3 Stars: Rangers flatten Flyers in crucial Metropolitan Division matchup at MSG

3 Stars: Rangers flatten Flyers in crucial Metropolitan Division matchup at MSG

A look at the Philadelphia Flyers’ 3-1 loss to the rival New York Rangers on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden in New York City through the perspective of crippling turnovers, a group of players that were hardly noticeable and one dominant goaltender.

In what could quite possibly have been their biggest game of the season, the Flyers came up short. Real short.

That’s now eight straight losses for the Flyers at Madison Square Garden.  Ouch.


3. Defensive-zone turnovers

Go back and watch replays of each of the Rangers’ three goals and you’ll find a common theme: Really bad defensive-zone turnovers that led to the puck winding up in the back of the Flyers’ net within seconds.

Slightly before the Rangers’ opening tally, Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen couldn’t handle a pass along the boards from his netminder, Steve Mason. The Rangers were there to pounce on the turnover and throw the puck on net. Derek Dorsett ultimately knocked home a rebound.

In the second period, Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald made a soft clearing attempt that Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh easily picked off and eventually sniped past Mason to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead.

And then in the third period, Flyers winger Michael Raffl fumbled the puck along the boards and turned it over. Moments later, a seemingly harmless wrist shot was deflected by Rangers winger Dominic Moore and trickled through Mason to complete the hat trick of horrible defensive-zone turnovers that wound up in the Flyers’ net.

Though he should have had the last one, Mason was pretty much left hung out to dry. It was the kind of defense that we had seen from the Flyers in October, not the kind we had seen over their recent hot streak. The objective now is to not make a trend down the stretch.


2. The Flyers’ top line

Forget about Jake Voracek’s goal late in third period because it didn’t mean anything except an upward tick in his goal total for the season. The game was well over by then.

The Flyers’ top line is listed here for all the wrong reasons.

Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell and Voracek really didn’t show up on Wednesday night at The Garden. They were hardly noticed when the Flyers needed them to step up and generate some offense in the worst way.

The Rangers’ top defensive pairing of Dan Girardi and the aforementioned McDonagh clearly keyed in on the Giroux line and did their best to take the Flyers captain and his linemates out of the game. They got the matchups they wanted. Girardi and McDonagh are really good defensemen but the Flyers’ top line has to have a much better showing than what we saw Wednesday night.

Flyers TV analyst Rick Tocchet even took to twitter to say he felt Wednesday was the worst game he had seen Giroux play in some time.

A legitimate argument can be made that the Flyers’ fourth line was the team’s most effective line in the offensive zone. Good for them but not good for the Flyers.


1. Henrik Lundqvist

That, my friends, was what you would call a superior goaltending performance.

Lundqvist was his usual spectacular self, making 31 saves for his 27th career victory over the Flyers. They weren’t all easy saves, either.

His second-period save on Adam Hall was a sight to see as he somehow flashed his pad over to rob the Flyers center on a rebound. At the beginning of that second period, he made an equally remarkable save when kept the puck pinned between his skate blade and the ice as Flyers swarmed the crease for a Brayden Schenn rebound.

Lundquvist was at the top of his game and asserted his dominance from the time the puck dropped. You could say it was vintage Lundqvist. Is he old enough or been in the league long enough to say that?

Whatever you want to call it, you just don’t want see it come playoff time if you’re a Flyers fan if the teams do meet in the opening round. A lot can happen over the next few weeks, though.


Two straight losses are never good at this time of the year. But Wednesday’s loss in New York is a bit more concerning than the loss to Los Angeles this past Monday because the Flyers didn’t bring their best effort in a crucial game. There was basically no pushback to the Rangers’ onslaught. The Rangers’ second goal seemed to deflate the Flyers and they could never recover.

The good news is that the steaming tire fire that is the Toronto Maple Leafs – losers of six straight and – comes to South Philly on Friday. It’ll be a prime opportunity for the Flyers to get back on their feet against a team that considers defense highly optional and gives up more shots than the Sixers’ 2-3 zone.

