Flyers Never Say Die: Voracek OT Winner Caps Comeback

Flyers Never Say Die: Voracek OT Winner Caps Comeback

We saw it throughout the season and wondered whether the Flyers could keep winning this dangerous gamble when the playoffs began. I guess we shouldn't be surprised we got our answer in the first game of the opening round: No opponent's lead is safe when the Flyers are on the ice. 
It's not exactly heart-friendly hockey, but the Flyers continue to come back and win games in which they've conceded early leads. On Wednesday, they were down 3-0 after the first period, only to come all the way back, force overtime, then win by a 4-3 count after Jake Voracek beat Marc-Andre Fleury to stun the Consol Energy Center crowd.

[PHOTO GALLERY: click here for more photos from the Flyers OT win | VIDEO: watch fans at XFINITY Live! in South Philly react to Voracek's game winner]

A closer look at the game action below. Playoff hockey doesn't get much better than this. 
In the regular season, early Flyers deficits often did not accurately reflect their level of play. As the pattern continued and they frequently opened games down a goal or two, the knee jerk reaction was to think they were outplayed. That wasn't always the case, as some combination of strong goaltending and bad luck/bounces often conspired to tilt the score the other way despite an evenly matched effort. 
That was decidedly NOT the case in the first period of game 1 against the Penguins on Wednesday. The Pens absolutely took it to the Flyers in the game's first 10 minutes, and the visitors had little in the way of a solid response in the first 20. 
1-0Pittsburgh was strong on the forecheck and opportunistic in the neutral zone. Less than four minutes in, their pressure led to the first goal of the series. Guess who. After the Flyers iced the puck for the second time, their skaters were trapped on the ice while Dan Bylsma sent in the Crosby line. Despite putting a check on Crosby and blocking an initial shot, #87 buried a top-shelf backhand. The building went crazy. 
2-0Just four minutes later, it was Tyler Kennedy's turn. After a soft Marc-Andre Bourdon advance was intercepted, Kris Letang sent a perfect pass up the seam to send Jordan Staal on the outlet. Staal then found Kennedy, who made easy work of the play. Jaromir Jagr failed to get back in coverage, perhaps thinking TK was offsides on the play. Hung out to dry in the odd-man rush, Ilya Bryzgalov didn't have much of a chance at it. 
TimeoutIf you were telling yourself this game was far from over, that we've seen this all happen before, only to have the Flyers climb back out, you were likely relieved to see Peter Laviolette call his timeout. Good things happen when his gum's in his hand. 
Lavvy started tinkering with the lines some. One player in particular was standing out—Brayden Schenn. Earlier in the day, we liked Schenn's chances of showing up in a big way this postseason, and he certainly made his mark on game 1. Watch the two hits he made on this one sequence:

The Flyers started to turn things around, but still couldn't crack Marc-Andre Fleury. Pittsburgh was efficient in clearing the porch and keeping opportunities outside of the slot, limiting the Flyers to just six shots in the first period. And, they weren't done scoring yet. 
3-0With 37 seconds left in the first period, what looked to be a sure icing call—as in, the linesman's arm was up to signal it was icing—was called off by the linesman on the opposite side of the ice. No idea why. But what followed was a fluky goal that felt like a back-breaker. It was credited to Pascal Dupuis, who rushed to the front of the net and appeared to tap in a pass from Steve Sullivan, who won a battle along the boards, then sent a pass toward the front of the goal. It caught both Bryzgalov and Nick Grossmann off-guard, and somehow wound up in the net.  
The odd waving off of the icing was vexing, but the Flyers would get it back on a similarly blown call. But not before the refs again had remotes being tossed around Delaware Valley living rooms some more. 
Claude Giroux was whistled for the first penalty of the series, and, not surprisingly, it was a questionable call. Brooks Orpik flubbed the puck as he skated along the end boards, slowing up, and Giroux checked him into the boards. Had he played the puck cleanly, it likely wouldn't have been an issue. 
3-1The Flyers killed the penalty off, something they've been successful doing against the Pens this season. When G came out of the box, he set up Scott Hartnell with what looked like a sure goal. Marc-Andre Fleury had other thoughts though, sliding across the crease and stoning Harts. But the pressure was on, the momentum in new hands, and the Flyers were soon on the board. 
Schenn sent a nice pass up the middle to Danny Briere, who admittedly entered the zone offsides, then beat MAF like he stole something.

