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 uses dominant second half to top No. 6 Wisconsin for Big Ten title

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Penn State uses dominant second half to top No. 6 Wisconsin for Big Ten title

INDIANAPOLIS — Penn State’s offense rewrote the Big Ten Championship’s offensive record book Saturday night but its 38-31 victory over Wisconsin wasn’t secure until the final minute.

And Linebacker U. got the game-saving play from the secondary.

Wisconsin, armed with a pair of timeouts and lining up for a fourth-and-1 play from the Nittany Lions’ 24, called on Corey Clement. Clement, who’d already racked up 166 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, got the ball but never got close to the marker.

Grant Haley made sure of it.

The junior cornerback wrapped up Clement’s legs and safety Marcus Allen kept Clement from leaning forward and the game was over. Penn State (11-2) has the 2016 Big Ten title and, at worst, will play in the Rose Bowl for the first time since 2009.

“They ran [a counter] early in the game and split it for a touchdown,” Haley said of the final play. “I saw them set the edge, so I got triggered really well and Marcus finished off the play.”

Haley and company watched the Badgers run wild in the first half; 164 yards and three touchdowns, including Clement’s 67-yard scamper. Wisconsin, one of the conference’s best rushing teams this season, managed less than half that total (77) in the second half.

“They really weren’t running that many plays,” Haley added. “We just came out in the second half and had a jolt. 

“We just had the energy going into the second half.”

Wisconsin got the ball twice in the fourth quarter but managed only 65 yards - 51 of which came on its final drive.

“Give credit to Penn State for coming out in the second half and making those adjustments and allowing those big plays to happen,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. 

Give plenty of credit, too, to the Nittany Lions’ offense. 

Quarterback Trace McSorley was named the game’s most valuable player after completing 17 of his 25 passes for 319 yards and four touchdowns - both championship game records. He helped Penn State complete the biggest comeback in the game’s six year history after his team fell behind 28-7 in the first half and also finished the regular season with 3,360 yards and 25 touchdown passes, both school records.

Saeed Blacknall had six catches for a Big Ten Championship-record 155 yards and two touchdowns and DaeShean Hamilton finished with 118 yards on eight grabs.

Tailback Saquon Barkley, injured in last weekend’s victory over Michigan State, returned with 88 yards and a touchdown on the ground and caught an 18-yard scoring pass from McSorley early in the fourth quarter to put the Nittany Lions ahead for good.

Penn State, in its first-ever trip to this game, is coming home from it with just its second outright Big Ten title. It’s on a nine-game winning streak that has seen it average 40 points per contest.

It also could present the College Football Playoff selection committee with a bit of quandary. The Nittany Lions, who were ranked seventh by the committee last week, topped the No. 6 Badgers and claimed a conference championship, something likely playoff teams Alabama, Clemson and Washington all boast.

On the flip side, Penn State’s last defeat was a lopsided 49-10 loss at Michigan, which sits at No. 5 in the rankings and likely won’t move into the top four after losing last week to No. 2 Ohio State.

Penn State coach James Franklin stated his team’s case after Saturday night’s win, but also made it clear he and his team won’t be moping their way to Pasadena, Calif., where the conference champion is slotted if it is not chosen for the playoff.

“We’ve got great options in front of us,” he said. “I hear people on TV talking about they feel like maybe the playoff has taken away from the bowls. 

“Are you kidding me? The Rose Bowl? It doesn’t get a whole lot better than that.”

Report: Jordan Matthews (ankle) not expected to play vs. Bengals

Report: Jordan Matthews (ankle) not expected to play vs. Bengals

Jordan Matthews will not play Sunday against the Bengals after missing practice all week with an ankle sprain, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Matthews is the Eagles' leading receiver with 57 catches for 686 yards and three touchdowns. The team has called him a game-time decision.

Second-year receiver Nelson Agholor will reportedly be inserted back into the lineup. If Matthews doesn't play the Eagles will have only four healthy receivers active on Sunday: Agholor, Dorial Green-Beckham and undrafted rookies Bryce Treggs and Paul Turner.