Flyers Score Seven Goals, More Than Twice as Many in Previous Four Games Combined

Flyers Score Seven Goals, More Than Twice as Many in Previous Four Games Combined

With their season on the line, the Flyers’ offense suddenly
came to life toward the end of March, averaging more than four goals per game
during a stretch where they grabbed nine points out of a possible 10. And with
their season still on the line, Philly’s offense just as abruptly went ice cold
less than two weeks ago, only able to muster three scores over a four-game
span, essentially eliminating the squad from playoff contention.

The combination of which makes their seven-goal outburst in
Montreal on Monday all the more perplexing – against the second-place team in
the East and one of the better defensive clubs in the NHL at that.

It was just another example of how maddening it has been to follow
the Orange & Black this season. On any given night we might be treated to hockey
at or near its highest level, but too often only for a period or two at a time,
and some nights not at all.

The ability is in there though, as evidenced in
their 7-3 win over the Canadiens.

Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 25 of 28 shots, getting stronger as
the contest went along, perhaps even making a couple of his toughest saves of
the season. With the bench shorthanded defensively due to injuries and numerous
penalties, Luke Schenn skated a career-high 33 minutes, continuing to prove he
can be relied upon to carry the load at the back end. And Claude Giroux and
Jakub Voracek each had a goal and two assists, the one top-line connection for
the Flyers that has yet to lose its luster.

Quite possibly the biggest difference between this outing
and the previous 40 was Scott Hartnell finally re-emerging as a
difference-maker. Hartsy banged home a hat trick, giving him just seven goals
for the season after netting a career-high 37 a year ago.

Of course it is a condensed schedule, plus Hartnell
did lose around one month to a foot injury.

Injuries have been a theme all season long though. Multiple
players were missing for stretches, which at this point includes nearly all of
their defensemen who began the season in Philadelphia. Nicklas Grossmann, Braydon
Coburn, Andrej Meszaros, and Bruno Gervais were scratches for Montreal, and the group was stretched further after Kent Huskins was knocked out of the game in the first period and
Kurtis Foster received a 10-minute misconduct for coming to his teammate’s aid.

Yet not everything is about who isn’t in the lineup.
Injuries only explain away some of the inconsistencies. Take the Flyers’ power
play for instance. At one point it had ascended to number one in the NHL, only
to go six consecutive games without lighting the lamp, streak they finally snapped by converting on 3 of 4 chances in the victory.

Both the first and second PP units have remained largely intact of late. Maybe it was nothing more than a slump. Whatever the reasoning, they were firing on all cylinders here.

The Flyers found a way to win this one – and big – even though the occasion provided a few excuses to fail. Sure, Carey
Price hasn’t been sharp in net recently for the Canadiens, but the Orange &
Black got to him, chased him from the game, then continued pouring it on. Seven
goals match Philly’s highest output of the year.

What the front office is going to have to figure out in what
will surely be a taxing offseason is what causes these rapid mood swings. During wings like this the Flyers' level of talent is on full display. Now how do they
go about sustaining it from one game – or even one period – to the next?

>> BOX SCORE [Flyers.com]

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Highly ranked 2018 recruit Brandon Slater verbally commits to Villanova

Highly ranked 2018 recruit Brandon Slater verbally commits to Villanova

The future of Villanova basketball just got brighter.

Brandon Slater, a 6-foot-6 wing and highly touted 2018 recruit, told Scout.com on Wednesday night that he has verbally committed to the Wildcats.

He later made the announcement on Twitter.

Among the 2018 recruiting class, Slater, a product of Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax, Virginia, is ranked in the top 30 by Scout.com and top 50 by ESPN.com. He's slated as a four-star talent by both media outlets.

Per ESPN, Slater had offers from Louisville, Maryland, Miami, Syracuse, USC and Virginia Tech. He is Villanova's first commitment for 2018.

"Going up there it just feels like a second home," Slater said, via Evan Daniels of Scout.com. "It gives me a good vibe. It's nothing like all the other schools. I just feel like a Villanova guy. It feels like PVI. It's already home."

