3 Stars: Lethal special teams strike again as Flyers complete weekend sweep of Penguins

3 Stars: Lethal special teams strike again as Flyers complete weekend sweep of Penguins

A look at the Philadelphia Flyers' 4-3 victory over the hated, intrastate rival Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday afternoon at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh from the perspective of three players.

Let’s get this out of the way now: Man, did the linesman ever dodge a bullet when Sidney Crosby’s tip-in the waning seconds hit the post and didn’t tie the game. Evgeni Malkin was so far offside on the play that he was basically in Ohio.

3. Marc-Andre Fleury

The Penguins netminder didn’t have his best performance of the season on Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia but had the chance to rebound on Sunday in Pittsburgh.

A peek at Fleury’s stats from Sunday show he made 12 saves on 15 shots. Not bad, right? The thing is those 12 saves on 15 shots came in the first 13:41 of a first period the Flyers dominated.

Fleury was pulled at that point after giving up Wayne Simmonds’ second power-play goal of the game but the score wasn’t the netminder’s fault. It was a mercy pulling by Penguins coach Dan Bylsma. The Flyers were running roughshod over the Penguins and Bylsma had to do something so he but backup Jeff Zatkoff in to try and turn things around, which almost happened.

Fleury actually played pretty well for Pittsburgh when he was in the game. He let up three goals but made numerous A-plus stops that kept Pittsburgh in the game at the time. He had no shot on Brayden Schenn’s opening tally off a scramble and bad things happen when Mr. Simmonds is in his office.

2. Matt Read

A second game this weekend against the Penguins, a second impressive performance Read, who punctuated his weekend with Sunday’s game-winning goal.

With the Penguins on a power play midway through the second period, Luke Schenn hopped on a turnover and sprung Read and Sean Couturier on a two-on-one break. Instead of forcing a pass to Couturier, Read sniped the top corner of the net over Zatkoff’s glove for a shorthanded goal.

Not only was it the game-winning goal, it was Read’s second shorthanded goal of the weekend and his third goal of the weekend overall.

Goals are always nice, but the work Read and Couturier did against the Penguins’ top-ranked power play over the last two games was as good as it gets. The Penguins’ vaunted power play went 0-for-9 over the weekend thanks in large part to Read and Couturier, the Flyers’ special teams aces.

Also of note, Crosby and Malkin combined for – wait for it, wait for it – zero points on the weekend.

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1. Wayne Simmonds

As mentioned above, bad things happen to opponents when Mr. Simmonds is in his office in front of the net.

On Sunday, Mr. Simmonds set up shop in Pittsburgh and his office was open for business.

Simmonds tipped a point shot from Kimmo Timonen through Fleury’s legs for a power-play goal to give the Flyers a 2-0 lead midway through the first period. Just under seven minutes later, he spun in front of the net and powered the puck through Fleury for another power-play goal, gave the Flyers a 3-0 lead and ended Fleury’s day.

The goals were Simmonds’ 20th and 21st of the season. His career high is 28 in 2011-12. He now has 12 power-play goals on the year, which ties him for third most in the league.

Simmonds also assisted on Schenn’s opening tally to round out a three-point day.

Know any bitter Penguins fans?  There are a lot of them out there.

Be sure to remind them that the Flyers are now 10-2-1 (including playoffs) in Pittsburgh’s CONSOL Energy Center since it opened in October 2010.

Can’t stress enough how you should rub that fact in the faces of any Penguins fans you see at school or work on Monday.

Report: Sixers attend New York workout for Ingram, Murray, Maker

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Report: Sixers attend New York workout for Ingram, Murray, Maker

The Sixers are taking their talent evaluation on the road.

On Tuesday, members of the front office attended a workout for Excel Sports Management in New York, which included Brandon Ingram, the projected No. 1 or No. 2 pick in the 2016 NBA draft, Jamal Murray, a projected lottery pick, and Thon Maker, according to the Inquirer.

The Sixers have held two workouts at their own facility, and it is common for teams to attend organized workouts for higher-rated prospects. Head coach Brett Brown, managing owner Josh Harris and vice president of player personnel Marc Eversley traveled to the session, but president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo was in Toronto for his son's high school graduation, according to the report.

The Sixers hold the first, 24th and 26th picks in the upcoming draft. The decision between one and two is widely considered to be between Ingram and Ben Simmons. The Sixers have the assets on their roster to move up from Nos. 24 and 26 through a trade, which makes scouting prospects outside of the top two an integral part to their evaluation.

The team has worked out 12 players in Philadelphia and will continue to do so up until the draft on June 23. 

10 observations from Eagles OTA practice Tuesday

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10 observations from Eagles OTA practice Tuesday

Finally some nice weather.

The Eagles began their second round of OTAs on Tuesday under the beaming sun, in near-80 degree temperatures. That’s a departure from the first day of rookie camp and the first day of last week’s OTAs, which both brought rain.

So without the confinements of the practice bubble and without a slick football, we got a chance to see the 2016 Eagles in desirable conditions Tuesday.

Here are 10 observations from Tuesday’s practice:

1. Overall, a pretty sloppy day for the defense. As soon as the team portion of the practice began, Sam Bradford got the defensive line to jump about three times in the first several plays of practice. Late in the practice, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz had enough and ripped into a second-year defensive back.

During his nearly 30-minute press conference after practice, Schwartz was asked about his past experience grooming a first-round quarterback (Matthew Stafford), but said he doesn’t have much time to worry about Carson Wentz.

“We’ve got enough worries on defense right now,” he said.

