No Pushovers Here: Winnipeg Tests Flyers

No Pushovers Here: Winnipeg Tests Flyers

There was a time in recent NHL history when the Flyers
completely owned a little startup franchise known as the Atlanta Thrashers. In
their 11 seasons of existence, Philadelphia compiled a 30-7-3-3 record against
these Thrashers, once posting a 14-game winning streak in the process. We all
smiled and laughed, and times were good.

But since everybody except Gary Bettman knew hockey doesn’t
fly in Atlanta (the NHL is talking expansion again – third time’s the charm?),
the Thrashers are no more. They packed their bags and made for a real hockey
market – Winnipeg.

They didn’t take everything with them though. They left the
name Thrashers behind, and along with it, the Bullies’ dominance over their team.

The re-imagined Winnipeg Jets performed better than in all
but two of their seasons in Atlanta, finishing 37-35-10 and 84 points. More
relevant to Tuesday night, they ran up a 3-0-1 record over the Flyers in some
of the wildest hockey played anywhere in all of 2011-12.

Winnipeg won games by finals of 9-8, 6-4, and 2-1 via a
shootout, with Philly taking the final tilt 5-4 in overtime. Needless to say,
neither club’s goaltenders had very good numbers, although they all got plenty
of work.

Their recent competitiveness doesn’t look like a fluke,
either. The Jets are making an early bid to be in the postseason mix this year,
good for 11 points so far at 5-5-1. That’s just two points back of first place
in the Southeast Division, and has them very much in the picture for a wild
card berth.

It’s still early, but it would appear the days of taking
this franchise lightly are over.

Anyway, the Flyers have problems all their own right now,
specifically as it pertains to the road. Following last night’s 5-2 loss in
Toronto, the boys in Orange & Black are 1-6 away from the Wells Fargo
Center. To make matters worse, they had to make the two-hour flight to Winnipeg
for a back-to-back, while the Jets haven’t played since Saturday.

Their inability to score could be a problem tonight if last
season’s tilts with Winnipeg are any indication. Philadelphia is still in the
bottom-third in the NHL for scoring, ranked 22nd with 2.38 goals per game. And
while their power play has climbed to a more respectable 16.4% for the season,
the Inquirer’s Sam Carchidi points out they’ve converted just 7.1% of the time
on the road.

They’ll try to find a spark tonight by recalling Harry Zolnierczyk
to the roster. Harry Z has nine goals and eight assists in 46 games this season
for Adirondack, and had three goals and three assists in 37 games with the big
club last season. Jody Shelley was placed on injured reserved to make from for
Z, who is expected to replace Tom Sestito in the lineup.

The downside is Sean Couturier was sent home with the flu,
and Zolnierczyk is no substitute for that presence.

No word yet on who will be in net for the Flyers. Brian
Boucher, up for Michael Leighton who was placed on IR, appeared headed for his
first start – that was until Ilya Bryzgalov got the quick hook on Monday. Now Bryz
could be available, although his .850 save percentage and 3.33 goals against
averaged versus the Jets last season was nothing to write home about.

Al Montoya is in goal for the Jets. Despite spending the
previous two seasons with the New York Islanders, he’s only faced the Flyers
once, allowing four goals on 43 shots in an overtime loss. Montoya is 2-0 for
Winnipeg so far with a .899 SV% and 2.68 GAA

One thing about the Flyers this season is they have shown
some ability to bounce back from adversity. Whenever things start looking
bleak, they’ve picked themselves up and gone back to work. They could use some
of that tonight, if they’re not too tired and beat up to bring it.

/* Style Definitions */
table.MsoNormalTable
{mso-style-name:"Table Normal";
mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0;
mso-tstyle-colband-size:0;
mso-style-noshow:yes;
mso-style-priority:99;
mso-style-qformat:yes;
mso-style-parent:"";
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
mso-para-margin-top:0in;
mso-para-margin-right:0in;
mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt;
mso-para-margin-left:0in;
line-height:115%;
mso-pagination:widow-orphan;
font-size:11.0pt;
font-family:"Calibri","sans-serif";
mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri;
mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin;
mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri;
mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;}

Doug Pederson doesn't think 2016 struggles will ruin Carson Wentz in long term

Doug Pederson doesn't think 2016 struggles will ruin Carson Wentz in long term

In his first month in the NFL, Carson Wentz's trophy case was filling up quickly. 

He won two NFL Rookie of the Week awards to go along with being named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week in Week 3 and the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Month for September. 

It's hard to believe all of that happened this year. 

