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.

Alec Asher lone bright spot as Phillies continue to limp to finish with another loss to Mets

Alec Asher lone bright spot as Phillies continue to limp to finish with another loss to Mets

The Phillies returned home from a bad road trip Friday with only three games to play and the only thing to play for being the role of spoilers.

With the New York Mets in town looking to put a stranglehold on a wildcard spot, the Phillies, as another losing season finishes out, could be a thorn in the side of their rivals.

Alec Asher looked like he was playing the part of spoiler, retiring the first 11 batters he faced, but the Mets rallied, got behind starter Robert Gsellman, and turned back any Phillies sabotaging on this night, beating the home team, 5-1.

The two teams are heading in quite opposite directions.

The Mets, with their win, clinched at least a tiebreaker in the wildcard and guaranteed their season not ending on Sunday, the league’s final regular season date.

The Phillies on the other hand… 

“We’re certainly limping home,” said manager Pete Mackanin an hour or so after being ejected for the first time this year. “Not playing well, not swinging the bats very well.”

They struck out 14 times Friday night. And after scraping a run across in the second inning, never really looked like they were in the game at the plate.

Mackanin's ejection came in the eighth inning. Mackanin wasn’t happy with first base umpire Will Little and was thrown out of a game. Reliever Michael Mariot threw a fastball in on Yoenis Cespedes and Cespedes appeared to lose control of the bat through the strike zone. When appealed to, Little ruled Cespedes did not swing, and out came Mackanin.

"I had to get thrown out there," Mackanin said.

Perhaps he just couldn't stand to watch anymore. 

Gsellman battled through some early struggles and stymied the Phillies’ offense. Gsellman turned in six innings of one-run baseball, improving to 4-2 on the year. He allowed one run on seven hits and struck out seven.

Asher, in his last start of 2016, was the lone bright spot on this night.

With two outs in the fourth, his brief perfect game bid was ended with a single from Yoenis Cespedes. That was followed by another from Curtis Granderson. 

Jay Bruce then worked a full count but Asher couldn’t put him away. On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, Bruce singled home Cespedes to tie the score. 

A fourth consecutive single, this time off the bat of T.J. Rivera, allowed Granderson to cross the plate for a 2-1 Mets lead.

Asher’s night and season ended with a Bruce home run - his third in as many games - to lead off the top of the seventh.

“I wanted to go sinker away and just kind of got it mid-thigh belt,” Asher said. “He took advantage of the mistake.”

Asher, 24, went six-plus innings Friday, throwing 104 pitches while allowing three runs on five hits. He struck out four and walked zero.

His 2016 finishes with a 2.28 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in 27 ⅔ innings pitched. He struck out 13 and walked four.

“Last year when Asher was here I recall being asked if it was a smart thing to do because he got rocked so badly,” Mackanin said. “We talked about if and when he did get back to the big leagues if he would be able to handle it. What kind of make up he had. Certainly he made an adjustment. Added a two-seam fastball which he never had. Has a plus changeup. He needs a little more work on his breaking ball, but nevertheless he’s pitched well since he’s been back. He’s done a good job.”

The Phillies bullpen hasn’t lately.

Mariot, in relief of Asher, gave up two runs in 1 ⅔ innings of relief, including Bruce’s third RBI of the night to give the Mets a 5-1 lead.

The Phillies offense then went quietly into the fall night. The Mets didn’t allow a hit from the final 12 Phillies hitters.

Their season will continue beyond Sunday.

“It’s step one of a bigger accomplishment,” said Mets manager Terry Collins. “We’re certainly pleased we get to play past Sunday.”

The Phillies are just limping.

Orthopedist on Ben Simmons' injury: 'The prognosis is good'

Orthopedist on Ben Simmons' injury: 'The prognosis is good'

On Friday, Sixers fans got some bad news when the team revealed that No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons fractured the fifth metatarsal in his right foot.

The Sixers didn't give a timetable for his return, saying that they were reviewing treatment options for the 6-foot-10 point-forward.

As a guest on CSNPhilly's Sportsnet Central, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Mark Schwartz gave a little insight into Simmons' injury. Schwartz is not treating Simmons, but has dealt with similar injuries. Schwartz believes the prognosis is good for the Sixers' rookie.

"The big question is where the exact location of this fracture is," Schwartz said. "That will dictate the prognosis and the treatment. If it's at the base of the fifth metatarsal, it's usually a non-surgical treatment. It's usually a cast/boot for six to eight weeks and return to play somewhere around eight weeks."

That would be great news considering Sixers fans didn't get to see Nerlens Noel the year he was drafted and are still awaiting the debut of 2014 draft pick Joel Embiid. 

Schwartz warns that the injury could be something known as a Jones fracture, which would likely require surgery and the recovery could be three to four months. The prognosis would still be good, according to Schwartz, but other NBA players have had lengthy recoveries with a similar injury.

"The prognosis is still good, but we know that Kevin Durant had a Jones fracture and he was out for an entire season because of it not healing," Schwartz said. "But the prognosis is good, however, the question is whether it's going to require surgery or not."

For more from Schwartz on Simmons' injury and possible timetable, check out the video above.