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.


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.

Union emotional after Maurice Edu's season-ending injury

Union emotional after Maurice Edu's season-ending injury

CHESTER, Pa. — On the eve of his comeback after missing nearly 13 months with a left tibia stress fracture and other related injuries, Union midfielder Maurice Edu fractured his left fibula on Saturday, keeping him out for the 2016 playoffs and beyond.

“I was trying to take the shot on goal and my foot got stuck in the turf,” Edu said Sunday, in his blue Union-issued suit and supported by crutches. “My ankle rolled and twisted and it kind of snapped a little bit. I heard it crack, and a lot of pain from there. I got a scan afterward, and there was a break.”

There's no timetable his return.

Edu, 30, has spent over a calendar year fighting various injuries that have kept him out of game action. His trouble began on Sept. 30, 2015, when he played through the U.S. Open Cup final with a partially torn groin and sports hernia. It was during Edu’s recovery from those injuries that he developed a stress fracture.

"A little bit frustration. A lot of frustration, to be honest," he said. "But all I can do now is get back to work, focus on the positives and make sure that my situation isn’t a distraction from the team."

Edu’s teammates were equally devastated by the news. Edu, the Union captain when healthy, is popular and well-respected in the locker room.

"I feel so bad for him," said Alejandro Bedoya, who wore a dedication to Edu under his jersey on Sunday. "He’s one of my good friends, so I was looking forward to playing alongside him. I know how hard he’s worked to get back, and to see him go out like that, it’s heartbreaking. I’m sad for his loss and I hope he stays strong."

Edu, who has been with the Union since 2014, returned to training in July and played three conditioning appearances with the Union’s USL team, Bethlehem Steel FC. He was on the bench for the Union’s last three games and was set to make his first appearance in over a year against the New York Red Bulls on Sunday, a game the Union eventually lost, 2-0 (see game story).

"We’re gutted for Mo," Union manager Jim Curtin said. "He was slated to start today. It’s real upsetting because he’s worked so hard to get back on the field. It’s been a tough 2016 for him, but I know he’ll come back stronger."

While he was visibly shaken by recent injury, Edu is driven to return.

"What happened, happened," Edu said. "I have no control over that. The only thing I do have control over is my next steps from here, how I prepare myself mentally and emotionally and how I continue to support this group."

Point guard Joel Embiid? Sixers' big man works on leading break

Point guard Joel Embiid? Sixers' big man works on leading break

CAMDEN, N.J. — Toward the end of Sixers practice Monday, Joel Embiid participated in a fast-break drill … by himself.

Embiid brought the ball up the floor in a one-on-none situation against members of the Sixers' coaching staff. 

He's already showed off his three-point shooting skills and now he’s running the break? 

“I’ve always thought I was a point guard,” Embiid joked. “So that’s something that I want to do.”

In all seriousness, Embiid worked on his ball-handling skills during his two-year rehab from foot injuries. It’s not that he wants to become an unconventional point guard, it’s that he is striving to be an all-around threat. Embiid focused on recording his first assist, as an example, during the preseason. 

“I think I’m a complete player,” he said. “I think I can do everything on the court. Doing that shows I think it can help my team, too, in other aspects.” 

With running the break comes attacking the basket in traffic. It could be an anxious moment for a coach to watch a player fresh off two years of foot injuries to drive in a crowd. Sixers head coach Brett Brown said he has to be past the feeling of holding his breath whenever he watches Embiid do so. 

“We are so responsible with how we use him and play him,” Brown said. “It’s like us with children. They go out for the night. You’re nervous, but they go out for the night. He plays basketball for a living, and so he plays. We’ve just got to keep putting him in responsible environments and monitoring his minutes.”

As a point guard, T.J. McConnell appreciates Embiid’s skills, especially given his size. 

“To the people that try to pick him up when he brings the ball up the floor, good luck,” McConnell said. “It’s pretty incredible to see.” 

Robert Covington watched Embiid practice his ball handling during his lengthy recovery. He has seen improvements and likes the dynamic it creates for the team on the break. 

“His handle is really tight and then he’s really strong with it as well,” Covington said. “We’re very comfortable with him pushing the ball.”

That being said, Brown isn’t about to anoint Embiid into a point-center role. He knows Embiid’s desire to be active all over the court, but just as he’s said he doesn’t intend for Embiid to become a go-to three-point shooter, he also wants Embiid to focus on his true position. 

“Joel likes to be a player,” Brown said. “He wants to be a guard. He wants to shoot a three. He wants to be a post player. He wants to play. And we all have seen enough to think he actually can. 

“There are times that he rebounds and leads a break, we want him being aware of get off it, get it to a point guard more than not. I don’t mind him coming down in trail if he’s got daylight, him shooting some. He’s got a wonderful touch and I’ve seen it for two years. 

“... All over the place, I want to grow him. I’m not just going to bucket him up. I still say, like I say to him, 'At the end of the day, you’re a seven-foot-two post player. Post player.'”

Watch Embiid running the floor here: