Shut 'Em Up and Send 'Em Home: Flyers Top Jets in Amazing OT Finish

Shut 'Em Up and Send 'Em Home: Flyers Top Jets in Amazing OT Finish

Have any area bartenders invented a drink that involves something like a palm full of Tums followed by three consecutive belts of bourbon? Because that'd be perfect after watching any of the games between the Flyers and the Winnipeg Jets this season. Damn shame that's the last we'll see of them unless they meet in the playoffs. Not that it's necessarily heart-friendly hockey, and neither coach can be happy with the quality of cleanups in front of their own net, but Tuesday night's was no doubt wildly entertaining. In the end, the Flyers would silence a building that had been raucous since before the opening faceoff, first scoring the game-tying goal with less than 10 seconds in regulation, then the winner with 46 seconds left in OT.

The boys would pepper Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec with 55 shots (tying a franchise record for shots on the road), and despite the ultimate outcome, Pavelec may have been the best individual player on the ice. Fortunately, the Flyers overcame lapses on the penalty kill and in goal, maintained their frenzied attack all night, and finally broke him for the 5-4 win.

Hell of a hockey experience for those of us watching at home, can't imagine how it must have felt for the orange-clad Flyers fans strewn around the building. While we're all waiting around for them to play that perfect game at every level, there's something to be said for the nailbiters, and not just for their entertainment value. Check out all the action below.

It says a lot about the Flyers that they weathered a complete inability to stop the Jets' power play, as well as some shakiness in net. Even the haters can't pin more than a goal or two on Bryz, but that's a lot in a game this close, and one of them in particular could have sent a lesser team's momentum into the ground. Instead, they bailed him out, and he had the opportunity to do the same in return.

As we've come to expect from these teams so far this season, the action came early and didn't stop until the final horn. Still pissed that Ilya Bryzgalov publicly spurned the idea of playing in Winnipeg, the Manitobans let him have it all night. It's probably wrong to admit, but it was hard not to grin and acknowledge that despite it being in part at our goalie's expense, the fan presence at MTS Centre is pretty awesome. Any lifelong fan of the sport should at least be happy to see an NHL franchise reborn after returning to Canada.

Even Ilya Bryzgalov joked after the game about the reception he received. Don't let anyone tell ya different either. He was kidding... [Video here]

POINTS IN THE PAINT. LOTS OF 'EM.
The game opened like a tennis match, back and forth action and little in the way of efforts to slow things down. No surprise from opponents who combined to score 27 goals in their first two meetings of the season.

Unfortunately, a leaky Flyers penalty kill surrendered the first goal, a screened blast from Dustin Byfuglien. Goals due to traffic or shooters being very close were easy to come by at both ends though. Scott Hartnell and particularly Wayne Simmonds may as well have been banging cymbals in front of Pavelec for all the noise they brought to the crease area. Neither team could effectively clear for their respective goalies, and there were a lot of dirty markers to show for it.

Claude Giroux tossed a nice shot into a relatively open net (though the window was only open a second) off a backhand pass from Hartnell.

G would later say to Coatsey that Hartnell would claim he saw him on the back door, but there's no way he did when he threw a blind pass across the crease. Great to see how comfortable these guys are with each other on and off the ice. Probably why there was somehow gas left in the tank late in a game that began to look unwinnable.

Harts scored the first goal of the second period, a play absolutely gorgeous in its dirtiness. With Pavelec locked in, it was going to take some screening and redirection to beat him. On an early power play, they employed both. Hartnell and Simmonds have had some great success working a high-low screen on power plays lately, but this time they both stayed low, well under the Jets' defensive square. Kimmo fired a shot through down the pike, and Simmonds put the perfect angle on a deflection that would carom off of Pavelec's pads to Hartnell, who buried it with relative ease.
Was it stoppable? Sure. But sometimes you have to credit the playmaker
and the shooter, and they deserve it on this one.

Lavvy took a timeout to give his skaters a break after the goal and an icing call, but in a surprising twist… the Jets came out and immediately scored. Again, it was Ladd. Winnipeg had great traffic in front, swatting down a point shot, then pushing it past Bryzgalov.

