And We're Back G-Line Dominates Hurricanes, Bryzgalov Nearly Perfect

And We're Back G-Line Dominates Hurricanes, Bryzgalov Nearly Perfect

We
waited the entire remainder of the Sopranos series to find out what
happened to the Russian who was lost in the woods, to no avail, as he
never resurfaced. We only had to wait one game to see the Flyers own
lost Russian re-emerge.

The home side gave their fans and themselves a huge injection of
confidence on Saturday, dominating all facets of play en route to a 5-1
win over the Carolina Hurricanes. Confidence is what Ilya Bryzgalov
emphatically said he was lacking after getting shelled in his two
previous outings, but you'd never know it watching this one. The only
goal scored on Bryz came when Scott Hartnell slid into him and plowed
him out of the crease, leaving the cage wide open for Jussi Jokinen to
put one in.

Hartnell was easily forgiven, however, as his crashing of the
opposing net resulted in the first goal of the game, and it was the
Hartnell-Giroux-Jagr line that collectively did nearly all the scoring
for the Flyers.

Giroux worked his ass off all night and was on the ice for every
goal. He assisted the first three and scored the fourth, then narrowly
missed getting an assist on the fifth, though his work did help lead to
it.

The only goal that wasn't scored by this line still managed to include a
Girouxian masterpiece. Down a man due to a crappy call on Jagr in the
third, Max Talbot blocked a shot, and he and Giroux skated down the ice
to net the Flyers' first shorthanded goal. As if the Flyers needed more
of a karmic refund, Jagr scored on his next shift after leaving the box.

Bryzgalov didn't have the busiest night, but he was sharp with his
stick and his pads, making only one mistake that I can remember (poorly
playing a puck behind the net). Great to see him looking plenty
confident for 60 minutes, and he would have had a shutout had it not
been for the accidental takeout by Hartnell.

The Flyers have a clear-cut #1 line, an explosive mixture of speed,
talent, and grit. Giroux and Jagr are just unstoppable with the puck.
Hartnell had one of the best games of his career. G's two-way play
continues to be great (although he's still making a few too many risky
passes), and Jagr's patience with the puck can drop jaws.

The rest of the team didn't get their names on the sheet, but
really, it was a very good all around effort. The game wasn't fully
dominated by the Flyers until about the halfway point, and certainly in
the third, but their work early on was a great sign of a team that is
way better than it's played recently. They were sharp all night, patient
when opportunities weren't there and aggressive when they were.

Notes:
Final tallies for the G Line: Giroux (1 G, 3 A), Hartnell (1 G, 2 A), Jagr (2 G).

Two Flyers scored on their very next shifts after sitting in the box—Hartnell in the first period and Jagr in the third.

Tough night for Brian Boucher, who made some big saves but was just
overwhelmed by the pressure of the G Line and increasingly shaky defense
in front of him.

Zac Rinaldo had another HUGE hit in this one. Great to see that out of a fourth line winger.

One place the Flyers did not fare well was the face-off circle, where they lost 39 while winning just 23.

Talbot
wore one of the A's tonight, with Briere out. One game after taking a
painful shot to the foot, he scored after blocking an identical attempt
in the third. He skated the night centering the third line, with Sean
Couturier on the fourth.

US Presswire photos

Flyers fans -- even living dead ones -- are happy on Saturday night.

End to End: Analyzing Bradyen Schenn's contract

End to End: Analyzing Bradyen Schenn's contract

Each week, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End this week are Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone, all producers/reporters for CSNPhilly.com.

Is Brayden Schenn's contract a good deal for the Flyers?

Dougherty
It's understandable why some portion of Flyers fans have responded to Schenn's contract extension with caution; the $5.125 million is a bit high for what he's done consistently. But we live in a salary cap world in which the cap is not rising at the rate we would like.

We have to consider that when analyzing contracts. As Sportsnet's Colton Praill eloquently opined about bridge contracts back on July 13, we've seen teams get burnt by bad contracts. Look at the Chicago Blackhawks, who have had to move players to fit under the cap.

Part of surviving the cap world is making smart bets on players, and that requires breaking down what they have done already but more importantly, what you believe they'll do in the future. And Ron Hextall has done a decent job of that in his tenure as GM.

A perfect example of that is Sean Couturier's contract. It was a higher cap hit than his offensive production warranted at the time, but a deal we would look back on as a steal.

