Flyers 'Frontrunners' for G Jonathan Bernier, Kings Want Jake Voracek

Flyers 'Frontrunners' for G Jonathan Bernier, Kings Want Jake Voracek

Peter Laviolette set an NHL record by making seven in-game goaltender switches during the 2011 playoffs. Now it seems Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren is trying to one-up his head coach with a juggling act of his own.

For a franchise that was determined to discontinue the merry-go-round in their own net, the front office doesn’t appear to have much of a plan.

During the offseason that followed Lavvy’s historic indecisiveness, club chairman Ed Snider proclaimed the Flyers would “never” go through that with goalies again – except that’s exactly what’s happening here. The only difference is instead of playing out on the ice, it’s taking place over the telephone and on paper, fantasy hockey style.

Holmgren signed Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine year, $51 million contract. Part of the aftermath of that deal was trading 24-year-old Sergei Bobrovsky to Columbus, where he promptly won the Vezina Trophy. Since trading Bob the club has acquired and extended Steve Mason, and drafted Anthony Stolarz. This was all over the past two years, mind you.

Now the front office is reportedly chasing Jonathan Bernier, the 24-year-old backup netminder for the Los Angeles Kings, and he won’t come cheap. Bernier, who has appeared in 62 career games over five NHL seasons, will likely demand a sizable contract extension, plus the Flyers will have send one or two of the quality players that make up their young core.

And no, this is not a deal that gets done with Matt Read as a key part of the package. Per Tim Panaccio, the Kings are asking for Jakub Voracek, who is coming off a breakout season where he was named the Flyers’ most valuable player. You can bank on Sean Couturier’s name coming up as the feature piece in package at some point as well.

If you think Homer would reject either offer out of hand, it’s worth noting the Flyers (along with the Leafs) are currently considered one of the frontrunners to acquire Bernier according to Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos. He also adds that the Kings are looking to make the exchange “sooner than later.”

The whole situation is completely ludicrous. Should they buyout Bryzgalov’s contract and land Bernier, in two years time the Flyers will have agreed to pay one goalie in excess of $20 million to play somewhere else, traded another who – at least for one season – was the best player between the pipes in the entire NHL, and blocked yet another who was brought here to compete for a job. Plus in doing so, they will have traded one, possibly two players/draft picks with future-All-Star potential.

That’s not even delving into what if anything this deal would mean long-term for Stolarz, a 2012 second-round pick who is doing well in the OHL.

This for a player in Bernier who himself is not a proven commodity as a starting goaltender. Don’t get me wrong, Jonathan Quick’s understudy is an enticing option considering his career numbers – 29-20-6 record, .912 save percentage, and 2.36 goals against average. That’s 62 games during five years though. How would he hold up over a full season?

Is Bernier a sure thing? Is he the missing piece to a Stanley Cup run?

Who knows the answer to such questions, but trading an emerging star like Voracek after he posted 46 points in 48 games last season and was a perfect pairing for Claude Giroux, or Couturier who is already one of the better defensive forwards in the league seems incredibly short-sighted. The Flyers may feel like they have to move on this now because signing Bryz hasn’t worked out so far, but Bernier just looks like another costly band-aid – both in dollars and talent.

When this trade inevitably goes through, it will be the mark of an organization that's working without blueprints. They panicked in 2011 with Bobrovsky, leading directly to Bryzgalov's enormous contract, and they are panicking again with their wheeling and dealing, digging one hole to fill another somewhere else. That's the Flyers way.

>> Source: Kings contact Flyers about goalie Bernier [CSN]

Sixers burned by yet another point guard in loss to Celtics

Sixers burned by yet another point guard in loss to Celtics

The Sixers had been burned by point guards before. Many times, actually. 

Just a week ago, Kyrie Irving dropped 39 points in the Cavs' 112-108 win. Nineteen came in the decisive fourth quarter. 

On Saturday Isaiah Thomas did the same damage. The undersized All-Star tied his season-high with 37 points in the Celtics' comeback 107-106 victory (see instant replay).

“Isaiah’s an All-Star,” Jahlil Okafor said. “He showed us why tonight. He’s the head of their team and came up big for them like he usually does.” 

Thomas made his impact in spurts. During the Celtics' 9-0 second quarter run, he scored six of those points. In the fourth quarter, in which the game was decided, he dropped 12 straight Celtics points. Thomas finished the night 11 for 19 for the field and only 2 of 3 from three. 

The most telling stat was at the free throw line. Thomas shot 13 for 15 after attacking and drawing fouls, a point of emphasis by head coach Brad Stevens for the second half. 

Thomas scored 15 points in the first half. He noticed a change in the Sixers defense in the second and capitalized on it. The Celtics ability to stretch the floor with their three-point shooting bigs also created opportunities for Thomas to get to the rim. 

“In the second half they sat back a little bit and they were switching a lot,” Thomas explained, also noting, “We wanted to put Okafor in a pick-and-roll. He sits far back. I just wanted to attack him downhill. It’s hard for bigs to move those bigs legs they’ve got. So I just tried to stay in attack mode and I saw we were in the bonus.”

