Subject: Flyers vs. Rangers: Preview, lineups, TV coverage and discussion thread
Get perspective from the New York side at Blueshirt Banter.
Tonight’s game can be seen on CSN Philly and heard on 97.5 The Fanatic in the Philly area. MSG has coverage in New York, and NHL Network will televise the game nationally everywhere else in the United States. There is no legal, free live stream.
- Konecny - Giroux - Schenn
- Read - Couturier - Voracek
- Laughton - Cousins - McDonald
- Leier - Weal - Lyubimov
- Del Zotto - Gudas
- Provorov - Gostisbehere
- Morin - MacDonald
New York lineup
Subject: Radko Gudas could be suspended for this hit on Rangers’ Jimmy Vesey
What do you think?
Radko Gudas DESTROYS Jimmy Vesey pic.twitter.com/3WSp174tqT— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) October 3, 2016
It took six minutes, 27 seconds of ice time into his preseason debut for Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas to get himself in trouble. With half a minute left in the first on Tuesday night, Gudas delivered a dangerous hit from behind against Rangers forward Jimmy Vesey.
The play led to a three penalties against Gudas: a roughing minor, a fighting major and a game misconduct. New York’s Dylan McIlrath also saw a fighting major, a minor for instigation and the 10 minute misconduct that comes with it.
Gudas always has been a player that walks on the line with these sorts of things, and this one will definitely be reviewed by the league office. Gudas’ status as a repeat offender will do him no favors, and make no mistake that this was a hit Gudas should not have delivered. He had time when he saw Vesey’s numbers and still decided to level the hit.
On the flip side, the fact that Vesey turned into the hit will be weighed here, as the NHL’s Department of Player Safety often takes into account when players put themselves in vulnerable positions such as this. Even further, Vesey returned for the second period and appears to be fine, and rightfully or not, DoPS often takes injury into account when deciding these things as well.
We’ll see what happens here, but don’t be shocked if Gudas misses some time.
Subject: Tuesday Morning Fly By: Oh hello there...
Today's open discussion thread, complete with your daily dose of Philadelphia Flyers news and notes...
*YOOOO JAKE VORACEK YOU GREASY BEAST. [Sons of Penn]
*Prospect Cooper Marody has to take a little break from hockey. [BSH]
*Speaking of prospects, let's take a look at the kids who are NOT making the news right now. [Highland Park Hockey]
Subject: Flyers 4, Rangers 3: 10 things we learned from yet another impressive game by the kids
Only two preseason games remain, and the top prospects on the roster bubble continue to look like they belong.
Morning Observations is a feature where we break down the previous night's game with an analytical eye.
#1: Provorov simply looks ready
The Flyers were never going to make it easy for Ivan Provorov to make the team out of camp this year. The 2015 seventh overall pick faced both a lineup full of NHL defensemen under contract, and a general manager with a reputation for being ultra-conservative when it came to the promotion of prospects. Provorov was going to have to bang the door down if he had intentions of starting the 2016-17 season in Philadelphia.
While that door may not be completely off the hinges, it’s definitely splintering. Provorov delivered yet another impressive performance last night, skating in 25:44 total minutes and consistently playing like one of the best defensemen on the ice. What’s obvious by now is that the biggest strength of Provorov (at least at this stage) is his ability to succeed in all of the little areas, rather than jumping off the television screen on every shift. He’s making smart passes, activating just enough in the offensive zone to keep cycles alive, and forcing opponents to dump the puck in on entries before retrieving those dump-ins himself. These plays won’t get a defenseman on Sportscenter, but they will make him very effective at pushing play in the right direction.
Through four preseason games, the Flyers have 58.88% of the total shot attempts at 5-on-5 with Provorov on the ice. With him on the bench? They’re below the break-even point, at 49.71 percent. That’s a +9.17% Corsi Relative to his teammates, providing even more evidence to support the assertion that Provorov simply makes the Flyers better when he takes his regular shift, even with the caveat that it’s just preseason. There’s still two more games remaining, but I can’t imagine Ron Hextall honestly believing that Provorov is not physically ready for the NHL, and especially that he’s not already better than a number of players on his current defense.
#2: Konecny helps his case
I was unconvinced that Travis Konecny’s performance on Saturday night did a lot to move the needle for him, since the bulk of his impact play came on the power play and not at even strength. Last night against the Rangers, however, the 19-year forward’s game was far more well-rounded. Spending the bulk of his 5v5 minutes with Claude Giroux and Brayden Schenn, Konecny was active in all three zones, and did not look overmatched physically like he often did on Saturday.
Hakstol noted after the game that the coaching staff had impressed upon Konecny to clean up his play along the boards, and he did just that, looking sharper on breakouts and on the forecheck. And as for his raw skills, Konecny’s best moment was beating Adam Clendening on an early-third period one-on-one rush, even if he wasn’t able to get much on the ensuing shot. His 68.18% Corsi For percentage at 5v5 last night was well-earned.
And of course, Konecny still looked fantastic on the power play, scoring a goal off a rebound in the second period. I asked Konecny in the locker room if he usually finds himself moving into the low slot during PPs in order to create additional chances, as that was how he scored last night and how he helped to enable Schenn’s goal on Saturday. He agreed that he often likes to crash the net on the man advantage, and at least so far this preseason, his instincts in terms of knowing when to push low have been stellar. It’s that combination of skill, hockey smarts and fearlessness in all situations that is making it very difficult for Hextall to justify sending Konecny back to Sarnia.
#3: Morin shows his upside, then his inexperience
For the first twenty minutes of last night’s game, it wasn’t Ivan Provorov, Shayne Gostisbehere or Michael Del Zotto who was the best Philadelphia defenseman on the ice. Samuel Morin, who most still consider to be the longest of long shots to make the roster, instead towered over the competition. Everything was working for Morin — his passing, his neutral zone defense, and of course, his inherent size and strength advantage. On one especially impressive play, Morin forced a dump-in, chased the puck into the corner, and the Rangers forward in puck pursuit actually gave him uncontested access to the puck, thinking better of a possible collision. Morin then moved the puck to a teammate and facilitated a push back up ice.
