Danny Briere! Flyers Take Game 1 in OT

Danny Briere! Flyers Take Game 1 in OT

The Flyers were outplayed early and surrendered a goal in the first five minutes, but turned the game around in the second period and won on the strength of Danny Briere and Claude Giroux goals. Anyone upset at the fact that we just watched the hockey equivalent of a live-action rerun? 
Didn't think so… 
Briere netted a pair, including the winners in overtime. Winners? Well, kinda… 
A look back at the Flyers' 4-3 win to start the Eastern Conference Semifinals below. 
Rust? Or Just Flyers Hockey?When the Devils started the game seemingly in full control and scored the opening goal just 3:16 in, the temptation was to say they were rusty after being off all week while the Devils' series went the distance. 
Great forechecking pressure by New Jersey forced a Matt Read turnover that led to the goal. Zach Parise and Patrik Elias came at him from both sides behind the net, and Read tried to reverse it, but Elias stole the puck and found Parise in front for a gimme. 1-0 Devils… 
Jake Voracek took a slashing call just after the goal, and New Jersey kept the pressure up, outshooting the Flyers by a 11-0 count to start the game and 15-6 in the first period. Again, if you were worried, I'm guessing you didn't see the opening round. 
The Devils powerplay looked like the unit that set a new mark for efficiency in the regular season in the first period. The Flyers couldn't even get set up let alone put together scoring chances. 
Games aren't won in the first period, nor are they lost, but Ilya Bryzgalov kept the game tight with some big saves early. He had trouble playing the puck when outside of the crease repeatedly on the afternoon though too. His adventures out of the net would be a problem in this one though, one worth some coaching time before game 2 on Tuesday. 
Meanwhile, Martin Brodeur was strong with his play outside the crease early. The Flyers had success against the Penguins when they dumped, chased, and won battles along the boards, but Brodeur wasn't having that. He's been known for as a great puckhandler throughout his career, though he did make some mistakes later. 
Briere and JVR Get It StartedThe Flyers were lucky to survive the first period down just a goal, and that goal came on a pretty awful giveaway at that. The second period has been a strength for them all season, and it was again on Sunday. Briere scored his sixth of the playoffs on a breakaway sprung by a great pass from his new linemate Voracek. Vorch was the recipient of one of several terrible mistakes off the stick of Ilya Kovalchuk, and he threaded a perfect pass to Danny's tape. Briere had a defender on his back but burst ahead and found daylight to Brodeur's left side. 
Thirty-seven seconds later, James van Riemsdyk opened his playoff account. The opportunity came when Brodeur misplayed a puck of his own, sending it from behind the net to Erik Gustafsson. Gus put a dangerous shot on net, but Marty made a great save. He couldn't stop JVR from putting home the rebound though… 
Everything appeared to be coming up Milhouse for the Flyers until a poor call led to a Devils power play. Adam Henrique made a strong play to strip Brayden Schenn of the puck at the point, then skated the length toward the Flyers' goal. Matt Carle appeared to effectively and cleanly slow him down and force him off his stride, but Carle was whistled for hooking despite making only minimal, transient contact. 
On the ensuing power play, Bryz missed on an attempt to slow the puck behind the net, then struggled to regroup back in front as Kovalchuk sent a pass to Parise, who scored. 
The Flyers were buzzing in the third period again, and an Andy Greene penalty allowed
them to get the power play rolling. The dominance of the Devils' PK had waned, and the power play unit set up well in the final period and eventual overtime. Claude Giroux got on the board for the seventh time in the playoffs, third on the man advantage, after winning a draw back and getting to the open area. Scott Hartnell passed up a possible shooting opportunity to dish back to Kimmo Timonen at the point, and Kimmo found G, who one-timed a blistering shot high over a besieged Brodeur. 
3-2, Flyers…
Trying to keep things calm and protect a late lead, Peter Laviolette called a timeout after his team iced the puck with 8:57 left. This time, the TO didn't work. 
A Voracek giveaway ended up being the secondary assist on the Devils' equalizer, as David Clarkson sprung old man Sykora, who looked up at Bryz, licked his lips, and fired one past him. 
For some clubs, that might have been a damning change in momentum. Another goal off a turnover, and this time, a pretty soft goal to boot. Not taking anything away from Sykora, but that's a save that must be made. At the other end, Marty made some huge saves late, including some key stops on JVR and Briere, who were buzzing all game. 
The OT…Both teams were unbeaten in overtime during their opening round series, with the Devils winning twice and the Flyers once. However, the Devils were only in OT in game 7 because of a late Panthers power play goal was scored after Marek Zidlicky put the puck over the boards in his zone. On Sunday, he did the same, only in overtime. Sean Couturier and Max Talbot applied the pressure, and Zidlicky just buckled. 
On the power play, the Flyers continued to get great pressure, with JVR and Briere seemingly on every puck. Briere appeared to push home the game winner, so much so that the "Hot Hot Hot" played, but the goal was correctly ruled to have been scored on a kicking motion. Personally, I think it's time the league allowed those too, but until then, this wasn't a good goal. The next one unquestionably was. 
The Flyers kept the pressure up, keeping most of the same personnel on late. JVR managed three straight attempts in tight on Brodeur, but all were stopped. After another Devils failed clear, Voracek found an open Briere at the point, and Danny blasted one through a great screen by JVR. 
Game. Danny B with his NINTH playoff game-winner as a Flyer. 
Notes:After getting outshot 11-0 to start the game, the Flyers ran up a 36-15 count the rest of the way. 
Giroux and Briere now each have 7 goals in as many games this postseason. 
Ilya Kovachuk was brutal in the game. While Philly fans often gripe about having to endure announcers' verbal fellating of opposing stars like Sidney Crosby, they were pretty hard on Kovalchuk with good reason. He was a turnover machine, and his giveaways were certainly costly. He may be playing hurt, but he also just made some very poor decisions. You won't get away with that against any Flyers unit. 
Marty Brodeur was annoyed what he perceived to be too much Flyers activity in his crease, including by JVR on the final goal. However, he got away with pummeling JVR earlier, shoving his head into the ice from behind while #21 was down. 
Pretty safe to say this is a Jersey Foul
We'll be back with some more later/tomorrow, but for now, it's time to enjoy a few (more) beers to celebrate a 1-0 series lead.  

