Flyers’ secondary scorers need to step up

Flyers’ secondary scorers need to step up

Jake Voracek: zero goals. Sean Couturier: zero goals. Matt Read: zero goals. Scott Hartnell: zero goals (and injured). Claude Giroux: zero goals. Greg Paone: zero goals. Enrico Campitelli Jr: zero goals. Nick Menta: zero goals.

Ok, so the last three people on that list write for this website and do not play for the Flyers so that should get the point across that the Orange and Black’s offense has struggled immensely so far during the young NHL season.

Through the new campaign’s first eight games, the Flyers have netted just 11 goals, which ties them with Thursday’s opponent, the New York Rangers, for the lowest total in the league.

It should come as no surprise that the Flyers’ record stands at 1-7 and they have a league-worst two points.

It’s pretty safe to say that Philadelphia’s offense needs some type of spark to finally get going. And that spark needs to come from the team’s secondary scorers. Pronto.

You’re probably thinking, “No one is scoring. How can anyone be a secondary scorer?”

Touché. But I’m referring to the guys that were considered secondary scorers heading into the season. I’m talking about the Reads, Couturiers, Brayden Schenns and Wayne Simmonds of the world.

These guys have to get their respective offensive games going to not only get the team some goals, but to relieve some of the immense pressure off the Flyers’ supposed-to-be premier scorers Giroux and whoever plays alongside him, which, heading into Thursday’s visit from the Rangers, looks to now be Vincent Lecavalier and rookie Michael Raffl, and Voracek.

Even though he hasn’t really showed it much through eight games and may or may not still be feeling the effects of offseason hand surgery, Giroux is an elite NHL player. Voracek also hasn’t played like he’s capable of and may still be dealing with a back injury. They will still have to go up against the opponent’s top defensemen throughout the majority of a game. That’s not great news for guys that have been struggling out of the gate.

Take tonight's Rangers game for example. Even though they sit at minus-7 and minus-8 respectively because of New York’s similarly slow start, Dan Girardi and/or Marc Staal will likely be on the ice most of the time against Giroux and Voracek. Ryan McDonagh, who isn’t having as bad a start as his fellow New York defensemen, will also likely see time against Giroux and Voracek. Those Rangers blue-liners are still capable of playing like top-level shutdown defensemen despite their slow starts to the season.

The fact is Giroux and Voracek are going to get a ton of attention even if they are struggling. That’s where the secondary scorers have to step up, especially with those guys struggling.

Schenn has two goals but one was a gift into wide-open net after Florida goalie Tim Thomas misplayed a bounce off the boards on a dump in. Simmonds scored his first goal of the season last week against the Penguins but he’s fanned and whiffed on a season’s worth of passes and shots through eight games. Read has come close with a few posts hit but still hasn’t found paydirt. And Couturier really hasn’t done anything noticeable thus far.

Let’s face it. Through eight games, Tye McGinn leads the Flyers with three goals. McGinn has played in just three of those eight games. Good for McGinn but… Oof, Flyers. Oof.

With the Flyers’ top guys not playing the way they’re capable of, it’s time for these secondary scorers to get going and give the team the offensive punch and spark it so desperately needs.  They are going to get their chances as teams continue to focus on Giroux and Voracek.

Schenn, Simmonds, Read and Couturier have all shown in the past that they’re capable of putting the puck in the net somewhat consistently and have shown they can get on hot streaks. Now is the time for one or two or all of them to do so and spark the Flyers’ sleepy offense. The talent is there to do so.

Maybe a visit from the almost-equally lousy Rangers is just what the doctor ordered.

This was a guest post by Greg Paone

Report: Lonzo Ball, Sixers considering pre-draft workout

Report: Lonzo Ball, Sixers considering pre-draft workout

It may be time for Sixers fans to start setting money aside for some Big Baller Brand gear.

Sources tell ESPN's Chris Haynes that Lonzo Ball is considering working out for the Sixers, who hold the No. 3 pick in the upcoming NBA draft.

"A final decision will be made once Ball's agent, Harrison Gaines, and Sixers general manager Bryan Colangelo have had an extensive conversation centered on the identity of the team, sources told ESPN," Haynes writes.

Haynes also states that the main concern between Ball and the Sixers would be how the former UCLA point guard would fit in on a team that plans to feature 2016 No. 1 pick Ben Simmons as the primary ball handler.

This news comes after Ball declined to work out for the Boston Celtics, who own the top pick in June's draft.

"We don't deal with [Ball's camp] all that much," Celtics president Danny Ainge said on 98.5 The Sports Hub radio during The Toucher and Rich Show Thursday. "They didn't show up at the combine, which is very common — many of the top 10 or 15 players don't show up for the combine. ... We just tried to get him in for a workout and they politely said no."