Since September, the Eagles have gone 2-7 and Wentz has looked like a rookie. Sure, the Eagles have some major deficiencies on offense that haven't made his life any easier, but it's no longer possible to simply overlook the regression of the No. 2 overall pick. 

Could this tough stretch negatively affect Wentz long term?  

"I don't think it's going to affect Carson going forward," head coach Doug Pederson said on Monday. "I just don't think it's going to affect him at all, because he's really a pro's pro and he's learning how to handle adversity for the first time, probably, in his career. It's something that we get to the OTAs and we get a full offseason in and we just continue to work on it."

It's fair to say the 2016 season was probably never really about this year and making the playoffs. It's clear the more important thing is to develop Wentz into the franchise quarterback they drafted him to be. But the one thing the team probably didn't want to see was regression. It seems like that's what has happened. 

In the first four games of the season, Wentz had a passer rating over 100 three times and hasn't done it since then. Take a look at the difference in the first quarter of his season compared to the next two. 

First four games: Completion percentage of 67 percent, 7 touchdowns, 1 interception, passer rating of 103.5. 

Next eight: Completion percentage of 61 percent, 5 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, passer rating of 70.1. 

The Eagles will enter their final quarter of the season when they host Washington on Sunday. The best way to avoid any long-term issues stemming from a tough rookie season is to end on a stronger note. 

"Well, you avoid it by trying to win a football game, and you try to win as many as you can now with these last four that we've got," Pederson said. "If you're looking towards next season, you always want to go out with a bang and try to win as many as you can down the stretch."

Way back in training camp, the plan was for 2016 to be a redshirt year for Wentz. He was supposed to sit behind Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel, but Bradford was traded and the Eagles elected to start their prized quarterback from the onset. 

Wentz went from a redshirt season to being on pace to throw 603 passes, which would shatter the Eagles' record for a single season. 

"These are some of the decisions that I made back when the trade was made that if there was going to be some growing pains, these were going to be some of the pains we were going to have to go through," Pederson said. "And just him understanding and him learning and us growing together as an offense, he and I growing as coach and quarterback together, it's all part of the process."

Wentz and Pederson seemingly had a disagreement after Sunday's game, when Pederson attributed Wentz's struggles to mechanical problems, while Wentz denied that was the case. Pederson held firm to his belief that those mechanical issues can be corrected and it's probable Wentz spoke out of frustration on Sunday night. 

If Wentz is frustrated, it would be understandable. It hasn't been an easy couple of months. 

"I see him handling it well," Pederson said. "These are discussions that we will have, myself, [Eagles offensive coordinator] Frank [Reich], Carson [Wentz], as we talk to him, because we've played obviously at this level, and my experience, even in this city playing and knowing what that's all about, we can really help him. It’s our job to help him and make sure that he stays on track and stays focused and he doesn't get derailed by anything that's coming from the outside."

Nerlens Noel to get one-on-one experience while Sixers on road

Nerlens Noel to get one-on-one experience while Sixers on road

Being immersed in the team is important for Nerlens Noel, and so is continuing his rehab. 

While the Sixers are on the road for three days to play the Grizzlies and Pelicans, Noel will remain in Philadelphia to work out at the training complex in Camden, New Jersey. The team is not scheduled to practice in between games, so staying back allows Noel another day to get on the court.

“[I want him to] just start playing more and have a ball in his hands, get hit, physical, feel people, play one-on-one,” head coach Brett Brown said.

Noel has yet to play this season because of elective arthroscopic left knee surgery in October. He rejoined the Sixers after completing the first phase of his rehab in Birmingham, Alabama. There still is no timetable for his return. 

Brown has said there is a “classroom” element to Noel’s return. He has to learn a roster with new players and schemes. 

The on-the-court side of it is a reacclimation to the intensity of the league. Regardless of how many games Noel already has played in the NBA, there is an adjustment period getting back into the grind of the competition. Brown believes the time in the gym this week will help Noel prepare for the level of intensity he will face in his return. 

“It’s such fool’s gold to think somebody’s going to jump back into NBA basketball after you haven’t played for so long. I don’t care how athletic he is,” Brown said. “It’s a man’s world, this league, and there’s a physicality and there’s a real-time reaction you have to have to play in the game. You can’t make that up in practice, you can’t make that up playing one-on-one, but you can better position him instead of just going out to get shots. I want him to feel a body, get hit, hit back, play one-on-one, those types of things.”

Noel had been assigned to the Sixers’ Development League affiliate, the Delaware 87ers, to get in practice time when the Sixers had a game. The Sixers may forego another assignment and keep Noel at their facility as the Sevens also have two games in the next three days.