Ryan Howard's miserable May continues as Tigers out-power Phillies

may2316-howard2-slide.jpg

Ryan Howard's miserable May continues as Tigers out-power Phillies

DETROIT — Back when they were racking up National League East titles and filling Citizens Bank Park night after night, the Phillies could slug with anyone.
 
Those days are gone.
 
So even on a night when they got some power from two young up-and-comers in their lineup, the Phillies still couldn’t get enough to match up with the Detroit Tigers on Monday night.
 
“We don’t have enough pop to go blow for blow with them,” manager Pete Mackanin said.
 
The Tigers belted four home runs, three against starting pitcher Vince Velasquez, in beating the Phillies, 5-4, at Comerica Park (see Instant Replay).
 
Maikel Franco and Tommy Joseph both homered for the Phillies, but Ryan Howard, no longer even close to the player he was during those aforementioned title years, slipped deeper into the May quicksand. He went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts to fall to .156 on the season. He is 4 for 48 (.083) in the month of May.
 
“Man, it’s been brutal,” Howard said after the game. “I’m not going to lie. I need some breaks, man. It’s been tough. I’ve hit some balls hard, but they’re not finding any real estate out there.
 
“I have to keep grinding and swinging. Luckily, it’s still early to get it turned around.”
 
Yes, it’s early for some guys.
 
But it might not be that early for Howard. He’s 36 and in the final year of his contract. His slump has coincided with Joseph’s ascension from the minors. Joseph played first base Monday night and looked good at the position. In addition to hitting a game-tying homer in the sixth, he had a double. Half of his six hits in his first seven games in the majors have been for extra bases.
 
Joseph will continue to play first base while Howard serves as the designated hitter in the final two games of the interleague series in Detroit. After that, Joseph is expected to start against lefty Jon Lester in Chicago on Friday. If he keeps hitting — and Howard keeps struggling — the situation could be ripe for Mackanin to continue to play Joseph, even against the right-handers Howard usually sees.
 
“I'm going to look at it a week at a time,” Mackanin said. “We'll see. At some point it might come to that, but I can't say it's imminent.”
 
If Howard starts spending more time on the bench, it will be part of a downhill progression that started in the second half of last season when he became a platoon player. Will a progression to the bench ultimately lead to his being released in the coming weeks? Well, if Joseph keeps hitting and continues to earn playing time, management may have to seriously ponder the move.
 
Even with Franco and Joseph hitting home runs, the Phillies didn’t have enough to match the Tigers’ thunder.
 
Miguel Cabrera belted two home runs and in the seventh inning clubbed his 500th career double. He then came around to score the go-ahead run on a single by Victor Martinez.
 
Entering the game, the Tigers were among the top teams in the American League in batting average (.265), runs per game (4.60), homers (56) and OPS (.758).
 
Meanwhile, the Phillies couldn’t get much lower in offense. They ranked near the bottom in the National League in batting average (.233), runs per game (3.23), homers (32) and OPS (.651).
 
“You look up and down their lineup on the scoreboard and it looks like everybody is hitting .300 with eight or 10 home runs,” Mackanin said. “It can be daunting.
 
