“I don’t expect a run and gun type of games. I think coaches at this point anticipate more 2-1, 2-2, those type of games.”
-Colin McDonald, as told to Stephen Gross/mcall.com prior to yesterday’s game
The Captain called it. But he didn’t explain the anger, sadness, joy, and relief that we’d feel along the way. There’s really nothing like playoff hockey, right? The Phantoms notch the 2-1 win in the series opener, on home ice, defeating both the Charlotte Checkers and fellas in stripes. It was a huge, huge win–but that doesn’t tell the whole story.
Random Thoughts From Last Night
- Some of the strategy mentioned prior to last night’s game did come to fruition: The Phantoms mostly tried to move the puck up the boards rather than fooling around in the center of the ice. However, as the game went along, Charlotte began to adapt and there were some openings in the middle. It will be interesting to see how that plays out tonight.
- Word after the game was that the ice was pretty bad. The recent warm weather coupled with the visit from Bon Jovi Wednesday night took its toll. We have a great ice crew and a great facility, though, so I expect that won’t be an issue tonight.
- The big worry–the sadness and concern–is for NHL defenseman Travis Sanheim. He went down late on what looked to me like a “leg whip” knee/knee hit from the Checkers Valentin Zykov. I haven’t seen the replay, but watching it live it looked like a horrible, dirty play to me. Add in the fact that that cat had 75% of all penalties by the Checkers last night and I’m going to proceed with “dirty.” I certainly don’t expect Sanheim back tonight. Hopefully we’ll hear something favorable–usually these words come through Philadelphia–and he’ll only be out a couple games. The worst? I don’t even want to think about it–mostly for Travis’ sake.
- Morin took warm-ups last night. Based on previous information and given that we’re probably short a blue-liner at this point, I’d assume we see him tonight. The defense really did a good job keeping quality chances away from Alex Lyon. However the pairs shake out, I hope they can repeat the performance–I’m sure they know what they’re in for after yesterday. Will O’Neill has been a healthy scratch lately, too.
- Alex Lyon. What else can you say, but “Holy #%&@” 😉
- Big props to the game-ops folks again. I had suggested they start the “re-join” a little sooner to get everyone back to their seats and appropriately hyped following the intermissions. It felt like they did that. I was thinking about the “kid stuff” during the breaks–you know, the “emoji cam” and “funny face” and that kind of nonsense–it occurred to me that those things have sponsors, and you can’t just skip them. They do take the energy out of a crowd, though, in a playoff game. I know folks like to be on the big screen, but like many, I’d prefer it be about hockey at this juncture.
- Big props to the sales staff and the fans, too. I know 5,549 feels low, but really, that’s pretty impressive (a) on short notice and (b) with minimal groups and (c) with minimal corporate. And everyone was there for the hockey. Once again a great atmosphere.
Referee Pierre Lambert (#47)
Referee Brandon Schrader (#24)
Linesman Bevan Mills (#53)
Linesman J.P. Waleski (#14)
Seven Things To Watch
- Alex Lyon. I go back to Lyon. As I wrote yesterday, I have full confidence in Tokarski–especially in the playoffs. However, I think there’s something to seeing the same team a second night in a row, knowing how they attack and where the pucks are coming from, and coordinating with the defense, which will already be changing due to the Sanheim injury.
- Watch to see who subs in for Sanheim. Obviously, I’m making the assumption that he won’t play, but I don’t know for 100% sure. Will it be Morin? If so, how will he look? Rusty? Slow? –I hope not. He said in an article I read that it will take him a couple games to get back in the flow. Well, we don’t have a couple games. We have tonight. If you’re ready Sammy, bring it.
- Watch Misha Vorobyev. He came back last night and got high marks for energy and defense. He can set guys up, too. Look for him to be even better tonight, assuming he’s good to go for two nights in a row.
- Watch to see if any of the injured forwards make it back. Reading the tea leaves, I think Varone is probably still a game or two away. I haven’t heard anything about Goulbourne.
- Watch to see how this different group of officials impacts the game, and the game flow. How tightly will they call it? Will it take them six tries to get the puck down on the face-off? If so, how does that break in game flow impact how the game is played tonight versus last night? Who will benefit from that?
- Watch to see if anyone takes a poke at Zykov. He scored their goal last night, too, as well as all the penalties and the Sanheim shot. He needs to know he’s in our house. #25.
- How’s the crowd? Size and intensity versus last night? We’re still kind of new at this “second round” stuff. Can we bring it every night?
I highlighted yesterday, reasons why last nights game was of utmost importance. Now, the tone has been set for the series. How will we respond? We also talked about home-ice and the pressure to sweep the first two games. That comes into play tonight. We certainly don’t want to send them back to Charlotte with the possibility to close things out with a sweep.
Road games will be Tuesday and Wednesday in Charlotte. Safe travels to those who are going. The third game down there will be next Saturday–a week from tonight. There will be “watch parties” at Chickies on Tuesday and Wednesday.
If it goes six, we’ll be back at the PPL Center on Monday 5/14 and Tuesday 5/15 if needed.
See you at the arena,
PS: Thanks to photographer Jack Mitroka for shots of last nights game. A couple more follow here. Also, thanks the Phantoms Media Services for getting access for the Horn and Bell Blog.