Flyers-Bruins Game 1: Another Battle Begins

Flyers-Bruins Game 1: Another Battle Begins

The wait is over, the Flyers and Bruins start their playoff rematch series this afternoon at 3PM in South Philly.

Both clubs needed seven games to clear the first round, but that's not really a bad thing so much as a reflection of how great the opening series were, and how good these two teams are to have won them. The Flyers enter the second round on a high, having played their most dominant game in months to close out the previous series. The team that won that game can beat anyone.

To outlast the Bruins, they'll need to successfully get to Tim Thomas, the second straight dominant goalie they're facing this postseason. Despite the fact that these are very different goalies, I'm assuming the plan will be the same. Get to the crease, throw some snow at the guy in the mask, and see if you can get him thinking about taking a swing. It's a great possibility that Thomas will steal a game or two this series, just as Ryan Miller did, but I wouldn't put it past Brian Boucher to do the same. He established himself as the man against the Sabres, making it look like he should have played nearly every minute when all was said and done. He'll likely have that opportunity this time around; we'll see what he does with it.

The Bruins will bring a physical game with them, as did the Sabres, and Zdeno Chara will log a ton of minutes. We should see the Flyers be able to take advantage of their forward line depth though, even without Jeff Carter (who also missed last year's series against Boston, but has no return timetable at the moment). Danny Briere is playing at his usual playoff best, and James van Riemsdyk is stepping up his game just in time to be a major difference maker. G loaded up 9 points in 7 games and had a physical series. I'm not gonna go over all the things the Flyers can do. You know it all already.

What's most important is that they continue to play like they did against Buffalo, and not just in the game 7 ass-kicking. They were very good thoughout that series, even in the losses. Chris Pronger's minutes will be increasing, and that should help the critical special teams battle that will go on in what will likely be a rough series. As we've already discussed, the Bruins' powerplay comes in ice cold, having failed to score a single goal over an entire playoff series. Joe Haggerty of CSN New England pointed out that the powerplay woes date back further than the start of the playoffs, with a 93% failure rate since the team traded for Thomas Kaberle. Part of me worries that the floodgates will open against the Flyers, who will take more penalties than the 21 opportunities Montreal allowed, but that stat isn't just a blip based ont the numbers Haggerty shared. Our own powerplay could use a little help itself, although it's looked better over the last two games, and Pronger is now back with the team.

It's hard not to feel good about the Flyers' chances as this series opens, despite the fact that Boston is a very tough team. They played their asses off against Buffalo, and they'll presumably have some stability in net and the presence of Pronger throughout the series. It really should be a great series, Philly vs. Boston, the references to last year's battle, and a lot of talent on both sides—the perfect recipe for complete overreactions after every game regardless of outcome.

Photo by reader/commenter Scurvy5

Sixers take lasting lessons from talk with Will Smith at team dinner

Sixers take lasting lessons from talk with Will Smith at team dinner

GALLOWAY, N.J. — The sprawling city skyline could have been the highlight of the Sixers' team dinner at One Liberty Place on Monday night. Instead, it was a surprise celebrity appearance that left them in awe.

Will Smith, who is part of the Sixers’ ownership, caught the players off guard when he visited with the team to offer advice and answer questions.

“Man, that’s one of my idols,” Nerlens Noel said following the first training camp session at Stockton University. “Everything he said I really took in and all the guys did too.”

Rather than entertaining the group with his acting or musical skills, Smith imparted important lessons that are applicable in sports. The 48-year-old has had decades of success across multiple platforms, and he offered pieces of wisdom that can resonate in any situation. 

“If you have bad people around you, that’s how people see you and that’s how you are,” Joel Embiid said. “He said to have good people around. That’s the main thing I got from that.”

The Sixers had differing memorable moments the morning after Smith’s visit, which demonstrated how many topics he addressed with the team. 

“He’s a good guy,” Ben Simmons said. “I definitely learned a lot from hearing him talk … You’ve got to look at things from a positive and negative with every situation.”

Jahlil Okafor was especially caught up in Smith’s appearance. Smith is Okafor’s favorite actor, most notably for his role in I Am Legend, and impressed Okafor with his character. 

“We already know about his accolades and how smart he is and obviously he’s an entertaining person,” Okafor said. “But it just seemed like he really wanted to be there to help us out. I just took away that he was a great person.”

Okafor also added, “It just helps [to hear from him] because the road to success is pretty much the same. It’s about being focused, it’s about knowing that you’re going to be knocked down, you’re going to fail. That was one of the messages that Will Smith shared, was expect failure but the main thing is to get back up.”

Noel previously had seen Smith courtside at Sixers games, and this was his first opportunity to hear directly from him. Noel listened to everything Smith had to say, from how to deal with the media to ranking his best and worst movies. 

“Never get caught up in too much of the negativity,” Noel recounted. 

While people view professional athletes as celebrities, the Sixers were on the opposite side Monday evening. 

“It’s hard to get starstruck nowadays,” Noel said. “But when you see Will Smith, it’s a whole different ballgame.”

Tonight's lineup: With only RHPs left, could Ryan Howard start every game?

Tonight's lineup: With only RHPs left, could Ryan Howard start every game?

If healthy, Ryan Howard is expected to start all three games in the Phillies' final series of the season Sept. 2-4 at home against the Mets.

He might also start the entire Braves series.

The Phillies' final six games are all against right-handed starting pitchers: Julio Teheran, Mike Foltynewicz and Josh Collmenter in Atlanta; Robert Gsellman, Bartolo Colon and Noah Syndergaard with the Mets. That could mean six starts for Howard before his time with the Phillies expires.

Howard's batting average has been below .200 for practically the entire season, but he's been much better since the All-Star break, hitting .259/.325/.598 with 11 homers, five doubles and 25 RBIs in 123 plate appearances (see game notes). He went 0 for 6 in his last two starts but homered in each of his two previous starts to reach 23 for the third year in a row.

Here's the Phillies' full lineup Tuesday against Teheran:

1. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
2. Roman Quinn, LF
3. Odubel Herrera, CF
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Ryan Howard, 1B
6. Cameron Rupp, C
7. Freddy Galvis, SS
8. Aaron Altherr, RF
9. Jerad Eickhoff, P

Matt Kemp is out of the Braves' lineup.

1. Ender Inciarte, CF
2. Adonis Garcia, 3B
3. Freddie Freeman, 1B
4. Nick Markakis, RF
5. Tyler Flowers, C
6. Jace Peterson, 2B
7. Dansby Swanson, SS
8. Mallex Smith, LF
9. Julio Teheran, P

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