Subject: Flyers vs. Blue Jackets: Lineups, starting goalies, TV and live stream info, discussion thread
Another must win for Philadelphia.
Tonight’s game is on CSN Philly, CSNPhilly.com and 97.5 The Fanatic locally. FS Ohio has the Columbus broadcast. Sportsnet One has the game in Canada, and it’s also the NHL.tv free game of the week.
- Jordan Weal - Claude Giroux - Wayne Simmonds
- Brayden Schenn - Valtteri Filppula - Jakub Voracek
- Travis Konecny - Sean Couturier - Matt Read
- Chris VandeVelde - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Roman Lyubimov
- Ivan Provorov - Andrew MacDonald
- Brandon Manning - Shayne Gostisbehere
- Michael Del Zotto - Radko Gudas
- Steve Mason
- Michal Neuvirth
Columbus lineup (via)
- Nick Foligno - Alex Wennberg - Brandon Saad
- Boone Jenner - Brandon Dubinsky - Cam Atkinson
- Scott Hartnell - Sam Gagner - Oliver Bjorkstrand
- Matt Calvert - William Karlsson - Josh Anderson
- Zach Werenski - Seth Jones
- Jack Johnson - David Savard
- Markus Nutivaara - Kyle Quincey
- Joonas Korpisalo
Subject: Flyers vs. Blue Jackets recap: Flyers do some fun stuff, still lose in very Flyers manner
Travis Konecny had the first multi-goal game of his NHL career, but poor defense and a sputtering power play led the Flyers to their third straight loss.
At this point of the season, we’re mostly looking for moral victories.
The Flyers lost their third straight game tonight, by a score of 5-3 to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Their playoff hopes, which were hanging on by a thread but still vaguely realistic at this time a week or so ago, are basically dead in the water. Things are generally not fun.
And in these last few games, we’re bound to get some reminders of why and how we ended up here. In some ways, there’s no still image that better encapsulates this Flyers season than the following one, from approximately two seconds before Cam Atkinson would double the size of the Flyers’ first-period deficit:
Yes, that’s the team we’re still talking about here.
So as we watch this team try to play out the string, we’re forced to look for victories beyond the scoreboard. Reasons to keep watching beyond the love of the game and of that orange and black sweater that we see 82 times a year.
And hey, tonight we got at least one of those! For the Flyers, tonight was the Travis Konecny show, in a way we haven’t quite seen since those first few weeks of October when Konecny really started his NHL career out with a bang. The recently-turned-20-year-old had the first multi-goal game of his Flyers career, and the two goals he’d get came on two very nice shots:
Konecny has three goals in the five games since his return from injury, and it’s great to see him doing what we know he can now that he’s back in the top-9. With the actual wins and losses meaning less and less with each passing day (as they pertain to the standings), the development of guys like TK will be among the most important things to watch for in the final month of the season. And when he has a game like this, it makes it easier to stomach the disappointment that may come elsewhere.
But! Since we are of course talking about the 2016-17 Philadelphia Flyers, that disappointment is going to exist. And beyond the bumps in the road that come with the aforementioned development of those young players (read: Konecny’s roughing penalty in the third period that led to Columbus’ game-winning goal), there were several points of frustration in tonight’s loss.
Such as ... the power play! The Flyers were given power plays that they proceeded to fail to score on seven times tonight, a season-high (season-low?) in terms of power play lack of productivity. Only a second-period goal from Brayden Schenn prevented the night from being a total 0-fer with the man advantage, and in any case it’s really tough to take away zero points from a game in which the other team only had four skaters on the ice for about a quarter of the length of the game.
And since it’s the Flyers, we don’t need to tell you that the four non-empty-net goals that they did give up would all make you want to bang your head against a wall, for different reasons. The reverse clown car that was that 2-on-0 pictured earlier in this article was the worst offender here, but we were also subject to a bomb of a goal in the high slot from noted recent Flyer and current-bounceback-season-haver Sam Gagner, a long point shot from Zach Werenski that had help from as many as five different players standing in the sightline of Steve Mason, and the power play snipe from Dubinsky that came after Konecny’s penalty. Bad breaks and untimely lack of execution have largely been the name of the game for the Flyers this year, and tonight — a fairly even, well-fought game against one of the East’s best teams this year that ended in a loss — was no exception.
Oh well. 14 games left. Let’s find a way to enjoy them. Back at it on Wednesday night against Pittsburgh. Go Flyers.
Subject: Tuesday Morning Fly By: Boston passed on Travis Konecny three times.
Today's open discussion thread, complete with your daily dose of Philadelphia Flyers news and notes...
*Well, you can't have a game against a team with a Former Flyer on its roster without an article romanticizing that former player! [Inquirer]
*We might be seeing a couple of the Flyers' more highly-touted European prospects sooner rather than later. That'll be cool. [CSN Philly]
*Turns out being a buyer at the trade deadline is almost never a good idea. [NHL Numbers]
*And finally, Sunday night in Norway featured a hockey game that went to EIGHT OVERTIMES. That's madness. And also fun. [Puck Daddy]
Subject: The best photos from the Flyers loss to the Blue Jackets
Subject: The Phantoms could finish with 100 points and still miss the AHL playoffs
The Atlantic Division is extremely difficult this year, and the Phantoms are not comfortably in playoff position yet
The American Hockey League’s Atlantic Division is absolutely bonkers this season, and despite sitting in the top two of that division all season long, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms are nowhere near clinching a playoff spot with 16 games remaining in their season.
The AHL has a pure divisional playoff format, meaning the top four teams in each of the Atlantic, North, Central and Pacific Divisions qualify. There’s no wild card situation. The 16 playoff teams play within their division for the first two rounds, then play the other division champion from their conference for a right to represent the East and West in the Calder Cup Finals.
And that’s terrible news for the Phantoms, who play in the toughest division in the AHL.
You’ll notice that the Phantoms are just four points up on the Hershey Bears, who currently occupy the final spot outside the playoff picture in the Atlantic. All five of these top teams in the Atlantic would be the runaway first place team in the North Division. The peril of the divisional playoff format.
Lehigh Valley’s magic number for playoff qualification sits at 25 points with 16 games to play, which means they need any combo of points earned and Hershey points lost adding up to 25. That’s a lot -- they’d need to go 13-3 the rest of the way just to guarantee the playoffs on their own merits.
There’s a slight cushion here in the form of Bridgeport and Providence, but the situation is much more perilous than it should be for a team that’s cruised through the regular season like a hot knife through butter.
The Phantoms’ remaining schedule isn’t all that easy, either:
- Four more games outside of the division: A home game against North Division-leading Syracuse tonight, a grueling two-game midweek road trip to St. John’s — we’ve talked before about the insane travel for games out there — next week, and the season finale against a bad Binghamton team.
- Six more games against the only team in the Atlantic with a better record than themselves, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Three of those are on the road.
- Two games left against the team directly behind them in the Atlantic, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Both are home.
- Two games left against the Hershey Bears, the team fighting for their playoff lives from the outside looking in. One of these games is home, one away.
- One game against the Providence Bruins, on the last Friday night of the season. It’s at home. The P-Bruins are directly behind the Phantoms in the standings as well.
- One game against the Springfield Thunderbirds, a divisional foe that is not yet eliminated but will not be making the postseason.
This is the toughest schedule of these five Atlantic teams by a long shot. The six games against WBS really skews it against the Phantoms, but in total they play 12 of their remaining 16 games against the Eastern Conference’s top six teams.
Hershey and Providence, by comparison, play just six games each against that group. Bridgeport plays eight against that group. Wilkes-Barre plays 10, six of which are against the Phantoms.
Imagine the team goes through a slight lull here. It’s always possible, especially if the Flyers decide to call up some of the team’s young talent in the garbage time of the NHL season here.
Let’s spitball. Say they drop both games to a desperate Hershey team. Let’s say they split on the difficult road trip to St. John’s, they split the six games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and they split with Bridgeport as well. That’d give them a 5-7 record with four other games on the schedule. Let’s chalk those other four up as wins, giving them a 9-7 record the rest of the way.
