3 Stars: Flyers go toe-to-toe with Western Conference-best Blues but fall again in shootout

3 Stars: Flyers go toe-to-toe with Western Conference-best Blues but fall again in shootout

A look at the Philadelphia Flyers’ 1-0 shootout loss to the Western Conference-leading St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night at Scottrade Center in St. Louis through the perspective of three players who had an impact on the game.

 

Much like this past Sunday’s contest with the visiting Boston Bruins, that was one heck of a hockey game despite the outcome. And much like this past Sunday, the Flyers deserved a better fate. But they have nothing to be ashamed of. A point is a point, especially at this time of year. The Flyers will take it.

 

3. Claude Giroux

On a night when defense and goaltending ruled the roost and no player really stood out on the offensive end beside Blues forward Jaden Schwartz, who had a game-high six shots and was buzzing around the puck all game long, it should come as no surprise that Giroux didn’t have his best game of the season.

Part of that is due to the smothering defense the Blues play. But Giroux had his chances to try and make something and was a bit too passive.

In the first period, two Blues defenders tripped over each other and allowed Giroux to carry the puck into the zone untouched with Michael Raffl alongside on the wing for a mini 2-on-0. Instead of going full speed, Giroux slowed down and telegraphed a pass to Raffl that Blues goalie Ryan Miller read and then Miller was able to slide across to stop Raffl. Giroux probably would make a move and shoot if he could have that one back.

In the second period, Giroux skated with the puck down the wing and led the Flyers on an odd-man rush. Instead of shooting, he tried a low-percentage centering pass that the Blues easily knocked away.

The opportunities weren’t plentiful but when they were there, the execution wasn’t.

He was also mauled in the faceoff circle as he won just five of 18 draws, good for 28% on the night. And that high-sticking penalty he took late in the third period could have been costly but his penalty killers picked him up.

It was just one of those nights for the captain. He’ll bounce back.

 

2. Ray Emery

Emery starting in net was a bit of a surprise from Flyers head coach Craig Berube but the Flyers’ backup goalie was superb and had every answer until the dreaded shootout.

He stopped all 28 shots he faced in regulation and overtime and only allowed shootout goals to Mr. America T.J Oshie and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.

Emery faced quality chances all night from the Blues but stood tall each time to get a piece of puck at the very least. He did leave a few rebounds around the crease but his teammates were there to get those out of harm’s way.

It was another solid game from Emery, whose last three starts have now come against the Chicago Blackhawks, Los Angeles Kings and these Blues. Those are three of the best teams in the stacked Western Conference and he’s performed admirably. In fact, he’s given up just five goals in those three games. You can’t ask for much more from your backup.

Tuesday’s game will actually go down in the record books as Emery’s second shutout of the season since he didn’t allow a goal in regulation or overtime.

The shootout is so cruel.

 

1. Ryan Miller

If you thought the goaltending performance by Boston’s Tuukka Rask this past Sunday was something, go back and look at what St. Louis’ newly-acquired netminder did on Tuesday night because he was even better.

Miller stopped all 31 shots he faced in regulation and overtime and then two more in the shootout to earn the victory.

He kept the Blues in the game with impressive save after impressive save as the Flyers poured on the pressure in the first five minutes of the contest including that save on Raffl on the 2-on-0.

His most remarkable save of the night came in the second period as the teams played 4-on-4. Flyers defenseman Mark Streit hit Raffl with a nice pass while on an odd-man rush and Miller stretched across to somehow get his pad on Raffl’s one-timer from the circle. It was right after that crazy save that you started to get a feeling he was going to be unbeatable on Tuesday night.

Miller then went on to save the game in overtime when he robbed Jake Voracek twice on the doorstep with the pad as Voracek found a seam in front of the net and had two great chances.

That could well have been the best game Miller has played since the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. He was sensational. There’s really no other way to put it.

 

Through the last 130 minutes of hockey they’ve played, the Flyers have taken every punch the two best teams in the NHL have thrown. Not only have they taken those punches, they’ve gotten right back up and thrown haymakers of their own and hung with the Bruins and Blues every step of the way. Despite the outcome, the Flyers once again proved they are to be taken seriously.

The Columbus Blue Jackets come to Wells Fargo Center for a big Metropolitan Division matchup on Thursday night. After Tuesday’s results, the Jackets are just four points behind the Flyers for third in the Metro. With the New York Rangers winning in Vancouver, they are now three points ahead of the Flyers for home ice in the opening round of the playoffs but the Flyers still have two really important games in hand.

Difference in talent, power glaring as Phillies continue to lose to top teams

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Difference in talent, power glaring as Phillies continue to lose to top teams

BOX SCORE

The gap in talent level that exists between the Phillies and some of the top teams in the majors has really been evident over the last eight games.
 