There was blood in the water after that, the comeback had begun.  
The Flyers had to kill off another second period penalty, this time to Zac Rinaldo. He probably earned it, but James Neal clearly embellished the hit. The PK unit again held the Pens scoreless, with a huge save by Bryz on a Chris Kunitz opportunity. 
Just as the buzzer was about to sound to end the second period, Craig Adams tried to lay a hit on Schenn. He probably wasn't expecting to be the one on his ass. 

At the second intermission, the Flyers were still down 3-1, and the start of the third didn't help. Just 1:49 into the final frame of regulation, Jagr was called for interference on Crosby. Again, an embellishment by a Penguin led to a call. Crosby ran into Jagr from behind (in a mostly legal sense, just a collision), Jagr pushed him off, and Crosby threw his head back and got the call. 
Again, the PK unit stepped up and blanked the Pens' power play. 
3-2Back at even strength, the Flyers moved the puck well and generated good opportunities. The Briere line was buzzing and cycling when Schenn found Danny, who sent a shot through a possible screen by Crosby to beat Fleury and put the Flyers within one. 
3-3Keeping with the hot hand, Lavvy sent them back out, and Danny almost scored his third of the ni
ght. After the attempt, he got trucked by Orpik on what looked to be a clean hit. But, the officiating wasn't great in this one, and Orpik might have gotten the other end of a makeup call as he was sent to the box for interference. On the ensuing power play—the Flyers only of the game—the top unit had some good pressure but couldn't break through. Scott Hartnell was unable to change after the Pens forced a clear, but he was rewarded for sticking with the play after most of the night's second PP unit jumped on. Jagr sent him a nice set-up, and Harts slap-passed it toward the goal, where Schenn was the happy beneficiary of the Pens giving Jagr a lot of respect. 
Watch as Hartnell starts toward the bench, then quickly decides to stay on:
Schennnnnnnnnnnnn…
The Flyers had taken control of the game, forcing overtime. No shootouts, or gimmicks, they'll play until someone scores. It didn't take long. 
4-3!Jake Voracek was the hero in the extra frame… Although we have to give some credit to Kris Letang for the assist:

Absolute elation. There's an indescribable satisfaction borne of truly believing a team is still in a game that might appear to non-fans to be completely out of reach. Even more satisfying is the schadenfreude of seeing a rival bleed out on home ice while grown men regret wearing bear costumes to the game
Game 1 is in the books. I don't think anyone on either side lacked for interest in this series, but it's hard to ask for more from a game that we got here. 
NotesHeading into the first intermission, the road to a comeback looked rough. The Flyers would need to slow the game down and stop gambling, yet somehow put three on the board while not allowing any more. The Pens were winning the end-to-end style of play by owning the middle of the ice. Fortunately, Pittsburgh's back end is still leaky, and the Flyers took advantage. 
Voracek worked his ass off for the Flyers this year, often without the goals to show for it. A playoff OT winner has to be worth about 10 regular season tallies. Had to feel good to make Letang look bad, too. They once shared a dance.  
Despite being on the ice for the game's first goal, the Flyers' fourth line put in a great effort, keeping the Malkin line off the board entirely. Hard to pin the first goal on them after they were frozen due to an icing, while Bylsma got to send in the Crosby line. 
Pavel Kubina was a healthy scratch. After Marc-Andre Bourdon missed the third period and was labeled day-to-day after it was announced he wouldn't return, it looks like Kubina could be in the lineup for game 2. 
Bryz was a rock in net. After the opening period, he let nothing past, and he was tested. 
We can complain about the calls that went against the Flyers and the Penguins' ability to draw calls with head fakes on the refs, but make no mistake, the Flyers benefited from a blown offsides call and a questionable penalty. 
It was a great night for the players who came over in the deals that sent Mike Richards to LA and Jeff Carter to Columbus. However, the Kings enjoyed having those two in their opening game too. Richards was outstanding, scoring a goal, assisting two others, and putting some big hits on. Carter had a pair of assists, including a nifty redirection off his skate on a pass from Richards. The Kings topped the Canucks by a 4-2 count. Are you rooting for Flyers West?

Roob's 25 Random Points: Kenjon Barner, Freddy Galvis, Father John Misty and more

Roob's 25 Random Points: Kenjon Barner, Freddy Galvis, Father John Misty and more

Chase Daniel vs. Carson Wentz. Lehigh vs. the NovaCare. LeSean McCoy vs. Ryan Mathews. Freddy Galvis vs. Cookie Rojas. Joan Jett vs. Todd Rundgren. Andy Reid vs. Doug Pederson. Tim Showalter vs. Father John Misty.