Embiid Liives: Sixers lose opener but Process secured

Embiid Liives: Sixers lose opener but Process secured


852 days after Joel Embiid was drafted -- a number becoming as familiar to Sixer fans as any Cubs fan could tell you how many years it's been since their last World Series -- he actually played in a regular season game for the Philadelphia 76ers. He lives. He exists. He has a Basketball-Reference stat line. It looks like this: 

The feeling of triumph was tangible at the not-Wells Fargo Center well before it became clear that the Sixers might actually have a shot at beating the Oklahoma City Thunder last night. Embiid's every move was treated with breathless anticipation and rapturous cheering, as well it should have been. Even Dario Saric got his name chanted at him in the first quarter, during his very first regular-season trip to the free-throw line. It was less a basketball game than a Bar Mitzvah, celebrating that these two guys we'd waited a combined four years for were at last becoming full-grown Sixers before our very eyes. It couldn't have mattered much less whether or not we won the game. 

That said, hey, we almost won the game! The Sixers led most of the way, including by six fairly deep into the fourth quarter. If not for the Internet-pandering greatness of Russell Westbrook -- 32-12-9 on good shooting, including a handful of tough pull-ups to make the difference late -- the Sixers might've won their first home opener since Process Genesis three years ago. It didn't happen, and a couple highly flustered 76ers possessions late in this one would probably make this loss pretty frustrating if it happened in February, which it probably still will. Last night? W/e. Let's watch those Embiid highlights again. 

And oh, were they high. It was a night that I imagine will soon become typical for our Jojo: He didn't have a great game, and he was still amazing. 6-16 from the floor with four turnovers and 0 assists is hardly the most efficient night Joel will have for us; a couple times he tried to do way too much in the half-court, and it would've been embarrassing if how much fun he was having even in his screw-ups wasn't so inspiring. He didn't know what spots to run to in transition, he was a non-factor on the boards late, and he probably needs to cool it with his coast-to-coast experiments for a little bit. (Actually, what am I saying? Do You forever, Joel, just watch for those tiny dudes sneaking into your blind spot.) 

But he did get to the line for eight FTs (including two on a rip-through move that most ten-year pros can't successfully execute) and made seven of 'em, he did grab nearly every rebound in sight in the first quarter (even though he only ended with seven for the game), he did get an early swat on Russ (and deterred countless other shots), and yes, he did hit his first-ever three-pointer (and even sent the not-WFC crowd into a frenzy with a couple he missed). Even on an off night, where Thunder big men Enes Kanter and Steven Adams — who my mother now hates — got the best of him on multiple occasions, and he radiated a total lack of NBA experience, he still scored 20 points in 22 minutes and kept us in a game we had no right being anywhere near. He is going to be DOMINANT. And soon. So soon.

Technically there were also ten other Sixers who took the court for us last night, so it's probably worth humoring a couple of their contributions as well. For all the shit that I gave him about cruising through the preseason, I thought Robert Covington was awesome last night — super-active on defense, making good decisions on offense, and hitting a couple huge three-pointers. Jerami Grant was similarly impressive, causing his typical chaos under the basket on both ends and even hitting a couple jumpers; probably shouldn't get super-used to that. And even though Gerald Henderson's night was most memorable for him bricking a three and coughing up the ball in critical late possessions, he also set the evening off with a gorgeous alley-oop slam, and played tough perimeter defense — the kind we just haven't had available to unleash on opposing point guards the last few years — on Westbrook, even if he was ultimately undone by Russ's sorcery.

Special kudos to a couple of our backcourt guys, though: In his first regular-season start for the 76ers — and his first regular-season start for any NBA team in seven seasons — Sergio Rodriguez was exactly what we needed: He attracted the Thunder trap but was able to easily navigate out of it, getting good looks and driving lanes for our perimeter guys, and he hit open shots when passed out to himself. He finished with 12 points, nine assists, and no turnovers, just what we'd hope for from our imported point guard. And Nik Stauskas packed a little extra heat for the bloggers who called for his dismissal all summer (as well as some of the fans that booed him — booed him! — last night), attacking the basket like his roster spot depended on it, finishing with an eye-catching 13 on 5-6 shooting. (I never stopped believing in you, Sauce.) (Well, maybe I sorta did, but at least I was rooting for you to make the team, if partly for selfish reasons.) 

