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Phantoms weekly rundown: Back on track

Lots of changes happening here, folks!

Casey Liberatore / SB Nation

Where we are

Week of Oct. 22 - Oct. 28

GP W L Standing in Division
GP W L Standing in Division
3 2 1 T-3

Another full week but this time a little bit more spread out. The Phantoms kicked this week’s action off on Wednesday in Hartford against the Wolf Pack and they did so with a bang. It was goals from Greg Carey, Chris Conner, and German Rubtsov inside the first 4:36 of play, earning the Phantoms an early comfortable lead, and former Phantoms goalie Dustin Tokarski an early pull from the game. The Wolf Pack were still able to respond with some offense of their own (three goals in total), but it was just about all Phantoms all the way. All told, they put up four more goals after that initial onslaught—another from Conner, and from Mike Vecchione, Cole Bardreau, and Philip Samuelsson (his first as a Phantom)—to close out what would be a neat 7-3 victory.

They were able to grab onto this momentum and carry it into the weekend, with another comfortable victory over the Binghamton Devils on Saturday. By the eye, they didn’t show quite the level of dominance as they did on Wednesday, but remained undeniably solid throughout. After dropping the first goal of the game, the Phantoms were able to get settled and get to work—the power play kept rolling with a goal from T.J. Brennan, we got even strength goals from Phil Myers, Chris Conner, and Nicolas Aube-Kubel, and an empty netter from Tyrell Goulbourne to seal up the win. And the Phantoms remained undefeated in regulation on the road.

But, maybe we’ve spoken too soon on that last point—the Phantoms couldn’t keep with that momentum and picked up their first regulation loss on the road on Sunday against the Hershey Bears. Connor Bunnaman picked up his first professional goal in this game, and that’s just about all we have to report on the scoring front. The Phantoms struggled to get going in this one (more on that later), were largely held to the outside, struggling to create high danger chances and really test Hershey. They gave up three goals to make it 3-1, and headed home just shy of a perfect road trip. Alas.

News

Well we’ve got a whole host of transactions to talk about here! You probably already know about all of these, but let’s just recap real quick.

Michal Neuvirth was a Phantom for a hot second, and he looked solid in his start on Wednesday against Hartford, and apparently this was enough for the Flyers to decide he was good to go. He rejoined the team on Thursday, and then got his first start with the Flyers on Saturday.

We also have two more guys to drop into the “no longer Phantoms” category—Nicolas Aube-Kubel and Tyrell Goulbourne were called up on Sunday and will be joining the Flyers for their West coast swing, and figure to make their debuts in the lineup tonight against Anaheim.

And, as our final bit of transactions news, it’s not all losses to recap, we’ve got a return! Mikhail Vorobyev is a Phantom again! After a stint in the press box, and returning to the lineup on Saturday to play a whopping total of eight minutes, he was sent down to Lehigh Valley, where he’ll actually be able to get in for some games and help the Phantoms out.

And finally, as a neat note, Chris Conner played his 200th game as a Phantom on Saturday, the first player to do so.

Leaderboards

Points

Player GP G A1 A2 P
Player GP G A1 A2 P
Phil Varone 9 3 5 6 14
Greg Carey 9 4 2 6 12
TJ Brennan 9 5 4 2 11
Nic Aube-Kubel 8 3 3 1 7
Phil Myers 9 3 3 0 6
German Rubtsov 9 4 2 0 6
Chris Conner 8 4 1 1 6
Mark Friedman 9 1 0 4 5
David Kase 6 2 1 1 4
Philip Samuelsson 8 1 2 0 3

Advanced Stats

Player GP 5v5 iCF 5v5 CF% Avg GS
Player GP 5v5 iCF 5v5 CF% Avg GS
Nic Aube-Kubel 8 18 58.13% 0.94
Greg Carey 9 23 55.90% 1.2
TJ Brennan 9 28 55.74% 1.22
Phil Varone 9 22 55.43% 1.44
Philip Samuelsson 8 30 54.17% 0.55
Colin McDonald 8 16 51.61% 0.4
German Rubtsov 9 15 50.93% 0.74
James de Haas 5 12 50.49% 0.15
Taylor Leier 7 20 50.34% 0.6
Chris Conner 8 12 50% 0.76

Three stars

1.Nic Aube-Kubel

It’s a smaller sample on this one, on the week, but Aube-Kubel was certainly one of our distinct standouts in his two games played. Watching Wednesday’s game, even in the face of all of those goals scored elsewhere, we couldn’t help but feel that he was one of the more noticeable players, as he registered three shots and a fine enough 48 CF%, even if he was held without a point on the evening. He was knocking on the door a couple of times, but just couldn’t seem to get the results he was looking for.

We didn’t have to wait too long for those to come, however, as he got on the scoresheet on Saturday with a goal and an assist on Phil Myers’s goal, all while still putting up a 73.68 CF and four high danger chances for. It was a well rounded performance, in all, and one that contributed nicely to his early season spark.

And, these two days (paired with his overall strong start to the season), it seems, impressed the Flyers just as well, and helped earn him his first call up.

