Bad Blood, Great Hockey: Flyers Storm Back to Thrash Penguins

Bad Blood, Great Hockey: Flyers Storm Back to Thrash Penguins

For months, the Flyers have been playing a dangerous game, one rarely won in the NHL. They've frequently allowed the game's first goal, often before the fans have found their seats. And yet, they continue living to tell the tale. On Saturday, the Ottawa Senators scored three unanswered goals in the first period. The Flyers tied the game and left the ice with one point after losing in the shootout. On Sunday, the Penguins became the latest team to open the Flyers up early, scoring twice in the opening period before the Flyers returned fire.
Once again, the Flyers were backed into a corner. And once again, they successfully fought their way out. It was the second straight time they beat the Pens after conceding the game's first two goals, and they'd leave the ice with a 6-4 W after a brutal and entertaining end. 
How are they managing to win despite the odds against coming back, especially against one of the league's elite teams?
On Sunday, the Penguins certainly had the better of the early attacking, but it was luck that kept the Flyers off the board early. Despite being outshot, Philadelphia did still have some good opportunities. Pittsburgh opened the scoring with a complete fluke of a goal, though good cycling and puck work led to it. Sidney Crosby had a solid opportunity that was stoned by Sergei Bobrovsky, but the Pens retained the puck and got it to Steve Sullivan in the high slot. Sullivan's shot knuckled very oddly and popped over Bob and into the net. 
A much cleaner shot by Matt Carle caught iron a minute later, then slid past a perfectly positioned Scott Hartnell on the doorstep of an open net. Sometimes the bounces don't go your way, and the Pens had both the better luck and the better work in the early goings. 
It paid off for the home side again before 5 minutes had ticked off. James Neal scored his 39th when the Penguins' top line caught the Flyers looking. Evgeni Malkin skated under the goal line with the puck, slammed on the brakes, and fed it back to Neal. Despite Malkin being alone behind the net, the Flyers had inadequate coverage in front of it. 
It appeared a rout had begun. The top scoring team in the league had drawn blood and were circling like sharks (not the San Jose variety). But anyone who's watched the Flyers this season should know the game was just getting started. They've won seven of the 24 games in which they've trailed by two goals at any point, getting at least a point in 10 of them. In games they've trailed 2-0, they have either tied or taken the lead four out of five times, according to Sam Carchidi. 
So let's get on to that part, shall we?
Ten minutes after the Neal goal, the Flyers' top line answered. Jaromir Jagr, Claude Giroux, and Scott Hartnell put a load of pressure on an outmatched Penguins unit in the Pittsburgh zone. Jagr helped keep the puck free with an active stick, and Giroux powered through a flat-footed Aron Asham. G turned inside and put it on goal, where Marc-Andre Fleury was screened by Hartnell. Exactly how this line is designed to work, complete with a #hartnelldown. 
The building grew quiter, the Pens swagger tucked a bit tighter between their legs. They still had the lead, but it was a new game. 
Five minutes into the second, the scoreboard was reset. The Flyers' checking line was managing the Penguins' top line well, with their most effective tactic being to generate offensive pressure. They worked the puck around the Pittsburgh zone, and Sean Couturier sent it into the slot, where Zac Rinaldo gloved it down, turned, and shot it toward goal. None other than former Penguin Max Talbot was open on the back door, and he chipped it home. 
Remember when Dan Bylsma teased his former checker for finding a goal-scoring touch? That's 19 on the season for Talbot, whose career best with the Penguins was 13. 
Sergei Bobrovsky shook off a less-than-stellar start, just as he did against the Senators on Saturday. The Pens came close to breaking through a few times, including with a second left in the period, but Bob kept the gate shut. 
The Flyers would take the lead and keep it in the third. Wayne Simmonds scored his fifth goal in four games, a power play tally quarterbacked by Giroux. G first passed to Hartnell in the highslot, where he's had success this season, but he couldn't convert. The Flyers kept the puck, and G again set up to lay ruin. This time he passed it to a poaching Jake Voracek, who was on the right point. Vorch sent it down low, where Simmonds was waiting on the back door. 
Voracek would score the first of his two goals next, a slick breakaway off a nice touch pass from Eric Wellwood. Marc-Andre Bourdon piled an insurance goal on after that, shooting from the point after G beat Crosby in a Pens-zone faceoff. Bourdon's shot hit Zbynek Michalek on the way, changing direction considerably to beat Marc-Andre Fleury. 
The Penguins got on the board again with another Sullivan goal, making things momentarily interesting, but it was too little too late for the Pens. 
The game was far from over though. These teams will close the season together, then very likely meet in the first round of the playoffs. As detailed, with video, here, the Pens wanted to send a message that this game was over, but they'd be ready to swing next week. If you haven't seen it yet, go watch Lavvy go apeshit on Dan Bylsma's crew, with both coaches standing on the boards as their players brawled on the ice. 
Anyone not ready for the next meeting?
NotesThe Flyers are now 4-1-0 against the Penguins, who are leaking goals and playing a dangerous, gambling game of their own. They're very loose, confident their scoring can carry them. But they're surrendering too many goals, and and MAF has been very human lately. 
The Flyers played most of the game without Nick Grossmann, who took a knee-on-knee hit from Joe Vitale. No word on his status yet, but he didn't return. Lavvy indicated in an interview that it wasn't serious, but who knows. The Flyers can't afford to lose him, despite today's winning effort after his departure. 
Kimmo Timonen also left briefly after blocking a shot with his knee. He returned though. 
Huge props to Braydon Coburn, who was double and even triple shifted throughout the game. He played nearly 29 minutes. Matt Carle was just under 28. 
Vitale was also at the center of the storm that ended the game, laying out Danny Briere with a huge, clean hit. Lavvy's beef was that his checking line hadn't played in the latter half of the third period, then was sent out for possibly the final faceoff. While legal, the hit was clearly a message. Lavvy called Bylsma "gutless" according to reports from the locker room, while Crosby defended it and the Pens complained of the hit Brayden Schenn put on their captain from behind. 
Schenn was clearly in violation of the rules, but no more than Malkin was when he did the same
to Hartnell after a whistle (only difference being Harts didn't crumble to the ice like Crosby), nor when Malkin basically cross-check/tackled Giroux. He and Crosby were the dirtiest players on the ice, with even the NBC crew pointing out Crosby's unpenalized slashes. 
15 penalties were assessed on that final fracas. Peter Laviolette was tossed from the game, and he earned it. It was pretty funny to see him shatter Talbot's stick, with part of it landing on the ice, another part in the Pens' bench. 
Among the many highlights of the game, it was particularly enjoyable to see how unfazed the Flyers' youngins were by the stars in black and gold. 
It doesn't appear any Flyer is afraid of Pittsburgh's Consol Energy Center. They've won all five games they've played there. Must be the barbecue. 
Highlights

