1. ROUND 2After qualifying for the Calder Cup Playoffs for the fourth time in franchise history, the Checkers are now on to the second round for just the second time ever. Prior to this current run, the team had not won a playoff series since advancing to the third round during their inaugural 2010-11 campaign.
Atlantic Division Finals
May 4at Lehigh Valley
May 5at Lehigh Valley
May 8at Charlotte
May 9at Charlotte
May 12*at Charlotte
May 14*at Lehigh Valley
May 15*at Lehigh Valley
2. WINNING WAYSIncluding their first-round sweep of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton – the first sweep in franchise history – the Checkers have won 10 consecutive games. Charlotte, which ended the regular season on a 10-game point streak, has not lost a regulation game since March 18.
3. OFFENSIVE FIREWORKSThis series showcases the top two offenses in the AHL. The Checkers finished the 76-game regular season with 262 total goals, averaging a staggering 3.45 per contest. The Phantoms fell just short of Charlotte’s mark, totaling 260 goals for a 3.42 average.
“Lehigh has a lot of high-end skill,” said Roland McKeown. “They’re an offensive threat. We led the league in goals but they’re right up there with us so it’s going to be a fun series.”
“Playing with the puck and having a good forecheck,” said Andrew Miller of the keys to slowing down the Phantoms. “The more we have the puck the better. They’re definitely great players and it’s hard to slow them down but if we play hard and make sure we’re finishing our checks it’s always helpful.”
4. TOP-TIER TALENTThe Phantoms’ high-powered attack has been largely propelled by the strong play of their high-end talent. Most notably is league MVP Phil Varone, who finished second in the AHL with 70 points this season, while Greg Carey amassed 31 goals and second-year forward Nicolas Aube-Kubel tallied 46 points to round out Lehigh Valley’s top three scorers.
That trio of talent will be tasked with going toe-to-toe with Charlotte’s top unit of Valentin Zykov, Andrew Miller and Lucas Wallmark, one of the league’s most prolific groups.
“As defensemen we have to make sure that we’re shutting their top lines down and that’s what this series will come down to,” said McKeown. “The top lines are going to be huge in this series. I’m confident in ours and it’s our defensemen’s job to shut theirs down.”
5. MCKEGG PARTYOne of the most productive Checkers since joining the team at the NHL trade deadline, Greg McKegg has kept his roll going in the playoffs. The veteran forward leads the team with five points through three playoff games thus far, bringing his total to 28 points in 22 games while in a Charlotte sweater.
McKegg, who helped lead the Toronto Marlies to the Western Conference Finals in 2014, has 34 Calder cup playoff games under his belt, the third-highest total by any player on the Checkers’ current roster.
6. STINGY DEFENSEWhile their offense has garnered much of the spotlight, the Checkers have played some lockdown defense during these playoffs. They surrendered just six goals over their first-round series with the Penguins, the lowest single-series total in franchise history, while their 2.00 goals-against per game average was tied for the lowest in the AHL through the first round of games.
Alex Nedeljkovic has played a big part of that success. The netminder is a perfect 3-0 between the pipes this postseason and was one of just six goalies to finish the first round with a goals-against average below two.
The defensive crew in front of him has helped the cause as well, allowing an average of 28 shots per game through the first round, tied for the fourth-best mark in the AHL through round one.
7. FLEURY FILLS IT UPAfter spending the entirety of his second pro season in the NHL with the Hurricanes, Haydn Fleury has provided a strong boost for the Checkers thus far during the postseason. Fleury’s four points not only rank second on the Checkers, they tied him for second among all blue liners through the first round, while his two goals tie him for the league defensemen lead.
The 21-year-old has already matched the franchise record for points in a single postseason by a blue liner, tying Bobby Raymond’s five-game total from 2013 and Bryan Rodney’s 16-game total from 2011.
8. WATCH PARTYThe Burger Company, located at 1500 W. Morehead Street, will be hosting the official watch party for tonight’s Game 1 and tomorrow's Game 2. Fans attending will be able to take advantage of specials including $2 domestic beer bottles and 25 percent off appetizers.
7. GET THE APPIf you’re not able to make it to the watch party, you can purchase the game on AHL Live.
You will also be able to listen to the radio broadcast via the Checkers app or this link. Jason Shaya’s pregame show starts 15 minutes prior to puck drop, tune in and tweet Jason to let him know you’re listening.