So Glad Jrue Made the All-Star Game Instead of Those Other Dudes on Good Teams

So Glad Jrue Made the All-Star Game Instead of Those Other Dudes on Good Teams

When Golden State's David Lee was interviewed after a recent Warriors
win about the possibility of being honored with an All-Star nod, he said
that what would make the nomination so special was that it would come
because his team had played well, reflecting better on him by
comparison. Needless to say, this was not the case with our own Jrue
Holiday, but if I were him, I would find the honor of being chose in
spite of my team far more flattering and special than being honored
because of my team. If you're chosen as an All-Star when your team has a
16-24 record and hasn't won consecutive games since November, you must
have been really, really good this season.

Jrue Holiday has been really, really good this season. Better
than we would have thought, better than we could have expected, better
than we might've even hoped. He was put in just about every possible
position to flounder—given far more responsibility than he had in
previous years, but with far fewer weapons to work with—and still
managed to put up not just career numbers, but numbers nobody else in
the league is putting up. (The list of players averaging 19 points and
nine assists starts and ends with Jrue.) When watching him put in a
signature takeover performance during that game against the Raptors, I
posed the question (to myself) "Has watching Jrue this year been worth
having to watch the rest of the team?" I concluded that indeed, it had.

Jrue's numbers (and he's not just a numbers guy, he's damn
impressive to watch as well) have been good enough this year that his
All-Star candidacy should've been a no-brainer. But certain
coaches—let's call one of them D. Collins, for example—insist that when
choosing All-Stars, you work from the top of the standings down, and if
you come up with enough plausible candidates before you get to the 9th
and 10th seeds, tough luck for the guys on those lottery-bound teams.

And so candidates like Brooklyn's Deron Williams, Milwaukee's
Brandon Jennings, and especially New York's J.R. Smith were given
protracted consideration for All-Star status, with three of the four TNT
analysts choosing Smith to just one (Barkley, duh) going to bat for The
Damaja. No matter that all three's stats were easily inferior to
Holiday, that D-Will was so bad at the start of the year that his coach
basically got fired for it, and that Milwaukee and New York would gladly
trade either Jennings or Smith for Holiday in a heartbeat—these guys
were on teams with winning records, therefore they must have been
worthier than Holiday.

Thankfully, Jrue was the one who got the nod—along with the
Cavaliers' Kyrie Irving, who had an even worse record (but arguably an
even more impressive season) than Holiday. As happy as I was that Jrue
had been selected, it's nothing compared to how angry I would've been if
we were deprived of the One Good Thing that could've come out of the
Bynumless era of the 2012-13 76ers because coaches decided that other
dudes should be awarded for having better teammates. The TNT bros still
waxed infuriantingly rhapsodic about Smith's snub—et tu, Ernie
Johnson?—but whatever. Justice was done.

So for the second straight year, the Sixers have a first-time
All-Star. But more than Iguodala's selection last year—which, while not
undeserved, was certainly helped dramatically by the Liberty Ballers'
excellent first half to the season—this one really feels earned. The
Sixers have been awful to watch this year, but at least we have Jrue,
one of the best guys in the East, representing for us, making sure we
don't fade into total national anonymity as we wait for Bynum's legs to
grow back. We can't wait to see him running the fast break with Paul
George and getting backdoor feeds from Joakim Noah in Houston a couple
weeks from now.

Flyers answer Ron Hextall's plea with comeback OT win over Islanders

Flyers answer Ron Hextall's plea with comeback OT win over Islanders

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — Shayne Gostisbehere’s fist pump was so vicious and mighty, the celebration was probably felt back in Philadelphia.

This was an exultation the entire Flyers felt, too.

When it started to look like the bye week wasn’t the break they needed, the Flyers reached down deep and got one Sunday night at the Barclays Center in the form of a 3-2 overtime victory over the Islanders (see Instant Replay).

“It allows you to take a breath,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “That’s one thing for sure.”

A sigh of relief for a team beaten and bruised — losers of three straight by a combined score of 15-4, not to mention 3-9-3 in its past 15 games. The Flyers had lost the day prior on home ice to the Devils, 4-1, with a performance not exactly inspiring confidence following five days off.

On Sunday, they trailed 2-0 in the second period.

“We've got to get better at dealing with adversity when something goes wrong,” general manager Ron Hextall said bluntly before the game. “We need to get back on the horse and get back going. Big deal, a team scored a goal. We need to react better to it.”

Finally, the Flyers reacted the way their GM had been hoping.

They flipped the deficit into a victory when Gostisbehere skated behind the net and put the puck on Claude Giroux’s stick for the game-winner with 1:40 left in the extra session. Gostisbehere whipped his arm through the air and embraced Giroux, along with Jakub Voracek, who started the play by stripping Islanders captain John Tavares.

“On a lot of different levels, it’s an important win,” Hakstol said. “It’s huge. And more importantly for us, a great effort. Thought we deserved the two points. Sometimes maybe that’s what it takes to get over the hump — a tremendous effort for 60-plus minutes. I thought we got that out of everyone tonight.”

For Giroux, it was his first goal since Dec. 21.

For Steve Mason, his first win since Dec. 21.

And for the Flyers, their first road victory since Dec. 14, as they went 0-6-3 in the previous nine games away from home.

