Jacksons Five: Observations from Game 2


Jacksons Five: Observations from Game 2

Sunday, April 17, 2011
Posted: 12:33 p.m.

By Jim Jackson
CSNPhilly.com Contributor

Well, so much for trends. You would have to think long and hard to find two games more different than Games 1 and 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal matchup between the Flyers and Sabres. Game 1 was tight and tense. There was little room for players to work with. Only one goal was the result. Game 2, however, was wild and crazy. Six goals in the first period alone. Power plays galore.

With the first two contests so different, it is kind of difficult to predict what Game 3 will be like. Nevertheless, lets look at some of the developments from Game 2 with respect to what they might mean as the series moves forward:

Blossoming on the big stage?

An argument can be made that 21-year-old James van Riemsdyk has been the Flyers best player through the first two games of this series. He has been involved physically, which is usually the barometer of how the rest of his game is going. The guy they call JVR is using his tremendous skating ability, his developing creativity, and some good old fashioned tenacity to resemble the power forward the Flyers were hoping to get when they selected him with the second overall pick in the 2007 draft.

Its possible van Riemsdyk is blossoming under the harsh glare of the postseason spotlight similarly to the way Claude Giroux and Ville Leino did last spring. However, the key is for van Riemsdyk to establish some consistency with his impressive performance. We have seen some glimpses of his potential over the last two years, but then he fades into the background for a spell.

If he maintains this level of performance for the balance of the playoffs, he will be well on his way to establishing himself as a legitimate top six forward in the NHL.

Let the goaltender carousel begin

The Flyers proved last season that they can go on a long postseason run without relying on just one netminder. Injuries led to much of the transition last year, but the fact is, both Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton played substantial roles in getting the club to within two victories of the Stanley Cup.

This time around, Sergei Bobrovsky gave way to Boucher in the second game of the playoff run. After a frenetic start to Game 2, Boucher seemed to bring a certain calm to the proceedings. He stopped 20 of 21 Buffalo shots and helped the Flyers recover and even the series.

No announcement will be made per Peter Laviolettes policy, but one has to imagine Boucher will get the call for Game 3. Hell be the guy as long as continues to perform well. Leighton is looming in the background, too. As long as the designated starter makes the key saves, he will continue to play. Maybe it will be a group effort again.

Solving Miller

Much of the talk after Game 1 was the massive problem the Flyers faced denting the seemingly impenetrable wall that was Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller. One game and five goals later, it does not seem like as much of a dilemma.

The Flyers fired a ton of rubber at the reigning Vezina Trophy winner. They have sent almost 140 pucks in his direction in the first two games, 69 of which have been on goal. Especially in Game 2, they have spent a lot of time in and around the blue paint of Millers crease. No matter how good a goalie is, that kind of traffic is disruptive and can knock him at least slightly off his game.

Futhermore, the Flyers spent much of the season as an explosive offensive club. Their offense has been spotty over the last little while. Potting five against a world class goalie in a critical playoff game should help to reestablish their attack mojo.

A power-play goal

I know. Big deal, they scored a power play goal in Game 2. But it took the Flyers 10 opportunities!

Still, it was a huge goal with the man-advantage tally in a game decided by just one goal. Without the Leino power-play marker, who knows how the game on Saturday turns out?

At least they got rid of the oh-for. Now, perhaps the Flyers can build on their first power play goal and make it an asset instead of an albatross as this series plays out. In reality, the Flyers generated quite a few chances with their man advantages. They hit some posts and made Miller work some. Perhaps its a sign the power play is about to start producing consistently.

The defense never rests

With so much special teams play in Game 2, and Danny Syvret only logging 4:58, the minutes started to pile up for the latest version of Philadelphias Big Four on defense. Andrej Meszaros (26:04) and Kimmo Timonen (25:18) both saw extensive ice time in Game 2. Both were absolute horses.

However, over the course of a long series, there are concerns about wear and tear on these guys. This has been a physical series thus far. Theres no reason to believe it will get any less physical in Buffalo. Can the defensemen hold up? Or will Chris Pronger ride in on his white horse and lend assistance at some point?

So, we shuffle off to Buffalo for the next two games. Who knows what to expect? The one thing we do know is that the Flyers were an outstanding road team during the course of the season. They won a club record 25 games away from home. There should be plenty of confidence that they can, at the very least, split the two games at HSBC Arena, and return home with the series even at worst.

