Flyers Fight for Each Other Literally and Figuratively in Frantic Comeback Victory over Washington

Flyers Fight for Each Other Literally and Figuratively in Frantic Comeback Victory over Washington

If you wanted retaliation, you got it. Two games after
Claude Giroux was splattered all over the boards like insect on windshield to
no recourse from his teammates, Jakub Voracek stood up for his captain
immediately after a huge open-ice collision on Sunday. The result: four minutes
of 5-on-4 hockey for Washington, and a pair of power-play goals to put the
Capitals ahead 4-2 with 13 minutes remaining in the third period.

But just as Voracek went to bat for Giroux, G and the rest
of his Flyers teammates would do the same for Jake, in the process redefining what it can mean
to retaliate. The Bullies kept on retaliating until they tied
the score with 10 seconds left, kept on retaliating in overtime until they landed
the knockout blow in a rousing 5-4 win.

[ Video and more on Jake Voracek's first NHL fight ]

And as great a comeback as it was, this victory may have
meant more than the standard two points in the standings for a desperate team.
This felt like something of a defining performance from Giroux – not so much as
a player necessarily, but as a leader.

While the Flyers were saddled with Voracek’s (questionable) double-minor
for instigating and fighting with a visor, it was Giroux who was actually
responsible for the turnover that gave the Caps a 3-2 lead in the first place.
He got a little too cute with the puck during the penalty kill, skating it deep
into his own zone before attempting to clear. Alex Ovechkin nullified Giroux’s
stick, essentially gift-wrapping a goal for Marcus Johansson who took the play
to the wide-open slot and snapped the disc past Ilya Bryzgalov.

Less than a minute later the score was 4-2. Washington won an
offensive draw and cycled the puck to the opposite faceoff dot where Ovechkin
was all alone for the one-timer.

Giroux was visibly frustrated with himself. Bryz was visibly
frustrated by everything, throwing his Gatorade bottle toward the benches. Moments
later Scott Hartnell took out his frustrations with a slashing penalty. Voracek
had to take his out in the dressing room, serving a 10-minute misconduct for
instigating. The game was spiraling out of control.

The captain pulled it back together. The Flyers went on the
power play with seven minutes to play, where Kimmo Timonen set Giroux up for a
wicked slapper from his customary spot, a shot that seemed to bend time and
space as it whizzed into Washington netminder Braden Holtby’s top shelf. You
better believe Giroux was fired up for that Doop.

By the final shift in regulation, the momentum was squarely
in Philadelphia’s corner. Bryzgalov went to the bench, and for about 80 seconds
the orange sweaters were attacking the Capitals in waves. The Flyers were able
to sustain the pressure, the puck moving back and forth through Giroux throughout,
until finally Timonen found twine on his shot from the point. The Wells Fargo
Center came unglued.

The Caps were not long for this world. In overtime Ruslan
Fedotenko ran a sweet give and go with Timonen, with Feds slipping the puck
underneath a lunging Holtby for the winner.

It was the type of effort followers had been waiting to see
all season, the Flyers finally overcoming adversity with the hopes of it jump-starting
their campaign. Every time we keep thinking it’s going to be too little too
late for that, they pull us back in. Believe it or not, Philly surprisingly is a
mere two points out of the eighth seed after picking up five points out of a possible
six over the last three.

With the Pittsburgh Penguins suffering multiple injuries
recently – including to Sidney Crosby (broken jaw) – a potential postseason opponent
suddenly looks a bit vulnerable.

Perhaps more important though, this was what we’ve been
waiting to see out of Giroux. He finished with one goal, two assists, seven
shots, three blocked shots and two hits, yet his night almost transcended
that of an all-star performance. Giroux practically willed his team to victory,
picking up Voracek, and for that matter himself, too. Maybe that’s the best
sign to date for a club that has looked uninspired far too often this year.
Maybe there is still a pulse there after all.

Notes

Max Talbot
left the game with an apparent left knee injury late in the second
period after attempting to check Mike Green. Talbot missed everything
except the defenseman's leg, his knee taking the brunt of hit collision,
and he was either unable or unwilling to put any weight on it from
there. Once Talbot made it back to the bench, he would have to be
carried to the back from there, though he did contribute a goal to the
win.

Oliver Lauridsen made his second NHL
start, while veteran Kent Huskins – acquired from the Detroit Red Wings
over the weekend for a conditional draft pick – played his first game in
Orange & Black. None of the goals scored were particularly a result
of defensive breakdowns, so no complaints there for a change.

Timonen led Flyers' scorers with four points. Matt Read lit the lamp for the second consecutive game after going over a month without a tally. Zac Rinaldo had seven hits in eight minutes of ice time. Bryzgalov stopped 25 of 29 shots.

