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Phantoms weekly rundown: Happenings before the fire

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Things are changing, folks, but the games are still happening

Casey Liberatore / SB Nation

Where we are

Week of Nov. 19 - Nov. 25

GP W L Standing in Division
GP W L Standing in Division
2 1 1 5th

The Phantoms kicked off game one of their home stand last Friday against Hershey, and put on quite the show for the Black Friday crowd. They dropped the first goal of the night, but came back and scored three unanswered (two from Greg Carey and one from Mike Vecchione) to propel themselves into a comfortable lead, one which they wouldn’t relinquish. Further goals from Phil Varone, Philippe Myers, and Mikhail Vorobyev (shorthanded) sealed up the 6-2 win for the Phantoms.

Saturday’s game, then, would oddly enough prove to be just about the complete mirror image of Friday’s, as the Phantoms scored two goals early (from Greg Carey and Nicolas Aube-Kubel in the first minute and seven seconds of play), but couldn’t really get much going after that. Cole Bardreau got them another goal in the second period, but it wasn’t enough to push them past the Bruins, who scored six on them, and really dominated through the whole of this one. And the Phantoms came out of the weekend with a split.

News

We’ve got a lot of news to run through this week, so we’re going to the quick hits, so that we can get to the meat of this rundown. Let’s go.

Anthony Stolarz is a Flyer now. Alex Lyon got dinged up at some point last week, so they needed to bring Stolarz up to back up Cal Pickard on Saturday in Toronto and he’s been with the team since. It looks like Michal Neuvirth is close to returning, but it could be a bit longer for Brian Elliott, so it’s looking like Stolarz will be with the Flyers for a bit longer still.

Pickard was almost a Phantom. The Flyers placed him on waivers but Arizona picked him up so he’s on to his next team. It was nice knowin’ ya, buddy.

Tyrell Goulbourne is also a Phantom again. With Michael Raffl activated from IR on Tuesday and Jori Lehtera also parked in the press box, it was hard to imagine Goulbourne getting in for regular playing time, even if they theoretically still had space for him. So back to Lehigh he went.

Alex Krushelnyski is also back! The Phantoms recalled him from Reading this week and he’ll be eligible to play tonight in Laval.

We got some bad news last weekend too, as it looks like German Rubtsov is going to be out long-term. Scott Gordon said on Friday that he would be out for the year (whatever that means), but back pedaled on it on Saturday, saying that he still needed to be evaluated and that they weren’t completely sure on the severity of the injury or the timeline just yet. So there are a lot of question marks here, as there always seems to be with this kind of thing. But we’ll report back with updates when and if they come.

And we’ll end this section on a positive note: Greg Carey recorded his 100th career goal in his 300th professional game on Friday, and that’s pretty neat.

Leaderboards

Points

Player GP G A1 A2 P
Player GP G A1 A2 P
Phil Varone 18 7 8 8 23
Greg Carey 18 12 6 4 22
TJ Brennan 18 6 5 10 21
Mike Vecchione 18 5 5 3 13
Chris Conner 17 7 4 1 12
Philippe Myers 18 5 4 2 11
German Rubtsov 14 6 3 1 10
David Kase 15 4 4 2 10
Mark Friedman 18 1 2 7 10
Nic Aube-Kubel 10 4 4 1 9

Advanced Stats

Player GP 5v5 iCF 5v5 CF% Avg GS
Player GP 5v5 iCF 5v5 CF% Avg GS
Nic Aube-Kubel 10 23 54.76 0.87
Phil Varone 18 41 50.67 1.14
TJ Brennan 18 50 50.59 0.88
Greg Carey 18 42 50.52 1.06
James de Haas 6 16 49.6 0.13
Taylor Leier 14 37 48.51 0.48
Chris Conner 17 26 47.59 0.58
Philip Samuelsson 17 44 46.31 0.18
Mike Vecchione 18 34 45.45 0.57
Colin McDonald 17 32 44.89 0.27

Three Stars

1.Greg Carey

I mean, it couldn’t really be anyone else that we dropped here, could it? With four points on the weekend (three goals and a primary assist), Carey brought more than a fair bit of flash on the weekend, and in the process held firmly to his rank of second on the team in points, bringing his total up to 22 in 18 games. Which is no small feat, and it seems he’s not showing any signs of slowing down anytime soon.

If nothing else, what Carey’s been able to bring this season, to date, is consistency on a team that has found itself wanting for it at times. He’s been able to produce well at 5-on-5 but has also been a major factor to bringing consistency to the power play, as he picked up another power play goal on Friday. He’s bringing production across the board and it’s been a good boost for when it’s stalled a bit elsewhere.

Also we found out this week that he makes the warmups music mix, which is good and fun too.

