Flyers' Huge Comeback Falls Short After Frustrating Start (with video to make you crazy)

Flyers' Huge Comeback Falls Short After Frustrating Start (with video to make you crazy)

The first two periods of Saturday's matchup with the Devils couldn't have gone much worse for the Flyers. Sluggish, uninspired early play by the Flyers combined with crisp, aggressive answers from the Devils and some frightfully bad refereeing saw the home team struggling to stop the bleeding late in the first period and throughout the second.

Sergei Bobrovsky was relieved just shy of the game's midway point, the Flyers down 6-0 at the time. Ilya Bryzgalov came in and pitched a shutout while his skaters did everything they could to turn the game around, mounting a respectable comeback but ultimately falling by a 6-4 count.

A look at the action below, including video of the amazingly bad non-call that keyed the Devils' early dominance.

Now, while the expletives were flying around Delaware Valley living rooms and both bowls at the Wells Fargo Center, the refs weren't the only reason the Flyers lost this game. Not for lack of trying though. The zebras really jobbed the Flyers in this one, particularly early.

Less than three minutes into the game, the Devils were given a two-man advantage on a so-so call against Kimmo Timonen with Marc-Andre Bourdon already in the box. Some nice puck movement resulted in the puck being on a wide open Kurtis "Bananas" Foster's stick, and he emptied it out in a hurry.

The Devils kept the pressure up throughout the period, peppering Bob with 17 shots to the Flyers' seven. Two SOGs in the final minute of the frame made it 3-1 Devils, and they had Flyers fans ready to drag the refs through the streets of South Philly.

Here's video of how the first one came about, with the Flyers on a power play…

Dainius Zubrus clearly trips Giroux before stripping the puck off the prostrate centerman, then finds Ilya Kovalchuk for the Devils' league-leading 12th shorty.

To make matters even worse, Zubrus would score again with less than a second to play in the period. It was a very nice shooting effort by Zubrus, but … he should have been in the box at the time. Then, during the goal scoring/celebration sequence, Scott Hartnell took a high-sticking penalty, perhaps due to frustration over the non-call. On the ensuing power play to start the second period, the Devils scored again.

One blown call, which should have resulted in a 5-on-3 for the Flyers, directly impacted three goals the other way.

OK, enough whining (although there was more cause for it)…

The Flyers didn't respond well at all in the second period, conceding that goal and two more, including yet another Foster goal on the 5-on-3.

The third period was a whole different game. Bryzgalov relieved Bob in the second and didn't allow a goal the rest of the way. The offense came alive in the third, sparked by one of the few guys who had been playing well all afternoon—Wayne Simmonds. Simmer battled in front of the net to get multiple efforts off on Johan Hedberg, the final one beating him on a pretty swat.

Jaromir Jagr, who took a beating all afternoon and thinks he may have broken the tip of his finger on a slash, scored the Flyers' second goal, followed by Claude Giroux potting his 20th of the season on a power play and Jake Voracek giving us all that glimmer of hope to bring the game within two.

The game got pretty nasty in the third, and it was to the Flyers' advantage. One sequence in particular saw a full-line skirmish that saw a small parade to the box, including Zac Rinaldo, Simmonds, Anton Vochenkov, and Bryce Salvador, plus a pair of unlikely combatants. Brayden Schenn and Ilya Kovalchuk threw down in a bout the rookie won't soon forget, if he remembers it at all. He hung in there with the much larger Kovalchuk for a while, but ultimately took a nasty right hand to the grill.

The good news was, the surprise penalty killing weapon Kovalchuk was in the box for the ensuing Flyers power play, which was when Giroux converted.

The finish was to be admired, with no quit in
a Flyers team that was getting smoked by the Devils and jobbed by the refs for the better part of two periods. But the Flyers didn't play anywhere near their best hockey, which will net them the same result tomorrow if they repeat it against the Rangers.

Simmonds has tied a career high in goals (16) and has three in four games against the Devils. He also has three in his past two games and six in over nine.

The day in misleading stats: The Flyers outshot the Devils by 10 (41-31). However, the shooting stats became far more true when broken down by period. The Flyers posted an amazing 24-1 shot total in the third, when they scored four unanswered goals. Per Elias, that 23-shot period differential is the largest in Flyers history.

Good to see Giroux score again after potting his first in a month on an empty netter on Thursday. Same for Jagr, who gave G the EN gift and reaped the reward today.

Two good post-goal signs of who this Flyers team is: Simmonds scored their first of the game, but had less than even a smile in celebration. In fact, he shook his head, seemingly still in disgust at the state of the game. When Jagr scored, there was no salute. These guys know their effort wouldn't be erased by a few goals, and individual marks were relatively meaningless in this bloodbath.

Bob can't be blamed for his showing, particularly not the pair of 5-on-3 goals he allowed. Either way, good to see Bryz come in cold and look sharp, stemming the tide.

If only we still had access to that 24/7-like footage for this one. Peter Laviolette looked ready to run onto the ice at several points to give the refs a hand in seeing the game a little more closely. 

Video Highlights:

FIlm Review: What led to Eagles' poor run defense against Washington?

FIlm Review: What led to Eagles' poor run defense against Washington?

The Eagles have vowed to get better. 

They desperately don't want to have a performance from their run defense like the one against Washington, when they gave up 230 yards on the ground. 

Head coach Doug Pederson said the run defense is "a pride thing" and the guys responsible for the performance, Jim Schwartz included, say things will get better. The defensive coordinator cited bad angles as a reason there were so many missed tackles on Sunday afternoon. 

In all, the Eagles missed 10 tackles and gave up 156 yards after contact — both more than they had given up in the first four games of the season. 

