Flyers Put up Four-Goal First, Ride Bryzgalov to 4-2 Win

Flyers Put up Four-Goal First, Ride Bryzgalov to 4-2 Win

Why start flat and struggle to come all the way back when you can just score four goals in the first period and play defense for the rest of the game? Makes sense, right?

The Philadelphia Flyers jumped all over the Phoenix Coyotes early, with four different skaters—Matt Read, Wayne Simmonds, Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell—getting on the score sheet to force a goaltending change after the opening twenty. From there, the Flyers would sit back and do their best to protect their lead.

Behind a stellar performance from goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, that strategy would prove successful. The 4-2 final score wraps up the team's West Coast swing and secures all four available points on the trip. [full highlights below]

Game Summary:
Saturday night was certainly a change of pace for the Flyers, who have made a recent habit of putting together some absolutely dreadful starts. For Phoenix, the opening period was equally uncharacteristic, though, in their case, uncharacteristically bad. Heading into the game, the Coyotes had given up just 10 goals during the first period all season. That total now stands at 14 after the Flyers made goalie Mike Smith's evening a woefully short affair.

Smith would be pulled after the first in favor of Jason Labarbera, whose workload no doubt made the starter envious. Possibly winded from being on the second-leg of a West Coast back-to-back, the Flyers stayed on their own side of the red line and played a whole lot of defense during the second and third, generating just 13 shots in those periods as compared to their 17 in the first.

Though it may sound like they sat back to trap, they really sat back just to hang on. Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov was the unquestionable hero of the game, turning aside 36 of the 38 shots sent his way. Indeed, his second goal allowed wouldn't come until 19:19 mark of the third period. While he might be a little upset to have conceded the extra tally so late in the proceedings, it was nothing to sweat over given the rest of his evening. The former Coyote made a host of key saves throughout the game on a number of really quality Phoenix scoring chances. His performance in the win secures back-to-back victories for the goaltender over both of his former clubs in Phoenix and Anaheim.

Mandatory Claude Giroux is Ridiculous Reminder:
As Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul both went scoreless on Saturday evening, Flyer forward Claude Giroux is now tied for the league lead in points thanks to this first period slap shot, which probably could have killed someone had they made the mistake of getting in the way.

Up Next:
The Flyers will have the next three days off and then start off on another back-to-back when they travel to Buffalo on Wednesday and return home to host Sidney Crosby and Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday.

Record-breaking crowds flood the Parkway for NFL Draft Experience in Philly

Record-breaking crowds flood the Parkway for NFL Draft Experience in Philly

Who needs to the Pope when you have Ginger Jesus?

The NFL Draft Experience joined a long list of wildly popular events in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and all along the Ben Franklin Parkway.

The NFL announced today that nearly 100,000 fans enjoyed the experience, the most-ever for a draft-related event, on day 1 of the draft alone.

Fans flooded into the Experience with people from all across the country in town to support their respective teams. Eagles fans clearly dominated the crowd, however, as you couldn't go a few minutes without hearing an E-A-G-L-E-S chant. 

ESPN also showed some love all night long. SportsCenter's Scott Van Pelt called the story of the night in Philadelphia the city of Philly itself. Adam Schefter called it the "wildest, most raucous crowd in draft history." Jon Gruden called Philly "one of the greatest football towns on the planet."

Aside from not being totally in love with their first pick Derek Barnett upon first blush, Philly fans showed off wonderfully. Even the booing of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell came off as cute.

The Draft Experience is open again on Friday from noon until 11:00 pm and on Saturday from 10:00 am until 6:00 pm. It's free for all fans.

Try the games, avoid the cheesesteaks. And bring some sunscreen (ugh).

By the numbers: Jeremy Hellickson legitimately among NL's best the last year

By the numbers: Jeremy Hellickson legitimately among NL's best the last year

Unless you're a die-hard Phillies fan, you might not grasp just how good Jeremy Hellickson has been since the start of 2016.

Hellickson, who allowed one run in six innings Thursday to improve to 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA this season, hasn't just been solid — he's legitimately been one of the best pitchers in the National League.

Some stats to back it up:

• Hellickson has a 1.11 WHIP the last two seasons. That's a better mark than Noah Syndergaard, Johnny Cueto, Cole Hamels, David Price, Dallas Keuchel, Jose Quintana and Chris Archer have.

• Over the last calendar year, Hellickson's 3.29 ERA ranks ninth-best in the NL. Over that span he has a lower ERA than some really good pitchers like Jake Arrieta, Zack Greinke, Carlos Martinez, Hamels, Quintana and Rick Porcello. It's almost identical to Chris Sale's 3.26 ERA over that span.

• Hellickson over the last calendar year has walked 2.03 batters per nine innings. That's fifth-best in the NL behind only Mike Leake, Bartolo Colon, Madison Bumgarner and Syndergaard. (Jerad Eickhoff is a spot below Hellickson at 2.05 and then comes Max Scherzer at 2.08).

• How has Hellickson been so effective with so low a strikeout rate? He's thrown exactly 250 pitches since 2016 on the low-outside corner and low-inside corner. That's fifth-most in the majors, behind only Jon Lester, Zach Davies, Keuchel and Kyle Hendricks. Paint.

This stat refers to zones 17 and 19 in the image below.

Of course, Hellickson has done this with an extremely low strikeout rate. He's never been a big strikeout guy, but he did say Thursday he's been a bit surprised to have this much success in 2017 with his lowest career K rate. 

Hellickson has a very low batting average on balls in play which will regress closer to his career average, but it's not as if luck is the sole factor here. As mentioned above, he's hit spots as well as almost anyone in the majors. 

And the changeup, his elite pitch, gets some swings and misses but more often results in weak contact and quick outs. The worm will turn at some point, but Hellickson shouldn't be expected to fall off a cliff and revert back into a pitcher with a high-4.00s ERA.

The Phillies did well with this acquisition two offseasons ago and may have been fortunate things with Hellickson worked out the way they did. He has even more trade value now than he did a year ago.