I was young and stupid then. Now I’m not young anymore.”
-Maple Leaf Jyrki Lumme
King of the Atlantic
It’s a great achievement. It really is. It’s a long season full of ups and downs, injuries and call-ups–It’s a grind. And this season the Phantoms not only made the playoffs–something they failed to do in seven straight seasons at one point–but emerged as the top team in a difficult AHL Atlantic, and one of the top two or three teams in the entire league.
That doesn’t happen without talent. And, it doesn’t happen without depth. Guys need to contribute from all levels. There needs to be an expectation that the guy who just arrived from Reading doesn’t just strap on his skates and skate around, but is expected to contribute to the team and the chance to win on any given night. That’s something that wasn’t present over those seven years.
So now that I’ve dispensed with the honors, let me add a couple caveats: They haven’t really won anything yet. I don’t want a banner for the division title. Teams that hang up banners for divisions aren’t really hungry for championships. Last year we could be happy to just return to the playoffs; we were just happy to be there. This season, that’s not enough. They need to emerge from this division and challenge at the conference level, at least. Anything less than that will be highly disappointing given the capabilities of this team.
So here’s to the last two games of the regular season. Bridgeport tonight and Wilkes tomorrow. This weekend it’s about getting ready for the playoffs.
The list of the injured is formidable. While we don’t know a ton, we have heard some news:
- D Sam Morin won’t play this weekend. He’s been skating, and might be ready during the first playoff series.
- G Dustin Tokarski was called up to the Flyers because of an undisclosed issue on that level. He was immediately returned.
- G Alex Lyon was nursing and issue but should be ready to go when needed.
- G John Muse has returned to Reading to lead them into the Kelly Cup tournament. We wish him well–I’d have no problem with him in net for our squad, but the Royals deserve their best chance in the playoffs as well.
- G Anthony Stolarz may not be good to go this weekend after a minor injury kept him out the past two weeks.
- Fs Chris Conner and Corban Knight have returned to full practice. They should be good to go for the playoffs.
- Philippe Myers will not return any time soon with his injured foot. Vorobyev is thought to have a broken wrist or arm, but that cannot be verified.
- Expect to see rookie forwards 42 Isaac Ratliff, 29 Pascal Laberge, and 24 Carsen Twarinski in action this weekend. It’s a good chance for them to get some pro experience.
- D David Drake (39) contributed on the recent road trip, and D Frank Hora (25) is still with the team as far as I know.
Stats and Info
Forward Phil Varone continues to lead all Phantoms and is tied for the league lead in total scoring with 70 total points (23 goals, 47 assists). He’s established new career highs in goals (23), assists (47) and points (70) this season and has registered at least one point in 48 of 73 games this year. Recently, Varone has tallied 13 points (5 goals, 8 assists) across his last 14 games.
Forward Greg Carey enters the week leading all Phantoms and is tied for third among all AHLers with 31 goals scored this season. With his conversion in Sunday’s victory at Providence, he became the first Phantoms player to score more than 30 goals in a season since Jonathan Sim netted 35 tallies during the 2004-05 campaign.
- Forward Danick Martel is currently tied for second among all Phantoms with 23 goals and is tied for fifth on Lehigh Valley’s roster in scoring with 38 total points. The Lehigh Valley franchise leader in games played (198), Martel enters the week 22nd on the Phantoms’ all-time scoring list with 118 total points (66 goals, 52 assists).
- Defenseman T.J. Brennan enters the week as one of just six AHL blueliners to have tallied 40 or more points this season. Named to the AHL’s Second All-Star Team last week, the 29-year-old blueliner is currently fifth among all defenders having notched 45 points (14 goals, 31 assists) across 62 games this year.
Lehigh Valley is 41-1-5 when scoring three or more goals this season and is 39-6-5 when allowing three goals against or fewer.
- The Phantoms are 30-4-6 when scoring first this season and are 18-4-10 in one-goal contests this year.
- The Phantoms enter the week tied with the Charlotte Checkers as the highest-scoring team in the AHL averaging an impressive 3.42 goals per game. Lehigh Valley paced all 30 AHL teams in scoring last season with 260 conversions across the team’s 76-game schedule (3.42 goals/game).
- The Phantoms are 25-6-5 at PPL Center this season and have outscored their opposition 133-95 in 36 games in downtown Allentown. What’s more, Lehigh Valley has collected standings points in 17 of its last 18 home games having produced an impressive 15-1-2 mark at PPL Center since January 13.
Why You Should Care About These Games
- A chance to see some of the young guys we’ll get next season or the following year.
- A chance for some guys to get back on the ice from injury.
- It’s a tune-up for the playoffs.
- Nobody likes Bridgeport or Wilkes Barre
Keep an eye on the scoreboard because things haven’t really been settled between Charlotte and Providence for the 3/4 seed. In fact, Wilkes Barre hasn’t officially clinched the 2nd, either, at this point–although it’s very likely.
Should Charlotte remain in fourth, we’ll likely head down there for the first two games of the opening round, before returning to the valley for the final three games (last two “if necessary”). If Charlotte over-takes Providence (or Scranton for that matter) and we’re left with Providence, then you can assume we’ll start with two games at the PPL Center, move to Providence for the next two as needed, with the final game at 7th and Hamilton if necessary.
See you for the playoffs, I’ll be at baseball,