Flyers look to rebound and try not to lay another dud tonight in Tampa

Flyers look to rebound and try not to lay another dud tonight in Tampa

We all knew that the Flyers’ point streak and recent hot stretch would eventually come an end. But man, oh, man was that ever a dud they laid in South Florida on Monday night.

The Orange and Black sleepwalked through the first 40 minutes and could never recover as they were dropped by a particularly bad Panthers team, 3-1, and saw their seven-game point streak come to a screeching halt.

It was a missed opportunity for a precious two points on a night that where the Devils and Rangers lost in regulation and the Penguins gained just a single point. All of those teams sit ahead of the Flyers in what Charles Barkley would likely classify as a “TURRIBLE” Metropolitan Division.

After the game, Scott Hartnell said he and his mates may have “underestimated” the lowly Panthers, but the game saw the Flyers do a lot of the same things they did during their wretched start to the season.

They turned the puck over way too much, had difficulty entering the offensive zone cleanly, overpassed when in the offensive zone, blew glorious power-play opportunities, lost board battles and were generally outhustled by the third-worst team in the league.

The Flyers have an opportunity to prove that Monday’s game was anomaly to their recent play and rebound tonight in Tampa against a surprisingly good-so-far Lightning squad.

There are few storylines heading into this game, most notably Vinny Lecavalier’s return to Tampa as Flyer after 15 years as a franchise pivot for the Lightning and the absence of one of the best hockey players in the world in Steven Stamkos, the lethal Lightning sniper who broke his leg in a somewhat gruesome fashion a few weeks ago.

Go ahead and try not cringe while watching his leg just float around like it’s made out of Jell-O. Consider it my Thanksgiving gift to you all. You’re all welcome!

Anyway, the Lecavalier return angle has been and will continue to be pulverized into the ground and most hockey fans know how important Stamkos, who has scored 13 goals in 19 career games against the Flyers, is to the Lightning.

I’m most interested in seeing how the Flyers respond from Monday’s lousy effort. At the beginning of the year, the Flyers would have likely kept the lousiness rolling along because there just wasn’t any confidence at all.

But this isn’t this isn’t the same Flyers team from the beginning of the year, or so we think.

There’s a sense of confidence around the group now, both internally and from the fanbase. That’s what 13 out of a possible 14 points over seven games will do for you.

Don’t get it twisted, just because Stamkos is on the shelf doesn’t mean the Lightning should be taken any less seriously. The Lightning is still a dangerous team. Tampa has a 15-8-1 record and 31 points, sits second in the Atlantic division and averages the seventh-most goals per game in the league with 2.88 per contest.

This game will be a pretty good test for the Flyers.  Keep in mind that the only team with the winning record the Flyers played during their 6-0-1 stretch was those filthy, rotten, no-good Penguins. But the Flyers did respond nicely to their only loss during that stretch with a 5-2 victory over the Senators in their next game.

“Razor” Ray goes between the pipes tonight for the Flyers. He’s 3-3-0 in six starts this season with a .910 save percentage and a 2.53 goals-against average. More recently, Emery is 3-1 in his last four starts and has given up just four goals total in those starts. He has a 6-3-2 record in 11 career games played against the Lightning. Backup netminder Anders Lindback, who is 1-5-0 with a .872 save percentage and 3.47 goals-against average, goes for the Lightning.

The first period should be pretty telling of what to expect the rest of the game. We’ll see if the Flyers come out with that hustle and effort to their game and jump on the ice that they sorely lacked against the Panthers.

I mean, I would have trouble concentrating, too, if there were only like 50 people in crowd like there was on Monday in South Florida. But, whatever, let’s just not lay another uninspired egg tonight, Flyers.

Chase Utley owns the New York Mets, according to Wikipedia

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Chase Utley owns the New York Mets, according to Wikipedia

The New York Mets' majority owner, Fred Wilpon, has a reported net worth of $500 million.

But on Saturday night, the Mets were not owned by a suit who made their profits off real estate development.

No, the Mets were owned by former Phillies second baseman and current Los Angelers Dodger Chase Utley.

At least according to the Mets' Wikipedia page.

Utley, who has become one of the greatest villians in New York sports of recent memory, made his return to Citi Field this weekend after breaking Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada's leg with a hard, controversial slide into second base successfully breaking up a double play during the postseason. On Friday night, the 37-year-old delivered a three-run game-tying double in the ninth inning, athough the Dodgers fell to New York, 6-5, after Curtis Granderson hit a walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth.

But on Saturday night, Utley's legend grew even stronger in the Dodger's 9-1 win. Utley was thrown at — and missed — by Mets starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard, who was subsequently ejected from the ballgame, in the third inning. In his next at-bat during a scoreless game, Utley took New York reliever Logan Verrett deep to give L.A. a 1-0 lead.

