Flyers Win Convincingly in Pittsburgh; You Breathe Sigh of Relief

Flyers Win Convincingly in Pittsburgh; You Breathe Sigh of Relief

Big breaths, nice and slow.

The Flyers not only dispensed of their division rivals in a fashion
that made the opponent seem rather ordinary, but they managed to gain a
point on the next closest conference rival. With a solid 5-2 victory
over the Penguins, the orange and black have all but solidified their
crown in the Atlantic Division, not to mention kept pace atop the
Eastern Conference.

The Pens came out with an unusual approach to open the game, hitting
everything that moved. Pittsburgh has gained a reputation in these parts
for being a soft team since Sidney Crosby became a household name, but
they were aggressive from the jump. Within two minutes, you could tell
one of the primary goals was to play a physical style of hockey.

It worked... for awhile.

Pitt definitely outplayed the good guys in the first period. They
were creating collisions, causing turnovers, and generally out-hustling
the Flyers. The good guys were lucky to get out of the gate tied at one.
As a Philly power play came to an end, Braydon Coburn flipped a shot on
goal from the point that hit the post. The ricochet kicked off of the
back of netminder Marc-Andre Fleury's skate, and into the goal to even
the score.

The Penguins continued to give Philly trouble into the second, with a
seemingly endless supply of odd-man rushes that eventually led to a 2-1
lead. It would be their last.

Signaling their power play struggles may be coming to an end against
one of the two best penalty killing teams in the NHL, the Flyers worked
the puck in the zone for the better part of a minute before Scott
Hartnell punched a wrap-around by Fleury to knot the game at two. At
this point, the game was getting chippy, as Brooks Orpik railed Harty
into the net well after the disc found twine.

The attitude wore off rather quickly. Less than a minute later,
Andrej Mazaros gained the zone on a feed from Sean O'Donnell, and found
Claude Giroux as he stormed the blue line. Giroux beat a Penguin
defender to his right, and sent a wrister the other way over Fleury's
blocker to give the Flyers a 3-2 lead in period two.

And that was all she wrote. The Flyers began to play conservatively,
and Pittsburgh appeared to get tired. Ville Leino added a pair of goals
in the final frame, and is one away from being the seventh club member
to reach 20 goals.

Meanwhile, the Capitals lost to the Hurricanes in a shootout, which
puts Washington three points behind the lead in the Eastern Conference.

Goes without saying this was an important win, but not just due to
the standings. The Flyers played a complete game tonight. They responded
to a team that wanted to play physical. They scored goals, on the power
play and from behind. Then when they finally got the lead, they shut it
down defensively while pouring it on at the other end.

It's almost time for some playoff hockey.

NFL Playoffs: Matt Ryan, Falcons dismantle Packers to reach Super Bowl LI

NFL Playoffs: Matt Ryan, Falcons dismantle Packers to reach Super Bowl LI

The Atlanta Falcons are headed to their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history after routing the Green Bay Packers 44-21 in the NFC championship game.

Matt Ryan threw for four touchdowns, including a 73-yard catch-and-run for a highlight-reel score by star receiver Julio Jones. The defense played just as crucial a role in containing quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' offense.

Rodgers had 287 yards with three touchdown passes and an interception. But the Falcons got to Rodgers with pressure and forced two Green Bay turnovers. Rodgers was outplayed by Ryan, who even ran for a 14-yard touchdown.

Atlanta will play either New England or Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl on Feb. 5 in Houston.

The only other time that Atlanta made the Super Bowl was in the 1998 season. The Falcons lost 34-19 to the Denver Broncos.

The Packers fell in the NFC title game for the second time in three seasons.

2017 NBA draft prospect watch: Jonathan Isaac has a banner week

2017 NBA draft prospect watch: Jonathan Isaac has a banner week

Two of the country's top prospects faced off in the Pac 12 this week while a top 10 forward saw his season come to a premature close. However, we begin this week with the breakout performance by Jonathan Isaac.

Jonathan Isaac, forward, Florida St. (6-11/205)
Isaac's potential had everyone in the basketball world's curiosity. Now his play on the court has their attention. The Seminoles hosted No. 15 Notre Dame, which had yet to lose in ACC play before the Wednesday game. 

