Buffaloed: Special Teams Breakdowns, Questionable Calls Cost Flyers First Win

Buffaloed: Special Teams Breakdowns, Questionable Calls Cost Flyers First Win

The Flyers had a lot to overcome in order to pick up their
first points in the standings of the season on Sunday. They had to play on the
road roughly 18 hours removed from their first game of the season. They had
another flat first period that found them behind 1-0 coming out of the
intermission.

Then there were the six power plays they gave the Sabres, of
which they scored on three of to key a 5-2 victory in their home opener. Philadelphia drops to 0-2-0.

There is no doubt that the Flyers’ penalty killing unit share a lot
of the responsibility in both losses, as they have allowed opponents to convert
on five of nine chances (55.6%). However, one must wonder what might have been
in Buffalo were it not for a series of downright terrible calls by the officiating
crew, specifically the two that wiped goals off the board.

The first bad call came late in the opening frame, right as
the Flyers were finally starting to get their legs in under them. Down 1-0,
Luke Schenn ripped a wicked slapper off of netminder Ryan Miller, who left the
puck sitting right on his front porch. As Miller tried to poke it away, Ruslan
Fedotenko came crashing into the play, sending the disk wobbling through the
air and into the goal.

But Fedotenko bumped Miller ever so slightly in performing
this action, while the goalie – whether out of embellishment or desperation –
slid backward into his own net. This apparently was enough to warrant a
goaltender interference call, and the score was waved off.

It was an obviously blown call upon second look. Miller was
barely breathed on, let alone interfered with, and Fedotenko wasn’t even in the crease or anything like that,
yet a goal was erased.

It would not be the last.

The Flyers did take a 2-1 lead
early in the second period, but were unable to stay out of the penalty box, and
eventually the game started to get away from them. It was 4-2 with under two
minutes remaining in the third when head coach Peter Laviolette pulled Ilya
Bryzgalov for an extra skater – also when the men in the striped shirts would
strike again.

Sean Couturier won the faceoff, and the Flyers succeeded in generating some instant pressure with an extra man. After a couple quick passes to create some space, Claude Giroux snapped the puck on net, it hit Scott Hartnell in front, and Wayne Simmonds sort of jabbed it toward the goal.

Once again Miller was unable to control, only
this time he wasn’t exactly sure of where it was. He thought the puck was
covered, but it was actually trickling into the net as chaos ensued in front of
him. This was all too much for the referee, who from a far side angle –
his vision blocked – whistled the play dead just as the biscuit was crossing
the goal line.

What could’ve been a 4-3 or even 4-4 game heading to
overtime remained a hopeless two-goal deficit, which seconds later grew to
three on an empty netter.

There were other plays where we could perhaps be critical of
the officials, though those might be nitpicking. There is absolutely no denying
they had a direct role in costing the Flyers tallies on these two particular plays
however.

As we mentioned at the top, the loss can’t entirely be
blamed on those non-goals. Bryzgalov had practically no chance on two of the
three power-play goals, one of which appeared to deflect off of Kimmo Timonen’s
skate. Another occurred when a shift change went awry leading to a breakaway at the end of a 5-on-3. Schenn was notably in the box for two of
these, as well as a 4-on-4.

That said, in a short season where every point matters that
much more, it’s hard to watch one slip away in part because a third
party got involved. Would have been nice to see how things played out had every goal actually
been counted.

(Videos courtesy CBS Sports via Puck Daddy)

Lifeless Phillies should call up red-hot Roman Quinn ... why not?

Lifeless Phillies should call up red-hot Roman Quinn ... why not?

The Phillies are a lifeless team right now.

For a while the starting pitching was the biggest issue, then it was the bullpen, now it's the offense. The Phils have hit .224 since May 12, which was when their 2-7 road trip began. 

Their .268 on-base percentage over that span is worst in the majors and their .613 OPS is better than only the Mariners.

Players up and down the lineup are slumping. Odubel Herrera has hit .207 with a .246 OBP since the ninth game of the season. Michael Saunders hasn't given them much at any point. Maikel Franco had an eight-game hit streak snapped Monday, but even still is hitting .221 with a .281 on-base percentage. 

At this point, why not bring up Roman Quinn and play him every day? It makes too much sense right now.

Daniel Nava went on the 10-day DL Monday with a hamstring strain suffered Friday in Pittsburgh. It doesn't seem to be a serious injury, but why not use the open space as an excuse to bring Quinn up for at least a few days and see what he's got?

