“But today you just read that the man was shot dead
By a gun that didn’t make any noise
But it wasn’t the bullet that laid him to rest was
The low spark of high-heeled boys“
–Jim Capaldi, Steve Winwood (Traffic)
The Phantoms went Oh-For-October and line up for a mid-week tilt with the Penguins affiliate. Again. And the locals are restless as the losing has begun eating itself.
OK, so before we break down the failures of this team, I need to look at my own culpability. Sure, I’ve been down on this team and writing as such. The disappointment has been massive. Part of that is the excitement of having hockey back in a more normal setting, but part of it also is remembering the team I saw from February to May, which was young and exciting and talented and fun. Many, many of the players are the same, so it’s hard not to notice the elephant in the room singing the Ave Maria. But we’ll get to that in a minute. It’s become too easy to pile on this team, and even casual fans are voicing displeasure and pointing blame, perhaps where it shouldn’t be pointed.
It seems like when the losing starts piling up, the first place folks look is at the goalies. Some have suggested that they are too young and their lack of experience is hurting the team. Ersson is injured to some unknown degree, which is what brought Ustimenko back to the team from Reading on Saturday. But we’re not losing these games 6-1. The numbers are fair for the netminders. No goalie has been pulled mid-game as of this writing. The goalies are not losing these games.
So, must be the inexperience on defense. For a while, only Clendening had significant AHL blue line time. And he can only play on one pair. But Hogberg has time in the Swedish leagues, and 26 games here last season. Zamula had 25 games here last season as well as two with the Flyers. York is really the only true youngster. Logan Day had significant time with Bakersfield prior to coming over for 23 games last season.
So while a goal here or there might be one the goalie or the defense would like back, that’s not the reason for the losses.
So let’s look at the scores in these losses. 2-1, 2-1, 3-1, 2-1, 4-2, 5-2, 3-2. And that includes two overtime games and an empty net or two. It’s hard to win hockey games if you can’t score more than two goals. In many of these games we’ve been massively out-shot while also losing.
I thought I saw improvement on Saturday night. It’s hockey cliché of course, but they were getting pucks deep and digging them out. They were simplifying to a degree instead of attempting fancy-pants hockey moves in the neutral zone. They were getting pucks on net. Just like it’s hard to win hockey games when you can’t score more than two goals, it’s also hard to score those goals if you aren’t shooting the puck.
What’s missing from the mix? A lot of the names you might think of, only played a handful of games in the shortened 2020-21 season. The one I think of? Ryan Fitzgerald. 21 points in 28 games, and he could finish a play. Foerster and Frost will need to develop that finishing talent–it will help them on the next level, too.
And, yeah, there’s the coach. A new coaching staff didn’t have a ton of time with the whole group together and it’s his first time running the show. Let’s give him a chance to get it fixed.
So for now, I say relax. Play hard. Play as a team. Get pucks on net and follow for the rebound. Keep grinding and good things will start happening. Do that hockey.
At press time, Ustimenko remains with the Phantoms. The only other recent transaction was from Monday, when Ryan MacKinnon was sent to Reading.
What is the highest scoring hockey game in NHL history?
Oh, good. The Penguins are back. [sarcasm font OFF] The Penguins are 5-1-0-1 and really benefiting from playing this Phantoms team so many times while we’re still getting our Schmidt together. They have a middling power play ranked 13th overall, and the 6th PK unit, probably benefiting from playing an inept Phantoms power play so many times. The Penguins are coming off an OT win against Springfield and a SO loss versus Hartford this past weekend. As Pittsburgh gets healthy, F Kasper Bjorkqvist has been returned to the AHL club, but with COVID complications in Pittsburgh, D PO Joseph was called up.
Parking: Remember to park head-in unless you’re in the Arena Deck (Orange).
5PM Pre-game party on the Arts Walk across the street from the Air Products entrance. Visit Blended as well as the Downtown Allentown Market for food and drink.
6PM Doors for Season Ticket Holders (remember to pre-load your tickets on your phone)
6:15PM Doors for General Public
7:05PM Show Begins
7:18PM Hockey Begins
Referee Reid Anderson (#49)
Referee Mason Riley (#79)
Linesperson Josh Cleary (#45)
Linesperson Tom DellaFranco (#71)
MEDIA KIT (rosters and stats)
What To Watch
- Watch for a guy in section 105 yelling, “SHOOT!”
- Are they getting pucks in deep? Are they getting pucks to the net? Are they following up to get the rebound? Do they look hungry? Does anybody even want to score a goal?
- Does anybody look like a shooter? Does anybody look like a finisher?
- Can they do anything on the power play? Like, at all? Can we rise above 31/31 in the PP rankings?
It’s a busy week or two for the Phantoms, but it’s mostly on the road. They’ll be away for four in a row. First, two down in Charlotte. Then Hershey and Providence before they return home on Saturday 11/13 for Springfield. Only four home games in November, but we’ll get eight in December!
See you at the arena,
Trivia: 21 goals: Oilers 12, Blackhawks 9 12/11/1985