Flyers Out to Ruin New York's Other Big Sunday Game

Flyers Out to Ruin New York's Other Big Sunday Game

OK so, few New York sports fans are terribly worried about what happens in today's 1PM visit from the Flyers to Madison Square Garden, where they'll take on the Rangers. The Super Bowl is finally here, pitting two pillars of the NFL's Axis of Evil against each other in Indianapolis. It's undeniably as big as it gets when one of your teams is still standing in February.

But that doesn't mean the appetizer is any less interesting in its own right, particularly for those of us watching the Super Bowl with only a passing interest (that being, New York teams losing at anything they attempt). On tap this afternoon is one of the top matchups in the NHL, the one that has received the most attention this season.

Can the Flyers shake off yesterday's disappointment and come in with the momentum gained in its latter half? To win today, they'll have to find a way to crack the man currently wearing the crown of the league's best netminder—Henrik Lundqvist.

Hank's behind only Brian Elliott in GAA with a gorgeous 1.82 mark and leads the league in save percentage at .939. He's currently riding back-to-back shutouts, broken up by his appearance in the All-Star Game. Lundqvist has been outstanding, but he's hardly done it alone. Loquacious backup Martin Biron also has a GAA south of 2.00, well below his career 2.59 mark and very indicative of the sound defense played in front of the Rangers crease regardless of who is in it.

The Rags are currently behind only Detroit for points in the league, and they've played four fewer games than the Red Wings (as well as two fewer than the Flyers, who are three points beneath them in the standings). We've seen enough of them to know they are bona fide Cup contenders this season, and along with a few others in the East, stand between the Flyers and the ultimate goal.

However, the Rangers did prove human during a January stretch that saw them lose four of eight as their offense went cold. They've played only once in February, winning a game that was scoreless after both regulation and overtime, decided in the shootout (how awful does that sound?).

SEEN THE LIGHTS… GO OUT ON BROADWAY
Part of the issue for the Rangers is an anemic power play lately. Katie Strang of ESPN points out that the game-winning goal on a man advantage in overtime (meaning it was scored 4 on 3) against the Bruins on January 21st was their first in eight games, and they haven't scored another since.

The Rangers be rested today, having only practiced since Wednesday (including a 40-minute power play session), a stark contrast to the Flyers' schedule that included games on Thursday and Saturday.

But if anything, the visitors should be champing at the bit to get back on the ice and see if they can erase the embarrassment of yesterday's loss and build on its final 30 minutes, during which they actually beat the Devils by a 4-0 count. Hopefully they'll have a bit better luck with the refs and their own discipline, because the Rangers certainly don't need any help.

Ilya Bryzgalov was in net for the second half of yesterday's see-saw match, and he'll draw the start today. Can he continue his trend of positive play and help the Flyers build some crease confidence during the stretch run?

Predictions?

Nerlens Noel trade: Sixers simply did not get enough

Nerlens Noel trade: Sixers simply did not get enough

Let's start with this: The Sixers did not need to trade Nerlens Noel. 

They could have kept him through the end of the season, made him an offer in restricted free agency and decide whether or not to match another team's offer sheet.

The Sixers held the cards. If a team like Portland or Dallas were to offer Noel $17 million a year or something this offseason, the Sixers could have either matched or let him walk.

If they chose not to match, they'd lose Noel for nothing.

So, given the return, the only explanation for Thursday's deadline trade of Noel to the Mavericks was that the Sixers definitively concluded they did not want to match a high salary for Noel.

Either that or they just really, really love Justin Anderson.

The trade was initially sold as Noel to Dallas for Andrew Bogut, Justin Anderson and a protected first-round pick.

In reality, the trade is Noel for Anderson and two second-round picks.

Bogut wants to be a free agent and will either be traded or bought out, according to multiple reports. So forget about him.

The 2017 first-round pick? It's top-18 protected, meaning the Sixers would get it only if the Mavericks pick 19 to 30. The Mavs currently own the NBA's seventh-worst record, so it would take a miracle for them to win enough games to decrease their draft stock that much.

If the pick does not convey in 2017 — and again, it's not happening — the Sixers instead get Dallas' second-round picks in 2017 and 2018.

So, yeah ... it's Noel for Anderson and a pair of seconds.

