Ill Communication: Flyers' Lapses Ugly in Loss to Blues

Ill Communication: Flyers' Lapses Ugly in Loss to Blues

Philly sports fans had just one game to tune in to or catch down at the complex this weekend, and after having watched it… I hope you had something better to do. If so, but you still want The Update, read on.

For the second straight game, the Flyers outshot their opponents yet lost convincingly. Despite coming off a night of rest when the Blues were playing for the second time in as many days, and had arrived in Philadelphia close to 4 AM, the Flyers were outplayed by St. Louis on Saturday night and lost by a 4-2 count.

Defensive miscues and poor communication between the blueliners and goaltender combined with some good bounces for the Blues to doom the Flyers, who had trouble with pucks and players close to their own net. Credit Blues goalie Brian Elliott for giving his team the opportunity to win this one, and his forwards for cashing in when the Flyers defense and goaltending failed to do the same. There was definitely plenty to talk about after this one, though a lot
of it isn't entirely pleasant.

All that and some video highlights below.

It's only two games, so we're not going to spend too much time worrying about it, but the Flyers' fast start has settled into some inconsistency that is understandable with a team that has seen so many changes, many involving a lot of young players and a new goaltender. There's definitely some work to be done here... 

GET IT TOGETHER
After the game, Bryzgalov emphasized the need to simplify the communication between himself and the defense.

“We
have to establish it because it needs to be very simple. We need to
have three words and everybody has to know these words—"play it,"
"leave it," or "over." Not, everybody comes up with his own words, like "I'll pick up," or "don't
touch," or something like that. It needs to be a simple three words so
everybody understands everybody and we're all on the same page. And
then we won't have this problem in the future.”

With a new goalie playing behind a defense that is largely intact from last season, there's a clear need for some better understanding of what everyone wants to do with the puck in given situations. Bryz may have had some trouble finding the exact words to express what needs to happen, but his message that the communication was poor is clear.

However, there was also just some ineffective play by the defense in clearing Blues forwards and blocking shots, as well as sluggishness by Bryz on a few of the second efforts. Braydon Coburn and Andrej Meszaros looked like a pair of Bobos on the Corner, failing to clear a pair of forwards and let the puck trickle in front of the crease for one easy goal, and a poor handoff between Bryz and Meszaros gave them another simple potter and me a heart attack, man. Kimmo Timonen's mistake wasn't quite as lamentable, but he got caught in no-man's land on the Blues' first goal, not taking a man and failing to block a shot (while probably screening Bryzgalov).

Overall, a very poor showing in the defensive end for the Flyers.

TOUGH GUY
Carlo Colaiacovo was named the game's first star, followed by Danny Briere, but I think I'd have given it to Brian Elliott. Elliott once again stifled the Flyers, many of whom weren't on the team the last time he kicked it root down on Philly. His numbers against the Flyers weren't great last year, but he's now 5-2-0 against the Flyers in six starts, including two shutouts and a gem of a two-goals-against performance on Saturday night. Elliott absolutely robbed a few Flyers, including Claude Giroux at a range from which he rarely misses. His defense was stronger than a mic'd up Wayne Simmonds led us to believe, too. The Flyers held control for some long stretches, but just couldn't generate too many meaningful opportunities, nor second-effort chances. The pucks weren't bouncing the Flyers' way in the offensive zone either, though it's not much of an excuse.

B-BOYS MAKIN WITH THE FREAK FREAK
The line of Simmonds, Danny Briere, and Brayden Schenn was the Flyers' best of the night. In his second game with the Flyers, Schenn saw his minutes jump from 11:03 to 19:20, in large part because Lavvy couldn't keep his line off the ice. The unit had some strong attacks on the net, and Simmonds was in Blues' faces all night. Like the rest of the Flyers, they got off to a slow start, but Lavvy rotated Briere to the wing and Schenn to his natural center position to start the second, and it paid immediate dividends as Simmonds found a streaking Briere for the Flyers' first goal.

Sure Shot
Simmonds had a nice backhand flip to Briere, who torched one over Elliott's glove from a very small angle.

SABOTAGE
Chris Pronger absolutely lit up David Backes as the Blues captain skated hard with the puck toward the Flyers' net. Big train met little train, and little train went off the tracks and didn't return.  

THE SCOOP
Again, it's not the end of the world or even all that surprising for this Flyers team to hit a rocky patch early on, and so far we're only looking at a pair of losses. There's definitely some problematic elements they can point specifically at and try to fix in practice, which is a good thing. Tonight's issues are fixable, and the players the Flyers have in place are plenty good enough to work through them. There are a lot of kids on the forward lines, but the goaltender is a veteran and so are the d-men in front of him. There's a clear communication issue and some overall indecisiveness by the defense, all of which could work itself out with more reps in practice and games played.

VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS

Up next is another home tilt, this time with the Maple Leafs on Monday night.

Penn State president 'pleased' to see Penn State thriving again

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Associated Press

Penn State president 'pleased' to see Penn State thriving again

NEW YORK -- NCAA President Mark Emmert says he is pleased to see how well Penn State's football team has bounced back from the sanctions the program received in 2012 after the Sandusky scandal.

No. 5 Penn State (11-2) is having its best season since Jerry Sandusky, a longtime assistant of late Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno, was arrested in 2011 for sexually abusing boys. The Nittany Lions won their last nine games and the Big Ten title.

"I think it's terrific," said Emmert, who spoke at an intercollegiate athletics forum sponsored by Learfield Communications on Wednesday in Manhattan.

