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Giving thanks (or something like that)

Stretch pants on, Phantoms also on

Casey Liberatore / SB Nation

Where we are

Week of Nov. 12 - Nov. 18

GP W L OTW Standing in Division
GP W L OTW Standing in Division
3 1 1 1 4th

Lots of action to recap here, folks, so let’s dig right in. Last Wednesday the Phantoms had a chance to redeem themselves after getting trounced by the Checkers in their first meeting of the season, and boy did they ever do that. After dropping the first goal of the game, the Phantoms came back with two to propel themselves into the lead in the second period, with tallies from Phil Varone and Mikhail Vorobyev on the power play. Charlotte got one back in the third to send it to overtime, but the Phantoms were able to control that well, and a goal from T.J. Brennan from Vorobyev just past the three and a half minute mark sealed the win for them, and evened up the series.

Wednesday’s was an exciting game, but it only got more exciting from there. On Saturday the Phantoms met the Providence Bruins, and things were looking rough early—after Carter Hart let in three goals in the first period, he was pulled in favor of Anthony Stolarz. They got one of the goals back, care of Colin McDonald, but dropped another before the period was over. And we may have been caught thinking “oh jeez, it’s 4-1 and the Phantoms don’t look so great so far, let’s prepare ourselves for this loss,” but the Phantoms had us covered. With two goals in the second period (from Chris Conner and Phil Varone), and four successful penalty kills, they were right back in it. Then Carsen Twarynski tied things up early in the third period. And Phil Myers put up the game winner with just over five minutes to go in the game. And the emotional roller coaster ride was over.

We might have hoped that they could carry the momentum from that win over with them into Saturday’s game against the Thunderbirds, but you know what they say, you can’t have it all. This game was nothing if not chippy, at least to start, and we had a couple of gatherings (including a punch to Hart and a fight for T.J. Brennan) but thing settled down as the game went on. For the Phantoms, they were able to register two goals—one for Brennan in the first and one for Carey in the third (with an assist from Brennan, thus completing his Gordie Howe hat trick)—but their late game push wasn’t enough to get them the third goal needed to send them to overtime. So they picked up their only loss of the weekend.

News

First up, Alex Lyon is a Flyer again.

I thought you said like two weeks ago that he wasn’t a Flyer anymore.

Well, the Flyers’ goalie situation is a never ending cycle of blight and suffering and that means that as an AHL goalie who’s waiver exempt, that means we see you with the big club more than once. So Lyon’s a Flyer again, and probably not the for the last time this season.

We also got another milestone, as Cole Bardreau played his 200th game as a Phantom on Wednesday!

And, uh, speaking of Bardreau, he’s hurt now. So is German Rubtsov. The latter was back in the lineup but was dinged up again on Friday, both were. We haven’t been given a timeline for their return, but they’re hurt and will miss some length of time. That’s all we’ve got.

And finally, in late-breaking “who is and is not a Phantom” news, Nic Aube-Kubel was sent back down yesterday, and Tyrell Goulbourne called up to take his place. Lose a forward, gain a forward. It’s a revolving door, it seems. So it goes.

Leaderboards

Points

Player GP G A1 A2 P
Player GP G A1 A2 P
Phil Varone 16 6 8 6 20
TJ Brennan 16 6 5 9 20
Greg Carey 16 9 5 4 18
Mike Vecchione 16 4 4 3 11
Chris Conner 15 7 3 1 11
Philippe Myers 16 4 4 2 10
German Rubtsov 14 6 3 1 10
David Kase 13 4 4 2 10
Nic Aube-Kubel 8 3 3 1 7
Mark Friedman 16 1 0 6 7

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
TJ Brennan 16 49 53.85 1.04
Phil Varone 16 36 51.7 1.15
Greg Carey 16 35 51.33 0.99
Taylor Leier 12 35 50.79 0.58
James de Haas 6 16 49.6 0.13
Chris Conner 15 23 49.15 0.65
Philip Samuelsson 15 40 47.21 0.23
Mike Vecchione 16 30 46.69 0.56
Mark Friedman 16 45 46.35 0.3

Three Stars

1.T.J. Brennan

This was a pretty easy choice. And not just because Brennan was also named the PSECU player of the week, and we felt compelled to give him a nod as well. Two independent choices, both commending good work done. Find a new slant.

In all seriousness, Brennan had himself a very solid last three games, feeding well into what’s been by and large a very solid season. He picked up four points (two goals and two assists) in three games, bringing his total up to 20 on the season. And the offensive results are coming, in part, from all-around sound territorial play—he leads all defensemen (and ranks second among all skaters) with a 53.85 CF% at 5-on-5. He’s also found a nice balance, back to playing with Mark Friedman (but a little more on that later). It wouldn’t be much of an overstatement to say that everything really seems to be coming together for Brennan right now. The scoring results give us a nice bit of flash (and hey, we’ll never complain about goals), but the all around play has been just as sound, and deserves commending, as well.

2.Mark Friedman

This might seems like a weird pull, considering all of the scoring that happened this weekend, and considering that amidst all that, Friedman wasn’t able to register a point, but bear with us. This nod has been a long time coming, so we’re extending it now.