The Phillies have lost seven of those eight games to the Tigers, Cubs and Nationals. Tuesday night brought the latest defeat, a 5-1 loss to the National League East-leading Nats at Citizens Bank Park (see Instant Replay). The Nats have won the first two games of the series and go for the sweep on Wednesday night.
 
While losing seven of their last eight, the Phillies have seen their feel-good story turn to dust. Their record has gone from 25-19 to 26-26 and their deficit in the NL East from two games to 5½.
 
“We had a good month and a half,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “When things are going good, they snowball. When things are going bad, they snowball. We’ve got to keep that snowball from rolling. We’ve got to get out of it.”
 
There are a number of reasons the Phillies have hit hard times. Poor offense is a big one. They have been held to two or fewer runs five times in their last seven losses and 20 times for the season. They are now averaging 3.15 runs per game, the lowest mark in the majors. Offense like that is the reason why Aaron Nola can pitch six innings of two-run ball and lose on two mistake pitches as he did Tuesday night. These pitchers have no margin for error.
 
One of the offensive’s big shortcomings is the lack of power. The Phils have been out-homered 15-7 in the last eight games. Washington hit four longballs on Tuesday night; the Phillies hit none. In fact, the Phillies had just four hits – period.
 
“We’re just getting out-homered every night,” Mackanin said. “We’re not hitting home runs. I feel like it’s a broken record. We’re not hitting.”
 
For the season, the Phillies have 39 homers. Only Atlanta has hit fewer.
 
And it doesn’t appear as if things are going to get all that much better any time soon. Management would consider trading for a bat close to the July trading deadline – if the team is in the race. With reality striking hard lately, it’s tough to see this team being in the race for anything but a top-10 pick in next year’s draft. In the short term, the Phils could soon have Cody Asche back on the roster.
 
“Our pitching overall has been very good,” Mackanin said. “We’ve just got to hit.”
 
The Nationals won this game with power and good starting pitching.
 
Right-hander Joe Ross held the Phils to a run over seven innings – an RBI triple by Cesar Hernandez.
 
Meanwhile, Jayson Werth capitalized on a poorly located fastball by Nola and homered two batters into the game. Daniel Murphy got Nola in the sixth to break a 1-1 tie.
 
Nola would like to have had both pitches back.
 
“The pitch to Werth was right down the chute,” he said. “With Murphy, I wanted to get it in a little further and I didn’t.”
 
Other than that, Nola was pretty good. He pitched out of trouble in the second inning and was supported by a double play started nicely at second by Hernandez and a nice catch by Odubel Herrera in center field.
 
“We’re doing some things right but not enough of them,” Mackanin said.
 
“That’s baseball,” Nola said of the lack of run support. “Sometimes we pitch bad and get a lot of run support. The guys are battling. I feel like we’re going to bounce back the next couple of games.”
 
The Nationals blew the game open with three runs in the ninth against reliever Colton Murray. Danny Espinosa smacked a two-run homer and Stephen Drew followed with an inside-the-park homer.
 
The two home runs deprived Nats closer Jonathan Papelbon a chance at a save as he recorded the final three outs against his old team.

Instant Replay: Nationals 5, Phillies 1

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Instant Replay: Nationals 5, Phillies 1

BOX SCORE

The Phillies' late-May slide continued in a 5-1 loss to the Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday night.
 
Aaron Nola delivered a solid start, but got poor run support. The Phillies entered the game averaging 3.2 runs per game, lowest in the majors.
 
The Nationals scored all their runs on home runs.
 
The Phillies have lost nine of their last 11 games. They are 1-7 in their last eight and have gone from 25-19 and two games back in the NL East to 26-26 and 5½ games back.
  
Starting pitching report
Nola went six innings and allowed two runs, both on solo homers. He walked one and struck out six. He is 4-4 with a 2.88 ERA.
 
Washington right-hander Joe Ross (5-4) pitched a strong game. He gave up just three hits and a run over seven innings. He walked two and struck out five. Ross has given up just two runs over 14 innings in his last two starts.
 
Bullpen report
Jonathan Papelbon closed it out for the Nats in a non-save situation.
 
At the plate
The Phillies had just four hits. They have been held to two or fewer runs 20 times in their 52 games.

Cesar Hernandez tripled home the Phillies' only run.

Jayson Werth and Daniel Murphy accounted for the Nationals’ first two runs pair of solo homers against Nola. Danny Espinosa smacked a two-run homer off Colton Murray in the ninth and Stephen Drew followed with an inside-the-park homer.
 
Murphy also singled in the game. He had 47 hits in the month of May, tying a Washington/Montreal franchise record that had previously been shared by Al Oliver and Marquis Grissom.