That’s a completely reasonable possibility, right? It wouldn’t even really be a bad finish!
It would give them a 48-25-3-0 record on the year, with 99 points. It would also only trim their magic number down to seven, meaning they’d need one of Bridgeport, Providence or Hershey to at least finish with a mediocre stretch run. If all of those teams finish strong — totally feasible, they are all very good and as mentioned they all have it easier from a scheduling perspective — it could spell doom.
We’ve assumed all year that the Phantoms’ seven season playoff drought — dating back to 2008-09, their final year in the Spectrum — would come to an end this year. But since it’s the 2016-17 hockey season and nothing is fair anymore, this team could finish with near or over 100 points and still miss the postseason.
Of course, it’s unlikely that all three of the teams behind them wind up passing them in the standings, as surely one of them will hit a minor rough patch. But with just a four point cushion between the second and fifth spots in the division, Lehigh Valley cannot rest on their laurels if they want to play for the Calder Cup.
Subject: Wednesday Morning Fly By: Oh good, another game.
Today's open discussion thread, complete with your daily dose of Philadelphia Flyers news and notes...
*Here are five things to know about your Flyers ahead of tonight's game. [Inquirer]
*So that BJs game kinda sucked but you know what doesn't? This gallery of photos from the game by Kate Frese. [BSH]
*The Flyers had a big opportunity on this road trip and they've totally blew it. [CSN Philly]
*There a lot of questions surrounding this team right now. Let's try and answer some. Sort of. [Courier-Post]
*For the better part of the season it has seemed to be a given that the Phantoms would make the playoffs. But uh....it's possible that they won't. Which is madness. [BSH]
*So we won't be seeing our boys in the playoffs this year, but there are fixing to be some seriously good matchups in the first round. [Sportsnet]
*Friedman's latest 30 Thoughts centers on the extremely drawn out 2018 Olympics decision. [Sportsnet]
*And finally, there's a long history of cool goalie masks in the NHL, but which are the coolest? [Puck Daddy]
Subject: Flyers vs. Penguins: Oh man, I guess we
Crap, it’s still hockey season.
Philadelphia has lost three straight and has completely eliminated its hopes of the playoffs in the process -- as if they weren’t done before that, I guess. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, has a pretty Swiss guy named Mark Streit on their blueline and another shot at a Stanley Cup in a few months. They’ve defeated the Flyers in five of the last six head-to-head games, and I want to die.
The worst part is that even if the Flyers do win tonight against their poorly-groomed neighbors to the west, it won’t even move the needle of excitement for me. Should they win, I imagine my reaction will range anywhere from “Sure, OK, cool.” to “Where the f*ck was that performance last month?”
Watching the 2016-17 Philadelphia Flyers is more of a chore than something that even resembles enjoyment, and forcing me to care about the Pittsburgh Penguins on a blustery, miserable Wednesday night in March is closer to a slap in the face than a kiss on the cheek. I can think of like 82 different episodes of 30 Rock I’d rather watch than this hockey game tonight, and yet ... here we are. We do this to ourselves, you know.
Jordan Weal is hurt and he won’t play, meaning we get to see Dale Weise and his miserable contract back out on the ice. Very excited about that. We also get to see Dave Hakstol flub his way through another hockey game. Nick Cousins will get back in, but it looks like Roman Lyubimov will be the scratch because ... you know, for the 800th straight game, it’s impossible for this guy to conceive of scratching one of his other beloved fourth line players.
Brandon Manning appears to be ready to go, based on reports from the morning skate. We’re unsure of exactly what the lineup will look like with Weal out, and who might replace him on the top line. I don’t really care who it is, if I’m being honest.
Oh, national TV. Lovely. Streaming here.
Subject: The Flyers
Hint: it’s an issue that the Flyers have faced all year long.
One of the most prevalent narratives surrounding the Philadelphia Flyers entering their Wednesday night tilt with the rival Pittsburgh Penguins has been the struggles of the penalty kill. After allowing Brandon Dubinsky to score the game-winner on Monday via a power play to push the Flyers even further out of a playoff spot, the knives were out this week from the media.
[Konecny] accepted the blame for the Flyers' 5-3 loss Monday night to the Columbus Blue Jackets in a game in which the power play went 1 for 8 and the equally-bad penalty kill allowed its seventh goal in the last 15 chances. [CSNPhilly]
In the meantime, the penalty kill, coached by Ian Laperriere, has been even worse. The Flyers have allowed seven power-play goals in 15 chances over the last five games. Overall, the PK has dropped to 23rd in the 30-team NHL, having killed just 79.5 percent. [Philly.com]
The Flyers have allowed at least one power-play goal against in each of the last five games and seven goals in 15 opportunities in that time frame.
“Obviously, we got to do a little bit better,” coach Dave Hakstol said, “but no it’s not a change in personnel.”
To be clear, it’s not as if this is an unfair narrative. Killing just eight out of 15 penalties over any stretch of the season is unacceptable for an NHL team, particularly one that is in desperate need of wins at the moment in order to make a long-shot playoff push. In addition to the team’s scuttling power play, the Flyers’ recent inability to prevent goals against on the PK has been a major contributor to their damaging swoon.
But when these slumps occur, it’s interesting to determine the root cause, at least by the numbers. And hilariously enough, the Flyers’ statistics in recent weeks during 4v5 situations aren’t uniformly bad. In fact, there’s just one big issue killing them right now, and it’s overshadowed legitimately strong results in every other area linked with effective penalty killing. Here’s a look at where the Flyers rank across the NHL in a number of penalty kill metrics over the past ten games.
- Allowed the least overall shot attempts per 60 minutes in the NHL (66.42)
- Allowed the least unblocked shot attempts per 60 minutes in the NHL (46.29)
- Allowed the second-least shots on goal per 60 minutes in the NHL (32.2)
- Allowed the least Expected Goals per 60 minutes in the NHL (3.13)
Evaluating these numbers, it’s not unfair to say that since late February, no NHL team has done a better job of preventing shots — both total and quality chances — than the Flyers. If that’s true, then why are they giving up so many goals?
Oh, right. The missing bullet point.
- Posted the lowest save percentage in the NHL (75%)
It’s no secret that the Philadelphia goaltenders have struggled this year, but on February 15th, their performance at 4v5 was one of the few situations where they looked close-to-passable, posting a 86.45% save percentage in the first 57 games of the year. But over the last ten, that’s fallen off a cliff as well.
This isn’t totally letting the penalty killers off the hook, of course. There have been some pretty horrific one-off breakdowns by the forwards (Mitch Marner’s goal last Thursday comes to mind) and utter abandonment of the slot area by the defense (Dubinsky’s tally this week) leading to uncontested screens in front.
The Flyers are essentially dealing with the same issue that plagued them at 5v5 over the first few months of the season. They aren’t giving up a lot of shots, but when they do, it’s poor defensive coverage making shots more difficult than they should be, combined with a total inability by the goaltenders to make a tough save.
Basically, it’s yet another shining example of the sad story of the 2016-17 Philadelphia Flyers — they do just enough right to give fans hope, but still find a way to make all of that work pointless by failing at pivotal details.
All statistics from Corsica.hockey.
Subject: Flyers vs. Penguins recap: For a night, hockey is fun again
Not a whole lot to not enjoy about tonight’s game, as the Flyers jumped out to a lead over their cross-state in the second period and never looked back.
Since the Flyers-Penguins rivalry is one full of swings and emotions on a game-by-game and even minute-by-minute basis, tonight’s recap of the Flyers’ 4-0 win over Pittsburgh will just be me recounting my thoughts as they happen in real time. Enjoy!
7:26 p.m.: So they’re gonna win this game, right? I mean, come on. Three-game losing streak. Playoff hopes are dead in the water. Pittsburgh is rolling (and is just way better than the Flyers). There’s no reason to think the Flyers are going to win this game. Given how this rivalry tends to work, this seems like the kind of game the Flyers win a lot, y’know?