Washington's rushing yards came in some big chunks. Here's a look at some of the key running plays from Sunday as we try to figure out what went wrong: 

This is a key 3rd-and-7 from the Washington 13-yard line. On this drive, Washington ends up scoring a touchdown to go up 14-0, but it doesn't happen without this key third down conversion. 

The Eagles collapse the pocket and force Kirk Cousins to his left. That's exactly what Schwartz said he wants, to force the quarterback to his non-throwing side. Everything at this point is working out perfectly. 

Here's the angle that's really troublesome. At this point, Nigel Bradham (circled in green) has Cousins in his sights, while Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham (farther behind) are in pursuit. Curry and Graham seem to let up in their pursuit when it looks like Cousins will go out of bounds. But he doesn't. 

Schwartz talked about bad angles, and this is the perfect example from Bradham. He overshoots it and when Cousins makes his cut back inside, all of Bradham's momentum is heading toward the sideline. Curry ends up making the tackle but tackles Cousins forward for a big first down. 

This next play was just a little counter draw that ended up going for a huge 45-yard gain. Rob Kelley takes the handoff, which looks to be going right. The entire Eagles' linebacking group bites hard. Still, right end Connor Barwin is free and has a chance to make the play. 

He doesn't. Just a missed tackle. 

Kelley finds some open field. Rodney McLeod is the next guy to beat and Kelley simply turns him around. You'll see Mychal Kendricks enter the frame. Kendricks showed great recovery speed to get back in the play and has a chance to finally bring the running back down. 

Nope. Can't do it. Eventually, McLeod recovers to bring him down. 

This last play ended the game on Sunday. The Eagles punted the ball away with the hope that their defense would stop Washington and give them the ball back. Instead, Matt Jones broke off a 57-yard run on 3rd-and-7. 

Jordan Hicks over pursues, probably thinking the run was going wide. But he loses his gap and Jones is off to the races. 

Once Jones gets past the first down, it doesn't really matter that it was a 57-yard run. It could have been an 8-yarder and the game was over. 

So what did we learn? 

Well, Schwartz was right. Angles absolutely killed the Eagles on Sunday. But when they have a guy wrapped up, they need to bring him down. Sure, that's not Earth-shattering, but they couldn't do it on Sunday and it led to a loss. 

Sixers to ease in Jahlil Okafor off bench, expect more from him on D

Sixers to ease in Jahlil Okafor off bench, expect more from him on D

The Sixers struggled to carve a clear role for Jahlil Okafor last season as he and Nerlens Noel split time out of position in the frontcourt. Brett Brown has a more clear picture of how to utilize Okafor in his second year, highlighted by goals and a shift to the bench. 

Okafor has been sidelined from preseason action because of his right knee. He underwent surgery to repair a meniscus tear in March and aggravated it during the final training camp scrimmage. 

Okafor said he felt “pretty sore” after scrimmaging Monday, his first since camp, and he was better after going through individualized training and work in the water on Tuesday. This setback has forced him to exercise patience. 

“I know I told you guys I wasn’t frustrated a few weeks ago, but at this point it has been frustrating because I’ve been doing all the right stuff and I want to see me back out there sooner,” Okafor said after practice Thursday. “But I can’t rush my body, I can’t rush my health. ... I would love to have the opportunity to be there for opening night and play in front of our fans. Right now it’s looking like that’s probable."

The Sixers plan to use Okafor in a reserve role to start the season. Okafor expects to be on a 12- to 15-minute restriction, similar to Joel Embiid, when he is cleared to play. 

“I think about it all the time, but I talk to him. We’ve talked about this for months,” Brown said of Okafor's coming off the bench. “It’s not anything that is going to surprise anybody. He’s been fantastic. ... I talked with Jahlil about a lot of things and that could be, to start the year it will be, a scenario.”

Okafor, the third overall pick in 2015, started 48 of his 53 games last season. He is approaching this year with realistic expectations given his restrictions and is not concerned about being out of the starting five. 

“I’ll be fine,” Okafor said. “That won’t be a tough adjustment for me. I came off the bench a couple of times last year.”

Brown’s focus is not necessarily on how Okafor starts the game, but how he finishes. He would like Okafor and Embiid to be able to play together at the end of games to give the team a fourth-quarter boost.

“If it ends up you’ve got Jahlil coming off the bench and he’s going against backup five men, you think you probably have an advantage there,” Brown said. “If he does anything, he scores the ball, he scores buckets, he gets points. You can see how that can be a really nice role for him and for us.”

Okafor led the Sixers in scoring last season with 17.5 points per game. Brown, though, is focusing on his defensive improvements. The Sixers are looking to play an uptempo system in which they will need Okafor to hustle on defense each possession. Okafor slimmed down and added muscle this summer to prepare for the season. 

“He has to be elite in two areas to me,” Brown said. “Transition defense first — A-plus-plus-plus, get back. If you’re tired, if you’ve got to conserve energy, it’s not that way. It’s running back on offense. We have to get him back on defense.

“Then he has to be better skilled, better drilled by me, [a] high level of accountability with pick-and-roll defense. ... You can go over to defensive rebounding (as) a close third, but those two things happen the most.”

Okafor expects to be more effective on the defensive end after getting adjusted to it as a rookie. 

“(I want) to be smarter on defense, knowing where to be,” Okafor said. “My first year playing in the NBA, it was just a lot going on. Everybody was so fast.” 

Brown sees a focused 20-year-old who is more disciplined and ready to embrace whatever role he is given this season. 

“I can’t wait to coach him this year," Brown said. "I think he’s going to come back and have a great year. His body tells me that, his attitude tells me that. He’s in a good place personally."