Analyzing what went wrong for Flyers in their playoff series with Rangers

Analyzing what went wrong for Flyers in their playoff series with Rangers

This week, we’ll be taking a look back at the Flyers’ season and a peek at what lies ahead. Today, a look at the most-recent wound, the first-round playoff loss the Rangers.

The Philadelphia Flyers scratched and clawed just to make this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. They did the same in their first-round series with the New York Rangers just to reach a seventh game.

In the end, it just wasn’t enough as they quietly bowed out with a 2-1 loss to the Rangers in that seventh game.

But what exactly went wrong against the Rangers? Where did things go south?

For the first time in decades, it wasn’t the goaltender’s fault. No, really. It wasn’t the goalie’s fault.

If Game 7 was the only game of the series you watched, never fear because outside of Game 6 when the Flyers crushed the Rangers in South Philly, it was pretty much a microcosm of how the entire series went.

The Flyers were very fortunate just to reach Game 7 with the way they were outplayed for the majority of the series.

The lack of Flyers’ offense has been documented but toss that aside because the Rangers still dictated play for the majority of the series. The Flyers were forced to play a kind of game they were ill-equipped for.

And that all started with the speed of the Rangers.

The Rangers used their speed to hem the Flyers in their own zone with an aggressive forecheck that forced the Flyers into ugly turnovers in the defensive zone. Those kinds of turnovers can be crippling because they can end up in your own net. Just ask Steve Mason and Ray Emery.

There was a reason why the Rangers had more shots on goal and the much more dangerous chances.

On the rare occasion the Flyers got the puck out cleanly, they made risky passes in the neutral zone that the Rangers were able easily pick off and take the other way,

The speed of the Rangers was also a boon to them in their defensive zone as they were able to move the puck out of the zone before the Flyers could establish a forecheck. Most of the Flyers’ chances in the series were one-and-done, which made life that much easier for Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

Though the Rangers’ pressure was intense, the Flyers’ defense wasn’t so great in the series. And that was before Nick Grossmann went down with torn ankle tendons in Game 4.

Braydon Coburn had possibly the worst seven-game stretch of his career. He had issues controlling the puck and couldn’t make a clean pass out of his teammates’ skates. Hal Gill knows all-too well about that.

Kimmo Timonen was the target of some fans’ vigor in the series but let’s be honest here. He shouldn’t have to be the team’s No.1 defenseman at this point in his career but those are the cards that are on the table.

And as the team’s top defensemen, he was exposed by the skill and quickness of the Rangers. He was out of gas and just couldn’t keep up with the likes of Derek Stepan and Marty St. Louis

If the series proved anything, it magnified the Flyers' need more puck-moving skill and speed on the blue line. That said, both Mark Streit and Luke Schenn played really well against the Rangers. They should be commended.

The power play at Madison Square Garden really hurt the Flyers, which was odd because the Flyers had the best road power play in the league during the regular season.

It wasn’t that they didn’t score on the power play there. They scored three goals at the Garden in the series.

The ones they didn’t score on were such brutal wasted efforts that the Rangers wound up grabbing all the momentum from the kills and used that momentum to keep the Flyers on their heels and eventually put the puck in the net.

The most glaring examples were in Games 5 and 7. Midway through each of those games, the Flyers had two miserable power-play efforts and the Rangers went on to score just a few moments later. With the way the Rangers dominated possession, it was basically game, set and match from those moments on.

Sure, the Flyers would score goals to make things interesting, but those efforts were too little, too late.

If anything, those miserable power plays proved the Flyers’ need to legitimate sniper to play alongside Claude Giroux and take the pressure off of him.

Only Giroux, Jake Voracek and rookie Jason Akeson were legitimate offensive threats in a series where the Flyers scored just 14 goals (excluding empty-netters) in the seven games.

But, hey, the bright side is that the goalie question seems to be finally answered. Mason was phenomenal and deserved a better fate.

Sixers use 3-ball to get past Bucks' frontcourt length

Sixers use 3-ball to get past Bucks' frontcourt length

One of the ways teams have attacked the Milwaukee Bucks this season is by hoisting up a large number of three-point attempts. 

So it wasn’t alarming to Sixers coach Brett Brown that his team launched 37 shots from beyond the arc in the Sixers' 113-104 win over Milwaukee on Monday (see instant replay)

“I wanted more of them,” Brown said. 

The Bucks entered Monday tied for fourth in opponent three-point attempts and makes. Teams are averaging 10.3 made triples on 29.1 attempts against Milwaukee.

This has a lot to do with the length of the Bucks, which allow the ninth fewest points in the paint and are tied for 11th in blocked shots. 

“When you look at how they play, I think they are the seventh ranked defense in the NBA, they are so long,” Brown said. “As we studied them and put forth a scouting report and instructions, we wanted everybody to take two steps further back as a starting point to create space for Joel (Embiid) and Jahlil (Okafor).

“Then you can hug the line or you can step into the line. We really wanted to promote steppers because of their length.” 

Four of Milwaukee’s last five opponents have attempted at least 30 threes, and the Bucks have allowed at least 10 made threes in each of their last seven games. 

