At Midway Point, Talk of Flyers Demise Premature, but Still Waiting for a Spark

At Midway Point, Talk of Flyers Demise Premature, but Still Waiting for a Spark

The Rangers resumed ownership of the Flyers on Tuesday night,
their gritty 4-2 victory launching a brand new winning streak amid a season of
reruns. Philadelphia snapping an eight-game losing streak to New York back in
January looks like a blip on the radar now, a fluke if you will. Orange &
Black is just one for their last 11 versus the Rags.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Tuesday’s loss dropped the
Philadelphia hockey club back below .500. It prevented the Flyers from finally “stringing
together” a few wins for the first time all year. It reinforced notions that this
team is heading no place in particular very quickly in 2013.

We’ve reached the midway point, and the Bullies haven’t been
able to shake that narrative yet, although it’s not entirely fair. You can
easily explain away how they can be 11-12-1 through 24 games. The Flyers got a
bad jump out of the gate by beginning the season 2-6, and you’re probably tired
of hearing it, but opening the schedule with 19 tilts in 34 days made it
difficult to generate any sort of momentum.

Another way of looking at this picture is the Flyers have
gone 9-6-1 since their horrendous start, and they’re 3-2 since the brutal portion
of their slate has ended. If they continue at either pace, they are almost a
lock to reach the postseason.

And then?

Their record isn’t even the most concerning aspect anymore, rather
it’s been their inability to beat certain opponents. It’s nice any time a Philly
team can kick Pittsburgh’s ass with regularity, but that’s almost meaningless
when New York and New Jersey have their number.

The Flyers can’t win like that, not a Stanley Cup, not very
easily anyway. Maybe they’ll get lucky, and somebody else will take care of the
Rangers and Devils come playoff time – hey, there’s a one in four chance they
wouldn’t see either team in the first round, right?

Only that strategy is kind of like walking on to a minefield
without a map or any idea where you’re going or what you might step on.
You can’t assume the Flyers won’t run into either one of last season’s Eastern
Conference finalists once the tournament rolls around. That's not even a strategy.

It might be too soon to count them out anyway. Philadelphia’s
offense is climbing to its rightful permanent home in the NHL’s top 10, and
the power play is becoming flat-out scary, currently sixth-best in the
league. And while Ilya Bryzgalov has faltered a bit of late, he’s shown the
tendency to get white hot for stretches, so much so that he could unexpectedly
carry the Flyers for a month.

All they need it seems is to go on such a run. It can
happen. You could see traces of it building up against Washington and Ottawa before
New York got a hold of them on Tuesday night, or against the Islanders and Pens
a couple weeks back before they slipped up against Florida Panthers.

Until the Flyers can defend themselves against the likes of
New York and New Jersey though, it’s all proverbial wheel-spinning. In any
league, you gotta defeat the good teams to be the good teams. So far, Philly
has come up well short in that regard, even if it’s not too late to ascend to that level quite yet.

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Best of NHL: Crosby scores league-leading 28th goal in win vs. Bruins

Best of NHL: Crosby scores league-leading 28th goal in win vs. Bruins

PITTSBURGH -- Conor Sheary scored two goals, Sidney Crosby added his league-leading 28th and the Pittsburgh Penguins won their fourth straight game, 5-1 over the Boston Bruins 5-1 on Sunday.

Pittsburgh led 2-1 through two periods before breaking out in the third with three goals in a span of 2 minutes, 57 seconds.

Sheary scored his 17th and has nine goals in nine games. Bryan Rust added his 12th and Patric Hornqvist his 11th for the Penguins, who won a season-high seventh straight at home. Pittsburgh the NHL's best home team, is 13-0-1 in its last 14 home games.

Evgeni Malkin had two assists for a season-best seven-game point streak. Crosby added two assists for a three-point game. Matt Murray made 44 saves to win his fourth straight game.

David Krejci scored his 11th for the Bruins, who have lost four straight and five of their last six (see full recap).

Rangers shut out Red Wings in 1-0 OT win
DETROIT -- J.T. Miller scored at 1:56 of overtime to lift the New York Rangers to a 1-0 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday.

