Flyers-Sabres Game 5: Everyone Completely Hate Each Other Now? Good.

Flyers-Sabres Game 5: Everyone Completely Hate Each Other Now? Good.

Four games into the opening round of the NHL playoffs, the Flyers and Sabres are giving us plenty of reasons to watch. Fans of both sides would probably prefer their team be up a game at this point, particularly Philadelphia, who entered the series as the favorite with their 2 seed. But as we see from year to year, there’s plenty of parity in the NHL, and seedings can mean next to nothing once the first puck is dropped. The home ice advantage can help, and the Flyers will look to reap that benefit tonight as the series comes back from lovely Buffalo. It’s the perfect point in the series to return home to Philly too. The Flyers and Sabres are knotted at a pair of wins apiece, and the shit has officially begun to hit the fan both on and off the ice. Such a sweet, sweet guy. Check out the video below on the escalating war of words between the two teams, plus what it might mean for tonight’s game.

Great to see how this type of back and forth through the media puts a smile on even Peter Laviolette’s face. I honestly can't recall him ever looking so happy. Of course, how can you not laugh when Lindy Ruff accuses you of whining? It’s also pretty hilarious to hear Danny Briere talk about how this is just Lindy being Lindy, and Danny would know after his all his seasons in Buffalo. 

I don’t know that I necessarily agree that this is all just for the media and fans though. As the on-ice action has gotten chippier, the chatter after the games has ratcheted up as well. Heading into game 5, these two teams hate each other. Trash talk often seems to spill over into games and vice-versa. You gotta love playoff hockey and the way a series can evolve from skirmish to battle to war. We could be in for a nasty night in South Philly. 

Photo by Flickr user boogerfingers. yep.

Unfortunately, it looks like the Flyers will be without the services of Jeff Carter and Chris Pronger, possibly for the rest of the series per Tim Panaccio's report. It is worrisome to have them both out for this key game in the series and what's sounding a bit more like the next few games at least. The depth we’ve heard and talked about for so long will be tested tonight.

It’s not exactly an alien situation though. While the Flyers enjoyed a pretty healthy regular season run, they showed in the 2010 playoffs that they can rally in the face of even multiple simultaneous injuries. In a postseason as long and physical as the NHL’s, the war of attrition will claim its share of victims. It’s up to the guys left on the ice to take it up a notch. Either Ben Holmstrom or Zac Rinaldo will be active per Lisa Hillary. The decision between the two may come down to who Ruff has in his lineup.

Similar to after game 1, the Flyers really shouldn’t need to change much after being shut out in game 4. They played pretty well, just as they had in games 3 and 4. Hopefully the Ryan Miller from those two outings will show up tonight. Miller was masterful in game 5, and there’s little a team can do when the opposing goalie is that locked in. The Flyers will try tonight though, presumably with some crease activity early.

Enjoy your Friday night and what could be a pretty wild and entertaining game. Both teams should be fired up from the start.

Villanova pushes past Creighton despite exhaustion before off week

Villanova pushes past Creighton despite exhaustion before off week

BOX SCORE

VILLANOVA, PA. – Jay Wright finally admitted what we could all see.

The Wildcats are gassed.

No. 2 Villanova beat No. 23 Creighton, 79-63, Saturday at the Pavilion to clinch the Big East Conference regular-season title outright (see Instant Replay).

The Wildcats are 27-3 and 14-3 in the conference, but the last couple weeks their lack of depth has shown.

With Omari Spellman ruled ineligible before the season by the NCAA, Phil Booth out since November with lingering knee pain and Darryl Reynolds out the last five games with a rib injury, Wright has essentially been limited to five starters, freshman Dante DiVincenzo off the bench and a few minutes a night from freshman Dylan Painter.

It's taken a significant toll on the six guys in the rotation. 

Big late leads have dwindled or, in the case of Wednesday’s game against Butler, disappeared. Three-pointers have front-rimmed. Defensive assignments have been missed.

Through it all, Wright refused to admit fatigue was an issue.

Now, with the Wildcats securely the top seed in next month’s conference tournament, Wright is being honest about his team.

They’re exhausted.

“I know you guys have asked a lot, 'Do I think we’re getting worn down with seven guys, 6 1/2 guys,' and I said I don’t think so, I think we can do it,” Wright said Saturday after the Senior Day win over Creighton.

“I gotta answer your question, but it just doesn’t do us any good saying we’re worn out. It’s not an excuse. Other teams have things to deal with. I get we weren’t pretty, we haven’t been pretty, today wasn’t pretty. But I think it just speaks to the leadership of these seniors and I think it speaks to the character of these seniors (that they got through it).

“Are they tired? Yeah. Are they worn down some? Yeah. But it doesn’t matter. Other teams got stuff too. It’s not the reason you lose. It can’t be the reason you lose. Maybe you were tired and you didn’t concentrate or we didn’t defend or we didn’t rebound. That’s what happened and that’s the way we look at it.

“I wasn’t trying to BS you, I was just saying that whether you’re tired or not doesn’t matter, you’ve got to get it done, and we got it done. I’m so proud of them and it’s senior leadership. It’s talented players and senior leadership.”

Villanova now has a week off before an essentially meaningless game next Saturday at Georgetown.

It’ll be the Wildcats’ first extended break since the season began.

“They haven’t had an off week because they played Virginia (two weeks ago in a non-conference game), and now they get it and a chance to get their legs back,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said.

“It’s a long season and when you don’t really have a chance to catch your breath, especially because he’s riding six or seven guys pretty hard right now? I’m sure this week off will do them some good.”

Sophomore transfer Eric Paschall had a career day Saturday, with 19 points on 8-for-12 shooting to go with six rebounds. Josh Hart added 16 points and eight boards, Kris Jenkins overcame another off shooting night from three (1 for 7) to record 15 points, four boards and three assists, and Mikal Bridges had 11 points and eight rebounds. DiVincenzo and Jalen Brunson each scored nine points. 

The next meaningful game Villanova plays will be March 9 in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament in New York.

Now it’s time to rest. And heal.

“It’s going to be good for us,” Jenkins said. “We get a couple days off. We’ll still watch film, still learn, still get better, but physically we need a couple days to regroup and get ready for Georgetown and then the Big East tournament.

“Georgetown is first, but we really do need this break.”

On Saturday, Villanova built an 11-point lead, gave it all away, fell behind, traded off seven second-half lead changes, then went on a 16-4 run midway through the second half to finally put away the Bluejays.

With the threes not falling, the Wildcats focused on attacking the rim and scoring in the post in the second half.

Jenkins in particular had an unusual game. He stopped shooting treys and made 5 of 8 shots from inside the arc. That’s the second-most two-pointers he’s ever made and the most he’s ever attempted.

“Just playing off my teammates and adjusting to how teams play me,” said Jenkins, shooting just 30 percent from three the last 10 games.

“They really take away threes and try not to let me get any clean catches so always being aggressive and trying to make the right play.”

For a tired team, backing off the threes was huge.

Villanova outscored Creighton 36-18 over the last 14 minutes after Creighton took its biggest lead – two points at 43-41.

Now comes rest.

“It’s big for these guys,” Wright said. “In my mind, we just had to get to today. We just gotta get through it without getting somebody else hurt and without just being dead.

“Because we’re going to get time off. We’re going to take Sunday off, we’re going to have a light day Monday, and then we’re going to take Tuesday off, because these guys really need the rest. So this is perfect timing for us.”