Whaaaaaaaat???

It can only be a another edition of … Roob’s 25 Random Points.

1. I understand why more and more NFL teams are holding training camp at their year-round facilities and leaving their long-time summer homes on college campuses in small towns across the country. The logistics of moving operations to a remote location combined with the elimination of two-a-day workouts has really rendered remote training camps anachronistic. I get all that. But that said, I really miss it. Training camp was my favorite part of the season, for a few reasons. I loved how kids could interact with their favorite players before and after practice. Chatting, autographs, photos, whatever. I loved seeing a player as accomplished as Dawk spend 30 minutes after practice on a blazing hot day, standing by the fence signing autographs for whoever wandered over. I loved stuff as corny as a little 6-year-old kid walking with a hulking offensive lineman, carrying shoulder pads that were bigger than they were. But I also loved the connection between big-time NFL teams and small-town America. The way the Eagles would settle into Bethlehem for a month every summer and become part of the fabric of the community. And watching every morning as the parade of cars filled with Eagles fans wound through the mountain roads toward a day watching free football. And just the action on the football field. Seeing unknown rookies blossom into NFL players in front of our eyes. Watching superstars like Randall and Donovan and Michael Vick make unbelievable plays while a few thousand fans watched in amazement from just a few feet away. And just watching and listening to personalities like Asante Samuel, who was just as intent on making the fans laugh as he was on beating his man. It was a unique atmosphere, and I loved every minute of it, and it’s a shame it’s gone.

2. If Sam Bradford gets benched or hurt and Chase Daniel replaces him, I will be extremely disappointed.

3. He’s a grizzled veteran and an older guy and has been in the league a while and backed up Drew Brees and Alex Smith and spent time in K.C. with Doug Pederson. But let’s be honest. What has Chase Daniel accomplished that Carson Wentz hasn’t? He’s 29 years old and has one career touchdown pass. So in six years, he’s built a one-TD lead over Wentz in career touchdown passes. Come on. Wentz has to be No. 2. Has to be.

4. I’m not exactly sure why I have faith in Kenjon Barner, but I do. He’s got only 34 career carries and he’s fumbled twice, so that’s a concern. But I think the kid runs hard and runs tough and we know he’s fast. He averaged 4.4 yards per carry in limited action last year, but I’m very curious to see him in action this preseason. We all know Ryan Mathews’ injury history, and we all know that Darren Sproles is 33 and coming off a season where he averaged just 3.8 yards per carry, his lowest since 2009. So Barner could have a seriously expanded role this year. If he does, I think he’ll be just fine.

5. One encouraging thing about Mathews: Just looking at his career, when he’s healthy, he rarely has a bad game. Like a total dud of a game. He’s had 20 or more carries 17 times and rushed for at least 90 yards in 14 of those 17 games. In the other three, he had 65, 74 and 78 yards. When he gets 20 carries, he’s averaged 105 yards. Just for the sake of comparison, when LeSean McCoy gets 20 carries, he’s rushed for 90 or more yards just 18 of 31 times. But he’s averaged 118 yards in those games. So McCoy is more likely to get you 130 yards. When getting 20 carries in their careers, McCoy has rushed for 90 yards only 58 percent of the time but 130 yards 29 percent of the time. Mathews has gotten 90 yards 82 percent of the time but 130 yards only 12 percent of the time.  

6. Among 18 active running backs who’ve had at least 15 games with 20 or more carries, only Jamaal Charles (86 percent) and Arian Foster (84 percent) have rushed for 90 yards on a higher percentage of their 20-carry games than Mathews. Only two have a lower percentage than Shady – Frank Gore (57 percent) and Matt Forte (54 percent). Interesting.

7. Since 1983, 31 quarterbacks have been taken with a top-five pick. Only two of them haven’t started at least one game – Philip Rivers (behind Drew Brees) and Carson Palmer (behind Jon Kitna). In fact, the last top-five pick who didn’t start at least 10 games was JaMarcus Russell in 2007. The last 11 all started double-digits.

8. Hey, has anybody had any luck redeeming those free Ticketmaster vouchers? Every time I log on, everything is unavailable. Somebody is getting free tickets to something but it’s not me!

