Shootouts, the Globetrotters, and a Role-Reversal Flyers Loss

Shootouts, the Globetrotters, and a Role-Reversal Flyers Loss

One of the things I dislike most about the shootout in hockey is its effect on the post I have to write afterward. Selfish, I know. But the deciding element of the game is entirely inconsequential to the team's hopes for a deep playoff run, and thus not really worthy of much thought or analysis. Is it kinda fun to watch a shootout? Sure. But so is practice over at the Skate Zone, in pretty much the same way. The points on the line factor into the standings in a very real way, but it's still kind of pointless to fret over whether a first place team is any good at a trick shot competition that isn't used to determine postseason outcomes at all. But really, I just don't like the premise. Similarly, I like basketball, but I get annoyed at the way close games often grind to a halt, with the final minute or so consisting of a bunch of free throws. It's like settling one sport by seeing which team does individual practice drills more efficiently. Then there's the shootout in the NHL, which is somewhat like the free throw parade we see in basketball, only the Globetrotters are taking the shots.

Sometime very soon, we're hoping to bring you the pro-shootout side presented by a very qualified observer.

Until then, we'll just talk about the 65-minutes of action that ended in a 1-1 tie before Pittsburgh beat the Flyers in the shootout. And just to warn you, I don't have any great insight into the first 65 either. As fruitless as it can be to analyze the outcome of a game that ends in a shootout, it isn't any easier to look at the last couple of weeks of Flyers' games and put them into a particular context from night to night—other than to say that the team is playing inconsistently right now. The last two games, despite both ending in exactly the same [stupid] fashion, were complete opposites in some big ways.  

Overall, it was a game that lacked in intensity, which is surprising given the rivalry between these teams. It wasn't terrible, and the Penguins didn't dramatically outplay the Flyers. The big question of the night was answered positively—Sergei Bobrovsky came back from a bad outing to be the best player on the ice the next time out.

As encouraging as it was to see Bob rebound, the skaters in front of him also reversed their course from the Caps game. The problem, obviously, is that they played very well against Washington. The difference between the two offensive showings, combined with Bob's complete 180, makes any in-depth analysis seem somewhat off-setting.

Bob's night was encouraging though. In the playoffs, a goalie needs to have a mentality not unlike a closer in baseball. If you completely blow it, you have to have a short memory. (If you're keeping score at home, we've now mixed sports analogies twice... sorry.) I've always wondered how possible that shake-it-off stuff is, versus merely being an objective for the day after you personally cost your team a game. Whatever the case, Bobrovsky showed that he can put a bad game behind him, as he has previously this season.  

Bob made some amazing saves in the first period, breaking up a cross-crease pass with a poke check on Dustin Jeffrey on one play, then stoned Tyler Kennedy on a breakaway. He set the tone for his team, showing them he wouldn't let them down like last game. Unfortunately, they cashed in the favor pretty quickly. 

Even with about half their team scratched, the Penguins are still pretty good (scary when you consider that Sidney Crosby still leads them in points despite missing nearly three months, and he could be back for the playoffs). Defensively, they were strong, and the Flyers' only goal came on a fluky play. It was still the result of some hard work by James van Riemsdyk and Mike Richards:

Up next, the return to Flyer Island on Saturday. 

Temple cracks Top 25 in final CFP rankings, will play in Military Bowl

ap-temple.jpg
The Associated Press

Temple cracks Top 25 in final CFP rankings, will play in Military Bowl

After winning its first American Athletic Conference championship Saturday, Temple learned its postseason fate Sunday and it does not involve a New Year's Six bowl game.

The Owls will play Wake Forest in the Military Bowl on Dec. 27 in Annapolis, Maryland. Temple also finished No. 24 in the final College Football Playoff rankings and No. 23 in the AP poll.

At 10-3, Temple has its first back-to-back 10-win season in program history. It's also the first time the Owls have been ranked in consecutive seasons. Head coach Matt Rhule now has 28 wins as Temple's head coach, tying him with Bruce Arians' for the sixth-most in school history.

Wake Forest finished the season 6-6 and on a three-game losing streak, but two of those three loses came to No. 2 Clemson and No. 13 Louisville. The Deamon Deacons have lost five of their last six games.

Flyers-Predators 5 things: Going for longest win streak since 2014

Flyers-Predators 5 things: Going for longest win streak since 2014

Flyers (13-10-3) at Predators (11-8-4)
6 p.m. on CSN and CSNPhilly.com

The Flyers have won a season-high four games in a row. They'll try to make it five Sunday night when they visit the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena for the second game of a back-to-back set.

Let's take a look at five things you need to know.

1. Streaking like 2014?
Not only do the Flyers have a chance to extend their season-best winning streak, but they're also looking to win their most consecutive games since March 15-22, 2014, when they also won five straight.

The Flyers have put up strong showings in the back ends of back-to-backs, going 4-1-1 thus far.

“You just have to have the work ethic night in and night out," Steve Mason said Saturday after the Flyers' 3-1 win over the Blackhawks. "And, I think we were struggling to find that. There are games when we were swarming and giving teams no other option, and other nights we were chasing the puck.

"We have another tough test going to Nashville to play. So, we’re going to have to follow up with another great effort.” 

2. A Provorov encore?
Ivan Provorov's confidence has to be at his highest of the season.

In Saturday's win, the 19-year-old blueliner scored two goals in a 31-second span to double his goal total through the first 25 games.

Provorov said he thinks defense first, but the offensive production is a good sign.

“Score one goal in a game, it’s a good feeling. Score two in one shift, it’s unbelievable,” Provorov said.

“Every time you score, it’s like a confidence booster."

3. Predators finding stride
After losing eight of their first 11 games, Peter Laviolette's Predators have gotten on track, going 8-3-1 since.

Nashville ranks in the top half of the league in goals per game (3.00 — tied for fifth), goals against per game (2.61 — 15th), power-play percentage (22.6 — sixth) and penalty-kill percentage (84.5 — 10th).

Last time out, the Predators blew a 4-1 lead in the third period for a 5-4 overtime loss to the Devils on Saturday, so they should be extra focused.

4. Keep an eye on ...
Flyers: On Saturday, Brayden Schenn scored just his second goal in his past 18 games. Schenn can be streaky so maybe he feeds off that goal. He's also a career plus-4 against the Predators, with two goals and three assists in eight games.

Predators: Let's go P.K. Subban, who isn't exactly a favorite among Flyers fans. He's off to a nice start in his first season in Nashville with six goals and 10 assists, and eight points (three goals, five assists) in his last eight games.

5. This and that
• Flyers goalie Steve Mason is 7-7-5 with a 2.42 goals-against average and .916 save percentage in 20 career games against the Predators.

• Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne is 3-2-2 with a 2.91 goals-against average and .906 save percentage in seven career games against the Flyers.

• Claude Giroux is four assists away from passing Rick MacLeish (369) and Eric Lindros (369) for fifth on the Flyers’ all-time list.