Yeah, “it was needed,” as Wayne Simmonds said of the win.

“We’ve been fighting it lately and I thought that was a good game from start to finish,” he said. “I thought everyone played well. I think we made bounces go our way tonight instead of hoping and waiting.”

Simmonds scored what might have been the biggest goal of the game. The Flyers, down 1-0 in the second period, came up empty for 33 seconds of a 5-on-3 power play and the proceeding 5-on-4 advantage. The Islanders then padded the lead to 2-0 moments later, putting the Flyers’ backs against the wall.

But Simmonds kept his team from uncoiling with a goal at 14:10 of the period, giving the Flyers life at second intermission. If not for that score, who knows how the Flyers come out in the third period, trailing by multiple goals yet again.

"I think we were plying well,” Giroux said. “We had a lot of chances and [the puck] wasn't going in. Everybody on the bench was frustrated. When Wayne got that first goal, I think [there was] a little relief on the bench. I haven't seen a team celebrate so much just for a first goal. It was kind of a relief and we had a little boost out of that.”

Ivan Provorov scored the equalizer 1:47 into the final period when he maintained possession from the blue line to the circle, adeptly skating around two Islanders to put the puck on net. Provorov’s pass to Travis Konecny hit off the skate of New York’s Adam Pelech and into the net.

“I came off the bench and I saw [Brayden Schenn] was going into the zone, so I took a few hard strides, got the puck from him and I saw it was kind of an odd-man situation,” Provorov said. “I held on to the puck a little bit, saw T.K. going backdoor, passed it there and it went off their D skate.”

Just as important as the timely goals was the Flyers’ discipline. Against the Devils, the Flyers compiled 19 penalty minutes, forcing them on seven penalty kills. This time, the Flyers sharpened up, not allowing the Islanders a power play until midway through the third period. In total, they had just four penalty minutes and killed off both power plays faced.

That gave them a chance.

“We just kept saying it the whole time, ‘Keep going, keep going, guys,’” Simmonds said. “We just need one [goal] and from one comes two, and Mase held the fort.”

Mason made 17 of his 36 saves in the third period and overtime combined.

Now, the Flyers at least go into another important back-to-back — starting Wednesday at the Rangers before welcoming the Maple Leafs Thursday — with some confidence instead of a lost weekend.

“I thought the focus was purely on going out and playing well,” Hakstol said. “And you know, that’s harder to do than you might know — when you start to feel some of the pressure without a win in a little bit. I really liked that side of it. Even in that situation, all the guys played well. Hopefully that puts our entire team in the right direction.’’

Best of NHL: Crosby scores league-leading 28th goal in win vs. Bruins

Best of NHL: Crosby scores league-leading 28th goal in win vs. Bruins

PITTSBURGH -- Conor Sheary scored two goals, Sidney Crosby added his league-leading 28th and the Pittsburgh Penguins won their fourth straight game, 5-1 over the Boston Bruins 5-1 on Sunday.

Pittsburgh led 2-1 through two periods before breaking out in the third with three goals in a span of 2 minutes, 57 seconds.

Sheary scored his 17th and has nine goals in nine games. Bryan Rust added his 12th and Patric Hornqvist his 11th for the Penguins, who won a season-high seventh straight at home. Pittsburgh the NHL's best home team, is 13-0-1 in its last 14 home games.

Evgeni Malkin had two assists for a season-best seven-game point streak. Crosby added two assists for a three-point game. Matt Murray made 44 saves to win his fourth straight game.

David Krejci scored his 11th for the Bruins, who have lost four straight and five of their last six (see full recap).

Rangers shut out Red Wings in 1-0 OT win
DETROIT -- J.T. Miller scored at 1:56 of overtime to lift the New York Rangers to a 1-0 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday.

Henrik Lundqvist made 21 saves for his second shutout of the season and 61st of his career. The Rangers managed only 19 shots in a game that featured few memorable chances by either team.

The winner came when Mats Zuccarello and Miller swooped in alone on Detroit goalie Jared Coreau. Zuccarello made a simple pass to Miller, who lifted the puck over Coreau for his 16th goal of the season.

Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall played for the first time since Jan. 4, returning from a lower-body injury. The Red Wings put forward Drew Miller on waivers (see full recap).

Atikinson lifts Jackets over Senators in wild OT win
OTTAWA, Ontario -- Cam Atkinson's second goal of the game at 1:09 of overtime lifted the Columbus Blue Jackets a 7-6 win over the Ottawa Senators on Sunday night.

Atkinson had a breakaway after a shot by Senators captain Erik Karlsson missed the Columbus net and went around the boards out to Atkinson, who was at center-ice.

The Blue Jackets trailed 5-3 after two periods before Lukas Sedlak and Matt Calvert scored 31 seconds apart to tie it less than 2 1/2 minutes into the third. Atklnson then gave Columbus a 6-5 lead with 9:10 remaining, before Kyle Turries tied it for Ottawa on the power play less than 2 minutes later.

Nick Foligno, Scott Harrington and Zach Werenski also scored for the Blue Jackets, and Joonas Korpisalo finished with 28 saves.

Zach Smith and Mike Hoffman each had two goals and Mark Stone also scored for the Senators. Mike Condon had 22 saves (see full recap).