Season Swept: Rangers Again Too Strong for Flyers

Season Swept: Rangers Again Too Strong for Flyers

Mash up that bitter pill and gum it down with some apple sauce. The Rangers own the Flyers this season. For the first time since the 70s, New York swept the season series, and they did so in dominant fashion.
The Flyers have made a habit of conceding goals early but have also dug their way out of those holes. After allowing the game's first two goals for the seventh time in 10 outings, Thursday night's hole became a pit, expanding to a four-goal deficit before the first intermission. 
If there's a silver lining here, it's that once again the Flyers did not give up despite getting blown out in the first 20. They clawed their way to a semi-respectable 5-3 loss, playing better hockey as the game wore on. They simply couldn't beat Henrik Lundqvist though, who was amazing. 
The Rangers were the better team in just about every way, and even when the Flyers were playing very well, Lundqvist was unbeatable. 
Regulated EnergyThe action was dominated by power plays for both sides, with mind-numbingly bad officiating shattering any rhythm the game might have developed on its own. The Rangers scored three of their goals on the man advantage; the Flyers converted only once. One killing stretch in particular damned the orange & black. With Jaromir Jagr in the box, Artem Anisimov sliced his way through the Flyers' defense and scored with an impressive move. On his way to the goal, Anisimov was hooked, and as he scored it, high-sticked, drawing blood. The goal released Jagr from the box with the Rangers up 3-0, but two Flyers headed to the box. With a two-man advantage (including a double-minor to Pavel Kubina), the Rangers had no problem stretching the lead to 4-0. 
The Flyers earned each of those, but some of the calls in this seemed to be made at random. You may have picked up on my bias over the years, but while both teams were burned, the Flyers had the worst of it. Brayden Schenn was called for a charge on a check he clearly pulled up on. Max Talbot drew a high-sticking during a scrum that saw three Rangers on him, none of whom joined him in the bin. 
Claim to the ThroneHenrik Lundqvist has a legit shot at the Vezina this season, and his domain over the Flyers is undisputed. This game may have been lopsided at times, but the Flyers had some outstanding opportunities thwarted by jaw-dropping saves. (<—hyperbole but kinda true). Lunger was peppered with 40 shots, and the Flyers missed a good bit too, trying hard for the corners knowing full well he'd get everything else. 
It took some kitchen-sink offense to finally beat Lundqvist. The Flyers' first goal was credited to Jake Voracek, and while he certainly earned it, it wasn't clean by any stretch. Vorch followed up his own second effort with a pass attempt to Scott Hartnell in front of the net, but the puck never got there, deflecting through Henrik's pads off the skate of his defenseman. 
Their second goal also can't be pinned on Lundqvist. After a diving effort to stop a Claude Giroux one-timer on the power play, Wayne Simmonds dunked an easy goal on the empty net. Importantly for the Rangers going forward, Lundqvist hurt his arm on the play, though he didn't come out or show signs of any issues the rest of the way. He did have ice on it afterward, per Adam Kimelman. 
G SpotsAndreas Lilja appeared to score his first goal as a Flyer in the third period, but after the game it was credited to Scott Hartnell. Lilja was on the receiving end of a nice play-make by Claude Giroux, and he burned a wrister in on goal. 
Speaking of playmaking by G, his two-way effort was a huge reason for the Flyers' first goal. He made a check in the open ice, then relayed an outlet from Kimmo Timonen, who was also key in the takeaway. 
Giroux's back on the full-time clock with Danny Briere out, notching a team-high 27:13. Nearly 10 minutes of that came on the power play. 
With three assists on the night, Giroux now has 92 points. That's the most since Eric Lindros had 93 in '98-'99. 
Needs Work...Credit the Rags for taking advantage of their opportunities offensively, playing some frustratingly stifling defense, and getting top-notch goaltending. But the Flyers were a mess on a few key sequences early, failing to properly mark in front of their own net. Forwards and defenders alike were a step behind. Matt Carle had a few rough moments... Hopefully Nick Grossmann can return sooner rather than later. His size has been key. 
Bryz's ReturnBryzgalov was solid in net, hung out to dry too often in the first period of his first game after an injury layoff. He wouldn't talk about his foot after the game, but clearly didn't say that everything's fine. That might not be true until sometime after the postseason, but it didn't appear to affect his game in the loss. 
Relative RelevanceWith Briere out, Jody Shelley was back in the lineup. What timing. More often than not a healthy scratch this season, Shelley's most visible moment might have been when Mike Rupp called him irrelevant as the Ranger refused to take mutual majors with Shelley. The exchange was caught by the mics and cameras of HBO's 24/7, and to his credit, Rupp was contrite when that went public. But Rupp's also the guy who mocked Jagr by doing his trademark salute after scoring in the Winter Classic. 
One highlight, while ultimately meaningless to the game, was a first period fight in which Shelley gave Rupp some pretty relevant right hands... Both in the form of punches and a Jagr Salute of his own... 
And the salute:
Above videos by HockeyFights.com and DropThePuck.org
Highlights

Phillies-Mets 5 things: All the pressure on Mets, Gsellman

Phillies-Mets 5 things: All the pressure on Mets, Gsellman

Phillies (70-85) at Mets (82-73)
1:10 p.m. on CSN

After two rough losses for the Phillies and their pitching staff, the offense picked them up and came through with a 10-8 win. 22-year-old Jake Thompson takes the hill this afternoon while Robert Gsellman starts a crucial game for the Mets.

