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Phantoms weekly rundown: Out with the old, in with the new

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New year, new us?

Casey Liberatore / SB Nation

Where we are

Week of Dec. 24 - Dec. 30

GP W L Standing in Division
GP W L Standing in Division
3 2 1 3rd

The Phantoms just wrapped up our last week of action for the calendar year, and if nothing else, it was certainly in exciting fashion. We started things off on Wednesday in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, where the Phantoms fell to an early 2-0 deficit (where have we heard that one before?) but rallied from behind for a convincing win. They picked up their first goal in the second period from Tyrell Goulbourne, but the Penguins got another so they hit the third period down 3-1. But no matter, because a scoring surge with goals from Taylor Leier, Connor Bunnaman, Philip Samuelsson, along with another for Goulbourne sealed up the win for the Phantoms.

They were back at home on Friday and kept it in the division, as they again met the Providence Bruins. This was a much cleaner win, which saw the Phantoms take the early lead off a goal from Mark Friedman, from a pretty little give and go with Bunnaman on the rush, and then extended their lead to two thanks to Nicolas Aube-Kubel’s one timer from the left faceoff circle. The Bruins would get one back but that was all, and Phil Myers’ crazy amount of hang time, punt looking, clearing attempt empty netter closed out the Phantoms’ scoring for the night.

And would you look at that! Saturday was the Penguins again! Wednesday was fun but this one didn’t go quite their way, this time. If you love fights, you were in luck, as this one had a lot of them. But if you love seeing the Phantoms score goals, particularly more than their opponent, well, there was less of that. The Phantoms were still able to put up three goals (from Greg Carey, Reece Wilcox, and T.J. Brennan), but found themselves chasing through the duration of the game. The Penguins put up seven on them (including two empty netters), and that was, as they say, all she wrote.

News

Just a couple of odds and ends here: Steven Swavely’s been signed to a contract for the remainder of the season, so he’ll be around for a while longer, it seems. Also, Greg Carey will be joining Colin McDonald at the All Star Game this year. And that’s pretty fun, right? Good for them.

Leaderboards

Points

Player GP G A1 A2 P
Player GP G A1 A2 P
Greg Carey 32 16 11 7 34
TJ Brennan 31 7 10 13 30
Phil Varone 22 11 9 8 28
Chris Conner 31 10 5 10 25
Philippe Myers 32 6 10 6 22
Mike Vecchione 32 8 7 4 19
Nic Aube-Kubel 24 9 4 3 16
Colin McDonald 31 3 6 5 14
Mark Friedman 32 2 2 9 13
David Kase 20 4 6 3 13

Advanced Stats

Player GP 5v5 iCF 5v5 CF% Avg GS
Player GP 5v5 iCF 5v5 CF% Avg GS
Nic Aube-Kubel 24 55 53.83 0.67
Phil Varone 22 46 51.52 1.17
Greg Carey 32 76 51.22 0.99
TJ Brennan 31 92 50.47 0.83
Steven Swavely 6 9 49.6 0.73
Taylor Leier 28 69 48.81 0.49
James de Haas 10 26 48.47 0.09
Philip Samuelsson 31 65 48.02 0.26
Philippe Myers 32 120 47.43 0.62
Mark Friedman 32 87 47.32 0.35

Three Stars

1. Mark Friedman

Hey guess what you guys. Mark Friedman’s officially tied his professional career high in goals. In just about half the amount of games. I mean, that career high was his two scored last season, but it’s still a milestone! And he reached it with a bit of flash, at that.

We’ve been giving nods to Friedman so far this season for all-around sound play, and in a way it still hasn’t felt like enough. He’s flying a little under the radar, but his play’s been sound (with an extra acknowledgement that he’s likely had to play a bit more of a conservative game playing alongside T.J. Brennan, who isn’t known for playing airtight defense). He acknowledged that he’s feeling more settled, that he feels like he’s getting some more bounces, and that’s helping him not to press so much, and this shows. The pieces seem to be coming together, that we’re on the up and up.

2. Tyrell Goulbourne

This one was an easy choice. Goulbourne had a two goal game during our week off, and we felt bad coming into this week about the possibility that we might not be able to giver proper acknowledgement to this, but lo and behold! Goulbourne came through for us and had himself another two goal game on Wednesday.

