Flyers-Sabres Game 3: The Buffalo Stand

Flyers-Sabres Game 3: The Buffalo Stand

Just two games into the opening round of the 2011 playoffs, we've already had plenty to dissect and discuss. Fortunately, despite being shut out in game 1 and having the starting goalie chased in game 2, the Flyers appear to in a decent place as the series moves to Buffalo.

After being shut out, they came right at Ryan Miller on Saturday, with the goalie seemingly upset at the activity in and around his crease on a few occasions. I don't know that that's what led to his allowing five goals, but it certainly didn't hurt. We'll be looking for more of the same tonight, hopefully to similar effect. 

Brian Boucher takes the reins in net for the Flyers after confidently shutting down the Sabres for 46 minutes on Saturday. We know he's capable of winning some playoff games and series, but we've also seen Boosh come up small on occasion. He's now in a career- and legacy-defining scenario, and seemingly very confident. He'll need to be pretty good in order to keep the Flyers moving in the right direction in this series, and a win to open the Buffalo set would be huge.

Nik Zherdev also has a big night ahead of him, provided he gets some minutes. His previous playoff resume is abysmal, but limited in sample size to one postseason with the Rangers. This is a guy very much playing for his next contract though, and with Andreas Nodl sidelined, he has an opportunity to make his mark on a prominent stage. Danny Briere has seen some great success in Buffalo, both as a Sabre and against them. Hopefully his former home crowd will boo and remind him why they're mad he left. JVR and Giroux are off to a good start this series, and the scoring depth for the moment looks as it should. 

I liked the intensity I saw in most of both of the first two games, and I think we'll get more of that tonight. The Flyers should know they are the better team, and hopefully they'll sense the blood in the water and attack rather than lay back. Buffalo may not be known for much other than losing Super Bowls and chicken wings (two things we know a little about here as well), but HSBC Arena is once again an explosive place to see some hockey. Those fans will be ready tonight, and the Flyers will definitely be in hostile territory. Fortunately, they've shown they can play in opposing barns, earning the top road record in the Eastern Conference this regular season. 

Huge night for the Orange & Black. Any predictions? Standout Stars?

Report: Nerlens Noel upset with Sixers' situation at center

Report: Nerlens Noel upset with Sixers' situation at center

After being in the middle of trade rumors over the last few months, Nerlens Noel appears to frustrated with his situation with the Sixers, according to the Inquirer's Keith Pompey.

The Sixers have three starting-caliber centers — Noel, Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid, who's now healthy — heading into this season.

"I think it's just silly," Noel told Pompey. "With the departure of [former general manager and president] Sam Hinkie, I would have figured that management would be able to set something done this summer.

"Don't get me wrong. We all get along great on the court and off the court. But at the end of the day, it's like having three starting quarterbacks. It doesn't make any sense.

"And it's just not going to work to anybody's advantage having that on the same team. That's how I'm looking at it. I'm not opposed to anything, but things need to be situated."

The Sixers flirted with having two big men on the court at the same time last season, with Noel and Okafor but with no real success. 

He has a point, and the team knows it.

During the summer, reports swirled saying the Sixers were looking to trade either Noel or Okafor for backcourt help.

Noel, who's in the final year of his rookie contract, doesn't appear to believe the current situation will work.

"I think something needs to happen," he said.

Darren Sproles 'amazing' 73-yard TD set tone for fun 2nd half vs. Steelers

Darren Sproles 'amazing' 73-yard TD set tone for fun 2nd half vs. Steelers

When Darren Sproles caught the nifty touch pass from Carson Wentz around midfield, there was little doubt about what would happen next.

"Touchdown," running back Kenjon Barner said after the Eagles' stunning 34-3 shellacking of the Steelers (see Instant Replay)
 
Really? With that many yards to go?

"Touchdown," he said. "As soon as he caught the ball. There was nobody there. That guy in the open field — you're not going to bring him down by yourself. With that much space — touchdown."

Barner wasn't the only one.

"Man, it's Sproles! Did you think he was going to get tackled?" receiver Nelson Agholor said incredulously. 

Uhh …

"Man, listen, it's Darren Sproles, and if you second-guessed him, then I don't know what you're thinking," he said. "I'm surprised if he gets tackled."

So is center Jason Kelce. 

"I was actually celebrating before he scored the touchdown, because I watched the whole thing unfold," Kelce said. "It was just a great play. [Wentz] scrambles out and then has the common sense to when the defender comes to him to dump it over top to Sproles, and that dude, once he gets the ball in space, it's incredibly special."

It sure was. 

First, Wentz stepped away from charging defensive end Stephon Tuitt, who had gotten away from Allen Barbre. 

“I came out and saw Sproles and he just turned up the field,” Wentz said. “Anytime that you can put it in [his hands], something special can happen on any play, and he did the rest of it.” 

Wentz did a little more than that (see story). After escaping the sack, he rushed to his right and made a right turn. Then he parallelled the line of scrimmage, drawing linebacker Ryan Shazier toward him — and allowing Sproles to get wide open.

Whoops.

"I thought he crossed the line of scrimmage, so I ran up," Shazier said. "It was my fault."

Sproles caught the pass, snaked his way the remaining 50 yards, spinning Steelers rookie safety Sean Davis around a couple times and watching rookie corner Artie Burns flail at him helplessly right before crossing the goal line.

"When they do that, it kind of gets everyone off their job when he extends the play like that," Davis said. "Me being a deep player, I just tried to buy us some time once I saw that we got broken down and let the defense rally up, and it's just a good play [by] him."

An amazing play. It was a 73-yard touchdown on the fourth play of the third quarter, a 3rd-and-8, and put the Eagles up 20-3 (see 10 observations). It was the second-longest catch of Sproles' career and longest since 2009 while with the Chargers (an 81-yarder vs. Baltimore). It was easily the longest TD of Wentz’s career and a main reason he was able to become only the second rookie in team history to reach 300 passing yards in a game (Nick Foles is the other).

“It was so much fun,” offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. “Those are the kinds of plays you can’t design. It’s players making plays. … Sproles did his thing and wiggled down there, and it was fun to watch.”

That’s what Agholor should have done. Just watch.

"I was trying to chase him down and almost pulled my hamstring," Agholor said. 

"You see those moves he put on them? Pffft. And DGB (Dorial Green-Beckham) ran downfield — that downfield block. Think about that. We were having a lot of fun tonight man, and I'm very happy about that."

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