9. I don’t think it’s a good thing when 100 games into the season, Freddy Galvis is second on your team in RBIs.

10. But he is. Galvis has 37 ribbies, second-most on the Phils. That puts him on pace for 60 this year. Maikel Franco is on pace for 89 RBIs, but the Phillies are on pace to have just one guy with more than 60 RBIs for the first time in a non-strike-shortened season in nearly half a century — since 1968, when Dick Allen led the Phils with 90 RBIs and Cookie Rojas was second with 48.

11. Tommy Keene. Write down that name. Look him up. Check out his music. He’s brilliant. There is no reason he’s not as big as Tom Petty. Don’t believe me? I don’t blame you. But listen.

12. I honestly would not be surprised if Caleb Sturgis beats out Cody Parkey. Why? Because kickers are weird. They can look like Hall of Famers one year and inept the next year. Remember Paul McFadden? Alex Henery? The stats say Parkey wins the job and it’s not close. But when we’re talking about kickers, nothing ever surprises me.

13. Before we send rookie seventh-round corner Jalen Mills to Canton based on an impressive series of minicamps, remember … minicamp equals no pads. And no pads equals not really football. The kid certainly has skill and speed and confidence. But nothing counts until the pads go on this week. And we’ve all seen minicamp superstars who quickly come back to earth when the real stuff starts. That said, it will sure be fun watching Mills and all these other young cornerbacks sort themselves out over the next few weeks. With Mills, Eric Rowe, JaCorey Sheperd, Randall Evans and Denzel Rice, the Eagles have a promising group of young corners behind veterans like Leodis McKelvin, Nolan Carroll and Ron Brooks. I still think Carroll and Rowe are your opening-day starters. But fair to say every spot at corner is up for grabs.

14. Weird that Billy Davis doesn’t have a job. Anywhere. You’d think he’d at least be a college linebacker coach somewhere. But maybe after the experience of the last three years, he just needed a break. I don’t think he coached very well here, especially last year, but I also don’t think last year’s defensive collapse was all his fault. He didn’t have a ton of talent to begin with. And the Eagles did have a top-10 defense halfway through the season. But nobody can coach a defense that’s forced to play 36 minutes a game.

15. Crazy that Brandon Graham, a draft pick in 2010, has now played under five defensive coordinators — Sean McDermott, Juan Castillo, Todd Bowles, Davis and Jim Schwartz. Five defensive coordinators in seven years.

16. You guys hear about Father John Misty Friday night at the Xponential Festival at Wiggins Park? Father John Misty (real name Joshua Tillman) is a hot-shot singer-songwriter who sells out mid-sized theaters everywhere he goes and shows up all the time on every rock critic’s Best Of list. Father John was booked to perform for 55 minutes at Xponential but instead of performing he lectured the crowd incoherently about the Republican National Convention and the “meaningless of entertainment,” then played two songs — one unreleased, one a Leonard Cohen cover — before walking off the stage to a chorus of boos. A few people, mainly rock critics, defended the guy and called his performance “brilliant,” praising Tillman for not performing when his heart wasn’t in it and saying that’s the nature of art. Oh please. I’m sorry. There’s a time and a place for that sort of thing. A time and a place to make a statement. This wasn’t it. A lot of people paid a lot of money to hear the guy play music for nearly an hour, and he left all of them sorely confused and disappointed. He owes a lot of people a sincere apology.

17. Tim Showalter of the fantastic Philly band Strand of Oaks went after “Father John” brilliantly in a series of tweets: “Furthering your entertainment career by calling entertainment stupid. … Shows have saved my life. The stage is a privilege more importantly FANS are a privilege. Go on a lecture tour if you have so much to say…. Start a charity, work for habitat for humanity, volunteer, whatever. Be productive…. That's it. I love your music so much. But don't come to my town and insult my peoples intelligence.”

18. Was sitting around recently with some friends and started to wonder who has seen the most Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famers in concert. I finished last with 26: Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, BB King, Beach Boys [Brian Wilson], Black Sabbath, Bobby Blue Bland, The Clash, Donovan, Fleetwood Mac, Peter Gabriel, Genesis, the Kinks, Paul McCartney, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Bonnie Raitt, Rascals, Lou Reed, REM, Rolling Stones, Linda Ronstadt, Santana, Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen, Muddy Waters, U2 and The Who. Go through the Hall of Fame list and figure out how many you’ve seen. I’ll bet it’s more than you think!

