3 Stars: Sloppy Flyers shutout by Bobrovsky, Blue Jackets in uninspiring performance

3 Stars: Sloppy Flyers shutout by Bobrovsky, Blue Jackets in uninspiring performance

A look at the Philadelphia Flyers’ 2-0 loss – their third straight and second straight shutout - to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night at Wells Fargo Center through the perspective of two players and one suddenly struggling special-teams unit.

Unlike the Flyers’ previous two losses when they hung with the NHL’s two best in the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues, this one was just a big, sloppy, jumbled mess of a game. The Flyers could never get anything going and were stuck in neutral the entire night. It was quite the uninspiring effort.

So much for that “huge game” mentality from earlier on in the day on Thursday.

 

3. James Wisniewski

The Blue Jackets defenseman finally opened the scoring when he slammed the puck through Flyers goalie Steve Mason from the side of the net with just over three minutes left in the second period for a power-play goal. It was Wisniewski’s third shot on the power play alone but, more importantly, it was one Mason definitely wanted back as it slipped through from a pretty bad angle.

Wisniewski later picked up an assist on center Brandon Dubinsky’s third-period deflection that slipped past Mason and, for all intensive purposes, ended the game due to the way the Flyers were playing.

Speaking of which, give Wisniewski and his Jackets teammates credit. Yes, the Flyers didn’t play well, but that was partly due to the Jackets’ smothering defense and hustle. They won the battles and races and played with that sense of urgency that the Flyers sorely lacked.

They were the team that played like it was a big game.

 

2. The Flyers’ power play

Both the Bruins and Blues have top-10 penalty kills so the fact the Flyers didn’t score on the power play in their last two games wasn’t all that surprising. But Thursday night wasn’t so much about not scoring on the power play. It was more about how disorganized the power play looked.

The Flyers got zilch on their four power-play opportunities and managed all of three measly shots. That’s probably because they could barely make a pass or carry the puck into the zone while on the power play. And when they did, they lost almost every single puck battle and the Jackets either dumped it or went the other way for a chance against Mason.

You could argue that Columbus was the more dangerous team while Philadelphia was on the power play. No wonder the boo birds were out at Wells Fargo Center.

The kinds of brutal power plays we saw on Thursday are even worse because they can give the other team all kinds of momentum. The Flyers blew three first-period power plays and gave the Jackets some confidence.

Combined with the previous two games, the Flyers’ power play is now fruitless in its last 12 attempts.

Let’s just assume there will be some power-play drills during practice on Friday.

 

1. Sergei Bobrovsky

Another Flyers game, another great performance by the opposing goaltender. And this time it may have stung a little bit more because of who the opposing goaltender was.

The man they call Bob made 37 saves against his former team for the shutout win in his first start back in Philadelphia since he was traded in the summer of 2012.

He was excellent, but especially in the second period when he stopped all 17 shots he faced. The Flyers poured it on in that second period and Bobrovsky stood tall. His kick save on a Wayne Simmonds wrister from the slot after a turnover was a particularly great save. He also made a really good stop on Michael Rafll from the slot in that period as well.

He kept the Jackets in the game in that period until they eventually cashed in with Wisniewski’s power-play goal.

Bobrovsky received the second star of the game from the media and was greeted with a nice little round of applause from those brave enough to stay at Wells Fargo Center for the entirety of that mess.

Good for Bob. But not so good for the Flyers, whom he shutout.

 

 

Three straight losses are never good, especially at this time of the year when a team is trying to sew up a playoff spot. Even worse, that’s also five losses in the last six games for the Flyers. And don’t look now, but by virtue of their win on Thursday night, the Blue Jackets are just two points behind the Flyers for third in the Metropolitan Division. Things are getting just a tad bit itchy.

And they won’t get much easier for the Flyers as a trip to Boston to meet the Bruins is next on the ledger on Saturday afternoon.

