29th in the NHL in scoring, hard to take Flyers 'resurgence' seriously

29th in the NHL in scoring, hard to take Flyers 'resurgence' seriously

The Philadelphia Flyers were better in month two of the regular season than in month one, but any talk of resurgence might be a bit overblown. After all, when you get off to a 1-7 start, usually there’s nowhere to go but up.

So up the orange and black have climbed in the standings to a place of respectability, just two points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. But the hot streak that propelled Philadelphia back to relevance is over now, and the Flyers are again looking suspiciously like the scoring-challenged team that the numbers indicate they are.

We’re now one-third of the way through the 2013-14 season, and Philadelphia ranks 29th out of 30 NHL teams in goal scoring, barely averaging north of two per game (2.07). Five clubs are a full goal better. Only the Buffalo Sabres with the worst record in the league light the lamp with less frequency.

It’s no wonder the Flyers haven’t been able to get above the .500 mark. They probably wouldn’t be in the neighborhood at all (12-13-2) if it wasn’t for the sharp goaltending of Steve Mason.

The offense did enjoy a brief outbreak during the month of November, averaging 3.29 goals over a seven-game run in which the club was unbeaten in regulation, going 6-0-1.

In the five games since however, the scoring—or lack thereof—has reverted back to normal. The Flyers are averaging 1.6 goals, and have barely managed to post a 2-3 record over the current span. Most recently, they were shut out by the Minnesota Wild on Monday.

Maybe that will provide a spark much the same way their last goose egg did. Marty Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils blanked Philly 3-0 right before their little run last month.

But Claude Giroux’s comments after their latest loss suggest the confidence level still isn’t where it needs to be, in the dressing room or on the ice. Via Flyers beat writer Sam Carchidi for the Inquirer:

“I think we played a good game defensively, and [Ray Emery] did a good job of shutting the door a little bit. We just have to have a little more at the other end."

"Same story as the start of the year; we just need to get more pucks to the net and maybe more traffic and the puck will start going in," Giroux said.

Same story as the start of the year, when it took the Flyers until their 10th game to find the back of the net more than twice in one skate. In fact, take away one decent seven-game stretch, and they still have eclipsed two goals just twice all season—once by virtue of a shootout win.

As if things weren’t bad enough, Vinny Lecavalier is expected to miss his second game in a row on Wednesday with back spasms, this time against a hot Detroit Red Wings team no less. The Wings are riding a four-game winning streak. The Flyers are a weary club in the middle of a six-game road trip.

What’s interesting is the Flyers aren’t at the bottom for shots taken, so it’s not for a lack of attempts. They’re only 19th with 29.1 per contest, and that says nothing for the quality of the shots, either.

Part of the problem is their power play has sunk for some unknown reason. Last season, Philadelphia’s power play was third, resulting in a goal 21.6 percent of the time. This season it’s 23rd, converting on just 14.9 percent, and it’s not like there’s a huge difference in personnel.

Whatever the problem is, it’s real and doesn’t appear to be going away. Any team is capable of getting hot for a couple of weeks, but the Flyers need to find some sustained scoring from somewhere. Sure, they’re in the mix for a playoff berth in a weak conference, but with these laughable scoring totals, who can take them seriously right now?

Even with Jordan Matthews' return, Paul Turner still in Eagles' plans

Even with Jordan Matthews' return, Paul Turner still in Eagles' plans

There were just two things on Paul Turner’s mind as he sprinted across the field early during the third quarter on Sunday, anticipating his first career NFL catch. 

Turner relayed them on Wednesday: 

1. “Make sure you get in [Carson Wentz’s] vision.” 

2. “You better catch this ball.” 

He did both. 

Turner, the 23-year-old undrafted receiver from Louisiana Tech, who has become a fan favorite since his stellar training camp and preseason, caught his first NFL pass during Sunday’s loss to the Bengals and it went for a big gain of 41 yards. 

On his first catch, the Eagles used the play-action to tilt the defense and Wentz threw a dart into a small window to hit Turner on an over route. Then, the rookie turned upfield with a ton of space in front of him. 

By the end of the afternoon, he caught six balls for 80 yards. It was the best receiving day for an Eagles rookie since Jordan Matthews in 2014 and was a better day than last year’s first-round pick, Nelson Agholor, has ever had. 

“It's always good to catch a few balls,” said Turner, who has been on the 53-man roster and active for just the past two games. “It gets your motor going and gets your confidence going. It just gets you more into the game and gets you excited. I think it does a lot for a person's confidence.”

Turner played 41 snaps against the Bengals in large part because Matthews was out with an ankle injury. Matthews predominantly plays in the slot, which is where head coach Doug Pederson and his coaching staff like Turner. 

