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Phantoms weekly rundown: Back at it

At long last

Casey Liberatore / SB Nation

Where we are

Week of Jan. 22 - Jan. 27

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

We’re back, everybody! The Phantoms are finally back at it and we’ve got lots of things to talk about. Let’s start with a quick recap of those last games that happened approximately four thousand years ago, at this point. And, just a quick note, All Of The Flyers Happenings have us bumped to the new week. So please enjoy this update on our last week before the break, and our notes on this past weekend’s action will be coming later on the in the week. Okay, note concluded.

Their last week of action kicked off with a Wednesday game at home against Hershey, and it was... yeah it wasn’t super fun. The Phantoms gave up a goal in the middle of the first period and had to spend the next 30-odd minutes trying to claw their way back while getting caved in by shots. But Greg Carey got the equalizer early in the third, and that was it. No more scoring in regulation. And then no scoring in overtime. And then a Greg Carey shootout winner! Wow!

They kept that momentum rolling into Friday’s game that was decidedly not quite as much of a slog as their last game against Laval was. They found a way to break through their stifling defense, so it was goals for Phil Myers, Justin Bailey (on the power play), and Mikhail Vorobyev (on a 5-on-3 power play). Pair that with the fact that they were able to keep Laval well enough contained, holding them to just two goals, and that’s (finally) a regulation win.

The momentum stopped there, unfortunately, as the Phantoms hit their last game before the break, and Bridgeport handed them a pretty decisive loss. Kieffer Bellows got the first goal early in the second period, but Bailey evened things up for the Phantoms, but that was just about all Lehigh Valley had in them. Two more goals on Hart for the Sound Tigers, and then an empty netter sealed things up and the Phantoms had their winning streak snapped.

News

Just a couple of things to recap, on who is and is not a Phantom.

Frank Hora is not a Phantom: he was sent back down to Reading

Carter Hart and Mikhail Vorobyev are not Phantoms: they were called up to the Flyers on Sunday

Mike McKenna is a Phantom: he’ll be joining the team on a conditioning stint.

Leaderboards

Points

Player GP G A1 A2 P
Player GP G A1 A2 P
Greg Carey 44 20 14 9 43
TJ Brennan 37 7 10 16 33
Chris Conner 44 11 8 13 32
Philippe Myers 45 8 12 8 28
Phil Varone 22 11 9 8 28
Mike Vecchione 45 10 10 5 25
Mikhail Vorobyev 32 6 12 4 22
Colin McDonald 44 4 6 8 18
Nic Aube-Kubel 32 10 5 3 18
Connor Bunnaman 33 12 4 2 18

Advanced Stats

Player GP 5v5 iCF 5v5 CF% Avg GS
Player GP 5v5 iCF 5v5 CF% Avg GS
Phil Varone 22 46 51.52 1.17
Nic Aube-Kubel 32 68 51.27 0.52
TJ Brennan 37 113 50.29 0.76
Justin Bailey 6 14 49.69 0.68
Greg Carey 44 107 49.12 0.86
Mikhail Vorobyev 32 41 48.1 0.5
Philippe Myers 45 181 47.6 0.56
Philip Samuelsson 44 96 47.24 0.19
Colin McDonald 44 98 46.11 0.33
Mark Friedman 45 114 45.3 0.27

Three Stars

1. Mikhail Vorobyev

A repeat star! Maybe we’d all forgotten since it’s been so long since we’ve talked, but it is a repeat. We talked about how he had been looking strong before he missed the one game with what were told was a minor injury, and then he came back from that and kept up with that same level. He recorded four points in his last three games, and continued to look effective in all situations, tapping into that new level that we hadn’t seen in a bit. He was going again, and that made him look little short of dominant.

It caught our attention, and we weren’t the only ones, as this strong play also earned him his call-up to return to the Flyers, and he’s been doing just fine up there too. It feels a little awkward talking about his last Phantoms play when he’s already got a couple games with the Flyers under his belt, but that’s just what the bye-week does to you. And he deserves to have the work that got him back to the big club recognized.

2. Justin Bailey

In the time it took us to start writing last week’s rundown and finishing it, we had to change our note about Bailey having his first goal as a Phantom to... not that, after the league made a correction and noted that Vorobyev tipped Bailey’s shot and there went that. But no matter! Bailey kept on rolling and picked up his first goal on Friday, for real this time. And we give him credit for stepping in with a brand new team and immediately being able to chip in. He’s scoring well, and his advanced metrics are good as well, as he sits with a 49.69 CF% at 5-on-5. And, small sample, we know, and we’ll be keeping watch to see if he can maintain at least close to this clip, but he’s given us a lot to like, so far. He’s brought a well rounded game, and he’s fitting in nicely so far.

3. All of the goalies

It’s hard to say that any one goalie was the star of the show this week, as we had three different goalies each getting starts. So we’re doing a little bit of a cop out and mashing them together and making them a star. Because (and we’ll be talking more about this later) the Phantoms have been giving up a lot of shots and haven’t exactly been making things easy for their goalies, but those goalies have been coming up big. Lyon registered a .976 save percentage on Wednesday. Branden Komm has his first professional career win on Friday. Carter Hart still let in three Saturday, had to face 35 shots, and still posted a .914 save percentage. What are we getting at? The Phantoms got four of six available points this week, and goaltending was they key to that.

Two Observations

1. Power play stalls

It’s been a rough stretch for the Phantoms’ power play, of late, and that continued through this past week, which saw them go three for 13 through those last three games, and slip to 11th in the league. We understand why they’re slumping, implicitly—they’ve been hurting since they lost Phil Varone, and then the lineup became further depleted, and most recently PP! has lost their primary distributor in T.J. Brennan. They’re running out of guys and their options aren’t as strong. You can only set Greg Carey up for so many one-timers and have that work consistently, no matter how good his one-timer is. So maybe the fix is around the corner, when they have some players return to the lineup. But we still can’t be blamed for wanting them to find some fixes, in the meantime.

2. Shots and all

We alluded to it earlier and now we’re here. We have to talk about shots. The Phantoms are giving up a lot of them—41, 36, and 36 respectively, in their last three games—while struggling to register anywhere near that themselves. Kerry Huffman mentioned a few weeks back that this has been an aim of theirs, bringing their shot totals up, but so far we haven’t seen the results. And, while their missing one of their volume shooters in Brennan hurts them, we’re still getting a little worried. They’re winning right now largely in part because they’re getting goaltending. And we’re certainly not complaining. But regression comes for us all eventually, and what happens when their goaltending regresses? In short, they need to figure out this shots thing before that happens.

Where we’re going

We’ve got a pretty light weekend on deck, all things considered. They’re back up in Bridgeport tonight to face off against the Sound Tigers, who took the win in their last matchup before the All Star break, and who also took back that second in the Atlantic ranking. So… revenge game? Revenge game.

And then on Saturday they’re in Hershey to hopefully even out the 2019 series (in which Hershey now holds a 2-1 edge). Their last meeting saw a shootout win for the Phantoms, during that stretch where it looked like we were getting bonus hockey every night. How about a regulation win in this one, friends? We’re asking nicely.

All stats via Phancy Stats and theAHL.com

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