Schedule: Flyers to Face Devils in Round 2

Schedule: Flyers to Face Devils in Round 2

After the Rangers closed out the Senators in a dramatic game 7 finish, the Flyers' second round fate awaited the winner of the Panthers-Devils matchup. Jersey got out to a 2-0 lead, but Florida would tie it to force overtime, and even that wasn't enough. It took a few minutes into a second OT, but the Devils outlasted the Panthers, winning on a goal by Adam Henrique. 
The Flyers-Devils series will start Sunday at 3PM with Philadelphia hosting. The Rangers and Caps will play on Saturday. So how are we feeling about the matchup? We'll get further into it this weekend, but let's a quick look below, plus the rest of the schedule. 
First off, these aren't the Devils that curdle the postseason blood of Flyers fans… The goalie may be the same, but he's not the same goalie.  
The two teams split the season series, the Flyers going 3-2-1. Each Philly win came with Ilya Bryzgalov in net, each loss with Sergei Bobrovsky. Two of the wins (the first and the last) were shutouts by Bryz. The Devils scored on him just once in three games. 
Claude Giroux had four goals and three assists in the six games against the Devils. 
In the regular season, New Jersey scored at nearly the same clip as they allowed goals. They posted the best overall PK and eighth overall goals against, while their scoring both overall and on the power play was about average. However, their PK was very leaky in against the Panthers, and the Flyers' PP was unbelievably good against Pittsburgh. 
The Devils should be riding high after closing out a hard-fought series though. The rivalry has taken a backseat lately, but it should perk up starting on Sunday. Don't count this series as over just because the Devils don't appear to be as dangerous as some of the others in the East. They won six straight to close out the season, then three of the first four games in the opening round before losing a pair and finally winning game 7. 
Long DivisionShould they keep winning, the Flyers' path to a Stanley Cup may be on an all-Atlantic trajectory. To get to the promised land, they'll have to beat the Penguins, Devils, then the winner of the Rangers-Capitals series. That's not to say either remaining Eastern Conference series is a foregone conclusion. 
From the start, the night appeared to be a win-win for the Flyers. If the Senators won, the Rangers would be out. I'd like nothing more than to see the Flyers get through the Rangers in the ECF en route to a Cup, but we know they couldn't win so much as a game against New York this season, so we wouldn't have been too upset to see them out. When and if the time comes, we'll be pumped to see the Flyers turn it around against the Rags though. 
With a Rangers win, the Flyers would face the winner of what was considered to be one of the weaker matchups in the playoffs. The NHL's weighted system saw the Panthers hold the three seed with just 94 points, which was only sixth best in the conference. New Jersey meanwhile had just two fewer points than the fifth seeded Flyers—though one more regulation win. 
ScheduleSunday 4/29  3PM Devils at FlyersTuesday 5/1  7:30PM Devils at FlyersThursday 5/3  7:30PM Flyers at DevilsSunday 5/6  7:30PM Flyers at DevilsTuesday 5/8 TBD Devils at Flyers*Thursday 5/10 TBD Flyers at Devils*Saturday 5/12 TBD Devils at Flyers*
*everyone knows what this asterisk means
Early predictions?
Much more to come. We're gonna call it a night now that the first round of the NFL draft is in the bag and we know who the Flyers will face… 

Phillies sign OF Daniel Nava, LHP Sean Burnett to minor-league contracts

Phillies sign OF Daniel Nava, LHP Sean Burnett to minor-league contracts

The Phillies made a couple quiet additions as the winter meetings ended, signing veteran outfielder Daniel Nava and lefty reliever Sean Burnett to minor-league contracts.

Nava, 34 in February, is a left-handed hitter who can play the outfield corners and first base. He came up with the Red Sox and became a fan favorite in Boston in 2010 as a 27-year-old rookie. Some Phillies fans will remember him for hitting a grand slam off Joe Blanton in his first major-league plate appearance.

Nava had a few decent years in Boston, the best of which was 2013, when he had 536 plate appearances and hit .303/.385/.445 with 29 doubles, 12 homers and 66 RBIs. 

Nava's numbers and opportunities have dropped every year since. He was designated for assignment by Boston in 2015, latched on with the Rays, signed the next year with the Angels and was traded late in the season to the Royals.

Over the last two seasons, Nava has hit just .208, albeit with an on-base percentage 99 points higher because of his 30 walks and 10 hit by pitches.

Burnett, 34, has spent five of the last seven seasons in the Nationals' bullpen. He had a 2.85 ERA in 283 appearances from 2009-12 and parlayed that success into a two-year, $7.25 million contract with the Angels. However, he barely pitched in 2013 and 2014 for the Halos because of an elbow tear. He returned to the Nats last season and allowed two runs in 5⅔ innings.

Burnett, perhaps more so than Nava, has a chance to fill a role with the Phillies if he can stay healthy. He's shown he can get outs at the highest level, posting a 2.38 ERA in 2012 with 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings and a 2.14 ERA with 8.9 K/9 in 2010. That was a long time ago now, and Burnett's fastball has dipped from averaging 90-91 mph to 88.

According to Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith, Burnett will receive a $1.25 million salary if he makes the team and can earn another $1.75 million in incentives based on his number of appearances.

Burnett has an opt-out date of March 26, meaning he can become a free agent a week before the regular season begins if it looks to him like he isn't in the Phils' plans.

Nava's chances at cracking the opening-day roster seem longer because the Phillies are expected to make more depth signings between now and the start of camp. They've prioritized finding some offense in the corner outfield and that could come in the form of more minor-league deals, a guaranteed contract or trade. One potential fit I examined last week was Mariners outfielder Seth Smith, a hitter more proven than Nava (see story).

These minor-league deals were commonplace for Phillies general manager Matt Klentak last offseason, when the only free agent he signed to a major-league deal was reliever David Hernandez. 

Last season, three players who were signed to minor-league deals with invites to spring training made the team on opening day: outfielder Cedric Hunter, utilityman Emmanuel Burriss and reliever James Russell.

Others, such as former closers Edward Mujica, Ernesto Frieri and Andrew Bailey, failed to make the team out of camp. Bailey eventually earned a call-up; the other two didn't.

Former Sixer Lou Williams lighting it up with Lakers off the bench

Former Sixer Lou Williams lighting it up with Lakers off the bench

Former Sixers point guard and Meek Mill collaborator Lou Williams is enjoying quite the run off the bench for the Lakers recently.

Over Los Angeles' last four games, Williams has posted totals of 40, 38, 24, and 35 points. 

The six-man is averaging 34.5 points per game over the stretch, and his 137 points are the most off the bench in a four-game span by any player since 1970-71, when stats were first recorded, per Elias Sports Bureau, via ESPN. Williams is now averaging 19.3 points this season, which is 4.4 more than his highest average with the Sixers.

Williams isn’t the only player who used to play for the Sixers that is playing well for the Lakers this year. Nick “Swaggy P” Young, who also comes off the bench, is averaging 13.3 points per game. Just a few weeks ago, Swaggy P stole a pass intended for Lou Williams, and then proceeded to hit a game winner against the Thunder. Swaggy P, however, is currently sidelined with a right calf strain, but is getting closer to a return.

"Lou Will" was also talked about last April during Kobe Bryant’s final NBA game, when he was beefing on Twitter with another former Philadelphia athlete, LeSean McCoy.