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Phantoms weekly rundown: Who will be the Last Phantom Standing

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And then there were none.

Casey Liberatore / SB Nation

Where we are

Week of Dec. 3 - Dec. 9

GP W L Standing in Division
GP W L Standing in Division
3 1 2 4th

Lots to recap on the game action front, but regrettably it’s not as much good news as we were able to bring you last week. The Phantoms closed out the last stretch of their six-in-nine (nice) starting with one of two meetings on the week with the Cleveland Monsters on Wednesday. It was a rough start but they still came out of it tied at zero after the first period, but they were looking to get back on track. Cleveland took a one goal lead in the second, and then made it a two goal lead early in the third, but a goal from Nicolas Aube-Kubel had the Phantoms right back in it, but they couldn’t rally back. Three more Cleveland goals in the second half of the period (including an empty netter) killed off any push back the Phantoms might have been able to muster.

But it’s not all doom and gloom in this recap, because the Phantoms were able to pull out a win against Hershey on Friday. It wasn’t the most high-event game we’ve ever seen, as they put up all of one goal (thanks to new first line center Connor Bunnaman), but one goal was enough. They defended well enough and Carter Hart came up big, and they survived Hershey’s final push to claim the win.

And finally, it was another meeting with Cleveland to cap off the weekend. And this one went better than the first, but not in the end result. This was a weird one. David Kase got hurt in Friday’s game or sometime before Saturday’s, but they didn’t have time to call anyone up from Reading. They ran 11F/7D. Both teams took 15 penalty minutes each (each with a five minute fighting major in there). TJ Brennan played on the top line wing for the last half of the game (seriously). And in all of that, the Phantoms scored two goals (from Bunnaman and Colin McDonald), and the Monsters scored four. Not quite as lopsided as Wednesday’s meeting—the Phantoms tightened up a good bit—but that’s still a loss. Alas.

News

Alright, friends, we have a lot of news to break down here. You know the drill by now. It’s quick hits time!

First, two milestones: on Wednesday against Cleveland, Colin McDonald played his 800th career game, and with their win on Friday, Carter Hart recorded his first professional career shutout. Good stuff.

And we’ve also had a lot of callups, injuries, and even a suspension. We’ve got:

Phil Varone and Alex Lyon have been recalled to the Flyers, since we last spoke.

David Kase has been suspended for two games for an illegal check to the head in last Friday’s game against Hershey. We’re also told he’s injured. So, he’s going to miss at least this weekend’s games, but it might be more. But we don’t have a timeline yet. We don’t have a timeline for any of these injuries we’re going to mention, unfortunately.

Mikhail Vorobyev is injured. He missed last Friday and Saturday’s games. Cole Bardreau is also injured, and hasn’t practiced with the team this week.

As such, Alex Krushelnyski and Michael Huntebrinker have been recalled from Reading.

And, finally, the Phantoms have just brought up goalie Branden Komm from Reading (since they called up Lyon yesterday). Whew.

Leaderboards

Points

Player GP G A1 A2 P
Player GP G A1 A2 P
Greg Carey 24 12 10 6 28
Phil Varone 22 11 9 8 28
TJ Brennan 23 6 5 11 22
Chris Conner 23 10 4 4 18
Mike Vecchione 24 6 6 4 16
Philippe Myers 24 5 7 3 15
Nic Aube-Kubel 16 7 4 2 13
David Kase 21 4 6 3 13
Mark Friedman 24 1 2 8 11
Colin McDonald 23 2 5 3 10

Advanced Stats

Player GP 5v5 iCF 5v5 CF% Avg GS
Player GP 5v5 iCF 5v5 CF% Avg GS
Nic Aube-Kubel 16 35 54.6 0.79
Phil Varone 22 46 51.52 1.17
TJ Brennan 23 65 50.56 0.79
Greg Carey 24 55 49.61 1
Taylor Leier 21 49 48.73 0.47
James de Haas 10 26 48.47 0.09
Philip Samuelsson 23 52 47.96 0.17
Chris Conner 23 49 47.89 0.67
Colin McDonald 23 47 47.21 0.36
Mike Vecchione 24 48 46.99 0.57

Three Stars

1. Connor Bunnaman

We’ve talked about it already and we’re going to keep talking about how the Phantoms have really found their ranks decimated in the last week. And, with holes appearing in the lineup, players who might not have been given as big of a role so far in the season are given a chance to step up. And doing so in a pretty big way was Connor Bunnaman. He’s found himself in and out of the lineup so far this season, and as such has had some difficulty in establishing a rhythm, but with a promotion to centering the top line and power play unit, he shone. He came out of the weekend with two goals (including the teddy bear toss goal). There’s no saying how long this look holds, but Bunnaman’s certainly taking this chance in stride, and settling in easily and making the most of it.