Penn State uses dominant second half to top No. 6 Wisconsin for Big Ten title

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Penn State uses dominant second half to top No. 6 Wisconsin for Big Ten title

INDIANAPOLIS — Penn State’s offense rewrote the Big Ten Championship’s offensive record book Saturday night but its 38-31 victory over Wisconsin wasn’t secure until the final minute.

And Linebacker U. got the game-saving play from the secondary.

Wisconsin, armed with a pair of timeouts and lining up for a fourth-and-1 play from the Nittany Lions’ 24, called on Corey Clement. Clement, who’d already racked up 166 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, got the ball but never got close to the marker.

Grant Haley made sure of it.

The junior cornerback wrapped up Clement’s legs and safety Marcus Allen kept Clement from leaning forward and the game was over. Penn State (11-2) has the 2016 Big Ten title and, at worst, will play in the Rose Bowl for the first time since 2009.

“They ran [a counter] early in the game and split it for a touchdown,” Haley said of the final play. “I saw them set the edge, so I got triggered really well and Marcus finished off the play.”

Haley and company watched the Badgers run wild in the first half; 164 yards and three touchdowns, including Clement’s 67-yard scamper. Wisconsin, one of the conference’s best rushing teams this season, managed less than half that total (77) in the second half.

“They really weren’t running that many plays,” Haley added. “We just came out in the second half and had a jolt. 

“We just had the energy going into the second half.”

Wisconsin got the ball twice in the fourth quarter but managed only 65 yards - 51 of which came on its final drive.

“Give credit to Penn State for coming out in the second half and making those adjustments and allowing those big plays to happen,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. 

Give plenty of credit, too, to the Nittany Lions’ offense. 

Quarterback Trace McSorley was named the game’s most valuable player after completing 17 of his 25 passes for 319 yards and four touchdowns - both championship game records. He helped Penn State complete the biggest comeback in the game’s six year history after his team fell behind 28-7 in the first half and also finished the regular season with 3,360 yards and 25 touchdown passes, both school records.

Saeed Blacknall had six catches for a Big Ten Championship-record 155 yards and two touchdowns and DaeShean Hamilton finished with 118 yards on eight grabs.

Tailback Saquon Barkley, injured in last weekend’s victory over Michigan State, returned with 88 yards and a touchdown on the ground and caught an 18-yard scoring pass from McSorley early in the fourth quarter to put the Nittany Lions ahead for good.

Penn State, in its first-ever trip to this game, is coming home from it with just its second outright Big Ten title. It’s on a nine-game winning streak that has seen it average 40 points per contest.

It also could present the College Football Playoff selection committee with a bit of quandary. The Nittany Lions, who were ranked seventh by the committee last week, topped the No. 6 Badgers and claimed a conference championship, something likely playoff teams Alabama, Clemson and Washington all boast.

On the flip side, Penn State’s last defeat was a lopsided 49-10 loss at Michigan, which sits at No. 5 in the rankings and likely won’t move into the top four after losing last week to No. 2 Ohio State.

Penn State coach James Franklin stated his team’s case after Saturday night’s win, but also made it clear he and his team won’t be moping their way to Pasadena, Calif., where the conference champion is slotted if it is not chosen for the playoff.

“We’ve got great options in front of us,” he said. “I hear people on TV talking about they feel like maybe the playoff has taken away from the bowls. 

“Are you kidding me? The Rose Bowl? It doesn’t get a whole lot better than that.”

Report: Jordan Matthews (ankle) not expected to play vs. Bengals

Report: Jordan Matthews (ankle) not expected to play vs. Bengals

Jordan Matthews will not play Sunday against the Bengals after missing practice all week with an ankle sprain, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Matthews is the Eagles' leading receiver with 57 catches for 686 yards and three touchdowns. The team has called him a game-time decision.

Second-year receiver Nelson Agholor will reportedly be inserted back into the lineup. If Matthews doesn't play the Eagles will have only four healthy receivers active on Sunday: Agholor, Dorial Green-Beckham and undrafted rookies Bryce Treggs and Paul Turner.