Thankfully Max Talbot chipped home a rebound into an open net not unlike an opportunity he'd narrowly missed earlier. Talbot's 17th(!) of the season tied it at 3.

The third period brought some insane action, which despite a bad early goal by Evander Kane, heavily favored the Flyers. Bryzgalov was fooled by some English on a Kane wrister that, yes, seemed to knuckle or curve, but really shouldn't have beaten an NHL goalie.
Bryz would likely tell you the same.

After that, to their credit, the Flyers kept attacking in waves, rather than wilting. Pavelec was on fire at the other end. Nothing shaky was going to beat him. For a while, it looked like nothing at all, particularly this save on Jake Voracek.

Pandemonium in area living rooms. Silence in The 'Peg.

Notes:
Simmonds is as hard-working an NHL forward as I've seen. His game is intensely physical, with momentum that puts defenders and goalies on their heels and forces them into making physical mistakes. In addition to yet again adding to his career-best goal total (22), Simmonds now leads all NHL'ers in February goal scoring with nine tallies.

Scott Hartnell leads the league in power play goals with 14.(<—Sentences I never thought I'd write before the season.)

Brayden Schenn wasn't among the night's scorers, but he made a very impressive save with Bryz down and out on a dangerous Jets scoring opportunity. [Video]

Nick Grossman had another solid game, including a great play cleaning up a dangerous turnover by Andrej Meszaros. In the Flyers' style of play, that's huge. Kubina had some promising shows and looked fine overall, but did get burnt by Kane pretty badly, though Bryz came up with a big save.

Giroux had a career-high 10 shots on goal.

Still a lot of work to be done by that PK unit… Three WPG PP opps, three goals.

Again, huge props to Pavelec. His defense was no help for long stretches, and he made 50 saves, including 17 in the third period alone.

Seth Smith would be a logical, low-cost trade target for Phillies

Seth Smith would be a logical, low-cost trade target for Phillies

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said Tuesday night he'd still like another veteran bat in addition to Howie Kendrick, though he understands the front office is conscious of not blocking young prospects.

The Phillies need offense and the clearest area to upgrade is an outfield corner. But don't expect to see the Phils go after Jose Bautista, Michael Saunders or anyone of that ilk, because those players will require multi-year guarantees and everyday playing time. If you sign one of them, you're basically telling two of Roman Quinn, Nick Williams and Aaron Altherr that they won't be needed much the next three years. 

That would be unwise. The whole point of rebuilding is filling a roster with young, inexpensive talent and then eventually supplementing that core with established players who fit. Look at what the Cubs did. Look at what the Astros are doing now, adding older players like Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, Nori Aoki and Josh Reddick to fill in the holes around Jose Altuve, George Springer, Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman.

For that reason, a player like Seth Smith would be a worthwhile addition for the Phillies.

Smith, 34, makes $7 million in 2017, the final year of his contract with the Mariners. When Mackanin discusses "professional hitters," Smith is the type. He has one of the better batting eyes in baseball, chasing about eight percent fewer pitches outside the strike zone the last three years than the league average.

He's a career .261/.344/.447 hitter who averages 29 doubles, 16 homers, 56 walks and 102 strikeouts per 162 games.

The left-handed Smith can play both outfield corners, and he's always been very effective against right-handed pitching. He has a .272 career batting average with an .827 OPS against righties compared to .202 with a .594 OPS vs. lefties. 

Smith is a fit for the Phillies for several reasons. They need more offense from the corner outfield. Logically, that outfielder should be a left-handed hitter because the Phillies' projected middle of the order has four right-handed bats in Maikel Franco, Tommy Joseph, Cameron Rupp and Kendrick.

Furthermore, Smith, unlike Saunders, for example, does not require everyday playing time. Smith shouldn't start against lefties. That would provide opportunities to Altherr and Quinn in 2017, while protecting against ineffectiveness from Altherr and another injury to Quinn.

And lastly, Smith is not going to cost anything meaningful via trade. He's a 34-year-old platoon player in the final year of his deal. The Phillies could likely land him for an insignificant prospect, perhaps a pitcher who had a high strikeout rate last season in the low levels of the minor leagues. 

