The Flyers basically own Pittsburgh's CONSOL Energy Center

The Flyers basically own Pittsburgh's CONSOL Energy Center

Looking for a great way to get under the skin of your most-hated rival and its fan base?

How about winning almost every game you’ve played in that hated-rival’s new hockey arena since it opened a few years ago.

Yeah, that’ll sting.

Well, if you look at a satellite image of downtown Pittsburgh, odds are you’ll see an orange and black flag sticking out of the top of CONSOL Energy Center because the Flyers have felt right at home there and have pretty much claimed ownership of the arena since it opened in October 2010.

After two Brayden Schenn goals and a marvelous 30-save Ray Emery performance paced the Flyers to a 2-1 victory over the Penguins in the Steel City last night, Philadelphia now holds a 9-2-1 lifetime record at CONSOL Energy Center. That record includes three games played there during the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Take that, Pittsburgh!

To refresh your memory and to gloat -- not going to lie, mostly to gloat -- here’s a quick recap of the dirty work the Flyers have done at CONSOL Energy Center to send Penguin fans home with sad faces.

Oct. 7, 2010 – Flyers 3 Penguins 2

The Penguins celebrated the first-ever regular season game at CONSOL Energy Center and the Flyers promptly ruined that celebration by handing the Penguins a 3-2 defeat. Mid-way through the second period, Danny Briere scored the first goal in the building’s history. Blair Betts and Claude Giroux also scored. Rookie goalie Sergei Bobrovsky made 29 saves for the victory in his first NHL game.

Oct. 29, 2010 – Flyers 3 Penguins 2

In a game that featured Mike Richards and Matt Cooke dropping the gloves right after the opening faceoff, Giroux scored twice and Bobrovsky made 26 saves to give the Flyers their second win in as many trips to Pittsburgh’s new arena.

March 29, 2010 – Flyers 5 Penguins 2

Ville Leino, who is currently wasting away in that mess in Buffalo, scored twice and Giroux, Jeff Carter and Scott Hartnell all added goals as the Flyers steamrolled a Crosby-less and Malkin-less Penguins team. Brobrovsky again took home the win. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m sensing a theme here.

Dec. 29, 2011 – Flyers 4 Penguins 2

This game featured Jaromir Jagr and Max Talbot’s returns to the city where they began their respective careers and each poured salt into the wounds of Penguin fans with goals. Kimmo Timonen and Matt Read also scored for Philadelphia. Bobrovsky made 24 stops for another win in Pittsburgh.

April 1, 2012 – Flyers 6 Penguins 4

Jake Voracek scored twice to lead the Flyers to a victory. That was cool, but this game is most remembered for the Royal Rumble that broke out late in the game after Penguins’ forward Joe Vitale rocked Briere with a hard check at center ice. All kinds of shenanigans then ensued. Peter Laviolette tried to jump the benches and fight Penguins’ coach Dan Bylsma, Zac Rinaldo tried to take on the whole Penguins’ bench and Hartnell brought us the joy that is him trolling the fake Hulk Hogan Penguins fan - which is on the short list of greatest moments of my life. That, in turn, led to an in-arena playoff promo featuring the real Hulk Hogan supporting the Flyers – which also happens to be on the short list of greatest moments in my life.

April 11, 2012 – Flyers 4 Penguins 3 (OT) (Game 1 – Eastern Conference Quarterfinal)

Ah, the start of perhaps the most ridiculous playoff series any of us have ever seen. Philadelphia fell behind 3-0 but Briere – aka Mr. Playoffs – scored twice and Schenn knotted the game up in the third before Voracek stunned the Penguins with a quick overtime winner. It would be a precursor to the rest of the crazy series.

April 13, 2012 – Flyers 8 Penguins 5 (Game 2 – Eastern Conference Quarterfinal)

Again Pittsburgh jumped out to an early lead and again Philadelphia fought back for the victory. Every time you blinked, it seemed like another goal was scored. But the Flyers scored the knockout blow. Giroux and 19-year-old rookie Sean Couturier both netted hat tricks in the win.

Feb. 20, 2013 – Flyers 6 Penguins 5

Another kooky Flyers/Penguins game in Pittsburgh that wound up in the Flyers’ favor. Again the Flyers fell behind the Penguins and again they fought back for the win. This game had everything. Crazy goals, fights, penalties, momentum changes and anything else you could have asked for. Voracek posted a hat trick, including the game-winner on a shot from behind the net that fooled Pens’ backup goalie Tomas Vokoun. It was the game of the year for the disappointing Flyers.

Nov. 13, 2013 – Flyers 2 Penguins 1

You should remember this game because, well, it happened last night. It wasn’t your typical exciting Flyers/Penguins game but it was a win so it worked. Schenn scored two huge goals and Emery helped calm a Penguins’ storm early on with his play in net to lead the Flyers to a win.

So, there you have it. Sure, there were three losses sprinkled in there, but the Flyers have basically owned the Penguins’ new barn and claimed it as their own.

All that’s missing is Mayor Nutter riding a white horse into the Steel City while wearing a Revolutionary War outfit and screaming, “I HEREBY PROCLAIM THIS LAND TERRITORY OF THE GREAT CITY OF PHILADELPHIA!”