The Sixers, which have hoisted at least 30 three-point attempts in 22 of 39 games, kept up the trend.

“Every team we play shoots threes,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. “At some point, we have to understand what the three means to us as a team if we want to win. We can talk about it but if there's no effort in guarding it and understanding, again, it starts with effort. If we don't give it, we're going to give up a lot of threes.”

The Sixers scored 18 of its 24 first-quarter points on three-pointers, making 6 of 13 attempts.

The only quarter the Sixers were beat from the three-point line was also the only quarter they were outscored Monday. Four of Milwaukee’s five made three-pointers came in the second quarter, while the Sixers were just 2 of 8. 

In the decisive second half in which the Sixers outscored the Bucks, 67-50, they hit six threes and allowed just one. 

“We knew how they are defending,” Sixers guard Sergio Rodriguez said. “They are a team with a lot of length, so it is hard to drive and get to the basket. They try to press and steal and are aggressive, so if we break the first line it is easier to shoot threes and find people open. That’s what we did, especially in the second half.”

While the Sixers shot just 37.8 percent from long range, they outscored the Bucks by 27 points on three-pointers. 

Eight different players hit threes for the Sixers with Robert Covington, Ersan Ilyasova, Nik Stauskas, Gerald Henderson, Chasson Randle and Dario Saric all hitting a pair. 

Jahlil Okafor was the only Sixers player to see the floor and not attempt a shot from beyond the arc.

“We needed to spread it out and we knew we needed to shoot a lot of threes,” Brown said. “We wanted to encourage it. I think it was a significant reason we were able to have 67 points in the second half.”

Okafor stays ready
Up until roughly 30 minutes before tipoff, Okafor was not expecting to play Monday. 

Nerlens Noel was set to backup Joel Embiid at center until a sprained left ankle left him a pregame scratch, which meant Okafor got the call. 

“You have to mentally get ready,” Okafor said. “I just had to get loose as quick as I could. I have been working extremely hard to stay prepared in case something like this happens.” 

Okafor finished with 10 points on 4 of 5 shooting in 20 minutes, helping the Sixers' reserves outscore Milwaukee’s bench, 52-34. 

“To go to Jahlil Okafor before the game and say, ‘I’m not going to go with you, I’m going to go with Nerlens,’ and then two minutes before warm ups go, ‘Whoops, it looks like you are in,’ he didn’t flinch,” Brown said. “I thought he played hard and played well. He was a really big part of the reason we won tonight.

“His attitude continues to blow me away given his age and what he is going through.”   

Instant Replay: Sixers 113, Bucks 104

Instant Replay: Sixers 113, Bucks 104

BOX SCORE 

The tone was set in the opening minutes of the third quarter. 

The Sixers quickly made up a halftime deficit and rolled from there, outscoring the Bucks, 67-50, in the second half for a 113-104 victory over Milwaukee on Monday.

The Sixers have now won four of their last five games with their only loss in the stretch coming the game Joel Embiid sat out. 

Milwaukee used a 19-4 run to take a 54-44 lead, but the Sixers scored the final basket of the first half and the first eight points of the third quarter to tie the game. 

Embiid scored 12 points in the fourth quarter to finish with 22 points, 12 rebounds and a career-high tying five blocked shots.

Inside the box score
• The Sixers scored 18 of their 24 first-quarter points from the 3-point line, connecting on 6 of 13 attempts from beyond the arc. Philadelphia hit on 14 of 37 three-point attempts, while Milwaukee was just 5 for 14. 

• Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 21 points in the first half, but battled foul trouble after the break and finished with 23 points for the game. He picked up his fourth foul with 6:04 left in the third quarter and was whistled for his fifth foul just 38 seconds into the fourth quarter. 

• Eight Sixers scored in double figures, led by Embiid with 22. Dario Saric added 17, Ersan Ilyasova scored 12, Gerald Henderson and Robert Covington had 11 and Sergio Rodriguez, Jahlil Okafor and Chasson Randle each added 10. 

McConnell MRI negative
The Sixers will be without their starting point guard for the time being, as T.J. McConnell left the team to return to Philadelphia to receive treatment for a right wrist strain and did not play against the Bucks (see story).
 
An MRI taken on McConnell’s right wrist came back negative, according to Sixers coach Brett Brown.
 
“He has a strain,” Brown said. “There’s no structural damage. In relation to what that means with regards to his return to play, I don’t know that yet.”

Sergio Rodriguez started in McConnell’s place and scored 10 points with seven rebounds and six assists. 

Monster jam
Embiid threw down a thunderous dunk to give the Sixers a 77-76 lead with 1:00 left in the third quarter. He then forced a turnover on the other end and later blocked a shot attempt by Matthew Dellavedova at the third-quarter buzzer. 

Noel sits
Sixers center Nerlens Noel was a late scratch from Monday’s game due to a sprained left ankle. 

Up Next
The Sixers will host Toronto (27-13) on Wednesday and Portland (18-25) on Friday at the Wells Fargo Center before traveling to Atlanta to face the Hawks (24-17) on Saturday.