Thoughts About Playoffs As the Phantoms Return To The Calder Tournament
It was two towns ago and 7 rosters ago when the Phantoms last entered the Calder Cup Tournament in a quest for the AHL Championship. Indeed the Phantoms have won that cup in the past–we’ve got the banners to prove it. But for the first time as the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, “We In.”
I’ve hesitated at looking at the playoffs for some time, for fear that they would epically collapse sending us home for an eighth straight year. I haven’t even worn my playoff T-Shirts yet. Indeed, last night, as Taylor Leier tied the game in Wilkes Barre giving us for that moment the one standings point we needed to clinch a playoff birth, I thought it would be rather phantoms-like for them to give up a late goal and push this quest forward to the weekend. But thankfully, they closed the deal on the tie, then grabbed an extra point for good measure by holding the surging, full-strength, Penguins during a crazy overtime and winning in the shootout on a Corban Knight goal and three Alex Lyon stones.
With two games left–Friday at PPL Center versus the Bruins and Saturday in Binghamton–the Phantoms still need to gather a point or three to solidify home ice in the first round. I believe a win of any type on Friday will do that, but we’ll see about the tie-breaks and all that later.
The potential opponents in the first round are now Providence, Hershey, or Bridgeport depending on how things shake out. It is my understanding that we cannot face Wilkes Barre in the first round.
The opening series of the playoffs will be best-of-five with 1 and 4-seeds playing and the 2- and 3-seeds facing off. The higher seed will get the home ice advantage, and with the close proximity of the teams, likely a 2-2-1 format. Should the Phantoms hold on to the 2-seed, you might look forward to home games on Friday, April 21 and Saturday April 22–although of course nothing has been decided yet. Away games might be Tuesday/Thursday of the following week (as needed). Or, maybe Monday/Wednesday–it would depend on the host arena. And, a game-five for that series could not be hosted by the Phantoms on Saturday, April 29 because the SteelHawks have the arena that night so look for Friday 4/28 or Sunday 4/30. Should the Phantoms fall out of second, then look for week-night game(s) sometime 4/24-4/28.
Many of us who are Season Ticket Holders have already purchased playoff “strips.” The first two potential games are included in our season ticket package (note: “included” does not equal “free.” We did pay for them.) And, the $50 deposit we gave will apply towards any subsequent games which will be billed and sent on a “pay-as-you-go” basis. This is a nice way to do it, and with two games +$50 of course there’s a possibility that we still get some money back–or applied to next season–depending on how this all plays out.
Still, with many of the seats as corporate or some folks just hockey’d-out for the season, I believe there will be many seats available as long as you purchase reasonably in advance. Tickets are on sale now, and I’m sure the group sales department is hard at work trying to line up potential groups for potential games. If I’m in the Phantoms’ ticket department, I’m marketing hard to Flyers fans to try to get them up here to support the orange and white.
For those who are still interested in my playoff attendance bet with d.E.: I can’t remember what the threshold was vis-a-vis the IronPigs, but to make things fair, I stipulated that it can’t be the first two games because those tickets were included with the STH packages, and it can’t be a weekend, because the IronPigs playoffs were mid-week games. We’ll re-visit if we get that far, but it will almost certainly require that we advance to the second round or further.
Yeah, I said ‘we.’ A lot of us spend an inordinate amount of time, energy and money supporting this team–many more than me of course, and for all of us I say “we.” Considering that playoff hockey is another animal–almost another sport–that we crave and work towards–it’s all of us.
Players too, certainly. Go back and read the early season posts if you want, I’ve liked this roster right along and thought with decent health and only appropriate interference from Philadelphia, we should be able to be in the top 4 of 7 teams in our division. It’s not that much to ask, usually, but this season of course we did have a bit of a dog fight on our hands to figure out teams four and five.
By now you’ve likely heard, F Jordan Weal probably won’t be joining us for the playoffs. He was put on our roster by paper in time for playoff eligibility in March, but it appears that he didn’t get back down in time to avoid waivers. An error by the Flyers? I don’t think so. I think Jordan was playing well enough and that injuries were involved in Philly; he earned the right to stay up there for the duration and unfortunately that cost us a scoring force. It’s unfortunate, but I’m happy for Weal as he looks like he’ll be getting an NHL deal for next season.
Last night, Stolie left the game with an apparent knee injury. Of course the team had no updates for us, but you’ll see moves to assure we have backup(s) available for the playoffs, upcoming, so it should be relatively easy to figure out. Early word is that he’ll miss all of the playoffs. Yes, this is a blow to both the Phantoms and the Royals, but if we look as close as Wilkes Barre we can see that Jarry has been kept in Pittsburgh when Matt Murray was unable to go last night for the Pens. It happens. My hope is that Lyon goes on a tear (it might have started last night..) and the “Dex Show” can hold down the fort in Reading of Ouellette has to be on our bench.
Speaking of Reading
The Royals open their Kelly Cup run tonight at the Santander vs Brampton in a best-of-7. They’ll be at home again Saturday if you want to check it out. I’ll be at Reading myself this evening for the baseball home opener. On Saturday, baseball is at 2PM with hockey at 7PM if you want to come down and spend the day. (I’ll be returning to Allentown for the SteelHawks Saturday night.)
See you at the arena–playoff gear on sale now!
(I joke, but actually I do kinda need an orange hoodie so…)