Odds and Ends from Last Nights Highly Entertaining Flyers-Penguins Tilt

Odds and Ends from Last Nights Highly Entertaining Flyers-Penguins Tilt

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Bad news first: the cost of victory. Perhaps overshadowed
somewhat by the exuberance over the Flyers’ 6-5 win in Pittsburgh on Wednesday
night was the loss of Matt Read to an upper-body injury. Read left the game after
a hit by Penguins forward Chris Kunitz late in the first period and did not
return. Tim Panaccio suggests it may be a concussion, but information was
limited.


Not much to comment on until we learn more about the
severity other than it will be yet another hit to the perpetually reinvented
top line. Read leads the club with seven goals.

In other news, Scott Hartnell has been cleared to practice,
but is at least a week away. [Philly Burbs]

The Feats of Voracek

The good news is it didn’t appear Claude Giroux and Jakub
Voracek missed a beat without Read. Giroux assisted and Ruslan Fedotenko skated
on both of Jake’s even-strength goals after the departure. It’s beginning to
look like Voracek '));">might have been the right pairing for G all along.

Speaking of filling Jaromir Jagr’s spot, while Voracek’s
first and second goals were separated by an intermission, technically they were
scored 28 seconds apart. According to Elias Sports Bureau, that’s the fastest
time by a Flyer since Jagr scored two in 18 seconds last February 18. Okay,
Jagr’s run is far more impressive!

That’s a first career hat trick for Voracek though, preceded
by a personal-best four points on Monday. Not Jagr, not bad.

Sean Couturier shows
up

There’s a name you won’t see taking up a lot of column
inches this morning, nor will his line jump out at you in the box score, but Couturier
enjoyed what was quite possibly his finest outing of the season to date.

Cooter did finish with an assist, and registered six shots
on goal in the first period while helping to spark the Flyers’ offense after
starting in a 2-0 hole. He also created multiple turnovers – several of which
led to quality scoring chances – in addition to being back up to his old tricks
from last April’s playoff series, molesting Evgeni Malkin all game long, and
generally living under the reigning Art Ross Trophy-winner’s skin.

About the only complaint that was levied was his measured
approach to a one-on-one with Pens goaltender Tomas Vokoun in the first period.
Maybe next time don’t think too hard about it, kid.

File under ‘Most
Bizarre Goals Ever’

This is something I’m almost certain I’ve never seen before.
On the Flyers’ first goal, Vokoun gets a little too far away from home, but
luckily his teammates come to his defense… sort of and all of them.

Nicklas Grossmann eventually finds twine as Penguin after
Penguin stacks the crease, blocking shot after shot as the Flyers keep whacking
away. While all five black jerseys lie in the crease instead of, I don’t know, checking
somebody maybe, Vokoun looks on before sprawling to the ice in a most humorous
fashion himself. [Broad Street Hockey]

Flat out bizarre.

Crosby and Malkin are
like “crack addicts”

Something tells me this analogy isn’t going to make it into
the SATs. Mike Milbury made a rather off-color remark on NBC Sports during the
second intermission, comparing superstars Malkin’s and Sidney Crosby’s
aggressive offensive-minded approaches to people who simply can’t smoke enough
rock – an unfortunate choice of words in a politically correct society, because
somebody somewhere is already writing a letter. [Puck Daddy]

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There's another Embiid WWE 2K17 entrance and it includes Hinkie

There's another Embiid WWE 2K17 entrance and it includes Hinkie

He’s done it again.
 
Eleven days ago, Sixers social media went wild over a video that showed Joel Embiid walking out to the ring as a WWE character in WWE 2K17. Well, YouTube user Hillman811 is back with an even better version of the video complete with Sam Hinkie and fans chanting.
 
The first video sparked questions to Embiid about his favorite WWE wrestler, and he even did his own Triple H introduction at the Wells Fargo Center after The Game threw him an All-Star vote (see story).
 
Watch the video below and let your mind run wild with what this would look like if it actually happened.
 

