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… 

Vince Velasquez feels the heat in Phillies' Sunday loss to Pirates

Vince Velasquez feels the heat in Phillies' Sunday loss to Pirates

BOX SCORE

PITTSBURGH --- Vince Velasquez wasn’t able to stand the heat Sunday afternoon.

The game-time temperature was 89 degrees with humidity to match at PNC Park. The Phillies' right-hander admitted he didn’t handle the weather well.

"You're going to go through various conditions, and it's something that you've got to really take into consideration -- to really lock in, stay hydrated because it can mentally drain you,” Velasquez said. “It kind of took a toll on me but I have to make the best of what I've got.”

Velasquez wound up pitching six innings in the blistering heat but did not factor in the decision as the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Phillies 5-4 on pinch-hitter Adam Frazier’s leadoff home run in the seventh inning, his first in the major leagues, off fellow rookie Edubray Ramos (see Instant Replay).

Velasquez had his worst of his five starts since coming off the disabled list June 26, allowing four runs and seven hits while walking four and striking out five. He threw 107 pitches, 64 for strikes.

In his first four outings after begin activated, he was 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA to raise his record to 8-2.

“Just looking at his body language, he showed that he was struggling to find the strike zone,” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “He didn't have his best location. He did a good job; he just made a couple bad pitches when they scored the two runs. Obviously, he wasn't at his best, but he kept us in the game.”

While that kind of outing can breed confidence in a 24-year-old pitcher, Velasquez took no consolation in it. He was bothered about not being able to hold a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, giving up a tying two-run home run to Matt Joyce.

“I knew it was my last inning when I went out there and I have to be able to close it out there,” Velasquez said. “I’m disappointed in that. I need to be better in that situation.”

Joyce’s blast came on pitch after Starling Marte doubled on an 0-2 pitch. That, too, annoyed Velasquez.

“That's just a matter of finishing at-bats,” Velasquez said. “You've got to lock in on 0-2 counts when you're ahead. You've got to finish the at-bat. Knowing that that was my last inning, that's where you have to bear down and give it all you've got.”

Ramos then gave up the game-winning homer to Frazier an inning later, the first long ball given up by the 23-year-old right-hander in 14 career outings. The Phillies wound up losing two of three games in the series and are 3-7 since the All-Star break to drop to 10 games under .500 at 45-55 through 100 games.

“It’s a game we should have won but I put us in position to lose it,” Velasquez said.

Dallas Cowboys bus involved in fatal crash in Arizona

Dallas Cowboys bus involved in fatal crash in Arizona

KINGMAN, Ariz. -- Four people were killed Sunday when bus carrying Dallas Cowboys staffers but no players collided with a van on a northwestern Arizona highway.

The fatalities were passengers in the van, Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman Quentin Mehr said. But the bus occupants emerged uninjured.

"All on the bus came through OK with some bumps and bruises," Cowboys spokesman Rich Dalrymple (DAHL'-rimp-ul) said in an email.

Dalrymple said the bus was only carrying members of the franchise's staff but would not say how many. There were no players on board.

The two vehicles collided in the afternoon on U.S. 93, about 30 miles north of the city of Kingman, according to DPS.

The crash shut down at least one lane of the highway that serves as the main route between Phoenix and Las Vegas.

The bus was on its way to a Dallas Cowboys fan event in Las Vegas. Charles Cooper, manager of GameWorks entertainment center in Vegas, said the session with 50 to 75 fans was scheduled for 3 p.m. PDT. People were already waiting when the president of a Las Vegas Cowboys fan club called to relay news of the accident. The event was subsequently canceled. Cooper says the team mascot was supposed to appear.

After the Las Vegas stop, the bus was scheduled to go on to Oxnard, California for the team's training camp. Members of the organization typically take a bus two weeks before the camp starts and make stops along the way.

Report: Phillies preparing for possible Jeremy Hellickson trade to Marlins

Report: Phillies preparing for possible Jeremy Hellickson trade to Marlins

Jeremy Hellickson may be staying in the NL East past the trade deadline. 

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that the Phillies are scouting the Marlins' minor league teams in advance of a possible Hellickson deal. 

This comes on the heels of a report from a radio host in Miami that Marlins starter Wei-Yin Chen may need Tommy John surgery. Chen left with an elbow sprain during Wednesday's loss to the Phillies and was placed on the disabled list. Ironically, Chen was starting against Hellickson, who will face Jarred Cosart in place of Chen on Monday.

Hellickson's value rebounded significantly this season after struggling in Arizona and Tampa Bay the last few seasons. After dealing with a shoulder injury, Hellickson pitched to ERAs above 4.50 in each season from 2013-15, leading to the Diamondbacks trading him to the Phillies for limited value. 

However, in 20 starts, Hellickson, who will be a free agent after the year, has anchored the Phillies' rotation, bringing a 3.84 ERA over 119 ⅔ innings into Monday's scheduled start. He also has a nearly career-best strikeout rate and has regained his signature command that made him a strong performer with the Rays.

The Phillies are aided this trade deadline by a lack of starting pitching options available on the market. With many teams in contention looking for an additional starter, Hellickson is an attractive piece who could help a team in a pennant race.