And, you know, how could we not give him first star status, for being part of this comedic masterpiece.

2. Carter Hart

We told you it happened already, but we’re still excited about it. So we’re going to tell you again. Hart had a shutout on Friday! The first of his pro career! Wow!

We’re giving Hart this star because the first career shutout is a huge accomplishment, and we don’t want to take away from it, but also for the larger progress that it’s pointing to. The start to Hart’s season was a little dicey, but he’s doing well to right the ship, of late. He’s posted a .930 save percentage over his last five games, and is looking a lot more polished—his rebound control is better, he’s sealing his posts more completely, and he’s not shying away from just freezing the puck rather than trying to make a dangerous play with it. He’s not lights out yet, but he’s looking much, much better. And we’re here for it.

3. Alex Lyon

We’re talking goalies this week folks! As the recaps may have suggested, it was kind of a rough weekend for the Phantoms—we’re running out of healthy bodies and the Phantoms had stretches where they were struggling to put much together in the face of a lot of offense coming their way. So, with that considered, goaltending was really the key to them staying in their games, in trying to keep things close enough to make a comeback. And in two of those games, the key to that was Alex Lyon.

Sent out against Cleveland both times, Lyon faced a combined 77 shots while only allowing eight goals. And, to be fair, eight goals isn’t a stellar figure, but with the way the Monsters were attacking, it could have been a lot worse for the Phantoms. Six of those eight goals came in the third periods, when we saw things starting to spiral in both games—the team in front just couldn’t hang on, weren’t able to offer the best support to Lyon through the full 60 minutes. Lyon earned praise from both teammates and coach after this weekend, leaving a feeling that these efforts perhaps deserved a different result. He didn’t bring a ton of flash, but he was steady throughout and did his job—keeping them in it and giving the guys in front of him the best chance to make a stronger push of their own. They just weren’t able to capitalize.

Two Observations

1. Special teams stagnate

We’ve spent a good chunk of the season talking about just how good both of the Phantoms’ special teams units have been so far this season, but the same can’t really be said for them this past week. The power play went 2 for 14 and the penalty kill 4 for 9, which aren’t really that bad of records on the week, but feel a little worse, relatively speaking. It’s still fine enough, but we were certainly missing the look of danger that they had been able to bring, before last week.

Are we terribly worried about this? No. This is kind of what happens when you’re missing two of your most effective penalty killers (RIP the Russian Bash Brothers) and one of your primary puck distributors on the top power play unit. They could even out a little with this personnel they’re working with, it’s possible. But, that said, hopefully some of those missing key players are returned sooner rather than later.

2. Working smarter

We’re returning to one of our favorite plays in our talks, now. Or, maybe we should say that the Phantoms have returned to one of our favorite plays in, well, their game play. We saw a good bit of that “throw a pass in front from below the goal line to the guy parked in front, waiting to chip it in” sort of play last season, and then a little bit early on this year, but then after the first week or so, they got away from it. But, much to our delight, we saw this creeping its way into their game plan on Saturday.

We’re nitpicking a little bit, but they created a couple of would-be dangerous chances this way late last weekend, and very well could have capitalized if the guy in front had gotten in position just a little bit faster. But it was good effort, and it was smart work. The results can’t be too far away if they keep that up. More of this, please.

Where we’re going

We’ve got a comparatively lighter week of action coming up, with just the two games this weekend. We’ll kick things off tonight at home against Belleville, who the Phantoms dispatched of pretty nicely the last time we saw them (remember that Chris Conner penalty shot game winner? Good stuff).

And then they’re off to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Saturday to meet the Penguins again. Their season series is tied so far at one apiece, and they’ve been tight, high scoring games so far. And add to this the fact that that the Penguins are breathing down their necks to steal away that fourth in the division spot (plus that rivalry thing) and this should be an interesting match to watch.

All stats via Phancy Stats and theAHL.com