After starting the season 7-2-1, the Phantoms coming out of November with a 5-5-1 record is disappointing, but I feel that they did better than it seems given their circumstances.
Along with injuries to Cole Bardreau, Philippe Myers, Samuel Morin, Reece Willcox, and Maxim Lamarche, the Phantoms were without top defenseman, Mark Alt, and AHL leading goal scorer, Danick Martel, for six and three games, respectively, due to recalls to Philadelphia. Their schedule was not too kind to them either. They opened November by playing three games in three nights followed up by immediately going on a six game road trip. I’m not trying to make excuses for the team, the results have to be better, but the challenges they faced should be taken into perspective.
November 5-on-5 Trends
The only “positive” trend this month was 5-on-5 goals against which is, well, not exactly positive. I guess the takeaway here is that despite the challenges they faced, they ended the month hovering right around 50% CF, which isn’t bad.
November 5-on-5 CF%
|James de Haas||6||81||61||57.04||11.53|
Positives for the rookies
Rookie skaters James de Haas, Mark Friedman, and Mikhail Vorobyev all had great months when it comes to driving play. Friedman was the most surprising of the trio as he had the 4th-worst CF% relative to his teammates in October, at -6.58%. The eye test would tell you he’s improved recently as well, especially when it comes to setting up chances in the offensive zone.
O’Neill continuing to shine
Early this season I’ve learned that whatever pair Will O’Neill is on will usually end up with the best CF% that night. I attribute this to his ability to get the puck of out the defensive zone. It’s not always with control, but it’s a rare sight to see him fail to exit the zone and turn the puck over.
Lindblom trending in the right direction
There were high expectations for Oskar Lindblom after scoring 47 points in 52 games as a 20-year old in the SHL, and after a rough -6.76 CF% relative to his teammates in October, he seems to have turned a corner as far as driving play goes. While his production stayed mostly static, his underlying numbers improved quite a bit, putting his full season CF% at 50.26% (-1.18 CF% Rel). Whether it was his linemates, his own play, or some combination of both, it’s great to see him on the positive side of things this month.
The Good: Special Teams
The Phantoms were outplayed and outscored at 5-on-5 this month, but two areas of concern showed signs of improvement; The power-play and the penalty kill.
The power-play scored on 20% of their 55 opportunities this month, scoring 11 goals, which was a huge improvement on their pretty terrible 11.76% in October. As of the morning of November 30th, the Phantoms power-play has climbed up from the bottom of the league to 19th.
The penalty kill, while still not great, had some minor improvement as well. An 80% penalty kill isn’t something to be excited over, but it’s an improvement on the 75.56% last month so I’ll take that as a positive.
The Bad: Goaltending
There’s no way to sugar coat this: the numbers are bad. Like, really bad. Keep in mind that using save percentage to judge a goalie without accounting for shot quality isn’t ideal, but this is the best we have so let’s get into it.
Alex Lyon: 2-4-0, .878 SV%, -0.12 average Game Score
Lyon’s first game really set the tone for the month he had. In his first start, he was pulled prior to the third period after allowing four goals on fifteen shots (.734 SV%) against the Binghamton Devils. However, he did rebound nicely after that game and went on to play one of his best games this season by the numbers. In a Wednesday morning game against the Sound Tigers, he made a season high 42 saves on 44 shots en route to a 4-2 victory. Following that game, he would have just one more appearance with a save percentage above 90%. That’s just not good enough.
Dustin Tokarski: 3-1-1, .876 SV%, -0.16 average Game Score
While Tokarski exits November with the superior record, his individual numbers were just as poor as Lyon’s. He did do something this that most goaltenders don’t when he played in every game during the 3 in 3 weekend to open November. Twice due to getting the start, and once in relief. He only had one positive Game Score this month, a 5-2 victory over Laval in which he made 28 saves on 30 shots. That was his only game with a save percentage above 90%.
These numbers don’t fall solely on the goaltenders and it should be noted that the Phantoms’ defensive play was, at times, suspect to say the least. I fully expect both goaltenders’ numbers to improve based on their past performances.
3 Stars of the Month:
1. Phil Varone
Visually, I felt that Varone was the Phantoms most creative player in November and his points speak for themselves. He led the team in points with 14 and was tied for second in goals with 4 behind only Greg Carey. While a -3.94 CF% relative to his teammates isn’t pretty to look at, his average Game Score of 0.93 accurately depicts his impact this month. Varone is currently tied for 4th in league in points with 22.
2. T.J. Brennan
After missing time with an injury October, Brennan returned to the line-up with four multi-point performances this month. He had nine more points than any other Phantoms’ defenseman and although his 41.99 CF% doesn’t bode well for his future success at 5-on-5, his 8 even strength points and +2 5-on-5 goal differential shouldn’t be ignored. Brennan also led the team in shots on goal this month with 33. With just 2 goals on 44 shots this season, we can expect more goal scoring from Brennan soon, as his career shooting percentage is almost double the 4.55% he has shot at thus far.
3. Nicolas Aube-Kubel
This spot could’ve gone to a multitude of players but in the end I decided on Aube-Kubel. It’s true that his production wasn’t in the top three for the Phantoms this month, but, in my opinion, his all around game really shone through. Besides Cole Bardreau, who only played in three games, he was the only forward with a positive 5-on-5 goal differential this month, and he had a solid +4.51 CF% relative to his teammates as well. His 0.58 average Game Score was the 4th-best among players who played in at least half of the games this month.
Highlight of the Month:
11/3/2017: T.J. Brennan scores from a ridiculous angle against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
- Mark Friedman had the best penalty differential this month at +5. He drew six and took one.
- Chris Conner’s 3.97 Game Score on 11/4 was the second highest this season.
- Congrats to James de Haas for scoring his first professional goal on 11/24.
- Mike Vecchione, who I neglected to mention, had great production this month as well, with four goals and four assists.
- For the second time this month, Philippe Myers left mid-game with an injury on 11/25. He missed the Phantoms’ last game and his status is currently unknown.