Playoff Warmup: Flyers-Penguins Gameday Storylines

Playoff Warmup: Flyers-Penguins Gameday Storylines

The Flyers are in Pittsburgh today for the first of two remaining games against their likely opening round playoff opponent. The NHL's system of seeding division leaders 1-2-3 has rendered much of the final month somewhat stagnant in terms of seedings, though there is still a chance the Flyers could move up or down. They've now played as many games as Pittsburgh and are just three points back. 
Considering the Flyers have been better on the road and have played well in the Consol Energy Center, there may not be a whole lot of difference between the four and five seeds. But, there is certainly a tone to be set in these two matchups. The Pens are once again the league's darlings, and to be honest, they've earned it this season. 
Just not against the Flyers, so far. Pittsburgh has beaten Philadelphia only once in four contests this season. They'll be motivated to even the series before starting the one that matters. 

Whooooose Hoooouuuse?Sergei Bobrovsky survived a shaky start against Ottawa as the Flyers scraped their way to a point yesterday. Bob's had the Penguins' number since his first NHL start, when he was the surprise netminder in last season's opener. His name will forever be etched on the wall of the Consol Energy Center, as he christened the building with a Flyers win on its opening night. 
Bob has started all four games the Flyers have played in the Penguins' new igloo, and he's won each of them. 
Max & SidAdam Kimelman has a good story on Max Talbot's first ever game against Sidney Crosby. The two were very good friends while teammates, and Max is looking forward to playing against the player he calls the best in the world. 
The checking line's battle against the top scoring lines of Pittsburgh should go a long way toward dictating today's outcome. If there's a reason to play for home-ice advantage, it's getting the second change against Sid, Geno & Co. 
Recent HistoryThe Pens are likely still smarting from Scott Hartnell's final-second OT winner in a game they'd mostly dominated. They're coming off a 5-3 win over a desperate Buffalo squad, but also two straight 5-3 losses to the Islanders. Yesterday's Flyers opponent drubbed them 8-4 last weekend. 
Matinee MessesI've previously written how much I love a good NHL matinee game. The Flyers have absolutely broken me of this enjoyment. They're simply awful when the sun is out. Can they reverse that trend before the postseason begins and bears some nooners that truly matter?
12:30 start today on NBC. 

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Ivan Rodriguez elected to baseball Hall of Fame

Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, Ivan Rodriguez elected to baseball Hall of Fame

NEW YORK -- Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez were elected to baseball's Hall of Fame on Wednesday, earning the honor as Trevor Hoffman and Vladimir Guerrero fell just short.

Steroids-tainted stars Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were passed over for the fifth straight year by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. But they received significantly more votes this time and could be in position to gain election in coming years.

Bagwell , on the ballot for the seventh time after falling 15 votes short last year, received 381 of 442 votes for 86.2 percent. Players needed 75 percent, which came to 332 votes this year.

In his 10th and final year of eligibility, Raines was on 380 ballots (86 percent). Rodriguez received 336 votes (76 percent) to join Johnny Bench in 1989 as the only catchers elected on the first ballot.

Hoffman was five votes shy and Guerrero 15 short.

Edgar Martinez was next at 58.6 percent, followed by Clemens at 54.1 percent, Bonds at 53.8 percent, Mike Mussina at 51.8 percent, Curt Schilling at 45 percent, Lee Smith at 34.2 percent and Manny Ramirez at 23.8 percent.

Players will be inducted July 30 during ceremonies at Cooperstown along with former Commissioner Bud Selig and retired Kansas City and Atlanta Braves executive John Schuerholz, both elected last month by a veterans committee.

Bagwell was a four-time All-Star who spent his entire career with Houston, finishing with a .297 batting average, 401 homers and 1,401 RBIs.

Raines, fifth in career stolen bases, was a seven-time All-Star and the 1986 NL batting champion. He spent 13 of 23 big league seasons with the Montreal Expos, who left Canada to become the Washington Nationals for the 2005 season, and joins Andre Dawson and Gary Carter as the only players to enter the Hall representing the Expos.

Raines hit .294 with a .385 on-base percentage, playing during a time when Rickey Henderson was the sport's dominant speedster.

Rodriguez, a 14-time All-Star who hit .296 with 311 homers and 1,332 RBIs, was never disciplined for PEDs but former Texas teammate Jose Canseco alleged in a 2005 book that he injected the catcher with steroids. Asked whether he was on the list of players who allegedly tested positive for steroids during baseball's 2003 survey, Rodriguez said in 2009: "Only God knows."

Bonds, a seven-time MVP who holds the season and career home run records, received 36.2 percent in his initial appearance, in 2013, and jumped from 44.3 percent last year. Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner, rose from 45.2 percent last year.

Bonds was indicted on charges he lied to a grand jury in 2003 when he denied using PEDs, but a jury failed to reach a verdict on three counts he made false statements and convicted him on one obstruction of justice count, finding he gave an evasive answer. The conviction was overturned appeal in 2015.

Clemens was acquitted on one count of obstruction of Congress, three counts of making false statements to Congress and two counts of perjury, all stemming from his denials of drug use.

A 12-time All-Star on the ballot for the first time, Ramirez was twice suspended for violating baseball's drug agreement. He helped the Boston Red Sox win World Series titles in 2004 and `07, the first for the franchise since 1918, and hit .312 with 555 home runs and 1,831 RBIs in 19 big league seasons.

Several notable players will join them in the competition for votes in upcoming years: Chipper Jones in 2018, Mariano Rivera and Roy Halladay in 2019, and Derek Jeter in 2020.

Brown: 'No chance' Ben Simmons plays vs. Rockets next week

Brown: 'No chance' Ben Simmons plays vs. Rockets next week

Brett Brown squashed any chatter of Ben Simmons playing in the Sixers’ Jan. 27 nationally televised game against the Rockets.

“There is no chance,” Brown said Wednesday before the Sixers took on the Raptors.

On Tuesday the NBA announced the Sixers' matchup with the Rockets was added to the ESPN lineup while the Heat at Bulls game was dropped. 

That night, Simmons posted two photos on Instagram: a picture of him in Sixers warmup gear at the Wells Fargo Center with the staring eyes emoji and later a post of himself working out at the training complex. 

“I am a social media hermit. I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Brown said. “But I do know that there is no chance that he will play then.”

Simmons has been sidelined the entire season since suffering a Jones fracture in his right foot during training camp. The team has reiterated there is no timetable for his return.