Crisis Averted for Flyers This Time (and Temporarily?)

Crisis Averted for Flyers This Time (and Temporarily?)

Let’s begin on a positive note for a change. The Flyers did
what they had to on Sunday night, beating an inferior opponent to halt a
three-game skid. They still face a steep climb to get back to respectability,
but at least they stopped the bleeding for the time being.

On the flip side, the boys in the orange sweaters were
flirting with disaster. Clearly the superior team for most of the game –
especially the first 20 minutes – Philadelphia only narrowly escaped the
Buffalo Sabres with a 3-2 victory. Just how close did they come to blowing a
two-goal lead?

Which of these measurements is smaller: an inch, or a tenth
of a second?

What should have been a relatively easy save for Ilya
Bryzgalov on a short-handed rush wound up dancing on the goal line. Luckily
Brayden Schenn was there to sweep away Cody Hodgson’s slapper from above the
faceoff circle after it trickled through the goaltender – not a moment too soon
either with Hodgson looking to finish the play.

Bryz has been getting a ton of grief lately, but looked
strong in this tilt even if Schenn did have the save of the night. Billy stopped
18 of 20 shots despite making his second start in as many days.

Besides, it’s not like this near-miss was the sole reason Buffalo
nearly closed the gap. The Sabres were given multiple shorthanded opportunities
on Flyer power plays down the stretch – one of which Jochen Hecht was able to
beat Bryzgalov on – while a dumb boarding penalty against Luke Schenn put his
mates in a tough spot as the third period was winding down.

Yet they survived.

Simon Gagne slipped his second score of 2013 past Ryan
Miller on a breakaway early in the first period, while Max Talbot tallied a
shorty of his own off a beautiful feed from Ruslan Fedotenko. Buffalo cut the
deficit to one before intermission, but Claude Giroux opened up round two with
a quick goal on the man advantage, blowing right through Buffalo’s
penalty-killing unit to set up that sweet wrister.

For Giroux, it was goal number eight this season. Kimmo
Timonen picked up his second assist of the night, giving him 16 – only two
defensemen in the NHL have more.

The important thing is the Flyers took care of business, and
prevented the sky from falling for a few more days at least. Picking up two
points on the lowly Sabres doesn’t signify a whole lot right now though, not
after losing to the Rangers, Penguins, and Bruins in succession, not when a
home-and-home with the Devils looms this week.

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Carson Wentz talks Derek Barnett, that Cowboys hat and crazy Eagles fans

Carson Wentz talks Derek Barnett, that Cowboys hat and crazy Eagles fans

Carson Wentz has had a whilrwind few days in Philadelphia as the city hosts the 2017 NFL draft.

He took some time between posing for selfies with Eagles fans and messing with Dallas Cowboys fans and hitting trick shots on live TV to talk about his busy week with CSNPhilly's Danny Pommells.

Obviously that pesky Cowboys' fan was a topic of interest.

"He was coming up and was getting booed. I was like, 'I can't take this picture.' So I nicely took his hat off and set it down and took the picture. He was cool with it. It was all in fun," Wentz said.

Carson also spoke about the record-setting Philly crowd and impressive atmosphere on Day 1 of the draft

"It was crazy. I didn't know what to expect being at the Draft Experience. The fans just kind of all circulated, it was nuts. That's Eagles fans. So much passion."

As for the Birds' first round pick Derek Barnett? Wentz had to look him up just like many Eagles fans.

"I watched some film of him. He's a dynamic player. He can really turn that corner and bend around that corner. I'm happy he's on our team I'll tell you that."

"I've heard he's a hard-working kid so that will serve him well," Wentz said.

The NFL Draft Experience continues on Friday and Saturday and is free for all fans.

Sixers 2016-17 Player Evaluation: Richaun Holmes

Sixers 2016-17 Player Evaluation: Richaun Holmes

Richaun Holmes

Position: Center

Status for 2017-18: Under contract for $1,471,382

Holmes in 2016-17
This year very well could have been a lost season for Richaun Holmes. The 23-year-old center was fourth on the Sixers' depth chart to begin the season, sitting behind top-10 picks Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel. Cracking the lineup, even with Embiid not playing back-to-backs and Noel hurt to start the year, was a daunting task.

Early in the season, Holmes provided solid minutes when he received them, reeling in 12 rebounds in a win vs. the Pacers on Nov. 11 and picking up 11 points and eight boards against the Nuggets on Dec. 5. However, Holmes was sent to the D-League soon after and with centers excelling ahead of him, it seemed his time in Philly may be numbered.

But then Embiid got hurt. This opened the door for consistent playing time for the former second-round pick and he shined. He averaged 7.1 points and 4.8 rebounds in 17.9 minutes during February, then shot up to 14.1 points and 6.8 rebounds over 26.4 minutes in March after Noel was traded. He put up 14 games with double-figure scoring despite eclipsing 30 minutes only four times. 

In all, Holmes proved himself to be a force off the bench for the Sixers, as well as when he got into the starting lineup. In 57 games, he started 17 and averaged 9.8 points and 5.5 rebounds, both increases from his rookie season. He upped his field goal percentage to 55.8 percent and became a viable three-point threat, shooting 35.1 percent, up from 18.2 percent as a rookie. Holmes finished the year with five straight games in double figures as he was one of the only healthy players left on the roster.

Signature game
Soon after returning from the D-League in January, he put up 18 points on 8 for 11 shooting against the Clippers in a win. He also had a double-double against the Wizards in late February after the trade deadline.

However, his signature game is one of two. He had 24 points, 14 rebounds and five assists against the Magic on March 20, giving a tremendous effort over 42 minutes. Nine days later, he had 25 points — a career-high — while facing off against Dwight Howard and the Atlanta Hawks, earning the praise of the veteran center (see below).

Looking ahead to 2017-18
It may have seemed unlikely in early January, but Holmes is likely a rotation piece for the Sixers next season. Noel is gone, Okafor may follow soon and Embiid may have trouble with back-to-backs again next season, although president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo has indicated otherwise. That opens the door for a lot of playing time, including more starts, for the Bowling Green product. 

The Sixers may bring in veteran help at center if Okafor is dealt, but it likely won't deter the 6-foot-10 forward in securing a role for next season. He proved too valuable at the end of the season. The energy Holmes provides is a necessary element to a second-unit and something the Sixers will gladly take next season.

On Holmes
"He's a kid that I remember the first time he stepped on the court with me, he was just like excited. He kept saying, 'Wow, I'm on the floor with Dwight Howard.' He just kept saying he was excited. Just to see his growth from that moment, he plays with such passion, it's great to see especially from a young guy like him. I'm proud of him."
- Atlanta Hawks center Dwight Howard

"He just sat there and accepted whatever we gave him: go to the D-League, sit there and clap, start, play behind Joel — whatever it was, he accepted. And he did it where it didn't diminish his work ethic, it didn't diminish his ability to coexist within a team. He found ways to improve individually, and he did it with a great level of maturity."
- Sixers head coach Brett Brown