Subject: Devils 4, Flyers 1: 10 things we learned from a continued slide
The bye week didn’t put a halt to the Flyers’ recent struggles, it simply postponed them.
Morning Observations is a feature where we break down the previous night's game with an analytical eye.
#1: The Flyers didn’t play a perfect game, but they really can’t catch a break
There have been numerous games during Philadelphia’s recent run of poor results that were classic examples of the team being outplayed from start to finish. The matchup against the Sharks in San Jose and the most recent contest versus the Rangers certainly fall into that bucket. However, there have also been instances where the Flyers drove play, created chances and adhered to a process that really should get them a win, only to see one-off breakdowns and strange misfortune push them to a loss. Last night’s game against the Devils fell into the latter category.
That’s not to say that Philadelphia didn’t provide legitimate opportunities for the Devils to gain a foothold in this game. They took seven minor penalties, allowed a goal on a sloppy line change, and couldn’t keep the Devils off the scoreboard in the third period, which ended any realistic possibility for a comeback. But even given those missteps, it would be tough to watch that game and truly believe that the New Jersey Devils are the better hockey club. At 5-on-5, the Flyers controlled the territorial battle basically from start-to-finish, racking up 60 shot attempts to the Devils’ 25, good for a 67.17% score-adjusted Corsi, Philadelphia’s best single-game mark of the year. Even adjusting for shot quality per the Expected Goals metric, the Flyers dominated at 5v5, finishing at 61.33%.
What turned this game in the Devils’ favor was not especially good play by the club from Jersey, but a four-minute stretch that saw the Flyers end up two men down due to an awful clipping call on Radko Gudas (and then an angry response from Simmonds that elicited another penalty) and then a terrible line change once the two teams were back at 5v5. That’s regrettable, and at least in the case of the line change, preventable by the Flyers. But don’t be fooled by the score in this case — Philadelphia wasn’t dominated by an inferior opponent. They played a strong game for the most part, and simply got none of the breaks. Unfortunately, that’s hockey sometimes. It only feels like an especially poor performance because it happened to come in the midst of a stretch of especially poor results.
#2: Still, they took too many penalties, and PK eventually folded
At 5-on-5, the Flyers were the better team by a significant margin, but unfortunately for Philadelphia, only about 36 minutes of the contest was spent in that situation. That’s because this was a penalty-filled contest, with the two teams combining for 13 minor penalties overall. When that many penalties are called, it’s fair to partially attribute it to the officials simply calling an unusually-tight game, but even in those situations, the onus is on the players to adapt to the changing standards. In that regard, the Flyers failed, taking seven total minors.
Two of them can be washed away immediately, because Radko Gudas’ hit on Miles Wood was in no way, shape or form a clipping penalty, and had that call not been made, Wayne Simmonds does not take an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty as a result. But that still leaves five minor penalties taken by the Flyers in this one, far too many for a team whose discipline was a key reason for the ten-game winning streak in December. The penalty kill actually started strong, killing off the first three power play opportunities for the Devils, but then understandably cracked when faced with the two-man advantage due to the Gudas penalty. Then, in a game still within reach early in the third period, the Flyers took two straight penalties in the first six minutes (both from the fourth line) and blew a coverage down low to turn a manageable 3-1 deficit into a far more daunting three goal hole. It was the combination of poor discipline and a fading penalty kill that truly put the final nail in Philadelphia’s hopes.
#3: Reasons for optimism
The Flyers have now lost 12 out of their last 15 games, and you would be forgiven if your view of the current situation is that the season is irreversibly spiraling out of control. It’s that belief that has some in the fanbase questioning whether it’s the right time to call up the kids en masse, or seriously wondering if Ron Hextall may make a big trade to reshape the team’s core, or even advocating for Dave Hakstol’s job security to be called into question. However, the Flyers remain right in the thick of the Eastern Conference wild card race despite their swoon, just one point behind the Maple Leafs (though Toronto has three games in hand). Philadelphia is in a rough spot, but this season is far from over.
And this is where a leap of faith becomes necessary, because the recent underlying metrics do not match up with the conventional wisdom that the Flyers have been absolutely awful during this calendar year. There have now been nine games in 2017, and during that stretch, Philadelphia’s shot creation and shot prevention metrics at 5v5, 5v4, and 4v5 have been undeniably strong.
This doesn’t paint the expected picture. Since the calendar flipped to 2017, the Flyers have been driving play at 5v5, racking up more shots on the power play than any other club has over the course of the 2016-17 season, and preventing shots on the PK at a better-than-league average rate. You can say that these metrics don’t match up with your evaluation of the team’s recent play, and that’s totally fair. It’s hard to watch the Flyers fall to an awful Devils team by a 4-1 score and come away optimistic. But the night is darkest just before the dawn, and I promise you, the dawn is coming.
#4: Flyers finally tweak PP2 formation to strong results
Despite adding Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov, the Flyers’ second power play unit has not just remained toothless this season, it’s actually regressed from a performance standpoint. Part of that has been due to the execution by the players, but the odd formations employed by the coaching staff certainly haven’t helped. Too often, players have been placed out of position for strange reasons — yes, Travis Konecny is very good at deflections, but is it really best to use a 175 pound 19-year old as a netfront presence? — and rarely has the formation been structured according to handedness to facilitate easy one-timers, as the top unit is.
That changed on Saturday, likely a result of the coaching staff tinkering with their tactics over the five-day break. The second unit remained in a base 1-3-1 structure, though they did occasionally shift to more of a two-point men overload style at times. The bigger change was from a role standpoint. Sean Couturier took over the netfront presence spot, while Travis Konecny took up shop in the slot position (where Schenn stands on PP1). Provorov was stationed on the left half boards, Streit was up top, and Nick Cousins took up Voracek’s role on the right.
There are obvious, immediate benefits to these changes. To start, it gave the unit a few natural one-timer options (Streit-to-Cousins, Cousins-to-Konecny), which PP2 has lacked. It also placed a larger body in front of the net in Couturier, which helped contribute to Konecny’s goal (just seconds after a power play ended). On the play, Steven Santini couldn’t get through Couturier to clear the rebound, allowing for Konecny to drive the net and score. In addition, the positioning of Konecny and Provorov in the formation allow for a natural switch from a 1-3-1 to a two point man structure, as Provorov now can choose to pull back to the point and wait for Konecny to drift in from the slot to Giroux’s spot, opening up another one-timer option. It’s not a perfect formation (Cousins isn’t an amazing distributor) but no PP2 formation is going to be considering the absence of elite scoring talent. But at the very least, this is the best look the Flyers have shown this year with that second unit, a welcome change.
#5: Ridiculous call on Gudas changed the game
As I’ve noted before, I generally like to avoid critiquing individual calls in a game because it’s my belief that they tend to even out on the whole. And to be sure, the Flyers had an entire third period to rebound from this particular call, and failed to take the opportunity, so it’s simply inaccurate to blame to loss on one play. However, the blown “clipping” call on Radko Gudas was just too egregious to ignore. On the play, Gudas slid over in rush coverage and took out Devils forward Miles Wood with a hip check, separating him from the puck and ending the threat. But when Gudas came to his feet, he realized that the official had whistled him for clipping, which is defined as a low hit at or below the knees of an opponent.
That’s not what happened here. Gudas did lower his head, but contact was made directly with Wood’s hip and torso, making this a vicious but totally clean by check. So why the call? My theory is that this was a true case of a reputation penalty. The official saw a Flyer appear to go low for a hit, noticed the #3 on his jersey and assumed that since it was Radko Gudas (who has a history of illegal hits), it must have been a clip. But on the replay, it’s obvious that the primary contact was to the “4” on Wood’s jersey. Wayne Simmonds then made the situation worse by taking an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty arguing the call, but it’s almost forgivable considering the circumstances. Yes, the Flyers could have killed off the penalty. But these are the types of bad luck plays that have been popping up far too often during the past three weeks. All the team can do is hope that the tide turns soon.
#6: Flyers’ offensive zone strategy isn’t bulletproof
In this game, Philadelphia clearly outshot the Devils in terms of raw volume, and even convincingly won the Expected Goals battle (which accounts for location and quality of opportunities). But as usual, the bulk of the Flyers’ shot still came from the points, as this 5v5 heat map from Natural Stat Trick showcases well.
The Flyers took 60 shot attempts at 5-on-5, but the high slot is conspicuously empty, while the highest-density area is up at that right point. It’s obvious when watching Philadelphia that their cycle game is almost entirely based around a low-to-high strategy. That means that the puck is consistently cycled down low where battles are won and possession is retained, and then the forward’s first read is a pass up to the point, when a distance shot is taken and the remaining forwards look to create screens in front and collect rebounds.
The low-to-high strategy certainly has its benefits. For starters, the passes are less risky than more incisive ones that attempt to cut into the slot (a “behind-the-net” strategy) and help to inflate raw volume and increase possession time. However, current research holds that a low-to-high strategy results in deflated shooting percentages, which makes sense — distance shots (even with screens and deflections possible) are less likely to become goals than ones from high-danger areas. The biggest question is whether the Flyers’ reliance on a low-to-high strategy rather than a behind-the-net one is driven by the coaching staff, or a lack of willingness from the players to attempt difficult passes.
Hakstol’s comments after the game imply the former. I asked him if he felt the low-to-high strategy was being overused and was contributing to the team’s 5v5 offensive struggles. The head coach disagreed, stating, “No, we had 85 shooting attempts tonight, and we had them from a lot of different areas. We can get shots through a little bit better, getting them through to the net, and work a little bit harder from up top at the blue line, getting them on net and making sure we’re getting them on the 4x6. Not wide, not high. That’s an area we can do a better job, but we had a mix of opportunities from the “Grade A” area. They’re hard to come by, and they get tougher and tougher to come by. We had enough opportunities tonight.”