Unfortunately, Morin’s play did sag as the game progressed. It’s tough to be too angry with the young blueliner for getting burned by Rick Nash on the rush and being forced to take a penalty, but his gap control from the second period on was spotty, which made it easier for Nash to take full advantage. Morin’s biggest mistake came in the final stanza, however, when a failed pass right into the slot resulted in an immediate Brandon Pirri goal.
To Morin’s credit, he quickly shook off the mistake and had a few nice shifts afterwards (Hakstol complimented his resiliency after the game), but the play did hint at some lingering discomfort with the puck and his natural feel for passing lanes. Morin presented himself well in preseason, but I expect he’ll be sent to Lehigh Valley shortly, as there are definitely some elements to his game that could use some work. He didn’t look too far from the NHL over these past two weeks, though.
#4: Lyubimov has been the most impressive of the fourth liners
Roman Lyubimov didn’t have a perfect game. His defensive zone coverage on Ryan Graves’ second period tally wasn’t great, and he lost his fair share of puck battles. But out of all the players battling for a bottom-six spot in the lineup, Lyubimov is the one that makes it most obvious he’s desperate to win a job. Every shift, you can see jump in his step, which shows on the forecheck and in the neutral zone especially. There’s a “this shift might be my last” mentality that Lyubimov has exuded in preseason that much of his competition simply has not shown thus far.
That’s not to say the Russian forward should be guaranteed a spot. I’d prefer Read on the fourth line due to his proven play-driving skills, and if Konecny makes the team, that will only make it tougher for Lyubimov to find a spot. But shifts like the one in the second period that saw him take a pass from Jordan Weal streaking into the offensive zone, draw a penalty, and then later find Weal in the high slot to earn a primary assist leads one to believe that Lyubimov could be a perfectly useful fourth liner immediately.
#5: Laughton - poor start, decent finish
Through the first two periods of last night’s game, Scott Laughton was not doing himself any favors with his on-ice play. Yet again, he was looking passive without the puck, and not particularly fast with it. I’ve theorized that Laughton may no longer be the roster lock that he appeared to be at the start of camp, and another game of looking poor via both the eye-test and the advanced metrics was not helping his case.
In Laughton’s defense, however, he was far more active in the final period. That activity wasn’t always positive, as he took the high-sticking penalty that eventually resulted in the game-tying goal. But in general, an active Scott Laughton is a good Scott Laughton, and it was last night. He finally showcased his plus speed on the rush during a few shifts, looking both elusive and hard-nosed. You have to assume the Flyers want Laughton to show them something in order to justify keeping the 2012 first-round pick on the roster, and while last night wasn’t a great game for him, at least he ended it on a decent note.
#6: MacDonald the anti-Provorov in this one
As noted above, Ivan Provorov really stands out through his ability to make lots of seemingly small, smart plays that add up to efficient breakouts, sound neutral zone play and extended offensive zone cycles. When Andrew MacDonald is struggling, he’s the opposite. Passes are just a bit off, neutral zone gaps are loose, and support on the attack is nonexistent. Last night, the bad MacDonald at 5v5 re-emerged.
It’s tough to remember lots of egregious mistakes from the 30-year old last night, though getting outraced to a potential icing by Tanner Glass surely wasn’t one of his proudest moments. Instead, it’s all of those little errors that result in the team spending lots of time in their own zone when MacDonald hits the ice. On a night that saw the Flyers post a 60.26% Corsi For percentage, the veteran defenseman finished at 36.67%, by far a team-worst. In MacDonald’s defense, he was effective on the PK, and prior to last night, was having a solid preseason. But this game brought back memories of what got him sent down in the first place at the end of last year’s camp.
#7: Weal getting better as preseason progresses
On Saturday, Jordan Weal had his best game of the preseason by far, scoring via a stretch pass from Ivan Provorov and providing consistent pressure in the offensive zone. He looked even better last night. Yet again, Weal added a tally, this time on a delayed penalty that wouldn’t have occurred without a beautiful entry pass from Weal to Lyubimov. For the first time, Weal looked like a player with a legitimate case to make the roster.
I asked him after the game if his strange 2015-16 season may have contributed to his slow start to the preseason. Don’t forget that Weal played in just 14 total hockey games last year, stuck in the situation of his teams not willing to dress him on a nightly basis but also afraid to send him to the AHL and potentially lose him on waivers. Weal agreed that it played a role, stating, “Oh 100 percent [yes]. I felt good in the summer in the skates, but you never really know until you’re playing full speed hockey games. It was definitely the first couple that I was trying to get my bearings again and timing and being in the right spots. It’s definitely starting to come, still got better, but I just have to keep working, keep watching film and keep improving.” Hopefully he’ll get at least one more game to show he can keep trending in the right direction.
#8: Gudas’ hit questionable but not a lock for heavy discipline
Radko Gudas is turning into the master of the “not good, but not quite suspension-worthy” hit. Last February, Gudas earned three separate game misconducts for questionable hits, but while none were exactly “clean,” the Department of Player Safety deemed that each did not deserve supplemental discipline. Gudas will again have a hit reviewed by DoPS, this one on Rangers rookie Jimmy Vesey, and the outcome might be similar.
Gudas does have a small window of opportunity to lay off the hit, but instead drills Vesey face-first into the boards. At the same time, Vesey does turn his body to face the boards just as Gudas is beginning to commit to the hit. It’s a tough call. Considering Gudas’ history of reckless hits, it wouldn’t be unjustified to assume that this wasn’t all just caused by bad luck. But with members of the hockey establishment like Nick Kypreos and Kerry Fraser both implying that Gudas wasn’t truly to blame, he may escape a heavy punishment yet again. The Flyers need to especially hope that he avoids punishment, because suspended players still count on the 23-man roster and Brayden Schenn is already inactive for three games.