Henrik Lundqvist made 21 saves for his second shutout of the season and 61st of his career. The Rangers managed only 19 shots in a game that featured few memorable chances by either team.

The winner came when Mats Zuccarello and Miller swooped in alone on Detroit goalie Jared Coreau. Zuccarello made a simple pass to Miller, who lifted the puck over Coreau for his 16th goal of the season.

Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall played for the first time since Jan. 4, returning from a lower-body injury. The Red Wings put forward Drew Miller on waivers (see full recap).

Atikinson lifts Jackets over Senators in wild OT win
OTTAWA, Ontario -- Cam Atkinson's second goal of the game at 1:09 of overtime lifted the Columbus Blue Jackets a 7-6 win over the Ottawa Senators on Sunday night.

Atkinson had a breakaway after a shot by Senators captain Erik Karlsson missed the Columbus net and went around the boards out to Atkinson, who was at center-ice.

The Blue Jackets trailed 5-3 after two periods before Lukas Sedlak and Matt Calvert scored 31 seconds apart to tie it less than 2 1/2 minutes into the third. Atklnson then gave Columbus a 6-5 lead with 9:10 remaining, before Kyle Turries tied it for Ottawa on the power play less than 2 minutes later.

Nick Foligno, Scott Harrington and Zach Werenski also scored for the Blue Jackets, and Joonas Korpisalo finished with 28 saves.

Zach Smith and Mike Hoffman each had two goals and Mark Stone also scored for the Senators. Mike Condon had 22 saves (see full recap).

Best of NBA: Lakers suffer worst loss in team history

Best of NBA: Lakers suffer worst loss in team history

DALLAS -- Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks had something to prove on Sunday following two straight tough losses.

Coming off a three-point effort in an overtime loss on Friday, Nowitzki scored all 13 of his points in the first half and Dallas gave the Los Angeles Lakers the worst loss in their history, 122-73.

"We didn't show up to play," Lakers coach Luke Walton said. "It's embarrassing for us as a team and for us as an organization. The effort just wasn't there tonight, which I don't understand."

The 49-point defeat just edged Los Angeles' two previous worst losses at 48 points, most recently 123-75 at Utah on March 28, 2016.

The Mavericks' winning margin was the third-largest in their history.

It was Dallas' 13th straight win over the Lakers, who have lost six of their last seven games overall (see full recap).

Curry, Thompson each hit 7 3s, Warriors pull away from Magic
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson each hit seven 3-pointers and the Golden State Warriors won their seventh straight game, beating the Orlando Magic 118-98 on Sunday.

Tied at the half, the Warriors woke up from West Coast time in the second half to pull away. This was the first Eastern time zone noon tip for them since 1995, when they lost by 34 points in Orlando.

Curry went 7 for 13 on 3s and scored 27 points while Thompson as 7 for 9 from behind the arc and had 21 points. The Warriors shot 19 of 42 overall from 3-point range while the Magic went 7 for 28.

After trailing by 11 in the first half and committing a dozen turnovers, the Warriors went into the break even at 50. Curry hit four 3s and had 14 points in the third quarter as the Warriors outscored the Magic 42-24 (see full recap).

Bledsoe's career day leads Suns over Raptors 115-103
TORONTO -- Eric Bledsoe scored a career-high 40 points and had 13 assists and the Phoenix Suns handed the Toronto Raptors their third straight loss, 115-103 on Sunday night.

Bledsoe was 11 of 17 from the floor, including 4 of 7 from 3-point range, and Devin Booker added 20 points as the Suns won their second straight road game following Saturday's win at New York. The victory also completed a season sweep of the Raptors for the first time since 2013-14 and improved Phoenix to 11-6 against Eastern Conference teams this season.

DeMar DeRozan had 22 points for Toronto and Jonas Valanciunas added 16 points and 12 rebounds for his 17th double-double of the season. It's the first time the Raptors have lost three straight since Nov. 6-10, 2015.

Kyle Lowry was ejected with 1:30 left after a flagrant-two foul following contact with the head of Brandon Knight. It capped a night to forget for Lowry, who had 15 points but shot just 5 of 17, including 1 of 9 from 3-point range (see full recap).