Ball's father, LaVar, has previously stated several times that his son would only work out for the Lakers, who will select at No. 2. Plus, Lonzo Ball has said he would rather be drafted by the home state Lakers instead of going at the top of the draft.

"I'm a family dude," Ball said during an interview on ESPN last month. "All my family is in L.A. So, to be able to play in front of them, I think that would mean more to me."

Even with all the pre-draft posturing and the outspoken nature of his father, Ball has proven to be a top-tier talent. The 6-foot-6 Ball averaged 14.6 points, 7.6 assists and 6.0 rebounds as a freshman at UCLA as he was named a consensus first-team All-American.

We previously looked at how Ball would blend with the Sixers, which one analyst called a "perfect" fit.

The Sixers may be having similar thoughts.

500 plate appearances in, Tommy Joseph an above-average offensive 1B

500 plate appearances in, Tommy Joseph an above-average offensive 1B

BOX SCORE

Tommy Joseph is making the Phillies' situation at first base quite tricky.

Joseph on Thursday continued building on his red-hot month of May by going 2 for 5 with a game-tying homer in the seventh and a walk-off RBI single in the 11th inning of the Phillies' 2-1 win over the Rockies (see Instant Replay).

He's hit .329 in May with six doubles, six homers, 15 RBIs and a .657 slugging percentage. The only first basemen in the majors with a higher slugging percentage this month are Yonder Alonso, Justin Bour and Paul Goldschmidt.

That'll hold off the eye-popping production of Rhys Hoskins for now (see Future Phillies Report).

Extending it further, Joseph has played 148 career games with 499 plate appearances in the majors. That's just a bit less than a full season. He's hit .255 with an .804 OPS, 28 home runs and 23 doubles. He's provided above-average offensive production from first base.

Most Phillies fans know Joseph's story — big-time catching prospect acquired from the Giants in the 2012 Hunter Pence trade, series of concussions, position switch, hot start to 2016 at Triple A, promotion, production.

It was a long, winding road for Joseph, and when he was asked Thursday if he expected to be this solid 500 plate appearances into his major-league career, he brought up health.

"My goals were to be healthy, to be able to play in 162 games and that's all I really want to be able to do," Joseph said. "That's something I haven't been able to do in my career and it's something that I'm looking forward to. I'm looking forward to the challenge to go through the mental challenge and the physical challenge and I'd say that's my No. 1 goal, that's my only goal. Because if I'm able to stay healthy and stay on the field then I'm able to enjoy this great game and getting to share it with my teammates."

As for the May adjustments, Joseph said the standard things about communicating with hitting coach Matt Stairs, working in the cage and staying consistent with his approach. His timing wasn't there in April but it's certainly been there in May.

"There's no telling what clicks in a guy, it's just a matter of making a minor adjustment sometimes, possibly getting better pitches to hit," manager Pete Mackanin said. "There's no telling what it is, but he just looks a lot more comfortable at the plate."

Bullpen bouncing back
It's been completely overshadowed by the Phillies' recent skid but the bullpen has pitched very well of late. The unit that was overworked and criticized in April has combined to allow just two earned runs in its last 22 2/3 innings. On Thursday, six Phillies relievers — Edubray Ramos, Pat Neshek, Joaquin Benoit, Hector Neris, Luis Garcia and Jeanmar Gomez — pitched six scoreless innings.

Neshek made the play of the day, diving and landing on his head to snag a pop-up bunt attempt before turning and firing to first base for the double play.

"I said early on that I think it's one of our strengths," Mackanin said of the bullpen. "And after today you can see why I have a lot of confidence in them."

Neshek, who has pitched in the postseason for four different teams, said Thursday that he thinks this is one of the best bullpens he's ever been around. It's not lip service, either. The unit was terrible in April, there's no getting around that. But some of that really did have to do with the overuse. Setup men were entering in the sixth inning. Opportunities for holds and saves were few and far between. Roles were not defined.

Stuff-wise, repertoire-wise, there is a lot to like about the Phillies' bullpen. Neris, Benoit and Neshek all offer vastly different looks and have track records of success.

While Neshek didn't totally endorse Benoit's comments from a few weeks ago that everything would settle down once the relievers knew specifically which inning they'd pitch, he did say that he too feels most comfortable coming in during a hold opportunity.

"I think my numbers show that I'm best in those situations, coming into a hold opportunity when we're ahead," Neshek said. "We haven't had much of those lately."

The horrendous start to the season for the Phillies' relievers will skew their stats all season long, but it's nice to see that at least one aspect of this team is starting to get into a groove.