That strikes me as a coach who believes that a low-to-high point shot-centric strategy is the best way for his team to generate shots and chances right now. To him, the team is poorly executing, but the underlying direction is sound. And he may be right. After all, the Flyers have a blueline filled with good shooters, and have more coming in the pipeline, so this strategy can be justified by the talent on hand. The potential problems are twofold, though. For starters, continued reliance on point shots to create offense risks the cycle game becoming too predictable. Defensemen may be having trouble getting shots through because opponents know they are coming. In addition, depending upon rebounds and deflections to create high-quality chances forces a team to be at the mercy of good bounces far more than a squad that generates clean shots from the slot off passes or rush chances. Right now, the Flyers are having some bad luck offensively, but in my opinion, it’s their offensive zone strategy that forces them to depend on that luck so much.
#7: Giroux line dominated in terms of puck possession
Matt Read returned to the Flyers’ lineup after missing both games last weekend, and in a mild surprise, he was immediately returned to the top line alongside Claude Giroux and Michael Raffl. It’s true that the top unit was pasted last Sunday against Washington with Wayne Simmonds replacing Read, but I still expected the Flyers’ power forward to get a longer look up there. Instead, he dropped back down to the Schenn line, and Read regained his old spot.
The trio may not have scored any goals together, but they did everything else right. In fact, the line was a cycling machine, racking up 20 shot attempts at 5v5 and allowing just three, for a whopping 86.86% Corsi For percentage. Their xG matched up almost perfectly with their Corsi (all were in the 84-86% range), implying that it wasn’t low-quality shots that inflated their metrics. The Giroux line instead was doing everything right, and simply were not rewarded with a goal. Unfortunately, that can happen in hockey, but they should come away satisfied with their play and know that if they replicate it today, the goals will come.
#8: Del Zotto continues his strange season
A brief look at the advanced metrics might have you believe that Michael Del Zotto had a solid performance. After all, his score-adjusted Corsi was a defense-high 79.51% and he even drew a second period holding penalty on Miles Wood. But he was a key observer on two Devils goals that helped to turn the game. The first was less egregious on his part — while Del Zotto was caught in no man’s land a bit on Pavel Zacha’s first period tally, the puck was bouncing around throughout the sequence and while MDZ could have played the man more aggressively, it was a tough split-second read. However, his coverage on Wood’s third period power play goal was a disaster. As has happened many times this season, Del Zotto got caught puck watching and left Wood wide open for a backdoor pass in front of the net, making for an easy goal.
As I’ve noted on BSH Radio, the only reason why I still support keeping Del Zotto in the lineup is because I believe he remains an upgrade over Nick Schultz and Andrew MacDonald. But his errors in coverage this season have been consistent and painful to watch. We’re now over halfway through the year, and barring some sort of dramatic turnaround, I think it’s fair to theorize that Del Zotto’s strong two-way play in 2015-16 was more of a career anomaly than a sign of things to come.
#9: Bellemare line killed the team in the third
In recent weeks, the fourth line of Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Chris VandeVelde and Roman Lyubimov has watched its role decline as the Giroux-Couturier-Schenn lines have taken center stage. It was a logical decision by Hakstol, even accounting for his obvious affinity towards the players. But fourth lines still have to receive some shifts, and during the first six minutes of the third period, those shifts helped to bury the Flyers. First, Bellemare took a tripping penalty, which the Flyers were able to kill off, but just 12 seconds after that penalty expired, Chris VandeVelde then committed yet another tripping infraction, putting Philadelphia right back on the PK. This time, the Devils would not waste their chance, essentially killing any hopes for a comeback. In a limited role, a fourth line has to live by the medical creed of “do no harm,” and they failed miserably in that respect yesterday.
#10: Bye week didn’t result in much rust
The 4-1 score may seem to show that the Flyers came out flat in their return from a five-day break, but only the top power play unit showed any real signs of being out of sync. Philadelphia carried play basically from the start, posting a 60.83% score-adjusted Corsi in the first period at 5v5, and drawing two Devils penalties in the first ten minutes of the contest. You also didn’t see the Flyers misfiring on many passes or making too many terrible turnovers, two issues that plagued them last weekend. The top power play unit was a bit off (as Jake Voracek noted after the game), but even they peppered Devils goalie Keith Kinkaid with shots (125.00 attempts per 60 with Giroux on the ice), even if the quality of chances were a bit lacking. Philadelphia may have lost this game, but I would attribute very little of that result to the dreaded bye week.
Subject: Flyers at Islanders: Preview, lineups, TV/broadcast info, and discussion thread
It has been ten (10) days since the last Flyers victory. Is that bad? That seems bad.
The good news is that yesterday we got to see the Flyers play hockey again! The bad news is that we had to watch the Flyers play hockey.
Yesterday’s loss was demoralizing, as it seems like every Flyers-Devils game of the past five or six seasons has been. It was a crappy way for the Flyers to come out of the bye week, and it continues a slide that has now extended for over a month. We’ll be frank: watching the Flyers just isn’t fun right now.
But is there reason for optimism despite the losses? Charlie made that case in the observations for last night’s game, to an extent. As much as a drag as this has been, there’s some reason to believe that the underlying performance here is better than the record would indicate, and that we can maybe expect to see this thing turn around sooner rather than later.
However, until that happens, things are going to be sad.
Which brings us to tonight’s contest. The Flyers are facing one of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference, the New York Islanders. Now, this on its own doesn’t mean a ton, since the Flyers played one of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference last night, too, and we all remember how that went. Also, the Islanders are on a bit of a roll right now, and will be starting a goalie that has recorded shutouts in back to back games.
So what can we expect tonight from Brooklyn? The Islanders fired Jack Capuano earlier this week, and teams usually react to a mid-season firing either by descending into more chaos or by coming together and playing good hockey. Right now, the Islanders under interim coach Doug Weight are doing the latter; the team’s next loss under him will be its first.
In other words, despite the Islanders’ current status in the basement of the Eastern Conference, this game is not a gimme for the orange and black by any stretch of the imagination.
For the Flyers, Steve Mason will be in net after getting an extended warmup in the third period of last night’s game against New Jersey. Dave Hakstol has also indicated that there will be some changes within the lineup, but it sounds like we’ll have the same group of 20 guys on the ice that we had last night.
Tonight’s game can be seen in Philadelphia on CSN Philly and via stream on CSNPhilly.com. In New York, you can watch on MSG+; elsewhere, you can watch on NHL.TV or NHL Center Ice.
Flyers lineup (tentative; same lines as yesterday)
- Michael Raffl - Claude Giroux - Matt Read
- Nick Cousins - Sean Couturier - Jake Voracek
- Travis Konecny - Brayden Schenn - Wayne Simmonds
- Chris VandeVelde - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Roman Lyubimov
- Ivan Provorov - Andrew MacDonald
- Michael Del Zotto - Shayne Gostisbehere
- Mark Streit - Radko Gudas
- Steve Mason
- Michal Neuvirth
Brooklyn lineup (via)
- Anders Lee - John “Jawn” Tavares - Josh Bailey
- Brock “The Gym Leader” Nelson - Ryan Strome - Stephen Gionta
- Anthony Beauvillier - Alan “Every Time I Hear The Announcers Say His Name I Think They’re Saying Calvin Klein” Quine - Jason Chimera
- Nikolai Kulemin - Casey Cizikas - Cal Clutterbuck
- Nick Leddy - Adam Pelech
- Thomas Hickey - Johnny Boychuk
- Calvin de Haan - Dennis Seidenberg
- Thomas Greiss
- Jean-Francois “Craig” Berube
Subject: Flyers vs. Islanders recap: A ... win? A what now?
Trailing for much of the contest in a game where they largely controlled play, the Flyers rallied to tie the game in the third and pulled out a win in overtime.
We had all seen this game before.
The Flyers, who have lost three straight games and in particular took a defeat in a game on Saturday night that they largely outplayed the New Jersey Devils, found themselves down 2-0 in a game in which they had largely outplayed the New York Islanders. It would be pretty easy to expect things to continue to snowball, the way that they have for the Flyers in games like this recently.
Turns out that sometimes, against all odds, you just have to get a couple of breaks.
Because the Flyers got just those, scoring two goals in the latter part of this game before picking up a game-winner in overtime off the stick of Claude Giroux. The 3-2 win was the Flyers’ first since January 12, and it (very temporarily) put them back in the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
To be sure, this was a game where the Flyers came out firing. Thomas Greiss — who entered tonight’s game coming off of two straight shutouts — was tested frequently, as every Flyers line seemed like it was getting its cracks on net.
So, of course, after controlling much of the period and getting those good chances on Greiss, it was the Islanders who would score first on a comedy of errors. A neutral-zone turnover would allow John Tavares a chance alone on Mason, and while he would make the initial save and a desparation save on the rebound, he was still stuck on the ice as Nick Leddy would swoop in to fire the loose puck past him and into the net to open up the scoring.
A late-first period penalty gave the Flyers a power play heading into the second period, and a hook down low would give the Flyers another one (with a brief 5-on-3 overlap in the middle). Late in that power play, a netmouth scramble would ensue, one that certainly appeared to see a Flyer (I think it was Jakub Voracek?) poke the puck over the goal line. No goal was called on the ice, though, and that was confirmed after review — due to the officials deeming intent to blow the play dead, presumably because they believed Greiss had covered the puck even though he had not.
(That, for the record, is the worst rule in hockey.)
Anywho, because the Flyers would just miss an opportunity to tie the game up, what happened next should surprise no one, as Alan Quine would pick up the puck on a rebound right in front of Mason and pop-fly it over him and into the net as a bunch of people wearing orange and white jerseys watched him do it. That was cool.
It would have been reasonable at this point to assume that the Flyers — who, again, had controlled the vast majority of the game flow and almost certainly deserved a better fate than to be down 2-0 — would start to crumble and fall apart, as that is what’s happened to them in each of their last three games once they fell behind by two goals.
