Hartnell Leads Revamped Power Play in Win, But Briere, Jagr, Rinaldo Hurt ... Bryz Wants to Be Left Alone

Hartnell Leads Revamped Power Play in Win, But Briere, Jagr, Rinaldo Hurt ... Bryz Wants to Be Left Alone

The Flyers' dual-matinee weekend appeared to get off to a promising start, with a 4-1 win over the New Jersey Devils. But, injuries disclosed both during and after the game could prove to be more important than their resurgent effort after a poor outing against the Islanders, and Ilya Bryzgalov's postgame comments may get as much attention as his stellar in-game play.

Scott Hartnell was among the Flyers who led the way in the win, netting a pair of power play goals, and Bryzgalov had a very strong afternoon in net. Jaromir Jagr left the game with an undisclosed lower body injury, which is concerning, but it may have pushed the Flyers to make a change that helped spark their power play too. After the game, Paul Holmgren stated that Danny Briere has a concussion and will be out indefinitely.

A look at a key timeout, modifications to the power play, some key contributors, and video highlights (both in-game and at Bryz's locker) below.

The Devils seemed to have an early advantage in the game, which was scoreless through the first period due to some good goaltending at both ends. Aided by a pair of power plays, the Devils put nine shots on Ilya Bryzgalov to the Flyers' four.

Jagr left midway through the first period, a situation certainly worth some concern. But, that and another timeout motivational speech by the head coach may have put the wheels in motion for the Flyers to slice through the league's best penalty killing unit and dominate the game's final 35 minutes.

TIMEOUT MASTER
Three minutes into the second period, Lavvy wasn't happy with the effort he was seeing on the ice. As is his wont, he called a timeout. After the game, Hartnell relayed to Coatsey that the message was simple: "Who's gonna play?"

Ice time would be dictated by effort, always a key in Lavvy's coaching style, but something that he needed to emphasize today.

Shift after shift, the Flyers turned up the pressure, leading to quality scoring chances and a few power plays. Then, at 9:30 of the second period, Matt Read added to his NHL rookie-leading goal total, scoring his 15th. Wayne Simmonds, who was among the hardest working players on the ice all game, made the most of a Devils turnover, outworking a pair of them in the corner and emerging with a pass on the tape of Read, who buried one past Martin Brodeur.

CROSSTOWN TRAFFIC
A few minutes later, a Flyers power play that has been struggling to be dangerous on a consistent basis, took to the ice with a new look. With Jagr out, Simmonds drew power play time along with Hartnell and Claude Giroux, with Simmonds taking the low slot and Hartnell finding his way to Jagr's usual post in the mid-to-high slot. With those two in place and the associated Devils traffic, Kimmo Timonen took a shot from the point that found its way into the net. It was hard to initially credit, because both Hartnell and Simmonds had their sticks ready to deflect it. Simmonds quickly pointed back to Hartnell though, who had gotten just enough of it to beat Brodeur.

Fresh off the plane from Carolina, the newest Devil Alexei Ponikarovsky cut the Flyers' lead to one, deflecting a shot of his own to beat Bryz just 28 seconds later.

The Flyers weathered the Devils' comeback effort, and their success on the power play continued in the third period. Scott Hartnell drew a pair of minors as the horn blew to start the second intermission, but he'd tally on the power play again once allowed on the ice again.

Harts was again in the high slot area with Simmonds down low when Giroux executed a great head fake, staring down Kimmo at the point before sending a quick pass to Hartnell, who rifled it home for his 22nd on the season.

Sometimes an empty netter is a meaningless stat padder, but that wasn't the case with the one Simmonds managed today. First, it was a pretty nice backhand shot. But aside from that, he earned the tally with some hard-ass work in the corners and around the crease; he was on the ice for every Flyers goal, assisting on two of them.

With timetables on Briere and Jagr unknown, it is at least encouraging to be reminded of the Flyers' depth today. Also good to see Giroux with a two-point day.

Notes:
Eleven of Hartnell's 22 goals this season have come on the power play. It's the third time this season he has scored twice in a game.