2.Mike Vecchione

We’re here to extend a nod to Mike Vecchione. Perhaps he hasn’t gotten enough love so far this season, because he’s been pretty sound for pretty much the whole early going of the season. He picked up two points this weekend (a goal and an assist on Phil Myers’ goal on Friday), and has quietly elevated himself to fourth on the team in scoring (there’s still an eight point margin between T.J. Brennan who’s ahead of him, but fourth in scoring he remains). And it’s like we said regarding Carey, that this team does have a good bit of firepower up front, but consistency has been one of the larger issues on the season, and Vecchione’s found a way to bring a level of personal consistency to the team. His play hasn’t been terribly flashy, but he’s getting the work done, and in a sometimes limited role (that is, without top line deployment or first power play time). So snaps for that.

3.Nic Aube-Kubel

Our bit of late breaking news in last week’s rundown was that of Aube-Kubel making his return to the Phantoms’ ice, and with that we were wondering how he’d do, presumably being dropped back into his role on the top line after playing around five minutes per night up in Philly. And he did pretty well, all in all.

Friday saw him looking like he was getting back into a rhythm—it started off well but then he’d make a turnover in the neutral zone and you’d be reminded of context—but that top line was still gelling, and Aube-Kubel still came out of the night with an assist. He also picked up a goal, the second for the Phantoms in the first two minutes of play on Saturday, and looked much more settled with that first game back under his belt. It wasn’t a perfect effort from really the whole team this weekend, but it did seem that Aube-Kubel’s presence was missed when he was with the Flyers, so it’s good to see him slotting back into his old role with ease. And we’ll hope that he can keep whatever momentum he’s building going into this weekend.

Two observations

1.Cart Hart Watch 2k18

It’s time again, folks! We’re checking in with Carter Hart because we’re anxious to see how he’s developing and because this is still Philly so we can literally never stop talking about the goalie situation. It’s just never going to stop.

This was a big weekend for Hart, particularly for the fact of the responsibility he was going to have to take on. With Alex Lyon being listed as day to day with a lower body injury up in Philly, Stolarz had to be recalled to back up Pickard, so it was going to be all Hart all the way, all weekend. His first back to back of his pro career. And he started it out well. On Friday he looked markedly improved—his rebound control particularly showed signs of improvement, as he was controlling the puck better, leaving fewer second chances, and not shying away from just icing the puck rather than risking giving it away on an attempt to make a play. It was a steadier game that he showed, and it felt like a step in the right direction.

But, as a good friend once said to me, regression eventually comes for us all, and Hart’s game on Saturday was decidedly less sound. He looked a little shakier, and wasn’t quite as positionally sound (he was beaten five hole twice on the night, in just about the same way, for example). But, to be completely fair, we can’t blame all of this loss on Hart. One of those goals was a three on one and he didn’t stand a chance. And we’ll be talking more about this soon, but the team in front of him wasn’t doing a whole lot to help him out, to lighten his workload. He faced 38 shots on the night. So what can we take from all this? The knowledge that there was a glimmer of hope, a hint towards some improvement as he continues to get settled in, but also a note that he’s not all the way there just yet.

2.Yikes

You know how a couple weeks ago, we said something to the effect of “it feels like we watch a game and come out of it saying to ourselves ‘wow, that was the worst game they’ve played all season’ and then somehow they turn around and play one even worse.” That’s bound to happen as a larger sample develops, but that feeling’s back in a big way, folks. Because, by the numbers, the Phantoms played their worst game of the season this weekend. It was no seven goals to none (October 12 against Springfield, hello), but the underlying numbers tell us that this very well could have been the case in this one. We’ll be direct: the Phantoms gave 68 shot attempts while only putting up 28 of their own. That makes for a 29.17 CF% at 5-on-5, their worst differential of the season by a pretty comfortable margin. So, it’s not really a mystery how it got to Hart giving up six goals (in a way, it seems like no small feat that he didn’t give up more, all things considered).

And we said it last time we talked about this type of issue—it can’t keep happening. The Phantoms have found a way to be highly effective on special teams (with a power play ranked seventh and a penalty kill ranked sixth in the league), it’s just their 5-on-5 play that’s killing them, as strange as that feels to say. We’ve seen them put it all together, and they can look downright lethal when they do, they just need to find a way to do it on a consistent basis.

A look forward

So the Phantoms are visiting the Great White North this weekend for three games in three days! Holy smokes!

We’re going to be seeing three teams for the first time this season, in Laval, Belleville, and Toronto. And as it’s the first time we’ve seen teams so far this season, there isn’t too much to recap other than the fact that all three of them are hanging out in the bottom half of the Northern division (at eighth, seventh, and fifth respectively). We might also mention that the last time we saw the Marlies, they were sweeping the Phantoms on their route to becoming Calder Cup champions. But that series was real rough so we’re just going to leave it there. No more talk of it. Nothing to see here.

All stats via Phancy Stats and theahl.com