On the other hand, it was something of a rough night for Dario Saric. He did fight for seven rebounds, and should laudable toughness on both sides of the ball, but the looks just weren't falling for Our Friend Dario last night — just 2-12, and some of the misses were brutal — and he was late on a couple rotations that led to open Thunder jumpers (Thumpers?) early. And despite showing his advanced touch early with three consecutive scores, Jahlil Okafor ran out of gas pretty quickly in this one, ending with just eight points on 4-10 shooting (with three TOs), and stood virtually no chance against the Thunder on the boards and in the pick-and-roll. Better nights to come for both. 

In the end, though, only one thing really mattered for the Sixers and the 20,000 fans — about 10,000 of them clad in Sixers jerseys, and mostly non-Iverson ones! — at the Center last night, and that's Joel Embiid, our beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful boy, officially becoming a player of record in the NBA. When a full stadium of Philly Phaithful chants "TRUST-THE-PRO-CESS!" while JoJo cackles from the free-throw line line, it means Our Once and Always Dark Lord's work is finally done. Hinkie died for our sins. Embiid is risen. 

Look at how much fun this season is already, with Simmons still in street clothes and Nerlens still Netflix-binging in Alabama with his phone in the other room. What's left to trust, anyway?

Despite shooting struggles, Dario Saric impressive in Sixers' regular-season debut

Despite shooting struggles, Dario Saric impressive in Sixers' regular-season debut

After two years filled with will he or won't he speculation over joining the Sixers, this certainly wasn't the effort Dario Saric had envisioned for his NBA regular-season debut. 

"I felt comfortable, but sometimes it's not your day and this was my bad day," said Saric, who scored five points in the Sixers' 103-97 season-opening loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. "I'll try to watch the video and fix what I can fix and move forward."

The raw numbers look bad. The rookie forward shot 2 of 12 from the field, including 0 of 4 from three-point range. He did notch seven rebounds and two assists, but also contributed two turnovers.

But as you know, numbers don't always tell the story. 

Saric displayed the offensive versatility and headiness on defense that had the Sixers salivating over him for two years while he played for Anadolu Efes in Turkey. He was able to penetrate in the lane several times against the Thunder on Wednesday night and used pump/head fakes to get his defender off balance, but the shots just didn't fall.

"He struggled with his shot" Sixers head coach Bett Brown said. "But just the physical play, some of the intellect of guarding things suddenly that we all might not pay attention to that coaches do. You see him go out of his way to make a rotation, that he just felt the game. I think that some of his pick-and-roll reads on trying to hit cutters, trying to slow up rollers and still go back to shooters like (Ersan) Ilyasova is, stood out to me.

"He's intelligent. He is a smart basketball player. The stats will show that he didn't make some of his shots, but I think that just that gamesmanship, that intellect stands out to me." 

The only time Saric looked a tad overmatched is when OKC went to its mustachioed muscle tandem of Steven Adams and Enes Kanter inside. After the game, Brown lamented leaving Saric in for so long against that pairing, which combined for 33 points and 17 rebounds on the night.

Teammate Jahlil Okafor tried to come to Saric's aid in those moments, but returning from a torn meniscus and on a minutes restriction, his plan wasn't exactly met with enthusiasm by the coaching staff.

"I actually kind of hinted to the coaches that I wanted to play with him (Embiid) because they put Kanter and Adams in," Okafor said. "I was kind of hinting to the coaches that if they want to play big ball we can play big ball with them."

Their response?

"Stay disciplined. Have your lawyer call my lawyer," Okafor said with a laugh. "That's the go-to line."

Even with Saric's few hiccups on defense, Okafor is confident the 22-year-old Croatian will be able to hold his own against NBA players and get the buckets to start dropping on the offensive end.

"I love Dario. It's been a pleasure having him around," Okafor said. "He's such a selfless guy.

"He did struggle a little bit with his shot, but all of the shots that he missed are shots that we know he can make and shots that we've seen him make since he's been here. So we're good. We know what he's going to do."