Golf Clap: Sixers Clinch Playoffs, Winning Record With Win in New Jersey

Golf Clap: Sixers Clinch Playoffs, Winning Record With Win in New Jersey

Bust out the Canada Dry. The Philadelphia 76ers have clinched a playoff
spot—their fourth in the last five years, a feat matched in the East by
only Boston, Miami, Orlando and Atlanta—by defeating the Deron Williams-less New Jersey Nets
in the Nets' last-ever game in the Garden State. The win not only
ensures that the Sixers will be playing May basketball, but also
guarantees the Ballers their first season with a winning record since
2004-05. The Sixers now sit at 34-30, the same record as the New York
Knicks, though the Knicks have the tiebreaker due to winning the season
series.

The win was the kind of team-wide, bench-centric effort that the team
used to breeze through lesser squads earlier in the year. Thaddeus Young
and Evan Turner went a combined 13-16 from the field for 28 points,
while Andre Iguodala posted a trademark near-triple-double with 14
points, seven boards and nine assists. Even Lavoy Allen got into the
mix, playing in the stead of an ineffective Nik Vucevic (just 2:20 of
game time after starting at center), scoring nine points on 4-5 shooting
with four rebounds. Things got a little sticky in the third, but Thad,
Evan and Sour Patch Lou Williams helped the team separate going into the
fourth, and the Nets fans took one last chance to boo their team on
their home floor.

 
So...yay? Making the playoffs, that's a good thing, right? Depends on
who you ask, I suppose. Watching your team in the post-season is
supposed to be the reward for sticking with your team through the entire
regular-season grind, but obviously it's hard to get too enthused about
this Sixers team that had gone 6-13 before their recent three-game
winning streak, demolishing all of the excitement this team had started
the season with. It's probably still a preferable finish to last year,
when the team lost five of their last six (including a humiliating home
loss to the Detroit Pistons at season's end) to finish the year at .500
again, but it's not exactly the Phils clinching the NL East or anything.

Now, the Sixers have two games left, at Milwaukee and at Detroit, while
the Knicks play the Clippers at MSG and the Bobcats in Charlotte.
Optimally, both teams will win both remaining games, so the Sixers can
enter the playoffs feeling good about themselves while still slotting
into the eighth seed, allowing them to face the maybe-less-superhuman
Chicago Bulls instead of the Miami Heat in the first round. Regardless
of who they face, it's hard to believe that they can do better than the
ol' First Round Tough Out playoff warmup, though against the Bulls, at
least they'd have a (very, very distant) shot. Is that worth the
possible difference between (roughly) the 17th pick and the 12th pick in
next year's draft? You be the judge.

On an even-less-triumphant note, I'd like to issue a fond farewell to
the New Jersey Nets. Yes, the team sucked for a long time, yes, their
games against the Sixers were always unwatchable, but I still feel a
great deal of affection and sympathy for the beleaguered Nets. That
Prudential Center was a very underrated place to watch a basketball
game—my friends and I could basically get an entire section to ourselves
for about $2 each on StubHub. They'll be infinitely cooler in Brooklyn,
but likely a lot less lovable. Godspeed, New Jersey basketball.

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets top Red Wings to notch 5th straight win

Best of NHL: Blue Jackets top Red Wings to notch 5th straight win

DETROIT -- Brandon Dubinsky scored a tiebreaking goal in the second period and the surging Columbus Blue Jackets won their fifth straight game, 4-1 over the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night.

Lukas Sedlak got his first NHL goal for the Blue Jackets, who have earned at least a point in 12 of their last 13 games. Cam Atkinson contributed a short-handed goal in the first period for Columbus.

Dylan Larkin's power-play goal in the second was the only scoring of the night for the Red Wings. Sergei Bobrovsky had 32 saves for the Blue Jackets.

Sam Gagner scored into an empty net with 13.9 seconds remaining (see full story). 

Staal scores in 6th round of SO to lift Wild over Oilers
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Eric Staal scored in the sixth round of a shootout and the Minnesota Wild beat the Edmonton Oilers 3-2 on Friday night.

Matt Dumba and Jason Zucker scored in regulation for Minnesota, which has won three straight.

Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk made 25 saves. He entered with a league-best .946 save percentage and 1.65 goals-against average.

Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had goals for the Oilers, whose four-game losing streak began with a 2-1 home overtime loss to the Wild last Sunday.

Staal scored on a backhand deke before Nugent-Hopkins fired wide in the sixth round (see full story). 

Raanta, Rangers beat Blackhawks 1-0 in overtime
CHICAGO -- Nick Holden scored 55 seconds into overtime, Antti Raanta made 26 saves against his former team and the New York Rangers beat the Chicago Blackhawks 1-0 on Friday night.

Derek Stepan passed from the boards to a streaking Holden in the middle of the ice, and he beat Scott Darling on the stick side for his fourth goal of the season.

Darling was going for his second straight shutout while subbing for injured starter Corey Crawford but had to settle for another solid performance.