But something miraculous then happened: not that! In fact, the Flyers kept pushing, and ended up getting rewarded for it! After continuing their charge at Greiss and the Islanders’ end, Brayden Schenn corralled a loose puck that Radko Gudas tossed in front of the net and was able to just barely nudge it over to Wayne Simmonds, who wired a perfect shot past Greiss and cut that deficit in half.
It was the first goal allowed in three games for Greiss, who was fantastic tonight. He would need to be, because the Flyers’ surge would continue through the rest of the second period. Not to say that the orange and black played a perfect period — Mason was also forced to make some nice saves due to some Flyers breakdowns — but the Flyers had clearly outgunned the home team through two periods.
And after a couple of good chances by the Islanders to start the third that did not work out for them, the Flyers would finally get a lucky bounce and get a much-deserved game-tying goal. Schenn got the puck out from the boards to the blue line, where Ivan Provorov would swoop in and carry it in along the left side of the offensive zone. His centering pass, meant for Travis Konecny, would instead bounce off of Isles defenseman Adam Pelech’s skate and into the net, giving the Flyers their second tally of the night.
That was the only goal either team would score in the third period — though, again, that was not for a lack of chances by either team. Four near-consecutive minutes of power play time for the Islanders saw them nearly beat Steve Mason on some hectic sequences, but nothing would come of those. The Flyers themselves would get a power play with under three minutes left, but couldn’t take advantage of the couple of solid chances they had.
So we would head to overtime, where Greiss would rob Provorov on a one-time pass from Schenn and Mason would stone Tavares on a breakaway. But then it was Voracek who would pull the puck away from Tavares himself on the boards in the Islanders’ zone, carry it around to the other side of the ice, and pass it up to Gostisbehere. Ghost’s initial shot caromed right back to him, and as he wrapped around the net, Greiss lunged for the post to try and prevent the wrap-around goal. That gave Ghost a chance to pass to Giroux at the front of the crease, and he’d make no mistake by firing the shot over Greiss to score his first goal in 12 games and end tonight’s game in the process.
This was not the prettiest win the Flyers will ever pick up, but despite only scoring two goals in regulation, it was a game where they showed the type of firepower they can put on display. 47 shots on goal is the second-most the Flyers have had in a game this season, and when they’re getting that many opportunities and outgunning their opponents the way they did tonight (the Flyers had more shots, chances, and high-danger chances than Brooklyn did, both overall and at 5-on-5), they’re going to win some hockey games.
Back in New York on Wednesday night to take on the Rangers. Two more games on the schedule before another five-day break, because the NHL’s scheduling is actually good and makes a lot of sense. Go Flyers.
Subject: Monday Morning Fly By: Lose some, win some
Today's open discussion thread, complete with your daily dose of Philadelphia Flyers news and notes...
* But then they won a game and it was extremely cool! Here is the recap from that game.
* Elsewhere in the system, the Phantoms had an interesting weekend! They lost on Saturday to Providence by a score of 9-1 ... [Highland Park Hockey]
* ... but bounced back to get a 5-1 win in Hershey on Sunday night, collecting four out of 6 points on the weekend as a whole: [Highland Park Hockey]
* The Flyers haven’t called up any of the young guns from Lehigh Valley on a long-term basis yet this year. Will they do that at some point before the season ends? [CSN Philly]
* Could Sam Morin be that guy? And is he what the Flyers need? [Philly.com]
* German Rubtsov had a strong first weekend in the QMJHL: [Sons of Penn]
* Elsewhere in the NHL, there was a giant hole in the ice in Pittsburgh yesterday. This isn’t a metaphor for something or a jab at someone on the Penguins, it’s literally a thing that happened. [Puck Daddy]
* They beat the Bruins, though, and things are getting very uneasy in Boston: [SBN]
* Henrik Sedin scored his 1,000th career point on Saturday, and his old teammate was there to congratulate him from the other side of the ice: [NHL.com]
* DGB’s weekly grab bag, featuring a rule that came into play during last night’s Flyers game! [Vice]
* A Q&A with incoming Vegas Golden Knights president Kerry Bubolz: [Sportsnet]
* Finally, here’s Coatesy’s Corner, talking about the team’s diets: [Flyers.com]
Subject: Flyers 3, Islanders 2: 10 things we learned from a long-awaited victory
The Flyers were finally rewarded for a strong performance, earning their first victory in 10 days against a game Islanders squad.
Morning Observations is a feature where we break down the previous night's game with an analytical eye.
#1: Flyers finally got a deserved win
On Sunday morning, I noted that despite the Flyers’ recent run of especially poor results during the month of January, the underlying numbers did not support the narrative of a team in freefall. Instead, it told the story of a team driving play at 5v5, racking up tons of shots on the power play, and doing a decent job of shot suppression on the penalty kill. So what was causing the team’s 2-5-2 January record? Primarily, it was poor goaltending and a total inability to finish on scoring chances. Entering last night’s game against the New York Islanders, Philadelphia had scored on 5.02% of their shots at 5-on-5, while stopping just 87.7% of them. The all-situations rates were similarly awful (6.01% and 86.49%). While the poor results could be explained to a degree — the Flyers take a lot of outside shots, and their goalies have been a disaster this year — it was undeniable that plain old bad luck was also playing a role in the team’s horrible month.
Through the first half of last night’s game, that bad luck took center stage. After dominating the bulk of the first period, one poor pass from Andrew MacDonald into the neutral zone eventually led to a Keystone Cops-esque scramble in front by all five skaters, and a New York goal. It didn’t matter that the Flyers had outshot the Islanders 15-8 in the period, or that they had driven play at 5v5 to the tune of a 65.71% Corsi. All that mattered was that New York had the early lead. In the second, the Flyers missed out on a potential power play goal due to an “intent to blow” call by an official, and then watched a strange “shot” flip up and over the back of Steve Mason to extend the Isles’ lead to 2-0. To quote Yogi Berra, it was deja vu all over again.
But this time, the Flyers persevered. They received a key goal from Wayne Simmonds before the end of the middle stanza that gave them life, and then rookie Ivan Provorov tied things up early in the third period with (finally) a lucky bounce off an Islanders forward in front. But the most important aspect of the game is that the Flyers never stopped pushing, even when the breaks weren’t going their way. They led in raw shot attempts at 5v5 in each period, good for a 56.41% score-adjusted Corsi on the whole. In addition, this was the rare Flyers game that saw the team outperform their Corsi once accounting for quality, as they posted a strong 59.77% xG. Steve Mason even delivered a strong performance, and only a fantastic game from New York goalie Thomas Greiss prevented Philadelphia from winning this one in regulation.
#2: High-event hockey was the name of the game
The last time the Flyers played the New York Islanders in Brooklyn (back on November 3rd), it was something of a slog. Slowed by the poor ice surface and Jack Capuano’s desire to disrupt without creating much of anything, the two teams combined for 112.61 shot attempts per 60 minutes at 5v5, around a mid-tier pace relative to most teams’ full-season performance. Last night’s game, however, was a track meet from start to finish. The Flyers and Islanders generated a total of 113 shots in just under 50 minutes of play at 5-on-5, good for a 135.90 total shot attempts per 60 rate. The Islanders have recently made a coaching change, relieving Capuano of his duties and replacing him with Doug Weight in the interim, and it appears that Weight is opening things up from a stylistic standpoint.
Just like they did in November, the Flyers carried the bulk of play, but it did get dicey at times. At times during the contest, the teams traded rushes, forcing both goalies to make high-difficulty saves in succession. Philadelphia tends to play a dump-and-chase, grind-it-out cycling style, but games like this are a reminder that they can succeed on the rush as well, at least against clearly inferior competition.
#3: Flyers attacked the slot far more last night
One distinguishing aspect of the Flyers’ offensive zone play this season has been their propensity to take lots of shot attempts from the outside, specifically from defensemen up top at the points. Micah Blake McCurdy’s great viz showcases the extent of this trend, as does the discrepancy between Philadelphia’s raw shot attempt creation at 5v5 (sixth in Corsi For per 60) and their Expected Goal creation (27th). Yesterday, I theorized that the gap is mostly due to a strategic emphasis upon low-to-high offensive zone play, centered around getting shots through from the points and then creating deflections or securing rebounds to generate high-danger chances. The low-to-high strategy generally eschews direct passes from behind the net into the slot, instead looking to get to those “dirty areas” via second chance opportunities.
Last night’s game was a clear exception. While the point shots still came — and to be clear, the Flyers want guys like Gostisbehere and Provorov blasting away a fair amount — the forwards down low were not as apt to blindly pass back up top as a first instinct. Instead, there were legitimate attempts at incisive passes into the center of the ice. Part of this is due to the nature of this game, as it was a more rush-based contest than the average Flyers game, and it’s far easier to penetrate the slot when the opponent is backing up than if they are set in cycle defense. But that wasn’t the whole story, as the below heat map chart from Natural Stat Trick hints, and the 5v5 scoring chance totals (42 regular chances, 13 high-danger ones, 3.45 Expected Goals) showed.
#4: Flyers came out strong yet again
For a team that is supposedly struggling mightily, the Philadelphia Flyers sure seem to get off to decent starts, at least in terms of territorial play. Over their last four games, the Flyers have outshot their opponents 52-33 over the first twenty minutes, and hold a combined 66.73% score-adjusted Corsi in opening stanzas during that stretch as well.
That supports the theory that this team isn’t lacking for effort, at least early in games when they are most motivated to break their recent run of poor play. The big difference in last night’s game versus recent losses was that the Flyers did not collapse after their strong opening push, even though it did not result in a lead. In fact, the Isles exited period one with the 1-0 edge, in spite of territorial domination on the part of the Flyers. But for a team that struggled with slow starts early in the year, it’s at least heartening to see that trend broken even as the end results haven’t been ideal after 60 minutes.
