Springfield 3, Phantoms 2 4/12
An alternate theory: The Phantoms just didn't dress enough offensive firepower or experience.
The 18 skaters that Adirondack dressed scored 71 total goals for the Phantoms this year before the start of the game. For comparison, Springfield’s top four goal-scorers – Jonathan Audy-Marchessault, Ryan Craig, Nick Drazenovic and Spencer Machacek – had totaled 70 for the Falcons between them.
Of the 20 players the Phantoms dressed, two were making their AHL season debuts. Another four weren’t with the team three weeks ago. Three more were rookies, and four were second-year pros.
That left all of seven players with more than two seasons of professional hockey on their resumes, and the players at times seemed like they were struggling to find that coveted chemistry on the ice.
That's not a knock on the caliber of talent the Phantoms had in the line-up. A lot of these newcomers have the potential to go on to have successful careers in this league and beyond. You can see why Scott Laughton has already played five games in the NHL. Great vision on both offense and defense. He wanted to have the puck on his stick, and knew how to find teammates he'd skated with once. Mark Alt picked up his first professional point on Matt Konan's tying goal in the third period. Kyle Flanagan has developed some great chemistry with Marcel Noebels, who is more confident than ever.
At this point in their careers, however, they ran into one of the best teams in the American Hockey League, which is playing some of its best hockey of the season as they try and wrap up home ice throughout the Calder Cup Playoffs. And the Falcons skated away with a narrow, one-goal victory.
"I thought overall our game was good," Murray said. "I liked our execution most of the time. I liked our compete was pretty good. The young kids, for their first game, I thought they were pretty good."
There was a glaring, 15-minute stretch that was a notable exception to that.
The Falcons outshot the Phantoms 10-3 over the final 15 minutes of the second period, and Murray pointed the blame for that squarely on the team's power play not being able to generate momentum.
He could have lived with going 1-for-6, so long as the Phantoms got scoring chances on the power play and were able to translate that into some sustained pressure in the five-on-five play. Instead, they got absolutely nothing going when they spent 4:00 of a 4-minute, 13-second span in the second period on the power play, and then that was what ultimately carried over into their five-on-five play.
“You need to have some momentum carry over so that you can come out and play nice tempo and just follow through with your next shift five-on-five,” Murray said. “I thought we looked a little out of place with our five-on-five, and that was a direct result of what happened on the power play.”
Did Springfield make a penalty killing adjustment after allowing a goal in the first period? Was it something on Adirondack's end? Did it have anything to do with the No. 2 power play unit consisting of three players who were playing either junior or collegiate hockey less than one month ago?
"Maybe a little lack of focus between periods," said Matt Konan, who eventually knotted the score 2-2 with a drive from the center point in the third. "Coming out flat, not making the passes. Not supporting each other. Playing too spread out so you couldn't connect the passes. That's what hurt us."
The game-winning goal was a bit of a broken play. The Phantoms went to clear the puck out, but it hit a defenseman and the Falcons jumped on the loose puck. They worked it to Spencer Machacek in the slot, and he backhanded a rebound past Brian Boucher just 4:24 before the final horn. Ballgame.
Here's Murray on Scott Laughton, who centered the team's No. 1 line and No. 1 power play unit and also spent time on the penalty kill after just having a Friday morning skate to meet his new team: "He's a very intelligent player. He has a high IQ on the ice. I thought he handled the workload -- and considering he'd been out of the line-up even in the OHL in the playoffs ... because of his suspension, to get back in after being out of a game situation for almost two weeks, he handled it very well."
Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren was here, and that probably had to do with Laughton playing that role. Keep in mind that this is a player who made the Flyers' roster out of training camp, but was sent back to major juniors so as not to burn a year of his entry-level contract on this 48-game season.
Laughton said it was good to see that the coaches had the confidence in him to put him in that role. He said he wasn't expecting to be placed in a role like that or to get that amount of playing time. Also, he said he had skated while he was suspended, so it wasn't like he was coming in completely cold.
It seemed like he was hungry to have the puck on his stick and carry it into the offensive zone. From what I gather, that's the way that Nick Cousins played in his season debut in Bridgeport on Sunday.
"I focus on my defensive game a lot," Laughton said. "I felt when I came back to Oshawa from the Flyers, I thought my offensive game took off. That was pretty nice, just try and get my numbers up."
Mark Alt, who referred to himself this week as a defensive defenseman, was thrust on the No. 2 power play. He only had seven assists with the University of Minnesota this season, but has been a point-producer in years past. He recorded his first assist on Konan's goal. Murray: "What we saw in our three days of practice is the ability to get the puck to the net. He has a very good shot. He's got nice mobility and pretty good vision on the ice. I think we saw that on that ... play to tie the game."
Andreas Lilja took Alt under his wing. Spent time talking to him on the bench and in breaks in play.
"I've only been here a week," Alt said. "Laughton just came in yesterday or today. There was kind of that 'We're just going to get out there and try to gel as fast as we could.' I think we did the best we could."