Lindblom excels in first season with LV
Oskar Lindblom is in his first season playing hockey in North America after playing pro hockey in Sweden to start his career. Obviously, there have been some adjustments to be made, which Lindblom is working on, not the least of which is playing in a smaller rink.
Early in the season, Lindblom often seemed somewhat tentative and just unsettled. Slowly, there appeared to be more of a comfort level building with him and he’s begun to settle in for Lehigh Valley. In his last nine games, the 21-year old has picked up points in seven of those games and has tallied five goals and six assists over the span.
Two days before Christmas, Lindblom added a goal and two assists to his totals in a 3-2 come from behind win over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the biggest night of his career since coming to the AHL.
The goal turned out to be the game-winner with 6:07 left to play in the game.
“I’ve started to really play a little bit better out there today,” said Lindblom recently. “The more scoring that I get, the more confident that I get, so I just need to keep going and doing my thing out there.”
Getting to the net this season hasn’t been a problem for Lindblom, but until recently he’s had trouble finishing off his shots.
The game-winner against the Penguins was exactly how a coach would draw it up, as Chris Conner found Lindblom with a back-hand pass in the slot just as Lindblom made his cut toward the net. He was able to deliver a strong shot that brought Lehigh Valley back from a 2-1 deficit after two periods to give the Phantoms their first lead of the game.
Earlier, Lindblom had assisted on Conner’s goal, when he got the puck to Corban Knight, who made a quick move up the middle and fed Conner, who fired from the left wing to beat goalie Casey DeSmith. Lindblom also assisted on a goal from Nic Aube-Kubel after Lindblom used his size and strength behind the net to get the puck out front.
“I think he’s feeling stronger and more confident now,” said Phantoms head coach Scott Gordon. “He’s more confident in where he needs to be on the ice and in how the game is flowing for him. There’s a lot of adjusting to do and I think that he’s making adjustments now and isn’t just making them because the last thing that he tried didn’t work. He’s making them now with more reasoning and has a definite intent behind what he’s doing.”
The Phantoms are a couple weeks away from the half-way point of the season and are 19-9-2-2 so far. The Atlantic Division has been tough this season even with Hershey struggling out of the gates. Providence has a .690 winning-percentage to lead the division with Charlotte (.661), Lehigh Valley (.656) and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (.625) all close on their skates.
Lehigh Valley has played the most games among the four and holds the points lead with 42, while Charlotte has 41, Providence 40 and the Penguins are at 35 points, having played four games less than the Phantoms.
Lehigh Valley’s attendance remains strong, pulling in an average of 7,632 per game, good enough for fifth in the entire AHL and more than 2,000 per game ahead of the league average. Even though Hershey hasn’t played well, the Bears rank second in the AHL with 8,573 per game and San Diego is out front with over 9,200 per game. Hartford, the former home of NHL hockey, continues to struggle with attendance even in the AHL, drawing a league-low 3,060 for each game.
Lehigh Valley has another road game in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton tomorrow night before returning home for back-to-back home games against Charlotte Friday and Saturday night.
The Phantoms open 2018 with games in Toronto and Rochester next Friday and Saturday. This Saturday night is Retro Night as the Phantoms turn the clock back to the 1980s.