#5: Ivan Provorov is already great
Come April, it’s going to be very difficult to accurately evaluate the rookie season of Ivan Provorov by the advanced numbers. After all, they’re not especially impressive — Provorov’s 49.08% score-adjusted Corsi at 5v5 is sixth-best on the defense, and his -3.49% Corsi relative to his teammates looks poor as well. For someone who isn’t watching Provorov nightly, it’s easy to glance at these statistics and assume that Provorov’s rookie season has been a bit of a rough go.
Flyers fans know better, however. Not only is it fair to attribute a large portion (not all, but a not-insignificant amount) of his play-driving issues to spending over 340 minutes at 5-on-5 alongside Andrew MacDonald, it’s been impossible not to be impressed with the 20-year old’s calm and complete puck skills. They were on display yet again last evening, as Provorov trailed a rush and then activated deep into the offensive zone with a slick lateral skating move, creating space for himself before directing a puck into the slot for an attempted pass that ended up in the back of the Isles’ net. These are the types of plays that Provorov makes regularly.
But it’s the less flashy plays that have me convinced that the full-season metrics are missing something when it comes to the rookie. One perfect example was actually highlighted by the TV broadcast before the third period. In this instance, Provorov alertly backed up MacDonald after a puck skipped over the 30-year old’s stick in the offensive zone, won a race to the loose puck behind the net, warded off an Isles forechecker right on his back as he circled the net, and then singlehandedly engineered a controlled zone exit. It’s plays like those that make you wonder just how strong his advanced metrics would look alongside a partner that Provorov wasn’t forced to bail out of trouble constantly.
#6: Top line was regularly pinned in own zone
Claude Giroux ended up being the hero in this one, scoring the gamewinning goal during the 3-on-3 overtime session. At 5v5, however, his line was something of a disappointment. Reunited with Jakub Voracek, it was fair to expect the old gang of Giroux, Voracek and Raffl to wreck havoc on a limited Islanders squad, but instead, they were the only line that New York could handle. Only Voracek finished with a score-adjusted Corsi over 50%, and all three players finished in the negative by on-ice scoring chances. Their biggest issue was defensive — on far too many occasions, the trio was trapped in their own zone for shifts at a time, with the Islanders’ first goal being the most egregious example. It’s especially frustrating because the Giroux line drove play so well on Saturday with Matt Read at RW, and Jakub Voracek is an obvious upgrade in terms of talent. When that much talent is stacked on one line, you simply expect better.
#7: Andrew MacDonald struggled, rewarded with lots of ice time
I remain perplexed regarding the Philadelphia Flyers’ continued insistence that Andrew MacDonald is deserving of a top-four role at 5-on-5. Following 13 minutes of utter territorial domination on the part of the skaters, the Flyers’ strong start was wasted due to a poor shift kicked off by a totally ill-advised breakout pass by MacDonald. Not under any obvious pressure in his own zone, MacDonald chose to feed Voracek in the middle of the ice, leading him right into the path of an opposing checker. It’s the type of pass that can get your forward absolutely destroyed by an open ice hit. In this case, however, Voracek kept his head up and tried to avoid the oncoming checker, instead turning the puck over leading to a sequence that would end in the Isles’ first goal of the game.
Even the best players make mistakes, of course, and it’s not like one error should result in a coach stapling a player to the bench. But MacDonald not only didn’t see his ice time decreased as a result of the mistake, he ended up leading the entire defense in 5v5 minutes at 17:46. His Corsi For percentage (62.50%) ended up fine on the night, but he remained prone to mistakes, as shown by the fact that he was on the ice for four high-danger chances against. As I’ve said before on numerous occasions, it’s not the the fact that Andrew MacDonald remains in the lineup that confuses me most. I understand that most scouts view his skillset as NHL-caliber. It’s more that he isn’t used like the third-pair talent that every single metric pegs him as. Last night was just another example of the coaching staff’s continued favorable view towards a very limited NHL defenseman.
#8: Mason finally came through
It’s not overstating it to call the 2016-17 season a disaster thus far for Steve Mason. Heading into last night’s game, Mason’s 0.897 save percentage wasn’t just bad, it was worse than his performance in all but one of his horrific seasons in Columbus. Appearances from the Mason that has delivered three straight above-average seasons with the Orange and Black have been few and far between this year, but last night was surely one of them.
The Flyers may have carried play, but when they did allow shots (especially in the latter half of the contest), they tended to be of a very high quality. His biggest save came in overtime, when he stymied Islanders star John Tavares on a breakaway opportunity less than a minute before his teammates would win the game. On the whole, New York generated 3.19 expected goals in the contest, and Mason just allowed two past him. That’s a solid night for any goalie, but especially for one dealing with recent struggles like Mason.
#9: Bellemare line bounced back
On Saturday, the fourth line of Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Chris VandeVelde and Roman Lyubimov were some of the bigger goats of the evening. Not only did they drive play worse than all of the other Flyers’ lines, the duo of Bellemare and VandeVelde took two early third period penalties that eventually served to push the game out of reach. In response, the fourth line came out last night and delivered one of their better games in weeks. Still seeing limited ice time at 5v5 (none skated for more than nine minutes), they made the most of it, with both VandeVelde and Lyubimov finishing with 64.68% score-adjusted Corsis and Bellemare leading all skaters at 72.60%. At least at 5v5, this was the ideal fourth line game — full of energy, heavy on the forecheck, and no big mistakes. Nice bounceback performance by the line.
#10: 3v3 overtime choices were interesting
For months, Flyers fans have advocated for Travis Konecny to get a longer look during the 3-on-3 overtime session. His electric speed and puck skills would seem a perfect fit for the situation, but Dave Hakstol has expressed on numerous occasions that concerns regarding the youngster’s two-way play have mostly kept him on the bench. Last night, however, Hakstol led the kid loose, and Konecny responded with two shots in less than a minute of ice time. His tandem with Sean Couturier makes a lot of sense — one speedy offense-first forward, and one more conservative, “safe” forward to cover for him.
Konecny wasn’t the only unexpected choice for the 3v3 period, though. Nick Cousins, Andrew MacDonald and Matt Read all saw action, while Wayne Simmonds surprisingly stayed on the bench. And of course, Bellemare received his regular shift as well. Cousins and Read are perfectly useful players, but guys like Simmonds and Michael Raffl would seemingly be bigger scoring threats considering their 5v5 play. In the end, it was nice to see Konecny out there, and that’s the most important thing in the short term.
Subject: Paul Holmgren shares how his brother, Dave, helped him make the NHL
Yet more good work from the Players’ Tribune.
Making the NHL - in any capacity - is an incredible accomplishment.
Player. Coach. General Manager. Or team president, like Paul Holmgren is now. No matter how you do, having made it at all is something to be celebrated. It takes an insane amount of work, effort, and of course, support from those around you.
Like Holmgren’s older brother, Dave, selflessly shelling out the equivalent of $800 today so he could go to a hockey camp at Bemidji State, a tale he relays in the Players’ Tribune.
Perhaps without Dave’s gift, I might still have gone on to play in the NHL — but I doubt it. Everything that I went on to do in hockey (including being a coach and a general manager) I owe to Dave.
Be warned, though: it’s a wonderful piece, but it’s also a serious emotional gut punch. Like, it’s a must read, but there may be a bit of tears to come with it, too. Because Holmgren’s brother went blind due to diabetes, so he never got to see what his little brother learned - and never had the chance to know he’d make the NHL.
It’s heavy, but it comes with some good life advice, too.
My memory of that day has always weighed on me. It’s the reason why I have always wanted to share this story. It’s so important for people to resolve issues, speak their minds and try to clear up misunderstandings. Once it becomes too late to do anything about something — even something minor — the guilt is impossible to shed.
So here’s to Dave Holmgren - with many thanks to Paul for sharing his story.
Subject: Tuesday Morning Fly By: Seriously whose idea was this schedule?
Today's open discussion thread, complete with your daily dose of Philadelphia Flyers news and notes...
* Wrapping up Sunday night’s OT triumph with 10 observations: [BSH]
* Paul Holmgren talks about how his brother helped him make his hockey dream come true: [BSH]
* Ron Hextall talked about what he thinks might be ailing Claude Giroux of late: [CSN Philly]
* He also gave some general thoughts on where the Flyers stand following their recent ups and downs: [Philly.com]
* Bob McKenzie asked NHL coaches what’s bugging them, and it turns out that they, too, think the schedules this year are ridiculous: [TSN]
* A lot of talk out there right now about the struggles last season’s two conference runners-up are having. First, here’s a wrap-up of last weekend, focusing in on what’s gone wrong for the Blues: [Sportsnet]
* Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Lightning — those ones! — really might be sellers come deadline time, huh? [Raw Charge]
* A Canucks minor league goalie is wearing glow in the dark pads, because these things happen in the AHL: [Puck Daddy]
* Finally! A new episode of BSH Radio is coming today, so keep your eyes peeled for that.
Subject: BSH Radio #94: Ghost caused global warming or something
A new post-bye week podcast! How exciting!
Mikey D. from Orange & Black Pack joins Charlie, Steph, and Bill for a post-bye week edition of BSH Radio.
Exactly what this team is, and whether their issues are system or personnel driven is a topic of debate. Whether or not the organization capitalized on Claude Giroux's prime years, and if the captain and Sean Couturier are a strong enough 1-2 tandem at center moving forward also ignites vigorous discussion.
Finally, Charlie finds hope in the numbers while Bill agrees to disagree with the gang.
Subject: Wednesday Morning Fly By: More like LAMEgers am I right!!!
Today's open discussion thread, complete with your daily dose of Philadelphia Flyers news and notes...