Lineup stuff
Mackanin was trying to send Hernandez a message by batting him eighth (see story).
 
Bryce Harper did not play for Washington. He was hit on the right leg by a pitch in Monday night’s game.
 
Slumping Ryan Howard started at first base and went hitless in three at-bats to fall to .154. He hit .101 (7 for 69) in the month of May.
 
Howard will not start Wednesday night against Max Scherzer. He is 1 for 18 with 11 strikeouts against Scherzer. Tommy Joseph will start that game.
 
Minor matters
Cody Asche’s minor-league rehab stint expires Wednesday. He could rejoin the team at any time.
 
Up next
 The series concludes on Wednesday night. Lefty Adam Morgan (1-3, 6.67) pitches against Washington right-hander Scherzer (5-4, 4.05).

Drexel alum Ken Tribbett enjoys 'special' week for Union

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Drexel alum Ken Tribbett enjoys 'special' week for Union

CHESTER, Pa. — For more than a month, Union center back Ken Tribbett waited patiently on the sidelines, hoping to get the starting spot back that he had and then lost.

Last week, he indeed got back on the field … and then some.

After Joshua Yaro separated his shoulder in Orlando on Wednesday, Tribbett proceeded to notch his first MLS goal and assist, before playing the full 90 minutes in front of 30 family members in his home state of Colorado on Saturday.

It was quite the eventful week for someone who wasn’t expected to play at all during the road trip, let alone accomplish a couple of emotional milestones.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Tribbett told reporters from Tuesday’s training session after the Union returned home following hard-fought road draws vs. Orlando City SC and the Colorado Rapids. “For me, being out a month, mentally I had to make sure I stayed tuned in. And when I got my chance, I stepped in and was ready to go.”

Even if you are mentally prepared, it’s still not an easy thing to step in at center back in the middle of a game, considering that’s a position that rarely gets changed. Making things even more difficult was the fact that Yaro, who took over starting duties after Tribbett rolled his ankle in April, had been looking every bit like the No. 2 pick in this year’s draft.

“Josh was playing a great game in Orlando,” Union head coach Jim Curtin said. “If you go back and watch the tape, he was one of our top performers. Ken stepped in at the end of the first half, which is challenging at center back — not a position you like to sub at all. But Ken came in pretty seamlessly and got the goal, which is a bonus, obviously.”

You can call it a really big bonus.

Tribbett was never expected to even be in MLS this year after failing to get much notice following a standout career at Drexel.

And he certainly wasn’t expected to log much playing time this season with the Union, who added Yaro and Anderson, a Brazilian, to a position that already featured a rising star in Richie Marquez.

So surprises are nothing new for Tribbett, who started the first five games of the year after soaring up the depth chart in the preseason and now has a goal to add to his unlikely MLS resume.

But it’s no surprise to him.

“I don’t think shock is the right word because I expect a lot of myself and I expect to score a couple of goals this year,” Tribbett said. “So it was just more relief to get the first one out of the way. Any time you score, it’s jubilation, so that was awesome. And to tie the game in Orlando after going down 2-1 was really good for the team, so everything about it was just a special moment.”

Tribbett, who also had a secondary assist in Orlando, enjoyed another “special moment” just three days later when he got to play in the Denver area where he grew up. That was not something he could have imagined after his circuitous journey took him from Colorado to Drexel to the USL’s Harrisburg City Islanders and now to the Union.

“That was probably a moment I won’t ever forget,” Tribbett said. “I had about 20 or 30 family members there, and for a lot of them it was the first time they’ve seen me play professionally. So being back home in Colorado was a special feeling.”

Although the Union backline stayed organized and surrendered only a couple of shots on target in Colorado, Curtin did say it wasn’t the best performance from Tribbett. But the Union coach is ready to lean on him again for Wednesday’s game vs. the Columbus Crew at Talen Energy Stadium (7 p.m./TCN) while Yaro gets an MRI on his shoulder.

“He did fatigue at the end and I talked to him about it,” Curtin said of Tribbett. “He had a couple of little mistakes toward the end of the game. Part of that is your legs starting to fade. But it’s good for him that’s under his belt. He’ll be ready to go now [Wednesday] for the full 90 minutes.”

With the Union idle for two weeks following Wednesday’s game because of a Copa America layoff — and Tribbett’s place in the lineup uncertain from there — the Drexel alum is certainly excited to get back on the field for his first home game since April 8.

“It’s a very important game,” Tribbett said. “We want to go into the break with certain goals for ourselves. We want to be at the top of the conference, and if we win, we’ll achieve that goal. We want to keep one goal per game [allowed]. Right now, we’re one off that, so if we get a shutout tomorrow, we’ll be right back on track.”