Phantoms weekly rundown: Another All Star break approaches
Where we are
Jan. 15 - Jan. 23
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Since we last talked, German Rubtsov was called up to the Flyers for a game, and then sent back down before the break. Connor Bunnaman and Alex Lyon were also sent back down to Lehigh Valley. Additionally, Felix Sandstrom was sent back to Reading.
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All stats via TheAHL, Phancy Stats, and Maddie’s NZ tracking project.
1. Greg Carey
With just one goal and three points in his last 16 games before last week, it’s safe to say that Carey was in a bit of a scoring drought going on. And, given the state of the team as a whole during that time, we understand why that was the case (nothing ever happens in a vacuum, after all), but for one of their historically more consistent scorers to be in a slump like that is tough.
The good news is, though, that Carey had himself a monster week, and seems to be pretty well getting himself back on track. With three goals in his last four games, including two on the power play, just like that (well, not just like that, he was getting some good chances even when he wasn’t scoring), his offensive game is going again. And it’s really hard to overstate how important that it. Having a bunch of depth contributions is certainly nice, but at a certain point, you expect your big guns, if you will, to show up for you. To start stringing together wins, you need contributions from everybody up and down the lineup. And with Carey seemingly going again, we’re one step closer to that.
2. Max Willman
He finally did it, gang! The Phantoms signed Willman to a PTO, bringing him up from Reading, back in December, and while he’s been impressive in just about each of his games played with his speed and the number of quality chances he was generating, he just couldn’t seem to get anything to go in for him. But, thankfully, that changed last Wednesday against Syracuse.
Big Willy Style. pic.twitter.com/AP6H1IsmqA— LehighValleyPhantoms (@LVPhantoms) January 16, 2020
And since that goal, he’s gone on quite a tear, with a goal and two assists coming in his next three games. It’s all starting to come together for him, and it’s happening at just the right time—it’s nice, obviously, that he’s contributing to this hot streak the team is on, but they’ll have to make a decision soon on if they want to sign him or release him from his PTO, and he’s certainly making a strong case for himself to stick around.
3. J.F. Berube
We talked in our last rundown about how Berube and Alex Lyon had both had good weeks, and that was a big part of why the Phantoms were able to break out of their funk and get some wins. And then, with Lyon called up to Philly for the last week, it was up to Berube to be The Guy for them, and he delivered. It wasn’t a perfect week, he still gave up seven goals over three of his last four games, though he did sneak a shutout over Rochester in there, but we can still feel pretty confident saying that he was mostly steady this week, and really gave the Phantoms a chance in each of the games they played. Things could have been a lot closer if he hadn’t been as sharp as he was, and who knows, maybe the tone of this rundown would have been a lot different. But
Two loose observations
1. On energy lines
I don’t know if this is cheating a little bit, because we’ve moved on from the people section to the things section, but we’re still talking about people? But this is my article and I can do what I want.
Anyway. We’ve been talking a good bit about depth, generally, recently, but if we wanted to get even more specific, we should point out that the Phantoms have put together a pretty great fourth line, here. Last week, the Phantoms tried out a line of Willman, David Kase, adn Kyle Criscuolo, and it was a line that was almost immediately impactful. They’re fast, they’re tenacious, and they’re just fun as hell. They’ve also put up two goals in their second game together, while also managing a 100 high danger chances for%. Granted, we’ve only seen them for two games and this is hardly a large sample to go on, but the initial return has just been so good. In my mind, this is exactly what you want from a fourth line—a group that can collectively bring a good amount of energy, while also having enough skill to just beat up on other average fourth lines. This arrangement has been a good one, and here’s hoping we see more of it this weekend.
2. The power play picks up steam
Spoiler alert: we’ll be talking more about the Phantoms’ power play and in greater depth in not too long here, but they had themselves a pretty solid week, so that’s worth recognizing here as well.
The Phantoms’ power play has struggled pretty mightily so far this season, but as I said, they looked much better this week. They went 4/17 in their last four games (though realistically it was more like 4/16, as one of their “attempts” on Wednesday was under 30 seconds of carry over after a bit of 4-on-4, but I digress), which is pretty solid all on its own. But what really stood out is how they were able to get a good bit of puck movement going and string together a couple of chances in succession. They were getting more continuous zone time, and they were able to get results from that. So, more of that please?
What’s on deck
We’ve got a short weekend ahead of us! The Phantoms will play Providence again tonight and then first place Hartford on Saturday, before they hit the All Star break. Morgan Frost will be off to Ontario, CA for that, and it looks like NHL Network will be broadcasting that, so if that’s something you have access to, you can keep up with him that way.