Lehigh Valley Phantoms report cards: The goalies

The puck stops here (ideally).

The end of season content on the Lehigh Valley Phantoms rolls on, folks! Yesterday, we took a quick look at the season in something of an overview and talked a little bit about where we can place blame, if that’s what we’re looking to do. But now it’s time to get a little more specific, so we’re diving into some player performances and handing out some end of season grades.

We’re kicking things off today with the goalies, but before we do, a bit of housekeeping: the system here is a pretty straightforward, as Brad and I (Maddie) will be taking a look at all of the players who played at least 15 games (with just the one exception, but you’ll see that soon) and assigning our own individual grades and giving a bit of a breakdown on our thoughts, then combining those for the final grades. Okay, good talk, now on to the goalies!

Jean-Francois Berube

29 GP. 2.56 GAA. .906 SV%. Grade: C

Maddie, C+: I think the first word that comes to mind when I think of Berube is “frustrating.” I don’t think he had a poor season, on the whole, not really. He put up a number of really solid showings and at times it made a lot of sense why the organization brought him in for support, rather than starting one of the rookies goalies in the AHL right away. But, that said, the frustrating part was knowing that he could have really solid games, and then turn around and look like an absolute disaster who can’t stop a beach ball. There were games that he lost for them. And we never really knew what we were going to get on a given night. So while I am pleased with what they were able to get from him on his good nights, it’s that lack of consistency that causes his grade to take a hit, for me.

Brad, C: I went with an average grade here, for a lot of the same reasons that Maddie just discussed. The consistency just wasn’t there, and while that is certainly preferred to, say, consistently bad, it can be a bit frustrating. There’s really not much more for me to add, you just didn’t know how any given night was going to go. It made sense for them to part ways just ahead of the trade deadline with a rookie playing very well in the ECHL.

Alex Lyon

32 GP. 2.69 GAA. .913 SV%. Grade: A-

Maddie, A: Honestly I don’t really have too much of a breakdown on this one. I also really don’t have any major complaints about Lyon’s season, either. The season stats are, as we can see, good but not stellar, sure, but they are still very solid considering what he had to work with. The Phantoms bled a lot of high danger chances this season, and it certainly didn’t make things easy on any of their goaltenders, but I think Lyon performed well, considering that he wasn’t always getting a ton of help from the defense in front of him. And, what’s more, while he did still have his off nights and was pulled a couple of times, I can’t think of a single game that we came out of where I thought “they could have won this one but Lyon didn’t have it.” And I think that counts for something.

Brad, B+: Lyon continues to be a solid option in goal for the Phantoms. The wins might not be there for him this season, but wins aren’t a goalie stat, they’re a team stat. He was about as good as expected, and given the Phantoms’ struggles to take control of games, he was maybe even a bit better than one would expect. He’s an unrestricted free agent but would be a welcome addition to the 2020-2021 roster.

As a final note, I think it’s a bit interesting that Lyon seemed to get yanked quicker on his poor nights than Berube. I think that he was easily their most reliable goaltender, and that felt a bit backwards. Maybe there’s a reason for that, or maybe it wasn’t even a thing that was happening and it only just felt that way. But I do remember having that thought at times.

Kirill Ustimenko

5 GP. 3.84 GAA. .889 SV%. Grade: C-

Maddie, C-: Okay, so I know I said that we were only going to be talking about players with 15 or more games played, but I wanted to stretch this one out a little bit more. I made an executive decision here. Anyway.

We obviously don’t have a huge sample to work with here, so we’re definitely keeping that in mind. But, that said, I think it’s fair to say we feel somewhat lukewarm about his couple of showings. He showed some flashes, and certainly at times had us thinking “okay, yeah, it makes sense why they brought him up here from Reading already.” But there were also times when he looked a bit scrambly and out of his depth. He’s still young and adjusting to playing in the AHL, we definitely understand that, but yeah, as we’re grading the on-ice product, he takes a bit of a hit here. But we’re still optimistic for what’s to come.

Brad, D+: This should probably be marked incomplete, but based on the five games that he played I didn’t feel comfortable going higher than the D+ that I decided on. I do remember him having one or two “wow!” moments which were fun, but overall he did not inspire confidence. That being said, he played very well for Reading, and his .919 save percentage was good for seventh in the league. Even though this grade isn’t the prettiest, it was still quite the positive year for Ustimenko on the whole.