7:34 p.m.: Ah crap this is an NBCSN game and I have to use the online stream which lags about two minutes behind real time. It’s hard being me, folks.
7:36 p.m.: The Stadium Series jerseys are back in play tonight for both teams. I like the Flyers’ ones. Is that a hot take? I feel like a lot of people don’t like those. Definitely better than the gold ones.
7:37 p.m.: Brian Boucher is interviewing Voracek pre-game! Their times in orange and black briefly overlapped, right? In the lockout season when they traded for Boucher from Carolina? That seems fun.
7:40 p.m.: Hahaha oh right Cousins is on the top line. Didn’t they scratch him the other night? This team is so weird. We’re underway.
7:43 p.m.: It’s not the fact that the Penguins get a 2-on-1 a minute into the game that really grinds my gears here. It’s the fact that the shot goes way wide and Kunitz still wins the race to the loose puck. Their guys are going full-speed to the net there and the puck kicks back out to the half-wall. Gotta win that race.
7:45 p.m.: Thaaaaat’s a bad shift by Provorov. Wipes out with Crosby on his tail, then a few seconds later throws the puck right to the Pens on the blue line. Less of that, please.
7:50 p.m.: Justin Schultz magically becoming good in Pittsburgh is some bullshit, man. He was awful in Edmonton. Great move up there by him to create a chance, equally good save by Mason.
7:52 p.m.: Hey look at that! Some sustained pressure for the Flyers and the guy wearing 87 in yellow checks Simmonds way behind the puck. Power play time. Do better than on Monday? Please?
7:55 p.m.: Flyers, after Monday’s awful showing on the power play, are going back to their alternate PP setup, with Provorov on PP1 and Voracek (presumably) on PP2. Let’s see how it goes.
7:57 p.m.: It ... didn’t go incredibly well. Not poorly — two decent chances at the beginning and end of it — but pretty unorganized otherwise.
7:59 p.m.: Two shots on goal halfway through the first period, and that’s with two minutes for a power play. Is that bad? It seems not-good.
8:00 p.m.: That said, the Pens seem determined to give the Flyers a chance here. Two straight icings here for the visitors.
8:02 p.m.: Well that’s nice.
Flyers with a Mark Streit tribute on the big screen.— Anthony Mingioni (@AnthonyMingioni) March 16, 2017
8:04 p.m.: And there’s Steve Mason, doing stuff in net. Stops Malkin on the initial shot and the rebound, making nice movement in doing so.
8:06 p.m.: Schultz (the Pittsburgh one) trips Cousins, and the Flyers will start this power play with their second unit on the ice. I’d mock it — and to be clear, I don’t really like it — but why the hell not at this point, I guess.
8:08 p.m.: Second unit spent most of its time in its own zone. First unit came out and saw Ghost break his stick.
8:09 p.m.: I generally don’t get myself too worked up about Flyers power play slumps, because the Flyers have had a lot of them over the past four or five years and they pretty much always bounce back with some time. And they probably will bounce back out of this one before long. But cripes, this is just ugly.
8:12 p.m.: And now the Pens are going to go to the power play after a pretty wimpy slashing call on Schenn. Quick, read this from Charlie earlier today about the PK. Basically, the Pens are almost certainly about to score.
8:14 p.m.: Well now look at the PK getting the best chance of the night for the Flyers! Simmonds and Provorov both had their hacks from in close. Love the aggressiveness there, boys.
8:15 p.m.: We should note, this happened after the Flyers had already had two power plays.
Flyers get 3 shots while killing Penguins power play, doubling their shot total— Adam Kimelman (@NHLAdamK) March 16, 2017
8:16 p.m.: And now THAT’s the Flyers’ best chance of the night, but Matt Murray gets over in time to snuff out Schenn from Filppula. Hot damn.
Matt Murray absolutely robs Brayden Schenn. pic.twitter.com/Iq8LL9GkVA— Sons of Penn (@SonsofPenn) March 16, 2017
8:17 p.m.: First period is over and we are scoreless. Shots are 8-7 Pens. Flyers picked it up a bit in the last few minutes but overall pretty unexciting.
8:18 p.m.: Why is NBCSN’s stream showing a commercial for the game that I’m currently watching, telling me to start watching at 6:30? What exactly do they think I’m doing?
8:25 p.m.: I feel like I’m supposed to be angrier than I am right now. This is Flyers-Penguins. Why aren’t I running around my living room shouting at inanimate objects? This season stinks.
8:37 p.m.: A HOCKEY GOAL YES SUCK IT FLIGHTLESS BIRD PUNKS
8:39 p.m.: Schenn is hurt on the bench, because things can never be good for extended periods of time.
8:43 p.m.: As bad as the power play has been tonight, that’s how good the PK has been so far. Two straight Pens power plays have come and gone without a single shot allowed, and without any real breakdowns in the process. Great to see.
8:46 p.m.: It’s like they heard me and just want me to be sad. Flyers back on the power play after Cousins gets cross-checked into the boards.
8:47 p.m.: AND THEN THERE’S A GOAL LET’S FUCKIN GO ON THE DAMN WAYNE TRAIN YALL
8:48 p.m.: Here, let’s all enjoy Wayne Simmonds’ 200th NHL goal. I still don’t love changing the top PP unit, but Ghost’s shot is even more of a weapon from the top of the circles, and when he fires one that leaves a rebound out there, Simmonds ain’t gonna miss very often.
Wayne Simmonds scores his 200th NHL goal! pic.twitter.com/5DsNSwmdEm— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) March 16, 2017
8:51 p.m.: And now Konecny just misses on a deflection on a Provorov point shot. Been a while, but man, the Flyers are feeling it right now. This is fun? Is this fun? It seems fun?
9:00 p.m.: Only line for Pittsburgh that’s doing anything of note this period is the Crosby line with Sheary and Guentzel, but the Flyers have been lucky to avoid a goal or two from them tonight.
9:02 p.m.: Mark Streit is stopped in close by Mason. Y’know, I feel like if I was a fan of any other team, I’d find it hilarious that the Flyers traded a rental defenseman to a team, only to watch said team trade said defenseman to the Flyers’ biggest rival minutes later. But since that did happen to my favorite team, I don’t think I’ve taken the time to get sufficiently angry at the fact that that actually happened. Know what? Mark Streit sucks. I am here, deciding this now. Screw that guy.
9:06 p.m.: Coots just misses his second of the night on a nice stop by Murray down low. He has seven shots on goal on the evening, which NBCSN is now telling me is a career-high for him. And that’s all mostly against the Kunitz/Malkin/Kessel line. Flyers-Pens games, man.
9:08 p.m.: Even the announcers can’t help but note how strange it is that the Flyers have played Mason in basically every game since they gave Neuvirth his contract extension. Almost like that contract extension was totally unnecessary ...
9:13 p.m.: Are the fans cheering at the end of a period? This is weird. Flyers up 2-0 going into the second recess. I’m enjoying it.
9:23 p.m.: OK so know how I said two hours ago that they’re going to win this game? Why do I suddenly feel like this is going to end poorly? Why can’t I ever feel normal about this team?
9:30 p.m.: Third is underway. Please don’t break my heart here, the Flyers. I haven’t asked for much this season. I’d like this.
9:32 p.m.: Kunitz flubs a pass in the high slot from Malkin. Remember when Kunitz went to the Olympics over Giroux? That was some bullshit.
9:33 p.m.: I’m still mad about that.
9:38 p.m.: Filppula stoned by Murray on a partial breakaway that probably would have iced this one. Flyers still pushing while up 2-0. That’s what we need to see here.
9:39 p.m.: Then Voracek is stuffed after a great cross-ice feed. Murray showed up tonight.
9:44 p.m.: The fans are wooing. Have to think this means a 10-game winning streak is imminent.
9:45 p.m.: Kunitz goes to the box for doing something stupid, I assume. End this game. C’mon.
