Flyers Blanked in Road Loss to Rangers

Flyers Blanked in Road Loss to Rangers

Playing their second game in less than 24-hours, the Philadelphia Flyers both looked and played flat for the majority of their afternoon tilt in New York, winding up on the wrong end of a 2-0 final.

Sergei Bobrovsky was mostly solid in his second straight start, but was bested by his Ranger counterpart Henrik Lundqvist. King Henrik turned aside all 29 shots sent his way for his second shutout of the year. Saturday was the first time the Flyers have failed to score a goal since a March 31st loss to the Atlanta Thrashers last spring.

Highlights, (another) injury update and some other stray observations below...

Scoring Recap:
After a tightly checked (read: largely uninspiring) first period, the Rangers got on the board early in the second thanks an accidentally successful Brad Richards knuckle puck. New York's big ticket free agent acquisition wound up and mostly missed a one-time opportunity from the right face-off circle, but got just enough behind his shot to send it fluttering toward the goal and behind a screened Bobrovsky.

From there, the Flyers would find a few opportunities—including a goal crease scrum with an extra attacker—but none that could crack Lundqvist.

Fatigue Factor?
Even with the fifteen minutes they still had to get themselves back in the game after falling down 2-0, there was the overwhelming feeling that it just wasn't going to happen on this afternoon for this team.

With the exceptions of some desperate bursts in the third period, the Flyers failed to sustain a presence in the Rangers zone for most of the game. Yes, they had 29 shots on goal, but too few of those opportunities were really quality scoring chances. And when the Flyers did have their good cracks at Lundqvist—a Scott Hartnell breakaway early in the first period, for example—they failed to do anything with them.

The NHL allegedly has a rule preventing teams from playing multiple games within a 24-hour window, but its enforcement is spotty and can allegedly be negated with agreement from the teams involved. Whatever the situation was here, the Flyers seemed to suffer from both a lack of rest and manpower.

With Pronger, JVR and Jagr all out of the lineup, the Flyers do have enough depth both at forward and on defense to make up for those absences... but, maybe not if they have to do it twice in 23 hours.

Further Injuries?
Scary scene in the first period when Andreas Nodl and Danny Briere collided in the neutral zone. Though Briere looked to have taken the worst of it at the time, it was Nodl who would take just two shifts in the second period and never return to the bench from the locker room in the third.

Zac Rinaldo also seemed to be in severe pain after taking a slapper to the inside on his ankle, but would soldier on, albeit for his customarily brief ice time.

Without Nodl as an extra body or the ability to roll four lines, the Flyers simply didn't have the personnel to make up for the holes they were already trying to cover.

Rough Stuff
Speaking of Rinaldo, he would take just six seconds to get into it with New York's Brandon Prust. Just nine minutes later—and only four after leaving the box for his first fighting major—Prust would step in to fight teammate Sean Avery's battle with Wayne Simmonds.

Though both fights will make for good fodder for upcoming installments of the 24/7 series, neither did very much good in terms of sparking the Flyers, with both Simmonds and Rinaldo losing in decisive fashion to the 6'2 Prust.

Videos of each throw down to follow in our ongoing Flyer Fights series...

Bob over Bryz
After looking sharp in relief of Ilya Bryzgalov during the team's come-from-behind win on Long Island Wednesday night, Sergei Bobrovsky was rewarded with back-to-back starts against the Canadiens and Rangers.

Tough to say whether Lavy was just riding the hot hand—as he is wont to do—or trying to send a message to exorbitantly paid and emotionally erratic Bryzgalov. CSN's Tim Panaccio seems to think both, but adds that it's "obviously" a case of the latter, though that's hardly surprising given his penchant for "stuff-stirring."

Ah, the beat writers...

Up Next
The Flyers will enjoy the next six days off and should see the return of at least one or two of those skaters who missed today's game. Jagr aids in making Giroux even more dynamic (if that's even possible), JVR skates as hard, if not harder than anyone on the team, and Chris Pronger is...well, he's frigging Chris Pronger.

The Flyers are a radically different team with any of those mentioned in the lineup, so it's unsurprising to see them look listless and lost on a back-to-back without all three.

They
'll try to right the ship when the travel to the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim to take on the Mighty Ducks next Friday at 10 p.m.

