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February Phantoms Report: It’s the Travis Sanheim show

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First in the division, second in the league, and on a roll.

Kate Frese / SB Nation

In what was by far their most successful month of the season thus far, the Phantoms out-scored their opponents 46 to 24, 32 to 15 at 5-on-5, on their way to a 9-2-1 record in February. Both regulation losses were one goal games, and their other loss came in the shootout.

February 5v5 Trends

Metric January February Trend
Metric January February Trend
GF/GP 1.90 2.67 0.77
GA/GP 1.50 1.25 -0.25
GF% 55.88% 68.09% 12.21%
CF% 47.92% 50.27% 2.35%

No, that’s not a typo, the Phantoms actually scored 68.09% of the 5-on-5 goals this month. A ridiculous number. They scored more goals per game, allowed less goals per game, and improved their Corsi. Yeah, that sounds like a recipe for success to me.

February 5v5 Corsi

Player GP CF CA CF% CF% Rel
Player GP CF CA CF% CF% Rel
Nic Aube-Kubel 12 127 102 55.46 6.87
Mikhail Vorobyev 12 134 110 54.92 6.28
Travis Sanheim 12 200 172 53.76 5.79
Phil Varone 11 117 95 55.19 5.66
Greg Carey 12 123 104 54.19 5.17
Philippe Myers 11 183 168 52.14 4.11
Mark Friedman 9 92 79 53.80 3.70
Reece Willcox 5 56 42 57.14 2.76
Oskar Lindblom 9 99 89 52.66 2.66
Colin McDonald 11 112 101 52.58 1.42
T.J. Brennan 9 131 131 50.00 0.93
Corban Knight 10 98 98 50.00 0.54
Danick Martel 5 46 52 46.94 -0.66
Cole Bardreau 12 114 119 48.93 -1.78
James de Haas 6 54 51 51.43 -1.97
Matt Read 11 112 115 49.34 -2.56
Tyrell Goulbourne 10 79 94 45.66 -4.10
Will O'Neill 8 94 123 43.32 -4.39
Mike Vecchione 12 104 129 44.64 -7.49
Chris Conner 10 89 107 45.41 -7.86
Maxim Lamarche 12 137 169 44.77 -8.15
Radel Fazleev 6 53 73 42.06 -10.12
Steven Swavely 1 6 12 33.33 -13.24

Two prospects continue to lead the way

This far into the season it’s become more of an expectation rather than a nice surprise to see both Nicolas Aube-Kubel and Mikhail Vorobyev at the top of this table. I’m fairly confident in saying these two, along with Danick Martel, can be classified as the main play drivers on the Phantoms. For Aube-Kubel, everything is looking up. He’s tied for the AHL lead in 5-on-5 primary points with 30, is third on the Phantoms in points overall, and has a team-best +19 5-on-5 goal differential. On the other hand, Vorobyev hasn’t been able to translate his superb Corsi and on-ice scoring chance numbers into offensive production. With just 16 points in 41 games, and being one of just five Phantoms to have a negative 5-on-5 goal differential, the stat sheet might suggest this has been a relatively disappointing season from him, but the underlying numbers point towards a breakout season on the way. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll get an early glimpse of that in the final 19 games of the regular season and throughout the playoffs.

Sanheim’s first month

Unsurprisingly, all of Travis Sanheim’s numbers are ridiculously good, including his Corsi. As you can see above, his +5.79 CF% rel this month was the best among defensemen, and his +6.20 CF% rel in fifteen games this season is also the best among defensemen. It’s not like his 53.79 CF% is being propped up by low danger shots either, as his 5-on-5 SCF% was 54.17%, just a bit higher. He has been playing top minutes in all situations and the Phantoms have greatly benefited from his stellar play.

Carey and Varone make a somewhat surprising appearance at the top

I say somewhat because if you’re going to be playing with Aube-Kubel, you’re probably going to end up at the top of the CF% table. The surprising part is that from the start of the season until the end of January, both Greg Carey and Phil Varone had a CF% below 50%, and a negative CF% rel every month except for October. They are both very skilled forwards, the eye test and their point totals make that pretty clear, but for whatever reason they were almost always getting buried in 5-on-5 shots. However, that changed this month after spending a large majority of their 5-on-5 ice time with Aube-Kubel, and I think that going forward having that line stick together would be beneficial to everyone involved.

3 Stars of the Month:

1. Travis Sanheim

The impact that Sanheim has had since his return to Lehigh Valley cannot be overstated. In twelve games this month he led the Phantoms in points, assists, blocked shots, and 5-on-5 goal differential. When the Phantoms were on the penalty kill I tried to pay extra attention to him, and to my eyes, he was great. He was covering passing lanes, blocking shots, and clearing the porch with relative ease. Since points are worth the most it’s tough for a defenseman to have an average Game Score above one, but that’s exactly what Sanheim did this month, with a 1.16 average.

He also scored his first AHL goal of the season.

2. Phil Varone

AHL point leader Phil Varone scored six goals this month, the most of any Phantom, and assisted on seven others for thirteen points in eleven games. His 55.19% CF and +5.66% CF rel makes February his best month from a play driving standpoint, and his 1.22 average Game Score was the best on the team. Varone is known to be more of a pass-first player, but he has been shooting a lot more recently, averaging almost double his usual amount of individual shot attempts at 5-on-5 over his past ten games.

3. John Muse

Officially, Muse made 158 saves on 168 shots in five games - all wins! - this month, giving him a .941 save percentage. According to my own tracking, he made 159 saves on 169 shots, and while that’s only one more save than the official number, the difference needs to be known for this next part. Muse made 41 saves on 48 high danger shots, 45 saves on 48 medium danger shots, and was a perfect 73 for 73 on low danger shots. To be clear, that’s a .854 save percentage on high danger shots, and a number like that is elite level goaltending. Of course, that’s just five games, but his strong play this month didn’t go unnoticed as it was announced on 2/26 that Muse had earned himself a NHL contract with the Flyers.

Highlight of the Month:

Nicolas Aube-Kubel scores off the rush versus the Springfield Thunderbirds on 2/16.

Quick Notes:

  • Mark Friedman scored his first professional goal on 2/13.
  • Anthony Stolarz was activated off the Flyers season opening IR and assigned to Lehigh Valley. Earlier reports suggested a possible return to game action in mid-March.
  • Because of paper transactions made prior to the NHL trade deadline, both Oskar Lindblom and Alex Lyon are eligible to return to the Phantoms if or when Ron Hextall deems it necessary.
  • Matt Read was called up prior to the deadline, making him ineligible to return to the Phantoms this season.
  • It’s magic number time! The Phantoms magic number to clinch a playoff spot currently sits at 24.

Stats via Phancy Stats, Prospect-Stats, and TheAHL.com