9: 47 p.m.: In other news, the power play is bad again. Mason stops Sundqvist on a shorthanded chance down low.
9:49 p.m.: Flyers get a 2-on-1 and Filppula puts a pass right on the tape of Bellemare, who oh come on like you need me to tell you what he did from there. Filpp has had a number of near-misses tonight, both via the pass and his own shot. Tough-luck game for him.
9:51 p.m.: Pens just had their best chance of the third period but Kunitz couldn’t quite squeeze it in the tiny opening between a prone Mason’s skate and the post. Maybe this is the night that ... something good happens?
9:56 p.m.: Yep. This is the night. Giroux. 3-0.
9:58 p.m.: Bellemare with the nice set-up here that Giroux cashed in on. And woof, hey, remember like two hours ago when I said nice things about Justin Schultz? Can we pretend I didn’t? Thanks.
Bellemare with the great set-up— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) March 16, 2017
Giroux with the finish pic.twitter.com/sJy1lPWzht
9:59 p.m.: Kenny Albert and Joe Micheletti razzing Boucher for giving up a late game-tying goal to Tyler Kennedy in the alumni game is fun. “Who shoots the puck better than Tyler Kennedy?”
10:00 p.m.: Per Kenny Albert, the assist on Giroux’s goal was Bellemare’s first in 53 games. What a world.
10:02 p.m.: And then Dale Weise, the human victory cigar, will ice this one with his first goal since November, giving everyone in attendance some free fast food. Great work by Couturier to get the puck, great work by Schenn to chase down his rebound, and great work by Weise to be standing in that exact spot he was standing in.
10:04 p.m.: FINAL: Flyers win 4-0. First win against Pittsburgh of the season. Enjoyable hockey game. We’ll take the good as we get it.
Up to New Jersey tomorrow, where we will inevitably find a way to stop enjoying hockey again. Go Flyers.
Subject: Thursday Morning Fly By: LOL Pens.
Today's open discussion thread, complete with your daily dose of Philadelphia Flyers news and notes...
*We have so little, let's enjoy this one. RECAP!
*And we are back at it tonight against the Devils; hopefully just as good as last night! Puck drops at 7PM, thank god. Go team!
*What's going on with the Flyers' penalty kill? [BSH]
*So we've been talking about this for pretty much this entire season, non-stop, but really: is the problem them team or is the problem the coaching? (note: the answer is actually both). [Sports Talk Philly]
*The US Women's Hockey team has decided to boycott the World Championship because of a compensation dispute. They're disputing the fact that they pretty much aren't compensated at all, which is pretty gross. [ESPN]
*Looks like we are going to have a NYC Winter Classic next year. [Newsday]
Subject: The best photos from the Flyers win against the Penguins
Subject: Flyers 4, Penguins 0: 10 things we learned from an oasis in this Sahara Desert of a season
Following a three-game losing streak that likely put the final nail in the Flyers’ playoff hopes, they rebounded with a strong all-around performance versus Pittsburgh.
Morning Observations is a feature where we break down the previous night's game with an analytical eye.
#1: Flyers hung in there and eventually wore down Pittsburgh
The Penguins didn’t exactly enter Philadelphia under ideal circumstances. After a four-game west coast trek, Pittsburgh flew into the City of Brotherly Love on Wednesday morning to close out the trip. Considering the travel arrangements, it was fair to expect that the Pens might not bring their ‘A’ game, or at the very least, might wear down as the game progressed. The latter proved to be an accurate description of the contest.
Pittsburgh came out strong early, particularly on the forecheck in the offensive zone, stymieing Philadelphia breakout attempts. Despite the territorial edge, however, the Flyers were able to mostly keep the Penguins from generating especially dangerous shots, and then slowly played their way into the game over the remainder of the first period. Things only got better from there. In fact, the Flyers trended up in terms of 5v5 territorial play with each subsequent period, going 42.85%/50.83%/54.68% in score-adjusted Corsi percentage in each of the stanzas. More zone time meant more chances to score, and the result was three even strength goals.
How much of that was Pittsburgh tiring out, and how much was Philadelphia legitimately playing a strong game? I’m sure both were contributing factors, as was a stabilizing performance in net from Steve Mason. My guess is that a full-rested Pittsburgh team wouldn’t have struggled as much to open up the game in the third, but the Flyers’ ability to turn the game in the second seemed more due to strong execution on their part.
#2: Flyers actually haven’t been bad against PIT this year
Philadelphia entered this game with an 0-2-0 record versus the rival Penguins this season, but they hadn’t been blown out in either of the losses. In 2015-16, the Flyers simply couldn’t keep up with the Mike Sullivan-coached Pens, but in both games in 2016-17, they skated right with Pittsburgh. In fact, Philadelphia outshot Pittsburgh 80-54 in the two defeats, and had a combined 55.45% score-adjusted Corsi at 5v5. The results didn’t come, but there had to have been a feeling in the Flyers’ locker room that they were close to breaking through against their cross-state rivals.
That’s exactly what happened this time around. Yet again, they won the shots battle (28-23) and also led in overall attempts in all situations. The big improvement they made, however, was in quality chance creation and prevention. In those first two contests, the Flyers lost the high-danger chance battle at 5v5 by 18-13 and 7-5 margins, squandering much of their raw shots advantage in the process. Last night, they were far more sound defensively, leading in 5v5 HD chance margin 10-8 and actually outperforming their 5v5 Corsi (47.37%) in terms of Expected Goals (53.44%). Philadelphia may not have dominated territorially (though they certainly held their own), but the edge in quality helped push them to that long-awaited win over Pittsburgh.
#3: Penalty kill was a standout
After allowing seven goals in their previous 15 opportunities entering last night’s game versus the Pens, the Flyers’ penalty kill rightfully was under fire. The team’s inability to keep the puck out of their net was a major contributing factor to all three losses on their recent skid, particularly the defeat in Toronto and Monday’s disappointment against Columbus. Head coach Dave Hakstol remained adamant, however, that there was little fundamentally wrong with the PK.
Score one for Hakstol in this one. Faced with two power play opportunities, the Flyers smothered Pittsburgh on both, allowing just one shot attempt while creating three of their own. The Penguins could barely even get set up in their own zone, as they were continually frustrated by Philadelphia’s usual 1-3 neutral zone forecheck. Despite their poor goal-based results in recent games, the fact that the Flyers were capable of this time of performance shouldn’t have been a major shocker. As I noted yesterday, Philadelphia has iced the league’s best shot and chance prevention PK over the past ten games, and were being let down primarily by the goaltending. Last night, the Flyers just cut the goalies out of the equation entirely by not allowing even one shot on goal.
#4: Flyers won the battle of the centers
There are also lots of unique little battles from game-to-game, but the vast majority of Flyers-Penguins contests in the recent past have come down to a simple question — can Philadelphia successfully match up with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin? Generally, the Flyers have attempted to combat the superstars by fighting fire with fire, tasking their top two pivots of Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier with holding their own against Crosby and Malkin. When it works (see: 2012 playoffs), the Flyers have usually gotten the better of the games. But when Crosby and Malkin are allowed to roam free, the contests unsurprisingly can get ugly.
Last night saw the Flyers come out on top. Couturier received the bulk of his minutes facing Malkin (9:10 out of 14:34 at 5v5) and absolutely took him to the cleaners, posting a 53.46% score-adjusted Corsi and most impressive, winning the high-danger scoring chance battle against #71 by a 5-0 margin. Giroux’s minutes were a little more spread out, but he still faced Crosby for 6:46 of his 14:07 of 5v5 ice time, and the Flyers captain also defeated his counterpart, leading in score-adjusted Corsi (52.58%) and in scoring chances. When Giroux and Couturier can outplay Crosby and Malkin, generally Philadelphia is going to beat their rival, and that’s exactly what happened last night.
