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The Lehigh Valley Phantoms hit the final stretch

Too many games, not enough time for jokes.

Casey Liberatore / SB Nation

Where we are

Weeks of Mar. 24 - Apr. 3

GP W L Standing in Division
GP W L Standing in Division
5 2 3 6th

We’re back! The schedule’s really packed through these last couple of weeks of the season, but you knew that already. That hasn’t left us a whole lot of time for talking, so now we’re playing catch-up. We’ve got a lot of substantive talk coming, so we’re going to streamline our recaps this time around. Enjoy these super fun box scores.

Wednesday March 27 @ Rochester. Phantoms 4 – Americans 3 (OT)

Shots: 31 (LV) – 43 (ROC)

Phantoms scoring: Mark Friedman, Pascal Laberge (3). Assists: Pascal Laberge, Chris Conner (3), Mike Vecchione, Zach Palmquist.

Goaltender: Alex Lyon (40 saves on 43 shots)

Friday March 29 @ Cleveland. Monsters 6 – Phantoms 3

Shots: 29 (LV) – 41 (CLE)

Phantoms scoring: Byron Froese, Carsen Twarynski, Colin McDonald. Assists: Byron Froese, David Kase, Cole Bardreau, Steven Swavely.

Goaltender: Mike McKenna (35 saves on 41 shots)

Saturday March 30 @ Cleveland. Phantoms 3 – Monsters 2 (SO)

Shots: 23 (LV) – 44 (CLE)

Phantoms scoring: Byron Froese, Pascal Laberge, Mike Huntebrinker (SO). Assists: David Schlemko, Mark Friedman, Chris Conner, Byron Froese.

Goaltender: Alex Lyon (42 saves on 44 shots)

Tuesday April 2 @ Charlotte. Checkers 5 – Phantoms 1

Shots: 17 (LV) – 38 (CHA)

Phantoms scoring: Nic Aube-Kubel. Assists: Byron Froese.

Goaltender: Alex Lyon (40 min. 24 saves on 28 shots). Mike McKenna (20 min. 9 saves on 10 shots)

Wednesday April 3 @ Charlotte. Checkers 6 – Phantoms 2

Shots: 24 (LV) – 39 (CHA)

Phantoms scoring: Connor Bunnaman, David Kase. Assists: Greg Carey, TJ Brennan

Goaltender: Alex Lyon (33 saves on 38 shots)

News

Some quick hits! In case you missed it! Mike Huntebrinker was recalled from the Royals, and Matthew Strome was signed to an ATO and has joined the team. Corban Knight also cleared waivers and may or may not be a Phantom again in the relatively near future. We’ll see about that one.

Leaderboards

Points

Player GP G A1 A2 P
Player GP G A1 A2 P
Greg Carey 69 27 18 13 58
Chris Conner 67 14 16 17 47
T.J. Brennan 58 9 13 19 41
Mike Vecchione 67 15 13 10 38
Philippe Myers 48 9 12 8 29
Connor Bunnaman 57 17 8 4 29
Phil Varone 22 11 9 8 28
Nic Aube-Kubel 49 15 6 6 27
Mikhail Vorobyev 42 7 14 5 26
Colin McDonald 64 9 6 9 24

Advanced Stats

Player GP 5v5 iCF 5v5 CF% Avg GS
Player GP 5v5 iCF 5v5 CF% Avg GS
Jori Lehtera 2 4 70.31 1.55
Phil Varone 22 46 51.52 1.17
Nic Aube-Kubel 32 68 51.27 0.52
T.J. Brennan 41 122 49.39 0.7
Greg Carey 49 121 48.85 0.81
Justin Bailey 10 33 48.58 0.66
Mikhail Vorobyev 32 41 48.1 0.5
Philip Samuelsson 49 106 48.07 0.22
Philippe Myers 48 192 48.03 0.56
Colin McDonald 49 118 46.76 0.35