Now, Schenn's development is nearly complete. It's a different situation, but the same idea. If Schenn is a 26-goal, 59-point player, his $5.125 million AAV is fair.

If there's another level we haven't seen from the 24-year-old, then this is a totally different conversation in a few years.

In the end, the Flyers are betting on Schenn being the player he was from Jan. 1, 2016, through the end of the season, and living in the cap world, it's a smart play.

Hall
The Flyers were going to re-sign Brayden Schenn, through an arbitrator or not.

And when it was all said and done, no matter if the average annual value was slightly lower or higher than the $5.125 million of Schenn’s new four-year contract, the Flyers were still going to be handcuffed by the cap.

So the Flyers avoided what can be a messy arbitration process by finding a happy medium with a strategic deal that behooves the Flyers long term, as Ron Hextall explained.

Now they have longer team control over Schenn, who could have signed for fewer years, upped his game and ballooned his payday as an unrestricted free agent.

Like Hextall said, top-six forwards entering their prime "are hard to find."

Yeah, the Flyers probably overpaid just a bit, but that’s the NHL market — it’s far from perfect.

Paone
There’s a reason these kinds of things are categorized as negotiations. There’s give and take involved. In the case of Brayden Schenn’s contract, there was probably a little more give than Ron Hextall and the Flyers would have liked. The numbers reported over the weekend tell us the Flyers didn’t necessarily want to go over the $5 million per year threshold with Schenn, even though the 24-year-old forward is coming off a career year of 26 goals and 33 assists.

But just because the Flyers went over their projected budget by going a smidge over $5 million doesn’t mean this is a terrible deal for the team. Not by any means. By now, you’ve probably read or heard Hextall use the term “market deal” when describing this contract. And that’s accurate because that’s the way the NHL is going these days. Yes, Schenn has had inconsistency issues over his first five seasons in Philadelphia. But young scorers don’t grow on trees. You have to pay to keep the ones you have. New Jersey’s Kyle Palmieri, the New York Rangers’ Chris Kreider and St. Louis’ Jaden Schwartz are just a few examples. Schenn is just the latest. There will be more young scorers out there, flaws be damned, who will get paid sooner rather than later.

Sure, Schenn picked a great time last year — a contract year — to have a career season. And that pushed the Flyers to reward him. Now, it’s up to him to reward the Flyers’ faith.

Phillies to host Grateful Dead Tribute Night in August with sweet tie-dye T-shirt giveaway

phillies.png

Phillies to host Grateful Dead Tribute Night in August with sweet tie-dye T-shirt giveaway

The 2016 Philadelphia Phillies season has felt a bit like they're just going down the road feeling bad and when they're at home, Citizens Bank Park has felt a bit like a brokedown palace, so it's fitting they're hosting a Grateful Dead Tribute Night in August.

Not sure what kind of antics are planned for the night but I'm hopping it includes a skit where the Phanatic dances on top of the dugout with his new best friend Lucifer. 

Grateful Dead night at CBP will take place on Tuesday, August 2nd when the Phils host the San Francisco Giants.

"The first 1,500 fans who purchase tickets through this promotion will receive a coupon for an exclusive Phillies Grateful Dead T-shirt giveaway," says the Phillies website. "In addition, $4 from each ticket sold for this event will benefit the Rex Foundation."

The Phillies have struggled heading into the July trade deadline, but hopefully help is on the way in the form of young prospects like Jake Thompson and J.P. Crawford.

Phillies-Marlins 5 things: Phils look to continue mastery of Giancarlo Stanton

Phillies-Marlins 5 things: Phils look to continue mastery of Giancarlo Stanton

Phillies (46-55) at Marlins (53-46)
7:10 p.m. on CSN

Another impressive start by Jeremy Hellickson and some timely late offense led the Phillies to a series-opening win in Miami Monday. Now they go for the quick series win, which would be their first in four tries since the All-Star break.

Let's take a closer look at Tuesday's matchup:

1. One donut shy of a dozen
The Phillies' 4-0 win last night was their 11th shutout victory of the season, the most in baseball. The Mets and Dodgers are tied for second with nine.

The Phils' pitching staff was obviously at its best in April, when it set the MLB record for strikeouts per nine innings in the month at 10.4. The Phillies had five shutouts in April, two in May, two in June and now two in July. 

