Sunday, March 3, 2013

Devils 3, Phantoms 2 3/3

One of the more frustrating aspects of this eight-game skid the Adirondack Phantoms find themselves in is that there's not one particular thing they can point to and say, "OK, this is what we need to fix."

Friday in Springfield, for example, they got outworked in every aspect of the game and lost 7-2.

Last Saturday in Hershey, they outshot the Bears 33-12 over the final two periods but lost the special teams battle, and ultimately the game 3-0, behind a 40-save shutout from Philipp Grubauer.

Then last night in Bridgeport, their offense broke through and scored three goals, but the Sound Tigers scored a late goal off a strong individual effort from Brock Nelson and took it 4-3.

The ultimate lesson here is that fixing a hockey team isn't like fixing a broken strand of Christmas lights. You can't just take out the burned-out bulb and expect that everything will work again.

In this one, they mismanaged a couple of pucks and Joe Whitney, who I'm pretty sure must be hiding a proton pack underneath his jersey, made them pay for it. The Ghostbuster factored in every Albany goal as the Devils took a 3-2 win, giving him 11 points in eight games against Adirondack this year.

Adirondack is now 1-6-0-1 in its past eight games, and went winless in four tries this weekend.

“We just keep losing,” defenseman Danny Syvret said. “There’s no real solution other than we need to start winning games. It is very frustrating. It’s almost like we either have a lead and try to hang on, or we sit behind all game and play possum until the last few minutes and then it’s ‘OK. Now we have to try to win the game.’ Too little, too late.”

All things considered, Phantoms coach Terry Murray said, this was not a bad loss. He liked the team's start, though they trailed off a bit with around four minutes left in the first period. Then they had a couple lapses in the second period, and the Devils capitalized on them to build a 2-0 advantage.

Phil DeSimone fired a dart from the right-wing circle -- goalie Michael Leighton admitted he was cheating a little bit, so it snuck past him short-side -- and then Joe Whitney tipped in a shot-pass. The third period was better, but Whitney picked off a cross-ice pass and set up DeSimone for a 3-1 lead.

That's another teaching point for the younger prospects on this team, Murray said. Every play counts.

“We have to manage the puck a little bit better when it’s not on our stick,” Murray said. “The goal that Whitney scores is a play that we have to be able to shut down. … We should be in better position than what we were. Again, the details are what cost us the game.”

There were some good things you can take from this game. One of them was Ian Slater holding his own in a fight with veteran pugilist Cam Janssen at a time when the team needed a spark. Another was the pressure the Phantoms generated late in the third period, during which they recorded 17 shots, and Eric Wellwood making it interesting with a goal late, his first point since Feb. 15.

“Obviously, there was a lot of positives,” Wellwood said. “Again, we can say throughout the whole year that some of the losses we’ve had, we’ve had a lot of positives come out of it. But again, this business is about wins and losses and unfortunately, we’re not getting the wins.”

What's it going to take for this team to turn the corner and do that?

“The only way you can get out of something like this is by work,” Phantoms winger Jon Sim said. “No one is going to hand us anything. No one is going to say ‘OK, here. You guys can win this game.’ That’s not professional sports. It doesn’t happen like that and it never will.”

And, of course, working for the entire game. Lilja, who has only been here for 12 games, has already realized the inability to string together 60 minutes of solid hockey has been a recurring theme.

“We just have to learn how to play a 60-minute game," he said. "We play 20 minutes. Sometimes we play 40 minutes. Sometimes we play 30 minutes. We have to play 60 minutes, otherwise you’re not going to win. The other teams are so good that if you don’t play the whole game, you’re not going to win.”


David Laliberte was scratched for a second straight game. "Coach's decision," Murray said. No injury. Mitch Wahl, who was a minus-three in the Bridgeport game, was also scratched.

"He's got to be a better player," Murray said of Wahl. "I was concerned about his conditioning coming into a three-in-three. Watching him in the two games, his pace of play needs to get to the next level pretty quickly here."

Murray said Wahl wasn't strong on one-on-one play without the puck and had some breakdowns, which put added pressure on the team.

"He just needs to dig in a little bit harder in those situations," Murray said.

I'll have some comments from Leighton and Murray on Leighton in a separate post.

Until next time,


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