#9: Voracek has no intention of starting slow
Fans were justifiably frustrated when Jakub Voracek followed up the signing of a massive eight-year extension with a disappointing 2015-16 season. After scoring 81 points the previous year, Voracek managed just 11 goals and 55 total points. There were legitimate excuses for the down year — ridiculously bad PP luck, untimely injuries — but Voracek would be the first to admit that his production and overall play simply has to be better. The Flyers faithful will certainly be satisfied if the Voracek from last night is the one who they see during the upcoming 82-game regular season.
Shaking off his power play demons from last year, Voracek scored with the advantage in the second period. But obviously, it was his goal in overtime that really has fans excited. Less than 30 seconds into the extra period, Voracek circled the offensive zone with All-Star defenseman Ryan McDonagh draped all over him, fighting off the check before fooling Mackenzie Skapski with a power move in front. It looked the same Voracek who did his best Jaromir Jagr impression throughout the majority of 2014-15, and a great sign for the approaching season.
#10: Strong game by Mason almost overshadowed by puck handling mistake
For the majority of last night’s game, Steve Mason looked like the same goalie who seemed in midseason form last week in his shutout of the Islanders. But with Philadelphia nursing a one-goal lead and facing a Rangers power play, Mason attempted to play the puck to a teammate from behind the net and instead turned it over to Derek Stepan, who quickly found Brandon Pirri for the game-tying goal.
It’s preseason, so nothing to worry too much about, but Mason’s puck handling ability did seem diminished last year in comparison to the start of his Flyers’ career. The glass-half-full view is that he’s working out the kinks in preseason in this area. The glass-half-empty side would say that he’s regressing with age in this area. It’s certainly something to keep an eye on at the start of the year.
Subject: Radko Gudas avoids suspension again
He won’t be suspended for hitting Jimmy Vesey into the boards
Radko Gudas won’t be suspended for his Monday night hit on New York Rangers forward Jimmy Vesey.
The Flyers defenseman was given a minor for roughing and a game misconduct on the play, but multiple reporters are saying this morning that according to league sources, Gudas won’t see extra discipline.
Here’s the video of the hit again:
Radko Gudas hit on Jimmy Vesey | Flyers vs. Rangers, 10/3/2016
Radko Gudas delivered a dangerous hit from behind against Jimmy Vesey, and the Philadelphia Flyers defenseman might be getting a call from the NHL on this one. He already has a game misconduct.Posted by Broad Street Hockey: For Philadelphia Flyers Fans on Monday, October 3, 2016
The message from the NHL’s Department of Player Safety, whether you agree with it or not, is that a player can’t turn into the boards like this before a hit. Vesey said after the game that he didn’t expect to be hit that hard -- a lesson probably learned the hard way for the first year pro.
“I didn’t expect that big of a hit,” Vesey said. “The next thing I knew I was face first into the glass. I wasn’t expecting it, and got caught off guard a little bit.”
I’m a little surprised that Gudas, given his long history of walking the line on these hits, didn’t get a call from the league at the very least. Then again, given the fact that Vesey turned and that he came back for the second period of play, we probably shouldn’t be that surprised.
Gudas has gotten pretty good at becoming the guy who gets away with these hits, if that can be considered a skill. That said, even if he’s not getting a suspension, it’s still not good to get kicked out of a game with 40 minutes, 21 seconds of hockey left. That’s particularly true for a defenseman like Gudas. We’re still hoping he cleans up this side of his game a bit, because it does always have the opportunity to hurt the team.
Subject: Ilya Bryzgalov roasts Flyers defense of old, is amazing
Remember the old Flyers defense? Bryz does.
Remember when the Philadelphia Flyers signed Shea Weber to a 14-year, $110 million offer sheet before the Nashville Predators matched it? That was fun, wasn’t it?
Not entirely, because it did signal a time the Flyers were desperate to improve their defense. And goaltending, for that matter; the year before, they signed Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year, $51 million deal.
Before then, Bryz was coming off of a season that saw him play 68 games and post a .921 save percentage: not bad at all. He was then bought out after just two years of his contract, having only played 99 games for the Flyers, and posting a .905 save percentage along the way.
So... that could have worked out better.
But then, remember the Flyers’ defense of old. Way back, to a time without Shayne Gostisbehere. And maybe it wasn’t all Bryz’s fault, as he pointed out in an absolutely fantastic tweet.
Spot the flyers d-man in this picture. pic.twitter.com/AcXUq6pCSu— bryzgoalie30 (@bryzgoalie30) October 3, 2016
Fair point, Bryz. Fair point.
It’s a shame he hasn’t really been able to find a home in the NHL since the Flyers bought him out, but as long as he’s on Twitter every now and then and producing gems like these, well, we’ll definitely take that.
Subject: Wednesday Morning Fly By: Another one bites the dust.
Today's open discussion thread, complete with your daily dose of Philadelphia Flyers news and notes...
*Speaking of, here's ten things we can take away from Monday's fun times win against that team. [BSH]
*... and that was the correct result. Here's why. [Puck Daddy]
*The NHL is a young man's game. cc: Ron Hextall. [TSN]
*Evidently these guys out in Vegas have finally decided on a name. [Puck Daddy]
*Seems like some people think the Flyers might be a little better this year than last. [USA Today]
*As we inch towards the regular season opener DGB brings us resolutions for the new hockey year. [Sportsnet]
*And finally, turns out those "forget your skates" dreams really are something to be afraid of. [TSN]
Subject: Flyers cut Sam Morin, Taylor Leier from training camp, both assigned to Lehigh Valley
Wednesday's most recent cuts trim the roster to 26. Three more cuts coming over the next six days?
The Philadelphia Flyers announced on Wednesday morning two more cuts from training camp: Samuel Morin and Taylor Leier; both have already been assigned to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
After an impressive showing in training camp and preseason for the second-straight year, Sam Morin -- once again -- was able to stick around until the final week of cuts. Morin will look to build upon his impressive showing in front of the organization as he begins his second season as a staple on the Lehigh Valley backend.
