Phillies-Cards NLDS Game 1: Today, the Game Gets Bigger

Phillies-Cards NLDS Game 1: Today, the Game Gets Bigger

Finally, postseason baseball is back here in Philadelphia.

The Phillies went out and earned their trip to the playoffs this season by putting in a historic 162-game campaign. Philly fans enjoyed every moment of the record-setting ride, but it also felt like a bit of a formality, an exercise the Fightins needed to go through in order to start these playoffs.

The 7.5 months since the team first assembled down in Clearwater on Valentine's Day all led to tonight's NLDS game 1 against the St. Louis Cardinals.

"I'm excited about the game today," Charlie Manuel said before the game. "I think any time you get into the playoffs, I think this is the second piece of the pie. It's a four-piece pie. One of the big hurdles we've already got, but now this starts a new ballgame today, three out of five. Three out of five might be the toughest -- the first round might be the toughest round in the playoffs."

The Phils had their highs and lows throughout the regular season. Mostly highs, but they did battle their fair share of injuries. Thankfully, all of the core guys Charlie Manuel wants on the field are healthy and ready to go for the first playoff series.

[NLDS Game 1 Lineups]

Philadelphians expect the Phillies to defeat the Cardinals. Ruben Amaro has assembled the best starting pitching staff in all of baseball. The Phils have perhaps the best defense in the National League and one of the best in the history of the game. And Hunter Pence has breathed new life into a now more balanced offense.

This is not a Phillies team that will give a series away. They're too savvy for that. If they lose, the hot Cardinals will have to step up and play above what people expect out of them.

They'll also have to beat Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels.

Team's have not had all that much luck against Doc in Philadelphia this year.

The Phillies had an .800 winning percentage -- winning 12 while dropping only three -- in Roy Halladay starts at Citizens Bank Park this season.

And then there was his playoff debut last postseason at Citizens Bank Park. Boy, was that a fun one.

It all starts tonight at 5:07 p.m. from South Philadelphia. All of those mostly meaningless September games are behind us. Today, the game means much, much more.

"This is a huge series," Charlie Manuel said this afternoon. "The game got bigger today. Today's game is the biggest one we've played so far. That's kind of how I look at it. But at the same time, we've earned the right to have fun and enjoy the game, but we want to go out there and play our best baseball and play hard and have some fun and let it all hang out, see what we can do, and I think that we are -- I don't think, I know we're ready, and I'm looking forward to it. So are the players."

Let's get funner.

Watch: Travis Konecny scores his 1st NHL goal, joyfully hugs Ivan Provorov

Watch: Travis Konecny scores his 1st NHL goal, joyfully hugs Ivan Provorov

The first of many for the kid.

Travis Konecny on Tuesday night scored goal No. 1 of what should be an exciting and promising career in orange and black.

Not only was it the 19-year-old's first NHL marker, but it ignited a third-period comeback from three goals down as the Flyers stunned the Sabres at the Wells Fargo Center with a 4-3 shootout win when they looked dead in the water at second intermission.

"Obviously, it makes it 3-1," Brayden Schenn said of Konecny's special moment. "It gets the crowd going a bit. It gets us going. Any time a guy scores a first goal, like I said, it gets a little more excitement through the building and through our team."

The goal wasn't of the flashy variety, but it epitomized the youngster's complete game. Teammates have routinely praised Konecny for his willingness to score ugly by finding the greasy areas — as we so love to call them — and doing work, despite his a not-so-intimidating frame.

So skillfully, Konecny deflected a power-play point drive by the other 19-year-old Ivan Provorov. Like a little kid — then again, he is a teenager — Konecny leapt into the boards in celebration, smiling ear to ear. In came Provorov for a big hug. Watching those two have fun is fun.

Flyers fans, frame this screenshot and hang it somewhere (and don't you dare cut out Matt Read). Meanwhile, for Konecny's goal and the celebration, watch the video above.

Instant Replay: Flyers 4, Sabres 3 (SO)

Instant Replay: Flyers 4, Sabres 3 (SO)


A very tired Flyers squad came back with a vengeance against the well-rested Buffalo Sabres Tuesday night to win, 4-3, in a shootout at the Wells Fargo Center.
Claude Giroux got the shootout winner.

It was an ugly affair for 40 minutes, starting with goalie Michal Neuvirth, who allowed three goals on 17 shots before being lifted in the second period for the second time in two weeks. The Flyers trailed 3-0 going into the third period.
Whatever energy the Flyers had coming back from Montreal on Monday was saved for the third period when they got three power-play goals from Travis Konecny, Brayden Schenn and Mark Streit to make it 3-3.
The Sabres had not played a game in five days while the Flyers are in the midst of six games in nine days and it showed.
The rookie Konecny scored his first NHL goal in the third period, tipping home Ivan Provorov’s point drive during a power play.
Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas returned after serving a six-game suspension to begin the season.
New lines
In an effort to get Schenn going — scoreless in three games coming in — coach Dave Hakstol dropped him to the third line with Nick Cousins and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. Matt Read, the club’s top goal scorer, moved into Schenn’s spot on the top line with Giroux and Wayne Simmonds.
Boyd Gordon played his 700th NHL game.
Notable goals
Konecny’s first NHL marker.
Goalie report
There was probably not much Neuvirth could do on the Sabres' first goal. Zemgus Girgensons shot from a hard angle in the corner to the net and the puck jumped, hitting Tyler Ennis for a 1-0 lead in the second period. That said, he wasn’t very good on the next two goals. Neuvirth has been pulled twice in just three starts.
Power play
The Flyers' power play awakened. Konecny's goal, plus Schenn's and Streit's. That marked a season high, too.
Penalty kill
Chris VandeVelde overskated the puck during a shorthanded two-on-one for what would have been a goal in the first period. Gordon lost a draw to Ryan O’Reilly and Matt Moulson jumped on it, went to the net with purpose for a quick backhander to make it 2-0 3:56 into the second period. Moulson had two power-play goals. The Flyers' PK units were poor.
Simmonds avoided a hearing and possible suspension for his cross check from behind to Montreal’s Andrei Markov on Monday night that jolted the Canadiens defenseman into the boards face-first. The NHL’s Department of Player Safety reviewed the hit and saw no cause for action.
Dale Weise (suspended), Scott Laughton (knee), Michael Del Zotto (knee), Michael Raffl (abdominal pull) and Nick Schultz (healthy). 
Up next
The Flyers will be off on Wednesday. They are in the midst of six games in nine days and will host Arizona on Thursday at the Wells Fargo Center.