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:

Despite blowout loss, Sixers see potential in Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor playing together

Despite blowout loss, Sixers see potential in Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor playing together

BOX SCORE

Brett Brown was ready to do it Wednesday night. The matchup against the Kings presented an opportunity to experiment with playing Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor together. That pairing had to wait two days, though, after the Kings game was postponed

On Friday, Embiid and Okafor shared the court for just under 13 minutes in the Sixers' 105-88 loss to the Magic (see Instant Replay), who also rolled out a duo of bigs in Bismack Biyombo and Nikola Vucevic. 

“I thought we had our moments,” Embiid said. “We shared the ball, we made shots. Obviously we need to play more together and learn how to play with each other.”

Embiid and Okafor first played together for 5:29 in the second quarter. They scored all of the Sixers' 12 points during that time, including a pair of threes by Embiid. They also combined for five boards. The Sixers outscored the Magic, 12-9, with the bigs in together.

The benefits of the floor spacing was apparent. Oftentimes in the game, Okafor could be seen open at the basket with a hand up for the ball while Embiid was also getting looks from long range. 

“I liked our spacing, I liked the high-low stuff we were doing,” Brown said. “I think when you post Joel, that Jahlil is going to play sort of hide-and-seek on the other side of the floor, and work that low zone, and become — I hope — a potent offensive rebounder. When you post Jahlil, Joel has the ability to space to three.”

Brown turned to Embiid and Okafor again in the fourth. At that point, the Magic had a 23-point lead. Their next 7:25 together was a chance to give them a long run in live game action. They combined for another 12 points and four rebounds. All of their buckets were layups, dunks or free throws. Both teams scored 19 points with Embiid and Okafor in that segment.

Both Embiid and Okafor finished the game with double-doubles: 25 points, 10 rebounds and four assists for Embiid; 16 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks for Okafor. 

“I thought they played well together,” Vucevic said. “I thought it was tough to guard them because they’re both really good offensively.”

Okafor credited his friendship with Embiid, which dates back to high school, as a key to coexisting well on the court. Both emphasized their off-the-court relationship would help them in a game situation. 

“I think the communication piece went really well,” Okafor said. “He was talking to me, I was talking to him.”

Scoring and communication always seemed to be the easier parts of the pairing to tackle. Defense, though, was the challenge given that one of the centers would have to guard the four spot. Okafor noted their transition D as an area that needs improvement.

“We’re both used to going right to the rim,” Okafor said. “I think I had a couple easy buckets. That’s something we’ll be able to fix.” 

Brown had based his decision of when to play Embiid and Okafor together on the matchups. While the two could boast their own edge on the offensive end, Brown didn’t want to play them in a scenario in which they’d be at a huge defensive disadvantage. 

“It’s not offense to me, it’s defense. That’s the thing that is most challenging,” Brown said. “We want to play fast. We want to put points on the board. You don’t want to play in the 80s. You don’t want to do that, that’s not our sport anymore. So you want to make sure that you're capable of guarding the opposition.”

Vucevic noticed the challenge from an opposing perspective. He understands the necessary changes since playing alongside Biyombo.  

“It takes time for them to get adjusted, especially for the guy that will be playing the four defensively,” Vucevic said. “They’re not used to that because they always back down to the paint guarding the fives. It’s a different look. They have to work on it, communicate, and I think they’ll be fine.” 

On a night with few highlights in a 17-point blowout loss, Brown was able to take away a positive from this anticipated duo.

"I thought Jahlil and Joel did a really good job," he said. 

Sixers Notes: Joel Embiid unhappy with effort; Robert Covington hurt

Sixers Notes: Joel Embiid unhappy with effort; Robert Covington hurt

Joel Embiid didn’t see four quarters of basketball from the Sixers in their 105-88 loss to the Magic Friday night (see Instant Replay). Their efforts were inconsistent as they fell flat in long stretches and allowed the Magic to build up double-digit leads as high as 29 points.

The Sixers gave up a 16-0 run in the first and shot just 6 for 26 (23.1 percent) in the quarter. The Magic, who had lost a one-point game to the Grizzlies in Memphis the night before, rallied together to seize this opportunity.

“They just made a lot of shots that we didn’t,” Embiid said. “That’s the game, but we didn’t play hard all 48 minutes and we need to do a better job next time.”

The Sixers didn’t break 30 points until 4:33 to go in the second and attempted just two free throws in the first half. By the end of the third, the Magic had a 21-point lead which they held on to with in ease in the fourth. 

The Magic outshot the Sixers on all areas of the floor: 47.4 percent to 37.9 from the field and 50.0 to 28.1 from three. While the teams had nearly equal percentages from the line, the Magic shot 18 for 26 compared to only 7 for 10 from the Sixers. 

“They missed a lot of shots,” Magic forward Jeff Green said. “We got stops, were aggressive, guys just played hard and created for one another and played as a team.”

Covington injured
The Sixers are waiting to learn more news on the extent of Robert Covington’s injury. In the fourth quarter, Covington exited and did not return after suffering a left knee sprain when he collided with T.J. McConnell chasing a loose ball in front of the Sixers’ bench. If the starting small forward has to miss time, Sixers head coach Brett Brown is thinking ahead to possible lineup changes. 

“We'll try to figure out what his next week represents,” Brown said. “If we aren't with him, maybe there's a chance we can look at Dario [Saric] a little bit at the three.”

Covington is averaging 8.5 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.9 steals in 27.5 minutes per game. Saric has been coming off the bench at power forward behind Ersan Ilyasova. He started 10 games earlier this season at the four spot. 

Embiid honored
The Sixers honored Embiid during a timeout for being named NBA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month (October and November). Embiid was appreciative of the award and has his sights set on the bigger picture this season.

“All the hard work I’ve put in, it feels great,” Embiid said earlier in the day at shootaround. “Obviously, maybe the bigger picture is Rookie of the Year, that’s what matters. … I don’t have my mind set on that. But if I can get it, that would be nice.”

Brown sees this recent showing as just a glimpse into what Embiid will be able to do over his career. Embiid leads the Sixers with 18.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks. 

“This in infant stages, early days for him,” Brown said. “His body of work, given his lack of playing basketball, really is jaw-dropping for what I think he can be. To jump in and get rookie of the month I think is a real, sort of, quick snapshot view of him now. I think what he’s going to be is going to be extremely special.”

Embiid also is shooting 51.4 percent from three, including 3 for 5 against the Magic. When asked if he would like to participate in the three-point contest All-Star weekend, he said "it would be nice" and noted he would have to work on the speed of his release.