Slater and Villanova head coach Jay Wright expressed their excitement on Twitter.

Pete Mackanin maintains positive outlook even though Phillies now have worst record in majors

Pete Mackanin maintains positive outlook even though Phillies now have worst record in majors

BOX SCORE

On the surface, it might appear that the Phillies were done in by one bad inning on Wednesday night. After all, they suffered a 7-2 loss at Citizens Bank Park and the visiting Colorado Rockies scored all of their runs in one hellacious burst in the third inning (see Instant Replay).

But there was more to the loss than just one poor inning by starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson. The Phillies came to the plate in nine innings against the Rockies pitchers and managed hits in only two of them while finishing the game with just three. It was the third time in the last four games -- all losses -- that the Phillies have mustered just three (expletive deleted) hits. Through the first seven innings in this one, they were out-hit, 11-1.

"Well, once again, three hits," manager Pete Mackanin said afterward. "Not a whole lot of good to talk about."

No, there wasn't. Hasn't been for a while. The Phillies have lost five in a row, 9 of 10 and 20 of their last 24 games. Wednesday night's loss left them with the worst record in the majors at 15-29.

"There's a lot of baseball left, and I know we're better than this," Mackanin said. "We just have to have some kind of spark to get out of it. Win a couple in a row and it could put us on a winning streak."

It’s not going to be easy to start the winning streak in Thursday's series finale against Colorado. The Rockies have the best record in the National League at 31-17 and they have outscored the Phillies, 23-5, in the first three games of the series.

That's a serious beating.

"They have some really good hitters in that lineup and it’s a deep lineup, too," Hellickson said. "There are no easy outs."

Conversely, there have been many easy outs in the Phillies' lineup in this series. The Phils did not get their first hit Wednesday night until Andrew Knapp singled with two outs in the fifth inning. The Rockies’ starting pitchers in this series have held the Phils to two runs in 20 innings. And two of those pitchers were rookies, Jeff Hoffman and German Marquez. Tyler Chatwood pitched seven shutout innings Wednesday night.

The Phillies’ starting pitching in the month of May has been brutal. Phillies starters have a 6.39 ERA in the month, second worst in baseball over that span.

The team is 4-17 in the month.

"It's been kind of surprising," Mackanin said of the rotation's problems this month. "I know they're better than that. We're going to put something together. I believe that. "

Hellickson went 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in five starts in April. He's been a different pitcher in May. His ERA in the month is a hefty 7.30 in five starts. The difference in the months: Hellickson located his finesse repertoire down in the strike zone in April. He's been up in the zone in May. On Wednesday night, Rockies hitters fought off his middling fastball and didn’t miss his soft stuff because it was up. Carlos Gonzalez had the big hit against Hellickson in the Rockies' seven-run third. He jumped out of his shoes to hack at a 2-1 changeup and hit it for a three-run home run.

"He had poor command of his changeup," Mackanin said. "He was yanking his changeup, not locating it. That's his out pitch. He didn't have it tonight.

"He’s had a lot of good starts for us. When he doesn’t locate, he gives up a run here or there, but he kind of gets it back. For that one inning, it fell apart on him."

Hellickson allowed eight base runners on six hits and two walks in the Rockies' seven-run third inning. He gave up a double, a triple, a homer and three singles in the frame.

"I beat myself that inning by falling behind and walking too many," the pitcher said. "When I did make a good pitch, they found a way to get hits off those, too."

This is the third straight season that the Phillies have endured a 4-20 stretch.

"It's not easy," Hellickson said. "It’s not fun. It's just something you deal with. It’s not fun."

During this stretch, Mackanin has benched his cleanup hitter, Maikel Franco. Otherwise, he has kept his sanity.

"I remember when I took over in '15, the team was scuffling, really not playing well," Mackanin said. "Then something clicked and we started beating teams. Last year, we had a good first part of the season and then kind of scuffled at the end. Sometimes one little thing clicks and you get better.

"In a long season, these things sometimes happen. I remember Atlanta, the first half last year, was terrible. They had a real good second half. I believe we just need to get something going. We're going to put something together. I believe that."