Nuck Respect: Flyers Hang on for 5-4 Win, Stay Undefeated

Nuck Respect: Flyers Hang on for 5-4 Win, Stay Undefeated

The Flyers faithful came into Wednesday night's home opener with high expectations following the team's 2-0 start to the season on the road. The South Philly opener was ugly at times, but the orange and black sent the fans home happy with a 5-4 victory. The Flyers showed that while the Giroux-JVR-Jagr grouping is the star-studded line to watch, the team is well-balanced, with nine different players registering at least a point in tonight's win.

"If you work hard, you give yourself a chance to win, and in the three games we've won, we worked hard," Claude Giroux told Coatesy following the win.

Work hard they did, but they also didn't make it easy on themselves. The Canucks had some dumb penalties early while the Flyers had their share late. In the end, the Flyers were able to beat Roberto Luongo one more time than the Canucks could get it past Ilya Bryzgalov.

Things got off to a fast start when the Flyers couldn't capitalize on the first Peco Power Play of the season early in the first period, but that didn't stop Wayne Simmonds from making himself quite familiar with the opposing goal crease at the Wells Fargo Center, mucking it up in front much to the delight of his new fans in Philadelphia.

Simmonds came damn close to slamming one home, but Luongo somehow made a pretty fantastic save when it looked like Simmonds had some daylight to work with. His physical play in front of the net was one of the more positive signs on the night for the new guys.

But the Canucks played undisciplined hockey for much of the first period and found themselves shorthanded again just minutes later when Chris Pronger drilled a puck off the boards behind goal while dumping it into the zone. The Flyers got a Jedi-like bounce when the puck found its way directly in front of Luongo with Giroux skating towards him unobstructed. We knew Giroux was good, but we didn't know he could make the puck go where he wanted it to without even touching it. Giroux alone in front is pretty much an NHL goalie's worst nightmare. G went glove-side top shelf and the Flyers took an early 1-0 lead. Claude is on pace for lots and lots of goals this season.

The Flyers didn't wait long to add on. They found themselves on yet another power play with 9 minutes left in the first. Chris Pronger was working the point and passed it to Giroux on the wing who gave it right back to the Captain who one-timed their second goal of the game right past Luongo who never even saw it with Simmonds standing in front of him. It was Prong Daddy's first of the season.

Following what was an awful start for the Canucks, they got some of their mojo back thanks in part to a Scott Hartnell penalty, the first of his likely many at the Wells Fargo Center this year. Bryzgalov was getting peppered with shots on the Vancouver powerplay and Mikael Samuelsson finally slammed one past him to make it 2-1.

The Flyers regained the two goal lead shortly before the end of the first period when JVR tallied his first of the season. A poor clear by Luongo ended up in the hands of Giroux who fed Van Riemsdyk from the point. Luongo couldn't gather it up, and JVR showed some nifty hands, going top shelf on him.  

The two teams traded goals to start the second period. Bryzgalov was beaten by Henrik Sedin to bring the Canucks to within one. But Jakub Voracek added his second of the season shortly after, set up nicely from Sean Couturier to put the Flyers back up by two, 4-2. The Caucks weren't going away easily, however, and cut the Flyers lead to one on a Chris Higgins goal with five minutes left in the second.

There appeared to be a big turn of the tides to start the third period when JVR couldn't make anything happen on a great breakaway opportunity only to be called for an unsportsmanlike penalty seconds later. It lead to Daniel Sedin scoring to tie things up at 4-4. The Flyers didn't let the Canucks keep the momentum for long, however, as Danny Briere hit Andrej Meszaros heading towards the net for a quick wrister. Luongo was once again beaten top shelf to give the Flyers the 5-4 lead.

The Flyers' penalty kill was put to the test in the final minutes as Jagr was called for a hook followed by a legit boarding call on Voracek and a a questionable interference call on Pronger which generated the first full-fledged "REF YOU SUCK!" chants of the season. Despite a flurry of chances, the Canucks couldn't capitalize and the Flyers held on for the 5-4 victory.

3-0 to start the season. At least one team's fanbase is feeling good in South Philly this time of year.

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Here's a 360 panoramic shot I took with my iPhone prior to this evening's home opener. You can scroll all the way around and zoom in/out.

Source: Phillies have agreement with free-agent OF Michael Saunders

Source: Phillies have agreement with free-agent OF Michael Saunders

The Phillies are putting the finishing touches on a deal with outfielder Michael Saunders, according to a source.

Jon Morosi of MLB.com reported the deal was close early Monday afternoon.

When the medical reviews and other loose ends are complete, Saunders will end up with a one-year contract for 2017. It is believed that there will be an option for 2018.

Saunders, 30, will give the Phils the left-handed bat they’ve been looking for in the outfield. Saunders is likely to play right field and his addition will likely push Roman Quinn back to Triple A, where he will get more seasoning.

Saunders is a veteran of eight seasons in the majors. He played in a career-high 140 games with Toronto in 2016 and made the American League All-Star team on the strength of a first half in which he hit .298 with 16 homers, 42 RBIs and a .923 OPS. He fell off in the second half and hit just .178 with eight homers, 15 RBIs and a .638 OPS. Saunders finished the season at .253/24/57/.815.

With less than a month to go before spring training, the Phillies are likely done with their significant offseason moves. The offseason began with trades for reliever Pat Neshek and outfielder Howie Kendrick. Later in the winter, the club traded for starting pitcher Clay Buchholz and signed reliever Joaquin Benoit. Now Saunders is on his way.

Villanova returns to top of AP poll after a week away

Villanova returns to top of AP poll after a week away

It didn't take long for Villanova to get back to the top of the AP poll.

A week, to be exact.

The 'Cats jumped from No. 3 to No. 1 in this week's AP poll, edging out No. 2 Kansas by just 16 total voting points. Villanova had 1,580 total points compared to the 1,562 total points the No. 2 Jayhawks received from voters.

In a twist, the 16-1 Jayhawks actually had more first-place votes than the 17-1 Wildcats. Kansas received 32 first-place votes compared to Villanova's 28 first-place votes. But total votes are the deciding factor, so, advatange: Wildcats.

UCLA hopped up to No. 3, Gonzaga jumped up to No. 4 and Kentucky checked in at No. 5 to round out this week's top five.

Baylor, the No. 1 team in the land last week, fell to No. 6 after it was blown out by No. 7 West Virginia.

Beginning on Dec. 5, Villanova was No. 1 for five straight weeks before falling at No. 13 Butler on Jan. 5 and seeing a 20-game win streak come to an end.

Jay Wright's Wildcats blew past No. 22 Xavier and St. John's last week, but will face another Big East test when 12-5 Seton Hall visits The Pavilion on Monday night. The last time Villanova and Seton Hall met, the Pirates upset the Wildcats at MSG in the final of last season's Big East Tournament.

The Wildcats' schedule this week is closed out with a visit from Providence on Saturday afternoon.