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Phantoms weekly rundown: So long, David Drake

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One departure and lots of game action to recap

Casey Liberatore - SB Nation ©

Where we are

Week of Oct. 15 - Oct. 21

GP W L SOL Standing in Division
GP W L SOL Standing in Division
3 1 1 1 5th

The Phantoms played a three-in-three this past weekend, and man oh man was that a lot. They kicked things off at home on Friday against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins with what was, on the whole, a pretty even matchup. There was some running and gunning, and one side taking a lead and the other answering right back. But it was a Penguins goal let in inside two minutes left to make it 5-4 in favor of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to seal the game. The Phantoms could leave feeling good about their overall play, but a loss is still a loss.

They did, however, answer back in a big way on Saturday in Wilkes-Barre. It saw Alex Lyon getting his first start of the season with the Phantoms and two goals from German Rubtsov punctuating a strong effort that would get them a 6-3 win to even up the series.

We would close out the weekend in Bridgeport against the Sound Tigers with a bit of a fizzle, as the Phantoms put up a decidedly up and down performance—they broke down and got themselves hemmed into their own zone for long stretches of time, giving up chances in droves, but they also were able to buckle down and do enough to push things to overtime in order to earn themselves a point in the standings. But the shootout would be their downfall, as Carter Hart let in one goal and all three of the Phantoms’ shooters failed to hit the net. And Lehigh Valley fell 5-4.

News

When I started outlining this thing, we had exactly zero pieces of news to report. But then yesterday happened and we have some things to report.

First up, the Phantoms have loaned defenseman David Drake to the Reading Royals. We haven’t seen a whole lot of him this season—just in the home opener, which was something of a quiet showing for him. He sat for the next five games, and that makes what just happened not too much of a surprise. The Phantoms were carrying eight defensemen and it seems that was just one too many. And Drake found himself the odd man out.

Our second piece was confirmed this morning, that Michal Neuvirth will be joining the Phantoms on a conditioning stint. It looks like he’s close to coming back and the Flyers want to get him some playing time before he gets back into the Flyers’ rotation. We don’t know for sure yet, but since they want to get him in for some games, presumably this means we’ll be seeing him tonight against Hartford. Presumably.

Leaderboards

Points

Player G A1 A2 P
Player G A1 A2 P
T.J. Brennan 3 2 5 10
Phil Varone 3 2 4 9
Greg Carey 4 2 2 8
Nicolas Aube-Kubel 2 2 1 5
German Rubtsov 3 1 0 4
David Kase 2 1 1 4
Mark Friedman 1 0 3 4
Philippe Myers 2 1 0 3
Chris Conner 1 1 1 3
Mike Vecchione 1 1 0 2

Advanced Stats

Player CF CF% HDCF%
Player CF CF% HDCF%
Phil Varone 69 58.97% 56.00%
Nicolas Aube-Kubel 67 57.76% 52.17%
Greg Carey 72 55.81% 53.85%
TJ Brennan 88 55.70% 58.06%
Phillip Samuelsson 70 54.69% 50.00%
Chris Conner 55 54.46% 55.17%
Mike Vecchione 64 53.78% 58.62%
Carsen Twarynski 50 53.19% 61.54%
Taylor Leier 54 52.43% 60.00%
James de Haas 43 51.81% 56.52%

Three Stars

1.German Rubtsov

There really isn’t anyone else we could have chosen to be our first star this week. Rubtsov was on the fringe of being named a third start last week, after a solid weekend that culminated in him picking up the shootout win, but we felt like we needed to see a little bit more from him. And boy did we ever get that last weekend.

Some numbers: he put up six shots across the weekend and two goals. He’s also been able to bring his CF% at 5-on-5 up to a 46.09 percent, which isn’t stellar, still, but he had a rough go to start the season in this metric, so it’s encouraging to see him doing well to improve his play driving numbers, that he’s not continuing to get thrashed in this.

Some other observations: to put it plainly, Rubtsov has been one of the consistently more noticeable players on the ice of late, and we mean this, of course, in a good way. His defensive play has been more or less sound, and he’s been creating a lot offensively. One of his biggest bits of flash, outside of the goals, came on Sunday when he brought a last minute push and a chance to win it in overtime. He was stopped, but it was a very nice shift.

And we’ll just leave you with a bit of tape:

2.Taylor Leier

Last week, Leier was another one that we wanted to make one of our stars, but for different reasons. Since being sent down by the Flyers, we wanted (or almost expected) Leier to just light it up back in the AHL. And maybe that’s not all that fair to expect from him immediately upon his return. He was good in his first two games, but his next three were where he really got going.