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Doug Pederson says Lurie, Roseman have assured him job is safe

Doug Pederson says Lurie, Roseman have assured him job is safe

Head coach Doug Pederson, whose team has tumbled out of the NFC playoff race in recent weeks, said he’s been assured by the Eagles’ management team that he’ll be back for a second season in 2017.

Pederson said Monday he meets weekly with owner Jeff Lurie and executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman, who have told him his job is secure.

Asked if he believes his job is safe, Pederson answered, “For sure. Yeah.”

Asked if Lurie and Roseman — who, along with team president Don Smolenski, formed the search committee that hired Pederson — had emphasized that to him, Pederson responded, “Yes. Yes.”

The Eagles are 5-7 after a 3-0 start in Pederson’s first season as a head coach at any level above high scool.

And it’s not the 5-7 record that’s raised questions about Pederson, it’s the way the Eagles got there. They are 2-7 in their last nine games, and they’ve lost the last three by double digits. They’re 4-1 at home but 1-6 on the road with five straight losses.

Lurie has never fired a coach after his first season or even his second. He dismissed Chip Kelly with a week remaining on his deal, and hes fired Rich Kotite after his fourth year, Ray Rhodes after his third year and Andy Reid after his 14th season.

The last Eagles head coach who was one-and-done was Wayne Millner, who was fired and replaced by Bo McMillin 10 games into the 1951 season with the Eagles 2-8.

Sunday’s 32-14 loss to a 3-7-1 Bengals team was the Eagles’ worst this year. The Eagles trailed 19-0 at halftime and 29-0 in the third quarter.

Since their 3-0 start, the Eagles have the third-worst record in the NFL, ahead of only Kelly’s 49ers (0-9) and the Browns (0-9).

Pederson said all the feedback he’s gotten from Lurie and Roseman has been positive.

“From both of them, it's been 100-percent support on everything,” he said. “I meet with Jeffrey and Howie every week, and we discuss a lot of things and go over a lot of things, and every week it’s very positive.”

Unless the Eagles win out, this would become only the second season in franchise history they opened up 3-0 but didn’t finish with a winning record. The 1993 team was actually 4-0 before finishing 8-8.

The Eagles have never opened up 3-3 and finished with a losing record, but they’d have to go 3-1 the rest of the way to avoid that.

Meanwhile, Pederson, who has spoken lately about the Eagles’ being on a long-term building plan similar to the Raiders or Seahawks, said it’s not fair for any owner to make a coaching change after just one season.

“I just don't think, personally, you can base a guy's career on one season,” Pederson said. “I think you've got to give it time to develop. We have a rookie quarterback. We’ve got to have time to develop this quarterback. It just doesn't happen overnight.

“So by no means have they expressed anything to me, and it's been positive and very supportive.”

Neither Lurie nor Roseman regularly speaks with the media. An email for Roseman asking for a comment on Pederson's remarks was not immediately answered.

Andre Blake the Union's first MLS Best XI team member since 2010

Andre Blake the Union's first MLS Best XI team member since 2010

Andre Blake continues to rack up the accolades.

A couple of weeks after being named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, the rising Philadelphia Union star was named to the MLS Best XI team as one of the league’s top players in 2016.

The rest of the team included:

• Forwards Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC), David Villa (New York City FC) and Bradley Wright-Phillips (New York Red Bulls)
• Midfielders Ignacio Piatti (Montreal Impact), Sacha Kljestan (Red Bulls), Mauro Diaz (FC Dallas) and Giovani dos Santos (LA Galaxy)
• Defenders Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Axel Sjoberg (Colorado Rapids) and Jelle Van Damme (Galaxy)

Blake’s inclusion on the Best XI is not a surprise considering he already took home top goalkeeper honors. Even though he didn’t have the best numbers in the league, he made the spectacular look ordinary in his first full season as an MLS starter.

But it is unique for the Union, who haven’t had a player make the Best XI since Sebastien Le Toux was included for his 14-goal, 11-assist effort in Philly's 2010 expansion season.

Union winger Chris Pontius, who recently won the 2016 MLS Breakout Player of the Year award, made Best XI while with D.C. United in 2012. Former Union players to be honored on the prestigious list were Bakary Soumare with Chicago in 2008 and Justin Mapp with Chicago in 2006.

Another big honor like this will likely only increase the chatter that Blake could be sold to a big team in Europe soon. But a couple of weeks ago, the Union goalkeeper insisted his only focus for 2017 is on Philadelphia.

“From a personal standpoint, I’m hoping to have an even better season than 2016,” he said at the time. “To be able to go in and be consistent and do everything I can for the Union — and maybe be the goalkeeper to get them their first [MLS] Cup.”