Hartnell Leads Revamped Power Play in Win, But Briere, Jagr, Rinaldo Hurt ... Bryz Wants to Be Left Alone

Hartnell Leads Revamped Power Play in Win, But Briere, Jagr, Rinaldo Hurt ... Bryz Wants to Be Left Alone

The Flyers' dual-matinee weekend appeared to get off to a promising start, with a 4-1 win over the New Jersey Devils. But, injuries disclosed both during and after the game could prove to be more important than their resurgent effort after a poor outing against the Islanders, and Ilya Bryzgalov's postgame comments may get as much attention as his stellar in-game play.

Scott Hartnell was among the Flyers who led the way in the win, netting a pair of power play goals, and Bryzgalov had a very strong afternoon in net. Jaromir Jagr left the game with an undisclosed lower body injury, which is concerning, but it may have pushed the Flyers to make a change that helped spark their power play too. After the game, Paul Holmgren stated that Danny Briere has a concussion and will be out indefinitely.

A look at a key timeout, modifications to the power play, some key contributors, and video highlights (both in-game and at Bryz's locker) below.

The Devils seemed to have an early advantage in the game, which was scoreless through the first period due to some good goaltending at both ends. Aided by a pair of power plays, the Devils put nine shots on Ilya Bryzgalov to the Flyers' four.

Jagr left midway through the first period, a situation certainly worth some concern. But, that and another timeout motivational speech by the head coach may have put the wheels in motion for the Flyers to slice through the league's best penalty killing unit and dominate the game's final 35 minutes.

TIMEOUT MASTER
Three minutes into the second period, Lavvy wasn't happy with the effort he was seeing on the ice. As is his wont, he called a timeout. After the game, Hartnell relayed to Coatsey that the message was simple: "Who's gonna play?"

Ice time would be dictated by effort, always a key in Lavvy's coaching style, but something that he needed to emphasize today.

Shift after shift, the Flyers turned up the pressure, leading to quality scoring chances and a few power plays. Then, at 9:30 of the second period, Matt Read added to his NHL rookie-leading goal total, scoring his 15th. Wayne Simmonds, who was among the hardest working players on the ice all game, made the most of a Devils turnover, outworking a pair of them in the corner and emerging with a pass on the tape of Read, who buried one past Martin Brodeur.

CROSSTOWN TRAFFIC
A few minutes later, a Flyers power play that has been struggling to be dangerous on a consistent basis, took to the ice with a new look. With Jagr out, Simmonds drew power play time along with Hartnell and Claude Giroux, with Simmonds taking the low slot and Hartnell finding his way to Jagr's usual post in the mid-to-high slot. With those two in place and the associated Devils traffic, Kimmo Timonen took a shot from the point that found its way into the net. It was hard to initially credit, because both Hartnell and Simmonds had their sticks ready to deflect it. Simmonds quickly pointed back to Hartnell though, who had gotten just enough of it to beat Brodeur.

Fresh off the plane from Carolina, the newest Devil Alexei Ponikarovsky cut the Flyers' lead to one, deflecting a shot of his own to beat Bryz just 28 seconds later.

The Flyers weathered the Devils' comeback effort, and their success on the power play continued in the third period. Scott Hartnell drew a pair of minors as the horn blew to start the second intermission, but he'd tally on the power play again once allowed on the ice again.

Harts was again in the high slot area with Simmonds down low when Giroux executed a great head fake, staring down Kimmo at the point before sending a quick pass to Hartnell, who rifled it home for his 22nd on the season.

Sometimes an empty netter is a meaningless stat padder, but that wasn't the case with the one Simmonds managed today. First, it was a pretty nice backhand shot. But aside from that, he earned the tally with some hard-ass work in the corners and around the crease; he was on the ice for every Flyers goal, assisting on two of them.

With timetables on Briere and Jagr unknown, it is at least encouraging to be reminded of the Flyers' depth today. Also good to see Giroux with a two-point day.

Notes:
Eleven of Hartnell's 22 goals this season have come on the power play. It's the third time this season he has scored twice in a game.

According to Flyers PR, this was Simmonds' first career three-point game.

Dave Isaac says Tom Sestito and Ben Holmstrom will be called up to play tomorrow against Boston.

BRYZ...
Unfortunately, there will be understandable attention on Ilya Bryzgalov's response to the questions he was asked after the win. Here's the video of that.

In summary, "Who cares. Stop worrying about me. Worry about different things. Too much in the media, everywhere around, like 'How you feel? What's going on? What we should have to do with him?'—Leave me alone, guys. Just let me be me and let me play hockey."

I don't think the reporters were necessarily out for blood so much as a quote updating the oft-scrutinized status the team's key off-season acquisition. It is indeed very fair territory. But, it's also well-traveled territory, and it's easy to see Bryz's side of it. In fact, count me in favor of the media heeding the wishes of both the team earlier in the season and the goalie right now, and having a few fewer rounds at the open bar that is often served at Bryz's locker stall.

Yes, it's part of the job, and I don't intend this as an indictment of the media, though we know the group has had some scrapes with Flyers players before. Today was reminiscent of Mike Richards' "Same Questions…" eye-rolling reaction.

We all enjoy the Bryzgalisms, and he knew (or at least was warned) that this would come with the territory when he signed here and left media (and fan) devoid Phoenix. Hell I'm taking the bait right now, posting and commenting on his statement. But I think most fans would rather have shutouts and one-goal performances than responses to questions about current or past struggles. At least I would. Feel free to disagree of course.

Who's to say whether the scrutiny has anything to do with the struggles. The media certainly can't be blamed for them. But, there's at least evidence that it bothers him. Whether today's response will have Bryzgalov's desired effect or the complete opposite remains to be seen. At least one person in the room seemed to get a pretty good laugh out of it (though for all we know, it was directed at something else).

