Now that everyone has settled down after the Flyers ended 10-game losing streak, and enjoyed moderate success thereafter, it’s time to talk about a “what if?” What if the Flyers don’t make the playoffs? Don’t get me wrong, I believe the team will squeak into the playoffs, but there’s always the chance that it doesn’t happen. In this unfortunate case scenario, one can look to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, the AHL affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Phantoms made the playoffs last season, finishing 2nd in the Atlantic Division, but were eliminated in the first round by the Hershey Bears. Last season’s team was very good, as is this season’s team. They have some great prospects like Samuel Morin, Danick Martel, and Philippe Myers, just to name a few. With the players already on this team, and future Phantoms that currently play in their respective junior leagues, the Flyers’ farm system is currently one of the best in the league.
Everyone in the Phantoms locker room knows that this is a playoff caliber team that can contend for a Calder Cup. With almost every player having some playoff experience last season, they know what to expect and how to adjust their play to fit both the stress and the opposition’s increased skill level in the playoffs. Head Coach Scott Gordon has plenty of AHL playoff experience, as he led the Providence Bruins to six playoff appearances in the mid-2000’s.
I expect Danick Martel to be a major scoring threat, maintaining his goal-scoring in the playoffs, and improving from his one goal last playoff season. T.J. Brennan already excels in the AHL as it is, as he led the team in playoff points last season. I expect him to be an offensive defenseman in the playoffs. Rookie Oskar Lindblom is adjusting well to North American ice and is as much of a scorer as he is a playmaker. If this persists, he may have an above-average run in the playoffs.
Goaltending in the playoffs last season struggled a bit with an injury to Anthony Stolarz before the postseason began. That left rookie Alex Lyon and ECHL-regular Martin Ouellette to backstop the Phantoms. Lyon eventually got injured, leaving Ouellette to play the remaining three games. With a tandem this season of Alex Lyon and NHL-experienced Dustin Tokarski, barring injuries suffered by either of them, the Phantoms goaltending will surely be the key to advancing to the following rounds, and may even be able to carry the team to some postseason victories.
So, even if the Flyers flounder and fail to make the playoffs, there’s no reason to give up on hockey until the fall. There’s no need to fear – the Phantoms are here!