According to Flyers PR, this was Simmonds' first career three-point game.

Dave Isaac says Tom Sestito and Ben Holmstrom will be called up to play tomorrow against Boston.

BRYZ...
Unfortunately, there will be understandable attention on Ilya Bryzgalov's response to the questions he was asked after the win. Here's the video of that.

In summary, "Who cares. Stop worrying about me. Worry about different things. Too much in the media, everywhere around, like 'How you feel? What's going on? What we should have to do with him?'—Leave me alone, guys. Just let me be me and let me play hockey."

I don't think the reporters were necessarily out for blood so much as a quote updating the oft-scrutinized status the team's key off-season acquisition. It is indeed very fair territory. But, it's also well-traveled territory, and it's easy to see Bryz's side of it. In fact, count me in favor of the media heeding the wishes of both the team earlier in the season and the goalie right now, and having a few fewer rounds at the open bar that is often served at Bryz's locker stall.

Yes, it's part of the job, and I don't intend this as an indictment of the media, though we know the group has had some scrapes with Flyers players before. Today was reminiscent of Mike Richards' "Same Questions…" eye-rolling reaction.

We all enjoy the Bryzgalisms, and he knew (or at least was warned) that this would come with the territory when he signed here and left media (and fan) devoid Phoenix. Hell I'm taking the bait right now, posting and commenting on his statement. But I think most fans would rather have shutouts and one-goal performances than responses to questions about current or past struggles. At least I would. Feel free to disagree of course.

Who's to say whether the scrutiny has anything to do with the struggles. The media certainly can't be blamed for them. But, there's at least evidence that it bothers him. Whether today's response will have Bryzgalov's desired effect or the complete opposite remains to be seen. At least one person in the room seemed to get a pretty good laugh out of it (though for all we know, it was directed at something else).

Here's another Bryz video to clean the palate.

Joel Embiid has some dope slippers

Joel Embiid has some dope slippers

Joel Embiid won't play in the next few games after banging up his knee on Friday night in the Sixers win over Portland. This is a bummer for Sixers fans hoping to see the most exciting athlete in Philly in action.

But don't fret too much. Embiid was seen after practice on Monday looking pretty limber, getting up some shots in some sweet slippers.

Hopefully we'll see Embiid back in some Adidas on Friday when the Sixers host James Harden and the Houston Rockets at the Center.

Stay or Go Part 9: Jalen Mills to Wendell Smallwood

Stay or Go Part 9: Jalen Mills to Wendell Smallwood

In the ninth of our 12-part offseason series examining the future of the Eagles, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro give their opinions on who will be and who won't be on the roster in 2017. We go alphabetically — part 9 is Mills to Smallwood.

Jalen Mills
Cap hit: $559K

Roob: Mills has all the tools to be a capable cornerback except world-class speed. He’s fearless, he’s cocky, he’s smart, he’s a hard worker. He just doesn’t have that make-up speed you want your top outside corners to have. I’ve seen enough positives from Mills that I definitely want him on my team. I’m not sure he’ll ever be a starter, but I definitely want him around.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Mills really got thrown into the fire as a seventh-round rookie, didn’t he? It wasn’t all good, but it wasn’t all bad either. It’s pretty obvious defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz’s loves Mills’ competitiveness. He doesn’t have top-end speed and that’s probably going to prevent him from ever becoming a top-of-the-line corner in the league. But there’s no reason he can’t stick around for a long time. He certainly has the right mindset to be a corner in the NFL and that’s a part of the battle. The Eagles really need to upgrade the corner position, which could greatly reduce Mills’ role, but he should still have one. 

Verdict: STAYS

Aaron Neary

Roob: Neary is a guard who spent the year on the Eagles’ practice squad.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: I’d say there’s a fair to good chance most of you have never heard of Aaron Neary. He’s an undrafted O-lineman out of Eastern Washington who was on the practice squad in 2016. I’d be lying if I told you I knew a lot about him. 

