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 being cautious with Jahlil Okafor early in training camp

Sixers being cautious with Jahlil Okafor early in training camp

GALLOWAY, N.J. — The Sixers lost Jahlil Okafor for the final 23 games last season because of a small meniscus tear in his right knee. Now they are being cautious as he prepares for his second year.

As part of the Sixers’ prescheduled load management for Okafor, he participated in a portion of practice and then worked out individually with head strength and conditioning coach Todd Wright.

“They just told me to relax once I did what they wanted me to do today,” Okafor said. “I was off to the sidelines. I feel fine. I’ll be good tomorrow.”

Okafor learned during his first NBA season that he should speak more openly with the staff about his body.

“Communication is key,” he said. “I think last year I didn’t really communicate how I was feeling, so I wasn’t able to get the help I needed.”

The team held three practice sessions in the first two days of training camp. Okafor said he knew the Sixers would be cautious with his workload. He is poised to improve upon his rookie year in which he averaged 17.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in 53 games last season.

“I’m 100 percent healthy,” he said. “I’m all good.”

Joel Embiid adjusting to new challenges in 1st NBA training camp

Joel Embiid adjusting to new challenges in 1st NBA training camp

GALLOWAY, N.J. -- With Joel Embiid's excitement to be on the court following two years of injuries comes the reality of his lengthy setback.

Embiid is participating in his first NBA training camp this week. While he has impressed with his natural abilities and improved skills, Embiid is facing challenges as he gets accustomed to the league.

"Everything is kind of off right now as far as catching the ball or shooting," Embiid said after practice Wednesday. "I've still got to get in the flow of the game."

Embiid has yet to play since being drafted in 2014. For the past two years he has worked out individually and in controlled settings. Practices, even in training camp, are different. 

"You see all the time when you realize he hasn't played basketball for a long time," Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. "He's trying to gather his feet and find his balance, he's trying to figure out stuff in real time speed on defensive assignments and rotations."

On Wednesday, Embiid went through practice without any minute restrictions and was feeling healthier from the cold and virus he had been battling (see story). Teammates have praised his physical presence and eagerness to compete. He makes an impact with his 7-foot-2 presence alone, but there is more he wants to improve. 

Embiid is adjusting to the speed of the game. He has been facing challenges with getting the ball in the post and spoke to the coaches about his frustrations. The staff explained they are focusing on pick-and-roll defense and getting out to run during training camp, but he will get that desired location in game situations. 

“You continue to see the size of Joel Embiid,” Brown said. “He's a big man and he's got a mindset to back up his physical gifts. He really wants the ball. He wants to get deep catches. He wants to dunk on people.”

Embiid always has been realistic about his transition to his rookie season. He has pointed out many times that he is a fast learner, and is anxious to soak up new knowledge and apply it to the court.

"It's really frustrating," he said. "But like I've said, you've got to trust the process, which I've been doing."