Jet Set: Flyers Topped by Winnipeg in Spirited Shinny Match, 9-8

Jet Set: Flyers Topped by Winnipeg in Spirited Shinny Match, 9-8

You won't see a game with more profound shifts in momentum than the one the Flyers lost, 9-8, to the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night. After getting off to a good start and opening the scoring, the Flyers conceded the game's next five goals, going down 3-1 in the first period and 5-1 by the time 5 minutes had ticked off in the second. After getting one back, they let up another, and were down 6-2 at the game's halfway point.

But the Flyers stormed back, scoring two before the second period was out, heading into the second intermission down 6-4. Lavvy may have broken some faces in the dressing room, because his boys came out of the break on fire, scoring three goals in the first three minutes of the third period, marking five unanswered to go ahead by a 7-6 count.

That's right—both teams scored five unanswered goals in this game.

The Jets would score the next two before the Flyers again tied it up, but one final defensive breakdown with just over a minute left led to Andrew Ladd of the Jets scoring the game-winner.

The Flyers were once again victimized by a combination of soft defense around their net, but also a series of deflection goals. And, there was also just some plain old bad goaltending. They'd need a combination like that to lose a game in which they scored EIGHT goals. It's the first time in franchise history they've scored that much and lost.

Below, a look at what went so incredibly wrong, as well as a handful of bright spots, and some head-hanging, painfully honest quotes from Ilya Bryzgalov. Plus video highlights that'll look like a normal game's highlights set on a repeat loop.

Since it was a loss, let's take a look at the bad first.

I don't know which member of the Flyers organization pissed off the wrong witch doctor, but this team is downright cursed when it comes to bounces and deflections. Part of it is on the personnel not clearing out the lanes in front of the net to let their two capable goalies get a clean save once in a while, and their defense has been atrocious in its marking, but man… there really have been some fluky caroms finding their way to opposing stick blades and into the Flyers net. It was a big part of the loss in Montreal, and it continued loudly tonight in South Philly.

The defense can't allow opposing forward to enjoy so much real estate in and around the slot and goal area though. It's like an #occupy event in front of the goalies lately. Chris Pronger's absence has been a huge factor in the last two losses, during which the Flyers have given up a total of 14 goals.

Tonight's 9-spot came on just 25 shots.

The goaltenders were also to blame. (With 9 goals, there's plenty to go around.) Ilya Bryzgalov didn't start the game, but he put the heat on himself during his postgame media availability. If you were miffed in thinking that Bryz threw his defense under the bus after the loss to the Blues, you'll want to cozy up to the footage from tonight's rant against himself. It's early, and we fully anticipate he'll turn it around, but Bryz's comments didn't inspire much confidence.

"I have zero confidence in myself right now," Bryz began, before saying he felt like he was "lost in the woods." [More here, plus video]

Hopefully this ends better than that episode of The Sopranos that Steve Buscemi directed. That Russian lost in the woods was never seen again...

Bryzgalov did play poorly, and his bad stretch came during the Flyers' dramatic comeback, but Sergei Bobrovsky shouldered his share of the fall as well. Deflections victimized Bob early, but he was small in net, failing to cut off angles, and let up a softie or two of his own (5 goals on 15 shots in 24:39).

Ready for the good? Good! After the last two games, I think we need a few positives to look at heading into Saturday's game.

First, the Hartnell-Giroux-Jagr line got on the board quickly again, with Jags setting up Hartnell in close for Harts' third tally of the season. Brilliant patience by Jagr to let his defenseman overcommit, then pass behind him to find Hartnell on the back door.

Danny Briere lit up the scoresheet, potting two and assisting on a pair of others. He and James van Riemsdyk worked well together, and both got their scoring touches back and picked up their third and fourth goals each. Riemer's brace came in the third, with his first goal putting the Flyers up for the first time since the opening period, and his last tying the game at 8. A few of the goals by this duo were pretty sweet too, especially the moves Briere put on when coming from his office (behind the net) to the crease and sliding one across to JVR.

Matt Read picked up his third of the season, a nice glove-down play that tied the game at six. Kimmo Timonen did his part in the offensive end, assisting on four of the Flyers' eight goals.

Zac Rinaldo had more hits (7) than minutes played (6:45), including probably the best check of the game, coming on a high-energy shift in the first period.