He picked up two primary assists on the weekend, making very nice feeds to set up Friedman’s goal and Rubtsov’s first goal on Saturday, as he starts to develop chemistry with his new linemates. But what was perhaps his most impressive play was an intercepted pass at the blue line that turned into a breakaway on the penalty kill that saw him get a really nice shot off, have it blocked, and then pick up the rebound and spin around to try to jam it in on a second try. It didn’t turn into a goal, but it helped the penalty kill eat up a bunch of time, and it was just nice to watch. We don’t know how long we’ll be seeing Leier in Lehigh Valley, but he’s getting settled and looking sharp while he’s here.

3.Philippe Myers

If the weekend before last saw Myers performing quietly pretty solidly, this past one saw him finally bringing a bit of flash. He was one of our leading scorers on the weekend, picking up two goals, starting up a streak. We were hoping it would go a little longer, but it was broken on Sunday. Alas. But anyway, let’s have a look at those goals. Because they were pretty nice.

All told, he put up 10 shots over those three games, and looked sharp when active on the rush. It was a strong offensive performance, even if technically whiffing on a shot made the speed a little weird and ultimately got him his second goal of the weekend. And, in a turn away from an earlier issue and save for one call on Friday, he was able to keep himself out of the box. And that’s no small feat—he’s one of their better penalty killers when called upon on a PK that has been rough to start the season, but it’s even better to not have to see him killing penalties at all. He’s doing well enough at even strength. We’ll take more of that, please.

Two observations

1.The power play gets going

A peek behind the curtain: one of the points in my initial notes for this article was the question “can the power play…do…something???” and it wasn’t a bad question at the time. The power play struggled through the first two weeks of the season, despite the weapons they have on both units. So it was valid to wonder how long it would be before they started to figure it out.

The answer to my question, as soon as Friday would be a resounding “yes.” They would do The Thing--that is, scoring a goal—on their seventh (yes, seventh) chance of the night after struggling early, and from there they really got rolling. Indeed, they scored on each of their next five attempts of the weekend, and it took them until Sunday to have their streak snapped. And this was largely a result of the top unit’s efforts, but the fact remains that they were goals when we needed them, and a look of composure when we needed that too. If they had gone much longer and continued struggling, we might have started to worry. But now they’ve shown what they can do, have just started to tap into their potential on the man advantage.

2.Let’s talk about the goalies

It’s goalie time, folks! We had something of a mixed bag in terms of performances this weekend, and that’s kept us from granting anyone stardom, but we do still have a bit to talk about, with these guys. So let’s get into it.

As we mentioned a few sections back, Lyon got his first start of the season on Saturday, and he looked just about how we’ve come to expect him to look. There wasn’t any rust to be found, and Lyon had a quietly very sound game. He stopped 42 of 45 shots he faced on Saturday, posting a .933 save percentage in helping the Phantoms pick up that very nice win. So, a nice reintroduction for Lyon to Phantoms game action.

The up and down that we alluded to, then, came from Carter Hart’s performances this weekend. Friday’s showing was decidedly a little rough. He let in five goals over the course of the evening on 33 shots, and just looked a little off. His rebound control wasn’t great, and it looked like he was over-committing just a bit to his first save, and then, when the rebound went awry, and the Penguins got a second whack at it, he wasn’t in position to make the second save. He got a chance to redeem himself on Sunday, and the good news is he was able to do that. The start of the game was a little dicey, but he got settled as the game went on, and really looked sharp in the third period, where they started things off by getting caught in their own zone for just about a full three minutes, and Hart kept them in it. He was stellar in overtime, where the Sound Tigers had a couple of high quality chances that Hart fought off handily. So things started to turn around, there.

Are we worried about Hart? Not yet, and nor should we be. Head Coach Scott Gordon didn’t seem too worried after Friday’s game either—was it the performance we wanted to see? No, not quite. But he’s still a young goalie getting acclimated to a whole new league, a whole new level. It’ll get easier for him. It’s still early.

A look forward

We’ll be seeing the Phantoms… oh would you look at that. We’re seeing them tonight. They do not in fact just play on weekends. They’ve got their first Wednesday game of the season tonight against the third in the division Hartford Wolf Pack. And from there we keep on the road trip and meet the first team from not our division, in the Binghamton Devils (currently hanging out at second to last in the Northern Division) on Friday. And then it’s back to the Atlantic on Saturday with a trip to Hershey to play the Bears (last in the division). Will we ever see a home game again? It sure doesn’t feel like it, does it?