#5: PP1 structure showed flashes of success
After a brief hiatus, the Flyers returned to the “new look” PP1 that they tested out a few weeks back. Jakub Voracek slid down to the second unit, while Ivan Provorov was placed with Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn and Shayne Gostisbehere. This 3F/2D structure has Provorov up top in Ghost’s usual spot, with Gostisbehere himself replacing Voracek on the right side of the 1-3-1 formation. While the unit at times struggled on zone entries and getting set up, they did produce a huge goal in the second period as Simmonds pounced on a Gostisbehere rebound and pushed it past Matt Murray to give his team a 2-0 lead.
There are positives and negatives to this structure. The biggest gain is that Gostisbehere’s dangerous shot is more likely to make it through to the net coming from the faceoff circle rather than up at the point. Ghost has legitimately had trouble getting his shot on net during power plays this year, and the blistering, accurate slapper has been a dynamic that the team has missed. The negative is that “4 forward” PP units seem to find it measurably easier to generate zone entries than do the 3F/2D variety. The real question here is whether you consider Gostisbehere’s skillset on the PP to be equivalent to that of a high-end NHL forward. If so, maybe this 3F/2D power play unit is basically a four-forward unit in disguise, since Gostisbehere doesn’t result in any major dropoff in zone entry prowess while making that right side far more dangerous from a shooting standpoint.
#6: Sean Couturier back to looking good again
Last week against the Buffalo Sabres, Sean Couturier had maybe his strongest game of the season, factoring into three Flyers goals and looking dangerous on basically every single shift. Unfortunately, he then followed it up with an underwhelming performance versus Toronto that included a bad turnover immediately resulted in a goal against. Couturier did drive play in that game (and in the two games following), but anyone who was hoping for the dominant player from the Buffalo game to reappear during that key stretch of the playoff push was likely disappointed.
The guy from the Sabres game was back last night. Not only did Couturier score a goal and add an assist, he racked up eight shots on goal, was second on the Flyers in score-adjusted Corsi percentage (63.41%) and outplayed Evgeni Malkin all game. The critics will surely find plays to nitpick — specifically two instances in the third period when he passed up good shooting opportunity — but anyone fairly evaluating Couturier’s performance last night could come away with just one conclusion: the “checking” center was far more than just that versus the Pens.
#7: Steve Mason delivers all-around solid game
It’s not often that a goalie shuts out the highest-scoring team in the league, and his performance that night didn’t feel like the no-brainer #1 star of the game. But while Steve Mason was undeniably very effective against the Penguins last night, it certainly didn’t feel like he “stole” the win for his team. Mason faced just 23 shots and 1.94 expected goals from the normally powerhouse Penguins. There wasn’t much in the way of highlight reel saves — just good old fashioned expert positioning and a total absence of weak goals, which has obviously plagued the Flyers all year. It feels unfair to Mason to simply say that he didn’t let his team down, but not only does it seem like the most accurate way to describe his game, the value of a game like that shouldn’t be understated, especially considering the goaltending that Philadelphia has received in so many games this year.
#8: Bellemare usage works, still not a great plan
It’s no secret that Dave Hakstol is an admirer of Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and what he brings to the table. If his usage of the French forward as a temporary shutdown center earlier this year versus Connor McDavid didn’t convince you, the recent contract extension given to him by the organization should have sufficed. That knowledge aside, it was still a bit of a shock to see Bellemare skating alongside Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds on the top line in the third period of a 2-0 game, trying to help preserve the lead over the Flyers’ biggest rival. He received 5:21 minutes of 5v5 ice time in the final stanza, double his allotment over the first two periods.
The move wasn’t totally without merit, and it actually ended up working out for the team. Bellemare was skating well all game long, and actually ended up leading the team in score-adjusted Corsi on the night at 73.66%. In addition, he even earned a primary assist on Giroux’s late goal, even if that was mostly due to Justin Schultz momentarily rediscovering his Edmonton era self and passing the puck right to Bellemare on a breakout. The problem is that Bellemare lacks anything remotely resembling a scorer’s touch, which he also showed last night in missing an open net on a two-on-one. There’s a reason why no NHL forward over the past three seasons at 5v5 (with at least 2000 minutes) has a worse Points/60 mark than Bellemare. Assist aside, the problem with using Bellemare in a “move up the lineup, shutdown role” in close games is that it measurably decreases the possibility that the Flyers will extend their lead, rather than merely holding it. That puts extra pressure on the goalie to be perfect and the other lines to provide some semblance of dangerous transition offense to try and put the game out of reach.
#9: Cousins draws two more penalties
Nick Cousins drew back into the lineup last night due to a last-minute lower-body injury suffered by Jordan Weal. But rather than put Cousins back on line four, Hakstol chose to give him a shot with Giroux and Simmonds on the “top” line. Truthfully, he wasn’t that impressive (36.83% score-adjusted Corsi), with the exception of two legitimate contributions. Cousins drew two of Pittsburgh’s four penalties, and it could be argued on both that he sold them. The boarding call on Ian Cole looked especially egregious to me, as it seemed like fairly minimal contact with Cousins’ back that resulted in the forward launching himself into the boards to ensure a penalty call.
The fact of the matter is, Cousins’ tactics seem to work. He now has 15 penalties drawn at 5v5 this season, which ties him for second on the Flyers with Travis Konecny, and those extra PPs are surely valuable. My only question is whether he’ll earn a reputation among officials in the near future. Cousins definitely seems to fall down easily in the event of a borderline call, and eventually, I suspect officials will take notice. Flyers fans often complain that Claude Giroux doesn’t receive “superstar treatment” from officials in terms of drawing penalties, but I’ve heard from multiple people around the game that it’s partially due to Giroux gaining a reputation for exaggerating contact as a young player. Cousins obviously will never have Giroux’s high profile, but I’m still curious if he can sustain his penalty drawing over the long term and avoid the rep.
#10: Dale Weise finally gets some points
Just as Cousins checked back into the lineup versus Pittsburgh, so did Dale Weise, who essentially replaced Roman Lyubimov. But Weise also avoided fourth line duty (Matt Read was dropped down with Bellemare and VandeVelde), and instead spent the bulk of his time with Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn. Given the responsibility of heavy minutes against Malkin, Weise stepped up and had the kind of game that Ron Hextall surely envisioned would come on a semi-regular basis when he signed Weise to that four-year contract in the offseason.
He won puck battles, crashed the net, and even had a two-point night, primarily due to some fortunate bounces. But a player has to be in the right spot in order to get those bounces, and too often this year, Dale Weise has been far from the play in the offensive zone. Last night was a big night for him, and if there’s one bottom-sixer that could really use a decent finish to the season just to prove that he hasn’t totally fallen off a cliff from a talent and production standpoint, it’s Weise. After all, the team still has to pay him for three more years, regardless.
Subject: Flyers vs. Devils: New Jersey carries 10 game losing streak into big game for Philadelphia
You know what happens next.
Take the 2012 playoffs, for example: the Flyers barged into the postseason and played one of the most entertaining playoff series in recent memory against the Pittsburgh Penguins. They won in six games, and we all laughed and had a good time and were thinking about bigger quests.
And then the got-damn New Jersey Devils came along, completely out of nowhere, and kicked the Flyers out of the playoffs in five swift games. The Devils are the perennial thorn in our side, and given that they have lost 10 straight and the Flyers are coming off of a big win against their biggest rival, will surely win tonight.
This is the fate of the world.
No — despite my crippling pessimism over the 2016-17 Flyers, this is a game the team should absolutely win tonight up in Newark against an atrocious Devils club. The cruel reality of it is that with a win and some help elsewhere, the Flyers could be within four points of the postseason. (They’d need a Toronto win against Tampa Bay and a Winnipeg win against the Islanders, both in regulation, for that to happen.)
Steve Mason is going to start again, and while I’m pleased with that given that he is the better goaltender on the roster, I’m still a bit confused by Dave Hakstol’s thought process. (“I’m confused by Dave Hakstol” should go on my tombstone.) A week ago in Toronto, Hak said that he was starting Michal Neuvirth in a critical game because of the workload for each goalie. Now, Mason is starting in a back-to-back against one of the league’s worst teams, and in his third game in four days.
