3 Stars: Sloppy Flyers completely unravel in third period and drop Game 1 to Rangers

3 Stars: Sloppy Flyers completely unravel in third period and drop Game 1 to Rangers

A look at the Philadelphia Flyers' 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers in Game 1 of the teams’ Eastern Conference first-round series on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden through the perspective of two players and one almost invisible unit.

Ugh. That was not fun.

Luckily, it was just the first game of the series and Sunday’s Game 2 is a whole new ballgame with a clean slate.

3. Jason Akeson

Thursday night was Akeson’s first playoff game and third-ever NHL game.

It was going well. He was skating hard, getting some opportunities and taking advantage of his ice time.

That was until he inadvertently high-sticked Rangers winger Carl Hagelin while falling down after missing a check and gave the Rangers a four-minute power play just about halfway through the third period of a tied game.

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Brad Richards and Derek Stepan then scored 47 seconds apart on the ensuing power play to give the Rangers a 3-1 lead and that was all she wrote with how inept the Flyers offense was in the game.

Sure, it wasn’t a good play by Akeson. He was reckless with his stick and paid the ultimate price. But you’re out of your mind if you want to blame just Akeson for the loss. If that’s how you feel, you obviously didn’t watch the rest of the team outside of Ray Emery the entire game.

The Flyers were just awful after Andrew MacDonald’s first-period goal. They played with fire while the game was tied as they let Rangers dominate play. The fact that it was even tied when Akeson took the penalty was a minor miracle.

The kid obviously can’t take that penalty there but don’t place all the blame on him. It was just the tipping point of a terrible Flyers effort. At least he was trying to make a play and make something happen.

There was plenty of blame to go around for this one.

 

2. The Flyers’ offense

The Flyers’ offense?

What Flyers’ offense?

They got the jump on the Rangers with MacDonald’s goal just over seven minutes into the game. But after that they performed a magic trick. They absolutely vanished.

The Rangers finished the game with 35 shots on goal. The Flyers finished the game with a measly 16 shots.

With the game on the line in third period, the Flyers were outshot 13-1. That number is a bit inflated due to the fact they gave the Rangers five third-period power plays (including the double minor) but the fact remains that they came up really small when the game was at its most critical point.

To further illustrate the point, Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek, arguably the Flyers’ two most dynamic offensive players, each finished the game with zero shots on goal. Zero. That didn’t help the team’s cause.

The thing about the disappearing offense is that it starts in the defensive and neutral zones. Everything was so disorganized.

The Flyers’ breakouts were flat-out ugly in Game 1. They could barely make a pass out of their own zone and tried too many of those cute, low-percentage plays that the Rangers just gobbled up. They could barely skate with the puck in the defensive zone, let alone make a clean pass.

Same thing was true in the neutral zone where the cross-ice passes didn’t even come close to working.

The ice was tilted in the Flyers’ defensive end seemingly the entire night. Emery had no shot or any help on any of the goals he let in. He deserved better.

 

1. Brad Richards

In last year’s playoffs, Richards struggled so mightily that he found himself as a healthy scratch at times.

He did the total opposite of struggle mightily in this year’s playoff opener.

Richards scored the game-winner just over eight minutes into the third period and added two assists for the Rangers on Thursday night.

With the Rangers on that four-minute power play in the third period, a loose puck bounced to a wide-open Richards at the right circle and he blasted it past Emery to give his team a 2-1 lead.

Later on during that same power play, Richards fired a sweet diagonal pass from the point down to Derek Stepan at side of the net and Stepan slammed it home for a 3-1 lead and the nail in the Flyers’ coffin.

Richards later added an assist on Hagelin’s insurance marker.

On a night when the Rangers dominated, Richards was their best player.

 

The Flyers have to totally forget about this one. It happened. It’s in the past now.

The great thing about the Stanley Cup Playoffs is that a team gets a chance to redeem itself against the same team that just dominated it a night or two before. There are two days to make the necessary adjustments and there are a lot of adjustments to be made, as you may have been able to tell after watching Game 1.

Puck drops for Game 2 on Sunday at Noon in New York.

Noel joins Sixers in New Orleans, may play Sunday in Detroit

Noel joins Sixers in New Orleans, may play Sunday in Detroit

NEW ORLEANS -- Nerlens Noel made another step toward his return from arthroscopic left knee surgery by joining the Sixers in New Orleans for their game against the Pelicans.

Noel arrived on Wednesday with Robert Covington, who is slated to start after missing the last three games with a left knee sprain. Noel is not cleared to play, but Brown doesn’t think it will be long until he suits up. 

“I don’t think far away,” Brown said of Noel’s regular season debut after shootaround.

When asked about the possibility of Noel playing this weekend when the Sixers face the Pistons on Sunday in Detroit, Brown replied, “Maybe.” 

Noel has missed the entire regular season recovering from elective surgery for an inflamed plica in October. He completed the first phase of his rehab in Birmingham, Ala. and has been continuing his work with the Sixers. This trip to New Orleans is the first time he has been with the Sixers on the road. 

“[He is] integrating with the team, studying a lot of tape, scripting with his teammates with the understanding that we have a chance to see him soon,” Brown said. “All that trying to ramp it up where he can go to an NBA court more comfortably.”

Noel spoke out about his displeasure with the Sixers crowded frontcourt at the start of the preseason. He recently stuck with his stance, saying, “I don’t think the roster’s changed.”

Brown is working to keep the team moving forward as a unit while still being aware of and recognizing Noel’s perspective. 

“It does,” Brown said when asked if Noel’s open frustration concerns him as it pertains to team cohesiveness. “But I feel like it’s so much a part of what we try do around here that it’s not like you’re going to blink and you’ve forgotten something that equals camaraderie, that equals team, that equals trying to keep this together, and you’ve left it for a week … 

“It’s a day-to-day focus for me and it’s a very candid conversation with me and the player. The team hears it, the individual hears it, we all understand it … We need to co-exist and we need to understand the reality of it all, too. There’s a human side you understand. It’s also pride, it’s competitiveness, it’s do your job, it’s nothing is given, you’ve got to take stuff, draw your own line in the sand, competitors rule the day.”

Last season Noel averaged 11.1 points and a team-high 8.1 rebounds per game. The Sixers will look forward to having him back on the court in that once-crowded frontcourt that is now shorthanded. Jahlil Okafor remained in Philadelphia with gastroenteritis. Ben Simmons still is rehabbing from a right Jones fracture. 

"Soon you’re going to see Ben Simmons coming to a team bench where he doesn’t come out with boots and have to push him in some type of wheely apparatus," Brown said. "We’ve dealt with so many injuries trying to find that balance of dealing with their health and so on, and then trying to integrate them back into a team is part of growing a program."

Flyers fans send amazing postcards to their beat writers

Flyers fans send amazing postcards to their beat writers

I like to give Flyers fans a bit of a hard time on occasion, but that's only because I love them.

One beautiful Flyers fan today reminded me of why I love them.

They took the time to send a postcard to CSNPhilly.com's Flyers Insider -- and hater of the woo -- Tim Panaccio with one single word written on it.

"Woo."

Panotch says "Someone wasted a stamp and post card on this," but I say we just generated at least 50 cents in ad revenue from those of you that are reading this right now.

Money and time well spent.

Now, if you're not up on your wooing, Panotch penned a piece on how some fans wooing at games started annoying some of the players. Panotch hates the woo. BUT... and this is an important but... the Flyers are 6-0 since this all started. 

Woo.