Here are five things to watch on Sunday.

1. All the pressure on New York, Gsellman
The Mets remain 0.5 games up on the final National League playoff spot. 

While their pitching staff was falling apart at the seams going into (and during) this series, the one saving grace for New York was its soft schedule, facing the Phillies seven times in its last 10. Meanwhile, the St. Louis Cardinals have to deal with the MLB best Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants end the year vs. the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers.

However, a loss on Saturday (thanks in part to Noah Syndergaard getting scratched with strep throat) puts the Mets in a precarious position. They're tied in the loss column with the Cards and Giants while fighting for one of two playoff spots and their rotation most closely resembles their Triple A team from Opening Day. 

Gsellman is one of those pitchers who started the year never having tasted the major leagues. In fact, he started the year in Double A. His first career start came at Citi Field last month against the Phillies and resulted in his first career loss after he allowed four runs in six innings. 

He's been better since that start, carrying a 3.13 ERA into Sunday. The 23-year-old righty will likely start vs. the Phillies again next weekend, meaning the Mets' season rides in part on a rookie with just 31 2/3 innings in the majors. 

2. Young man on a roll
While Gsellman lost his last start, Thompson has won his last two starts. The young righty is on a hot streak as his season nears an end.

Thompson's ERA has goe down in each of his last five starts, a stat made less impressive by the fact that he began that run with a 9.78 ERA. He has gone at least five innings in his last eight starts and has shown glimpses of why he was such a valued prospects.

In September, Thompson is 2-1 with a 3.09 ERA over four starts. He's still allowed 33 baserunners in 23 1/3 innings during that span, but it's been much better than his lackluster August.

While Thompson is in line to start next weekend against the Mets as well, today could be his final start of the season. He has already set a career-high in innings and the Phillies may not want to extend him one more start.

3. What to look for in the season's final week
Including Sunday, the Phillies have just seven games left in their season. They're eliminated from playoff contention, but there's still plenty to watch as the Phils take on Braves and Mets.

Ryan Howard's final fairwell: With his five-year, $125 million deal coming to a close this year, Howard is almost certainly playing his final games in Philadelphia next week. He'll get plenty of starts and may even face the Mets' Bartolo Colon, who he's smacked three home runs off of in his career.

Playing spoiler: As mentioned above, the Mets have everything on the line both today and next weekend in Philadelphia. There are few better ways to end a postseason-less season than knocking a rival out of playoff contention.

More looks at the kids: Roman Quinn's emergence over the last two weeks has been fun to watch and Jorge Alfaro may get more chances in the last seven games. Beyond them, Thompson, Tommy Joseph and others close out a nice first season. 

4. Players to watch
Phillies: Maikel Franco has looked more like his 2015 self over the last few weeks. He's batting .310 in September with three home runs, matching his August total. His 15 RBI this month are his most in a month other than July. 

Mets: Asdrubal Cabrera has been on fire this month as well. After battting .405 in August, he's batting .333 and has five home runs, including the walk-off homer on Thursday. He's slugging .628 this month after putting up a .786 slugging percentage in August. 

5. This and that
• In Gsellman's August start vs. the Phillies, he only allowed one run while he was in the game. However, he left the bases loaded in the 7th with no outs before A.J. Ellis knocked in the decisive two-run double to give the Phils a lead they would not relinquish.

• Six different Phillies batters had hits off Gsellman, including Jimmy Paredes who went 2 for 3 with a double and an RBI. 

• Despite pitching injuries, the Mets have the eighth-best team ERA in September with a 3.64 average. The Phillies are 15th in baseball with a 4.10 ERA this month.

• The Phillies are 6-9 against the Mets this year. They're already ensured of a better finish than last year's 5-14 mark vs. New York.

Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, 24, killed in boating accident

uspresswire-marlins-jose-fernandez.jpg
USA Today Images

Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, 24, killed in boating accident

MIAMI -- Jose Fernandez, the ace right-hander for the Miami Marlins who escaped Cuba to become one of baseball's brightest stars, was killed in boating accident early Sunday morning. Fernandez was 24.

The Marlins announced Fernandez's death, and the U.S. Coast Guard confirmed that Fernandez was one of three people killed in a boat crash off Miami Beach.

In the statement, the Marlins say they are "devastated by the tragic loss of Jose Fernandez. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this very difficult time."

Chief Petty Officer Nyxolyno Cangemi told The Associated Press that a Coast Guard patrol boat spotted an overturned boat at 3:30 a.m. on a jetty near Government Cut. The bodies were discovered a short time later.

Because the boat was on a jetty, the Coast Guard notified Miami-Dade police, which turned the investigation over to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Fernandez was on a 32-foot vessel that had a "severe impact" with a jetty, said Lorenzo Veloz of the Fish Commission.

A news conference was planned for later Sunday morning.

Fernandez was a two-time All-Star who went 38-17 in his four seasons with the Marlins, winning the NL's Rookie of the Year award in 2013. The native of Santa Clara, Cuba became a U.S. citizen last year.

He tried to defect from Cuba at least three times -- landing in jail after one of those unsuccessful tries -- before eventually getting to the U.S. and going to high school in Tampa, Florida. The Marlins drafted him in 2011 and Fernandez was in the majors two years later.

The Marlins' game Sunday at home against the Atlanta Braves has been cancelled.