Here's another Bryz video to clean the palate.

National champion Villanova to be honored at White House next week

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USA Today Images

National champion Villanova to be honored at White House next week

It's been nearly two months since Villanova won the National Championship in one of the most memorable games in NCAA Tournament history.

Since then, the Wildcats have been honored by the city (parade), the New York Stock Exchange (opening bell), the Phillies (first pitch), the Flyers and the Union. Earlier this week, head coach Jay Wright addressed the Eagles.

But that will all pale in comparison to where the Wildcats will be next Tuesday, when they become the latest championship team to visit the White House and meet President Barack Obama.

The ceremony is scheduled to begin at 4:10 p.m. and will be streamed on www.whitehouse.gov/live.

In his pool, President Obama had Villanova finally advancing past the second round — "I know that eventually they're going to break through. They've had some bad luck over the last couple of years," Obama told ESPN.com — but had the Wildcats falling to Kansas in the regional semifinal.

He then had Kansas beating North Carolina to win the title.

After surviving the first weekend for the first time since their Final Four run in 2009, Villanova ousted Kansas, 64-59, before shocking Buddy Hield and Oklahoma in the national semifinal, winning by 44. The Wildcats then won one of the most memorable championship games in NCAA Tournament history when Kris Jenkins hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to beat the Tar Heels, 77-74.

Union transfer contract of Michael Lahoud to Miami FC

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Union transfer contract of Michael Lahoud to Miami FC

The Union have cashed in on Michael Lahoud.

After terminating his loan to the New York Cosmos on Tuesday, the Union recalled Lahoud and officially sold the 29-year-old midfielder to Miami FC of the NASL for an undisclosed amount.

“Mike always served the club in a professional manner during his time here,” said Union sporting director Earnie Stewart, who loaned Lahoud to the Cosmos this offseason. “We thank him for his service and want to wish him the best of luck in Miami and in his future endeavors.”

Lahoud, whose prorated $115,637.50 guaranteed salary comes off the Union’s salary cap, was acquired in 2012 in a trade with Chivas USA for defender Danny Califf. He made 58 appearances with the Union before being loaned out.

Eagles' left guard job is Allen Barbre's, but backups are pushing

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Eagles' left guard job is Allen Barbre's, but backups are pushing

Allen Barbre is the Eagles’ starting left guard.

For now.

The 31-year-old offensive lineman started all 16 games at left guard in 2015, and as of Tuesday at OTAs, he was still a starter for Doug Pederson’s new-look offense.

But that could change.

There are several players pushing for the left guard spot. Among them are Stefen Wisniewski, Malcolm Bunche, Isaac Seumalo and Andrew Gardner.

“I definitely am trying to start somewhere,” said Wisniewski, a free-agent signing. “I think I would be a good starting left guard.”

Wisniewski, 27, signed a one-year prove-it deal in early April to join the Eagles (see story). After being taken in the second round of the 2011 draft, Wisniewski has started 77 of 80 possible games in the NFL. He clearly views himself as a starter in the NFL.

For the last two weeks, he’s been working with the second team at guard and center.

“Yeah, it’s weird. It’s definitely weird,” Wisniewski said. “I haven’t spent much time with the twos in five years. Probably a week or two. So it’s definitely different, but I’m just looking at it as a temporary thing, though.”

This offseason, the Eagles added veteran Brandon Brooks to play right guard, taking over for Matt Tobin, but Barbre is still slotted on the left side. In fact, to hammer the point home, the starting offensive linemen have their lockers in a row in the deep corner of the locker room, from left to right: Jason Peters, Barbre, Jason Kelce, Brooks, Lane Johnson.

So, as of late May, Barbre is still the starter.

“I really like where we're at. I like the depth at that position right now,” Pederson said last week. “But yeah, Allen Barbre is my guy and he's our starter.”

Wisniewski is the most accomplished of the backups pushing for that starting left guard spot, but he’s not alone.

Bunche, who was on the Eagles’ practice squad in 2015 after going undrafted out of UCLA, has been working with the second team at left guard during practice. And the second-year player thinks he has a shot at the starting job too.

“Oh yes. But not just that one,” Bunche said. “Throughout the season, anything can happen. That’s one thing that [offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland], he talks about it a lot, you never know when you’re number is going to be called. You just gotta stay in tune with what’s being called, the play-calling, the different techniques going into certain games. I feel I have an opportunity to take that spot if I wanted to. My mindset it to come in and get better each and every day.”

Another possible starting left guard isn’t with the team right now. Third-round pick Seumalo, from Oregon State, is back at school because of the NFL graduation rule and Oregon State’s quarters system. He would be a logical choice to compete for that starting job, but he’s missing valuable time at OTAs.

Meanwhile, Barbre, who had started just eight total games in his seven-year career before 2015, is trying to stave off his competitors. The veteran knows the team brought in a bunch of new offensive linemen this offseason (they have 17 on the roster). He just doesn’t care.

“Honestly, I wasn’t really worried about that,” Barbre said Tuesday. “Honestly, I thought I played fairly decent (in 2015), if you studied the film and you understood what went on. There was a lot of stuff that was tough on the O-line, so it made it kind of tough on us.”

The criticism of the offensive line last season was loud, especially criticism of the guard positions, but Barbre did his best to avoid it.  

“I don’t even read it,” he said. “Honestly, I don’t even care. You guys got your jobs and I have my job. We all have different things we have to do.”

Right now, Barbre’s job is to hold onto that starting spot, while Wisniewski and the rest try to steal it away.