2. If you’re looking for a bright spot on defense, we’ll offer up rookie defensive back Jalen Mills. On Tuesday, Mills got a chance to work against the first-team offense in the Nickel package. When Mills came on the field, Ron Brooks moved inside, while Leodis McKelvin remained outside.

Mills made the defensive play of the day, when he got in between Jordan Matthews and a deep sideline pass.

“He’s been impressive so far,” Schwartz said of the seventh-rounder Mills. “But we haven’t even really started yet, to tell you the truth.”

Schwartz said the team wanted to see how Mills would look going against veterans; before Tuesday, he had mostly been going against rookies.

“We don’t have a depth chart right now,” Schwartz cautioned.

While those three worked with the first team on Tuesday, there could be different players there Wednesday. And Nolan Carroll, who’s still recovering, isn’t yet able to do team drills.

3. Rueben Randle (gallbladder surgery) and Ryan Mathews (illness) both missed practice on Tuesday, which gave some other guys more reps.

At running back, it meant Kenjon Barner worked with the first team, while rookie fifth-rounder Wendell Smallwood worked with the twos. With Mathews out and with Darren Sproles still away, the team had just three running backs suited up on Tuesday. Barner looked pretty good with the first team on Tuesday.

The starting widouts were Nelson Agholor, Josh Huff and Jordan Matthews. When all three were on the field, Matthews was mostly in the slot. But one guy who did a lot with his reps on Tuesday was free-agent signing Chris Givens. Now, obviously, these guys are still in shorts, but Givens showed off his speed and hands. He’s making a push for the roster as the last receiver to make the team.

4. Fletcher Cox is still not with the team (see story). Last week, during the open practice, Taylor Hart worked next to Bennie Logan in his spot. Tuesday, it was free-agent pickup Mike Martin.

“I’ve been working with them,” Martin said after practice. “We’ve been switching and working both sides. But it’s a great advantage to be able to work with the first-team guys and get those reps.”

5. You’re probably wondering how Wentz looked. He again showed off his strong arm on Tuesday, while working with the threes. Overall, he probably had the best day of the quarterbacks.

He delivered a perfect 25-yard sideline pass to Givens over the shoulder. On another play, he tripped over his offensive lineman’s foot, but was still able to complete an out to Trey Burton while falling. That’s all arm strength, because he couldn’t use his legs to complete the pass.

The one thing we have seen a couple times from Wentz is this: he has a strong arm, but sometimes he has overthrown his targets. Nothing major yet, but something to keep an eye on.

6. Jordan Hicks was back at MIKE with the defense during Tuesday’s team portion of practice, which is a good sign for a team that’s relying on him heavily. Last Tuesday, he was held out with some tightness in his legs.

While Hicks has been playing the middle linebacker spot, Schwartz talked about the versatility of that group.

“All of those guys are pretty much interchangeable, and you have to be now,” Schwartz said.

7. Last Tuesday, head coach Doug Pederson said Cody Parkey wouldn’t be a full-go until perhaps training camp, but the kicker was hitting field goals on Tuesday and looked pretty good.

He did miss about a 43-yarder, but he still has a really good shot to make the team over Caleb Sturgis, who did a nice job filling in last season. It’s not definitely Parkey’s job yet, though. Sturgis looked good Tuesday and that’ll definitely be a competition to watch come training camp.

8. Donnie Jones is the only punter left in the building after the team cut Ryan Quigley earlier this week.

Jones celebrated by booming several punts on Tuesday. He’s still pretty good.

9. Burton has been moving around the field quite a bit in the early going. He’s been lining up on the line as a tight end, in the backfield as a fullback and in the slot as a receiver. It’s pretty clear that in some packages, Pederson and the offense will have a fullback of some kind.

Come training camp, when the hitting begins, Burton will really need to show he can handle that role.

10. Perhaps the most notable change in practice under Pederson, as opposed to Chip Kelly, comes in the form of pace. Under Kelly, the emphasis was on running as many plays as possible in the time allotted, which meant correcting mistakes after practice.

“His approach was to get no-huddle,” left guard Allen Barbre said of Kelly (more on Barbre). “If you stop to correct it all the time, you wouldn’t be getting a no-huddle practice.”

Under Pederson, there’s much more on-field teaching during practice. At one point on Tuesday, Pederson actually stopped the practice, taught technique and made them run it again. Under Kelly, the offense would have been five plays down the line.

National champion Villanova to be honored at White House next week

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USA Today Images

National champion Villanova to be honored at White House next week

It's been nearly two months since Villanova won the National Championship in one of the most memorable games in NCAA Tournament history.

Since then, the Wildcats have been honored by the city (parade), the New York Stock Exchange (opening bell), the Phillies (first pitch), the Flyers and the Union. Earlier this week, head coach Jay Wright addressed the Eagles.

But that will all pale in comparison to where the Wildcats will be next Tuesday, when they become the latest championship team to visit the White House and meet President Barack Obama.

The ceremony is scheduled to begin at 4:10 p.m. and will be streamed on www.whitehouse.gov/live.

In his pool, President Obama had Villanova finally advancing past the second round — "I know that eventually they're going to break through. They've had some bad luck over the last couple of years," Obama told ESPN.com — but had the Wildcats falling to Kansas in the regional semifinal.

He then had Kansas beating North Carolina to win the title.

After surviving the first weekend for the first time since their Final Four run in 2009, Villanova ousted Kansas, 64-59, before shocking Buddy Hield and Oklahoma in the national semifinal, winning by 44. The Wildcats then won one of the most memorable championship games in NCAA Tournament history when Kris Jenkins hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to beat the Tar Heels, 77-74.