And it's not like the Phils have just taken advantage of bad teams here, shutting out the Braves or Padres repeatedly. They've shut out the Nationals twice, the Mets, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Pirates, Marlins and Diamondbacks. All of those teams except Arizona (which has a good offense) is above .500 and in the playoff hunt.

It's been written here many times that the most important short-term decision the Phillies made this past offseason was to raise the floor of the starting rotation. They've done it, and more importantly they've done it with youth. The Phillies' mediocre, veteran-laden 2015 staff had just seven shutouts all season.

2. Walk this way
Maikel Franco and Cameron Rupp both had productive nights Monday in their returns to the starting lineup. Franco went 1 for 2 with a double and three walks, scoring the Phillies' first and ultimately game-winning run in the eighth. Rupp went 0 for 2 but also walked three times and saw 26 pitches.

How rare is it for two Phillies to walk three times in the same game? It hadn't happened since Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz did it on April 5, 2010 at Nationals Park in Roy Halladay's Phillies debut.

Franco and Rupp may have been the two most unlikely Phillies to walk three times. Franco is an aggressive swinger, and Rupp walked just three times in the season's first two months. Rupp had just 11 in 248 plate appearances this season before Monday.

The Phillies averted disaster with two of their productive, young hitters after Franco was hit by a pitch on the wrist (again) in Pittsburgh and Rupp was hit on the helmet. 

3. Eickhoff's turn
Two of Jerad Eickhoff's last three starts have seen him start strong and fall apart in the middle innings. He allowed six runs (five earned) on nine hits over five innings against the Marlins last week after beginning the game with three scoreless innings.

Right before the All-Star break, Eickhoff was cruising at Coors Field with four shutout innings before the umpire's strike zone shrunk and Eickhoff's control disappeared. He allowed two runs in the fifth and six in the sixth.

In between those two outings was a well-pitched game in which Eickhoff allowed two runs in six innings to the Mets for yet another quality start.

So even though the results lately have been ugly for Eickhoff, even though his ERA has risen from 3.30 to 3.98 in the span of three weeks, he hasn't been all that bad. He just needs to avoid that one big inning.

Eickhoff, who is 6-11 with a 3.98 ERA in 20 starts this season, is 0-2 with a 6.55 ERA against the Marlins this season. He pitched six shutout innings against them in their lone meeting last year.

Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich have caused the most problems for him, going a combined 6 for 15 with three doubles and two homers.

4. Time to hit Koehler
The Phillies have had three looks at mediocre Marlins right-hander Tom Koehler (7-8, 4.42) this season and failed to hit him all three times. 

On May 7, Koehler allowed one run on two hits over seven innings with eight strikeouts in a game the Phillies eventually won. 

On May 18, he allowed two runs to them in seven innings and induced 16 groundballs.

And then last week, matched up against Eickhoff, Koehler again gave up just two hits, this time over eight innings. He allowed two homers but only one of the Phils' three runs was earned.

It's hard to explain why, all the sudden, the Phils have stopped hitting the 6-foot-3 righty. Last season, a worse Phillies team scored 15 runs against him in 21 innings. 

The Phillies are familiar with Koehler's repertoire, which includes a fastball in the 93 to 95 mph range, a curveball, slider and changeup. In the first two meetings this season he threw them a ton of fastballs, 115 in all. But last week he threw just 38 fastballs among 110 pitches. He threw 34 curveballs in that game, by far the most he's thrown this season. Don't be surprised to see a similar game plan tonight given how well it worked last week.

Current Phillies have hit just .201 against Koehler with three homers (Ryan Howard, Cody Asche, Freddy Galvis) in 144 at-bats.

5. Marlins notes
• Ichiro has gone 0 for 4 as a pinch-hitter in the Marlins' last four games. He's sitting on 2,996 career hits, meaning he could get his historic 3,000th against the Phillies this week with a big game or two. It would require the Marlins to sit one of Ozuna, Yelich or Giancarlo Stanton, though.

• Stanton this season against the Phillies: 3 for 33 (.091), one extra-base hit (a homer), two RBIs, 14 strikeouts. 

Against everyone else, Stanton has hit .257/.350/.524 with 20 home runs and 53 RBIs. If you remove the Phillies from the equation, Stanton's OPS this season would be 52 points higher, .874 instead of .822.