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

Carson Wentz falls far behind Elliott, Prescott in Rookie of Year odds

Carson Wentz falls far behind Elliott, Prescott in Rookie of Year odds

Carson Wentz's Rookie of the Year odds took a hit, the Eagles' Super Bowl odds shortened and the Vikings' lengthened after Sunday's 21-10 win.

The Eagles are 33/1 to win it all, a week after being listed by Bovada at 50/1. The Vikings, meanwhile, went from 7/1 to 9/1. They still have the third-shortest Super Bowl odds in the NFL and are two spots ahead of the Cowboys (14/1). 

Wentz, who had his worst statistical game against Minnesota, is now 9/1 to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, according to Bovada. Last Wednesday, he was 6/1.

Wentz trails Cowboys studs Ezekiel Elliott (2/5) and Dak Prescott (11/5) on that leaderboard.

As far as this week, Wentz is favored to throw for more yards than Prescott. Wentz is 5/7 to outgain Prescott through the air in Week 8, while Prescott is 1/1 to outgain Wentz.

Elliott's over/under rushing total against the Eagles is 99.5. He's rushed for 130-plus yards in each of his last four games, and the odds are 3/1 that he'll reach that number again this week. 

The Eagles have allowed just one 100-yard rusher this season, Washington's Matt Jones (16 for 135).

Elliott is also now on pace to break Eric Dickerson's rookie rushing record. Dickerson had 1,808 in 1983; Elliott is on pace for 1,875. Will Elliott break that 33-year-old mark? A "yes" bet pays 2/1; a "no" bet pays 1/3.

Dave Hakstol did Steve Mason a favor by challenging Sabres' 3rd goal

Dave Hakstol did Steve Mason a favor by challenging Sabres' 3rd goal

Many, though not all hockey games, have a tipping point or pivotal moment that factors into the outcome.
Sometimes it’s obvious what it was and when the moment occurred. Other times, it’s overshadowed by something else on the ice.
Ask the Flyers which moment would define their come-from-behind 4-3 shootout victory over Buffalo on Tuesday and the response will be virtually unanimous: when Dmitry Kulikov leveled Jakub Voracek with a high hit that made contact to the head in the third period.
Voracek was forced off the ice under the NHL’s concussion protocol.
That hit incensed the Flyers, who went on to score two power-play goals and tie the game, 3-3. The comeback was on.
Yet there was a less obvious but significant point that happened late in the second period, and it concerned goalie Steve Mason.
Matt Moulson had given Buffalo a 3-0 lead on Michal Neuvirth at 15:43, when Flyers coach Dave Hakstol elected to make a goalie switch.
Rather than call a simple timeout to buy Mason some warm-up time and allow his team to collect itself on the bench, Hakstol challenged the goal, claiming “goalie interference.”
Replays won’t show any direct interference on the shot itself. Neuvirth was speared several seconds before the play developed.
Hakstol knew the goal would likely not be overturned, but his strategy was to buy time for Mason and his team. By using a challenge, he knew the review process would take a lot longer than the 60-second timeout.
Either way, he was going to use his only timeout.
“You know what, I think we needed a timeout at that time, anyway,” Hakstol said coyly. “Pretty low probability of it being successful. Everything worked out well in the end.”
Mason appreciated what his coach did, too. Buying extra time for you?
“Yeah, probably,” Mason replied. “Regardless of the situation, you’re sitting on the bench, you know? You’re not really gauged as much as when you’re playing, obviously. So, you just try and ramp things up as quickly as possible.”
Mason had two saves in that shortened period, five in the third period and one in the overtime to register his second victory.
“There’s a never-quit attitude in this room,” he said. “We showed in Chicago — we were just talking about that. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to close that one out.
“But guys have a belief that you get one [moment] and it comes. [Travis Konecny] got us going with his first NHL goal, which is great. The guys really pushed to capitalize on their chances.” ​