Elements will play factor for both Flyers, Penguins in outdoor game

Elements will play factor for both Flyers, Penguins in outdoor game

PITTSBURGH – The ice on Friday afternoon at Heinz Field was watery and slushy.
 
That’s because the city set a historic record at 78 degrees for Feb. 24.
 
So what were the ice conditions?
 
“They were pretty good,” said Sidney Crosby. “It was pretty bright there. Started off the practice and the sun was beating down pretty good.
 
“I’ve played in a few of these and the ice was pretty good considering how warm it was. It’s supposed to cool down and I’m sure it will get better.”
 
The Penguins will host the Flyers on Saturday night in a Stadium Series outdoor game.
 
Pittsburgh took the ice Friday at 4 p.m. The Flyers got on the ice a little more than an hour later and things started to cool down.
 
“We had a pretty good practice given the circumstances,” Jakub Voracek said. “This is a little better setup than Philly. The fans are closer.”
 
It was much hotter when Pittsburgh took the ice, but the temperature was still warm after the sun went down.
 
Shayne Gostisbehere said, “It was hot for sure. … It was fun, but it was pretty hot.”
 
Defenseman Radko Gudas said the ice surface was, “playable, but a little rough.”
 
On Saturday, rain is expected, with temperatures falling to 42 degrees by 5 p.m.
 
During the game, which begins at 8 p.m., the temperature is projected to continue to drop and there will be wind gusts up to 31 mph. By the end of the night, the forecast says temps will be in the 20s. 

Players are more concerned about the wind than the ice at this point. Crosby, who has played in three previous NHL outdoor games, said wind is a huge factor. It happened to the Penguins at the 2014 Stadium Series game in Chicago.
 
“It can definitely be a factor,” Crosby said. “I want to say in Chicago that was something we kind of had to look at. We felt it a little more there compared to the other two [outdoor games]. If it going to get windy like that, it’s something to be aware of.”
 
It remains to be seen how the NHL will handle which team goes into the wind first.
 
“Yeah, the wind,” Penguins assistant coach Rick Tocchet of what element will be a big factor. “I hope you don’t have to backcheck. Who gets the advantage? They change in the third period. But who picks what end? There is a wind factor.”
 
Tocchet rated the ice Friday as “a little slushy.”
 
“It was good early and then it got tough because it was hot outside,” Tocchet said. “But we got a half-decent practice out of it.
 
“The one thing, the puck didn’t bounce, which was good. Players can adapt a lot better when the puck doesn’t bounce. When things bounce, it’s a tough night.”

Brett Brown understands Nerlens Noel trade, caught off guard by Ben Simmons news

Brett Brown understands Nerlens Noel trade, caught off guard by Ben Simmons news

Nerlens Noel was essentially the beginning of The Process.

Acquired in a draft day trade with the New Orleans Pelicans in 2013, he was the last player remaining from when Brett Brown took over as head coach of the Sixers. Drafted No. 6 overall out of Kentucky, Noel missed the entire 2013-14 season recovering from a torn ACL.

That gave Brown the opportunity to work closely with Noel, most notably on his shot.

"Personally, I spent a lot of time with him," Brown said pregame Friday. "To have a whole year where you could help grow his shot. And talk about a total rebuild."

Noel on Thursday was traded to the Dallas Mavericks for a top-18 protected first-round pick, Justin Anderson and Andrew Bogut. The return doesn't seem great, but there are larger factors at play. Noel is slated to become a restricted free agent this summer.

With the emergence of Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor on the roster, the center position was (and still is, frankly) crowded. The chances of the Sixers retaining Noel weren't great. Especially if a team had signed him to an exorbitant offer sheet.

Brown was naturally close to Noel, but understands the business side of the decision.

"I'm happy for him in my heart of hearts," Brown said. "[The Mavericks] have brought him in to grow him to try to be a starting center. That does equal a commensurate paycheck. He will be rewarded if that's the way it plays out.

"That wasn't gonna happen here. It wasn't gonna happen here. And so when you really study salary caps, really study design of teams and really study how to grow a program so you're not caught positionally, it was gonna be hard to allocate that amount of money to a five spot."

Brown got some more tough news when he learned No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons won't play this season. A scan taken Thursday revealed that Simmons' Jones fracture, suffered in early October on the last day of training camp, has not fully healed (see story).

Brown, being the consummate optimist, brought up his experience with Noel in is his rookie season of how a player can still develop despite not getting on the court.

"I'm disappointed for lots of reasons that he isn't going to be able to play," Brown said. "I played text tag with him as he was going to the scan. I felt like when your wife is having a baby, pacing around, wondering, 'What's gonna happen? What's the result of the scan? What's it gonna be? What's it gonna be?' I don't mean to get too dramatic, but there's a level of anxiety that you wonder, 'What is the result gonna say?' And when it came back with the result, it caught me off guard. It really wasn't something personally I was expecting."

Sixers president of basketball operation Bryan Colangelo addressed the media Friday to disclose the news on Simmons. He also explained his thinking behind the Noel trade, which mostly hinged on Noel's impending restricted free-agent status (see story).

Brown was sad to see one of his original developmental projects go, but understood the business side of the decision.                     

"I thought he did a really good job," Brown said of Colangelo's press conference. "That is the truth. So it's connected with emotion and reality that we say goodbye to Nerlens."