Groundhog Day: Flyers Survive Another Early Hole, Bryz Awesome, G Scores, Danny Doesn't

Groundhog Day: Flyers Survive Another Early Hole, Bryz Awesome, G Scores, Danny Doesn't

Strike up the music, the band has begun… the Philadelphia Polka. The Flyers conceded an early goal, yet tied it up and eventually won. 
They've now allowed the first goal in 15 of their last 20 games and led during the first 10 minutes only twice in the last 47 games while trailing 20 times (per the broadcast team). 
In this case, the early goal was just 26 seconds in, and the game-winner came in the shootout. Ilya Bryzgalov handled just about everything in between while Peter Laviolette attempted some line-juggling to jumpstart a dormant offense, and the Flyers left the ice with a 2-1 shootout win over the Washington Capitals. 
Claude Giroux was at times double-shifted in regulation and overtime, and his 27th goal of the season was another dazzler. It's bound to en-ter-tain ya… 
A look at G's jaw-dropper and more, below. 
Of course it's frustrating to see the Flyers allow a goal early again, and their lack of offense is puzzling. But, they don't appear to be overwhelmed by what isn't working for them. Bryz is keeping them in games, and even the shootout isn't posing the automatic-loss issues it once did. Even when the goals aren't coming, there's no quit in them. Wasn't long ago the team wearing this crest often had the opposite problem. 
Alex Ovechkin netted the Caps goal before the beer lines had thinned out. Bryz blockered a puck to the corner, and his defense lost the battle for it there, and when it came back to his crease. When the puck came back to the crease, Bryz tried to poke it away under pressure, but it went right to Ovechkin, who buried it. 
The Caps had the better end of some see-saw action throughout portions of the first, but the Flyers were also strong, particularly later in the frame. It wasn't the most exciting game overall, and right around the time I started wondering if there'd be any excitement in this one, the Flyers found their equalizer. 
Jaromir Jagr sent a sweet outlet pass to Giroux, who turned Dennis Wideman inside out, then got Caps goalie Braden Holtby to bite early. 
Only time all night that Holtby looked lost. He was stellar throughout, beaten only once before the shootout. But man, just look at this:
So G'd. 
Bryzgalov would ultimately outduel Holtby, stopping Marcus Johansson on a penalty shot and getting beat only once in the shootout. (And boy did Matt Hendricks beat him then.)
Conventional dekes were no match for Holtby in the shootout, with both Giroux and Danny Briere stoned on their moves. But Matt Read opened the affair with a quick shot as he glided up the slot, and Wayne Simmonds did the same to beat Holtby with the game-winner. 
Bryz then stopped Troy Brouwer and raised his hands to the rafters. Great to see that rather than another reverse snow-angel like after the Hendricks goal. 
All of a sudden, early holes and shootouts aren't so scary. But, we'd be just as happy not seeing another of either the rest of the way. Wayne Train? Wayne Train.
POSTGAME FUNBryzgalov once again had no interest in talking to the assembled media. He alternated cliché-quotes with refusals and shushings, and if that's in any way helping his comfort level, there isn't a hockey fan in the Tri-State Area who would have it any other way. If he doesn't want to talk after wins or answer questions about his game, we'll survive. Also, reporters keep asking about his confidence, a buzz word that silences him night after night (yet, the question keeps coming despite the response it elicits and the fact that he's clearly been confident over the past month). 
Meanwhile, Jagr again joked that the Flyers should start Sergei Bobrovsky and then bring in Bryz after the first shot. Joked being the key word, of course. Note: Jagr is not opposed to laughing at his own material. 

