelievable. Helped along by a 94-save performance in game 4, Lyon has allowed just 13 goals on 316 shots. Of course, the fear here is that stopping close to 96% of the shots you face just isn’t sustainable for any goaltender and any regression against a powerhouse like Toronto won’t end well. We’ll just have to hope that he can find a way to keep that level of play going for two more rounds.

This should be a battle of elite goaltending, but you never know what will happen in a seven-game series.

Injury updates

Travis Sanheim is back! He was on the receiving end of a knee-on-knee during game 1 of the second round series against the Charlotte Checkers and missed the finals four games of the series. However, he seems to be ready to make a return.

AHL regular-season MVP Phil Varone may also be ready to make a return to the lineup, as he was practicing with the top power play unit. He was in a non-contact jersey, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

Finally, the one piece of bad injury news revolves around Samuel Morin. Morin will be having knee surgery and is done for the rest of the season. You can read more details about his injury here.

Players to watch

Lehigh Valley: Philippe Myers

The Phantoms’ top defenseman was a monster is round 2, especially in the Phantoms quintuple overtime victory. In that game he played 66 minutes and had a +15.88% CF relative to his team and was carrying the puck up the ice all game, even after going though four whole overtime periods. Myers leads all Phantoms defensemen in goals and points during the playoffs.

Toronto: Travis Dermott

After selecting a defenseman from the Phantoms to watch, how could I not choose Travis Dermott here? In 37 regular season games in the NHL with the Maple Leafs, Dermott’s Corsi and Expected Goals relative to his team were both above +7% at 5-on-5, as he won the hearts of Leafs fans all over. In the AHL he put up 18 points in 28 game during the regular season and has a goal and an assist in five playoff games. He is one of the multiple players in this series that is NHL-ready.

Phantoms vs. Marlies Series Schedule

Game # Date Time Home Team Away Team
Game # Date Time Home Team Away Team
1 May 19 4:00 p.m. Toronto Lehigh Valley
2 May 20 4:00 p.m. Toronto Lehigh Valley
3 May 23 7:05 p.m. Lehigh Valley Toronto
4 May 25 7:05 p.m. Lehigh Valley Toronto
5* May 26 7:05 p.m. Lehigh Valley Toronto
6* May 28 7:00 p.m. Toronto Lehigh Valley
7* May 30 7:00 p.m. Toronto Lehigh Valley

* if necessary