Bad hockey is still better than baseball!
Well, it's week... something. It's funny how days and weeks have started to blend together, and I'm one of the lucky ones who have had steady work since the start of this pandemic. I can't imagine those who have lost their jobs, or have otherwise had their whole lives turned upside down in the past year. Since then, hockey has returned. It's a little different but it, for me, was the one little bit of the old normal. So, yeah... I'm not enjoying the whole 10 game losing streak. This is probably the worst I've seen since I started following the team. 2013-14 was rough, but this might be worse.

But, with the one year mark of the last game of last season, a 3-1 home win in front of 2,467 fans over the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders who aren't even playing this season, it's hard not to look back and reassess. This weekend we are playing Dubuque in the "Irish Night" game, the same team and promo that was next on the calendar when last season was canceled. It's almost a full circle mark, except we are still have a long way to go in regards to the virus and a normal life. Still, some free green t-shirts and some hockey - regardless of the outcome - will be a small step forward for Valley hockey fans.

It's been a rough season. Overall, we're 6-21-3-2, 0-7-2-1 in our last 10. But hey, we're playing. As I mentioned, the 'Riders aren't. Their barn was damaged in a derecho last summer, many people lost their property and 4 people lost their life. Cedar Rapids isn't the only team not playing this season, also going dark was the Madison Capitols. The Caps could not sustain a season with no fans. They were struggling before the pandemic, and this was a major blow to their organization. Three other teams, Sioux Falls, Waterloo, and Chicago are biting the bullet and playing with no fans - 0 attendance. USA and Muskegon are both averaging less than half the Phantoms 532 people per game, 192, 234 respectively. Dubuque is not even tracking attendance.

And here we are again! Another week of us stat geeks coming together to look at a bunch of numbers. What could be more exciting? Well, lots of things. But for the purposes of this blog, let's all pretend that isn't true. Before getting into this week's updated numbers, I wanted to make a couple points. When you see these times and the way they have played out, please remember that all of these stats are essentially an archive of what has already happened. In the USHL, there is no guarantee of what will happen in a given weekend. Unannounced injuries, suspensions, and slapjack refereeing can have major effects on a weekend series. While it seems that I have made predictions in past blogs, I can promise you that it’s wishful thinking more than anything. When the team you root for is halfway through the season and only has 6 wins, you’ll grasp for any straws within reach, or not within reach. Just blindly grasping for anything resembling a straw…. Sorry, I drifted off there. Anyway, let’s get into it.

 

Phantoms Season Stats Chart 2

The game against Muskegon on Saturday marked the 3rd longest time the Phantoms held a lead in a game this season. But unlike the two games in which they held a lead longer, they did not get a win in this one. Yes, they did get a point with a Shootout loss (their only point in 3 games last week) but was yet another frustrating loss among many this season. While the Phantoms played marginally better than they did on Friday, and Muskegon was severely off their game, a win remained elusive for the 7th straight game. 

And we're back with another edition of By The Numbers. That's right, I've picked a name and I am sticking with it. This was another tough weekend for the Phantoms. Only 1 out of a possible 6 points were gained. The Phantoms scored first in all three games and added decent amounts of Lead Time to their totals. But as has been the story this season, the ability to close out games has alluded this year's squad. Don't let the scores fool you though. Both games with Muskegon were one goal games at the end, but literal last second empty net goals by Jack Williams both nights stretched the lead. I guess when you're in a goal drought, potting a couple empty netters at 19:59 of the 3rd period helps boost that confidence a little. But I digress...

 

Phantoms Season Chart Part 2

In taking a look at the 2nd part of the Phantoms' season chart, a couple gripes from earlier in the season have been rectified. Not only are they scoring first a lot more often, they are not giving up early goals. There has been more of an emphasis on establishing a tone at the beginning of games, and not sitting back and waiting to see what the other team is going to throw at them. Has this translated to more wins? No, but it's a step in the right direction. At this point in the season, it's the small victories. Like the fact that they have now climbed above 20% in Lead Time. After lingering around 10-12% for a good chunk of the season, playing a more aggressive game in the offensive zone has paid off in a lot of ways.