Only five Flyers skaters failed to register a point in the game (Couturier, Gustafsson, Rinaldo, Shelley, and Simmonds).

Despite the loss and some very ugly play in their own end, it was encouraging to see the Flyers come back swinging. Coming off a bad loss last night and a terrible first period and a half, it looked like the wilt would continue to set in. But the forwards kept attacking and finally broke through, chasing Jets starter Ondrej Pavelec from the crease too. They piled 19 shots on net in the second and 16 in the third.

Check out this Momentum chart at PowerScoutHockey…

The Skinny on the Shinny:

Raudabaugh throws 10 touchdowns, Soul clinch home-field advantage

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Raudabaugh throws 10 touchdowns, Soul clinch home-field advantage

The Soul (13-3) defeated the Orlando Predators (12-4)  67-59 at the Amway Center in Orlando on Saturday night.  

With the win, the Soul will have home field advantage throughout the American Conference Championship game.

Reigning league MVP Dan Raudabaugh completed 21 of 29 passes for 335 yards and 10 touchdowns.  Four of those scores were to receiver Chris Duvalt, who led all receivers with nine receptions and 155 yards.

The Soul will host the Tampa Bay Storm (2-14) next Sunday, August 7 at 6 p.m. With a win, the Soul will return to PPL Center for the conference championship on August 14. 
 

Hellickson wins possible Phillies swan song, but sustains minor hand injury

Hellickson wins possible Phillies swan song, but sustains minor hand injury

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA – Though he wasn’t happy with the way he pitched in what might have been his last start with the Phillies, Jeremy Hellickson still helped the ballclub win on Saturday night.
 
He just did it more with his bat than his arm.
 
Hellickson’s two-run double – the first extra-base hit of his career – gave the Phillies the lead in the fifth inning of what eventually became a 9-5 win over the Atlanta Braves (see Instant Replay).

“The big hit for me was Hellickson’s double,” manager Pete Mackanin said after the game.
 
Mackanin was so happy with Hellickson’s double down the leftfield line that he absolved the pitcher for not being able to get a bunt down earlier in the at-bat.
 
Well, sort of.
 
“We’re going to have to do extra work with all the pitchers because we’re not getting bunts down,” said Mackanin, who was happy to get the win but a little exasperated by the sloppiness of the three-hour, 40-minute dull toothache of a game.
 
“At least we won,” he said. “A win’s a win.”
 
Hellickson's at-bat in the fifth was actually a little more adventurous than anyone would have liked, particularly with the pitcher being on the trading block. Before stroking the double to left, Hellickson got jammed while hitting a foul ball to the right side. The jam shot caused some soreness and bruising on the palm of his right hand and prevented him from getting through the sixth inning. He left after 5 2/3 innings with a 5-3 lead that he helped build.
 
“I’m still not really sure what it is, a bruise or I popped something in there,” Hellickson said after the game. “But I felt fine, though, after I did it. It was just a little tough to grip -- just the curveball.”

Mackanin sent pitching coach Bob McClure to the mound to check on Hellickson in the sixth. The pitcher told McClure his palm was sore so Mackanin got him out of there.
 
“It jarred him,” Mackanin said. “But he’s OK now. In the end, it’s not a big deal. It’s not like his elbow was hurting, you know what I mean?
 
“Anyway, his hit was the big hit of the game. It turned it around for us.”
 
It remains to be seen whether Hellickson’s sore hand will affect his trade status. The issue seemed minor enough that it shouldn’t, but one never knows.
 
The Phillies, according to sources, have received significant interest in Hellickson and he could be on the move by Monday’s 4 p.m. trade deadline. A number of teams including the Orioles, Pirates, Blue Jays and Cardinals have been monitoring him. The Dodgers and Tigers, both in the market for a starter, had scouts at Saturday night’s game. The Tigers scout parachuted in specifically to see Hellickson.
 
Hellickson finished the month of July with a 2.34 ERA in six starts and gave up just four runs in his last three starts. So if someone trades for him, they will be getting a hot hand. He is 8-7 with a 3.70 ERA in 22 starts with the Phillies.
 
“I have no idea what’s going to happen,” Hellickson said. “I'll find out Monday. 
 
“I can't control any of it. So I've just been focused on every start and in between starts. Whatever happens happens. Hopefully I'm still here on Tuesday.”
 
Mackanin echoed that thought.
 