We finally found something (not great) about Joel Embiid: Manziel Buddy?

We finally found something (not great) about Joel Embiid: Manziel Buddy?

Ugh. Joel Embiid may not be perfect.

He may be buddies with Johnny Manziel, at least according to the former NFL hopeful turned party boy.

It all started when Manziel took to Twitter today to talk about doing a free autograph signing for the people of Texas.

The Twitter rant also included this strange line: "No lie.. I was a [bad word] in 2016 I'm just trying to be a good PERSON again#LostInTheSauce."

Hey, owning it is the first step to recovery, right? 

Also, he knows how to get Twitter's attention:

And:

And:

After doing one Google search, there were reports of the pair hanging over the summer in LA. From Busted Coverage:

[Manziel] was tearing up the Warick LA lounge with his Los Angeles friends at a party that included Jerome Boateng from Bayern Munich, Kendra Wilkinson and Joel Embiid among others.

More to this as we learn it...

2017 Eagles Cost Analysis, DT: What will it cost to re-sign Bennie Logan?

2017 Eagles Cost Analysis, DT: What will it cost to re-sign Bennie Logan?

Bennie Logan set new career highs for the Eagles in 2016 with 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles, although clearly the bar was low in those particular categories. But while the four-year veteran maybe made a few more big plays than in years past, he was less active overall after making the switch from the nose tackle in a 3-4 scheme to a defensive tackle in a wide-nine, 4-3 alignment.

After racking up at least 55 tackles in his first full two seasons as a starter, Logan managed only 24 in his new role. And while he doubled his quarterback hits from three over 2014-15 to six, his tackles for loss were cut almost in half, from eight, then nine, to five.

Logan did miss three games with a hip injury, which who knows how that might've affected him over the final eight games. In the four contests prior to getting hurt, he already had 2.0 sacks, a forced fumble, three quarterback hits and three tackles for loss, so there was a marked difference in impact beforehand.

Regardless, that must make it difficult for the Eagles to evaluate his performance, which is kind of a problem, because Logan is due to become a free agent. How does the front office go about determining his value in this defense?

