“When your goalie is sharp, you have a chance to win every game.
If he’s not, you don’t have a chance to win any game.”
-Brian Sutter, Blackhawks Coach
The Phantoms just returned from four straight games on the road with three regulation wins, 3-1 with 6 of 8 possible standings points. Read more about the questions this team answered, and more, by clicking HERE.
Only 8 standings points separate the top team and the first team set to miss the playoffs. Things are tight, and every game is important. Out of the five teams in contention for four spots, Lehigh Valley and Bridgeport have a “game in hand” advantage in which to gather extra points.
From a “magic number” standpoint, the “number” reduces by two points every time the Phantoms win a game and by two more points every time the fifth place team–in this case Hershey–loses a game. One point can be reduced with an OT/SO loss–and head-to-head with Hershey is magnified: Tonight’s game could be worth four points for the Phantoms towards clinching a spot.
Here’s the “Playoff Primer” from the AHL. Note the “magic number” as well as the strength of schedule remaining.
- With 208 goals this season, the Phantoms lead all 30 AHL clubs in goals scored this year. What’s more, Lehigh Valley continues to lead the AHL averaging 3.65 goals per game.
- The Phantoms’ special teams have been on fire in recent weeks. Lehigh Valley’s power play has connected in six of its last seven games overall producing an impressive 10 man-advantage markers during that stretch (10-for-33, 30.3 percent) while the team’s penalty kill has allowed just two power play goals during that same time frame. Over the last seven games, Lehigh Valley’s penalty kill is 26-for-28 (92.9 percent).
- The Phantoms are 18-7-2 at home this season and have outscored their opposition 111-82 in games played at PPL Center. Phantoms fans have produced five straight standing room-only sellouts and 13 capacity crowds overall this season.
- Big news late this week was the re-signing of Forward Greg Carey. He’ll make $275K per season to continue to bury goals on the power play for the Phantoms through the 2018-2019 season. An excellent signing, signaling the Phantoms, by way of the Flyers organization and willingness to spend money, plan to continue to field competitive teams on the ice at the PPL Center.
- Injured players remain out. Due to practice reports, I’d be surprised to see any of these players on the ice this weekend, leaving us with the bare minimum to play hockey: D Robert Hagg (week to week, leg), F Boyd Gordon (week to week, knee), F Danick Martel (concussion protocol), F Steve Swavely (week to week, wrist/arm), F Taylor Leier (
Fingering TissuesLingering Issues, unknown). (I kid from a media/organization/deception standpoint, but I know full well it’s killing the young man not to be out on the ice.)
- F Chris McCarthy continues to center the fourth line, and potted his first Phantom tally Wednesday night in Wilkes Barre. F Tyrell Goulbourne was recalled from Reading over the road trip, and has already had his first fight of this tour.
Forward Chris Conner enters the week tied for the team lead and tied for sixth in the league in scoring with 48 total points (19 goals, 29 assists). The 33-year-old winger is currently riding a season-high seven-game scoring streak as he’s compiled nine points (4 goals, 5 assists) during his recent surge.
- Forward Greg Carey enters the week leading all Lehigh Valley skaters and second in the league with 26 goals. Through just 57 games, he’s already matched his goal total from a season ago and Carey continues to lead all AHL skaters with an impressive 17 power play goals this year.
Defenseman T.J. Brennan enters the week tied with Conner for the team lead in scoring with 48 points (17 goals, 31 assists). Brennan’s 48 points are tops among all league defenders and the four-time All-Star also leads all AHL defenders in goals (17) and shots on goal (173) and is tied for second among AHL blueliners in power play conversions (9).
Reading lost in Brampton last night in overtime, and will have a rematch there tonight. They’ll stop in Elmira to face the
School for the Blind Jackals on the way home on Sunday. They’re a fair ways away, so if we need an extra player it might require a Town Car rental. Then again, we’ve picked that cupboard pretty clean of late, and we might just have to suck it up and take some extra shifts. The Royals just completed a trade which netted them an extra player, so stay tuned.
Reading sits in third place in their division, only one point back of Brampton and Manchester tied for the lead.
In come the Hershey Bears. They’re on the outside looking in at this very moment, but have been playing some excellent hockey of late. They’re 5-1 in their last six and have won three in a row coming in, including two over division leaders Syracuse and Wilkes Barre.
