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. 

No. 16 Villanova vs. No. 23 Albany: With or without Bednarczyk, can Wildcats rebound?


No. 16 Villanova vs. No. 23 Albany: With or without Bednarczyk, can Wildcats rebound?

No. 16 Villanova (5-2, 3-1) vs. No. 23 Albany (4-2, 1-2)
Villanova Stadium, Villanova, Pa.
Saturday, 3:30 p.m.

Fresh off a rare loss, Villanova looks to get back on track during its homecoming game against another nationally ranked foe. Here’s a look at the matchup:

Scouting Villanova
The Wildcats saw their five-game winning streak snapped in resounding fashion as they were shut out for the first time since 2004 in a 23-0 loss to Richmond. Sophomore quarterback Zach Bednarczyk left the game in the second quarter with an injury, a big reason why the Wildcats finished with just 222 yards of total offense. But despite the final score, Villanova’s defense played well again with Austin Calitro and Rob Rolle each hitting double digits in tackles. The unit is ranked fifth in the FCS in scoring defense (16.3 points per game) and sixth in total defense (237.9 yards per game) and has scored four defensive touchdowns.

Scouting Albany
After winning their first four games, the Great Danes lost their next two, a 36-30 triple-overtime heartbreaker to Richmond followed by a 20-16 setback to Maine. Sophomore quarterback Neven Sussman led Albany with 187 passing yards and 75 rushing yards. But for the season, their offensive strength has been with sophomore running back Elijah Ibitokun-Hanks, who’s second in the CAA in rushing, averaging 105 yards per game. Albany’s defense is only behind Villanova in points allowed per game (19.3) in the CAA, but interestingly enough is last in total defense (420.2 yards per game). The Great Danes lead the league in turnover margin (plus-15), led by linebacker Michael Nicastro and safety Mason Gray with three interceptions apiece.

Series history
Villanova has only played Albany twice, beating the Great Danes, 48-31, in 2014 and steamrolling it, 37-0, last season. 

Storyline to watch
The big question going in is whether Bednarczyk will play with Villanova saying it will be a game-time decision after the QB suffered a concussion last week. If he can’t go, Adeyemi DaSilva will get the start in his place after replacing him in the second quarter vs. Richmond. DaSilva is a promising player but Bednarczyk was coming into his own this season and his absence would naturally be a difficult one. Of course, the Wildcats have been through this before with Bednarczyk taking over as the starter last season when star John Robertson went down with an injury of his own.

What’s at stake?
Villanova still has a chance to win the CAA but probably can’t afford a second loss in the league. And of course, there’s nothing better than winning in front of a homecoming crowd.

A lot depends on whether Bednarczyk can play … but even if he doesn’t, the Wildcats’ dominant defense may be enough to get the job done. 

Villanova 20, Albany 17

Anthem singer at Sixers-Heat game kneels during performance

Anthem singer at Sixers-Heat game kneels during performance

MIAMI — A woman performing the national anthem before an NBA preseason game in Miami on Friday night did so while kneeling at midcourt, and opening her jacket to show a shirt with the phrase "Black Lives Matter."

The singer was identified by the Heat as Denasia Lawrence. It was unclear if she remained in the arena after the performance, and messages left for her were not immediately returned.

Heat players and coaches stood side-by-side for the anthem, all with their arms linked as has been their custom during the preseason. Many had their heads down as Lawrence sang, and the team released a statement saying it had no advance knowledge that she planned to kneel.

"We felt as a basketball team that we would do something united, so that was our focus," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Throughout all of this, I think the most important thing that has come out is the very poignant, thoughtful dialogue. We've had great dialogue within our walls here and hopefully this will lead to action."

The anthem issue has been a major topic in the sports world in recent months, starting with the decision by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to not stand for its playing. Kaepernick cited racial injustice and police brutality among the reasons for his protest, and athletes from many sports -- and many levels, from youth all the way to professional -- have followed his lead in various ways.

"All I can say is what we've seen in multiple preseason games so far is our players standing for the national anthem," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in New York earlier Friday, at a news conference following the league's board of governors meetings. "It would be my hope that they would continue to stand for the national anthem. I think that is the appropriate thing to do."

The NBA has a rule calling for players and coaches to stand during the anthem.

Heat guard Wayne Ellington often speaks about the need to curb gun violence, after his father was shot and killed two years ago. He had his eyes closed for most of the anthem Friday, as per his own custom, though was aware of Lawrence's actions.

"At the end of the day, to each his own," Ellington said. "If she feels like that's the way she wants to stand for it, then more power to her."

Making a statement in the manner that Lawrence did Friday is rare, but not unheard of in recent weeks.

When the Sacramento Kings played their first home preseason game earlier this month, anthem singer Leah Tysse dropped to one knee as she finished singing the song.

Tysse is white. Lawrence is black.

"I love and honor my country as deeply as anyone yet it is my responsibility as an American to speak up against injustice as it affects my fellow Americans," Tysse wrote on Facebook. "I have sung the anthem before but this time taking a knee felt like the most patriotic thing I could do. I cannot idly stand by as black people are unlawfully profiled, harassed and killed by our law enforcement over and over and without a drop of accountability."