The Sixers have had problems defending the one spot all season. Isaiah Thomas is the fifth starting point guard to score 30 points or more against them. He joins Russell Westbrook (32), Jeff Teague (30 in overtime), James Harden (33) and Irving. Another five (Kemba Walker, John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, Mike Conley and Kyle Lowry) have scored 20 or more points. 

The oneness of these high-scoring point guards doesn’t fall solely on the Sixers backcourt, where Sergio Rodriguez has been assuming the starting role in place of the oft-injured Jerryd Bayless. These opponents have been doing their work inside the arc. Of the five who have scored 30, only two (Harden and Irving) attempted more than three treys. 

“We’re all working hard trying to stop them, but it’s easier said than done,” Okafor said. 

The next point guard the Sixers will face is Emmanuel Mudiay when they take on the Nuggets Monday. Last season Mudiay hit the game-winning, buzzer-beating three in Denver. 

Instant Replay: No. 7 Penn State 38, No. 6 Wisconsin 31

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Instant Replay: No. 7 Penn State 38, No. 6 Wisconsin 31

BOX SCORE

INDIANAPOLIS — Penn State got bullied a bit Saturday, but never gave up its lunch money. 

It spent the second half taking control of the schoolyard.

After getting pushed around for much of Saturday night’s first half, the Nittany Lions were anything but punchy after the break. Penn State (No. 7 in the College Football Playoff rankings) got its high-powered offense into gear in the second and roared back for the school’s first victory in the Big Ten Championship game, 38-31, over No. 6 Wisconsin.

The Nittany Lions (11-2) are bound for the Rose Bowl for the first time since the 2009 season and are outright conference champions for the first time in 22 years.  

Penn State trailed by three touchdowns midway through the second quarter but allowed just three points the rest of the night. Quarterback Trace McSorley threw for 384 yards and a title-game record four touchdowns to spark a comeback that saw the Nittany Lions outscore the Badgers 24-3 in the second half. McSorley was named Big Ten Championship game MVP.

Wisconsin missed a 48-yard field goal early in the second half and Penn State needed just 11 seconds to take advantage. McSorley (22 for 31) hit Saeed Blacknall with a 70-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to a touchdown. Saquon Barkley tied it at 28 later in the third with a 1-yard scoring run.

Blacknall ended the night with six catches for 115 yards and two touchdowns while DaeSean Hamilton had eight grabs for 118. 

Wisconsin retook the lead with a short field goal in the final seconds of the third quarter but Penn State went ahead for good on the ensuing drive, which ended with McSorley’s 18-yard touchdown pass to Barkley.

Tyler Davis added a 24-yard field goal later in the fourth and the Penn State defense sealed the victory when Grant Haley stuffed Wisconsin’s Corey Clement on fourth-and-1 with 1:01 to play.

The Nittany Lions fumbled the ball away twice in the opening half — one was returned for a short Badgers touchdown — but only trailed 28-14 at intermission after McSorley hit Blacknall for a 40-yard touchdown with under a minute to play in the half. 

Mike Gesicki caught McSorley’s first scoring pass, a 33-yarder, late in the first quarter.

Clement finished with 164 yards and a touchdown on the ground for the Badgers (10-3), who also got scoring runs from Bradrick Shaw and Dare Ogunbowale. Bart Houston was 16 for 21 for 174 yards. 

Smelling the roses?
Penn State is likely off to Pasadena for the fourth time in school history and is seeking to reach .500 in college football’s longest running postseason game. The Nittany Lions defeated Oregon 38-20 in the 1995 game but fell to Southern California in their other two trips, in 2009 and 1923.

It appears the Trojans might be their opponents once more; No. 4 Washington won the Pac-12 championship Friday night but appears headed for the playoff. The Rose Bowl gets its choice of Pac-12 runner-up Colorado (10-3) or 9-3 USC.

There is a chance Penn State could be selected to the College Football Playoff, but No. 1 Alabama, No. 3 Clemson and No. 4 Washington all won this weekend, while No. 2 Ohio State was idle. The playoff will be announced at noon on Sunday.

He’s fine
Sophomore running back running back Saquon Barkley showed no ill effects of a right foot injury suffered during a Nov. 26 win over Michigan State. He added the go-ahead touchdown — and another mention in Penn State’s record book — for good measure.

Barkley, who left in the third quarter of Nittany Lions’ penultimate victory, hauled in a touchdown pass from McSorley in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter to give Penn State the lead for good. He had a short scoring run earlier in the period.

Barkley broke Evan Royster’s sophomore rushing record with a 19-carry, 83-yard night to push his season total to 1,302 yards. He set the mark for Penn State freshman (1,076) last fall.

Nice run
Wisconsin’s Andrew Endicott’s 23-yard field goal late in the third quarter snapped a shutout streak that had seen Penn State outscore its opponents 82-0 in the second halves of games. The last scoring play before Endicott’s boot came in the second half of a 45-31 win over Indiana on Nov. 12.