Friedman’s up to seven points on the season, and came out of these three games with an average 54.31 CF% at 5-on-5. We don’t have time on ice available to us, but by the eye, we can tell that the pair of Friedman and Brennan has worked its way up to top pair status, and for good reason—they had a quiet start, but of late, it’s been working, even with the tougher assignments.

Really, what this week gave us was a look at Friedman looking as dominant as he has all season. It’s been a weird run for the defense as a whole, where it’s been shaky to more or less quiet, but pretty rarely flashy. This team has the pieces where this could be the case, that flash can be brought, but we haven’t seen too much of it, to date. But Friedman’s been having a solid run, and only looking better as time goes on. He’s taking this new (ostensible) top pairing role and flourishing.

3.The goalies

Is this a cop out? Neither goalie played enough (or distinctly well enough) to be named a star himself. But together they make one star. And we have to talk about them anyway. So it’s a cop out. It’s the holidays. We’re getting a little weird.

Hart was good on Wednesday, so good that we were penciling him in as an early favorite for stardom for the week—he wasn’t perfect, but he was looking more and more settled. And then he let in three goals in the first half of the first period on Friday, looked a little scrambly, and saw himself pulled (those weren’t all his fault, the defense in front was wanting, but the result remains). He got the nod on Saturday again and recovered well, though, and we didn’t see much of a lingering effect from being pulled the night before. He put up a quietly pretty sound performance—24 saves on 27 shots—and helped the team in front hang on while they tried to push for a win.

Stolarz came in in relief and Friday, and more or less acted as a stabilizing force, through the rest of that game. He wasn’t flashy, but he got the job done, to the tune of 24 saves on 25 shots. And that proved crucial to the team holding on and making a comeback.

What does it even out to? How does “just fine” beget stardom? Because it was enough. The Phantoms spent a good amount of this past week trailing in their games, and they needed their goalies to keep them in it, and, by and large, they did. You can rarely expect perfection, and that’s okay, but what we can reasonably hope for are timely saves, and at the Phantoms were able to get this in each of their games, even if there was a hiccup to start.

Two observations

1.Starting strong

Oh man, we’re looking at some organizational continuity here, friends. We’ve talked a lot about how the Flyers need to get better at starting their games stronger, and the Phantoms aren’t really any different in this regard. Coming into the weekend, they only scored the first goal of the game three times. It’s four times now, after they scored first on Saturday. Out of 16 games played. Which… isn’t a great margin.

And we could quibble about this, say that they have nine wins on the season, and they’re tied for first in the league in goals scored, so obviously they’re finding ways to get results, even if they don’t happen to score the first goal. And that is technically correct. Results are results and it’s hard to argue with them. But we also have to worry about sustainability. We’ve caught ourselves saying it a lot this season in our recaps, something to the effect of “despite dropping the early lead or getting outshot like crazy or both they found a way to come back”. And that’s all well and good, but you have to wonder if that’s going to end up hurting them eventually, that the luck will turn. They know they need to be better, it’s just a matter of actually turning it around.

2.Special teams check-in

It’s about that time, folks. We’re here to give a quick rundown of what’s going on with the Phantoms’ special teams units. Because--and it feels a little weird to say this, with how much complaining we do about it up with the Flyers—they’re doing well.

As it stands, the Phantoms’ power play is ranked sixth in the league, second in their division. It’s generally been the top unit getting the results—as that tends to go—but what’s even more impressive is how they’ve been able to do it with the seemingly ever changing personnel. They had to adjust when Aube-Kubel was called up. Then German Rubtsov got some time there. And then he got hurt so David Kase got the nod. It’s been a good bit of turnaround, but they’re still finding a way to convert. They put up five power play goals on the week, at least one in each of their games, and continue to look like they’re gelling. The personnel may well change again for tonight, with Aube-Kubel back, but the fact remains that they’ve really seemed to tap into something, here.

The same could be said for the penalty kill—now ranked at a respectable 12th in the league, they’ve been gaining ground steadily since the rough start to the season (including the game that saw them go 2/7 while a man down). It’s been relatively slower going, as they’re also the seventh least penalized team in the league, but the work they were doing was solid. Indeed, before they gave up a power play goal against on Saturday, they were riding a streak of 28 consecutive penalties killed. Which is, there’s no way about it, impressive. This also remains something of an open question—with Bardreau and Rubtsov injured and us not knowing if they’re going to miss significant time, this may either weaken them, or give others the chance to rise to the occasion. Here’s hoping it’s the latter.

Where we’re going

Another weekend, another round of back to backs at home. The Phantoms kick things off tonight against the Hershey Bears. It’s been a hot second since we’ve seen them, and it was… well it wasn’t a great one. The Phantoms lost 3-1 and looked a little flat. The Bears are still hanging out below the Phantoms in the standings (at sixth) and have had some trouble scoring goals so far this season. They have 45 goals in 18 games (as compared to the Phantoms’ 65 in 16 games), so this could be a weakness to exploit.

Then, on Saturday, we’ve got Providence again! The Phantoms won their first matchup of the season last weekend in pretty spectacular fashion. Like we broke down at the start of this thing, they came back from two separate three goal deficits and won this thing 5-4. Does this mean it’s revenge time for the Bruins? Or can the Phantoms find a way to beat them evenly? Narratives are brewing, folks. Let’s see where it goes.

All stats via Phancy Stats and theAHL.com