After 48 games of their inaugural season in Glens Falls, the Adirondack Phantoms are 22-22-2-2 for 48 points. Those 48 points are good for a tie for fourth in the East Division of the Eastern Conference.
As of today the Phantoms sit only two points out of the final guaranteed playoff spot. To offset unbalanced divisions the AHL will allow the 5th place team in the Atlantic Division to replace the 4th place team in East Division if they have more points at the end of the regular season.
It has been a strange season to date. The Phantoms have not had a winning streak of more than three games. On the other hand they also have not had a losing streak of more than three games. Twenty-five of their games have been decided by one goal, with sixteen of those being victories. The team still ranks last in the 29 team AHL in most offensive categories. The team has managed only 113 goals, has the 29th ranked power play, converting 11% of the time. To make matters even worse the Phantoms have given up nine short handed goals, three in their last three games. On a positive the penalty kill is ranked 10th, killing the penalty 84% of the time.
A lot has changed in Glens Falls since I last checked in. I know it has been a while, so here are some of highlights and updates: (I will do this more often)
Jonathan Matsumoto: leads the team with 40 points (18-22). He was the only representative of the team at the recent AHL All-Star game and won the accuracy shooting contest. He is the only Phantom to play in every game this year and really deserves a call-up at some point. His line of Pat Maroon and David Laliberte has been the most consistent as of late.
Stefan Legein: leads the Phantoms with 19 goals for 23 points. He plays the role of agitator very well and even dropped the gloves the other night, reacting to a hit on Jared Ross. He is most visible on the penalty kill and on the forecheck. He currently has three short handed goals on the season. At 5'10" I'm afraid his height is what is keeping him in Glens Falls. He seems like a 3rd or 4th line guy that could play solid defense and give you the occasional moment of offensive brilliance.
Patrick Maroon: was just finding his scoring touch when he was the victim of a cheap shot by Albany's Nick Blanchard. After the whistle a small scrum broke out in the corner, Blanchard was the thrid man in an hit Maroon from behind drvinghim into the boards. Maroon laid on the ice for over 10 minutes as the medical staff dealt with him. He was taken off the ice on a back board and spent the night in an Albany hospital. Maroon missed the next 15 games due to a concussion and a shoulder injury. Since his return he has seven points in his first five games back. At this rate he should also see a call-up if the Flyers need a body. He might also be the best candidate for trade if someone wants a prospect.
Krystofer Kolanos: spent most of this season in coach Greg Gilbert's doghouse. He recently was back in the line-up due to injuries and quickly showed his scoring touch. He scored in three straight games entering the All-Star break. The issue being, he has not played since the All-Star break. All the Phantoms are claiming is that he has a lower body injury, that was a preexisting conditioning. He has been to Philly twice for exams since the Phantoms have returned from the All-Star break.
Joonas Lehtivuori: has become the quarterback of the Phantom's powerplay. Overall he has been the one bright spot on this so called special team. He moves the puck very well and has set-up a lot of opportunities but the finishing has not been there. He plays solid on the back-line and is willing to jump into offensive end when necessary.
Logan Stephenson: might be the feel good story of this team. He was invited to Flyers camp, released, and then invited to the Phantom's camp. He came to camp without a contract, impressed enough people to get an AHL contract. According to all reports he has become a leader in the dressing room and has shown it on the ice. After Maroon'sinjury Nick Blanchard was suspended by the league and missed the next Albany Adirondack game. One month later when the two teams met, on Blanchard's first shift Stephenson got him to drop the gloves. He has even worn the alternate captain patch on a few occasions when Sean Curry was scratched from the line-up. With a few seasons at this level, he will make a solid defenseman at the next level.
Johan Backlund: has become the number one guy by being a wall in goal. He recently had his six game win streak broken. At one point the Phantom's were rotating goalies every game, even though Backlundwas clearly the hot hand. He is 14-10-2 with a 2.62 GAA. He has adjusted to the smaller North American rinks and handles his angles much better now than at the beginning of the season. I am not sure he will ever make a number one in the NHL, but could make a good back-up. He will also become the first Adirondack Phantom bobblehead in March.
Nicola Riopel: was sent back to his junior team to get more playing time. He had showed some good growthin his time here and from all reports studied video like no one else. He is back in the Quebec Junior Major Hockey League with Moncton. This is the same team he played for last year and was MVP of the league. He is a name to watch over the next few years.
John Grahame: I like him because he is older than me! He signed during the Ray Emery injury emergency. He has looked solid since his first start. He has gotten no goal support and started his Phantom stint 0-5. He now has a 2-7 record with a 2.52 GAA. He still has the NHL build and is just looking for an opportunity to get back. He had spent part of last year in Russia, but came home without finishing the season.
I can say that recent signing Denis Bodrov has been a nice addition to the Phantoms. Although there is a language barrier, he speaks no English, hockey seems to be an international language. You can see a sharpness in his passes, a great skating ability, and did a decent job on the power play the other night. Although a bad pass by him lead to the game winner for Rochester last Sunday, he has been a nice addition.
As the season goes on I'll give you my impressions on the rest of the Phantom squad. We are finally getting into a chunk of the schedule were we get more than two games a week.