Verdict: GOES

Jason Peters
Cap hit: $11.7M

Roob: Cut Jason Peters at your own risk. You want the $9.2 million cap savings that the Eagles would gain by releasing the perennial Pro Bowler? Find it somewhere else. Because some guys simply should never be released. Peters is an all-time great Eagle and unless his level of play drops off dramatically, he should be allowed to decide when it’s time to go. Only Chuck Bednarik has been picked to more Pro Bowls than Peters in Eagles history. Peters rebounded from a subpar 2015 with a vintage Peters season this past year. Considering that the Eagles have a promising young quarterback who has to be protected and considering that Lane Johnson is one more positive test from a two-year suspension, Peters has to stay. I don’t care what the cap savings would be by getting rid of him. He’s too good and means too much to cut him. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Sure, the Eagles could save over $9 million in cap room if they cut Peters, but who would they get to play? While they’d be fine moving Lane Johnson to left tackle, they’d then be relying on Halapoulivaati Vaitai to play right tackle. And while that might be the plan in coming years, it would weaken the team in 2017. Peters might not be the dominant force he once was, but he had a very good season and he was able to play 97 percent of the team’s offensive snaps, which is huge. He gets paid a lot, but he’s still worth it. 

Verdict: STAYS

Isaac Seumalo
Cap hit: $764K

Roob: I asked Jason Kelce about Seumalo back in training camp and Kelce said he thinks the third-round pick will one day be a Pro Bowl center. Pretty clear Seumalo is the heir apparent to Kelce, it’s just a matter of when the transition occurs. Kelce wasn’t as awful as some people seem to think. He actually finished the season strong. But I think Kelce goes this offseason and Seumalo is your opening-day center in 2017. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Seumalo’s rookie year was a really interesting one. It started with a pec strain in training camp that slowed him down, but eventually ended with his getting some real experience. In all, Seumalo played six different positions in 2016: right tackle, right guard, left guard, left tackle, fullback and tight end. He didn’t even play center, which might be his most natural spot. I think he’ll have a real shot to be the team’s opening-day starter at left guard. 

Verdict: STAYS

Aziz Shittu

Roob: Rookie defensive tackle spent the year on the practice squad. Depending on what happens with Bennie Logan in free agency, the Eagles could be on the prowl for defensive tackle depth this offseason, and Shittu is an interesting guy. He had a good training camp last year coming off a solid career at Stanford and it’s fair to say he has a chance, depending on what the Eagles do in the draft and free agency. Going with my instincts on this one.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: I actually really liked Shittu coming out of Stanford and not just because I giggle like a schoolgirl every time I hear his name. For an interior defensive lineman, he has some real pass rushing potential. I think he would have been the undrafted guy to make the team over Destiny Vaeao had he not missed the spring because of the silly college graduation/quarters rule. I’d like to see him get a legitimate shot to stick here. It’s a longshot, but I’m going to take a chance with this one. I think he can make the roster. 

Verdict: STAYS

Wendell Smallwood
Cap hit: $601K

Roob: We spend so much time talking about the Eagles’ desperate needs at cornerback and wide receiver that it’s easy to forget they're just as desperate at running back. Assuming Ryan Mathews isn’t back, the Eagles will have a real need for a No. 1 back. You can’t draft or sign every position. So Smallwood could get a real shot at the lead back role. Can he handle the role or is he best suited to be a No. 2? Not sure yet. I like how Smallwood responded when he got double-digit carries against the Steelers, Falcons and Seahawks. Averaged 4.2 yards in those three games. And he had nine runs of 10 yards or more out of just 77 carries. I know Smallwood is a player. I’m just not sure where he’ll fit in. Maybe it’s the No. 28 jersey, but at worst I see him as a Correll Buckhalter-type, a solid No. 2 back who can fill in once in a while as a lead guy. At best? We’ll see. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Smallwood might not be the true answer at the running back position, but he proved enough to earn a roster spot next year and a role in the offense. I’m not sure if his ceiling is very high, but he got better throughout the year, specifically as a blocker. He’ll be back for Year 2. 

Verdict: STAYS