* Wanna read a bunch of words about how great Wayne Simmonds is? Well, of course you do. You can find these words in SBN’s NHL All Star Game preview: [SBNation]
* Meanwhile, if you want to hear some yelling about the Flyers, here’s this week’s episode of BSH Radio: [BSH]
* What’s the magic number as far as standings points that the Flyers will need to reach the playoffs this year? [Courier-Post]
* Whatever that number is, they’ll continue their push for that number tonight and tomorrow night, as they get ready to face the Rangers and Leafs: [CSN Philly]
* Elsewhere in the NHL, a trade happened yesterday! An actual trade! It was not one of much significance, as San Jose sent Tommy Wingels to Ottawa for two minor leaguers. [Fear the Fin] [Silver Seven]
* Patrick Marleau had a four-goal game on Monday night. Just how rare is that, anyways? [Puck Daddy]
* Speaking of Marleau, is he a Hall of Famer? [The Hockey News]
* Looking at how various accomplished NHL goal-scorers get their goals: [Sportsnet]
* Good news for fans of Fun Hockey, as Patrik Laine returned to the ice last night after getting injured a couple of weeks ago: [NBCSports]
* Finally, with the All-Star game coming up, DGB asks: what’s the worst roster you could build of players who were named to NHL All-Star teams? [Sportsnet]
Subject: Senior Bowl Preview: Defensive Needs
Despite being their more talented unit, the Eagles still need a lot of help on the defensive side of the ball. This week in Mobile, there should be a handful of defensive prospects who the Eagles should have an eye on at the Senior Bowl. In a class loaded with defensive linemen and secondary defenders, here are some names to keep note on for the next few days...
Rasul Douglas, WVU, 6-2, 205: 8 Interceptions, 3.5 TFLs, 8 PBUs, 1 FF
Rasul Douglas was one of the most productive defenders in the country due in part to his great size and ball skills. Douglas has the build and play style that most NFL teams prefer as a big, press man corner, but he has to prove he can play extended time in zone and also show he can be a better tackler. While he may not be an immediate fit for the Eagles, his tools should keep coaches' minds open.
Desmond King, Iowa, 5-10, 195: 3 Interceptions, 3.5 TFLs, 7 PBUs, 1 FF
Desmond King has been a favorite of mine for quite a while. He is not the biggest or the fastest cornerback, but he is incredibly physical, with great ball skills, awareness and tackling ability. There is some talk that his size may make him a better fit at safety in the NFL, the Eagles should be interested in how his ability to play the run and thrive in zone coverage fits at cornerback for them.
Jourdan Lewis, Michigan, 5-10, 185: 2 Interceptions, 3.5 TFLs, 11 PBUs
Jourdan Lewis is another undersized cornerback, but he makes up for it with excellent technique and outstanding ball skills. NFL teams could be turned off of him due to his lack of size, but matching up with top draft prospects this week gives him an opportunity that he can overcome physical shortcomings with his intangibles.
Tre'Davious White, LSU, 5-11, 195: 2 Interceptions, 4 TFLs, 14 PBUs
White's name seems to get lost in an outstanding class of cornerback, but he is no doubt one of the better defensive backs in the class. White is a very gifted athlete who thrives in man coverage and shows willingness as a tackler. The Eagles will no doubt be interested in White given his experience and upside.
Damontae Kazee, SDSU, 5-10, 180: 7 Interceptions, 3 TFLs, 8 PBUs
On the low, Damontae Kazee has been one of the most productive defenders in the country for the last two years. Since last year, Kazee has picked off 15 passes, forced two fumbles, had eight tackles for a loss, 15 pass break ups and two touchdowns. Kazee is a smart, physical player who makes up for his size with quickness and savvy. The Eagles do not have the same requirements for size at the cornerback position that a lot of NFL teams do, so I could see them being particularly taken with Kazee
Jaleel Johnson, Defensive Tackle, Iowa, 6-3, 310: 7.5 Sacks, 10 TFLs, 5 QB Hurries
Jaleel Johnson could be the best defensive tackle in the class and could establish that this week. Johnson has awesome athletic ability to pair with great size. He is a natural pass rusher who can play various interior defensive line positions and contribute as a run defender. The Eagles may not need a defensive tackle immediately in the draft, but they should no doubt have a close eye on Johnson this week.
Carlos Watkins, Defensive Tackle, Clemson, 6-2, 305: 10.5 Sacks, 13.5 TFLs, 4 QB Hurries
A big part of Clemson's outstanding defense this year was Carlos Watkins. Watkins has experience all over the defensive line and thrived this year inside at tackle. Watkins is a strong player who has great leverage and a non stop motor. He would be an excellent NFL three technique tackle and putting him in a wide nine with Fletcher Cox would be outstanding.
Tanzel Smart, Defensive Tackle, Tulane, 6-1, 295: 5.5 Sacks, 18.5 TFLs, 2 QB Hurries
Tanzel Smart has flown under the radar due to playing at Tulane, but the quick twitch defender will likely break out this week of practices. Smart is a bit undersized for a defensive tackle, but he is very stout and strong and uses leverage well to get off of blocks. His quickness is a major asset and part of the reason he was so productive. He makes sense as a gap shooting defensive tackle, so teams running primarily single gapping schemes will pay him a lot of attention for the next few days.
Dawuane Smoot, EDGE, Illinois, 6-3, 255: 5 Sacks, 15 TFLs, 10 QB hurries, 2 FFs
With the Eagles needing possibly a new starter at defensive end and definitely looking for depth, Dawuane Smoot should be on their watch list. While Smoot is a bit smaller, he is a good athlete and very strong with a high motor. His ability to defend the run and pass make him an every down defender and with a bit of size he could be a major contributor for an NFL defense.
Daeshon Hall, EDGE, TAMU, 6-5, 265: 4.5 Sacks, 13 TFLs, 12 QB Hurries, 2 FFs
The "Other Aggie Defensive Lineman" Daeshon Hall is quite the prospect in his own right. Hall has a massive frame with long arms and has good bend around the edge as well. He has been a productive complement to Myles Garrett the last few years and his size and ability should be especially attractive to a coordinator like Jim Schwartz who values size at the defensive end position.
Ryan Anderson, EDGE, Alabama, 6-2, 250: 9 Sacks, 19 TFLs, 10 QB Hurries, 4 FFs, 1 Interception
Ryan Anderson may be the most productive defender in Mobile this week. Despite not even being one of the top three defenders on his own team, Anderson is still a stud in his own right. Anderson is not only versatile, but he is incredibly physical and has a non stop motor. His ability to constantly get after it, especially against the run, makes him an exciting defensive prospect. For the Eagles, they might want to see Anderson be a bit bigger, but a strong week of practice could assuage any worries about his build.
Subject: The Linc: The Eagles can fix their cornerback problem in the draft
Grab a DB, Howie. Hell, maybe even grab two.
Eagles news and notes for 1/25
The Eagles have holes to fill at other spots, most prominently at wide receiver, but with cornerback considered by many evaluators to be the position with the most depth in this year's draft, it is likely that the Eagles will have a plethora of corners ranked high among the 2017 class of prospects.
Roseman alluded to as much on Monday.
"As you look at it, there's always positions of strength in the draft," he said, "and a beautiful thing is when they match up with what your needs are."
Douglas, who Roseman said last month would be responsible for crafting the Eagles' draft board, joined his boss at WIP. The former Ravens and Bears scout spent much of the last five months visiting college campuses and watching and talking to players in person.
Asked what he looked for in prospects, Douglas singled out "confidence," "competitive makeup," and "how they persevere through adversity." He noted, however, that getting an accurate gauge on those traits was one of the more difficult aspects of his job. The Senior Bowl offers another opportunity to dig deeper.
"You put in so much time in the fall getting to know these guys, going to the schools, getting the work in, watching these guys practice, and then having them come down to Mobile to compete against each other - it's a great environment," Douglas said. "It's the best players in college football."
MOBILE, Ala. — A couple days ago, Tanoh Kpassagnon received a text message from one of his school’s most famous alumni, Brian Westbrook.
On Tuesday morning, as he readied himself for the week of Senior Bowl practices leading up to Saturday’s game, Kpassagnon kept Westbrook’s message at the forefront of his mind.
“Just embrace the moment,” Kpassagnon said, relaying Westbrook’s message. “Don’t take anything for granted, and I belong here.”
Kpassagnon, 22, has a chance to join an elite group in April. There haven’t been many Villanova football players taken in the NFL draft, especially recently, but the big defensive lineman has a good chance to join the list.
In addition to Westbrook, Kpassagnon has also received some advice to help him through the pre-draft process from Hall of Famer Howie Long, the most famous Wildcat to make it in the NFL.
“It would be really cool to represent my school like that,” Kpassagnon said.
The last Villanova football player to be drafted was OL Ben Ijalana in the second round of the 2011 draft. Ijalana is one of just three Wildcats drafted since the early '80s. Kpassagnon is listed as a third-round prospect by CBS Sports.
My advice: Chill out.
To begin, it would seem that many observers are forgetting that Rowe regressed from 2015 to 2016. At the start of OTAs last year, the Eagles had Rowe near the top of the depth chart. He was a quasi-starter, playing on the outside when the Eagles were in their nickel set.
However, after a downright bad showing in OTAs, minicamps, training camp, and the preseason, Rowe went from second or third on the depth chart at corner to sixth, as Howie Roseman explained while taking a second crack on 94.1 WIP at an explanation on the Rowe trade.
"It’s the first week of the season and we get this offer from the Patriots," Roseman explained. "And we’re not sitting there, thinking, ‘We’re getting over on Bill Belichick,’ maybe the best evaluator of defensive backs in the history of the NFL. What we were thinking about was where he was on our depth chart. At that time the starting three guys were Nolan, Leodis, Ron Brooks; Jalen Mills at that point in camp had beat him out, so he was the fourth guy. And then when we spoke with our coaches they said that Malcolm will be the next guy in the slot.