“The middle of their lineup hurt us with the long ball. We knew they were swinging the bats well lately. They weren’t earlier. Now they’re swinging well and we couldn’t contain them.
 
“We got 12 hits of our own. But they’ve got a lot of power on that team.”
 
The Phillies are at the start of a challenging trip — three in Detroit followed by three against the Cubs in Wrigley Field. The Cubs have the majors’ best record. The Phillies, a surprising four games over .500, will be tested on this trip.
 
They did not pass the first test. Velasquez had trouble commanding his pitches and for the second straight start ran a high pitch count. He took a 3-1 lead to the mound in the fifth, but it evaporated quickly under the weight of homers by J.D. Martinez and Cabrera. Reliever Colton Murray also gave up a homer in the inning. He also allowed the go-ahead run in the seventh as Mackanin held David Hernandez back in case the Phils got a lead.
 
“Velasquez didn’t have any command of his secondary pitches, pretty basic stuff, and he left some fastballs over the plate,” Mackanin said. “You have to throw quality pitches to a lineup like this. If you make mistakes against them, they don’t miss. If you don’t command your secondary pitches against good hitters, they become like sharks and smell blood and hit the fastball.”
 
Velasquez said he should have gotten the loss, not Murray.
 
“You can’t shy away from hitters and I did that,” he said. “You’ve got to pitch inside. I pitched around them.
 
“I’ve got to do something about this. I’ve got to challenge hitters.”

With game on the line, Pete Mackanin benches his best player for lack of hustle

052316_greene_on_herrara_webrefframe_1.jpg

With game on the line, Pete Mackanin benches his best player for lack of hustle

BOX SCORE

DETROIT — Phillies manager Pete Mackanin made a strong statement Monday night when he benched his best hitter in the seventh inning of a tie game.
 
With Odubel Herrera on the bench for the final innings, the Phillies went on to lose, 5-4, to the Detroit Tigers (see Instant Replay).
 
Mackanin did not regret his decision to yank Herrera and his team-high .335 batting average from the game.
 
“It’s important to me to set that tone,” Mackanin said. “When you don’t hustle, I’ve got a problem.”
 
Herrera had singled in each of his first three at-bats. He drove in the Phillies’ first run with a hit in the third inning.
 
But when he bounced back to the pitcher and took his time getting to first base in the seventh, Mackanin abruptly pulled him. Even Ryan Howard said something to Herrera in the dugout.
 
“He didn’t run,” Mackanin said. “One of the ingredients to our success to this point is the fact that guys play with energy and they play hard. We’re training them to play the game the right way and not running is not the right way.”
 
Herrera said he did not run because he was “frustrated” and “angry” with the at-bat. He said Tigers reliever Justin Wilson “got in his head” by varying his delivery times. Herrera even mentioned that Wilson quick-pitched him.
 
“The pitcher was playing with me,” he said. “I have to learn from it. I didn’t think [Mackanin] was going to bench me, but I understand why. I can’t argue. I was frustrated. I respect the decision. I know that I did wrong. I have to learn from my mistakes and it won’t happen again.”
 
Mackanin is a huge fan of Herrera. He has predicted the 24-year-old Venezuelan will someday win a batting title.
 
But Mackanin indicated after Monday night’s game that Herrera might be developing some bad habits — at least when it comes to the hustle that Mackanin values. The front office values it, too. Playing with “energy” is something the front office frequently says it wants to see, and the ability to get his players to play with energy is one of Mackanin’s strengths.
 
“I’ve seen it in the past and it’s been trickling in,” Mackanin said of Herrera’s occasional lapses in hustle. “I didn’t like it and I made the decision. He knows he should have run.”
 
Jonathan Papelbon put a chokehold on Bryce Harper’s neck last year in Washington for a similar transgression.
 
In the Phillies’ dugout Monday night, Herrera got a little talking-to from Howard.
 
“That was great to see,” Mackanin said.
 
Said Howard: “Doobie's got a lot of promise. He’s going to be around this game for a long time. He makes things happen. He brings energy to the game.
 
“The pitcher lost the grip and had to double-pump. If you’re running hard, maybe he makes a bad throw and you’re on base.
 
“I just told him, ‘You’ve got to keep going. I know it’s not the at-bat you wanted, but look at me, bro, I’m still out there grinding.’ If he’s running there, the pitcher could throw it away and he could be on second and we could squeeze a run out.”
 
Howard went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts to fall to .156 on the season. He is 4 for 48 (.083) in the month of May (see story).
 
Mackanin said his message to Herrera was complete. Herrera will be back in the starting lineup on Tuesday night.

