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Phantoms 2, Senators 1: ?He saved us again?

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  • Phantoms 2, Senators 1: ?He saved us again?

    The above quote is David Laliberte referencing Johan Backlund.

    There have been games this season where the Phantoms have been truly awful and Backlund was the only thing*between*them and a blowout loss. That wasn’t the case Saturday night — the Phantoms played well at times and struggled at others, like the start of the second and a good bit of the third. But Backlund was there to make the big stops and steer them through the inconsistencies. And Laliberte, who scored the game-winner,*appreciated his effort.

    Backlund has won seven of his last nine starts and has only lost once in regulation since Dec. 5. He has 14 wins overall. Here’s the full Laliberte quote I used in my game story:

    “It gives us confidence in the room… We know heís going to be strong and he saved us tonight again.”

    I used the ellipses there because though I’m sure Laliberte said something interesting, I just couldn’t make it out with his heavy French Canadian accent and the background noise.

    Laliberte’s game winner came on one of the Phantoms’ nicest scoring sequences of the season — or as Greg Gilbert joked, “the only time we put four passes together all night. A great, balanced rush by Jon Matsumoto, Pat Maroon and Laliberte. In the two games they’ve been reunited, they have 11 points.


    – The Senators took a brutal too-many-men on the ice penalty in the final five minutes while on the power play? They had all six skaters set up and in the zone. It wasn’t like a cluster by the bench. The ref blew the whistle in midplay.

    – That Rob Bellamy played maybe his best game of the season? Bellamy threw his body around all night and made a terrific play to set up the first goal. He’s made that strong, up-the-boards rush to beat a defenseman*several times this season, but has usually ended up at too sharp of an angle to shot or with no one driving the middle. This time Jon Kalinski was in the perfect spot. Great shot by Bellamy in that it was hard and low to the far post. If it didn’t go in, it was bound to leave a juicy rebound.

    – That Matt Clackson has become a fan favorite? Here’s why: in one sequence in the first period he leveled Jim O’Brien with a clean, open ice hit at center ice. When O’Brien dropped the gloves, Clackson pummelled him. Clackson probably was only in the game because Trent Daavettila sat with food poisoning that he came down with this morning.

    – That linesman Rich Patry took a shot to the head on a Phantoms’ clearning attempt in the first minute of the second period? *Looked bad, but he hopped right up like any hockey player.

    – That Brian Lee went after Stefan Legein along the boards after a whistle in the first? Lee isn’t exactly known as a physical guy. Legein looked a little surprised.

    – That Kevin Marshall took a cross-check right to the face before being called for cross-checking himself in the first?

    – That Jon Matsumoto thought his cross-checking penalty — which led to the Sens only goal — was a soft call?


    Greg Gilbert

    On Backlund’s consistency:

    “Heís a true professional and he prepares to be his best each night. Thatís the way he plays. He plays hard every game. He competes. He never quits on a shot, on a puck. Thatís what a pro is all about.”

    On whether Backlund is putting together an NHL-caliber resume:

    “Heís not only showing the Flyers organization, but heís showing other organizations. Thereís a logjam up top there obviously. Heís just going to keep playing. Heís working hard every day and getting better every day. Thatís all you can ask from him. Hopefully something works out for him down the road.”

    On the Phantoms consistency, or lack therof:

    “Itís been our achillies heel most of the year. We play well for a couple games and then you fall back. It seems like we start to think weíre better than we are and we forget us the two points. Tonight wasnít pretty. Our passes were soft. We were just making plays that almost cost us the hockey game and Backs bailed us out.”

    On*Jon Kalinski and Rob Bellamy’s connection on the first goal:*

    It was a great release by Bells. He kept his feet moving. Itís not like he planted. Guys who are shooters and want to score goals have to realize when you plant, the goalie sets and heís ready for the shot. Bells just kept his feet moving and almost caught him by surprise. The shot low far post and Skiís right there to bang it in the empty net. Itís easy. Itís an easy play and an effective.

    Johan Backlund

    On whether he prefers the heavy workload (he’s started three in a row):

    “I think both me and Johnny (Grahame) and all the guys prefer to get into a rhythm. Three years ago I had the same situation and it worked good for me. Johnnyís playing so well, too. So itís working so far.”

    On what he’s taken from this season and whether he feels like he belongs in the NHL next year:

    “Iím pretty satisfied. You always want to get the chance to play up in NHL but I know itís my first year and itís been kind of a learning process so far and Iím pretty satisfied I think I developed the game a little more. Everything was so new with the small rinks in the beginning but now I feel comfortable.”

    Nice Friday night crowd of 4,103 on a Friday night. A bigger crowd is expected tomorrow. Keep coming in those numbers and AHL hockey will be here for a while. The last two home games have been very entertaining.

    What did you all*think?

    – Tim