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.

MLB Notes: Mets' manager Terry Collins worried David Wright might be headed for DL

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MLB Notes: Mets' manager Terry Collins worried David Wright might be headed for DL

NEW YORK -- Mets manager Terry Collins is worried David Wright may wind up on the disabled list because of a neck injury.

New York's captain and third baseman was out of the starting lineup for the third straight day Monday because of his neck. He was given anti-inflammatory medicine over the weekend.

Now 33, Wright was on the disabled list from April 15 to Aug. 24 last year when he strained his right hamstring and then developed spinal stenosis. He has a lengthy physical therapy routine he must go through before each game.

Wright homered in three straight games last week before getting hurt. He is batting .226 with seven homers, 14 RBIs and 55 strikeouts in 137 at-bats.

White Sox: Shuck called up with Jackson injured
NEW YORK -- With Austin Jackson bothered by turf toe, the Chicago White Sox recalled outfielder J.B. Shuck from Charlotte and optioned right-hander Tommy Kahnle to the Triple-A farm team.

Jackson left Sunday's game in the eighth inning because of his left foot.

White Sox manager Robin Ventura said before Monday's series opener against the New York Mets that he doesn't think Jackson's injury at this point merits a move to the disabled list. He adds that the team does not "necessarily want to lose him for two weeks right away."

Shuck was batting fifth and playing center field Monday. He was 0 for 9 with the White Sox before he was sent down April 18 when Chicago needed to add a pitcher. He is hitting .299 at Charlotte with two homers and 17 RBIs.

Kahnle is 0-1 with a 2.70 ERA in four games over three stints with Chicago this season.

NBA draft profile: Kentucky G Jamal Murray

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NBA draft profile: Kentucky G Jamal Murray

Jamal Murray

Position: Guard

Height: 6-5

Weight: 210

School: Kentucky

It's tough for a Kentucky star freshman to fly under the radar, but that's exactly what Murray did last season. While Ben Simmons, Brandon Ingram, Buddy Hield and Denzel Valentine dominated the spotlight, Murray was quietly as good as anyone in the country for the second half of the season.

In Kentucky's final 14 games, Murray averaged just under 24 points and shot better than 46 percent from three-point range. For the season, he averaged an even 20 points and connected on 41 percent of his three-point attempts. He also chipped in an impressive 5.2 rebounds. 

Kentucky lost some games early and fell toward the bottom of the Top 25 rankings. But Murray continued to produce and played his best basketball down the stretch, lifting the Wildcats to 27 wins and SEC regular season and tournament titles. 

As good as he was during his only college season, Murray projects to be an even better pro. He's the best guard prospect in the 2016 NBA Draft. 

Strengths
Shooting the ball. He has the best shooting stroke of any prospect in this year's draft. Murray's form on his jump shot is textbook with the results to match. He's able to get his shot off quickly and has range well beyond the NBA three-point line. Murray's outside shot is his greatest asset. Shooters are always in high demand and have never been more valuable in the NBA. The defending champion Warriors offer all the proof you need of that.

However Murray isn't a one-dimensional player. He can get to the basket off the dribble and is a terrific finisher around the basket. He also developed a polished mid-range game during his time at Kentucky. Murray also plays hard — a characteristic that NBA executives monitor closely. He rarely takes a possession off and competes hard on the glass for a perimeter player, as evidenced by his five rebounds per game last season.

Weaknesses
Murray doesn't have a defined position on the NBA level. He's not a true point guard and isn't quite big enough to be considered a prototypical shooting guard. While NBA talent evaluators are concerned by this, I don't necessarily view it as a weakness. Murray projects as a combo guard, capable of playing point guard but also comfortable away from the ball. He's similar to the Trail Blazers' C.J. McCollum in that regard.

Murray isn't an elite-level athlete and by no means is he a great defender. He'll struggle to stay in front of the more dynamic perimeter players in the NBA. But he has a very good work ethic and should be able to improve defensively.

How he'd fit with the Sixers
Extremely well. The 76ers need shooters. That need will only become exaggerated if and when they draft Ben Simmons with the No. 1 pick. With Simmons, Dario Saric, Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid, the Sixers have a significantly frontcourt-heavy nucleus. They need quality guards to balance out their lineup.