It gets better. Coming to bat with the bases loaded and a 2-0 lead in the seventh, Utley entered the batter's box serenaded with boos from the Mets' faithful only to hit a grand slam. You can watch it all right here.

Owning the Mets is nothing new for Utley, however. The second baseman has 33 home runs, 113 RBIs and a .283 average in his career against New York. We love Utley in Philadelphia because he plays the game hard, was a key member of the Phillies' 2008 World Series team and he kills the Mets. Remember this one from 2007?

What will Utley do as an encore on Sunday Night Baseball? We will all be watching because some of us won't be able to catch Game of Thrones live because we work.

Remember, no spoilers. And plus, Utley owning the Mets is a better storyline than any TV show can give us.

Phillies-Cubs 5 things: Getting Vince Velasquez back on track

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Phillies-Cubs 5 things: Getting Vince Velasquez back on track

Phillies (26-23) at Cubs (33-14)
2:20 p.m. on CSN

The Phillies have lost back-to-back games to the MLB-best Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field and on Sunday afternoon, they'll look to salvage a victory in the series finale.

Here are five things to get you ready for the ballgame:

1. Avoiding a sweep
Phillies fans had losing shoved down their throats for long stretches last season. This season has been much different … at least until the last three series.

With Saturday's loss, the Phils have lost three consecutive series for the first time in 2016 and will look to avoid their first sweep since their opening series in Cincinnati. The 4-1 victory by the Cubs was the Phillies' fourth loss in five games. They haven't lost five of six since September 2015. 

Meanwhile, the Cubs have won four straight games after losing eight of 12 games in mid-May. A win Sunday would give Chicago its fourth win streak of at least four games already in 2016. 

If that doesn't underline how tough a task the Phillies have ahead of them, Sunday's starter will do the trick.

2. Solving Lackey
John Lackey doesn't have the pizzazz of a Jake Arrieta or Jon Lester, but the veteran righty has been a consistent force in the Cubs' rotation. Coming over from the rival Cardinals in free agency, Lackey has a 4-2 record with a 3.38 ERA in nine starts in 2016.

However, the underlying numbers have been even better. He's completed six innings in all but one start and has seven quality starts. He has 61 strikeouts compared to just 13 walks and 45 hits in 61⅓ innings. 

Lackey has been a workhorse for the Cubs and has struck out at least five batters in each of his last four starts. 

The good news for Phillies fans? Despite Lackey's solid numbers, the Cubs have lost four of his nine starts.

3. Getting back on track
At 23 years old, it's tough to expect Vince Velasquez to be an ace all season, even if he may fill that role at some point in the not-so-distant future. 

So Velasquez's relatively minor struggles over his last few starts shouldn't worry fans as a sign of things to come. In Detroit, the flamethrowing righty could only complete four innings while giving up three home runs. While he struck out 10 and gave up no runs the start before against Miami, he failed to get past the fifth inning.

Those two starts came after consecutive outings where Velasquez gave up four runs in six innings. His last quality start came May 1, although it's tough to call his game against the Marlins anything but impressive.

While he's faced some strong lineups like the Mets and Nationals, the Cubs are a force Velasquez hasn't dealt with quite yet. He has no career numbers against the Cubs' probable starters, a group that has combined to be one of baseball's top offenses in 2016.

4. Who's on first?
Ryan Howard's final season in Philadelphia has been a grind to say the least. The veteran first baseman has just six hits in 58 at-bats in May and has just a .154 batting average this year. Howard's eight home runs have been a bright spot, but he doesn't have a homer since May 11.

Howard has three hits (two home runs) in 16 career at-bats against Lackey. But with right-handed first baseman Tommy Joseph excelling in his first big-league action, manager Pete Mackanin may turn to the rookie Sunday, as Howard tries to end his slump.

5. This and that
• Obubel Herrera is 3 for 4 in his only career appearances against Lackey. Maikel Franco is 2 for 3 against the righty.

• The Phillies are 3-0 in the final game of road trips this year … and 3-0 in the final game of homestands, too. 

• The Cubs have not swept the Phillies in Chicago since 1995.

Brian Carroll's goal in 92nd minute gives Union draw with Rapids

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Brian Carroll's goal in 92nd minute gives Union draw with Rapids

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. -- Brian Carroll tied it in 92nd minute and the Union escaped with a 1-1 draw with the Colorado Rapids in a showdown of the Western and Eastern conference leaders.

Carroll ran underneath Fabian Herbers' high-arching header and slotted the finish under goalkeeper Zac MacMath from close range.

The Union (5-3-5) responded only 5 minutes after the Rapids (8-2-4) opened the scoring on Sam Cronin's header in the 87th minute. Cronin made a deep run to connect with Marlon Hairston's cross from the right flank, redirecting it into the far corner of the goal.

Both Dillon Powers and Luis Solignac had shots crash off the crossbar for the Rapids after the 70th minute.

The Union extended their unbeaten streak to seven while the Rapids stayed unbeaten in their nine home games this season.