The Phantoms took the ice for real in their first action of the 2019-2020 season, and didn’t exactly make my pregame roster love-fest and season prediction look good (read it HERE). The 3-0 loss to Providence was at times sloppy, at times uninspired. They didn’t deserve to win, and there’s no need to sugar coat that. But I do have a couple observations from my notebook from last night:
1. Waste of a Good Crowd
I know folks were hand-wringing over the empty seats, but the Morning Call Club area is going to be that way due to the nature of the contract you have to sign to get in there, and the fact that the seat licence gets you access to the concerts. Companies pay for those season tickets, but don’t always have the intention to use them every game. Or, folks stay up top in the club to eat and drink and hang out rather than sit in the seats. And that’s fine. If you want hockey atmosphere I’d recommend the regular sections.
But I digress. The point is, that I thought the crowd held a certain amount of electricity, which was just waiting for something to ignite it. No goals and no fights (more about that below) kinda kept people in their seats. It’s too bad, I felt like the crowd could have played a role in the game–home ice advantage and all that–had we had the chance.
Some of that is probably the new team coming together as well. As we get to know them, and they get to know us–and each other–they’ll sense stuff like that and it can be a more symbiotic relationship. I think. That’s my read on it. Or, maybe just score a goal once in a while.
There were some flashes. Guys who made you kind of say, “Who WAS that?!?” Here are a couple who flashed into my consciousness:
- Nic Aube-Kubel had moments where it seemed like he might be able to put his imprint on the game. It didn’t happen, but it flashed into my sight.
- Matthew Strome, a fourth rounder from 2017, ate a guys lunch. Then he stepped over him and took the puck, and quickly moved down the ice, on-net. Nothing came of it, but Strome is a guy who perhaps gets over-shadowed by the higher profile Frost, Farabee, and Ratcliffe. But size is something you can’t teach, and his 6’4″ frame was noticeable and in this case he moved plenty quickly. We’re not a big team, so having a big winger out there–in addition to Gabriel–can be useful. I know he’s had a few games with us in the past, but he looked better last night. Skating has been his bugaboo, so we’ll keep an eye on that. He looked good on that particular play.
- I put out the #FrostWarning last night, looking for young Morgan Frost to make his Phantoms debut and get on the score sheet. The Phantoms stole my hashtag, and Frost wasn’t visible for much of the night. Then it happened. He was in the difficult area, along his own boards near the corner, and corralled the puck, put quick moves on two different guys, and sped up the ice. He wasn’t able to finish the play, but it would have been a highlight reel end-to-end. He flashed it. I’m looking forward to seeing more plays like that in the near future.
3. Too Much Dancing
I’m kind of fighting-agnostic. I don’t go to hockey to see fights and in most cases they don’t particularly interest me. But, I don’t wring my hands about them, either. I do think it might be dangerous to completely out-law them at the highest levels. Dirty plays can get guys hurt, and that’s the last thing I want. If you can settle it on the ice, then sometimes it’s necessary. Heck, even Sydney Crosby had a fight last night.
But with the strict legislation of the fighting, what we’re now seeing is a lot of dancing. Everybody grabs up and chirps, some face-washing maybe, and then nothing comes of it. Or, off-setting roughing minors. I don’t find it much fun to watch. Nobody wants to have that fight on their record this early in the season? I get it. That doesn’t mean I like it.
In this case, there might have been an opportunity to get the electricity in the building released (see above), but I’m not out there, so I’m not going to point to any particular play or player. Just something from my notebook from last night.
4. Not a Referendum on Gordon
I saw calls for Gordon’s head, between periods last night. Golly, that’s quick. I’ve been very critical of him in the past for a variety of reasons, but I do think he knows how to win in the AHL. Early on, I was skeptical of the “systems.” We always heard early in the season that the new players had to learn the “systems.” Fine, but how come other teams just plug in new players and immediately play well? Are the players that much better?
Two years ago when we won the division, we saw that he was able to have his team play a certain way and that he was able to design play to counter what other teams do on a game-to-game basis. Last season we saw what happened when things started to go sideways after Gordon was called up–we couldn’t correct it and get back on the rails. Gordon’s performance in Philadelphia also has to be seen through the prism of the organizational upheaval and their relative talent-level at the NHL level. I, for one, am glad he’s back.
But that brings us back to “systems.” They’ve got this whole week to get ready for division rivals Wilkes-Barre and Hershey. Farabee, Lyon and Myers will be back from Prague. They’ve got to get the lines set and get in a rhythm. They might want to put the “umbrella” power play on hold until everyone’s comfortable keeping the puck in the zone rather than watching TJ chasing pucks back to the other end of the ice. They need to continue to play with pace, but with more precision. We have the talent to do it, and for now, I’m glad Gordon is here to guide them. And if he throws a puck at your head during practice, that means you have to shut up and play better.
Here’s the info-graphic and the official media report for the game. I thought Rubtsov played well, but you know how I am about three stars–lose 0-3 and we don’t really deserve one. At all. Not even for the home opener.
1 – Max Lagace (28 saves on 28 shots)
2 – Anders Bjork (1 G, 1 A)
3 – German Rubstov (6 shots)
PRO: (13:28) Andjers Bjork (1) (Lantosi, Boril)
PRO: (12:10) Brendan Gaunce (1) (Didier, Bjork)
PRO: (14:59) Paul Carey (1) (Steen)