Over the course of a season, players will go through streaks both hot and cold.
And right now, Matthew Phillips is on fire.
The 20-year-old rookie and Calgary native has recorded back-to-back three-point games and brings a six-game scoring streak with him into the new year. His improved play has been as big a reason as any that Stockton closed 2018 by with at least a point in four of its last six games.
“It feels good,” said Phillips following Monday’s New Year’s Eve contest against San Jose. “I’m just more confident. I’m just focusing on playing and don’t worry about too much else.”
Since the start of Phillips’ run on Dec. 19, the Flames’ sixth-round selection in the 2016 NHL Draft has totalled 10 points – four goals and six assists. His increased production has also brought increased expectations, demonstrated by a promotion up the depth chart to skating alongside Curtis Lazar and Kerby Rychel in Monday’s game.
The result? The line produced two goals while Phillips and Rychel both finished the night with three points.
“Playing with (Lazar) and (Rychel), those are two veteran guys who carry the load every single night,” said Phillips about his new linemates. “It’s a great opportunity playing with them. Things change quick at this level. It’s a good opportunity and I’m trying to make the most of it.”
The difference in Phillips’ production – he had nine points in 22 games before this streak – could come down to just having more games under his belt during his rookie season.
“I’d just say (what’s changed) is my comfort level,” he explained. “It’s a big adjustment from junior, and I’m slowly figuring out how my game can translate and how I can have success and produce at this level.”
A prominent role on the offensive end shouldn’t necessarily be surprising to see from Phillips. He captained the WHL’s Victoria Royals a year ago while running up 112 points in 71 games. The season before that, he had 50 goals and 90 points in 70 games.
As the calendar flips to 2019 and the focus on the standings narrows to the coveted top four in the Pacific Division, the Heat will look for players like Phillips to remain steady in production.
“It’s good when you’re part of the charge and you get the points,” Phillips said about his uptick in appearances on the box score. “But I just want to play the right way. I’ve found as I’ve come up through hockey that the less I think, the better I do. I just focus on the little things other than getting the puck in the net. I just try to do that and the scoring will come for sure.”
The Heat are back in action Friday night as they play host to the Tucson Roadrunners on Autism Awareness Night, presented by 51Fifty and the Carlos Vieira Foundation. Stockton and Colorado square off Saturday for Pucks N’ Paws Night, featuring a Heat bandana giveaway.