NOTESGiroux's goal gave him 85 points on the season—good for both second in the NHL and also the highest total for a Flyer since Mark Recchi put up 91 in 1999-2000. 
Bryz's stop on the penalty shot didn't appear to involve contact with the puck. Marcus Johansson lost control of it as he went for the shot, and Bryz's poke attempt upended him. Photographer Eric Hartline knows what I'm talkin about:+ Physics =

Sean Couturier's line(s) effectively silenced Washington's top line after that opening shift. 
The trio of Schenn, Briere, and Simmonds didn't find the scoresheet, but they worked as hard a line can throughout. 48 and 17 will get theirs soon. Right?
Kinda mind-blowing that Ned Ryerson from Groundhog Day is the well-endowed movie producer on the current season of Californication. Which is awful, btw. 
For about 7 of the last 10 minutes of regulation, the Caps were held without a shot on goal. In overtime, the puck was rarely out of their zone. Amazing this game ended 1-1. 
Why did it? The Flyers failed to get quality shots in many cases, either opting for the extra pass, firing wide, or being effectively kept outside of dangerous angles. They seemed stagnant as the Caps gave them the edges but put sticks on them as they turned toward the goal. The vertical attack is lacking right now. 
Peter Forsberg was in the house! (See below)
HIGHLIGHTS

All photos by the great Eric Hartline, US Presswire.

Eagles Stay or Go Part 6: Taylor Hart to Donnie Jones

Eagles Stay or Go Part 6: Taylor Hart to Donnie Jones

In the sixth of our 12-part offseason series examining the future of the Eagles, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro give their opinions on who will be and who won't be on the roster in 2017. We go alphabetically — part 6 is Hart to Jones.

Taylor Hart

Roob: No matter how hard the Eagles try, they just can't get rid of Taylor Hart. Chip Kelly drafted Hart in the fifth round in 2014 and then Hart began last season with Kelly in San Francisco before reappearing here later in the season. Hart is going into his fourth NFL season and has 15 games, 12 tackles and no sacks to show for it. He turns 26 next month and has never shown any signs of being a guy who can contribute in a 4-3 defense. I’m going to say he goes, but don't be surprised if he finds his way back onto the roster at some point. 

Verdict: GOES

Dave: Hart was with the Eagles last training camp but cut him on Sept. 4 and he was claimed by the 49ers and Chip Kelly. Then when the Niners cut him, the Eagles claimed him back and he spent the rest of the season watching the Eagles play football. He was inactive in all but the last game and in that one he didn’t play. Hart is a former fifth-round pick who just fits better in a 3-4. The Eagles already played undrafted rookie Destiny Vaeao over him, so it’s time to set him free. 

Verdict: GOES

Jordan Hicks
Cap hit: $796K

Roob: Whenever you blast Chip for getting rid of Shady, DeSean and Jeremy Maclin, you have to mention that he did draft Jordan Hicks in the third round. Hicks, in just 24 games, has become one of the most productive playmaking linebackers in Eagles history. With seven interceptions, he already has the 11th-most interceptions in franchise history by a linebacker, and he led all NFL linebackers with five INTs this past season. Only four linebackers in NFL history have had more interceptions in their first two seasons – Hall of Famer Jack Ham is one of them. But Hicks is more than a ballhawk. He’s a smart, heady linebacker who is stout at the point of attack and is already developing into a terrific locker room leader as well. The future is certainly bright for Hicks.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: He just finished his second year in the NFL, but Hicks is quickly becoming one of the biggest playmaking linebackers in the league. Through the first 24 games of his career, he has seven interceptions. In his first two years, he has 7 INTs, 4 FRs, 1 FF. He’s the fifth player in NFL history to do that in his first two seasons and he’s the only linebacker. That said, Hicks needs to get better against the run and he knows it. Now that he won’t have an injury to heal from this offseason, he plans on hitting the weight room to get stronger and better at stopping the run. He looks like a cornerstone of the franchise. 