Note: I really don't care what the building or the team is called now. I've made my choice.

Cesar Hernandez remains a person of interest as Phillies look to improve

Cesar Hernandez remains a person of interest as Phillies look to improve

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Phillies have completed the signing of veteran reliever Joaquin Benoit to a one-year, $7.5 million contract (see story). The deal could be announced Tuesday and will require the club removing a player from the already-full 40-man roster.

Benoit is one of three additions that the Phils have made to their bullpen this offseason — the club traded for veteran right-hander Pat Neshek and picked up lefty David Rollins on waivers — and more will likely come, probably on minor-league contracts, before the team reports to spring training.

Now that the bullpen has been addressed, let’s take a look at what could be next for the Phillies this winter.

• The addition of Benoit could create enough back-end bullpen depth that GM Matt Klentak could look to trade either Jeanmar Gomez or Hector Neris. Gomez saved 37 games in 2016, but struggled down the stretch. Neris showed great promise in recording a 2.58 ERA and striking out 11.4 batters per nine innings in 79 games in 2016. The hard-throwing righty is young (27), talented and inexpensive so the Phils would have to be overwhelmed by an offer to move him. Last year, Klentak moved a young closer in Ken Giles for a significant return from Houston, so he has history in making these types of moves.

• In addition to more potential comings and goings in the bullpen, the Phils will look to add a backup infielder and maybe a backup catcher in the coming weeks. Andres Blanco could return as that extra infielder. A.J. Ellis could return as the catcher. But nothing is firm. In fact, Klentak hinted Monday that he’d be comfortable bringing Andrew Knapp up from Triple A to be the backup catcher next season.

“I don’t think we need a veteran backup catcher,” Klentak said. “If it works out, we’re open-minded to that. But Andrew Knapp just finished his age 25 season in Triple A. He has a full year of at-bats in Triple A. At some point for both he and (Jorge) Alfaro, we’re going to have to find out what those guys can do at the big-league level. During the 2017 season, we’ll have to find out — not just about those two guys — but others.”

• One of the biggest remaining issues facing Phillies management this winter centers around the outfield and the offense. Basically, Klentak and his advisers are weighing the merits of adding another veteran hitter — the club already traded for Howie Kendrick — to improve the offense or giving a significant playing opportunity to a promising youngster and potential future core piece such as Roman Quinn in what currently projects to be one opening in the outfield.

“That topic is the one that we have spent the most time discussing, not just here but this offseason, about striking the right balance between adding a veteran bat or veteran free agent to this team to make our team better, but again, not taking playing time away from players that need the playing time.

“That’s part of the dynamic that we have to consider there. Roman Quinn came up at the end of the year and, at times, looked like a legitimate major-league contributor. But we also have to be mindful of the fact that he hasn’t logged a single at-bat at Triple A yet.

“This doesn’t have an obvious answer. We are continuing to talk about trade acquisitions and talk to agents for free agents to see if the right opportunity exists to blend all those factors together. But what we do not want to do is bring in so many veterans that we are denying opportunities to our young players.”

This brings us to a situation that could potentially satisfy the team’s desire to improve the offense without taking away a playing opportunity from Quinn.

J.D. Martinez of the Detroit Tigers is an outfield bat that the Phillies like. They like his production and the fact that he’s signed for just 2017. In other words, he wouldn’t block a young prospect’s pathway to the majors, at least for long.

Martinez, owed $11.75 million, which is very affordable for the Phillies, is a serious trade candidate for the cost-cutting Tigers and the Phillies have spoken to Tigers officials, dating to the early part of the offseason.

According to sources, the Phillies and Tigers could be a trade fit if the Tigers were to deal second baseman Ian Kinsler. If the Tigers move Kinsler, they could look to move Martinez to the Phillies for second baseman Cesar Hernandez. Phillies officials have said they are in no hurry to deal Hernandez, but the team does have depth at second with a pair of prospects (Scott Kingery and Jesmuel Valentin) on the way and a ready-made stopgap in Kendrick at the position. 

So keep an eye on Kinsler. If he moves, the Phillies could pursue the veteran bat that would make their offense better. And it would not cost Quinn an opportunity as he could play left field with Kendrick moving to second.