Hershey has also brought in reinforcements, as their parent Washington Capitals completed some trades to bring Hershey a better goalie and some additional talent. In addition, they’ve signed a couple new players from the college ranks this week as well who should be available on ATO tonight. Don’t be at all surprised to hear that one of their guys “scored his first goal” tonight.
Puck Drop: 7:05PM
Parking: Shouldn’t be a problem–use the decks over the lots if you want to avoid snow, and choose your footwear wisely. I expect everything to be cleaned up pretty well by game time tonight.
Tickets: Plenty of seats are still available for tonight’s game
Broadcast: Watch the game from home on Service Electric TV-2 or AHL-Live. Listen along on AM-1470 or the Phantoms365 app or online at phantomshockey.com. In the arena tune to FM-89.9 for the real-time call.
Media Kit (lineups, rosters, team stats): hershey 310
Pregame: TV pregame live from Chickie’s and Pete’s at 6:30PM on TV-2. Radio pregame setup starts at 6:20PM for your drive downtown.
Last time out we headed back to Chickie’s for the first time in a long time. Sometimes it’s shaky in there, but we always seem to get pretty good service. Food was decent and the beer was cold and my glass was always full. There was a somewhat new scenario where you would go through security to get into the restaurant, then proceed unimpeded into the arena when the doors opened. It seems like a good plan to keep folks moving, but if you’ve seen The Godfather you know there’s a significant flaw in this plan. Some other changes that seem to impede and disrupt as much as help over in Timmie’s as well.
Tonight we’ll be at CENTRO. It’s my first time–looking for a nice pre-game “hockey date night” meal with Mrs. Kram. She started off the season struggling at the games (1-3-1 I think) but she’s won her last two or three, so not expecting any “bad luck” issues tonight. 😉
Farewell to Hook and Wok Box. As you know, I was a big fan of Hook–took advantage of their happy hour menu at the bar on many a game night. Never tried Wok Box but seemed like a neat spot to grab some Asian cuisine before a game. Alas, we’re starting to see a trend of what works downtown: Beer selection, bar scene, burgers and bbq. And, what doesn’t: Fine dining, limited bar selections, non-basic casual.
What To Watch
- It seems like maybe the “Lyon King” has been given the opportunity to seize the primary goalie position. He’s started in net in three straight games–with very strong starts Saturday and with the shut-out in Wilkes Barre on Wednesday. But Sunday wasn’t great; he got pulled for Stolie. Watch to see if Lyon gets the start tonight against a tougher Hershey squad with Stolie going tomorrow versus a somewhat easier Utica side. That’s what I’d do.
- With McCarthy and Goulbourne on the fourth line we may not be rolling four scoring lines exactly, anymore, but the energy that group can bring, along with Fazleev, can be an important factor and keep the opposition off the board. Watch the fourth line tonight.
- Watch for Laugton to get a score or two tonight. I’ve got a feeling. Maybe wear one of your older hats…
- Watch for defensive responsibility and good behavior from veteran blue-liners TJ Brennan and Will O’Niell. Support on the offensive end is great from those guys, but responsibility in our own zone and staying out of the box are important as well. A good game by these two will likely result in a win.
- Watch to see if there’s some semblance of the “size 52” line. With Martel out, I don’t think it will be true, but the guys who wear the smallest jerseys all on the same line might not be the best idea. I could be wrong if they use their speed and play tough, but it worries me.
- Watch for more of a “hockey” crowd tonight. Given the tickets available, the goofy weather, the recent sell-outs, and Hershey in town, I think you’ll have a larger percentage of fans interested in the game tonight than in recent games. It might get loud.
Having just completed four on the road, the Hamilton Street Heroes will now hold residence at the PPL Center for four straight starting tonight. It’s not easy, two are division leaders (Syracuse Wednesday, and the Penguins a week from tonight) and two more are scratching for every point they can get to remain in playoff contention (Hershey tonight and Utica tomorrow).
Tonight: Hershey “Rivalry Night”
Tomorrow: Utica “Post-game Skate with Players”
Wednesday: Syracuse “Beat Syracuse Night”
Friday 3/17: Wilkes Barre “St Patty’s Day Jerseys”
See you at the arena,