“Honestly, that wasn't really my mindset going into the game,” Turner said when asked if he knew how much opportunity he’d have with Matthews out. “My mindset was to go in there and if my number was called, just go out there and make a play. Even if my number was called, just take care of my assignment and take care of the little details and I knew everything else would just take care of itself. I knew that if I got the ball, I'd be excited. But even if I didn't, just to go out there and just block, and give up myself for my teammates. That was my goal coming into the game and just try to stay focused on that.” 

It appears as though Turner has done enough to warrant keeping his playing time. As Matthews returned to practice on Wednesday — as a limited participant — Pederson said there will still be opportunities for Turner. 

“There are, there are,” Pederson said. “And these are things we talked about the last couple of days as a staff — getting Paul in there, even with Jordan coming back. I think it can be a benefit to the offense to have both of those guys ready to go.”

The Eagles still haven’t had more than four receivers active for any game this season. During the last two weeks when Turner has played, either Agholor or Matthews were out. 

“It means a lot that the coaching staff has confidence in me,” Turner said. “My biggest thing is just to come in here and just work each and every day in practice and just prepare in practice so I'm prepared when I go out there in the game.” 

MLB Notes: Aroldis Chapman rejoins Yankees on 5-year, $86 million deal

MLB Notes: Aroldis Chapman rejoins Yankees on 5-year, $86 million deal

OXON HILL, Md. -- Aroldis Chapman found a spot in a most familiar bullpen -- a very rich spot, too.

The hard-throwing closer reached agreement to return to the New York Yankees on Wednesday night with the highest-priced contract ever for a relief pitcher, an $86 million deal for five years.

A person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press that the contract was pending a physical. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal was not yet complete.

Once it's done, the 28-year-old lefty whose fastballs routinely top 100 mph would shatter the previous richest contract for a reliever -- that was the $62 million, four-year deal Mark Melancon signed with San Francisco just a couple days ago during the winter meetings.

Chapman was acquired by New York from the Cincinnati Reds last offseason, then missed the first 29 games of the season due to a domestic violence suspension from Major League Baseball. The Cuban was traded to the Chicago Cubs in late July and helped them win the World Series, becoming a free agent when it was over.

Chapman went 4-1 with 36 saves and a 1.55 ERA in a combined 59 games for the Yankees and Cubs. He struggled some in the postseason as the Cubs beat Cleveland for their first championship since 1908.

With the Yankees this season, Chapman teamed with Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances in one of the most dominant bullpens in baseball history. Miller was later traded to Cleveland, but Betances is still with New York.

Earlier this week, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said the team was interested in both Chapman and fellow free agent closer Kenley Jansen. The Yankees had already made one deal at these meetings, signing slugger Matt Holliday, before paying a lot more to bring Chapman back to the Bronx.

Fox Sports first reported the agreement.

Rangers: Gomez reaches deal to stay with team
OXON HILL, Md. -- Carlos Gomez is staying with the Texas Rangers.

The outfielder agreed to an $11.5 million, one-year contract, a deal subject to a successful physical.

"Many of the objectives of the Rangers for Carlos go beyond one year," his agent, Scott Boras, said Wednesday. "Certainly Carlos really enjoyed the team and the environment and feels he's got a great chance to win. So I think both parties' objectives were met by that deal."

Gomez, who turned 31 last weekend, figures to play center as general manager Jon Daniels structured an outfield that includes Shin-Soo Choo in right and Nomar Mazara in left. Ian Desmond left Wednesday for a $70 million, five-year deal with Colorado.

Gomez batted just .210 with five homers in 85 games this year for Houston and was released by the Astros in August. He signed with Texas and hit .284 with eight homers and 24 RBIs in 33 games. An All-Star in 2013 and '14 with Milwaukee, Gomez has a .257 average and 116 home runs in 10 big league seasons.

"J.D. was very clear from the onset about them wanting Carlos back, and we've had communication since the season's end to pursue that," Boras said. "So it was something in our minds and in their minds. It was just a constant dialogue."

AP Sports Writer Howard Fendrich contributed to this report.

Red Sox: Sale not worried about being ace
BOSTON -- New Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale says he isn't worried that he might not be the ace of the pitching staff after being traded from the White Sox to Boston.

The 27-year-old lefty told reporters on Wednesday, "We play for a trophy, not a tag."

Sale was traded to the Red Sox on Tuesday at the baseball winter meetings. He was the top starting pitcher on the market, and the Red Sox gave up touted prospect Yoan Moncada as part of a package to land him.

Sale has been an All-Star for five straight seasons and finished in the top six of the Cy Young Award voting each time. He joins a staff that already includes 2016 Cy Young winner Rick Porcello and '12 winner David Price (see full story).