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.  

Jeremy Hellickson set to pitch Saturday — unless he's traded

Jeremy Hellickson set to pitch Saturday — unless he's traded

ATLANTA — Even with the Miami Marlins having filled their need for starting pitching, there remains significant interest in Phillies starter Jeremy Hellickson, according to major league sources.

The Phillies have received offers for the 29-year-old right-hander, but none that they have deemed worthy of pulling the trigger on.

Hellickson is scheduled to make his 22nd start for the club on Saturday night. Will he make that start? Time will tell. Talks between the Phillies and interested clubs are ongoing.

Hellickson is coming off two strong starts in which he allowed just six hits and one run in 14 innings against the Marlins. Another strong start Saturday could add more luster to Hellickson’s stretch-run value and bring the Phillies the package they are seeking. The trade deadline is Monday at 4 p.m.

Miami had interest in Hellickson before making a deal to acquire starters Andrew Cashner and Colin Rea from San Diego in a seven-player trade Friday (see story).

Hellickson is viewed by industry insiders as being a fallback option for a number of teams. Demand for him could grow as trades are made and the starting pitching market thins as Monday’s deadline approaches.

Baltimore, Toronto, Texas, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Houston are among teams looking to add starting pitching.

Though there’s no guarantee that Hellickson will be moved, he is the most likely Phillie to go. Reliever David Hernandez is next on the list. A number of teams are looking for relief help. The feeling around baseball is that the Phils could move Hernandez before Monday’s deadline, but the return would only be marginal.

The Phillies have received some interest in closer Jeanmar Gomez, but not to the degree one might expect for someone with 27 saves. Because Gomez lacks power stuff, rival teams do not view him as a closer on a contending team.

FOX Sports reports that the Rangers have interest in right-hander Vince Velasquez, but the Phils would have to be blown away to move the 24-year-old right-hander. Velasquez started for the Phillies on Friday night.

Ben Simmons spending his summer getting bigger and better

Ben Simmons spending his summer getting bigger and better

Ben Simmons repeatedly emphasized at summer league he wanted to work on “everything” leading up to training camp.

As a point-forward who plays multiple positions, he has more than just one role to address this offseason. But what does “everything” entail? With a wide range of responsibilities on the court, Simmons is honing in on specific areas.

“I think just getting in the gym and making sure I’m getting reps up, shooting-wise, dribbling,” Simmons said earlier this week after an appearance at Sixers Camp in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “The weight room as well, making sure I get my strength back and my weight up.”

Shooting
Simmons has been criticized for his reluctance to shoot. During his one season of college ball at LSU, he averaged 19.2 points off 11.7 field goal attempts per game (56 percent made). Over six summer league games (including both Utah and Las Vegas), Simmons took 22 field-goal attempts and shot 32.2 percent. He had less than 10 attempts in four of the games, and attempted 15 in the Sixers’ finale. Simmons attempted one three in summer league action.

While in Utah and Las Vegas, the Sixers encouraged Simmons to be more aggressive. At 6-foot-10, Simmons is able to get to the rim. Once there, many times he passes it off rather than finishing himself. The Sixers don’t expect Simmons to become a 30-point-per-game scorer, but he will be a key part of their offense.

“You always want him to be as good of a shooter as he can be,” Las Vegas summer league head coach Lloyd Pierce said this earlier month. “It’s not going to be his strength. His strength is going to be passing, facilitating, playmaking. That’s going to be an added bonus, whatever the percentage or the number is.”

Dribbling
Simmons averaged 5.5 assists per game during summer league (second on the team by 0.3 dimes to T.J McConnell). Conversely, he committed 3.8 turnovers.

The Sixers signed two point guards this summer, Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez, and McConnell is returning from last season. Head coach Brett Brown said after the draft he does not plan to utilize Simmons as the primary one-guard right away as the 20-year-old learns the league. But early on, Simmons will have the rock in his hands plenty of times given his natural ball-handling abilities, especially when grabbing the rebound and running the fast break.

"I think it's the hardest position to play in the NBA,” Brown previously said. “I think to just give him the ball in that capacity is borderline cruel. He needs to feel NBA basketball. And maybe he evolves there."

Weight room
After college, Simmons put on 20 pounds from his training and entered the draft at 242 pounds. He stood out among the competition in summer league play with his NBA-ready stature. Simmons said he would like to get up to 246 or 247 pounds this offseason.

“Not too heavy,” he said.

With the size of a forward and the skills of a guard, the Sixers will be able to utilize Simmons to create mismatches both in the backcourt and at the hoop.

Tonight's lineup: Struggling Rupp back behind the plate for Phillies

Tonight's lineup: Struggling Rupp back behind the plate for Phillies

After scoring five first-inning runs on their way to a 7-5 win against the Braves on Thursday, Pete Mackanin decided not to tinker with the Phillies' lineup too much.

In fact, the only change will be at catcher. The struggling Cameron Rupp will get the start on Friday and bat sixth after Carlos Ruiz was behind the plate on Thursday. Rupp, who was one of the few bright spots for the offense in the first half, is just 5 for 31 since the All-Star break. On the season, Rupp is still batting .271 with 10 homers and 29 RBIs.

Aaron Altherr came off the DL with a bang, tallying three hits, including a two-run homer on Thursday. Mackanin has said Altherr will get a long look in right field and Thursday night was a glimpse of why. 

With Altherr's regular presence in the lineup, Cody Asche has been put on notice. After going on a tear from early June to early July, Asche is batting .094 (5 for 53) in his last 17 games. With Altherr and Odubel Herrera entrenched in right and center, Asche will have to get hot to stave off prospect Nick Williams, who seems to be finding his groove at Lehigh Valley.

Here is tonight's lineup:
1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Odubel Herrera, CF
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Tommy Joseph, 1B
5. Aaron Altherr, RF
6. Cameron Rupp, C
7. Cody Asche, LF
8. Freddy Galvis, SS
9. Vince Velasquez, P