Whatever. That’s the world we live in. I’m guessing we’ll see the same lineup in front of Mason as we did last night against Pittsburgh, because I can’t imagine you’d mess with a lineup that just won a game 4-0 against one of the league’s best teams.
Backup goalie Keith Kinkaid will go for New Jersey, more evidence that this thing is going to be what snaps their losing streak.
Subject: Flyers vs. Devils recap: Everything right is wrong again
The Flyers lose Steve Mason and any momentum they gained against the Penguins with a brutal loss in New Jersey.
Your Flyers pre-game checklist:
- One day removed from a dominating win vs. the Penguins
- Playing the Devils in the second game of a back-to-back
- Facing the backup goalie
- Devils are reeling from a 10-game losing streak
- Media’s focus on Mason having never defeated the Devils in his career and starting back-to-back games
You have the script, you’ve likely determined the ending. Flyers come out flat to begin the game, a far cry from a invigorating effort the night before. They register their second shot nearly 5 minutes into the game having already staved off a Miles Wood shot that was saved by the post. After killing off a Gudas cross-checking minor, the Flyers set up a beautiful tic-tac-toe play for Michael Del Zotto to deposit his 5th goal of the season:
Tic. Tac. Toe. Giroux to Voracek to Del Zotto! 1-0 Flyers! pic.twitter.com/1NopwwJmwS— Sons of Penn (@SonsofPenn) March 16, 2017
In true 2016-17 season fashion, the joy ends with Valterri Filppula losing a defensive zone faceoff and Kyle Palmieri tying the game just 1 minute and 11 seconds later. This of course doesn’t jump start the Flyers; instead, they continue to sit back and allow dangerous chances. One of those chances nearly made the game 2-1 after a bad Andrew MacDonald turnover set up Adam Henrique down low to close out the 1st Period.
Did things get better the rest of the way? Nope! Highlights from the 2nd and rest of the way:
- Travis Konecny takes a tripping penalty 2 minutes into the second period
- A rare turnover by Ivan Provorov results in Henrique’s 1st goal of the game
- Filppula took a heavy hit and missed a few shifts in the 2nd
- Brayden Schenn scores his 21st goal (at even strength so it counts!) to bring deficit to a goal
- Taylor Hall breaks his stick on a one-timer on an open net, goes to retrieve a new stick, goes on on a breakaway and Forsbergs Steve Mason to put the Devils up 4-2:
Hall scores and Mason is down and hurt. pic.twitter.com/b2Upj0ynYn— Sons of Penn (@SonsofPenn) March 17, 2017
This resulted in Mason being guided off the ice, not because Hextall has seen enough, but rather an undisclosed injury. He didn’t return to the game and was diagnosed with cramping following the game. Please leave tasteful comments. Thanks. Your “fancy stats” for the game look of something out of a horror movie:
The Flyers struggled the rest of the way, getting beat 6-2 by a red and green clad AHL team who hasn’t won a game in weeks. We can stop with the playoff percentage chance and points updates. It’s done. Let it go. We can now start focusing on important things like the Phillies getting Mike Trout in 4 years.
And now the song is over now
And now the song is over now
And now the song is over now
The song is over now
Subject: Friday Morning Fly By: Well that's more like it.
*Well now we're back to normal. Losing to AHL teams is what this team does. RECAP!
*Our pal Kate was there taking some awesome pictures of the action, as always. [BSH]
*So...will the Flyers make a late rally and squeeze into the last wild card spot? (Answer: lol no, no they won't.) [Puck Daddy]
*Former Flyers' coach Mike Keenan is setting himself off on quite the little adventure. [Inquirer]
*DGB on ten players you should be watching down the stretch. [Sportsnet]
*And finally, because you need a little sunshine on a cold Friday, here's one Flyers' fans story of how this team brings he and his dad together. [BSH]
Subject: BSH Radio #102: Better than the actual Flyers
The gang got together to talk hockey during the Flyers-Devils game, which was a better choice than watching the Flyers-Devils game.
Recorded during the Flyers-Devils game on Thursday 3/16, the BSH crew does their best to ignore the inevitable travesty of Philly playing in Newark and discuss what they want to see from the hockey team the Flyers for the rest of the season. Neuvirth over Mason in the Toronto game, Bellemare's fight against Buffalo, Wayne's 200th goal in the Pittsburgh upset, and Ghost's resurgence are all better topics to discuss than whatever the hell went on in the Devils game.
Follow us on twitter @BSH_Radio so you don’t miss any of our endless complaints about the coaching staff.
Subject: Richard Sherman Trade Rumors: Should the Eagles try to get the Seahawks cornerback?
Subject: How much might the Eagles have to pay Jordan Matthews next year?
And will he be worth the dollar, dollar bills?
In his rookie season, he played the role of surprisingly great second-round rookie, sliding in behind Jeremy Maclin and learning from one of the hardest workers in the NFL.
His second year, Matthews found himself thrust into the forefront of the Eagles’ wideout corps, peerless in a sea of otherwise average players, and caught nearly 1,000 yards while dropping just a few too many passes. Matthews also became one of the team’s most vocal players in the locker room, an ebullient personality in a lost season.
And this past year? Matthews was basically the only functional wide receiver the Eagles had. He dealt with his first injury that forced him to miss a game. He kept dropping a few too many passes.
It wasn’t all bad, but it wasn’t all good, and now with one year left on his rookie contract and the Eagles radically shifting their stock of wide receivers this offseason, Matthews’ future with the Birds is uncertain. They were reportedly listening to offers for an unnamed wide receiver, who may or may not be Matthews! We don’t know!
What we do know is this: Jordan Matthews has played just well enough to earn a good amount of money next offseason, but not well enough to convince us he’ll absolutely be worth it.
So while it’s way too early to start thinking about next March, it really isn’t because this is the NFL. And free agency just concluded, with a number of wide receivers landing varying degrees of intriguing contracts which could tell us a thing or two about the kind of money the Eagles will need to shell out if they decide keeping Matthews is the correct decision when it comes time.
Kenny Britt: 4 years, $32.5M, $10.5M fully guaranteed
Per 16 games, since 2014: 52 receptions on 91 targets for 828 yards and 4 TDs
Let’s begin with Kenny Britt. At 28 years old, Britt’s worth and role is well-established in the league. He’s a good-not-great, starting-level wide receiver who can stretch the field (his 15.9 yards per reception since 2014 certainly isn’t too shabby) but, generally, doesn’t win you games consistently.
This past offseason he was three years older than Jordan Matthews will be next spring. What he had going for him, though, was a great 2016: he put up career numbers, hauling in 68 passes for 1,002 yards and five touchdowns while playing with the gosh darn Rams, who didn’t have a single quality quarterback on their roster.
Those numbers are what brought Britt his $32.5 million contract, not the 828 yards per season over three years. For Britt, it was about timing, and he hit free agency after the best year of his career.
Kenny Stills: 4 years, $32M, $17M fully guaranteed
Per 16 games, since 2013: 42 catches on 70 targets for 695 yards and 5 TDs
Stills was a very hot name leading into free agency, and for some time it was thought he might make upwards of $10 million annually, but in the end he landed at $8 million AAV, which is probably a closer to what he deserves, if not a slight overpay on the Dolphins’ part.
But they were willing to overpay him a little bit because he’s 24 years old. He turns 25 in a month, but the exact number isn’t important. What those two numbers represent is upside, and with a player whose primary skill is utilizing his speed, it’s good to lock him up when he’s young and that speed is still very much intact.
Stills’ per-16 game numbers in the first four years of his career, two of which were spent with Drew Brees, aren’t as eye-popping as you’d imagine. But, along with his age, Stills’ yards per reception (16.5), catch rate on targets (60%), and touchdown rate per reception (11.9%, more than three percent better than any other free agent WR) are why teams valued him so much.