There's been quite a bit of speculation as to whether Morin would be an option for the Flyers to use as a call-up at some point during the 2016-17 season.
Taylor Leier, who appeared in six games for the Flyers last season as an injury call-up, will also be joining Morin. At this point in Leier's development, it seems the team is more inclined to use him sparingly as a call-up should the bottom-six need some help. Leier was able to reach the 20-goal mark for the first time in his professional career during his 2014-15 season with Lehigh Valley, and he'll be given the same opportunity this coming season.
With these two moves (and the impending clearance of Colin McDonald through waivers), the Philadelphia Flyers camp roster is down to 26 players. Both Travis Konency and Ivan Provorov, the two most polarizing youngsters in the development system, remain. The final roster is due on October 14th, so the team has six days to make the remaining three cuts. The season's almost here.
Subject: Claude Giroux admits he needs to be better at growing a beard
He is, however, holding himself to impossibly high standards.
Claude Giroux is a man of many talents.
He’s pretty good at hockey. He’s been the Philadelphia Flyers’ leading scorer for six years now! He’s also a champion at running off with trophies.
Sadly, though, Giroux is not the best at everything. Take beards, for example. He’s got a pretty decent ginger beard of his own, but when you compare him to what others can do, well...
In fairness to Giroux, that’s just not fair. Who put him in between Joe Thornton and Brent Burns? Almost nobody can compete with them, let alone Giroux, who’s a better beard grower than some others we can name (cough, Sidney Crosby, cough).
Hopefully Giroux will get the chance to really show off some beard-growing abilities, even if he’s not at the level of those two - but it’ll be really meaningful about six months from now, knock on wood.
Subject: Dave Hakstol shines light on defensive log jam, says team could carry 8
It sounds like eight defensemen is a real possibility
VOORHEES – Let’s get this out of the way: Michael Del Zotto, Shayne Gostisbehere, Radko Gudas, Mark Streit and Nick Schultz are all locks to make the opening day roster.
That leaves Andrew MacDonald, Brandon Manning and the 19-year-old blue-chip prospect Ivan Provorov as the remaining three players competing for the final two open spots.
Or maybe not.
Head coach Dave Hakstol shined a light on what fans could very well be seeing when the final roster is trimmed down: eight defensemen.
“I think there is,” said Hakstol when asked about the possibility.
“If eight defensemen is the right mix for our group, than that’s what we’ll do.”
On the surface, MacDonald, Manning and Provorov have all had their moments; in fact, MacDonald and Provorov have played consistently well the entire way. Manning has been dealing with an undisclosed injury that hasn’t kept him out of practices but could be the reason why he hasn’t played the past two games.
Whatever the case may be with Manning, he’s still done enough to leave an impression on the coaching staff.
“I think you saw the role Mandog solidified last year when he and [Radko Gudas] got into a really good rhythm,” Hakstol said. “They were two guys that were hard to go against … Mandog is a guy that can get up the ice … I thought he did a good job of establishing that two-way role last year.”
As for MacDonald, he’s someone who has quietly played solid hockey throughout the exhibitions. He’s logged heavy minutes, as well, a sign that not only does the coaching staff trust him, but that they value his special teams work.
“He’s had an excellent camp,” Hakstol said. “He’s been with a lot of different players, whether the right or left side, and he’s been a really steady player out there. He’s played a top four role for us each time for us this preseason.”
In regards to Provorov, nothing has really changed with him. It’s been well-documented how the team feels with his play so far, they’ve said he’s been nothing short of “solid” with flashes of brilliance. He seems to be nearing classification as a locked player on this roster.
So is carrying eight defensemen a real possibility?
It sounds like it, but it would leave the Flyers thin at forward especially with Brayden Schenn’s three-game suspension to open the season. To keep eight defensemen, some combination among Jordan Weal, Scott Laughton, Chris VandeVelde, Matt Read and Travis Konecny would need to be removed. That would be a tough decision.
Seeing that, it’s more likely the team opts for seven defensemen and sends either Manning or MacDonald back to Lehigh Valley. Who that is, remains the biggest question. MacDonald offers more in terms of special teams and has had the better camp, but Manning is more likely to be claimed off of waivers.
Hakstol provided some valuable insight on where his head is at in regards to this clouded situation, but keeping eight defensemen just doesn’t seem as viable of an option as sticking with seven.
Subject: Flyers believe Morin is “very close”
The 21-year-old appears to be a likely call-up at some point this year.
VOORHEES, N.J. – As the cuts kept coming and names like Robert Hagg, Travis Sanheim and Philippe Myers started dropping, there stood just two members among the highly-talented pool of Flyers defensive prospects.
Ivan Provorov and Sam Morin.
The first one is already viewed as a potential starter in the NHL. The second one, though, was a bit more surprising. Yet, in reality, Morin’s extended look, which came to a halt on Tuesday as he was among two players loaned to Lehigh Valley, shouldn’t be all that eye-popping. Taller defensemen tend to take longer to develop, and from the looks of it, Morin’s development has come along just as expected, if not quicker.
This camp was easily Morin’s most efficient one to date, as the first-round pick back in 2013 displayed both physicality, skill and composure that had not been seen before at this level.
“He was a confident player all the way through camp and he showed he’s taking a big step towards this level,” said Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol. “He’s very close.”
When asked whether or not Morin will be a call-up at some point this season, Hakstol gave an honest assessment with a nod of approval.
“I think that’s accurate,” Hakstol said.
It won’t be that easy, of course, as Morin will need to carry over that strong play and newfound confidence down to Lehigh Valley where he’ll likely work on the top defensive pairing.
I asked the second-year coach what stood out the most about the 6-foot-7 blueliner this camp compared to last, with Hakstol replying, “his poise, presence and comfort in every area of his game.”