And this is an of itself is worthy of praise—that’s objectively a lot of offense going on—but perhaps the source of it makes it even more noteworthy. Goulbourne has been one of our big checkers, not one of our offensive powerhouses, and that role’s suited him just fine. It gets results in its own way. But, that said, particularly when the team’s still down a couple of guys, it’s nice to see some of the depth players coming through like this, to pick up the slack where needed.

3. Nic Aube-Kubel

Third star honors this week go to Nic Aube-Kubel, who’s been floating in and out of these ranks all this season. He had himself a good week, with a goal on Friday against Providence, but showed flash just about all through the week. He was only able to put one away, but he was creating chances all through these three games, remained one of the more noticeable active contributors to their offensive efforts, even when they were trailing or struggling to generate much in the way of pressure. So the work on that front was sound.

This also contributes to our final note—that he remained one of only four Phantoms with a CF% above 50 percent at 5-on-5 this season (you saw on the leaderboards that he leads the team in this metric). We’ll be talking more about this soon, but the Phantoms have struggled to outshoot opponents a good deal, this season, so it’s significant to have a player who’s consistently been able to do so throughout the season, despite changing linemates and role. It’s work well done.

Two observations

1. Let’s talk about this goalie situation

It’s a weird one, right? But it makes sense that it should be—with all of the goalie drama up with the Flyers, it makes sense that some of that would bleed down into the farm team. But right now Alex Lyon’s plugging away for the Phantoms and he’s doing a fine job. Does it feel hard to say that, considering he’s given up nine goals in his last three games (eight between two of them)? In a vacuum, yes, but particularly on Saturday, with the defense breaking down in front of him, we’d be hard pressed to say those goals were all results of his poor play.

But we didn’t come here to just talk about the level of work Lyon’s doing, but also the amount of it, because that’s where things get complicated. As we said, he’s played each of the last three games (three games in four days), and it seems abundantly clear that he’s the starter right now. But we’re also staring down a three-in-three this weekend, to kick off a larger stretch of 14 games in 27 days. Anthony Stolarz is still, it seems, at least a week away from rejoining the Flyers, so it figures to be at least that much longer before we might see Carter Hart returning to the Phantoms. What’s all of this to say? Lyon’s playing well, of late, but the plan of action cannot be to play him in All Of The Games. Despite how much they seem to want to.

2. Should we be worried about The Numbers?

We mentioned above that the Phantoms have been struggling to outshoot their opponents at 5-on-5 this season—with just four players able to hover above that 50 percent mark on the season. They’re on pace to total fewer shots than they did last season (on pace for 2,826.25 shot attempts for as compared to 3,023 in the 2017-18 season). So you have a team that’s shooting a little less, getting caved in defensively a little more, and that seems to be a bit of a problem.

But the other piece of this worth noting is that the Phantoms are also tied for fourth in the league in goals for, so despite generating fewer chances, they are still converting on a good amount of those? So are they just being more efficient in their chance creation? Quality over quantity? Perhaps. Are we a little worried that this might not be sustainable, that they might come back down to earth some, as the season goes on? Yes to this too. Maybe it all works out and they keep doing their good work and we’re worrying for nothing, but it’s certainly something worth watching

Where we’re going

As we mentioned a few points back, we’ve got a busy stretch ahead of us, and this week’s the start of it. The Phantoms hit their New England road trip this week, kicking things off against Providence tonight. It’s been a whole week since we saw the Bruins, when the Flyers beat them handily to bring the season series to 2-1. On Saturday, we’ll see the Hartford Wolf Pack, who are currently sitting at sixth in the division, seven points back from the Phantoms. This is only their second meeting of the season, but the Phantoms already have one win over them (let’s make it two, yeah?). And then they close out the weekend on Sunday in Springfield Thunderbirds (fifth in the division, four points behind the Phantoms). The season series is split at two wins apiece, and the Thunderbirds gave them some trouble earlier in the season (remember that nightmare game where they put up seven on them?) but the Phantoms have played them tighter since then, so hopefully this is a more even matchup.