2.Chris Conner

If Aube-Kubel was one who started with some flash but had a bit of trouble with the tangible results, somebody who had no trouble bringing both of those things this weekend was one Chris Conner.

In short, he was all over the place in this week’s games. But, in a good way. He recorded three goals in two games (two on Wednesday and one on Saturday), bringing his season total up to four. His first goal in Wednesday’s game came on the man advantage, and helped the Phantoms keep their power play conversion streak alive. He was active on the rush, flexing that impressive speed, and looked sharp, in general. He was quieter on Sunday, but so was just about everyone else, for that matter. He wasn’t bad in this one, just not as active as he was to start the week. But, on the whole, he did have himself a very solid run.

And, as we noted in our news section, on Saturday he became the first Phantom to reach 200 games with the club. And that is pretty neat, indeed.

3.Carter Hart

We should start out this award with a disclaimer: Alex Lyon was very good on Sunday, and very good when the team in front of his wasn’t doing nearly as much as they could have to help him out. Objectively speaking, he played just as well, if not even a little better, considering the context, and we should absolutely give him a nod for that. We’re not trying to take away from those efforts, not in the slightest. But we’re also approaching this goalie conversation with a bit of a curve, so we’re also here to give a nod to Carter Hart. Allow me to explain:

It’s been something of an up and down start to the season for Hart—he looked solid in the home opener, but hit something of a rough patch since then. We understand that, he’s still a 20 year old adjusting to a whole new league, but all the same we’ve been wondering when he would be able to get back on track. And Saturday’s game was our first glimmer that this may be happening.

All told, he made 29 saves on 31 shots and just looked more settled than he has. He wasn’t overplaying the first shot and drifting out of position. His rebound control wasn’t perfect, but it showed signs of improvement. He was steady enough to help keep his team in the game, even if they were scoring enough goals to give him a bit of a cushion. And he became the first Phantoms goalie to pick up more than one win on the season (which is kind of wild, right?). It wasn’t his flashiest of performances, even with the couple of big saves he made, but we didn’t need him to be flashy, we just needed him to be better. We still have to see if he can keep building on this, into the coming weeks, but it was certainly a step in the right direction.

Two Observations

1.Special Teams

We’re lumping both of our special teams units together in this one point, because we have some things to say about both of them but we’re working within a tight constraint, here. So it’s a two for one. It’s fine. Let’s just get into the breakdown.

The good: with their conversion in Saturday’s game at Binghamton, the Phantoms were able to extend their streak of power play goals scored to six consecutive games, a high mark for a unit that struggled in the early goings of the season. Both units looked like they were getting more and more settled, and the results were finally coming,

The bad: in failing to convert on each of their two attempts on Sunday, they brought that streak to an end. Additionally, they only put up two goals on eight attempts in those first two games, and despite the fact that they still picked up wins in both of those, one would like to see if the power play could go a little better than 25 percent in two games straight.

A little more good: after a very rough start to the season, the penalty kill seems to be more or less evening out. They went 12 for 14 in those three games, and a big reason for this was the fact that we saw them playing more aggressively while a man down. They were working better at denying entries, clearing the puck easier, and, most importantly, being more aggressive in getting after the puck while in the defensive zone, rather than just letting their opponents get set up and start cycling while they tried to block lanes and hoped for the best. Which, if nothing else, was refreshing to see.

2.Old habits, and all…

As we alluded to in the week’s recap, Sunday was a decidedly rough evening for the Phantoms. Looking at some of the numbers, you might get a mixed picture—outscored 3-1 while outshooting the Bears 35-34 might sound like it’s a goalie issue. That they were getting chances but couldn’t close, and Lyon couldn’t keep them in it, or something to that effect. But, really, the numbers we should be keying in on are these: the Phantoms gave up 15 high dangers chances while only registering six of their own. Which is to say, they were held primarily to shooting from the outside (33 low danger shot attempts in total), while being pretty well caved in in their own end.

And it might be easy to blame this on the ripples, the turnover for the game—with Goulbourne and Aube-Kubel out and Vorobyev dropped right into the lineup, and the shuffling that had to happen as a result—it would be easy, if it weren’t the first time we were talking about this issue. In just our second game of the season, we noticed this same pattern, that of conceding too many chances in close, of not doing enough to defend the crease and leaving the goalies to clean up after the skaters’ lapses. Perhaps the good news is that they shored this up well after that early mess, but this isn’t a pattern that they can afford to be slipping into. We’ve seen them play well defensively, they just need to find a way to be more consistent in this area, even if they have big changes to the lineup. It’s kind of the nature of the beast, particularly in the AHL. Turnover happens. But these kinds of breakdowns, especially as the schedule gets more difficult, can’t.

A look forward

We have a quieter week ahead of us, with only two games this weekend, and, oh would you look at that, they’re both against Binghamton again. But the Phantoms are also coming home! At long last! They’ll be in Binghamton on Friday but back at the PPL Center on Saturday. Last time was saw the Devils was, well, last weekend, and I already told you how the Phantoms handily dispatched them in that first matchup. The Devils are tied for third in the Northern Division, and will be out to at least even the score this weekend. And hopefully the Phantoms can get back on track and keep them from doing that.

All stats via Phancy Stats and theahl.com