The freshman forward dominated in the 83-80 win. He had 23 points on 7 for 9 shooting from the field. He made both his threes, all seven of his free throws and also had one assist. His other stats were also otherworldly. He picked up 10 rebounds and had seven(!) blocks, including one on a late Notre Dame shot to get back into the game after he'd put the Seminoles ahead with a three. All this was in just 25 minutes

He followed it up with a similar game against Louisville. In 28 minutes, he had 16 points on 4 for 7 shooting, making one three and, again, all seven free throws. Add in two assists and two blocks to aid in the 73-68 win. Isaac has shown himself to be an athletic freak, a potential stretch-four at the next level and one with tremendous defensive potential, displayed with his nine blocks this week.

OG Anunoby, forward, Indiana (6-8/235)
Anunoby has had an uneven season, but he, at the very least, showed flashes of the ability that make him a top player for this year's draft class. However, a knee injury suffered on Wednesday finished off Anunoby's season, forcing him to undergo surgery that will keep him off the court for the rest of Indiana's schedule.

This may knock him out of the 2017 draft entirely. As a freshman last year, his NCAA Tournament performance was enough to make him a lottery pick in an even weaker draft field than the upcoming one. He chose to remain in school and it isn't farfetched to believe he will return to Indiana for his junior year to get more seasoning, a better draft field and another year of education.

Lonzo Ball, guard, UCLA (6-6/190)
There are going to be quite a few marquee matchups in the Pac 12. One of the first this year came in the form of UCLA-Arizona in Los Angeles on Saturday. The No. 3 Bruins lost, 96-85, but that had nothing to do with Ball's standout performance (more on the Wildcats below). He pushed the ball in transition, drove to the hole with ease and made 4 of 8 threes with his quirky shot. 

He had 24 points on 10-for-15 shooting and had eight assists, six rebounds, two steals and a block. When you watch Ball score so naturally, it's easy to forget his potential as a point guard, but then he whips up beautiful assists as he did many times on Saturday. The freshman has everything you want in a point guard.

Lauri Markkanen, forward, Arizona (7-0/225)
The No. 14 Wildcats picked up their biggest win of the year, moving to 7-0 in conference play. As you can expect, Markkanen had a big game to push Arizona past UCLA. He had 18 points on 6 for 10 shooting, was 3 for 3 from three and made three free throws, all which grabbing seven boards. Like Isaac, he is a tantalizing talent as a stretch-four, hanging out around the perimeter and spotting up for threes well.

He now has 16 made threes in his last four games and has averaged over seven boards in that stretch. He's not unbelievably thin like many fours his age. The freshman really can battle down low and get his shot, and he justifies his prospect status on a game-by-game basis with his ability.

Markelle Fultz, guard, Washington (6-4/195)
Washington lost on Saturday, moving to 9-10 and 2-5 in conference. But it's worth talking about Fultz's standout Wednesday night. The freshman willed his team back from 17-points down with a 37-point performance en route to an 85-83 OT win over Colorado. In 43 minutes, he was 13 for 24 from the field and 11 for 15 from the free throw line.

Don't think he's just a scorer, though. He had eight assists, five rebounds, three steals and three blocks, doing it all for the Huskies as he usually does. The freshman sensation was 0 for 2 from three, but he is normally efficient from beyond the arc. He alone is the reason to watch the under .500 Huskies.

While the 9-10 Huskies are unlikely to make a late run towards March Madness, the strong Pac 12 should provide many marquee matchups for Fultz. He faces off vs. a stout Arizona team next Sunday afternoon. Six days later, the long awaited matchup between Fultz and Ball up in Seattle goes down with presumably many scouts in attendance.

Quick Hits

Malik Monk, guard, Kentucky (6-4/185)
Twenty-seven points on 9 for 14 shooting, 4 for 7 from three, 5 for 6 on free throws, three rebounds, one assist, two steals and four turnovers in an 85-69 win over No. 24 South Carolina.

Josh Jackson, guard/forward, Kansas (6-8/203)
Fifteen points on 6 for 14 shooting, 2 for 5 from three, 1 for 3 on free throws, five rebounds, two assists, four steals and six turnovers in a 79-67 win over Texas.

Jayson Tatum, forward, Duke (6-8/204)
Fourteen points on 4 for 9 shooting, 1 for 4 from three, 5 for 6 on free throws, three rebounds, one assist, three turnovers and five fouls in a 70-58 win over Miami.