Ersan Ilyasova netted the Sixers two seconds. The only difference between that trade and this trade? Justin Anderson.

The expectation now, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, is that Jahlil Okafor will stay with the Sixers. It seems like they were just so uninspired by offers they received for Okafor that they instead looked to trade another big for value. 

But in this case, they didn't get value for Noel. They got the perception of value.

Unless Justin Anderson becomes a better player than Nik Stauskas or Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot.

Weird move.

Flyers' disallowed early goal costly for team struggling to score

Flyers' disallowed early goal costly for team struggling to score

It was just pouring out of Flyers swing forward Dale Weise after Thursday’s 4-1 loss to the Washington Capitals.

A disallowed goal because of him.

A strong game in every respect from his teammates.

A realization that things never seem to change for Dave Hakstol’s club.

“We come out with a great start,” Weise said. “Get on the forecheck. The building is lively. We score what we think is a first goal which we haven’t done a lot this year.

“I’m not going to say it’s a game-changer. Whatever it was, it didn’t end the game. But that’s a pretty big part of the game.” 

Weise ended up grabbing Caps goalie Braden Holtby. He said he did so for support or he would have knocked him over since he was trying to position his stick.

Funny things is, Holtby apparently never felt the contact. When the Caps challenged Jakub Voracek’s goal on the first shift of the game, it was overturned.

“Yeah, I obviously didn’t see the interference part I just kind of followed the puck and next thing I know it was kind of out of the play so a little fortunate, a great call by our video coaches,” Holtby said.

Weise wasn’t sure what he did amounted to much because it happened before Voracek’s shot and not during the act of shooting that would have prevented Holtby from getting position.

“To be really honest with you I don’t think I really touched him that hard,” Weise said.

Goals are so hard to come by these days for the Flyers. To score one a half-minute into play in a huge rivalry game, with them so desperate for points, and then to lose the goal and the momentum early, it becomes a significant event in the overall outcome.

The Caps made the most of their chances. Just like Calgary did last week.

“Winning and losing is so thin in this league and when you’re playing a team like that who just has loads of offensive talent, you give them one, two opportunities and they score on it,” Weise said.

“For a team like us that doesn’t score very often, that’s tough. We are playing behind the eight ball every night. It’s frustrating. I’m not going to lie and say it’s not in our head when we get down because you can see the way we play.

“We’re gripping the sticks. I really liked our effort though. I thought we played hard the whole night. Full marks to our team but it’s just kind of the same story every night.”

It’s trite but the term “snake bit” has been used a lot lately in talking about the Flyers since their 10-game win streak ended.

“That’s a good way to put it,” Weise said. “Look at that one there. Touch the goalie, goal disallowed. [Ivan Provorov] hits the cross bar. We had a couple other chances in tight. Snake bitten, I don’t even know if there’s a word for how I feel right now.”

It doesn’t get any easier this weekend with the Flyers' playing in their first outdoor game in five seasons.

Another even more bitter rival: the Penguins at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field on Saturday night. Taking two from the Pens will require a supreme effort and maybe a little luck for a change. The Flyers have been real short on luck all season.

The Flyers' dressing room after games, of late, has the feel of a morgue sometimes. Over the last 10 games, the Flyers have seven losses (including overtime). In six of those losses, they have scored one goal or no goals.

“We got a pretty positive group in here,” Weise said. “We try our best to come in every day and be positive. It’s a tough situation right now. Every day we’re fighting for our playoff life so that’s in the back of everyone’s mind.

“It makes it more frustrating when you’re playing, so well. I thought we played a pretty good game tonight. That goal disallowed we come right back. They make it two nothing on the power play.

“We kept going. We played well. We had a lot of chances. Good start to the second period again. We came out strong but we just can’t seem to finish.”

Veteran defenseman Mark Streit said they're playing well, but losing doesn’t make up ground in the standings. The Flyers remain three points out of the wild card going into the weekend.

Of their remaining 22 games, 19 are against the Eastern Conference, so mathematically, they have a chance to recoup points.

“We keep telling that we’ve been playing pretty well but lose a lot of hockey games,” Streit said. “We just got to find a way ...

“We have to find a way to turn it around, to get the bounces, just to get a little bit lucky out there, and to get the ugly goal. It’s tough. It’s frustrating. But it’s also the bloody truth.”