NBA Playoffs: Raptors hold off Cavs to even East Finals 2-2

052316_colangelo_sot_webbestvideo3_1920x1080_691483715839.jpg

NBA Playoffs: Raptors hold off Cavs to even East Finals 2-2

BOX SCORE

TORONTO -- A series that once looked lopsided is now even.

Kyle Lowry scored 35 points, including a driving layup in the final minute, and DeMar DeRozan had 32 as the Toronto Raptors evened the Eastern Conference Finals by beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 105-99 in Game 4 on Monday night.

DeMarre Carroll scored 11 points and Bismack Biyombo had 14 rebounds as Toronto improved to 8-2 at home this postseason and got back on level terms after big losses in Games 1 and 2.

"We've been counted out, and we like that challenge," DeRozan said.

The next challenge for Toronto? Game 5 on Wednesday night in Cleveland, where the Raptors are 0-3 this season, losing by a combined 72 points.

"We have to continue to make sure that when they punch, we punch back," Lowry said. "And if they punch three times, we punch four times."

The Raptors are 2-6 on the road in the playoffs.

After a 10-0 start to these playoffs, the Cavaliers are counting on home court advantage to help them reach their second straight Finals.

"Going back home we have to play a lot better and I think we will," LeBron James said.

Cleveland lost consecutive playoff games to an Eastern Conference opponent for the first time since dropping the final three games of the conference semifinals to Boston in 2010.

"We had a few defensive breakdowns that you can't have down the stretch of a game, especially in the playoffs," Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. "They executed every time we made a mistake."

James scored 29 points and Kyrie Irving had 26 for the Cavaliers, who trailed by as many as 18 points. Channing Frye scored nine of his 12 points in the fourth quarter.

Lowry scored nine in the fourth and DeRozan had 12, connecting on five of six shots.

"It's a cakewalk for me when (Lowry) gets going," DeRozan said. "It opens up everything."

The Raptors led 78-69 to begin the fourth but Frye made consecutive 3-pointers as Cleveland opened the final quarter with an 8-0 run, cutting it to 78-77. The Cavaliers made their first 11 shots of the fourth quarter.

"It wasn't enough because we got off to a horrible first half once again in this building and you're playing catch up the whole game," James said.

Frye's errant 3-point attempt at 4:12 was Cleveland's first miss of the fourth. DeRozan made two free throws at the other end and, after another miss by Frye, Carroll made one of two to put Toronto up 99-96 with 3:23 to go.

A long 3 by Irving made it 101-99 with 2:00 left, but DeRozan answered with a driving bank shot at 1:33. Toronto got the ball back after Biyombo blocked J.R. Smith's 3, and Biyombo kept the offensive possession alive by rebounding Lowry's missed shot. After a timeout, Lowry let the shot clock wind down before driving for the decisive layup, making it 105-99 with 22 seconds to go.

Toronto jumped out to a 13-5 lead as Cleveland missed eight of its first 10 shots. Following a timeout, the Cavs made five of their next six to cut the deficit but the Raptors led 27-24 after one quarter.

Lowry scored 15 points in the second, making three of Toronto's four 3-pointers, as the Raptors opened a 57-41 halftime lead despite not shooting a single free throw in the first two quarters. It marked the first time a team led by 15 or more at halftime in a conference finals game without shooting a free throw since Game 2 of the 2001 East Finals between Milwaukee and Philadelphia. The Bucks made two of six from the line, the fewest ever made in an NBA playoff game at the time.

DeRozan shot Toronto's first free throws at 6:13 of the third after being tackled by Smith on a drive. The foul drought came after Raptors coach Dwane Casey was fined $25,000 for criticizing the officials following Toronto's Game 3 win.

Fans cheered derisively when Matthew Dellavedova was called for Cleveland's first foul of the game at 8:56 of the second.

Not much to Love
After shooting 3 for 19 in Game 3, Kevin Love shot 4 for 14 in Game 4. He finished with 10 points. Love did not play in the fourth after appearing to injure his left ankle when he stepped on referee David Guthrie late in the third. "It didn't feel too great," Love said. Lue said Love's health was "no concern."

Fair and foul
Cleveland didn't shoot any free throws in the third quarter and had just two in the fourth. Twelve of Toronto's 19 free throws came in the fourth.

Tip-ins
Cavaliers: James and Irving each had six assists. ... Cleveland shot 3 for 23 from 3-point range in the first half. The finished 13 for 41. . Cleveland's Dahntay Jones served a one-game suspension for hitting Biyombo in the groin in Game 3.

Raptors: Raptors C Jonas Valanciunas was active but did not play. He's been out since spraining his right ankle in the third quarter of Game 3 against Miami on May 7. ... Toronto is 10-1 in the playoffs when holding opponents below 100 points.