He then used Monday’s game against the Rangers as an example of Morin’s development in a nutshell. Late in the game, Morin coughed up a puck right in front of Steve Mason that wound up being directly put past the netminder.
There was frustration, as evidenced by Morin’s slashing of his stick on the ice afterwards, but rather than carry over that emotion the rest of the way and nullify a strong showing up until that point, Morin displayed his maturation.
Had that been during the 2015 preseason, it may not have been the same result.
“I think last year that would have shook him up and rattled him,” Hakstol said. “This year, he moved onto the next play and stood out, played that next shift extremely well, aggressively and played it smart. It didn’t affect him whatsoever. That’s part of maturity, and a part of the growth.”
Morin was seen exiting the Flyers Skate Zone following his loan back to Lehigh Valley earlier today, but unlike this time last year, it was with a head held high and with the mindset that he may be back in the near future.
Subject: What are your expectations for Travis Konecny this season?
If the exciting young forward manages to make the Flyers, how do you think he’ll do for himself?
While we can’t say for certain until final rosters are submitted on or before Tuesday, October 11, Flyers forward prospect Travis Konecny appears to be making a legitimate run at a roster spot. The talented young forward has electrified the fanbase several times, and he’s had a chance to play alongside nearly all of the Flyers’ top forwards in different preseason games. Fans would certainly love to see him in the lineup this year, for a multitude of reasons.
As Konecny makes his final push for a spot, it’s worth noting that this situation — a very young player fighting for a roster spot — isn’t one that we, as Flyers fans, have really seen unfold in a while.
In the 11 seasons since the lockout of 2004-05, the only Flyers player to get a full season with the team within one year of being drafted was Sean Couturier, who went straight from the 2011 draft to the Flyers’ roster the next season. Were Konecny to make the team and stay with them for the entire season, he’d be the first Flyers player in a long time to do so just one year after being drafted. (Note that this is also true for Ivan Provorov, who at this point seems like an even safer bet to make the team than Konecny.)
Essentially, it’s not too often that a guy comes in, kicks the door down, and makes his presence felt in Philadelphia on the ice rink before he’s legally allowed to drink beer in the United States. And as such, it can be tough for us to really gauge where exactly Konecny will be if he does make it this year.
Which is why we’re going to ask you, the reader, what you think Travis Konecny will do this year with the Flyers. Please fill out the below survey (just once, please!) and in a couple of days we’ll check back and see where everyone’s expectations are for everyone’s favorite London, Ontario native.
Subject: Eagles injury report: a long bill of clean health
The following players were listed as full participants for Wednesday’s practice:
Subject: Crunching The Numbers: Week 4
Have you heard the Eagles are off to a hot start?
Welcome back to a new season of Crunching The Numbers! If you’re unfamiliar with what this is about, it is a home-brew stat-based method for ranking NFL teams. Think of it as BGN’s version of ESPN’s FPI, Football Outsider’s DVOA, or Five Thirty-Eight’s Elo. I wouldn’t ever suggest what I do is of the same caliber (it’s not), but it’s the same general idea. If you’d like to read more, an archive of every post on this topic can be found here.
I have added a new wrinkle to my formula this season - “derivative control.” Last season, I noticed that teams who were in the process of tanking (like the Eagles) had their scores artificially inflated by previous success early on in the season. I felt this was an inaccurate representation of their current performance, so I set out to change that.
If you look at the formula, it is divided into an offensive and defensive component. Each week I calculate each component individually and then add them together to get a final score. Starting in Week 5, I’ll be adding an extra step by subtracting the previous week’s score for each component from the current score (i.e. I’ll be subtracting Week 4’s score from Week 5). This difference will then be tacked onto Week 5’s offensive and defensive scores. If the difference is positive, it becomes a bonus. If the difference is negative, it becomes a penalty. Here is the offensive process visualized:
DIFF = OFF SCORE, WK5 - OFF SCORE, WK4
NEW WK5 OFF SCORE = OFF SCORE, WK5 + DIFF
The same process will be applied to the defense. What makes this interesting is that each week I will be subtracting the adjusted score from the current score to get the difference. If a team is consistently trending up or down this will create a positive feedback loop that can significantly affect their score later in the season to properly reflect their play. In this way, previous performance becomes less of a factor as the season moves on. (NOTE: For any engineers in the audience, I know this is not technically derivative control. But it’s a somewhat similar concept and I think the phrase sounds cool, so I’m using it. #DealWithIt)
Like last season, I’ll present the rankings, a discussion of why the Eagles are ranked where they are, a discussion of their next opponent, and some fun facts at the end. Now enough math, let’s get to the scores!
Crunching The Numbers Rank Index, Week 4
It should be noted that the following scores are index values, meaning they only have relative value. A score of 10 is only “good” if it is better than the other numbers in the set. There is not a scale of any kind to compare the scores against.
Why the Eagles are First(!)
Well look at that! Our very own Philadelphia Eagles grade out #1 overall in my formula. This is entirely caused by their insane point differential, which is the formula’s largest component. For their raw offensive score (3.82), they actually fall behind Oakland (5.82) and Dallas (4.04). And on defense (-0.31) they find themselves trailing teams like Baltimore (-0.05), Denver (-0.27), and Kansas City (-0.25).
While it’s nice to see them in first, it should be noted that the reason WHY is not exactly sustainable. They are not going to outscore every opponent 31-9 for the rest of the season. There will be a week (or two) when a team finds a way to score on the defense, and there will be a few more where Wentz has a bad game and the offense can’t get into a rhythm. And moreover, their status on top vastly increases the likelihood that they’ll trend down in my derivative control feature, which could make them fall faster as the season goes on.
With that being said, there is reason to believe the Eagles will remain in the top ten this season. The pass defense is lights out with only 6.2 YPA allowed and no touchdowns surrendered through the air. Their sack rate on offense is among the lowest in the league (3.8%) and they’re averaging 8 rushing first downs per game, which is second only to Dallas (11). These are sound fundamentals which can be sustained with good coaching (sans the zero passing touchdowns). As it stands now, the Eagles’ coaches are doing a hell of a job, so expect them to be competitive all season. Just don’t be surprised if they drop on the rankings as the season goes on.
