Flyers-Penguins: This Is Why We Watch

Flyers-Penguins: This Is Why We Watch

The simplest way I can think of to put this rivalry in
perspective is this: the standings do not matter one bit today. They will again tomorrow,
especially should the Flyers falter, but at this moment all anybody really needs
to be concerned with is getting geared up for one intense showdown.

Flyers versus Penguins is the premier matchup in the NHL right now, and not just in Philadelphia
or Pittsburgh, but anywhere. It’s the night of the week you look forward to, have
to plan your schedule around, because you know these teams are gonna deliver the
goods. Any given meeting between the two could turn into a classic right before
your eyes.

Just like their last tilt on February 20, a 6-5 slugfest
that could be considered the early favorite for NHL game of the year. That battle
epitomized everything this tug-of-war has been about over the last year:
fast-paced, end-to-end action; relentless physicality fostered by distaste for the
opponent; high drama amid a playoff atmosphere from the moment the puck drops until
the final horn sounds.

A heavyweight fight that pits two of the most highly-skilled
teams in their sport against one another, representing fan bases who absolutely
detest each other.

Is your heart racing yet?

Philly has been getting the better of things lately,
especially since the rivalry turned molten last season. The Bullies of course were
responsible for the Pens’ first-round playoff exit this past April, while going
9-4-1 in regular season encounters dating back to 2010-’11.

But as Tim Pinaccio writes this morning, the enemy might be
getting a little too cozy in the Flyers’ building. Under head coach Dan Bylsma,
the Penguins are 8-2-1 at the Wells Fargo Center, which provides the backdrop
for tonight’s clash.

No surprise, Ilya Bryzgalov is in net tonight for the Orange
& Black. Billy hasn’t exactly looked like an all-world goaltender against
the Penguins during the past two seasons – though to be fair, few people do. Bylsma
won’t make the same mistake twice in Pitt’s crease, opting to go with Marc-Andre Fleury over the backup this time around. Tomas Vokoun flopped around like
a fish out of water for most of last month’s 6-5 loss.

On the injury front, the Flyers might be receiving
reinforcements. It sounds like Matt Read will be making his return to the ice several
weeks earlier than anticipated. Nicklas Grossmann on the other hand was lost to
a lower-body injury in New York on Tuesday, and would be replaced in the lineup
by Kurtis Foster if he can’t go.

The contest is scheduled to begin at 7:00, with the standard
two points on the line, but one thing you definitely don’t have to worry about
is either side mailing it in or just going through the motions. There’s no need
for any extra motivation.

We're fairly certain both clubs would want to beat the hell out of the other tonight, whether the Stanley Cup was hanging in the balance, or there was nothing else at stake at all.

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Joel Embiid not named All-Star starter, can still make it as reserve

Joel Embiid not named All-Star starter, can still make it as reserve

Joel Embiid will have to hope NBA coaches trust the process.

Embiid on Thursday was not named a starter in the 2017 NBA All-Star Game. LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jimmy Butler locked in the three Eastern Conference frontcourt spots. Kyrie Irving and DeMar DeRozan rounded out the backcourt.

James (25.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 8.1 assists) and Antetokounmpo (23.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, 5.6 assists) were locks as starters. That left Butler, Kevin Love and Embiid as the next in contention. Butler is a two-time All-Star averaging 24.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists in 36.8 minutes for the 21-22 Bulls. Love is posting 20.7 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 31.6 minutes per game on the Eastern Conference-leading, 29-11 Cavaliers.

The Western Conference starting spots went to Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis. 

The voting was made up of fan votes (50 percent), player votes (25 percent) and media votes (25 percent). Embiid has a chance to be voted in by the NBA coaches, whose reserve selections will be announced on Jan. 26. 

Embiid would have been named a starter had the results been based on fan voting (50 percent). He finished third ahead of Love and Butler.

Embiid was in the running for a starting role during a breakout rookie season. He is averaging 19.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in 25.4 minutes per game. Even though his playing time is capped at 28 minutes, he ranks seventh among all players in scoring per 48 minutes. He is eighth overall in free throw attempts per game (7.9) and 10th in those made (6.2).

Embiid had obstacles, though, when it came to the voting: rookie status, 28-minute restriction, limited games played (29) because of his allocated workload, and the Sixers’ record.

Even though the All-Star Game highlights individual achievements, team record is often taken into consideration. The Sixers have won seven of their last nine games (see story), but still stand well below .500 at 14-26.

When it came to the players’ vote, it is hard for a rookie who hasn’t even competed against every team in the league to make a strong enough impression for another player to influence their perception of the top talent. Embiid finished outside of the top five in the players' vote, behind James, Antetokounmpo, Butler, Paul George and Kristaps Porzingis. Meanwhile, the Sixers' big man finished fifth in the media vote.

Embiid and the Sixers were very active in pushing for the fan votes. Embiid received the social media support of celebrities including Triple H, Kevin Hart and MLB MVP Mike Trout, among others. The Sixers promoted Embiid through a Shirley Temple campaign based on his favorite drink.

Embiid picked up major steam in the last week of voting. He had trailed Love by 16,028 fan votes in the second returns on Jan. 12.

He took to Twitter to express his gratitude.

Chip Kelly still jobless after swinging and missing with Jaguars

Chip Kelly still jobless after swinging and missing with Jaguars

Chip Kelly's job search continues.

The beloved (sarcasm) former Eagles head coach reportedly interviewed for the Jaguars' offensive coordinator opening. However, on Wednesday night, Jacksonville announced it was retaining Nathaniel Hackett as its OC.

“We are excited to announce Nathaniel Hackett as our offensive coordinator and he will immediately be tasked with installing and implementing our offense this offseason,” Jaguars new head coach Doug Marrone said in a statement from the team. “I have had the pleasure of working with Nathaniel for seven consecutive seasons and know firsthand how knowledgeable and passionate he is about winning.”

So, Kelly swung and miss twice on the Jaguars, as he reportedly interviewed for Jacksonville's head coaching job, as well.

"I’m not going to close the door on any opportunity, but I have to be very smart in what I do next,” Kelly said, via CSNBayArea.com, two days after his firing as 49ers head coach. “I don’t have to take anything, but I wouldn’t rule anything out. I need to make sure that I’m in the right situation.

“I don’t know what the future holds. I’ll do my due diligence. I’m not going to coach just to coach.”

Kelly's decline is staggering, even if you saw it coming.

Look at this NFL coaching history ...

With Eagles in 2013: 10-6, wild-card playoff berth
With Eagles in 2014: 10-6, missed playoffs
With Eagles in 2015: 6-9, fired before final regular-season game
With 49ers in 2016: 2-14, fired after regular season

Who knows what's next for the Chipper?