“Breakdown, go ahead and give it to me
Breakdown… take me through the night”
-Tom Petty (Richard Hall)
Doors open at 5:30PM tonight as the Phantoms host the Bears of Hershey to open the 2017-18 AHL hockey season in downtown Allentown. The Phantoms have a mixture of proven veterans and skilled prospects and should be poised to once again qualify for the Calder Cup Tournament in April.
However, the business of the regular season is upon us. Here are the things I’m watching tonight:
I’m watching to see how this team gels and how they play together. I’m also watching to see how the special teams are working–we’ll get back to that in a minute.
Here are the players I’m watching:
5 Philippe Myers: Can the big kid use his body effectively without getting whistled for penalties? How is his skating? How is his puck handling breaking out of the zone?
15 Mikhail Vorobyev: He’s known as a play-maker more than a finisher; which line is he on? Can his mates finish? Will he appear on any special teams units?
21 Mike Vecchione: How does the top college signee from last season look as a full-time professional? Can he chip in on the scoreboard and does he have any juice in the special teams game?
24 Matt Read: The Flyers forward may only be with us for this weekend until the Flyers get back to the east coast. How does Read look? Is he playing hard? Can some big-time minutes in the American League ignite him to contribute more in Philly? I imagine they’ll have him “top-6” today, but we’ll see.
28 Oskar Lindblom: Love to see him assert himself at this level (again) as the Flyers look to see if he can improve his skating. Does he have a chip on his shoulder after getting beat out by Leier and Laughton for NHL spots?
37 Mark Friedman: He’s known as a good skater and puck-handler at the blue line and may be able to contribute on the score sheet as well. Is he responsible defensively? Strong enough on the puck? Who will he be paired with?
Here’s the Media Kit if you want full rosters and game info: Hershey 107
Ahh, David Banfield. How we’ve missed thee…
Referee Stephen Thomson (#15)
Referee David Banfield (#77)
Linesman Matt McNulty (#26)
Linesman Luke Murray (#92)
Let’s hope we can get back to regular hockey (it seems the NHL has..) compared with the farce that was the pre-season. Every time sticks touch each other it is not slashing. Otherwise, the game will devolve into a constant parade of special teams going both ways. For a team trying to gel with vets and youth, that could result in a slow start for the Phantoms. That’s why I’m so interested in the special teams tonight; it could very well decide the game.
But, it could be an advantage if the team can play fast as much as possible, they’ll be the ones to draw the penalties, and we’ll get some serious power play advantage. Gotta play hard, though.
We’ve heard this before: The phantoms play a complicated system which is difficult to learn and master. We were told that when the current coaching staff arrived and it’s been hinted at by the team, reporters and even in some interviews following the 13-3 combined losses to the Checkers in preseason.
Perhaps someone who knows more about hockey can help me out, but it doesn’t seem to me that the “system” is that complicated compared with hockey everywhere else. I mean, except the Devils; those people are crazy. Wilkes-Barre seems to be able to drop a new coach in from time to time and they consistently are able to dominate the division and qualify for the playoffs. What is this complex “system” that we run around here? Does it have a name? Is there a reason it causes us to start slow? Is there a reason for the “Break Down”?
While It Lasts
As I wrote before, enjoy it while it lasts. I predict the team we’re cheering for in late-March and early-April looks a lot different from this one. I think, like the Phillies, the Flyers will want to see guys like Lindblom, Vecchione, et al up with the big team as their season rolls along. Whichever blue-liner comes back, it probably won’t be permanent. (My money is on Sanheim after the other night, but we’ll see.) Read probably won’t be here for long. The only thing constant this season will be change….
OK, they have this silly thing where he’s missing. Let’s see if they have something good for us to enjoy pre-game. Get to your seat on time before they kill the lights and pull the curtains. Let’s see if he can skate this season.
See you at the arena,