His numbers in the aggregate pale next to those of Matthews, but Stills’ impact on a single target is gigantic.
Pierre Garçon: 5 years, $47.5M, $17.5 fully guaranteed
Per 16 games, since 2014: 73 receptions on 110 targets for 857 yards and 4 TDs
Garçon’s case is obviously unique, because he signed with a team flush with cash. But his production, which is eerily similar to that of Matthews, is also why.
Seriously, for one second, take a look at Garçon vs. Matthews:
Per 16 games, since 2014
Garçon: 73 receptions on 110 targets for 857 yards and 4 TDs
Matthews: 78 receptions on 121 targets for 929 yards and 6 touchdowns
Catch rate on targets
Anyway, with Garçon, like with Matthews, you know exactly what you’re getting. There’s very little risk, but the upside is also limited, which is why if he’d signed with any team other than the 49ers, this contract would’ve looked substantially different. Still, he’s getting paid the money, and if Matthews can find a team with an abundance of cap room next offseason, he might be able to pull off something similar.
So, a few takeaways from looking at these players and their respective contracts:
- Upside tends to get players good money, like Stills’ $8M AAV. Matthews, while still young, seems to be a known entity in the league: a very good slot receiver but not much else.
- A career year, obviously, will pique teams’ interest. It’ll make your stats look better in the aggregate, it’ll put your career in an “upward trajectory” light, and it’ll take advantage of general managers with short memories.
- Consistency is rewarded. Garçon, while 30 years old and probably past the absolute prime of his career, is still very good and very reliable, and he was rewarded with more money than he’s worth.
Matthews’ 2017 production, in a much more crowded WR corps, will partially inform what his future holds, but it won’t dictate it entirely. He’s shown through three years what he can be when in the right situation.
He’s also shown he and Carson Wentz work well together, which is priceless when you’re building a team around one central piece. Matthews is a locker room favorite of many players, and always puts a good foot forward for the franchise. How much is that worth to Howie Roseman and Joe Douglas, both of whom emphasized the importance of relationships at Alshon Jeffery’s introductory press conference?
There are no clear-cut answers here, and we still have plenty to sift through, especially with one season left on Matthews’ contract. He’s shown plenty to like, but a little to be worried about. Whether the Eagles will think highly enough of what they’ve seen from Matthews through (what will then be) four years to pay the man remains to be seen.
Subject: The 22 most underrated players in the 2017 NFL Draft
Featuring at least one player at every position.
With the 2017 NFL Draft less than two months away, the hype continues to build. With hype, there is pointed media focus surrounding a few players at each position and, frankly, it gets a bit boring. Every day you open up draft articles talking about Leonard Fournette, Myles Garrett, Mike Williams, John Ross' 40 yard dash and arguments over which quarterback is the best. Left in the path of this monotony are dozens of very good prospects who receive no recognition whatsoever. There are a few players who are legit top 40 talents who are not getting their due, big school players who got overshadowed and small program sleepers who have high NFL potential but do not get enough hype. These are names to look out for who could pop up in the middle rounds that should get you excited.
Quarterback: Alek Torgersen, Penn
This quarterback class has a lot of intrigue and good prospects so it is not surprising that an Ivy League prospect would have a hard time getting a lot of hype. Torgersen is well built at 6'3" and 230 pounds and he has an incredibly impressive arm with athleticism to move in the pocket and create offense with his feet. He is an aggressive deep passer who can stretch the field for an offense. He is still working on his footwork and accuracy with a steep learning curve coming from the Ivy league, but he is a physically gifted prospect who should intrigue in the later rounds.
Running Back: Jeremy McNichols, Boise State and I'tavius Mathers, MTSU
While McNichols is a bigger school prospect, it is pretty astounding how little hype he is getting. Yes, this is a deep running back class, but McNichols rushed for over 3000 yards and 43 touchdowns over the last two years at an FBS program and there is not a peep about him. He followed up a productive career with a solid outing at the combine and still nothing. McNichols is a shorter back, but he has nice agility, long speed, vision and third down ability, so it is hard to see why a team would not want him around.
I'tavius Mathers transferred from Ole Miss and after finally getting his chance at MTSU, was one of the most productive backs in the country. Mathers scored 17 touchdowns on the ground but more impressively was a major threat on third down and MTSU moved him all over the place to create mismatches. Mathers is a smaller, older prospect so it makes sense that he would not get a ton of run in this class. Regardless, he is a dynamic chess piece for an offense and will end up being a good player in the NFL.
Wide Receiver: Jerome Lane, Akron and Kenny Golladay, NIU
Jerome Lane is very, very new to the position of wide receiver. Lane was originally going to be a basketball player like his father (who played at Pitt), but ended up playing linebacker for the Akron Zips. After a short, productive stint on the defensive side of the ball, the 6'2", 226 pound Lane ended up at receiver. Within two years of the position change, Lane eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving. Lane plays offense with the mentality of a basketball player or a defender. He is very strong and incredibly physical dealing with defenders and when the ball is in the air, he has the mentality of Russell Westbrook looking for his next rebound. Lane is raw and not the fastest prospect, but his physicality and strong hands would make him an excellent slot receiver.
Kenny Golladay is another player who blossomed on a bigger stage. Golladay transferred from the FCS level University of North Dakota to NIU after his coach was fired. After sitting a season, Golladay rattled off two straight 1,000 yard seasons. The 6'4", 218 pound receiver has morel than ideal size for the position and made himself even more intriguing after running 4.5 at the combine. Golladay made his name winning contested catches, but also has the speed to run past defenses at the next level. NIU's quarterback really limited him so it will be exciting to see if he gets a bigger chance in the NFL.
Tight End: Michael Roberts, Toledo
This is one of the deepest tight end classes in memory so it is not a huge surprise that Michael Roberts is not getting his due. Regardless, the senior tight end scored a ridiculous 16 touchdowns this season on only 45 catches. This means he averaged a touchdown on every third catch. That is an unheard of rate. Roberts is also a massive player at 6'4", 270 pounds with 11.5 inch hands. He is an awesome blocker and while he does not have great speed, he is a physical, powerful runner. With all the athletic freaks in this class, it is easy for a more traditional type of tight end to fly under the radar, but Roberts is a gifted player who should help a team early and often in the NFL.
Tackles: Will Holden, Vanderbilt and Julie'n Davenport, Bucknell
Will Holden was a three year starer in the SEC at tackle, an impressive feat in itself. Holden played both tackle positions and the 6'7", 311 pounder mostly held his own. There are concerns about his relatively short arms, but Holden did a good job compensating with impressive technique and a good motor. Holden is at his best in the run game, using his overwhelming strength to drive defenders back. It is to be seen if NFL teams think he can play outside with shorter arms, but Holden certainly has the tape to suggest that it is possible.
Julie'n Davenport looks like he was built in a lab. At 6'7" and 318 pounds with long arms, it is hard to say Davenport does not look the part. He is a good athlete as well who absolutely dominated at Bucknell due to his physical superiority. However, despite his athletic ability, Davenport has a lot to work on in terms of technique, but it is hard not to like such a physical specimen past the first three rounds of the draft.
Guards: Dorian Johnson, Pitt and Nico Siragusa, SDSU
Dorian Johnson is a slightly bigger name but still feels like he does not get the due respect. Johnson is not only a good athlete, but he is an incredibly sound pass protector and a physical run blocker. The 6'5", 300 pounder is scheme versatile and will be one of many players in this class to seriously outplay their draft stock.
It is hard to make offensive line play exciting, but Nico Siragusa (no relation to Tony) is a site to behold at the guard position. The 6'4", 319 pound three year starter is a big reason the Aztecs had such a prolific running game. He is an athletic, downhill blocker with hulk strength and a high motor. He lacks polish as a pass protector, but his physical tools and nasty attitude will make him a contributor for an NFL team in the near future.