Tommy Joseph focused on earning first base job, taking more walks

Tommy Joseph focused on earning first base job, taking more walks

There was no better story of personal triumph on the Phillies' roster than Tommy Joseph in 2016.

Dumped from the 40-man roster and passed over by 29 other teams on the waiver wire and in the Rule 5 draft in 2015, he reported to minor-league camp with his career on the line last spring.

Two months later, thanks to good health and a molten bat, Joseph's career began to spike upward.

But 4½ months in the big leagues and the promise of a starting job in the majors in 2017 hasn't changed Joseph's outlook or the mindset he will take into spring training camp next month.

He's still going to scrap and claw for everything, just like he did a year ago when he was fighting for his baseball life after a series of concussions put his career in jeopardy.

"I'm preparing the same way I did last winter," Joseph said during an offseason stop at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday.

"The job is not given to me. I still have to win it. I'm not going to walk in and have it. Obviously, it's mine to take and I plan on going in and winning the job."

Joseph, 25, earned a significant slice of the starting first base job last year. But with Ryan Howard, the last piece of the 2008 World Series team, gone, Joseph has a chance to stake an even greater claim to the position in 2017 and establish himself as a serious building block in the Phillies' rebuild.

"Tommy came out of nowhere last year," manager Pete Mackanin said. "There's something to be excited about there. He was off the map and he did enough to warrant a real strong look this year. And hopefully, he can improve and take baby steps toward being a final product."

Joseph pushed himself to the majors and cut into Howard's playing time last season by hitting .347 with six homers, 17 RBIs and a .981 OPS in 27 games at Triple A. He came to the majors in mid-May and hit .257 with 21 homers and 47 RBIs in 107 games. In the fall, Joseph briefly played winter ball in the Dominican Republic, but right wrist tendinitis, now fully healed, cut the stint short.

Joseph's good showing at the plate in 2016 was partly the result of his finding good health. As he recovered from a fifth concussion in the summer of 2015, it was discovered that he had a series of ocular problems. They were addressed through therapy and ... well, it's amazing what a hitter can do when he can see the ball.

This year, Joseph will look to improve in the field. The converted catcher is looking to add quickness around the first base bag and that starts with better footwork. At the urging of bench coach/infield instructor Larry Bowa, Joseph has been jumping rope and doing box drills all winter.

Joseph also wants to improve his approach and mindset at the plate. Though he wants to drive the ball like his size — 235 pounds — and position dictate, he wants to improve his on-base percentage and thus his OPS, on-base plus slugging percentage.

Joseph struck out 75 times and walked just 22 times in 347 plate appearances in 2016 and his on-base percentage was just .308. But over the final month of the season, he made an effort to be more selective at the plate and he recorded a .327 batting average and .406 on-base percentage (while slugging .618) over the final 23 games of the season. He struck out 10 times but walked seven over that span.

"My whole career has been a battle when it comes to walking," Joseph said. "I started to listen and read more what veterans around the league were saying about on-base percentage and OPS. Slugging is important on the corners, but there are times you have to take your walks. It's relevant because the best players in the game have a high OPS."

Joseph needs to improve in this area for a couple of reasons. First, the front office is intent on building a long-term lineup around players who control the strike zone, i.e., those who don't chase bad pitches. And second, the Phils have a legitimate run-producing first base prospect in Rhys Hoskins set to take his game to Triple A in 2017.

Joseph knows all of this and takes nothing for granted.

"The only difference this year will be I'm on the big-league side in spring training, but everything still has to be earned," he said.

The Phillies ranked last in the majors — or "last in the world," as Mackanin said — with just 610 runs scored in 2016. The offseason additions of Howie Kendrick and Michael Saunders should help run production. So, too, should expected improvements from Maikel Franco and Joseph, two players who have the chance to be long-term building blocks.

"We've got guys at the big-league level that I choose to think are going to get better," Mackanin said. "Tommy Joseph is a perfect example."