E-mail Jim Jackson at jjackson@comcastsportsnet.com

Best of MLB: Stephen Strasburg stays unbeaten as Nats pound Cards


Best of MLB: Stephen Strasburg stays unbeaten as Nats pound Cards

WASHINGTON -- Stephen Strasburg (9-0) won his 12th consecutive decision dating to last season, pitching six innings of one-run ball as Washington salvaged a four-game split.

Strasburg improved to 12-0 in 15 starts since losing to the Mets on Sept. 9, and the Nationals have won all 15 of those games. The 12 consecutive winning decisions is a franchise record for a starter, breaking a mark shared by Livan Hernandez (2005) and Dennis Martinez (1989).

Jayson Werth connected for a pinch-hit grand slam. Wilson Ramos had three hits, including a two-run homer, and drove in four runs. Bryce Harper hit an RBI single during a three-run fourth off Michael Wacha (2-6), who lost his sixth straight decision (see full recap).

Dodgers score twice in 9th to top Mets
NEW YORK -- Adrian Gonzalez snapped a ninth-inning tie with a two-run single off suddenly struggling closer Jeurys Familia, and Los Angeles beat New York.

Curtis Granderson hit a tying triple for the Mets immediately after Clayton Kershaw was lifted with two outs in the eighth. But the Dodgers quickly regrouped for their sixth victory in seven games since losing four straight.

Kershaw struck out 10, walked none and capped a magnificent May with another sublime performance.

Adam Liberatore (1-0) got the win. Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his 15th save.

Familia (2-1) allowed two runs on two hits and two walks (see full recap).

Castro's homer Yanks' only hit in victory
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Starlin Castro's two-run, seventh-inning homer off Jake Odorizzi was the Yankees' only hit of the game, enough to give New York a 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday.

According to Baseball Reference data going back to 1913, the Yankees' only other one-hit win was when Charlie Mullen had an RBI single to beat Cleveland in six innings in a doubleheader nightcap on July 10, 1914.

Nathan Eovaldi (6-2) gave up one run and six hits in six innings to win his career-best fifth consecutive start and beat Odorizzi (2-3).

Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman each pitched a perfect inning and combined for seven strikeouts. Chapman got his seventh save (see full recap).

Deitrich hurt on odd play in Marlins' win over Braves
ATLANTA -- Derek Dietrich hit a tiebreaking, two-run homer and drove in four runs before getting hurt on a foul ball hit into Miami's dugout.

Dietrich's homer landed deep in the lower section of the right-field seats in the sixth, giving Miami a 3-1 lead. A former Georgia Tech star, Dietrich added a two-run double off Eric O'Flaherty in the seventh inning, then was hit by a foul ball off the bat of Christian Yelich in the ninth.

The team said X-rays were negative and Dietrich was to remain in Atlanta on Sunday night for further evaluations.

Tom Koehler (3-5) allowed three runs -- two earned -- three hits and five walks in seven-plus innings. Julio Teheran (1-5) gave up three runs, five hits and three walks in 5 1/3 innings (see full recap).

Correa's home run lifts Astros over Angels in 13
ANAHEIM, Calif.  -- Pinch-hitter Carlos Correa had a three-run homer off Mike Morin (1-1) in the 13th inning.

Correa got a run-scoring hit in the 13th inning for the second time in six games, following up his game-ending single against Baltimore on Tuesday.

Albert Pujols had three hits for the Angels, who blew an eighth-inning lead and stranded 14 runners while losing for the fourth time in five games.

Michael Feliz (3-1) pitched the 12th for Houston (see full recap).

Report: P.J. Carlesimo won't join Sixers' coaching staff


Report: P.J. Carlesimo won't join Sixers' coaching staff

It doesn't sound like the Sixers' replacement for Mike D'Antoni will be the most rumored name for the position.

NBA coaching veteran P.J. Carlesimo has decided to not join Brett Brown's staff as associate head coach and instead will remain a television analyst, according to tweets Sunday night by ESPN's Mark Stein.

Stein added that despite "strong mutual interest," Carlesimo made the decision for family reasons.

The 67-year-old Carlesimo has spent parts of nine seasons as a head coach in the league and five more as an assistant. He was last on a NBA bench when he took over as the Brooklyn Nets' interim head coach in 2012-13.

So the Sixers still have a vacancy on their bench after D'Antoni, who joined the Sixers in the middle of last season after Jerry Colangelo joined the organization, signed on to become head coach of the Houston Rockets last week. Who the team's next choice for the role is remains to be seen.