It's not an easy question, and the first thing you have to ask is who takes Logan's place in the starting lineup? In terms of an in-house replacement, the individual numbers don't indicate a huge drop-off with Beau Allen. Allen only recorded a 0.5 sack and failed to force a fumble in '16, but finished with five more tackles, the same number of tackles for loss and one less quarterback hit than Logan in 55 fewer snaps.

The Eagles would need to address depth at the position if they went with Allen, but that path wouldn't necessarily cost as much money as retaining Logan. A proven disruptor up the middle — especially in the right scheme — can command a lot on the open market.

Take a look at the contract fellow LSU product Michael Brockers got from the Rams back in September. Brockers received a three-year extension worth over $33 million with $18 million guaranteed. Granted, a lot of that is tied to a roster bonus he doesn't seem poised to be with the club to earn in 2017, but even just his salary for last season totalled nearly $7 million.

That was coming off a season in which Brockers posted 44 tackles, 3.0 sacks, zero forced fumbles, eight tackles for loss and six quarterback hits. Those are a step up from Logan's totals in '16, but not necessarily better than some of his previous campaigns.

Again, it's difficult to determine Logan's exact value, but to the right team, he could certainly be worth upwards of $5-6 million per year. Tough to say whether the Eagles would be willing to go there, especially given their tight cap situation.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES UNDER CONTRACT

Fletcher Cox
Age: 27*
Cap Number: $9,400,000

Cox probably didn't live up to the expectations that come with a contract worth $100 million — the second-highest total for his position — but he's still one of the most dominant interior linemen in the league. The five-year veteran better get used to the fact that he's going to face constant double-teams the next few years, because the Eagles don't have a pure pass-rush specialist on the edge who can take over games. With that in mind, 6.5 sacks and 14 quarterback hits probably aren't enough from Cox, although when he's at his best, he can carry the Eagles to victory. Just look at his first three games of the season, all wins: 11 tackles, two tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks, four quarterback hits and a forced fumble. Either way, $63 million in guarantees says he isn't going anywhere for awhile.

Beau Allen
Age: 26*
Cap Number: $705,562

Allen proved to a perfectly serviceable rotational player in 2016, plus added another position to his resume. He can play fullback in a pinch, which is impressive in itself for a 327-pound man. Hard to say whether Allen is starter material. According to Pro Football Focus, Logan still charted better against the run among qualifying interior linemen — although Allen was above average — but the Wisconsin product was the more productive of the two when it came to rushing the passer. If the goal here is primarily to save money, the Eagles should be able to get away with Allen and a cheaper veteran or early draft pick aside of Cox, who makes sure everybody else across the line is getting one-on-one treatment anyway.

Taylor Hart
Age: 26*
Cap Number: $690,000

Not going to lie, I was a little surprised to see Hart is still on the roster. Depth issues led to the Eagles bringing him back, although he never suited up. The former fifth-round draft pick has now been active for a grand total of 15 games in three seasons. Scouting reports suggested Hart would be better off in a 3-4 alignment, but even that is suspect at this point.

Destiny Vaeao
Age: 23*
Cap Number: $540,000

An undrafted rookie out of Washington State, Vaeao had his moments. His strip-sack against the Bears in Week 2 was a big play, and he got the quarterback again in the first meeting against the Giants. Otherwise, Vaeao was pretty quiet. He figures to be competing for his spot on the roster in 2017, although if Logan leaves, it might be difficult finding enough bodies to rendering a prospect with a full season's worth of experience expendable.

Aziz Shittu
Age: 23*

Shittu had a standout preseason, racking up six tackles, 1.5 sacks, three tackles for loss and three quarterback hits. That was enough to land the undrafted rookie out of Standford on the Eagles practice squad, though it might be telling that they liked Vaeao and even Hart more. Nonetheless, Shittu signed a futures contract at the conclusion of the season and will be an interesting name to keep an eye on come training camp.

EXPIRING CONTRACTS

Bennie Logan
Age: 28*
2016 Cap Number: $1,842,023

To be fair, Logan probably made more of an impact than the numbers indicate. The Eagles' wide-nine just doesn't feel like the ideal fit. A case could be made Logan was transforming into arguably the best nose tackle in the NFL prior to the switch. Filling a gap and building a wall at the line of scrimmage seem to be his strengths, not so much getting upfiekd and attacking quarterbacks. Again, we'll allow for the possibility Logan wasn't 100 percent all season, and he could certainly continue to develop with more experience in this role. If it were my money, it would be all about price. If we're talking the lower end of the spectrum, maybe $4.5 million, it's easy to justify bringing him back. Once that price tag soars — and it certainly may — it simply may not make much sense for the Eagles anymore.