Week 5 Reconnaissance: Detroit Lions
The Eagles head up to Michigan this week to take the 20th ranked Detroit Lions. That placing might seem generous for a 1-3 team, but all of their losses have been close and the offense has the ability to score. Regardless, if the Eagles can continue their high level of play, there is no excuse for not avenging last Thanksgiving’s embarrassment. The Lions have allowed a sack rate of 6.02% on offense and Stafford has been a modest turnover machine with an interception rate of 2.56%. Defensively, they’re only averaging 0.2 turnovers a game and allow an abysmal 47.1% of third down conversions. The Lions can prove to be a tough opponent at home, but the Eagles are simply the better team. If they lose it would be a huge disappointment off the bye and they would have nobody to blame other than themselves, especially since their matchup against the Redskins in Week 6 doesn’t really qualify this as a trap game.
The Broncos are in midseason form by only allowing an absurd 4.9 yards per attempt... The Vikings, who lost Adrian Peterson to injury, are averaging just 3.2 rushing first downs per game, which is less than Miami... Matt Ryan is currently averaging an insane 10.1 yards per pass attempt.
Subject: Halapoulivaati Vaitai could play right tackle if Lane Johnson is suspended
The rookie might be the man, according to Doug Pederson.
Halapoulivaati Vaitai, the Eagles’ fifth-round pick out of TCU in this past spring’s draft, could be yet another Birds rookie seeing major playing time in 2016.
According to Doug Pederson on Wednesday morning, the team’s coaching staff has been considering using Vaitai at right tackle if Lane Johnson’s 10-game suspension comes to fruition.
Johnson had a hearing on Tuesday to appeal his 10-game suspension; he will play on Sunday against the Lions, but could still miss 10 games this year.
The team’s initial plan, according to Pederson, was to move starting left guard Allen Barbre to right tackle in Johnson’s place, and then put backup Stefen Wisniewski in Barbre’s spot at left guard.
But Pederson said the coaches have been so pleased with what they’ve seen from Vaitai in the first four weeks of the season that he could simplify their solution.
“It’s something that we’ve come to, talking with Coach Stoutland and watching Big V closely, not only in the preseason but in practices these last couple of weeks,” Pederson said Wednesday. “Again, we want to exhaust all the possibilities. Allen Barbre’s been playing great at left guard, and if you don’t have to disrupt two different positions, and just do one, I think there’s a conversation there that we have to have. But yeah, he’s definitely in the mix.”
Pederson said Vaitai has not been taking first-team reps yet. He emphasized the word yet, which means Vaitai could see some first-team reps this week in preparation.
What Vaitai has been doing, however, is going against the Eagles’ starting defensive line in practice all year long, and Pederson has liked what he’s seen.
“The work he’s done in that capacity, against a good defensive line, gives us confidence that if we had to make that decision, we could do that and not bat an eye,” Pederson said. “Just from that standpoint, going back and evaluating his preseason games, looking at that and where he is, physically and mentally, it puts him in a good position to potentially be that right tackle.”
Pederson said at the end of his press conference that the Vaitai plan is not a certainty. There’s still a chance, if and when Johnson’s suspension is handed down, that the Eagles will roll with their initial plan of sliding Barbre to right tackle and slotting Wisniewski in at left guard.
But, for now, the conversation seems to be leaning Big V’s way.
Subject: Doug Pederson on Nigel Bradham: “Have to make better decisions”
Pederson will let Bradham play on Sunday.
Doug Pederson said Wednesday morning he will not be disciplining linebacker Nigel Bradham after news broke Monday of Bradham’s second arrest in four months.
Bradham was arrested in Miami this past Sunday for a second degree misdemeanor concealed weapons charge. He was released on a $300 bond.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Pederson talked multiple times about how he needs his players to be smarter when they’re away from the NovaCare Complex. He made it clear he was disappointed in Bradham’s decision making during the team’s bye week.
“Obviously my messaging the week before is, ‘Be smart, be careful, protect each other away from the building,’” Pederson said. “Obviously [the arrest] was away from here. Guys have got to make better decisions when they’re away from the building. It’s unfortunate. It’s obviously out of my hands now, it’s a legal matter, but you’ve just got to use your head and be smart in those situations.”
Pederson said he owns rifles, and he likes to hunt, but he couldn’t understand why Bradham would try to bring a loaded gun on an airplane.
“I don’t know why anybody would do that,” Pederson said. “I don’t know all the circumstances around it. And it’s obviously a big deal, to do that. ... We just have to be smart. It is a little surprising that he carried it on.”
But Pederson emphasized multiple times that, until he feels he has the full information and all the details, he will not be disciplining Bradham. The 27-year-old Florida native will be practicing Wednesday, and Pederson expects Bradham to play this Sunday against the Lions in Detroit.
“He’s been talked to by a lot of people already, and he understands,” Pederson said. “I’m just going to wait and see what happens, and I’ll keep talking to him like normal, and all the guys. Just reminding them we’ve got to make good, smart decisions away from the building.”
Pederson was asked for his level of concern about Bradham, considering it’s the linebacker’s second arrest in four months since the Eagles signed him this past offseason.
“It’s obviously a concern,” Pederson said. “Both of these were incidences that were away from here, and they’re out of your control that way. This is where guys need to just be smart about it. It’s their livelihood, it’s their families. In everything we do. It’s no different if I’m away from this building, and the things that I do when you’re not the head football coach and you’re with your family. You’ve just got to make those smart choices.”