"So for where we were and for what his role was at the time, we thought it was pretty good value. For them to give up that kind of pick – a fourth that can become a third – we knew they had a role for him. We knew that there was going to be an opportunity. And we gotta do what we think is best for us."
Douglas, 40, a former University of Richmond offensive tackle, was asked how the Ravens operate under general manager Ozzie Newsome. Newsome and Roseman have contrasting backgrounds; Newsome was one of the best tight ends to ever play in the NFL, whereas Roseman started out as the Eagles' legal counsel.
"Ozzie's one of the most consistent people in the NFL, the way he treats people, just the way he goes about his business," Douglas said. "The biggest thing that he believes in is that if you do the work, if you put the time in on a player, everyone gets their say. So we have a great open forum in draft meetings. It didn't matter what level – personnel executive down to personnel assistant. You did the work, you have a say. He's a Hall of Famer.
"At the end of the day, he does make the final call, but it's such a collaborative effort, not only with the personnel guys but with the coaches . . . Everyone has an opportunity to speak their mind and give their opinion on a player. If there's a tie . . . He breaks the tie, but it rarely comes down to that."
Roseman has always valued Senior Bowl week, the opportunity to see draft prospects practicing and playing with and against other draft prospects, which isn't always the case during college football season. In the Eagles website preview, Douglas said he likes coming to Mobile because in the practices, "you get to see a person's competitive makeup."
"It's great to see how they prepare," Douglas said. "It's great to see how they take coaching. It's great to see them go through just the mundane things in practice. And then the game, to see them put it all together."
There is no magic formula for building a title contender. The Falcons have an elite offense. The Pats have arguably the best coach/QB combo in football history. Denver won with defense last year. We’ve seen great offenses and defenses win over the years.
The key is to look at what you have and what resources are available in free agency and the draft and then build accordingly. There are a lot of good CBs and DEs in this draft. The Eagles need to focus on those positions. They’ll get good value. That doesn’t mean you ignore other positions, but this is all about odds.
If there are 20 good CBs and 10 good WRs, the odds tell me that it is more likely that a good CB will be available when I pick. I’m just throwing numbers out there to make the point. Don’t take this to mean there are 2 good CBs for every WR. The point is that the Eagles should feel reasonably confident they can find some CB help in the draft.
I’m still doing research on the free agent class so I’m not completely sure what I want the team to do there and I’m also not sure what the smartest plan of attack is. Do you go after Alshon Jeffrey and pay him mega-bucks? Do you go get a top CB? Do you go for a talented LG? You can make a case for any of those options.
Subject: A full list of the underclassmen granted eligibility for the 2017 NFL Draft
Youngins on their grind.
A whole bunch of senior football players are gathering in the South this week, and all the NFL’s draft eyes will be focused on the Senior Bowl.
But the top pick in this year’s draft is probably going to be an underclassman. The year deadline for underclassmen to apply for eligibility was last week, and the results are in: 95 early entrants, including 23 — count ‘em, 23! — wide receivers.
The draft, which is in Philly this year, starts on April 27, so you’ve got plenty of time to read up on everyone.
Here’s the full list of underclassmen:
- Jamal Adams, S, LSU
- Budda Baker, S, Washington
- Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
- Garett Bolles, OT, Utah
- Caleb Brantley, DT, Florida
- Noah Brown, WR, Ohio State
- KD Cannon, WR, Baylor
- Devin Childress, WR, North Park
- Michael Clark, WR, Marshall
- James Conner, RB, Pitt
- Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
- Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt
- Malachi Dupre, WR, LSU
- Jerod Evans, QB, Virginia Tech
- Jeremy Faulk, DT, Garden City CC
- Tarean Folston, RB, Notre Dame
- Isaiah Ford, WR, Virginia Tech
- D'Onta Foreman, RB, Texas
- Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
- Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
- Shelton Gibson, WR, West Virginia
- Davon Godchaux, DL, LSU
- Chris Godwin, WR, Penn State
- Isaiah Golden, DT, McNeese State
- Jermaine Grace, LB, Miami
- Derrick Griffin, WR, Texas Southern
- Chad Hansen, WR, Cal
- Charles Harris, DE, Missouri
- Carlos Henderson, WR, Louisiana Tech
- Brian Hill, RB, Wyoming
- Elijah Hood, RB, North Carolina
- Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
- Titus Howard, DB, Slippery Rock
- Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
- Adoree' Jackson, CB, USC
- Roderick Johnson, OT, Florida State
- Aaron Jones, RB, UTEP
- Josh Jones, S, N.C. State
- Nazair Jones, DT, North Carolina
- Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
- Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami
- Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee
- Tim Kimbrough, LB, Georgia
- DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
- Jerome Lane, WR, Akron
- Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
- Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn
- Elijah Lee, LB, Kansas State
- Keevan Lucas, WR, Tulsa
- Marlon Mack, RB, USF
- Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
- Josh Malone, WR, Tennessee
- Damien Mama, OL, USC
- Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
- Malik McDowell, DL, Michigan State
- Isaiah McKenzie, WR, Georgia
- Deon-Tay McManus, WR, Marshall
- Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State
- Jeremy McNichols, RB, Boise State
- Joe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma
- *Al-Quadin Muhammad, DE, Miami
- Montae Nicholson, S, Michigan State
- David Njoku, TE, Miami
- Speedy Noil, WR, Texas A&M
- Marcus Oliver, LB, Indiana
- Aaron Peak, DB, Butler County CC
- Jabrill Peppers, LB/S, Michigan
- Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma
- Elijah Qualls, DL, Washington
- Devine Redding, RB, Indiana
- Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
- John Ross, WR, Washington
- Travis Rudolph, WR, FSU
- Curtis Samuel, H-back, Ohio State
- Ricky Seals-Jones, WR, Texas A&M
- Adam Shaheen, TE, Ashland
- David Sharpe, OL, Florida
- Garrett Sickels, DE, Penn State
- JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC
- ArDarius Stewart, WR, Alabama
- Damore'ea Stringfellow, WR, Ole Miss
- Teez Tabor, CB, Florida
- Vincent Taylor, DT, Oklahoma State
- Solomon Thomas, DL, Stanford
- Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
- Darius Victor, RB, Towson
- Anthony Walker, LB, Northwestern
- Charles Walker, DL, Oklahoma
- T.J. Watt, LB, Wisconsin
- Marcus Williams, S, Utah
- Stanley "Boom" Williams, RB, Kentucky
- Howard Wilson, CB, Houston
- Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida
- Joe Yearby, RB, Miami
- Ishmael Zamora, WR, Baylor
And here are eight players who completed degree requirements early:
- Alex Anzalone, LB, Florida
- Gareon Conley, DB, Ohio State
- Wayne Gallman, RB, Clemson
- Bucky Hodges, TE, Virginia Tech
- Artavis Scott, WR, Clemson
- Khari Waithe-Alexander, DE, Southern Illinois
- Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
- Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
Subject: Interior linemen prospects that could intrigue the Eagles
Can the Eagles find the right left guard in the draft?
Yesterday we looked at free agent guard options should the Eagles decide to move on from Allen Barbre this offseason. If they don’t, that will greatly increase the chances they draft a replacement for 2018, as Barbre will be a 33 year old free agent a year from now. Today, we’ll look at the interior linemen draft prospects that could go in the first three or four rounds. There’s a few guys who can compete for starting jobs out the gate. Most of them are at the Senior Bowl, which the Eagles value. And like the free agent pool, these draft prospects are primarily right guards.
Dan Feeney, Indiana
A four year starter at right guard, earning All-American honors in his junior and senior season. Indiana credited him with just one sack given up in 2016 and 2014, and none in 2015 and 2012. He received a medical redshirt for 2013 after a Lisfranc injury. Split time between right guard and as an injury replacement at right tackle in 2016. Listed at 6’4”, he has long arms and good mobility. Would have been a top guard a year ago, he has only improved his standing. He could be the top guard drafted, he’s at the Senior Bowl.
Sean Harlow, Oregon State
Another versatile Oregon State offensive lineman, like Isaac Seumalo. Harlow has played left and right tackle, and has practiced at center as well. At 6’4” 284 pounds, he’s a guard in the NFL who needs to add some bulk. Battled back from a possible 2016 medical redshirt after breaking his leg midway through the 2015 season to start the final nine games of the season. His return to the lineup instantly improved Oregon State’s pass blocking, the Beavers gave up 11 sacks in 3 games without him, 14 in 9 games with him, with 6 of those being in his first game back in a blowout by Colorado.
His father Pat Harlow was the 11th overall pick in 1991 and started 94 games for the Patriots and Raiders as a tackle.
Dorian Johnson, Pitt
Three year starter at left guard. Needs to add some weight to his 6’5” 315 pounds frame, and he may have shorter than desired arms, both could hurt him in the draft. Seen as a stronger run blocker than a pass protector and considered a good pulling guard. He too will be at the Senior Bowl.
Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky
Lamp has a chance to be the top interior lineman taken in the draft. Guess you could say teams love Lamp. A four year starter at left tackle, he’s viewed as a guard in the NFL due his size (6’4” 300 pounds) and short arms. He impressed against Alabama and any small school concerns can be put to bed with a strong week at the Senior Bowl.
Nico Siragusa, San Diego State
A third-team All-American, which is even more impressive that it sound when you consider that Siragusa and SDSU RB Donnel Pumphrey were the Aztec’s first All-American selections since 1988. A three year starter at left guard, at 6’5” and 330 pounds size isn’t an issue. He’s considered a better run blocker than pass protector, however San Diego State rarely passed, in 2015 they had the 7th fewest passing attempts in FBS, in 2016 the 6th fewest, so there’s a small sample size of him pass blocking. He’s also at the Senior Bowl.
The Eagles see Isaac Seumalo as their long term center, but if there’s a center on the board too good to turn down, maybe they pounce and move Seumalo to guard. That’s unlikely to be the case, but stranger things have happened.
