Mirror Images: Flyers Face Lightning, Themselves

Mirror Images: Flyers Face Lightning, Themselves

What a difference six weeks can make. When the Flyers last
encountered the Tampa Bay Lightning on February 5, they were one of the most
dangerous teams in the NHL, averaging nearly five goals per game en route to a
6-2 start. But while the Bolts are still second in the league in scoring, those
numbers have sagged quite a bit – as has their record along with it.

Tampa Bay is in the same boat as Philadelphia now. Since the
Flyers exacted some revenge in a 2-1 victory, the Lightning have gone 6-13-1, putting
them right about even with each other in the playoff race – which is to say toward
the rear of the pack. The similarities run much deeper than in the standings
though. Both squads are laden with talent up front, but are defensively-challenged
and face difficult questions in net.

They sound like clones in certain respects, only the
Lightning seem even more prone to wildly uneven performances from night to
night if that’s possible. They have the ability to hang a five-spot on
any given opponent, but too often the offensive output is merely ordinary,
lighting the lamp 2.65 times per tilt over their last 20. That simply isn’t
good enough in their current situation.

Still, it’s almost impossible to look at the two clubs and
not draw any comparisons. Perhaps the biggest difference is Tampa appears to be
in more of a state of freefall, whereas the Flyers just can’t stop spinning
their wheels whenever they get set to take off. Philly hasn’t won three consecutive
games at any point this season, but they haven’t lost more than that many in a
row, either.

The Lightning have experienced a total reversal of fortune.
The Flyers have never really budged at all.

Why such inconsistency? The Flyers have their share of flaws,
yet in a gritty 2-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Friday, they proved
how tough they are to beat when they choose to tighten up at their own end of
the ice, not to mention how the goaltender suddenly develops confidence when
odd-man rushes are no longer constantly bearing down on him.

General manager Paul Holmgren heaped the lion’s share of the
blame for the franchise’s struggles this season on the players last week.
Basically he challenged every man in that locker room to look in the mirror and
accept responsibility for where the team is at. So far they’ve responded, but
we’ve seen them bounce back before only to flat-line once again. Actually, we’ve
seen that on numerous occasions already.

The Flyers will be skating against the Lightning tonight,
but the question is whether the biggest roadblock standing in the path to the
postseason truly is their own mindset. The answer, it seems, varies from one game to the next.

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Matt Rhule thanks Temple, Philadelphia in full page ad in Inquirer

Matt Rhule thanks Temple, Philadelphia in full page ad in Inquirer

On Tuesday, the Matt Rhule era at Temple ended.

Rhule bolted North Broad Street for Baylor University, from the lowly American Athletic Conference to the Big 12, a natural progression in college football.

And, in a classy move, Rhule took out a full page ad in the Philadelphia Inquirer thanking Philadelphia and Temple.

The full text of the ad.

On behalf of Julie and our children, I want to express our sincere gratitude to Temple University. The passion and pursuit of excellence at Temple allowed for our student-athletes to achieve success on the football field and to develop as young men off of the field. Temple and Philly will always be a part of us and we will be cheering on the Owls from afar.

As for Temple — to quote a common phrase Rhule used while at Temple — what's next?

We don't know yet, but we'll find out in the coming weeks.

Led by interim head coach Ed Foley, No. 24 Temple will face Wake Forrest in the Military Bowl on Dec. 27 in Annapolis, Maryland.

Best of NHL: Last-place Islanders take down rival Rangers

Best of NHL: Last-place Islanders take down rival Rangers

NEW YORK -- Andrew Ladd scored in the second period and Jaroslav Halak stopped 36 shots to lead the New York Islanders to a 4-2 victory over the crosstown-rival Rangers on Tuesday night.

John Tavares, Jason Chimera and Scott Mayfield also scored at the Barclays Center to help the last-place Islanders improve to 4-0-1 in their last five games.

Jimmy Vesey and Marc Staal scored for the Metropolitan Division-leading Rangers and Henrik Lundqvist finished with 28 saves. The Rangers have alternated wins and losses in regulation in their last eight games.

Halak beat Lundqvist for the ninth time in their last 10 matchups. Halak had won eight straight -- including the last five after joining the Islanders before the 2014-15 season -- before Lundqvist ended the streak in the Rangers' 5-3 win in the season opener Oct. 13 at Madison Square Garden. Lundqvist is now 1-6-1 in his last eight against the Islanders (see full recap).

Schwartz lifts Blues over Canadiens in OT
ST. LOUIS -- Jaden Schwartz got his second goal of the game in overtime, leading the St. Louis Blues to a 3-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night.

Paul Stastny also scored for St. Louis, which has won four of five. The Blues rallied from a 2-0 deficit and have a point in their last 13 home games.

Tomas Plekanec and Paul Byron scored for Montreal, which completed a five-game trip 2-3.

Goalie Jake Allen made 28 saves to improve to 13-3-3.

Schwartz lifted a backhander past goalie Al Montoya with 1:22 left in overtime.

Stastny and Schwartz scored in a 2:51 span in the third period to tie it at 2 (see full recap).

Blackhawks blank Coyotes to snap modest skid
CHICAGO -- Marian Hossa had two goals, Scott Darling made 22 saves and the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-0 on Tuesday night to snap a two-game slide.

Artem Anisimov and Dennis Rasmussen also scored to help Chicago maintain a three-point lead over St. Louis in the Central Division.

Darling made a handful of tough stops but wasn't heavily tested in his first shutout this season and third of his career. He started his third straight game in place of No. 1 goalie Corey Crawford, who had an appendectomy in Philadelphia on Saturday.

The 37-year-old Hossa scored his team-leading 13th and 14th goals in his 27th game -- surpassing his total of 13 last season in 64 contests (see full recap).