Verdict: STAYS

Malcolm Jenkins
Cap hit: $7.5M

Roob: Jenkins had another good year in his third season with the Eagles, although not quite up to his Pro Bowl level of 2015. Jenkins, who turns 30 late next season, is on the books for another four years with some pretty high cap figures — $7.5 million in 2017, then $10 million, $9.75 million and $9.25 million. But as long as Jenkins continues to play at a high level, I don’t see him going anywhere until after the 2018 season at the earliest, when he would count just $3 million in dead money if he’s released. But Jenkins is a guy you'd like to see finish his career in Philly. Hope that happens. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: It’s hard to quantify just how much Jenkins means to the Eagles or how much he’s worth. But it’s a lot. The last two seasons have been the best of his career and he’s shown no signs of slowing down. The best Jenkins stat is this: He’s missed just eight defensive snaps since arriving in 2013. Unreal. If the Eagles chose to play him at cornerback last year, he would have probably been their best one. 

Verdict: STAYS

Lane Johnson
Cap hit: $10M

Roob: If he goes, it’ll be because of a third positive drug test. Johnson’s play in the six games he was available to the Eagles was at an All-Pro level. But after two positive tests for banned substances and suspensions of four games in 2014 and 10 games in 2016, he’s now one positive test away from a two-year ban that would essentially end his Eagles career. My gut feeling is Johnson has learned his lesson and won’t take any more chances. That he understands what’s at stake here and isn’t going to risk his career by taking a supplement that hasn’t been pre-tested and cleared. Obviously there are other reasons the Eagles were 5-1 when Johnson played. Those five wins included games against the hapless Browns and Bears and a win against a Cowboys team that wasn’t trying to win. But that said, Johnson’s value is clear. He's a beast. It’s up to Johnson whether he becomes a Pro Bowl offensive tackle or a casualty of the NFL’s substance abuse regulations. I can’t imagine he’ll make the same mistake again.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: A lot was made about Johnson’s suspension voiding the guaranteed portion of his contract. And for a week or so, a bunch of fans were calling into talk radio saying the Eagles should cut him. That was laughable. Johnson is still the Eagles’ best offensive player and as long as he stays on the field and plays the way he did in 2016, he’s going to make most of the money in his contract. He obviously deserves plenty of blame for the way last season went, but he’s a big piece of the future. One more suspension and his career is basically over, so the Eagles just have to hope he doesn’t ruin everything.  

Verdict: STAYS

Marcus Johnson

Roob: Johnson is an interesting guy. Ran a 4.37 so he has wheels, but he didn’t have much of a career at Texas. Then again, Texas didn’t have a legit quarterback while he was there so maybe there’s a lot of untapped potential. The Eagles are so desperate for help at wide receiver they’ll take a good long look at everybody on the roster, even a guy who bounced off and on the practice squad last year. This Longhorn is a longshot to make the roster, but then again, if he catches the football consistently in training camp he’ll give himself a fighting chance.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: The receiver was with the Eagles during training camp and flashed some before getting hurt. He joined the practice squad during the season and was there at season’s end. He’ll be brought to camp but is a longshot to make the roster. 

Verdict: GOES

Donnie Jones
Cap hit: $1.25M

Roob: At 36 years old, the greatest punter in Eagles history (sorry Mat McBriar) showed no signs of slowing down. In his 13th NFL season, Jones averaged 45.8 yards per punt with a 40.7 net – both above his career highs. The most amazing thing about Jones is his knack for dropping punts inside the 20 without hitting very many touchbacks. He had 21 inside the 20 this year with just six touchbacks, and in four seasons with the Eagles he has 117 inside the 20 with just 26 touchbacks. When you don’t have an explosive offense, field position is critical, and Jones is a human field position flipping machine. The Eagles signed him to a three-year extension this year, and he’s now under contract through 2019.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: At times during the last two seasons, Jones has looked like the offense’s best weapon. That’s not a good sign for the offense, but it is for Jones. He’s already the best punter in team history. He’ll be 37 by the time the 2017 season starts, but he just signed a contract and will be the team’s punter for at least a couple more years if everything goes to plan. 

Verdict: STAYS