Quinn could infuse some energy and life to the top of a sputtering lineup. Bat him second, play him in the corner outfield and see what happens. At the very least, he'd be a defensive upgrade over Saunders. At the most, Quinn's hunger to stick in the majors could result in a hot streak that sparks the top of the order the way Herrera does when he's hot.

Quinn is hitting lately at Triple A, batting .333 with a .424 OBP over his last 15 games. He showed last September that he can be an offensive catalyst with his ability to beat out infield singles, bunt for hits and spray the ball. Yes, he strikes out too much for a leadoff-type hitter, but it's just hard to see the downside of a call-up right now.

The argument against bringing Quinn up now is that it's too early to sour on Saunders, a player the Phillies signed in hopes of trading at some point. But think about how much Saunders would have to do to have worthwhile trade value. Yeah, you could flip him somewhere for a negligible return or some salary relief, but he'd have to be extremely productive for at least a month to get a team interested in trading a minor-leaguer of any value for him.

Pete Mackanin has tried many things to spark the Phils' lineup, moving Herrera and Franco down, sitting guys, challenging guys. The best solution, perhaps the only solution right now, might be a move made over his head to promote the Phils' speedy, switch-hitting outfielder who has a future with them so long as he stays on the field, which he has this season.

As for Rhys Hoskins and Jorge Alfaro, who have also hit very well at Triple A, they just happen to play the same positions as Tommy Joseph and Cameron Rupp, who have been the Phillies' most reliable bats the last few weeks.

Jason Kelce ignoring trade rumors as he tries to work on himself

Jason Kelce ignoring trade rumors as he tries to work on himself

Jason Kelce is aware of the rumors and reports that have surrounded his name this offseason. 

As much as he might try to avoid them, the Eagles' veteran center does not, presumably, live under a rock. So he's heard for months about the possibility of his long run with the Eagles coming to a close. 

After all, the Eagles have stockpiled an abundance of interior offensive linemen who can play center, and trading Kelce would save the team $3.8 million in cap space. 

So it all makes sense, but Kelce is trying to keep it out of his mind. 

"I think you'll drive yourself crazy if you're reading too much into what's going on," he said on Tuesday as the Eagles kicked off their voluntary OTAs. "My whole offseason has just kind of been really the only thing I can control is my game and the way I play and what I've been doing. So I've just really tried to hit the weight room, work on technique, work on things to try to get my game back to where it used to be."

How is he able to put it out of his mind? 

"Because worrying about it doesn't do any good," he answered.

While the Eagles have Isaac Seumalo and Stefen Wisniewski ready to play center if necessary, head coach Doug Pederson said on Tuesday that Kelce is still "the guy." 

Kelce, 29, was named to his second career Pro Bowl team last season, which might be a surprise to those who watched the Eagles throughout the year. Kelce wasn't as bad as some people think, but he also probably wasn't a Pro Bowl-caliber player. 

He got off to a very slow start in 2016 but did seem to get better as the season went on.  

"I feel at times last year, there were times I was dominant and games where I didn't really do a great job," he said. "You go back and watch film and try to make the corrections, try to make sure that moving forward I'm the same player I was in the past."

Kelce attributed many of his problems early last season to lousy technique. He's been trying extra hard to work on that part of his game as well as in the weight room. 

Often characterized as undersized, he said weighed 295 pounds on Tuesday morning. That's also his listed weight on the Eagles' website. 

All last season, Kelce said he played in the 290s, which was heavier than he had been in a long time. His goal this offseason is to make it up to 300 pounds by training camp, and then he hopes to keep the weight on. 

"I would certainly think so," he said. "As you get older, it gets a little bit easier to put on the weight and hold it on. I think everybody kind of finds that out."

Perhaps the biggest reason for the Eagles to keep Kelce around this season is the development of quarterback Carson Wentz in his second year. Kelce, as his center, might be integral to Wentz's growth. Although Kelce said he doesn't think of it like that when asked if that relationship gives him an advantage over others.  

Kelce has been with the Eagles since 2011 when he was a sixth-round pick out of Cincinnati. He's played and started 78 games in six seasons. 

He admitted last season he needed to play better or he knew he would become expendable (see story). So the rumors and reports this season likely aren't a shock to him. 

He's still not going to pay attention to them. 

"The reality is, we always have guys coming in, coming out," he said. "Now we happen to have a lot of really good depth at interior line. But like I said, it doesn't do me any good worrying about the what-ifs. All I can control is what I can control and that's how I go out and play, how I go out and prepare and how I try to get back to the player I've been in the past."