Subject: NFL Draft Player of the Week: Derek Barnett
In a week of crazy games, it would be hard to say any game had the flash of the thriller between Tennessee and Georgia. This SEC East thriller featured 2 (TWO) Hail Marys in the last minute between the two teams, giving Tennessee the win to stay undefeated. However, they would not have gotten to that point of contention in the game if it was not from some stellar play from their edge defender, Derek Barnett.
Barnett was crushing the Georgia offensive line all game, picking up two sacks and staying disruptive the entire game, creating pressure and making key tackles in the run game. Barnett has been somewhat overshadowed despite being a high profile recruit and productive player. After all, the Vols are just starting to live up to the hype this season and there are tons of other star defenders on historically better teams that have stolen headlines from Barnett. However, as Tennessee continues to win, Barnett will continue to get the recognition he deserves as a defensive prospect.
At 6-3, 265, Barnett is well built with a stout frame and strong lower body. His best asset are his long arms and motor. When the ball is snapped, Barnett relentless gets after blocks and due to his combination of length and strength, he is able to be successful more often than not. His level of physicality also makes him a plus run defender. He is not the same level of athlete as many of the top edge rushers in the country, but he does a good job compensating with his technique and physicality. Barnett should not be a top ten pick, by any means, but a mid first round pick for what would likely be a productive edge defender makes a lot of sense.
This was Barnett's second game in a row with two sacks after beginning the season without any, so maybe Barnett is just getting started.
Other Performances to note...
JuJu Smith Schuster, WR, USC: The long awaited breakout is over. After singing Smith Schuster's praises all summer, the third year wide receiver had a slow start to the season due to ineptness at the quarterback position. With a new quarterback at the helm, Smith Schuster broke 100 yards receiving for the first time this season, notching three touchdowns in the process. He looks like the player who kicked ass in the Pac 12 all of last season, so here's hoping this quarterback change does him good for the rest of the year.
Jamaal Williams, RB, BYU: Jamaal Williams lost part of his 2014 season and all of his 2015 season to a severe knee injury, but by all evidence he is back in the saddle. The six foot, 215 runner looked incredibly elusive against Toledo as he ran for over 200 yards and picked up FIVE touchdowns. Williams has it all as a runner and as long as he can stay healthy, he should end up being a nice player in the NFL.
Greg Ward, QB, Houston: It is going to be tough come draft time to hear that the NFL will want Greg Ward to play a different position in the NFL. Frankly, I loathe that reality. However, the senior passer has been excellent this season AS A PASSER. He has been incredibly decisive and accurate all season, looking absolutely outstanding against UConn. After rushing for over a thousand yards last season, Ward is doing most of his damage from the pocket this year. Maybe the NFL could give the undersized signal caller a chance at his natural position.
Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida: One of my favorite players in the country is Florida's 6-2, 230 pound linebacker. While he may be a bit undersized, he is a great athlete who plays like his hair is on fire. Davis was all over the place against Vanderbilt, making plays against the run, in coverage and as a pass rusher. Davis is a versatile defender with the speed to make an impact all over the field. He looks like he is more consistent this year, which would be a huge boost to his NFL draft stock.
Subject: Power Ranking Round Up: Eagles still flying high
Not playing is not detrimental
The Eagles spend the weekend at home hunting or in Miami getting arrested. Their power rankings spot also took the week off.
No write up
Rookie QB Carson Wentz has been great, but don't forget the defense in Philadelphia, which has allowed 27 points in three games. The last Eagles team to allow that few points in the first three games was the 1992 squad that went 11-5.
The Eagles have seven road games left, and there are some tough ones: at Detroit, Washington, Dallas, Giants, Seattle, Cincinnati and Baltimore. And they still have tough home games, like Minnesota, Atlanta and Green Bay. Carson Wentz and Co. will get tested often going forward.
Carson Wentz and the Eagles were on the sidelines this week due to their Week 4 bye, which is probably the only thing that could have cooled off red-hot Philly.
How much will a too-early bye week disrupt the team’s momentum?
I can't dock the Eagles in these power rankings for not playing.
They've defeated the teams they were supposed to (Bears, Browns). They beat a team they weren't supposed to (Steelers). Overall, they're in great shape moving forward.
What could improve? I'd like to see a little more from the running game to balance things out. Maybe rookie Wendell Smallwood gets a bigger piece of the backfield pie.
An average of 5th is fine. Last week the Eagles were an average of 5.5th, and it’s fair to not give any team on a bye much of a bump. But Fox and ESPN put the Steelers, who beat the Chiefs by less than the Eagles beat the Steelers a week ago, ahead of the Eagles. That’s nonsense. In December that game won’t matter as much, but seven days later it matters greatly.
It’ll probably be the same spot next week if the Eagles can beat the Lions. The Broncos have a tough match up against the Falcons, but everyone else above them has a pretty easy match up. No one would complain with another week in the top 5 though.
Subject: The Linc: Malcolm Jenkins still wants his respect
One of the best safeties in the NFL won’t stop working.
Eagles news and links for 10/5
Malcolm Jenkins has a whiteboard that hangs on the left side of his locker stall. There are color-coded messages written on the panel - notes the Eagles safety uses as reminders for areas in which he wants to improve.
Jenkins will sometimes make daily changes to the board, but mostly he goes week to week. There may be a leftover or two, but this week, for instance, as the Eagles prepare to face the Detroit Lions on Sunday, he has the following listed:
Open field tackling
Playing with balance
Keeping pad level down
Eyes in the right spot in man-to-man
"Each week I'm trying to get better at particular things, whatever shows up the week before that I might have messed up on," Jenkins said, "or something where I want to take my game to."
Jenkins seemingly has as little to improve as he has ever had. Last season was a breakout one, but this season he's off to a start that could augment his standing around the NFL. Jenkins earned his first Pro Bowl invitation in 2015, but only after other safeties backed out and made room for the alternate.
He was stung by the initial snub but understood that there was competition. But when Jenkins learned that he was the seventh alternate, it further chipped away at a grudge he has held since the Saints allowed him to walk away in free agency three years ago.
