Flyers-Devils Game 3: Onwards and Upwards

Flyers-Devils Game 3: Onwards and Upwards

Today's game day post is a special guest edition by none other than Flyers Goal Scored By. These are his words:

Webster's Dictionary defines 'mulligan' as: "A turd of a hockey game that leaves way too many unanswered questions." The Flyers were frustratingly casual on Tuesday night, gift wrapping a winnable game for the New Jersey Devils. Instead of a comfortable two game lead, the Flyers woke up to the fact that this Devils team is good and advancing to the Eastern Conference Final will be no cake walk.

Oh how fickle playoff hockey can be.  Up 1-0, dreams of a L.A. Kings vs Philadelphia Flyers Stanley Cup series fluttered through our heads. Now tied 1-1, we're casting doubts on a once great powerplay and wondering where the dominating Flyers have gone. The Flyers had great success generating a forecheck against the Penguins.  Add a Marty Broduer-sized wrench (Editor's Note: That's a big wrench) in the works and you start seeing problems.  Devils are clearing their zone with ease, something that needs to change in order for Philadelphia to be successful. At this point of the series, Chooch is hitting more than Scott Hartnell and Wayne Simmonds. The Flyers need their sandpaper to muck it up in front of Broduer and to get that forecheck going. You saw Simmer and Schenn doing work in the Devils zone on the Matt Read goal on Tuesday night. This is the type of Jam that Laavy likes to smother on his english muffins on Sunday mornings. Give him his jam, Flyers. Give. it. to. him.

The biggest doubt I have about this series is wether or not the Flyers can win a game where they don't have to score more than 3 goals. That may be a roundabout way of chirping Ilya Bryzgalov, but Philly's goalie wasn't the issue on Tuesday night. Bryz kept a lethargic team in the game with a lead for 2+ periods. If the Flyers can get that performance out of Bryz tonight, they'll be in good shape to grab a victory. The Bryz Cadet gets a lot of flak when he let's in a softee like Sykora's pillow in Game 1, but his control in game 2 should give Flyers fans hope of grabbing a game or two in North Jersey.

Can the Flyers play a sound enough game defensively that won't require them to *have* to put a snowman up on the scoreboard? That is looking like the question of the series.

So pay the tolls, feather your hair and acid wash those jeans, we're headed to North Jersey. The Devils already look to be a tougher opponent than the Penguins in almost every area. It's up to the coaches to adapt their gameplay and for the players to muster enough emotion to take this series back. Playoff JVR playing in his backyard? Fuggedaboutit. Bartender, first round is on us, let's giddy up and f*cking go!

Let's Go Flyers.

Worst loss of the year for excuse-less Sixers against Magic

Worst loss of the year for excuse-less Sixers against Magic

Another new feeling for the rebuilding Sixers: The bad loss with no excuse. For at least one and possibly multiple seasons, there was no real such thing as an inexcusable L, because they were so never the favorite going into any game that their excuse could almost always be "the other team was better." But four wins and one transcendent player into this season, the Ballers actually do need an excuse for dropping a home game against a subpar team by double digits. And if they had one last night in their 105-88 loss to the Orlando Magic, they weren't telling the rest of us.

Really, this game couldn't have been teed up much better for Philly: We were home, well-rested after Wednesday's weird-ass cancellation, against a 7-12 team we nearly beat early in the season, who were on the second night of a back-to-back after ceding a tough one to the Grizzlies -- and we had Joel Embiid for up to 28 minutes. If this one was to be a laugher by early in the fourth quarter, you'd almost have to assume that it'd been the Sixers who put it to bed early. 

Instead, the Sixers slumped horribly from the field in the first quarter, missing bunny after bunny and plenty of open jumpers, as they dug themselves a hole they were never quite able to climb out of. Philly kept it manageable and D.J. Augustin and Nik Vucevic caught fire for Orlando in the third quarter, and the game was suddenly in Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot territory before we could even process what was happening. 

Of course, you can't blame Embiid for this one. Though JoJo was a little out of sorts defensively on this one -- and personally, I really wish he'd stop trapping five feet outside the arc, it may cause panic in the Magic's ball-handlers but it really seems to compromise our own half-court D -- he still finished with a resounding 25-10-4 with three triples, and for the first time in his young career, 0 turnovers. (I coulda swore I saw at least one, but so says the box score, anyway.) Just another game for the Process, though the Sixers (for some reason) needed him to be immaculate last night, and he was merely phenomenal. 

Less phenomenal were the rest of the Sixers' shooters. Our bench in particular was absolutely putrid, going a combined 0-12 from three, with Nik Stauskas's streak of consecutive games with a three snapped at 15 after his scoreless, 0-6 performance. (Five assists for Sauce, at least.) Jahlil posted a dominant stat line of 16 and 13 (on 8-10 shooting) but was again hapless on defense, ending a team-worst -19 for the night. And Dario Saric's slumping continued with a 1-5 shooting outing with no rebounds or assists, likely his worst game of the season. 

It was a surprisingly listless effort from a team that should have looked much sharper, and the most positive non-Joel-related thing to be said about it is that it's (sort of) nice to finally have expectations high enough to have them let down. It'll be a lot harder for Philly to let down tonight against the Celtics, without JoJo, against a pretty good and mostly healthy Boston team. But that's five losses in a row already for the improving Sixers, and it'd be nice to cut off that streak soon, before it starts threatening double digits -- we could certainly do with being done with those for the forseeable future.

No longer feeling like a rookie, Wendell Smallwood more comfortable as lead back

No longer feeling like a rookie, Wendell Smallwood more comfortable as lead back

As the Eagles prepared to face the Green Bay Packers last week, rookie Wendell Smallwood readied himself for a big role.
 
Then he got just nine carries. 
 
It wasn’t that those carries went elsewhere, it was that the Eagles got away from the run game early in the 27-13 loss to the Packers despite being down one score for most of the game. Ultimately, he had half of the team’s carries. 
 
On Friday, head coach Doug Pederson said the disparity in play-calling didn’t have anything to do with having Smallwood as the lead back instead of Ryan Mathews. 
 
“Not really,” Pederson said. “Again, that's something – when I go back ask evaluate after the game – it's something I have to consider more of: Did I run the ball enough or throw the ball enough or not enough or did I do it too much, one way or the other. 
But no, that did not dispel anything, run or pass.”
 
For the second straight week, Mathews is out with an MCL sprain, which means Smallwood is preparing for a bigger role in the offense again. That could also mean his second career start in as many weeks. 
 
Having gone through this process last week has made this week even easier. 
 
“I think I'm very comfortable, more than I was last week,” Smallwood said. “I kind of knew I was going to have a lead role, kind of thinking about a lot, how to play better and take on the load that I was probably going to get. So this week, I think it was kind of natural for me, not really worrying about it.”
 
Smallwood, who was a fifth-round pick out of West Virginia, has 66 carries for 290 yards and one touchdown this season. Smallwood's average of 4.4 yards per attempt is sixth in the league among rookie with at least 60 carries this season. He also has the most rushing yards of any Eagles rookie since Bryce Brown in 2012. 
 
While the Eagles would probably have preferred to use Mathews more this season, the veteran has played just 53 more snaps than Smallwood. 
 
Does Smallwood even feel like a rookie anymore? 
 
“Nah, definitely not, definitely not,” he said with a smile. “Probably after Week 3 I stopped feeling like a rookie. And guys tell me all the time, 'we need you to play, we don't need you to be a rookie right now.' So kind of forced not to be a rookie.”