ALLENTOWN— The Phantoms were officially eliminated from playoff contention Wednesday after they were shut out for the third time in four games against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. And to make it even worse, the win allowed the Penguins to clinch the fourth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Matt Murray and the Penguins have shutout the Phantoms with the score of 3-0 in two-consecutive meetings, and once more in the first home shutout for Lehigh Valley during another 3-0 decision two weeks ago.
But despite the loss, head coach Terry Murray said Wednesday was a vast improvement from the team that played in Wilkes-Barre four days ago. Although the team took multiple "unnecessary" penalties in the second period (but what else is new) the Phantoms went head-to-head against one of the best defenses in the league, to make the Penguins compete to clinch their spot in the post season.
- The Phantoms spent 13 minutes of the second period in the penalty box, making it difficult for an already slow offense to generate any momentum. The Phantoms were outshot 20-6 in the middle frame, despite developing a good rhythm in the first.
- In another phenomenal 32-save performance by Matt Murray, the AHL leading goaltender earned his 12th (!) shutout of the season, and is inching closer to tying the AHL record for shutouts in one season, set by Jason LaBarbera in 2003-04 with 13 shutouts.
- Kasperi Kapanen, Penguins 2014 first round draft pick, and son of former Flyer Sami Kapanen, made his AHL debut Wednesday with Wilkes-Barre, making an impression with his new North American teammates. The 18-year-old right winger scored on his first shot in his AHL debut, as he took advantage of a turnover in the neutral zone by Petr Straka, buzzing into the slot to take a perfect shot above Rob Zepp’s left shoulder. (Mario Lemieux—who happens to be the owner of the Penguins franchise—also scored on his first shot in his pro debut….hmmmm...) Kapanen would exit the ice from his North American debut as the first star of the game with a goal and an assist on three shots in the 3-0 win.
- Rob Zepp started in his eighth-consecutive game Wednesday night, saving 29-of-31 shots faced.
- Tonight's loss officially put the Phantoms out of the playoff race. With six games remaining in the regular season the Phantoms can earn a max 79 points if they win-out. Portland currently sits in the final playoff spot with 82 points.
- Most of the Phantoms players admitted the teams’ chances at the post season were done almost two weeks ago, but with contracts ending and pressure from the front office, some veterans are playing for their future in the Flyers franchise. With seven Phantoms contracts are up at the end of this season (five UFA: Gordon, Stortini, Rosehill, Zepp, Jones; two RFA: Lauridsen, Akeson) most of the Phantoms top two lines will be battling for contracts or "auditioning" for other teams in the remaining six games of the season.
- If the decisions to resign UFA players were purely based on performance, with no cap consideration: Gordon and Zepp would likely be resigned based on personal performance. Jones's injuries this season would have to be considered before resigning. Stortini, an alternate captain and catalyst for a successful line, will also likely return based on attitude. Rosehill....well...