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.

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

usa-brandon-bell-james-franklin.jpg
USA Today Images

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.