Danny Briere on Montreal’s win over Flyers: ‘I got them tonight’

Danny Briere on Montreal’s win over Flyers: ‘I got them tonight’

Not the start to the 2013-14 season the Flyers were hoping for. There weren’t many positives to draw on from the club’s 4-1 loss in Montreal on Saturday night. They didn’t get a lot of great scoring chances, not to mention had trouble generating much in the way of a sustained attack at all or even moving the puck cleanly for that matter.

Basically, this was a continuation of the opener last Wednesday. The Bullies have been taking it on the chin ever since their dominant first period in game one against Toronto. Philadelphia is in the hole quickly—already 0-2 on the season—and now faces a long trip down the coast to Carolina for the second half of a back-to-back.

But getting back to the loss to the Canadiens, it was a marquee matchup of sorts with Danny Briere getting his first crack at the franchise that bought out his contract back in June. Briere spent six seasons with the Flyers, authoring numerous clutch performances in Orange & Black, but this time he was on the opposite bench wearing red and blue.

As you might imagine, Danny was pretty pumped up about the victory.

Mr. ‘I got them tonight’ failed to register a shot on goal and won 3-of-10 faceoffs in slightly less than 14 minutes of ice time. In fact, Briere’s biggest contributions to the contest were probably his two minor penalties—not that the Flyers were able to convert on either of them. Briere’s team won the game though, so to victor goes the spoils I suppose.

As for the Flyers, Vincent Lecavalier scored his first goal in Orange & Black, and Ray Emery got the start in net, doing an admirable job in a hostile environment until the game began to unravel in the third period. It wasn’t enough to keep the Flyers from being serenaded off the ice by feisty Montreal fans though, much less get Philly in the win column for the first time this season.

Notes: Jakub Voracek rejoined Claude Giroux on the top line. Earlier, head coach Peter Laviolette explained the decision to mix it up in the opener on Wednesday.

>> Penalties lead to Flyers’ unraveling in loss [CSN]
>> Box Score [Yahoo!]

Jay Wright amazed by Joel Embiid's improvements since Kansas

Jay Wright amazed by Joel Embiid's improvements since Kansas

Jay Wright remembers facing Joel Embiid's Kansas team, and he's shocked by the improvements Embiid made while sitting out the last two years.

"Could you imagine not playing for two years and getting better?" Wright said Friday on TCN's Breakfast on Broad. "We played against him in college and he was not close — he was good, but not close to the player that he was at the start of this year. 

"What [the Sixers'] staff did while he was out is incredible. I don't know what other pro athlete has done that or could do that — not play and improve drastically.

"He's a unique force. We haven't seen a guy that's got this will defensively and ability defensively and then the skill level and mobility offensively. I've heard some people compare him to (Hakeem) Olajuwon. He's far more mobile than Olajuwon. Olajuwon, offensively, had his set of skills, which [Embiid] will develop. But the mobility he's got far exceeds Olajuwon. He's exciting. ... It's nice to feel this vibe with the Sixers right now."

Wright was also asked if he, as a coach, would want a player on a minutes restriction participating in the All-Star Game.

"Yeah, I would," he said. "I think that it's such an accomplishment for Joel Embiid. It would build his confidence so much to be on the floor with those guys and realize he's earned this. And to have that a part of his psyche going into the next season — 'OK, I've already been separated during the regular season with those guys, I belong with those guys.' So next year I'm thinking, 'I wanna beat these guys, I wanna be better than these guys.' 

"I think it'll be great for him. I think it's awesome ... what Brett Brown and his staff have done with this guy."

As lucky as good?
With a national championship and another No. 1 ranking this season, it would be understandable if Wright was feeling himself right about now. 'Nova is 17-1 and back atop the AP poll after a brief stint at No. 3.

National Player of the Year candidate Josh Hart is leading the way for the Wildcats with 18.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. A lot of Villanova's success this season is owed to Hart's decision to return for his senior year, so Wright has no issue admitting there's been some luck involved in the Wildcats' recent success.

"It's a tremendous advantage and it's really been probably the most important factor in our success the last three, four years," Wright said of 'Nova's senior leadership Friday on TCN's Breakfast on Broad.

"A lot of it is, on Villanova's side, luck. Josh Hart could have left last year. He just looked at it and kind of said, 'I could be maybe a late first-round, early [second-round pick]. I'd rather come back and get my degree.' 

"Having people that make that choice, you're lucky. If we lose him last year, we're a lot younger team this year. Daniel Ochefu the year before was faced with that decision. He stayed. 

"So when you get those guys that decide they're gonna stay, you catch a break because they're invaluable, a senior of that level. Daniel's playing in the NBA now. So we had a guy for a year that was an NBA player. And we have that with Josh this year. Kris (Jenkins) is developing into one, Darryl (Reynolds) has a chance."

Villanova, which destroyed Seton Hall 76-46 on Monday, hosts Providence Saturday at noon.

Gregg Popovich on Sixers: 'One of my joys in life to watch them win'

Gregg Popovich on Sixers: 'One of my joys in life to watch them win'

When Brett Brown agreed to become the Sixers' head coach, he knew he was embarking upon a unique challenge with a franchise that planned to be as methodical as possible in its rebuild. 

One of the results was a career record for Brown of 47-199 entering this season, a record so lopsidedly poor that Brown may never break the .500 mark.

But the Sixers are finally showing real progress, with a star in Joel Embiid and young players who are turning out to be useful pieces. The Sixers have won seven of their last nine, and there's no one happier to see that than Brown's former boss and mentor, Gregg Popovich.

"It's one of my joys in life to watch them win basketball games because if there's any team that deserves it, it's those guys," Popovich told ESPN.

Brown and the Sixers aren't out of the woods yet. At 14-26, they're still closer to the bottom of the Eastern Conference, but the entire vibe around the team has changed. 

"They've had it really tough for all the obvious reasons," said Popovich, who has been the Spurs' head coach since 1996 and worked with Brown from 2002-13.

"There's nobody in our business that is more positive, and more day-to-day upbeat and ready to teach and love than Brett Brown. He's a unique, unique guy."