18 – The number of touchdowns the Lions have allowed to opposing tight ends in their last 20 games (hat tip @AdamLevitan).
This statistic seems especially relevant with the expected return of Eagles starter Zach Ertz. Ertz has been targeted 55 times in his last five games for 41 receptions, 508 yards, and one score.
Ertz isn’t the only tight end Detroit will have to worry about. For the first time this season, the Eagles have all three tight ends healthy. Veteran Brent Celek and secret weapon Trey Burton are bound to be involved in the game plan as well.
Covering tight ends hasn’t been the only weakness of the Lions’ defense this year. The unit as a whole has really struggled. Detroit is allowing 6.3 yards per play, which is the second worst mark in the league.
Another key area where the Eagles could benefit from Detroit’s deficiencies is on third down. The Lions are allowing their opponents to convert on 47.06%. Only one NFL team (Washington) has been worse. That’s good news for an Eagles offense that’s struggled to move the chains at times. Philadelphia’s offense has only converted 30% of their third down attempts, which ranks 29th.
1) Carson Wentz against yet another inexperienced pass rush
In Week 1 against the Browns, Wentz faced a defensive front seven that had 22 combined career sacks. In Week 2, he faced a Bears' defensive front seven that had 54.5 combined career sacks. Those are extremely low numbers. In Week 3, the Steelers were similarly inexperienced, but not to the degree of the Browns and Bears. The Steelers' starting front seven had a combined 85 career sacks.
To put that in perspective, there are 10 active individual players with more than 85 sacks, on their own, including Trent Cole, for example, who has 87.5.
So far this season, the Eagles have allowed just four sacks, which was tied for fourth-best in the NFL prior to Week 4. The Eagles' offensive line has given Wentz time to throw, and he has responded with outstanding quarterback play.
Against the Lions, with stud pass rusher Ziggy Ansah out, the Eagles will be beneficiaries of yet another defensive front seven without proven pass rushers
55.7 percent of the Lions' career sacks from their defensive front seven starters are coming from Haloti Ngata, who is now 32 and has never had more than 5.5 sacks in any one season, although previously unknown DE Kerry Hyder actually leads the league with 5 sacks.
Still, even with Lane Johnson potentially out, the Eagles should be able to protect Wentz once again.
The Eagles don’t play their fourth game until Sunday at Detroit, but it’s hard to find more than a handful of eternal optimists who thought this team would be 3-0.
It’s not just that the Birds traded their projected starting quarterback eight days before the first game. It’s that they weren’t predicted to be that good even with Sam Bradford as the quarterback.
For a rookie head coach in Doug Pederson to win his first three games with a rookie quarterback in Carson Wentz (more on him later) running the show is The only other rookie coach/quarterback tandem to start the season at 3-0 were Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez in 2009.
The Eagles have the stingiest defense in the league as far as yielding points and have not committed a turnover. They lead the league in point differential at plus-65.
Other teams off to surprisingly quick starts are the Oakland Raiders (3-1); the Dallas Cowboys (3-1) with rookie quarterback Dak Prescott filling in for the injured Tony Romo; and the Los Angeles Rams (3-1).
The idea is this: If the Eagles use Ertz, Brent Celek and Trey Burton together, defenses have the choice of going big and staying in base personnel, or going smaller with a third cornerback on the field replacing a linebacker. If a defense stays with three linebackers, the Eagles can spread the field and force the defense to use linebackers in coverage against the Eagles' tight ends, or match up a bigger tight end on a smaller cornerback in space. If a defense takes a linebacker off the field and goes "small," then the Eagles may have an advantage and can play power football and employ the running game using that personnel package.
"There are a lot of possibilities and we can be more versatile with three tight ends out there as part of our look," wide receiver Jordan Matthews said. "I think it's going to be a lot of fun. The more looks we can give defenses, the more off-balance we can make them and that's to our advantage."
We've already seen the offensive coaching staff use to its advantage every corner of the roster. They've used four running backs in all three games (more on that below). They've used defensive tackle Beau Allen as a fullback. All of the wide receivers are getting touches. Lineman Matt Tobin has filled in as the third tight end with Ertz missing two games because of a misplaced rib.
Interesting stuff. And only going to get better with a full group healthy and excited to get a piece of the action.
"That's the thing," Ertz said. "We all feel part of it. It's fun out there. Everyone is playing his part and we're getting better and better. I think the sky is the limit."
Subject: Lane Johnson’s attorney issues statement; Johnson expected to play
“In the meantime Lane will prepare and play as scheduled.”
You might’ve heard: Lane Johnson’s suspension appeal hearing was today. Johnson is facing a 10-game suspension for a second run-in with the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy.
The suspension can be repealed entirely, lowered, or upheld entirely. As of Tuesday evening, there was no definitive ruling.
The Inquirer’s Jeff McLane has a statement from Johnson’s attorney, Steve Zashin, which according to Les Bowen ended around 6:00 this evening.
The way Zashin phrases it, we can probably expect Johnson to play on Sunday against the Lions in Detroit, and the arbitrator will rule sometime next week.
The Daily News’ Les Bowen seemed to interpret it the same way:
The main takeaway so far: typical arbitration timeframe is a week to 10 days, so Lane Johnson plays in Detroit.— Les Bowen (@LesBowen) October 4, 2016
If the arbitrator hands down the decision before Sunday, the Eagles will shift starting left guard Allen Barbre to right tackle, and backup lineman Stefen Wisniewski will start at left guard.
In case the suspension comes down before Sunday’s game, there are certainly worse opponents to have an iffy offensive line start to gel against. The Lions are allowing the third-most rush yards per attempt of any defense in the league, which means the Eagles’ run game wouldn’t suffer terribly in Johnson’s absence.
Still, they would clearly prefer to have the man they guaranteed $35.5 million this offseason play as many games as he’s allowed.
[UPDATE: 7:37 PM EST] - ESPN’s Adam Caplan says the Eagles expect Johnson to play Sunday, per a source.