Miller'd Yo: Flyers Shut Out by Sabres in Opener

Miller'd Yo: Flyers Shut Out by Sabres in Opener

Sifting through the ashes of the Flyers' 1-0 loss to the Sabres to open the playoffs, it's hard to come down too hard on them despite losing a game we really wanted to see them win. They played well overall, with a single play that was by no means terrible leading to the game's only goal. The Flyers generated some very good scoring opportunities, but couldn't beat Ryan Miller, nor his defense, which clamped down on the slot and surrounding area once the Sabres had the lead. 


Jeff Carter appears to be having a bit of trouble finding the puck.

Fulfilling our greatest concern going into the playoffs, the lack of any ability to score on the power play doomed the Flyers more than anything in this one. At even strength, they had pressure on Miller early and often, screens, and even some shots off of rebounds, but just couldn't beat him. The Sabres blocked shots efficiently, and the Flyers attack faded late. 

The good news is, the Flyers looked a lot better in this loss than they had in their poor stretch run to end the regular season. 

The bad news is, there's no place for "better" in the best of seven series, no moral victories—particularly when you get shut out. 

Miller didn't need to be particularly stellar, although that is the hallmark of some of the best goalies. They make it look a little easier than it actually is. He was in position all night and seemingly saw the puck through a few pretty good screens. The Flyers could certainly stand to get a few more shots through traffic though, if not some deflections.  

Particularly early on, the Flyers pressure was great, and throughout the game there were some good opportunities. It just didn't happen. The Sabres were strong in blocking shots and shutting down lanes toward the net. 

The Briere line was on the ice for the game's lone goal, but they had a decent game overall. Danny Syvret's man scored the game-winner, as the annoying Patrick Kaleta got past him to slam home a long rebound. Syvret didn't have a terrible game, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Chris Pronger suit up in the next game if he can grip a stick. 

The problem wasn't Syvret though. The defense overall was very solid, from the forward lines on back. Sergei Bobrovsky wasn't a concern at all despite the one long rebound that left open the deciding scoring opportunity. A failed brief 5-on-3 opportunity and an overall 0-5 power play sank the Flyers' chances in this one. At first, the inability to score felt like the Flyers were knocking on the door and would soon break through. As the game wore on past the halfway point though, it began to feel like exactly what it would become. The Sabres found the net once in their 25 shots on goal while the Flyers couldn't beat Miller in 35 shots. 

James van Riemsdyk was the Flyers' best player tonight, selling to block shots and generating some of their better scoring opportunities. He looks like he could break out in a big way if the Flyers can help get him going. 

Jay Wright amazed by Joel Embiid's improvements since Kansas

Jay Wright amazed by Joel Embiid's improvements since Kansas

Jay Wright remembers facing Joel Embiid's Kansas team, and he's shocked by the improvements Embiid made while sitting out the last two years.

"Could you imagine not playing for two years and getting better?" Wright said Friday on TCN's Breakfast on Broad. "We played against him in college and he was not close — he was good, but not close to the player that he was at the start of this year. 

"What [the Sixers'] staff did while he was out is incredible. I don't know what other pro athlete has done that or could do that — not play and improve drastically.

"He's a unique force. We haven't seen a guy that's got this will defensively and ability defensively and then the skill level and mobility offensively. I've heard some people compare him to (Hakeem) Olajuwon. He's far more mobile than Olajuwon. Olajuwon, offensively, had his set of skills, which [Embiid] will develop. But the mobility he's got far exceeds Olajuwon. He's exciting. ... It's nice to feel this vibe with the Sixers right now."

Wright was also asked if he, as a coach, would want a player on a minutes restriction participating in the All-Star Game.

"Yeah, I would," he said. "I think that it's such an accomplishment for Joel Embiid. It would build his confidence so much to be on the floor with those guys and realize he's earned this. And to have that a part of his psyche going into the next season — 'OK, I've already been separated during the regular season with those guys, I belong with those guys.' So next year I'm thinking, 'I wanna beat these guys, I wanna be better than these guys.' 

"I think it'll be great for him. I think it's awesome ... what Brett Brown and his staff have done with this guy."

As lucky as good?
With a national championship and another No. 1 ranking this season, it would be understandable if Wright was feeling himself right about now. 'Nova is 17-1 and back atop the AP poll after a brief stint at No. 3.

National Player of the Year candidate Josh Hart is leading the way for the Wildcats with 18.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. A lot of Villanova's success this season is owed to Hart's decision to return for his senior year, so Wright has no issue admitting there's been some luck involved in the Wildcats' recent success.

"It's a tremendous advantage and it's really been probably the most important factor in our success the last three, four years," Wright said of 'Nova's senior leadership Friday on TCN's Breakfast on Broad.

"A lot of it is, on Villanova's side, luck. Josh Hart could have left last year. He just looked at it and kind of said, 'I could be maybe a late first-round, early [second-round pick]. I'd rather come back and get my degree.' 

"Having people that make that choice, you're lucky. If we lose him last year, we're a lot younger team this year. Daniel Ochefu the year before was faced with that decision. He stayed. 

"So when you get those guys that decide they're gonna stay, you catch a break because they're invaluable, a senior of that level. Daniel's playing in the NBA now. So we had a guy for a year that was an NBA player. And we have that with Josh this year. Kris (Jenkins) is developing into one, Darryl (Reynolds) has a chance."

Villanova, which destroyed Seton Hall 76-46 on Monday, hosts Providence Saturday at noon.

Gregg Popovich on Sixers: 'One of my joys in life to watch them win'

Gregg Popovich on Sixers: 'One of my joys in life to watch them win'

When Brett Brown agreed to become the Sixers' head coach, he knew he was embarking upon a unique challenge with a franchise that planned to be as methodical as possible in its rebuild. 

One of the results was a career record for Brown of 47-199 entering this season, a record so lopsidedly poor that Brown may never break the .500 mark.

But the Sixers are finally showing real progress, with a star in Joel Embiid and young players who are turning out to be useful pieces. The Sixers have won seven of their last nine, and there's no one happier to see that than Brown's former boss and mentor, Gregg Popovich.

"It's one of my joys in life to watch them win basketball games because if there's any team that deserves it, it's those guys," Popovich told ESPN.

Brown and the Sixers aren't out of the woods yet. At 14-26, they're still closer to the bottom of the Eastern Conference, but the entire vibe around the team has changed. 

"They've had it really tough for all the obvious reasons," said Popovich, who has been the Spurs' head coach since 1996 and worked with Brown from 2002-13.

"There's nobody in our business that is more positive, and more day-to-day upbeat and ready to teach and love than Brett Brown. He's a unique, unique guy."