“He’s been an outstanding guy, a real likable person,” Mackanin said. “He’s got a good work ethic. He’s focused and poised on the mound. He’s a true pitcher. He knows how to change speeds. I’d like to keep him.”
 
Atlanta out-hit the Phils, 14-9, but the Braves made two errors and their pitchers walked eight, including four in the eighth innings when the Phillies sent nine men to the plate and scored four times without getting a hit.
 
“When you score four runs without a hit you better win the game,” Mackanin said.
 
The Phillies were able to do that because Cameron Rupp had three hits and scored two runs and reliever Edubray Ramos got four big outs, three via strikeout. Trade candidate Jeanmar Gomez closed out the game in a non-save situation.

“I wanted to win the game,” Mackanin said of his decision to use Gomez. “I didn’t want to take any chances with anyone else. I just wanted one of my best guys knowing that he’s well rested and we have a day off Monday.”
 
Not everyone will be off Monday. The front office will be working the phones as the minutes tick away until the 4 p.m. deadline. Vince Velasquez is in play (see story). Gomez could go. David Hernandez could go. And so could Hellickson. If this was his last start with the Phillies, he finished up with a win.

Best of MLB: Happ gets 14th win, Blue Jays take over 1st place

Best of MLB: Happ gets 14th win, Blue Jays take over 1st place

TORONTO -- With one big inning and another strong start from J.A. Happ, the Blue Jays moved into the AL East lead.

Happ won his eighth straight decision, Devon Travis homered and Toronto used a seven-run fifth to beat the Baltimore Orioles 9-1 Saturday, taking sole possession of first place for the first time since early April.

"There's still a lot of baseball left, but I feel we're starting to play good ball," Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin said.

Toronto, which won for the 16th time in 22 games, had not been alone atop its division since a 2-0 start. The Blue Jays have scored seven or more runs in an inning three times this season.

Kevin Pillar had two hits and drove in four runs to match his career high. Major league RBIs leader Edwin Encarnacion drove in his 89th run (see full recap).

Giants find just enough offense for rare win since break
SAN FRANCISCO -- Hunter Pence is healthy at last. Joe Panik has been back a few days from a concussion and is driving in runs again. The San Francisco Giants sure are starting to look like themselves again.

Oh, with that new face in the infield of Eduardo Nunez.

Panik hit a go-ahead sacrifice fly in the seventh inning, Nunez had a two-run double in his first start with San Francisco and the Giants snapped a three-game losing streak by beating the Washington Nationals 5-3 on Saturday.

Pence was activated from the disabled list after missing 48 games with a strained right hamstring that required surgery.

"It's huge, just his presence in the lineup," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's one of our guys. In addition to the talent, he brings energy and all those intangibles. He charged up the troops being out there (see full recap)."

De La Rosa, Rockies win 5th straight, Mets lose 4th in row
NEW YORK -- Jorge De La Rosa earned his 100th career victory and the Colorado Rockies eventually caught up with Bartolo Colon, beating the New York Mets 7-2 on a rainy Saturday night for their fifth straight win.

The Rockies improved to 12-4 since the All-Star break and won despite losing NL home run leader Trevor Story to a jammed left thumb. He seemed to get hurt on a scrambling slide in the fourth, exited early and X-rays on the rookie shortstop were negative.

On the day the Mets retired Hall of Fame catcher Mike Piazza's No. 31, the Mets lost their fourth in row. The 43-year-old Colon (9-6) faltered in his first start on three days' rest since 2005, and slugger Yoenis Cespedes left in midgame because of a nagging quad injury (see full recap).

Rea injured in Miami debut, Marlins win 11-0
MIAMI -- The Miami Marlins' big win might have come with a price.

Newly acquired Colin Rea left early with an elbow injury in his Miami debut in the Marlins' 11-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday night.

"We obviously needed the win, but it's not at that cost," Marlins reliever David Phelps said. "Hopefully, it's nothing, but you never like to see a starter come out of the game when you're strapped for starters to begin with."

Rea, acquired in a trade with San Diego, pitched 3 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out four.

"I kind of felt something in my elbow and it gradually got worse throughout the game," Rea said. "I don't know if I could have thrown another pitch, but we'll see. We don't know anything yet."

Rea initially felt a pain in his arm during warm-ups before the game, but tried to pitch through it (see full recap).