NHL memorandum; a boost for Phantoms?

DAVID W. UNKLE -- For SLAM! Sports

, Last Updated: 5:43 PM ET

PHILADELPHIA—Much can be said about the Philadelphia Phantoms’ 4-3 shootout loss on Friday night to the Providence Bruins.

First and foremost, it really isn’t a loss, at least according to a soon-to be released NHL memorandum informing teams to correct their stats in their pre-game notes and official websites.

Losses in the shootout (earning a team a point in the standings) are considered ties, which in case you missed it, no longer exist. If a team loses in overtime they still earn a point, but it’s recorded as a loss, according to Anthony San Filippo of the Delaware County (Pa.) Daily Times.

That mindset will be of little solace as Phantoms head coach Kjell Samuelsson struggles to get three, consecutive periods of honest hockey from his club.

See, on some nights, the Phantoms are slow coming out of the gate.

The Phantoms have surrendered the first goal in 18 of their 32 contests this season, including 10 games where that goal has come in the first five minutes of the first period.

On nights where the Phantoms keep pace, they’re still being outshot and outscored. Opponents hold a slim margin in total shots (329-320), but hold a decisive 39-26 edge in first-period scoring.

The Phantoms hold a 4-12-0 record when carrying a deficit into the first intermission.

That wasn’t the case in their tilt against the Bruins on Friday night.

Rookie Denis Tolpeko converted a Bruins’ miscue into a 1-0 lead at 1:08 of the first period, as the Phantoms appeared eager to dominate a Providence team that had lost five of their last six games and six of their last eight.

Playing a fundamentally-sound hockey for 20 minutes, the Phantoms carried the one-goal lead into the first intermission, but left it all in the dressing room when they returned to the ice in the second period.

That’s when Samuelsson gets a good read on his team’s effort.

“The second period is important for the game,” explained Samuelsson. “(When you’re ahead in the game) you actually have to come out harder, because you know the other team will.”

Providence exploded with a pair of goals in the second period because “we didn’t move (on the ice).”

When Dwayne Zinger’s shorthanded goal put the Bruins on top, 2-1 at 8:15 of the second period, the Phantoms had registered just one shot on net in the period, paving the way for one of this season’s most- telling of statistics.

Saddled with a 1-15-1 record when trailing after two periods of play, the Phantoms have offered little in the third-period through the first three months of the season.

Opponents hold a decisive edge in shots (352-262) and in scoring (44- 32) indicative of either the team’s ability and/or willingness to battle.

The Phantoms held true-to-form mustering just one shot on netminder Philippe Sauve through most of the third period while the Bruins padded their lead on a goal by Martins Karsums.

Tolpeko and Niko Dimitrakos knotted the score 3-3 with a pair of goals 1:40 apart in the closing minutes of regulation before Providence rookie David Krecji ended the scoring with his AHL- leading, 6th shootout goal.

“When you look back on (this game), we got a point and we really didn’t deserve it,” said Samuelsson. “We had a good first period, but after that we played maybe, three minutes of the third period.”

Three minutes.

“In today’s hockey, you have to be relentless,” Samuelsson said. “The second and third effort has to be there…(tonight) we competed for 20 minutes.”

Afterwards players talked about working hard to get back in the game. None talked of competing.

Those who have been around the Phantoms know that was the mantra of former head coach John Stevens, now with the Philadelphia Flyers.

Stevens never confused working and competing, and that mindset has carried over to Samuelsson, his former assistant.

“Our players are responsible for their preparation and how they play the game of hockey,” said Samuelsson. “If you’re not willing to do it, you’re not going to survive in this business.”

To reinforce that point, perhaps the Phantoms could position the benches on the opposite side of the Spectrum ice in order for the team to observe the faces of general manager Paul Holmgren and his crew sitting in the Flyers’ team box.

But then again, that may be overkill since the Phantoms didn’t lose the game.

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David Unkle can be reached at topcatsports@canoemail.com


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