"I think what Penn State went through is an awful situation and it's still playing out sadly. But the football program is still Penn State and they showed it and they did really well. The university has done an amazing job to put in place all of the things their board wanted and our board wanted."

The NCAA went outside its usual process to sanction Penn State in 2012. The school was hit with massive scholarship limitations and a four-year bowl ban, along with fines. The school also agreed to enact dozens of reforms recommended in a report by former FBI director Louis Freeh on the scandal.

The original scholarship and postseason penalties were eventually rolled back. Emmert said he was pleased the roll back helped Penn State recover more quickly, and that NCAA sanctions are not meant to cripple an athletic program.

"I've always said and always believed that Penn State first and foremost is a great university ... and secondly it's got wonderful sports traditions. How could you not be pleased that they're playing good football again? That's very good stuff," he said.

Emmert covered numerous topics in a 30-minute question-and-answer session, and after he spoke with group of reporters for 15 more minutes.

-- He declined to weigh in on whether the College Football Playoff selection committee made the right decision with the four teams it chose to compete for the national championship, but he did say he would prefer an eight-team playoff that would include automatic bids for the Power Five conference champions.

"I think a conference championship ought to count for something. I think how you determine your champion is up to somebody else," Emmert said. "I'd like to see all five of the conference champions get in the playoff."

The NCAA has no authority over the College Football Playoff.

"That's why we live in America. Everybody can have an opinion," Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany joked, when asked about Emmert's comments. "He doesn't have a vote, though."

-- Emmert said he would like to see the new NCAA football oversight committee better define the purpose of bowl games. There are 40 and some spots are given to teams with sub.-500 records. The NCAA does not run bowl games. It does have a sanctioning process, but mostly it lets conferences decide whether they want to put on games.

"What do we, the membership of intercollegiate athletics, want bowl games to be?" Emmert said. "Are they a 13th game that's an exhibition game? Are they a reward for having won something? We have teams in now that can get into a bowl game having won two or three of their conferences games."

-- The NCAA pulled its championship events out of North Carolina in September because of a state law that limits anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people. The decision was later criticized by Notre Dame President Rev. John Jenkins in an Wall Street Journal op-ed. Jenkins said the NCAA should not be a moral arbiter.

"He and I have chatted a lot about that issue, and obviously I disagree and obviously, more importantly the board of governors disagreed," Emmert said.
The NCAA will choose sites for future championship events in April and part of that is a "fairly complex process," Emmert said, of looking at the local and state laws of potential host locations.

"One of the considerations we have now as we make those decisions, as the sport committees make decisions about where they go, is going to be LGBT rights," he said. "I think and hope and believe, maybe wishfully, that North Carolina will modify their position because citizens want that."

-- Emmert said the Big 12 deciding not to expand was a "good thing for college sports."

"I think the last round was very disruptive. It had a negative impact on so many schools, even personal relationships. It was hard and I'm glad we didn't have to go through that again. Even on a smaller scale," Emmert said.

Trade front quiet, but Phillies could lose a player or 2 in Rule 5 draft

Trade front quiet, but Phillies could lose a player or 2 in Rule 5 draft

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Phillies have a history of adding players in the Rule 5 draft. The annual event, designed to prevent teams from stockpiling minor-league talent without giving it a shot in the majors, has netted the Phillies players such as Dave Hollins, Shane Victorino and Odubel Herrera over the years.

The year’s Rule 5 draft will be held Thursday morning at the conclusion of the winter meetings, but it’s highly unlikely that the Phillies will be active. After adding 11 prospects to their 40-man roster two weeks ago, the Phillies are simply out of room. Selecting a player in the Rule 5 draft would first require the Phils to cut a player loose and that did not seem to be the plan as the sun set Wednesday.

While an addition is unlikely, there’s a strong possibility that the Phils will lose a player or two in the draft. Outfielder Andrew Pullin, a 2012 draft pick, is the likeliest to go. He hit .322 with a .885 OPS between Single A and Double A in 2016 and a number of teams are buzzing about him. A late-season elbow injury prevented Pullin from playing in the Arizona Fall League and factored into the Phillies’ decision to leave him unprotected.

If a team rolls the dice on Pullin, it must keep him in the majors all season or offer him back to the Phillies.

Other players who could go include first baseman/outfielder Brock Stassi, outfielder Carlos Tocci and pitchers Miguel Nunez and Hoby Milner.

All quiet for now
Phillies general manager Matt Klentak spent Wednesday meeting with agents and representatives from other clubs.

“Nothing is hot at the moment,” he said late in the day.

Klentak has brought back starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson, added relievers Joaquin Benoit and Pat Neshek and traded for outfielder Howie Kendrick this offseason. The biggest remaining issue/question on his plate is whether to add a veteran hitter in a corner outfield spot or keep the pathway open for young players such as Roman Quinn and eventually Dylan Cozens and Nick Williams. 

“Successfully balancing the present and the future is the single greatest challenge that a baseball operations department faces,” Klentak said. “We’ve talked about it all offseason. The decisions that we are making right now about giving playing time to a young player that has cut his teeth in Triple A and needs that opportunity to take the next step as opposed to a shorter-term solution from the outside — that’s one of the main challenges that we’ve run into this offseason.”

While it’s uncertain whether the Phils will add a hitter, they most surely will make other roster tweaks as the winter moves on. They are likely to fill their backup catcher’s spot in-house (see story), but could add a utility infielder and more bullpen depth on minor-league contracts.

“I think there will probably be another move or two before we get to Clearwater,” Klentak said. “Who and when remains to be seen.”