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Playoff berth still special for Phantoms

By Stephen Gross| AHL On The Beat

After one of many instances Peter Laviolette led the Flyers into the NHL playoffs as their coach, he was requested what it meant to make the playoffs.

His reply was quick and easy. It simply meant they made the playoffs.

With the Lehigh Valley Phantoms — a crew that was anticipated to be enjoying within the postseason from the start of this season — clinching a playoff berth for the second straight 12 months final weekend, do they really feel the identical?

“I do think it’s a little bit more than that,” Phantoms captain Colin McDonald mentioned.

Even although the Phantoms aren’t ending a seven-season postseason dry spell, it’s still a bit special.

“It’s different than some other teams; some teams find a way to get in every year,” McDonald mentioned. “So it goes back to trying to create that winning culture.”

McDonald usually refers to constructing a profitable tradition in his interviews, and that’s precisely why he and quite a few different veterans have been dropped at the Phantoms by Flyers basic supervisor Ron Hextall. One 12 months doesn’t create a profitable tradition, which makes this season and the subsequent few that observe it essential.

An earlier-than-expected playoff exit final season — a first-round loss to the Hershey Bears — additionally has the numerous gamers coming back from that crew hungry to get again within the postseason. It’s why there’s pleasure, however not almost as a lot as final 12 months.

“It’s just the first step,” McDonald mentioned. “We’re too good in here to not make a long run. Of course we’re happy that we’re able to get in, the next goal now is try to remain in first place and gain home ice.”

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Another issue that helped improve the strain final season is absent this time round. Last 12 months’s berth was sealed with simply two video games left on their schedule. Despite piling up 101 standings factors, Lehigh Valley needed to wait till almost the tip of the 2016-17 season to know for positive that they’d make the postseason.

This 12 months, the Phantoms have the luxurious of enjoying three extra weeks of the common season earlier than their first Calder Cup playoff collection. Time will inform whether or not that seems to be an excellent thing- one night time after locking up a playoff spot, the crew performed certainly one of its worst video games of the season on March 24, dropping to the Providence Bruins 6-1.

McDonald mentioned clinching the spot was not mentioned nevertheless it’s doable that they took the night time off, figuring out at the back of their minds a playoff spot was secured.

“They reminded us quickly that we have to show up every night,” McDonald mentioned. “It cost us.”

That  was the center contest of three straight video games in opposition to the Bruins for the Phantoms. It had virtually a playoff collection really feel, particularly as a result of the Bruins are a possible first- or second-round matchup the best way issues presently stand within the Atlantic Division.

This previous week at apply, the crew centered on the way it wanted to play going ahead. They responded Friday night time by shutting out the Bruins 2-Zero after which topping Belleville Saturday Four-2.

The Phantoms will proceed to be examined the remainder of the best way; 4 of their last six video games come in opposition to groups presently able to seize one of many Atlantic Division berths.

But much more than the place they end within the standings, Phantoms coach Scott Gordon would really like his crew to be enjoying nicely as they end the season.

“Would I love for our team to be in first place in our division?” Gordon requested. “Would I love for our team to be first in the conference? Would I love for our team to be first in the league? Yeah. But really, it’s what you do down the stretch and hopefully it carries through in the playoffs that’s important.”

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