19. One thought on the credibility of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame: Joan Jett is in, Todd Rundgren is out. Get a clue, R&R Hall of Fame.

20. If it was up to me, smoking within a few feet of a child would be a crime.

21. Why is everything “curated” lately? What a pretentious word for “compiled” or “arranged” or “slapped together.” I mean … “Hey, I’m curating this week’s 25 Random Points today!” Who talks like that?

22. I like Sam Bradford more than most people. I think he’s a serviceable quarterback. My biggest issue with Bradford is his TD-INT ratio. He does a lot of things well but he doesn’t throw enough touchdowns and he throws too many interceptions. And those are really the two most-important stats for a quarterback. For his career, Bradford has thrown a touchdown every 29 pass attempts and an interception every 44 attempts. Among 156 quarterbacks who’ve thrown 1,000 passes since 1980, Bradford ranks 134th in TD percentage. So only 22 quarterbacks since 1980 have thrown touchdowns more infrequently. Among that group are Kent Graham, Steve Walsh, Rick Mirer, Dave Brown, Mike Pagel and Joey Harrington. Bradford has had three seasons (2010, 2012, 2015) where he’s thrown at least 500 passes and thrown 21 or fewer touchdowns. Only five other QBs in NFL history have had three such seasons.

23. This is kind of important. Because without getting the ball into the end zone, all the stats kind of don’t matter. There’s always been an excuse – new coach, new scheme, poor receivers – but the lack of TD passes has followed Bradford around his entire career, and I doubt it’s a coincidence.

24. One more Phillies point: After 51 of 81 home games, the Phillies are hitting .218 at Citizens Bank Park with an on-base percentage of .273 and an OPS of .627. Their home batting average is the worst by any MLB team since the Rangers hit .218 in 1972, their on-base percentage is the worst by any team at home since at least 1913 (as far back as baseball-reference.com goes), and their .627 home OPS is also worst by any MLB team since 1913. Barring a significant reversal in the last 30 home games, the Phillies could wind up as the worst-hitting team at home in the last 100 years.

25. I’ve always thought an Andy Reid press conference was just about the most boring thing imaginable. Then I started to see Doug Pederson press conferences and I’ve already changed my mind.

Tonight's lineup: Maikel Franco, Cameron Rupp back for Phillies

Tonight's lineup: Maikel Franco, Cameron Rupp back for Phillies

Maikel Franco and Cameron Rupp are both back in the Phillies' starting lineup Monday in Miami after being hit by pitches over the weekend in Pittsburgh.

Franco was hit on the wrist and Rupp on the head. Franco hasn't started since Friday, but came in for Andres Blanco Sunday after Blanco fractured his left index finger.

Rupp was hit on the head Saturday but passes MLB's concussion protocol and is back behind the plate to catch Jeremy Hellickson in the Phillies' series opener against the Marlins.

It's a good thing for the Phils because both players have been power sources. Franco is hitting .259 with 18 homers and 53 RBIs, and Rupp is hitting .276 with 17 doubles and 10 homers. Rupp had a homer and three RBIs last Friday night in the Phillies' only win at PNC Park.

Slumping Peter Bourjos, just 4 for his last 36, moves down the eight-hole. Cesar Hernandez leads off.

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Odubel Herrera, CF
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Tommy Joseph, 1B
5. Cameron Rupp, C
6. Freddy Galvis, SS
7. Cody Asche, LF
8. Peter Bourjos, RF
9. Jeremy Hellickson, P

And for the Marlins:

1. J.T. Realmuto, C
2. Martin Prado, 3B
3. Christian Yelich, LF
4. Giancarlo Stanton, RF
5. Marcell Ozuna, CF
6. Derek Dietrich, 2B
7. Adeiny Hechavarria, SS
8. Don Kelly, 1B
9. Jarred Cosart, P

49ers promote former Eagles VP of player personnel Tom Gamble to assistant GM

49ers promote former Eagles VP of player personnel Tom Gamble to assistant GM

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Francisco 49ers have promoted Tom Gamble to assistant general manager.

General manager Trent Baalke announced the move on Monday, calling Gamble an "accomplished talent evaluator."

Gamble returned to the 49ers in January 2015 as a senior personnel executive after spending two seasons in Philadelphia as vice president of player personnel. Gamble worked with current 49ers coach Chip Kelly during his time with the Eagles.

Gamble had spent eight seasons previously in San Francisco and was director of player personnel in his final two seasons. Gamble is entering his 29th season in the NFL.