Raanta, who made his NHL debut with Chicago in 2013 and played for the Blackhawks for two seasons before he was traded to New York, improved to 15-0-3 in 20 career appearances at the United Center.

The 27-year-old Raanta had 17 saves in Thursday's 2-1 victory at Winnipeg, and coach Alain Vigneault opted to give him a second straight start over Henrik Lundqvist because of his recent play and his success in Chicago (see full story).

Oshie, Johansson, Grubauer lift Caps over Sabres 4-1
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- T.J. Oshie and Marcus Johansson each scored a goal, Philipp Grubauer made 27 saves and the Washington Capitals beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-1 on Friday night for their third straight win.

Jakub Vrana and John Carlson also scored, helping Washington beat Buffalo for the third time in 15 days.

Kyle Okposo scored and Robin Lehner made 25 saves for Buffalo. The Sabres have lost three of their last four.

Oshie gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead 6:43 into the second period when he lifted a shot from the right edge of the crease past Lehner. Jay Beagle drew two defenders into the corner and sent the puck back to a wide open Oshie for his ninth goal of the season (see full story). 

Flyers-Stars 5 things: Streaking like it's 2002?

Flyers-Stars 5 things: Streaking like it's 2002?

Flyers (16-10-3) vs. Stars (11-11-6)
1 p.m. on CSN and CSNPhilly.com

Remember when it was a fight for the Flyers to simply sew together back-to-back wins?

Prior to this run, they had done it just twice in the first 22 games.

Now, they’re the hottest team in the NHL, winners of seven straight and trying to make it eight on Saturday afternoon when they welcome the Dallas Stars to the Wells Fargo Center.

Here are five things you need to know for the matchup:

1. The great eight?
Jeremy Roenick, Mark Recchi, John LeClair and Eric Desjardins.

Roman Cechmanek and Brian Boucher.

These are just some of the players that were wearing Flyers jerseys when the team last won eight consecutive games, back on Jan. 6-19, 2002.

It’s worth mentioning, before the 2004-05 season, winning streaks were a bit more challenging with a tie being the result if overtime went scoreless. The extra session was also not 3-on-3, like it is now.

Still, what the current Flyers are doing is impressive. They’ve gone to the shootout only once over the seven-game spurt and have outscored the opposition by 10 goals, 27-17.

2. Raffl winners
Dave Hakstol has called Michael Raffl a big-bodied, straight-line forward, which is certainly not off the mark.

But from time to time, Raffl will show the deceptive skill side of his game.

He did it Thursday night to win the Flyers’ 6-5 affair over the Oilers in the final minute and a half of regulation for his second game-winner over the last three contests.

"Raf has this stutter step that's undercover speedy," Steve Mason said postgame Thursday (see story). "He used it in Nashville to get a big goal and then here tonight.

"It looks like he's going to stop fully up, but he finds another gear and he really adds another element to that line that brings physical play.

"He has that sneaky talent, too, that can make you pay."

Raffl is quietly making teams pay. The Flyers are 4-0-2 in games that he scores a goal. Despite missing eight games because of injury, the 28-year-old Austrian is on pace for around 20 goals.

That’s much-valued secondary scoring and complementary play.

3. Not so bright
Before reeling off seven straight wins, the Flyers were in a similar spot to which the Stars are in now.

Dallas, which finished 50-23-9 last season — best in the Western Conference — after starting 19-5-0, can’t find consistency through 28 games this season. The Stars have won back-to-back games just once thus far and goaltending has been an issue as Dallas is surrendering an NHL-worst 3.18 goals per game.

The Stars do not lack offensive firepower, however. Center Tyler Seguin is tied for second in the NHL with 29 points (10 goals, 19 assists), while linemate Jamie Benn isn’t far behind at 24 (eight goals, 16 assists).

Also, veteran forward Jason Spezza is coming off a three-point game (one goal, two assists) in Dallas’ 5-2 win over the Predators.

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: We’ve got to go Jakub Voracek after the winger’s one-goal, three-assist performance on Thursday night. Voracek has been an absolute monster on the seven-game winning streak, posting 11 points with three goals and eight assists for a plus-6 rating.

Stars: It’s hard not to say Seguin, a dynamic player who always gives the Flyers trouble. His 21 career points (nine goals, 12 assists) against the orange and black are his second most versus any team.

5. This and that
• Mason is on a career-best six-game winning streak in which he’s posted a 2.27 goals-against average and .931 save percentage. Since Nov. 12, Mason is 9-3-1 with a 2.34 goals-against average and .923 save percentage.

• Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen is a dreadful 1-10-3 lifetime against the Flyers with a 3.49 goals-against average and .891 save percentage, while backup Antti Niemi is 4-1-0 with 1.48 goals-against average and .947 save percentage.

• Dallas has won its last three meetings with the Flyers by a combined score of 7-3.

• The Stars have lost 11 of 15 on the road.

• Flyers defenseman Ivan Provorov has four points (two goals, two assists) in his last four games.