Stanley Cup Final: Long roads culminate for both Sharks and Penguins


Stanley Cup Final: Long roads culminate for both Sharks and Penguins

PITTSBURGH -- It wasn't supposed to take the San Jose Sharks this long to reach their first Stanley Cup Final. It wasn't supposed to take this long for Sidney Crosby to guide the Pittsburgh Penguins back to a destination many figured they'd become a fixture at after winning it all in 2009.

Not that either side is complaining.

Certainly not the Sharks, whose nearly quarter-century wait to play on the NHL's biggest stage will finally end Monday night when the puck drops for Game 1. Certainly not Crosby, who raised the Cup after beating Detroit seven years ago but has spent a significant portion of the interim dealing with concussions that threatened to derail his career and fending off criticism as the thoughtful captain of a team whose explosiveness during the regular season too often failed to translate into regular mid-June parade through the heart of the city.

Maybe the Penguins should have returned to the Cup Final before now. The fact they didn't makes the bumpy path the franchise and its superstar captain took to get here seem worth it.

"I think I appreciated it prior to going through some of those things," Crosby said. "I think now having gone through those things I definitely appreciate it more. I think I realize how tough it is to get to this point."

It's a sentiment not lost on the Sharks, who became one of the NHL's most consistent winners shortly after coming into the league in 1991. Yet spring after spring, optimism would morph into disappointment. The nadir came in 2014, when a 3-0 lead over Los Angeles in the first round somehow turned into a 4-3 loss. The collapse sent the Sharks into a spiral that took a full year to recover from, one that in some ways sowed the seeds for a breakthrough more than two decades in the making.

General manager Doug Wilson tweaked the roster around fixtures Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton, who remained hopeful San Jose's window for success hadn't shut completely even as the postseason meltdowns piled up.

"I always believed that next year was going to be the year, I really did," Thornton said. "I always thought we were a couple pieces away. Even last year not making the playoffs, I honestly thought we were a couple pieces away, and here we are."

The Penguins, like the Sharks, are a study in near instant alchemy. General manager Jim Rutherford rebuilt the team on the fly after taking over in June, 2014 and with the team sleepwalking last December, fired respected-but-hardly-charismatic Mike Johnston and replaced him with the decidedly harder-edged Mike Sullivan. The results were nearly instantaneous.

Freed to play to its strengths instead of guarding against its weaknesses, Pittsburgh rocketed through the second half of the season and showed the resilience it has sometimes lacked during Crosby's tenure by rallying from a 3-2 deficit against Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference finals, dominating Games 6 and 7 to finally earn a shot at bookending the Cup that was supposed to give birth to a dynasty but instead led to years of frustration.

True catharsis for one side is four wins away. Some things to look for over the next two weeks of what promises to be an entertaining final.

Fresh faces
When the season began, Matt Murray was in the minor leagues. Now the 22-year-old who was supposed to be Pittsburgh's goalie of the future is now very much the goalie of the present. Pressed into action when veteran Marc-Andre Fleury suffered a concussion on March 31, Murray held onto the job even after Fleury returned by playing with the steady hand of a guy in his 10th postseason, not his first. San Jose counterpart Martin Jones served as Jonathan Quick's backup when the Kings won it all in 2014 and has thrived while playing behind a defense that sometimes doesn't give him much to do. Jones has faced over 30 shots just four times during the playoffs.

"HBK" is H-O-T:
Pittsburgh's best line during the playoffs isn't the one centered by Crosby or Malkin but Nick Bonino, who has teamed with Phil Kessel and Carl Hagelin to produce 17 goals and 28 assists in 18 games. Put together when Malkin missed six weeks with an elbow injury, the trio has given the Penguins the balance they desperately needed after years of being too reliant on their stars for production.

Powerful Sharks
San Jose's brilliant run to the Finals has been spearheaded by a power play that is converting on 27 percent (17 of 63) of its chances during the playoffs. The Sharks are 9-2 when they score with the man advantage and just 3-4 when it does not.

Old men and the C(up)
Both teams have relied heavily on players who began their NHL careers in another millennium. Pittsburgh center Matt Cullen, who turns 40 in November, has four goals during the playoffs. Thornton and Marleau, both 36, were taken with the top two picks in the 1997 draft that was held in Pittsburgh while 37-year-old Dainius Zubrus draws stares from younger teammates when he tells them he used to play against Hall of Famer (and current Penguins owner) Mario Lemieux.

"When I say 'Twenty years ago I was playing against Lemieux, they say 'I was 2-years-old,'" Zubrus said.