Center: Chase Roullier, Wyoming
In a not so overcrowded center class, it still feels like the same two names are being said over and over again. Meanwhile, Chase Roullier was a key player in Wyoming's offensive resurgence this season. Roullier is undersized with short arms, which will worry a lot of teams, but he is a solid athlete and plays with great strength and attitude. I would expect him to get looks from zone oriented teams in the later rounds and he could end up being a solid starter down the road.
Interior Defensive Line: Charles Walker, Oklahoma and Larry Ogunjobi, Charlotte
Charles Walker had a slightly tumultuous career with the Sooners, walking away from the team early due to injuries and hoping to preserve himself for the NFL draft. While some may question his dedication to the game, others will call that career sense. At 310 pounds, Walker not only has good size but is also explosive as well. He was up and down as a player, but his flashes were brilliant and tantalizing. It will be up to a team to take a chance on him despite consistency and injury history, but the payoff could be large.
Larry Ogunjobi has a very unique story leading to the NFL. A Nigerian immigrant, Ogunjobi was only playing football for three years before going to Charlotte and playing with their inaugural football team. That's right, Ogunjobi not only started with the program, but played in every single game of Charlotte's football history. Ogunjobi was massively productive as a defensive tackle, wracking up 29 tackles for a loss in his last two seasons. Ogunjobi is a very good athlete and an outstanding run defender. While there will be a major learning curve moving to the NFL, Ogunjobi has showed he is a quick learner.
Edge Defenders: Carroll Phillips, Illinois and Tarrell Basham, Ohio
In a stacked defensive line class, there are a ton of choices for under the radar guys, but Carroll Phillips is a guy who got overshadowed at Illinois by another guy who is arguably underrated in Duwane Smoot. Phillips is somewhat of a one year wonder, not really being talked about until a 19 TFL, nine sack final season at Illinois. However, Phillips is also a good athlete and though a bit light, has shown he can get after the passer. He is best suited standing up in the NFL, but it is hard not to see him find a role somewhere on an NFL defense.
Tarrell Basham had a very good final season at Ohio, winning the MAC Defensive Player of the Year after picking up 11.5 sacks and 16 tackles for a loss. At 6'4" and 269 pounds with long arms, Basham looks like a defensive end and has the athletic ability and strength to match. Basham is most impressive against the run as he loves setting the edge and working through traffic to find the ball carriers. While he has good straight-line speed, he lacks natural bend, limiting him as a pass rusher. This is not to say he can't rush the passer, more that it is not his strongest feature. Overall Basham is a very solid, well rounded defender and he could start on an NFL defense for a long time and be steady.
Linebackers: Alex Anzalone, Florida, Anthony Walker, Northwestern and Blair Brown, Ohio
Alex Anzalone would probably be a star if he could just stay healthy. The Gator missed a ton of time over the course of his career, a damn shame considering how gifted he is. The 6'3", 240 pound backer has ideal size and speed and flashed playmaking ability when he was on the field. While he could get swallowed up against the run, Anzalone would have major splash plays that showed off his upside. Hopefully he can stay healthy in the NFL because he could be a star.
Anthony Walker left school early after a productive career making plays for the Wildcats. Walker is shorter, but well built at nearly 240 pounds. He is an explosive athlete who does well in space and is a playmaker against the run and pass. He struggles with consistency and tends to let his overaggressiveness hurt his game, but it also creates opportunities for game changing plays. With shorter arms, teams will probably be a bit nervous about Walker so he could be had in the middle rounds and is a day one starter at linebacker.
Blair Brown is another smaller linebacker, not even eclipsing six feet tall, but he is built like a bowling ball and plays like one too. He is a smart, instinctive running back who packs a punch and has good athletic ability. His biggest issue is dealing with blockers in the run game, as he often tries to make blockers miss instead of working through traffic. His size will probably deter some teams, but he is an intelligent playmaker who deserves a shot.
Cornerbacks: Jeremy Cutrer, MTSU and Akhello Witherspoon, Colorado
Jeremy Cutrer was bound for LSU as a four star prospect before ending up taking the JUCO path and landing at Middle Tennessee State. The 6'2" Louisiana native comes from a tough background, overcoming a lot to get to where he is with an opportunity to play in the NFL. Cutrer is a long, physical cornerback who can ballhawk and also play the run. While some teams may have him as a safety, his length would be a huge asset at cornerback.
Akhello Witherspoon has been overshadowed for much of his career by Chidobe Awuzie, but may have asserted himself as the better prospect at the combine. 6'3" with 33 inch arms is a pretty rare profile in the NFL. Factor in how well he ran (4.45) and jumped (40.5 Vertical and 10'7" broad) and it is difficult not to want Witherspoon on your football team. In 2016, Witherspoon was second in the country with a ridiculous 21 broken up passes which is a testament to his rare size and ball skills. He has the size and speed to match up with mostly anyone and, in a deep cornerback class, he has been massively underrated.
Safety: Marcus Williams, Utah and Josh Jones, NC State
With all the talk of Jamaal Adams, Malik Hooker, Budda Baker and Obi Melifonwu; a lot of very good safeties are flying under the radar in this draft class. Marcus Williams had an outstanding combine which should get people to take notice of the career ballhawk as a top level safety prospect. With 10 interceptions in the last two years, Williams is a proven playmaker and now that he has the on paper athletic ability to match, it is hard to see him lasting very long when the draft roles around.
Where Marcus Williams is more of a pure free safety, Josh Jones is a guy you want closer to the line of scrimmage. At 6'1" and 220 pounds, Josh Jones is built like a linebacker and plays like one too. In 2016, Jones was the Wolfpack's best defender contributing in the run game (109 tackles, 4 TFLs) and pass game (3 INTs, 8 PDs, 1 Sack). Jones has great speed and flies all over the field. He is at his best playing closer to the line of scrimmage where he can be a tone setter as a tackler and cover shorter zones, so while he may be a bit more pigeonholed, he has the makings of a playmaking NFL strong safety.
In a deep draft class, it is easy for names to get lost, especially when draft media will regularly focus on the same ten guys every day. These names are not necessarily the most hidden of the hidden gems, rather some guys who deserve a bit more publicity during the process. As for the players who are overrated... those names will be coming your way soon.
Subject: Corey Davis is one of many 2017 NFL Draft prospects visiting the Eagles on Friday
Add another name to the list!
At this rate, this year’s entire draft class will be visiting the Eagles in Philadelphia on Friday. In addition to RB Dalvin Cook, RB Leonard Fournette, and WR Mike Williams, the Eagles are also hosting first-round wide receiver prospect Corey Davis (per Albert Breer). Davis is one of 30 prospects who will visit the Eagles leading up to the 2017 NFL Draft.
Davis, 22, measures in at 6-3, 209 pounds. In four years at Western Michigan, Davis posted 331 receptions for 5,278 yards (15.9 average) and 52 touchdowns.
For more on Davis, read BGN’s scouting report on him.
But draft evaluation is more than numbers, it is traits and Davis has NFL skills in spades. What stands out first is his size. The 6’3”, 215 pounder has a large, strong build with long arms and big hands. He uses his body incredibly well both in terms of fighting through contact at the line and also winning with the ball in the air. He has the prototypical possession receiver skills, but there is still so much more. Despite being a big receiver, Davis has excellent quickness and overall athletic ability. He is a savvy route runner who is quick through his breaks and is excellent at exposing soft spots in zone coverage, but he also has really impressive pure speed for his size that allows him to get open deep down the field. His second gear and size also make him dangerous after the catch and he has well above average vision with the ball in his hands to make him a threat to score from anywhere on the field.
Watch highlights of Davis in the video below. Find his individual game film on Draft Breakdown.
Corey Davis spider graph:
Complete list of known Philadelphia Eagles draft visits
Alabama CB Marlon Humphrey - [Click here]
Washington WR John Ross - [Click here]
Alabama LB Ryan Anderson - [Click here]
Alabama LB Reuben Foster - [Click here]
Florida State RB Dalvin Cook - [Click here]
LSU RB Leonard Fournette - [Click here]
Western Michigan WR Corey Davis