The much-discussed hypothetical trade that would send Okafor to the Celtics for the No. 3 pick makes a ton of sense for the 76ers. They could clear out space in their frontcourt rotation as well as acquire Murray with that third pick. Murray would flourish playing alongside Simmons, knocking down the open jump shots that Simmons creates.    

NBA comparison
I see a mix of Bradley Beal and Eric Gordon in Murray's game. Beal and Gordon have similar builds to Murray and both entered the NBA as exceptional shooters. All three are natural scorers who have no problem getting their own shot on the NBA level.

Draft projection
Murray will be a high-end lottery pick. He could go as high as the No. 3 to the Celtics and shouldn't fall any lower than No. 6 to the Pelicans.  

Western Conference Finals: Warriors-Thunder ready for Game 7

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Western Conference Finals: Warriors-Thunder ready for Game 7

OAKLAND, Calif. -- After a record 73 wins and a memorable Game 6 comeback on the road, the Golden State Warriors' goal of getting back to the NBA Finals and defending their title comes down to Game 7 at home against the powerful Oklahoma City Thunder.

All along, the Warriors have said the numerous team milestones and personal accomplishments they set during this special season won't matter a bit unless they repeat as champions.

They need one more victory to become the 10th team to rally from a 3-1 postseason deficit.

"I've learned that our players are tough, they're mentally tough," Coach of the Year Steve Kerr said Sunday, when his team took a day off from film and practice. "I don't know if I really learned that. I already knew that. But they've firmly confirmed that. It's been a great comeback. Now we still have to play. We still have another game."

Kerr just wanted his Warriors to grab back some momentum from Kevin Durant and the Thunder. Now, they have it, all right, heading into the decisive game of the Western Conference finals Monday night after winning two straight.

When his team won Game 5 on Thursday night, MVP Stephen Curry hollered "We ain't going home!" -- and Golden State wants no part of the Thunder having the last say in the Warriors' summer plans.

"We got a big one last night to stay alive, and now we've got some momentum. But it can work in reverse," Kerr said. "One game changes everything, and we've got to come out and play our game and play well to finish the series out."

Golden State hardly considers this a gimmee just because the team is playing at deafening Oracle Arena, where the Warriors have lost just three times this season. They have had their problems against Durant, Russell Westbrook and the towering Thunder.

Oklahoma City is fueled by trying to reach its first NBA Finals since losing to LeBron James and the Miami Heat in 2012. James and Cleveland are waiting on Monday's winner.

"It's going to be a hard game. If we thought tonight was hard, Game 7's going to be even tougher," Curry said. "Everybody on both sides of the ball is going to leave it all out on the floor. It's win or go home. So we can't expect just because we're at home that we can just show up and win."

As has been the case all playoffs with Curry ailing, Golden State got a huge performance from Klay Thompson. He made a playoff-record 11 3-pointers and scored 41 points in a 108-101 win at Oklahoma City on Saturday night, and will need an encore Monday.

"Lot of people probably counted us out," Thompson said.

Kerr said last week that his group might be different than the all the other teams that have tried to come back from 3-1 down: because the Warriors won it all last year.

The Thunder certainly would have preferred to close out the series at home over traveling back across the country to the Bay Area for the deciding game.

Yet they never expected it to be easy against the 2015 champs.

"This is what you dream about, getting this opportunity. We've got to take advantage of it," Durant said Sunday. "Go up into their building, and it's going to be great atmosphere. ... No matter where you play, you've still got to play. That's how we look at it."

That's partly because first-year Thunder coach Billy Donovan has talked to his team about the mentality it takes to win in a hostile venue like raucous, sold-out Oracle Arena, and Oklahoma City came in and did it in Game 1.

"We lost Game 6, and it was a tough, hard-fought game," Donovan said. "We're disappointed about not having a different outcome. But we haven't lost the series, and we have an opportunity again. I think just being around these guys, they're a resilient group."

Curry and the Warriors expect another entertaining, great game.

From an ankle injury that sidelined him in the first round against Houston to a sprained right knee and puffy elbow, Curry has dealt with his share of pain this postseason. He has to push that aside for what he hopes is one more game this series and then a second straight trip to the Finals and another championship.

"I actually kind of like it, because you understand the moment of the playoffs and just kind of gets you going," he said. "I'll be ready to go and give it everything I've got for Game 7."