Ethan Pocic, LSU
Listed at 6'7" and 302 pounds, Pocic might be too tall and too lean, but he is seen as a good athlete for his size. He split time at center and right guard in 2014 before moving to center full time in 2015, filling in at right tackle for a game in 2016. He will be at the Senior Bowl as well.
Pat Elflein, Ohio State
Played left and right guard in 2014 before being the full time right guard in 2015 then moved to center full time in 2016 and dominated. He won the Rimington Award and was a consensus All-American as a senior. Had he declared last year, he would have been one of the better guard prospects, after his excellent senior season he’s a top prospect at center and guard.
Late Round Local Guys
There are a bevy of late round guards, and with 93 days until the draft there is plenty of time to dig deep into the position. But there are two projected late round guards at the Senior Bowl with local ties that might be worth keeping an eye on.
Dion Dawkins, Temple
Looking for a literal next Dawkins? The Eagles wouldn’t have to go far, as Dawkins started at left tackle for three years for Temple. He projects as a guard in the NFL. He’ll need some development as he had problems with penalties.
Jordan Morgan, Kutztown
A D-II standout at left tackle, Morgan also projects to guard at the NFL. Already attracting scouts while at Kutztown, if he can hold his own at the Senior Bowl he’ll really improve his stock. He seems to be a good decision maker, preferring Wawa to Sheetz. No word on his favorite cheesesteak location.
Subject: Senior Bowl 2017 Preview: Offensive Skill Players
There's skill for miles in Mobile this year, which is good because the Eagles need all the skill they can grab.
The Senior Bowl practices kick off this week and gives the Eagles staff a great opportunity to look at some of the top senior prospects in the country in a practice situation and in interviews. This draft class is loaded with lots of exciting names at the skill positions, so here are some to keep an eye on throughout this week.
Taywan Taylor, WKU, 6-1, 195: 98 Receptions, 1730 Yards, 17 Touchdowns
I have already waxed poetic on Taywan Taylor being among the best receivers in this year's class. Taylor is not a huge pass catcher, but his create athletic ability and route running make him a very dangerous presence in an offense. The Eagles desperation for a player who can stretch the field could pique their interest in Taylor throughout the week.
Subject: The Linc: Howie Roseman walks back his comments on the Eric Rowe trade
Howie takes a moment to (kind of) admit he might’ve been wrong.
Eagles news and notes for 1/24
So why did the Eagles trade Rowe?
“I think it’s good to just go back to the process,” Roseman said. “So it’s the first week of the season and we get this offer and it’s the Patriots and we’re not sitting there thinking, ‘We’re getting one over on Bill Belichick,’ maybe the best evaluator of defensive backs in the history of the NFL.
“What we were thinking about was where he was on our depth chart. At that time the starting three guys were Nolan (Carroll), Leodis (McKelvin), Ron Brooks. Jalen Mills at that point in camp had beat him out, so he was the fourth guy, and then when we spoke with our coaches, they said that Malcolm (Jenkins) would be the next guy in the slot. So for where we were and what his role was at the time, we thought it was pretty good value.
“For them to give up that kind of pick — a fourth that could be a third — we knew they had a role for him. We knew that there was going to be an opportunity, and we’ve got to do what we think is best for us.”
Roseman on Monday morning didn’t exactly admit the Eagles made a mistake by unloading Rowe at a point when the team was desperate for talented young cornerbacks.
But he came close.
“We probably make 50 decisions a year that are really real decisions that we sit down and make,” he said.
“To say that we don’t go back and think about them and think about whether they were right? That’s part of it, you know? You want to hit as many as you can, but when you’re watching games of other players that you’ve had here, that’s the hard part about doing it.”
The last few years have featured plenty of talk of scheme versus talent with regard to the Eagles, but coaching might be the branch of the tree that matters most.
Consider Sunday's championship game field. While much of the media focus was on the four quarterbacks who took the field – and rightfully so – a lesser common thread uniting three of the four teams was their coaching staffs' proven history of developing talent. Antonio Brown was a sixth-round pick who caught 16 passes for 167 yards as a rookie before blossoming into the Steelers latest pass-catching sensation. At left tackle, Pittsburgh features former Eagles training camp fodder Alejandro Villanueva, whose transformation from Army Ranger defensive lineman to blind-side pass protector calls to mind another former Eagles practice squadder Stephen Neal, a collegiate wrestler who eventually latched on with the Patriots and started at guard for seven seasons, including 2004, when the Pats beat the Eagles in the Super Bowl.
The Packers' organizational development machine needs no rehashing. The 53-man roster they took into Sunday's thrashing by the Falcons included just eight players who hadn't spent their entire career in Green Bay, including two specialists, a back-up fullback, and the No. 7 wide receiver on the depth chart. Who knows what that number would have been if not for the six original Packers on injured reserve.
Maybe the best way to put it is this: How much of the Eagles' failure in the draft has been an inability to identify talent capable of playing in the NFL, and how much of it has been their inability to develop and/or deploy that talent in a manner that lets them succeed? I don't know the answer. But as Eric Rowe and two other cornerbacks developed by the Patriots celebrated a trip to the Super Bowl, it was an interesting question to ponder.
Sunday was one of the most lopsided Conference Championship days in many years, as home teams Atlanta and New England advanced to Super Bowl LI with convincing victories. Within those games, however, are lessons to be learned.
First, and this needs to be digested, home field does matter in the NFL playoffs. Since the league introduced the seeding element to the postseason in 1975, 31 of the 41 Lombardi Trophy champions have been No. 1 or No. 2 seeds. New England (No. 1 seed) and Atlanta (No. 2 seed) obviously fit that profile. Not since Baltimore (No. 4 seed) in the 2012 season has a seed other than No. 1 or No. 2 even reached the Super Bowl.
It's important, then, to win in the regular season, secure the bye week, and have the best possible chance to reach the Super Bowl. Green Bay clearly ran out of gas after beating No. 1 seed Dallas in an emotional, gutsy victory one Sunday earlier. Pittsburgh's pass defense was exposed and the Steelers, without star running back Le'Veon Bell, who sat out much of the game with a groin injury, looked very much like the team the Eagles dismantled in September at Lincoln Financial Field.
Other lessons? There were plenty...
The best quarterback usually wins, right? Both Atlanta's Matt Ryan and New England's Tom Brady were nearly perfect, combining for 776 passing yards and seven touchdown passes. Pure brilliance. It helped that Ryan was not sacked, while Brady was downed only two times among his 44 dropbacks. Offensive line, offensive line, offensive line. For the Eagles, that's good news, because the team feels good about its group up front offensively, with its depth there and a couple of the young prospects developing in the pipeline.
Subject: Jason Kelce and Darren Sproles are headed to the Pro Bowl
Replace a pair of Super Bowl-bound Falcons
Darren Sproles, who was the third alternate, replaces DeVonta Freeman. This is his third and third straight Pro Bowl. He was an original selection as a return specialist in 2014 and 2015, when the league used mixed AFC/NFC rosters. With the format reverting back to AFC vs NFC, he’s been selected as a running back. Sproles been a Pro Bowler every season since joining the Eagles.
They join Fletcher Cox and and Jason Peters, who were named to the original roster.
Subject: The Eagles signed a former Seahawks defensive tackle
Welcome, Justin Hamilton.
The Eagles announced Monday they have signed defensive tackle Justin Hamilton to a reserve/future contract.
Hamilton, 23, is the seventh player the Eagles have signed to a reserve/future contract this offseason.
For the past two seasons, Hamilton was part of the Seahawks’ practice squad after spending time on both the Bills’ and Packers’ rosters in the summer of 2015. He went undrafted out of Louisiana-Lafayette in the spring of 2015.
Hamilton stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 315 pounds.
It’s not very much. But, hey, it’s news, right?
Subject: How hockey and the Flyers have helped me deal with anxiety and depression
Growing up in Philadelphia or in the suburbs of Philadelphia or even just in the household of a Philadelphia sports fan, something runs through your blood whether you want it to or not.
You are a Philadelphia sports fan. A card carrying member. No fees, no forms. It just appears in your wallet one day, all pristine and plastic. No expiration date, either. You're in this shit for life like the rest of us. Deal with it.
Even if you don't care deeply about sports, even if you think they're useless and vapid, important moments in Philadelphia sports history are burned into your brain.
I was one of those annoying people who think they're special for not caring about sports. That was until I started following the Flyers and became a raging lunatic (in both the literal and metaphorical sense).
I fell into the fandom inelegantly as I limped my way through my final year of college, feeling every bit as broken down as Danny Briere looked in that, his final year wearing a Flyers jersey. (I'm sorry, Danny. I promise that I defended you to the very end, even when people wanted to buy you out.)
Anxiety had always been a part of my life, moving through me as natural as air since I can remember. Depression settled comfortably in my brain during college. It colored everything I did. I would vacillate wildly, from worrying about everything to not caring about anything.
I knew jack shit about hockey before I started watching as a way to forget about all the shit I was worried about. Escapism is real, man. I read about the sport voraciously, watched the sport voraciously, finding new purpose as I poured myself into it. My family made fun of me, actually. It was such a dramatic change of pace for me, so out of character. I’m sure most of them figured I’d leave it behind within a year or two. Boy, when you’re wrong, you’re wrong.
Where I had only been able to go between apathy and distress before, hockey gave me passion again. Life was suddenly bearable again. I had a range of emotions again, not just clicking between depressed and tired and anxious and tired.
I’ll never forget the feeling of seeing my first Flyers win live. I walked out of the building surrounded by individuals, both sober and drunk, who were so lighthearted and exuberant that I couldn’t help but revel in it. And it wasn’t just a good mood because our team won. I mean, of course, it was that but it felt like so much more. It felt like electricity running through everyone, a joined moment that I got to experience as part of the whole. That’s something mental illness had taken away from me for a long time, that feeling like I was a part of something.
