Philadelphia Phantoms Off to a Rollicking Start

By Bill Meltzer

While the Philadelphia Flyers have stumbled a bit out of the gates with just one win (and two come-from-behind ties against Columbus) to show for their first four games, the Flyers top farm club is off to a sensational start. The Phantoms are 4-0-0 and have outscored their opponents by a combined 18 to 7. The Phantoms have begun their first road trip of the season with a 3-2 win in Rochester and a 4-1 victory in Bridgeport.

Even with the callup of top line center Marty Murray to the big club, the Phantoms have not missed a beat since the club departed Philly for the trip. Veteran Mark Freer has moved up from the third line to the center the first line with AHL Player of the Week Mark Greig and red hot sniper Vaclav Pletka. The revised line has continued to dominate.

So far on the young season, Pletka has 6 goals and 3 helpers, including back-to-back two goal efforts against Wilkes Barre/Scranton and Rochester. The second year winger from the Czech
Republic, who reportedly considered going home to play this season because he didn’t think he was in the mix for a job with the big club, has been making a strong case for himself to get NHL consideration, despite his lack of size. He’s shown plenty of speed and a surprising level of grit to go along with his soft hands and laser quick shot release.

Almost everywhere you look in the Phantoms lineup, there are positives.

Second line left wing/ center Tomas Divisek has points in every game so far and has continued to demonstrate a commitment to playing two-way hockey.

Young defenseman Bruno St. Jacques has played great. He’s hit. He’s blocked shots. He’s skated the puck to safety. He’s passed the puck well. Actually, the Phantoms defense as a whole has been very sound. The blueline has looked very balanced, with a nice mix of experience and youth, as well as physical play and skill.

The powerplay has been oustanding, moving the puck crisply. Shots from the D are getting on net and the forwards are getting themselves into scoring position.

The James Chalmers line has been very physical and has even contributed a little opportunistic offense. They’ve been a good “energy” line so far.

Guillaume Lefebvre has demonstrated that he is a fundamentally sound player as well as a good skater. He only has one goal to date, but he skates on the third line at even strength. He’s looked good on the penalty kill.

The goaltending so far has not had to be great but both highly-touted rookie Maxime Ouellet and veteran Neil Little have gotten the job done.

If there are any negatives to report, it is the continued lack of production from Petr Hubacek. Hubacek is still not nearly involved enough in the play down low and he doesn’t get himself into the high risk/ high reward areas where most goals are scored. Hubacek still tries to stickhandle past defenders, even when he’s outnumbered. That won’t work.

Also, since Jason Beckett has been a scratch in every game so far and, even with an injury suffered by James Vandermeer, the team has a numbers problem on defense, they’d be better off sending Beckett to Trenton.