For Seattle, it would be more of a salary dump. The Mariners' 2016 payroll is already $20 million more than it was last year, and per reports, they seem willing to spend to improve their starting rotation.

Smith is not a game-changer, that's not the argument here. He's not J.D. Martinez, a much bigger name and better player. Martinez would also fit the Phillies as a one-year option, and they'd likely be interested in keeping him around longer if they could acquire him. But any trade with the Tigers for Martinez wouldn't be nearly as painless for the Phils as acquiring Smith. 

So perhaps more than other available outfielders, Smith would be an offensive upgrade and a player who fits the Phillies' goal of improving without stunting a top prospect's growth.

Connor McDavid, Oilers' speed, skill present Flyers with 'real good challenge'

Connor McDavid, Oilers' speed, skill present Flyers with 'real good challenge'

VOORHEES, N.J. — They are among the very best – and highest scoring — lines in the NHL this season.
 
And they’re gunning for the Flyers on Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
 
Connor McDavid’s unit with Milan Lucic and Leon Draisaitl have a combined 30 goals and 78 points worth of offense. 
 
Among them, the lightning quick McDavid leads the NHL with 36 points. All 11 of his goals are even strength. 
 
He doesn’t have a single power-play goal, but is tied for the league lead with several players, including Claude Giroux, with 10 power-play assists.
 
You can expect to see Pierre-Edouard Bellemare’s unit with Chris VandeVelde and Dale Weise against this line with defenseman Ivan Provorov drawing McDavid for the first time this season.
 
“Speed and skill that Edmonton has up front presents a real good challenge for our team,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “We have to be better with the puck tomorrow. 
 
“We didn’t do enough when we had the puck. Gave it up a little too easily and because of that, you end up playing defense a lot of the night and that’s what happened last night to us.”
 
Bellemare, who had his share of forward battles with Jaromir Jagr in Tuesday, likes to analyze the matchups against McDavid.
 
“He’s one of the best players in the world,” Bellemare said of the 19-year-old McDavid. “It’s tough not to be excited when playing against a guy who plays like this. He competes every second he is on the ice. That line is an impressive line.”
 
The Flyers better have some bad, choppy ice to slow McDavid down. Edmonton has some of the fastest ice in the league and the Oilers use it to their full advantage. 
 
Asked of McDavid’s tendencies, Bellemare said, “Is that a tendency? To be super fast?”
 
Yes it is. 
 
“When you play against them, he is a kid who is freaky fast right from the start,” Bellemare said. “Against that line, you saw [against Buffalo] that everyone knows how fast he is and he still had two breakaways.”
 
Which means the Flyers need to watch their turnovers, especially in the neutral zone where McDavid can go 60 feet in a flash.
 
“Even blue line to the top of the circle, you can’t turn the puck over,” Bellemare said. “Or he’s gone. This is a tendency we have to be careful of. All of the ice, you can’t give him any time or space. The less time you give him, the bigger chance you have to frustrate a player like this.”
 
Bellemare did some talking with Jagr a couple times in Tuesday’s game. So did Provorov. Bellemare says it helps to add psychology to the mix.
 
“You try to be in his face,” Bellemare said. “If you can win that battle against that line and our first line can win the battle against their fourth line, then it’s a win-win situation. I was trying to be in [Jagr’s] face.”
 
Jagr actually got angrier at Provorov and it showed with his hooking calls. But when Bellemare and Jagr went into the corner, Jagr got testy with his stick there as well.
 
“He was trying to give it to me a little harder,” Bellemare said. “Exactly what I need. If he is less focused on the puck, then maybe I have a chance to win that puck.”
 
McDavid’s focus will be solely on the puck.
 
“McDavid has been playing some pretty good hockey,” Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. “They’re a high-tempo team. A smart team. We’ve got to be ready.”
 
Loose pucks
Boyd Gordon came off long term injured reserve onto the active roster to give the Flyers 13 forwards. In doing that, Matt Read (oblique pull) went on injured reserve. … Defenseman Michael Del Zotto will sit against the Oilers while Radko Gudas returns from an illness. Gudas will be paired with Mark Streit, as Ivan Provorov remains with Andrew MacDonald for now. … Steve Mason, who did not practice Wednesday, will start in goal.