“And nobody told us
‘Cause nobody showed us
And now it’s up to us […]
I think we can make it”
-Burt Bacharach / Hal David
Review of Systems
Following the heartbreaking loss Friday night at the PPL Center, the Phantoms headed up to the Wyoming Valley to exact their revenge. In Alex Lyon’s first game action of the season, they promptly went down 0-2. But while this team is still finding their groove, they don’t exactly give up. Three straight goals from Friedman, Rubtsov and Varone put the Phantoms right back in it as Lyon started settling in. The Phantoms went in to the second intermission leading 4-3 following a second Rubtsov tally. Myers and Conner added goals in the third to seal the 6-3 victory going away.
The next afternoon in Bridgeport, Carter Hart took the net when we all had Stolie pegged for the third of the 3/3. This time it was the Phantoms who jumped out to the 2-0 lead. They did it on the power play with PPL-scores by Kaše and Varone. The Sound Tigers evened things up in the second, and the teams traded goals in the third with TJ Brennan answering the opposing marker in a matter of seconds. There were no overtime scores despite a Lehigh Valley power play, and the game went to shootout. Phantoms lost in the skills competition as Leier, Rubtsov and Kaše were all stopped. The Phantoms took 3 of 6 points on the weekend.
The Players Play
LHD David Drake was loaned to Reading yesterday. They have home games tonight, Saturday and Sunday, and this will give him some time to get out on the ice. I know it can feel like a demotion, but the opportunity to play and demonstrate skill and stay fresh should be welcome. We’ll see if he makes the return to Allentown when the Phantoms return home November 3–as the Royals head out on the road to Maine and Manchester that weekend. It’s one thing to head down 222 to get some playing time–it’s another to have to ride the ECHL bus, so that’s something to watch. This move comes on the heels of Reece Willcox returning to full duty.
In Philadelphia, Michael Raffl will miss 4-6 weeks with a lower body injury. He was added to the IR, while goalie Michal Neuvirth was activated. Neuvy was promptly put in a Town Car destined for Hartford, as he’ll take to the ice in a rehab/conditioning assignment tonight for the Phantoms. Most Philly beats have him returning to the Flyers for the weekend. With three goalies active, the Flyers will not call up a forward in place of Raffl right now.
Making Sense of the Goalie Rotation
Coach Gordon has told the media not to expect a straight rotation of Hart, Lyon and Stolarz. He’s also said that playing time will not necessarily be equal. Given that information, and the rotation over the 3-game weekend (Hart/Lyon, Lyon/Stolarz, Hart/Stolarz) I thought I had it all figured out–kinda. Then comes Neuvirth in the Town Car.
So, we’ll see. But here’s what I’m thinking:
The development of Carter Hart is a top priority for the Flyers and their management. For that reason, you’ll likely see him get 50-66% of the starts. Beyond that, Lyon and Stolarz will earn their playing time based on performance and practice. We’ll await some clarity in Philadelphia, too, as it’s unlikely that they maintain three netminders in Elliot, Neuvirth and Pickard.
Also note that this whole scenario isn’t necessarily the optimal way for the Phantoms to win games. Young Carter is here to develop his pro game, and will take his lumps at times. Lyon and Stolarz will challenge themselves to stay sharp amid more limited playing opportunity than they’d like. Until Hart gets hot, we won’t ever have the benefit of riding a “hot” goalie for multiple games in a row.
It’s not a totally foreign scenario for the players, though, as Juniors teams often carry three puck tamers. But the Phantoms might lose some games along the way that we might normally win. It will be up to the veteran leadership on this team, too, to make sure the players in front of the goalies perform at a high level to give whoever is in the net the best opportunity to succeed. This Phantoms club is good enough to be in the top four in the division, and we should be in better shape goalie-wise as we get closer to playoff time. Finally, if the dreaded injury bug rears its head, we’re well-prepared.
