Advance! Flyers Deliver Knockout Blow in Game 7

Advance! Flyers Deliver Knockout Blow in Game 7

Win or lose, this series would have likely gone down as one of the most entertaining in recent memory. The fact that the good guys came out on top though, after being down by three goals in an elimination game, and won a Game 7 in just about the most convincing fashion possible—5-2—well, you couldn't script it any better than that.

Simply put, the Flyers beat the Sabres in every way imagineable, from the time the puck dropped until the final horn mercifully sounded. They stormed out of the gate scorching hot with an onslaught of scoring chances in the opening period, outshooting Buffalo an unbelievable 16-2 in the first 20 minutes. Ryan Miller almost held up under the intense pressure, but Braydon Coburn's shot from the blue line with 29 seconds remaining seemed to fool the enemy netminder, and snuck through the five hole to give Philly the 1-0 lead after one.

In the second period, the boys decided it was time to warm up the power play, scoring on consecutive man advantages. It took all of five seconds to find twine on their first opportunity. Claude Giroux was able to get the puck out to Mike Richards off the faceoff, and the captain blasted a shot from the point that found a crashing Danny Briere's stick directly in front of the net for a slam dunk. Giroux would earn the assist again on the following power play, his rocket from the slot-area deflecting in off the stick of James van Riemsdyk, who was perched comfortably in front of Miller.

Period three was little more than a formality. Ville Leino increased the lead to four, sending a laser over Miller's shoulder that wound up sending the All Star goalie to the locker room. It looked like a tough angle for Ville, but Miller overplayed the short side, and he had virtually no chance to get his glove hand up in time to make the save. The Sabres threatened briefly, cutting the deficit to three, but Dan Carcillo notched a garbage goal with less than 10 minutes remaining. The combination of it putting the game almost certainly out of reach, and it being the Flyers' instigator scoring the knockout blow, will surely leave a bad taste in the opponents' mouths over the long off-season ahead. A late goal by the Sabres proved meaningless.

I'm sure Matt will have plenty to say about Game 7 and the series in its entirety, but I think you can trace the momentum change in this series back to Game 5. Even though the Flyers ultimately lost that game in overtime, and had the goaltender issues again in Game 6, it was only when they fell behind by three goals on Friday that the pressure really ramped up. They seemed to get more aggressive, both in the forecheck where they began noticably outworking Buffalo, but also with their defensemen who were pinching more frequently to keep plays alive in the offensive zone.

Whatever it was, they need to stick with what worked over these final three games, regardless of who they play next. And we don't know who that will be yet, or when—only that there will be another Game 1, coming soon to a Wells Fargo Center near you.

AP Photo

Joel Embiid posts amazing tribute to Sam Hinkie on Instagram

Joel Embiid posts amazing tribute to Sam Hinkie on Instagram

The treasure trove that is Joel Embiid's social media presence unearthed another jewel on Saturday evening.

The Sixers' big man took to Instagram to post a picture of himself chatting with local folk legend Sam Hinkie. As if that wasn't enough, check out the captions he wrote at the bottom.

THE GOAT #HeDiedForOurSins #TrustTheProcess

A photo posted by Joel Hans Embiid (@joelembiid) on

Let us break this down.

"THE GOAT" - As in Greatest Of All Time, not an actual goat you would find at your local petting zoo.

"#HeDiedForOurSins" - St. Sam, patron saint of analytical basketball martyrdom.

"#TrustTheProcess" - The rallying cry of the masses.

Sure, they may have taken away Sam, but they'll never take away JoJo's social media platforms. Never!

Union have no answer for Didier Drogba, Impact in 5-1 loss

ap-cj-sapong-union.jpg
Associated Press

Union have no answer for Didier Drogba, Impact in 5-1 loss

MONTREAL  -- Didier Drogba broke out with a hat trick to lead the Montreal Impact to a 5-1 victory over the Union on Saturday night.

The 38-year-old Ivorian striker hadn't scored since May 28. He returned last week after missing three games with a thigh injury.

Ignacio Piatti returned after sitting out a one-game suspension to score a goal and add two assists. Recent signing Matteo Mancuso, who went in for Drogba in the 79th minute, got his first MLS goal in added time.

Montreal improved to 7-5-8.

Chris Pontius scored for Philadelphia (8-7-6).

Odubel Herrera's bat returns, but so do Aaron Nola's struggles in loss to Pirates

Odubel Herrera's bat returns, but so do Aaron Nola's struggles in loss to Pirates

PITTSBURGH -- The good news for the Phillies on Saturday was that it finally seems All-Star Odubel Herrera's bat is returning to its typical, productive form.

The centerfielder had his second straight three-hit game Saturday as he continued to pull out of his slump, though it wasn’t enough to keep the Phillies from losing 7-4 to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the middle game of a three-game series at PNC Park (see Instant Replay).

Yet Herrera’s suddenly hot bat gave the Phillies some reason to feel good on a day when another player who the organization believes can be a foundation player backslid. Right-hander Aaron Nola (5-9) took the loss as he allowed six runs and six hits in four-plus innings.

The bad Nola returned after pitching six scoreless innings in his previous outing Monday against the Miami Marlins. Prior to shutting down the Marlins, Nola allowed a combined 30 runs in five starts while failing to get past the fourth inning four times.

“When he’s at his best, he has control of all his pitches,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “He’s lost his control and he needs to a find a way to get it back.”

However, Herrera improved to 6 for 9 in the series by going 3 for 4 with a triple, two runs scored and two stolen bases. He had been 4 for 41 in his previous 11 games before coming to Pittsburgh, a skid that dropped his batting average to .281 from .300.

“It was getting pretty ugly for about a week there, so it feels good to get some hits,” Herrera said. “That’s my job, to get hits, be successful and help the team win. I really don’t go into too many slumps, so it’s hard to try to fight your way through it and stay positive. When I get a hit, I am happy.”

Herrera is now hitting .290 with 10 home runs and 33 RBIs in 98 games.

There had been a school of thought that making his first All-Star Game appearance July 12 at Petco Park in San Diego might have had an effect on the 24-year-old. The schedule for the players during the festivities is basically non-stop for two days and then Herrera had to fly across the country to rejoin the Phillies in Philadelphia for the second half of the season.

“I was concerned it might have an effect on him,” Mackanin said. “It was the first time he had participated in an even of that magnitude and it can be hard to refocus after that.”

Herrera, though, said he is not sure how much being an All-Star played into his cold spell.

“Maybe it did,” Herrera said. “It was a busy couple of days there. I don’t know what to compare it to because I hadn’t been before. Obviously, I didn’t have the same chance to rest as a lot of other players, so it could have had an effect. However, playing in the All-Star Game was a great experience and I am glad I had a chance to be there.”

If Herrera plays like he has the last two games, Herrera figures to appear in more Midsummer Classics before his career is through.

“He has the ability to win a batting title,” Mackanin said. “He’s that good of a hitter. He’s a smart hitter. When pitchers start adjusting to him, he adjusts back. I only see him getting better.

“Then you throw in that he played a heckuva center field and it’s just an impressive total package."