The Lehigh Valley Phantoms clinched their first playoff berth since 2009 this week, but with two games left on the regular season calendar this weekend, there’s definitely still a lot to play for. Home ice. First round opponent. What will it be?
The Phantoms will close out their season with games Friday against Providence at home and Saturday on the road against Binghamton. Here’s what the standings look like entering the final weekend:
AHL Atlantic Division Standings
|Lehigh Valley Phantoms||2||46-23-5-0||97|
|Bridgeport Sound Tigers||2||44-26-3-1||92|
|other bad teams|
They can’t reach the Penguins, who have already clinched the top spot in the Atlantic Division. They also can’t drop below third place in the division, because they have clinched a better points percentage than the Hershey Bears, who currently sit in fourth.
But they are still playing for home ice advantage against any of three possible playoff opponents: Hershey, the Providence Bruins or the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
Tonight’s game against Providence is the most-likely of playoff previews. The Phantoms are 3-2-0-0 against the Bruins this season, but it’s been a bit of a back-and-forth. Lehigh Valley beat them 7-1 on December 17, for example ... and then Providence returned the favor with a 9-1 win on January 21. The last meeting between the two teams came on March 5 when the B’s won 7-3.
Needless to say, this would be a drag out fight should these teams meet in the playoffs. Any series in these Atlantic Division playoffs will be, however.
The Phantoms went 7-4-1 in 12 games against the Hershey Bears, and that’s probably the most advantageous matchup for the team if we are basing it off of the regular season results. Against Bridgeport, Lehigh Valley went 3-4-0-0 on the season.
It’s important to note that in the case of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Providence and Hershey, all three teams could be depleted by their NHL clubs, which are still in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Bridgeport is the only other potential Atlantic Division opponent with reinforcements from the NHL giving them a boost — in their specific case, Josh Ho-Sang and a few others from the Islanders are in the mix for their playoff run, should the Sound Tigers clinch a spot this weekend.
The Phantoms just need a regulation win tonight or tomorrow to clinch home ice, and then we’ll see what happens from there. The playoffs will likely start either Wednesday or Friday.