Friday, home vs WBS
10 Carey -26 Varone -16 Aube-Kubel
24 Twarynski -21 Vecchione -22 Conner
23 Leier -17 Rubtsov -38 Kaše
12 Goulbourne -9 Bardreau -13 McDonald
43 Brennan -44 Willcox
6 Samuelsson -5 Myers
7 Palmquist -37 Friedman
31 Carter Hart (34 Alex Lyon)
2 James de Haas
8 David Drake
19 Radel Fazleev
25 Connor Bunnaman
41 Anthony Stolarz
10 Carey-26 Varone-16 AubeKubel
24 Twarynski-21 Vecchione-22 Conner
23 Leier-17 Rubtsov-25 Bunnaman
12 Goulbourne-9 Bardreau-19 Fazleev
43 Brennan-6 Samuelsson
7 Palmquist-5 Myers
2 de Haas-37 Friedman
34 Lyon (41 Stolarz)
8 David Drake
13 Colin McDonald
38 David Kaše
44 Reece Willcox
31 Carter Hart
10 Carey -26 Varone -16 Aube-Kubel
24 Twarynski -21 Vecchione -38 Kaše
23 Leier -17 Rubtsov -13 McDonald
12 Goulbourne -9 Bardreau -25 Bunnaman
43 Brennan -6 Samuelsson
7 Palmquist -5 Myers
37 Friedman -44 Willcox
31 Carter Hart (41 Anthony Stolarz)
34 Alex Lyon
8 David Drake
22 Chris Conner
19 Radel Fazleev
2 James deHaas
Always cognizant that how they warm up or where they are early in the game isn’t always how things end up, of course. My observations from the lines used over the weekend:
- As we’ve said before, the top line of 10-26-16 will likely remain untouched unless an injury or call-up changes things. They’re also out there together on the PP1 unit, usually, most recently along with another center (Vecchione on Friday) and TJ Brennan, allowing Varone to float.
- There have been some changes to the second line over the first few weeks of the season, but I think they really want Twarynski out there most nights for developmental reasons. Kaše now seeing more time on the right wing with the glut of left wings on the team. That glut could also prevent the team/organization from bringing back Danick Martel if that were to become an option.
- Rubtsov with some goals over the weekend. Both he and Kaše have exceeded my expectations thus far into the season, in terms of their ability to contribute on the score sheet. I hope they can keep it up; it will make this team just that more formidable.
- Bardreau in the center all weekend and Goulbourne on the left all weekend likely means that the coaches have been happy with that combination. Fazleev getting some time on the wing, or did he switch-off with Bardreau on Saturday?
- As I wrote the other day, I think the return of a healthy Willcox means more to this defense than most fans think. The points Brennan puts up when paired with Willcox should be exhibit one, and perhaps TJ should have to “share tips” with Reece.
- I’m not sure Samuelsson has been playing that well. Perhaps he’s also been out of position playing on the right side? And the Sunday pairings look a little wonky–perhaps an attempt to cross up Bridgeport, having already played them?
- Palmquist is good, and talented. He’s not a rookie, but it is his first year here. There have been some uneven plays that I think will get worked out as we go along.
- Taylor Leier with 2 A and 0 G in 5 games since returning to the Phantoms. I haven’t watched him closely, but I did kind of expect he’d be on the score sheet more often. If someone has watched him more closely, please share what you’ve observed. It could be a case like Matt Read last season, where you have an NHL player on the club doing important things out on the ice to help the team win–but not necessarily things that show up in the box score.
Scenes From Our Next Episode
The Phantoms are in Hartford tonight with Neuvirth in net, then head (probably home first, but) to Binghamton for our first look at the Devils’ affiliate this season, and to Hershey with the traditional Sunday late-afternoon affair.
The team will have the week off next week before heading back up I-81 to Binghamton for the start of a home/home which will culminate on Saturday, November 3–our next home game. So that’s three tilts with the Binghamton squad over the next couple weeks.
Blog Schedule: Look for another “Notebook” after the weekend. “Hockey Night” may or may not preview the November 3 game, due to other commitments. However, remember to wear your green jersey (if you have one).
See you at the arena, eventually,