Even if you don't care deeply about sports, even if you think they're useless and vapid, important moments in Philadelphia sports history are burned into your brain.
I remember my dad moving our television outside so we and the neighbors could watch the Sixers series against the Lakers outside, my arms getting all chewed up by mosquitoes even with the smell of citronella thick in the air. I remember the cafeteria in middle school booming with "Fly Eagles Fly" every afternoon for a week before Super Bowl XXXIX. I remember standing at my kitchen counter, my house bathed in an eerie, peaceful silence, my hands clasped in prayer as I watched the final pitch zip over the plate and name the Phillies champions again.
Proximity is enough. Brad Lidge's history becomes your history. Donovan McNabb's history becomes your history. Allen Iverson's history becomes your history. Some of the biggest, most joyful, most crashing moments of your life are because of sports, and you didn't even feel it happening.
Depression, anxiety, and a host of other mental illnesses and personality disorders seek to isolate. Isolation is the only way they survive. The serrated edges saw at the ties that bind you, cutting you off from the things that make you happy, the things that connect you to other people and the human experience. They’re selfish that way. They demand all of your attention. That’s the dichotomy, at the end of the day. Isolation versus connection.
Hockey, and sports in general, have served to connect me to more people than I thought possible. Hell, the first account I followed on Flyers twitter was the Broad Street Hockey account, quickly followed by Charlie and Kurt. Writing for this site has given me a creative outlet and an opportunity to write some truly fun pieces, sharing my voice with thousands of people I wouldn’t have otherwise gotten to reach. Not everyone likes what I write, but some people do. (I’ve always been more of an acquired taste anyway.) The friendships I’ve made through hockey have been life-changing and are constantly heartening, because they remind me that I’m still able to make friends, that people like me enough to tolerate me.
Insidious thoughts (you aren’t good, you aren’t funny, you’re not talented, you’re not beautiful, people are only being nice because they feel bad for you, you’ve faked your way here, you’ve fooled them into thinking you belong, you do not deserve happiness, on and on in your brain like a thumping bass line) can be quieted or at least dulled.
I can’t forget these thoughts. I can’t make them go away for good. What I can do, however, is prove them wrong. What started off as escapism has developed into coping.
Hockey is not some bastion of good feelings where nothing is ever bad and we get to ignore reality. Hockey sucks a lot. Even when you remove the widespread cultural and institutional issues of racism, homophobia, and sexism from the sport, there are still so many problems within. You can’t escape into this world, because it’s not a perfect world. It’s not even close.
I don’t mean to imply that hockey will save you. It won’t.
Sometimes, though, it can help.
If you feel helpless or suicidal, please do remember there is help available to you. The number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255, and the online chat is available here. If your mental illness prevents you from speaking to a professional, lean on your support system. If you don’t feel like you have a support system, let me be a part of it. You are very important, and your life matters. Be well.
Subject: Flyers vs. Rangers: Lineups, how to watch, live stream and discussion thread
Ugh, the Rangers.
Tonight’s game is on NBCSN nationally and streaming on NBC Live Extra and the NBC Sports app. The Flyers radio feed can be heard on 93.3 WMMR or SiriusXM.
- Michael Raffl - Claude Giroux - Jakub Voracek
- Travis Konecny - Brayden Schenn - Wayne Simmonds
- Nick Cousins - Sean Couturier - Matt Read
- Chris VandeVelde - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Roman Lyubimov
- Shayne Gostisbehere - Brandon Manning
- Ivan Provorov - Andrew MacDonald
- Mark Streit - Radko Gudas
- Steve Mason
- Michal Neuvirth
New York lineup
- Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Mats Zuccarello
- Rick Nash - Mika Zibanejad - Pavel Buchnevich
- Matt Puempel - J.T. Miller - Michael Grabner
- Jimmy Vesey - Oscar Lindberg - Brandon Pirri
- Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi
- Nick Holden - Kevin Klein
- Brady Skjei - Adam Clendening
- Henrik Lundqvist
- Magnus Hellberg
Subject: Flyers vs Rangers recap: Flyers somehow win because hockey is weird sometimes
Despite playing like absolute crap for the majority of the game, the Flyers somehow pulled out a win against the Rangers.
Games against the Rangers are always bad. I don’t know why that is the case, but I swear it always has been that way.
To be completely honest, I don’t really hate the Rangers and never have. For some reason, even though they’ve been a pretty decent team for the last decade, they just don’t irk me. Even though they totally cheated in the playoffs a few years ago, I’m not too bothered by them.
And that’s why I hate them.
Seriously, only this team, whom the Flyers have played twice this year as part of NBCSN’s Wednesday Night Rivalry, could make me not care about an alleged rivalry. I’m supposed to hate Rangers games. I’m supposed to curse their name. But they are too damn boring for me to even care.
Their jerseys are boring. There I said it. They don’t have anyone on their team that is super flashy or worth drooling over. And Madison Square Garden....well...
The Rangers will win by 10 tonight but that doesn't change the fact that Madison Square Garden is made of solidified piss— Scott T. (@NHLFlyera) January 26, 2017
What I’m saying is I hate them because I have no real reason to hate them. Jerks.
Anywayyyyy....the game tonight. Yeah. Remember what I said up there about Rangers games being bad? Well, boy were the Flyers determined to prove me right.
Let’s not mince words: the first period was absolute shit. I won’t go into too much detail because I might lose my mind, but the Flyers looked like absolute garbage. Here’s some stats for you — by the end of the period, the Rangers were up 16-8 in shots and 25-14 in shot attempts. And, to be honest, those stats kind of understate how bad that period was, given that half of the Flyers shot attempts didn’t even come until after the 17 minute mark.
It was just nasty all around. The Rangers had too many odd-man chances for me to count, including a breakaway chance by Michael Grabner. It felt like every time the Flyers got the puck, they were determined to give it back to the Rangers and let them dance around the damn zone with it.
Controlled NYR entry, shots, failed PHI exit due to NYR forecheck, more shots, uncontrolled exit, NYR n-zone recovery, entry. Rinse, repeat.— Charlie O'Connor (@BSH_Charlie) January 26, 2017
At one point, Sean Couturier was able to control the puck in the offensive zone, creating a two on one opportunity with Nick Cousins. I was hoping that Couturier could steal a goal from the Rangers and make me feel at least somewhat happy. Instead, he did absolutely nothing.
The one bright spot of the period was that the Rangers failed to score. That was all because of Steve Mason. Dude looked really good in the first period, bailing out his shitty defense over and over again.
Steve Mason, everybody pic.twitter.com/6ES1V9TWgt— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) January 26, 2017
So I had that to be happy about going into the second. Oh, and Bob McKenzie talked a bit during the intermission about Robert Hagg, Sam Morin, Travis Sanheim, and Phillipe Myers, which reminded me that eventually Andrew MacDonald will not be playing for the Flyers. That felt nice.
The second period was more or less exactly like the first — a lot of zone pressure from the Rangers, sloppy play by the Flyers, and more Steve Mason saves. The Flyers eventually started to establish some pressure, but then like, the period ended. So whatever.
So, at this point, you probably understand that Steve Mason was playing pretty good in this game — by the end of the second he had stopped 27 shots, some of which were pretty good chances. So did Mason-shit-talker-in-chief Mike Milbury have anything nice to say in the second intermission? Of course not, because he is very bad at his job.
Oh yeah, another funny thing that happened in the second was Doc Emrick’s ... creative ways of pronouncing Ivan Provorov’s name. That was funny.
"Poroveov"— Peter Laviolette (@fakelavy) January 26, 2017
- Doc Emrick
Is Doc calling Provorov "Voroboyov"?— Bill Matz (@BILLadelphia1) January 26, 2017
One thing that the intermission bros talked about was that this game looked like one that the Flyers could maybe steal. And it sounded just stupid enough to make sense.
Well, Wayne Simmonds gave a little credence to those words when he scored a greasy goal on the power play to open the third. When that happened, I let out an audible chuckle, and the following exchange happened:
Mrs. Butt: Why are you laughing?
Me: Because the Flyers scored first.
Mrs. Butt: Oh, and they suck?
Then things got even stupider when Michael Grabner scored a goal ... against Henrik Lundqvist to give the Flyers the two goal lead. But seriously, that goal wouldn’t have happened without some tenacious puck play by Jake Voracek, who was the guy who got credited for the goal.
Jake Voracek is a god among men— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) January 26, 2017
and could totally kick all our butts in a fight. pic.twitter.com/jF1Rshsuge
So with ten minutes left to play, the Flyers were winning a game in which they were being thoroughly outplayed. Sports!
And it stayed that way! Steve Mason got a shutout! Our team won!
Stupid observation I have to vocalize:
Brady Skjei’s name really bothers me. Not because there is no way I would be able to pronounce that on my own. Not because I dislike it or anything, either.
It’s because every time I hear Doc Emrick say “Skjei,” I look up to the screen expecting to see former Flyer Shea “Skjei” Weber, who Kurt informed me tonight is now former Flyer P.K. Subban. Don’t ask.
Embarrassing Flyers-Rangers memory:
Watching this game reminded me of the last time I saw the Flyers play the Rangers in person. It was a matinee game on some Saturday during the 2010-2011 season. I could probably find the exact date, but I’m a bit too lazy at the moment. I do remember that Nikolay Zherdev (should of kept) scored a breakaway goal, and I believe the Flyers won.
The embarrassing part of this memory is threefold: I went to the game wearing a Martin Biron Flyers jersey (why do I own this?), I snuck in one of those big ass bags of beef jerky to eat for some reason, and worst of all, I had bleached blonde hair.
Hair that I had bleached myself intentionally. I was 23 years old at the time (not 14). It was either 2010 or 2011 (not 1999).
Anyway, the real joke is on my girlfriend at the time, because despite my embarrassing existence, she eventually decided it was a good idea to marry me. What an idiot!