Flyers-Sabres Game 2: Split 'Em Up

Flyers-Sabres Game 2: Split 'Em Up

The Flyers may have yielded a chunk of their home ice advantage with their loss on Thursday night, but with a win today and a split in the first pair, the Eastern Conference's top road team should still be in plenty good shape. Despite the frustrating 1-0 result, the Flyers showed some great things in the opener. There's certainly room for some very specific improvements though, and no room for regression in any areas. 

 

Image by Fresh Design/Doug Zenzel

For instance, they can't afford not to come out hungry and ready to hit and grind out puck battles. That was something they did well early in the opener and can't dial back at all. If anything, they need to ratchet it up, and they have to keep it going whether they falter or not. The Sabres showed that they can exploit a mistake, and to be honest, I don't think we saw the best of what they have to offer either. The Flyers need to prepare for an even better Buffalo effort today. And, as just about everyone has rightly suggested, they need to do a better job of making Ryan Miller uncomfortable. 

They appeared to be well on their way to executing that strategy in game 1, when before the five-minute mark, they already had Miller throwing his catching glove into Mike Richards' face. They seemed to let up though, and after their power play's futility climaxed with a failed half-minute of 5-on-3 action and the Sabres found the net, the Flyers were pressing in the wrong ways. Carrying the puck into traffic. Shooting at defenders (although credit the Sabres for some masterful shot blocking). I'm all for confidence, but not if it's going to lead to turnovers. 

Today, it's gotta be somebody's job to trespass, if not vandalize, that crease. Scottie Hartnell, you know your talents. Of course, it doesn't have to be any one guy, and the other edge of the sword is the need to stay out of the box to the degree possible. Hartnell is a known goalie antagonist, and he and the others will be watched for exactly this strategy. 

On the right side of the law, the Flyers need to generate more traffic out in front, with any luck doubling up the screen width by keeping a defender busy in tight as well. The problem is, Ryan Miller is pretty good at picking up shots through screens, as he showed on Thursday. The Flyers actually did a lot of the stuff they need to do today, it just didn't happen for them due to a combination of missed targets, great goalie positioning, and blocked shots. 

Defensively, the Flyers were very good overall. If they replicate that effort, and Sergei Bobrovsky can be as solid as he was on Thursday, that should be enough to support an offensive showing of two or three goals. 

A few of us will be at the game today, so it may be a while before you hear anything further. 

LET'S GO FLYERS

The Sixers are for real (and Sam Hinkie had nothing to do with it)

The Sixers are for real (and Sam Hinkie had nothing to do with it)

The biggest sports story in town in the Sixers, winners of 4 of 5 and an exhilarating team on the floor, led by a superstar player who seems to actually get us as a fan base. And to think, all it took to bring us to this point was getting rid of Sam Hinkie.

Look at what a dark place the Sixers were in a year ago. They were in last place, with the league’s worst roster and no hope for the future except for a bunch of ill-defined future draft picks. And they were led by a general manager with absolutely zero interest in winning, explaining himself, or (worst of all) appearing on the WIP Morning Show. 

But now, there’s hope. Joel Embiid is the real deal. The supporting cast is rapidly improving, with guys like T.J. McConnell, Robert Covington and Dario Saric looking like valuable supporting players, and Ben Simmons joining them very soon. 

I know the Hinkie apologists are going to say these improvements are because of him and that he deserves credit -- please. To credit Hinkie with drafting Joel Embiid is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of in all my years of watching Philadelphia sports. We all know Hinkie wanted Andrew Wiggins -- therefore, he gets no credit for drafting Embiid. And as Bob Brookover pointed out last week, Embiid is a Sixer because of luck.  

Ben Simmons, of course, was drafted by Bryan Colangelo, who also acquired the best Sixer since Thaddeus Young, Ersan Ilyasova. And if the two first-round picks next year turn out to be stars, Colangelo will get credit for those, too

Hinkie did things like draft three centers in a  row, take Jahlil Okafor over Kristaps Porzingis, trade valuable players like Michael Carter-Williams and K.J. McDaniels for nothing, and sign no veterans at all for three years. 

Joel Embiid is a winner, Sam Hinkie is a loser, and that’s all there is to it.  

In other Sixers news, it was nice to see Simmons warming up on the court last week against Boston- when Embiid did that, it meant he was 16-18 months away from returning to action. In the last two years, the Sixers lead the league in pre-game social media posts featuring players who aren’t active for that night’s game. 

And speaking of records, congrats to Nerlens Noel for breaking Shane Victorino’s longstanding local athlete record for use of “you know” in a single interview, when he talked to Woj last week

Other Philly sports takes: 

The Cowboys’ loss to the Packers on Sunday proves two things: Dak Prescott is a fraud, and the Cowboys were never very good anyway. The only reason they went 13-3 was the easy schedule. 

Can you believe Allen Iverson getting photographed in a Cowboys jersey? Doesn’t he know the rules? If you play in Philly, you must root for every one of the city’s teams, regardless of circumstance, for the rest of your life. 

Even so, shame on the Knicks’ Derrick Rose for no-showing a game. If you want to be a legendary NBA guard, you’re supposed to skip PRACTICES, not games. Not a game. 

Angelo made a good point: Embiid is so perfect as a Philadelphia athlete that it makes me notice how much Carson Wentz isn’t. Hunting trips? Shotgun gifts? Getting locked in a gas station bathroom? That’s just not cutting it. Carson, immediately, needs to start drinking Shirley Temples, imitating pro wrestler entrances, and insulting porn stars on Instagram, or else I fear he won’t last in this town. 

Another good column by Marcus Hayes -- the Eagles must sacrifice multiple draft picks to trade up for wide receiver Mike Williams. Whatever it takes. 

Come on Eagles- no room on the staff for either of Buddy’s sons? How about both? 

Follow @FakeWIPCaller on Twitter. 

Penn State men's hockey ranked No. 1 for first time in program history

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AP Images

Penn State men's hockey ranked No. 1 for first time in program history

At 16-2-1, Penn State's men's hockey team is ranked first in the nation for the first time in program history.

The Nittany Lions have improved each of the last four years under head coach Guy Gadowsky. 

Their record by year:

      2013-14: 8-26-2
      2014-15: 18-15-4
Last season: 21-13-4
This season: 16-2-1

Penn State received 30 of 50 first-place votes in the USCHO Division I poll. Denver is ranked No. 2, followed by Boston University, Minnesota-Duluth and Massachusetts-Lowell (see USCHO poll).

Penn State was ranked fourth last week before sweeping Michigan State.