Three Stars

1. Pascal Laberge

We’re not even going to try to be cute with this one: Laberge had four goals in this last stretch and it would be really, really hard to say that this isn’t worthy of stardom for the week. He’s remained something of an open question, as he’s coming back from injury and making his professional debut, but he’s giving us a lot to like. He’s keeping pace and he’s finding ways to contribute when his team needs it most. We love to talk about timeliness, and this is kind of the definition of it. Could we nitpick and say that it might have been nice to see that offense spread out a bit, rather than coming in that spurt? Probably, but we won’t. A first career hat trick is exciting and we’re not really in the position to complain about offense, all things considered. So we’re pretty happy about this.

2. Alex Lyon

You saw the box scores already, but I have to repeat this: Alex Lyon had a pretty rough week. And that sounds like we’re saying he played poorly, but it’s quite the opposite, really. 14 goals allowed doesn’t sound very good at all, but we’d be hard pressed to say that they were all Lyon’s fault. He faced between 38 and 44 shots in each of his four starts, and that’s not an easy task. The team in front was spending long stretches caught in their own end (and more on that later) and Lyon was more or less expected to bail them out. His play was sound, there wasn’t any real messiness there, he just wasn’t getting a ton of support. He did what he could, but there’s only so much to do, in the face of that onslaught. But we still like his effort.

3. Byron Froese

It was a pretty big week for Froese as well! He picked up two goals and three assists in those last five games, seeming to have his hand in a good bulk of the offense generated this past week or so. And, in short, that’s nice to see. Since coming over in the trade that sent Dale Weise and Christian Folin to Montreal, we could say that, on the whole, he’s been fine. He’s been pretty good, but not stellar. And maybe that’s just something of an adjustment period needing to take place, but it seems to be coming to an end. Froese is starting to look more like what we expected when he was sent over. Things are starting to click.

Two observations

1. Trouble in transition

You might have noticed in those numbers to open this article, that there was a pretty sharp disparity in the number of shots that the Phantoms were able to generate and the number they allowed. It’s that difficulty getting the puck up-ice in transition that we’ve talked about at length already, but it happened again. And it’s a curious situation—it’s not as though the Phantoms completely lack the ability to do this, we’ve seen them able to hang with Charlotte and Toronto, for example, some of the better transitional teams, but they just haven’t been able to find a way to do it on a consistent basis. We saw this week, just as we’ve seen all season, how the Phantoms can be burned by their inability to get out of their own end. No matter how well your goalie is playing, you have to help him out at least a little bit.

And maybe this is just us screaming into the void, at this point. We have five games left and we’re facing what could be a good bit of turnover in personnel for next season. Maybe we just have to get all of our angst out now and hope that the fix comes next season. Alas.

2. Discipline, discipline, discipline

Maybe this is arbitrary, maybe it isn’t, but we should also note that there were a lot of penalties taken in these last five games. Things got pretty chippy by the time the Phantoms hit their games with Charlotte, so there was a lot of roughing going on, but we’re going to ignore those for now. Rather, we’re going to focus on the other penalties. The Phantoms took, in total 26 minutes of stick related or adjacent penalties (that is, hooking, tripping, slashing, holding, etc), and had 20 of those minutes come in those three losses. And maybe this shouldn’t be much of a surprise—we already talked about how they were spending a lot of time in their own end in those games, and those kinds of stick infractions are bound to happen when you’re chasing like that. It’s kind of a double whammy, in a way, and the Phantoms’ penalty kill couldn’t bail them all the way out (giving up four goals in those three losses). Bad compounding bad. So it goes.

Where we’re going

We got a bit of a breather with those couple of days off, and now the Phantoms are back at home with a back to back on Saturday and Sunday against the Penguins! They’re presently three points up on the Phantoms and sitting at fifth in the division, and if you’re still sold on their chances of making the playoffs, these are must-win games. A couple of four point nights, if you will. And if you’re totally out on them, that’s okay too. Then you get a pair of rivalry games that are almost always an adventure. Something for everyone.